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6 Glamping Sites That Will Change the Way You Look at Nature

By Tobey Grumet Segal
updated September 29, 2021
inside of fancy tent
Courtesy Collective Retreats
If you want to get in touch with nature but aren't into pitching a tent or setting up a mosquito net, these stylish glamping sites have got you covered.

If you’re keen to enjoy the great outdoors but not interested in roughing it, then glamping is for you. Thanks to upgraded accommodations and actual beds, glamping is a more luxurious experience, with amenities that may include running water, electricity, personal chefs, fine linens, and en suite bathrooms. Plus, you don’t have to worry about packing toiletries, bedding,and towels – it’s all part of the package. From deluxe safari tents to small cabins and bungalows, this classy getaway not only lets you gently commune with nature, it also allows you to participate in activities you may have missed if you were staying at a hotel. Ready to upgrade? Here are six top picks for when tents and sleeping bags just won’t do.

1. Wild Lotus Camp, Antigua

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(@wildlotuscamp/Instagram)

This family-owned glamping business offers large, sturdy upscale tents on Valley Church Beach, just steps from the Caribbean Sea and protected rainforests. The tents, located in a private garden surrounded by exotic flowers and plants, feature a double bed, a seating area, and solar-heated shower and lighting. The secluded Deluxe tent comes with a rum-stocked minibar, a Bluetooth speaker, fold-away bikes, and snorkel gear. But the real draw here is wild turtle season. At its height from July to October, you can watch turtles hatch on the beach outside your tent, then swim with them in the clear turquoise water. Or take in the landscape with a climb to the peak of Mount Obama (named after the 44th US president), the island’s highest point in the Shekerley Mountains. The Nest Beach bar, located on the shoreline, serves meals and cocktails, and a short walk takes you to Sheer Rocks and Dennis’s Cocktail Bar for romantic dinners, especially during sunset. wildlotuscamp.com

2. Sandy Pines Campground: Kennebunkport, ME

Located near Goose Rocks Beach and Dock Square, this seaside campground is the epitome of high-low accommodations. Meant to evoke an old-school tableau of New England communal camping, Sandy Pines is a family-friendly destination teetering on the Atlantic. For true glamping, 16 luxe safari tents are available; each has a different design theme and includes a king-size bed, deck, mini-fridge and beverage cooler, and a combination heater/fan. For something more low-key, check out one of the 12 wooden A-frame Hideaway Huts, each equipped with a full-size bed and fire pit. This year, Sandy Pines unveiled six unique retreat options, including a decked-out Airstream, a glass house, and a Conestoga wagon. Entertainment, like bocce and badminton, movie nights, and even a Kid’s Kamp, ensures that everyone keeps busy. Resort-style amenities like the heated saltwater pool and laundry facilities add to the sense of luxury. The property’s Grand Lodge is a hub for the glamping community, while the General Store sells groceries and essentials like bug spray, sunscreen, charcoal, and propane. Make your way to the snack bar for freshly baked goods and sandwiches, plus local beer and wine. sandypinescamping.com

3. Eastwind Hotel & Bar: Windham, NY

Glamping-Eastwind-Catskils-Suana.jpg?mtime=20190426074718#asset:105626(Courtesy Eastwind Hotel & Bar)

A lively and welcome addition to New York’s Catskill Mountains, Eastwind deftly straddles luxury and nature with design-forward glamping accommodations alongside a boutique hotel. The three Scandinavian-inspired Lushna wood cabins are standalone A-frame units with insulation and a glass window for panoramic views. Built on stilts, these tiny cabins include a queen-sized bed, private bathroom with sauna, posh Frette linens, and Wi-Fi. A BBQ kit is available on request to use at the fire pit on the property. Glampers also have access to all the hotel’s amenities, such as the Salon, a cocktail and coffee bar set in a sprawling living room–like space with huge windows, couches, a dining area, and an expansive outdoor deck. Seasonal prix-fixe Saturday Evening Suppers and a bar menu with small plates are available. Eastwind also has a year-round calendar of programs and activities, like concerts and foraging walks. To explore the surrounding Catskills, take a refreshing hike to Kaaterskill falls and Saugerties Lighthouse, or hang out at one of the plentiful water holes like Woodstock’s Big Deepa. eastwindny.com

4. Leanto Orcas Island: Washington

Orcas Island’s modest glamping grounds are situated near the south-end loop of Moran State Park. An ferry ride from the port city of Anacortes lands you on the 5000-acre island, which boasts five freshwater lakes and more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Sunrise Rock and Cascade Falls are walking distance from each other, but if you want to catch a panoramic view, the summit of Mount Constitution is about five miles away. There are five glamping sites to choose from, the smallest featuring one tent with a queen-size bed and the largest offering two tents, one with a queen-size bed and the other with two twin daybeds. All accommodations also come with a table and chairs, dresser, and luggage rack. Outside there are Adirondack chairs, a grill and fire pit, a picnic table, and tents are equipped with flashlights and lanterns. There is no running water on the site, so you’ll be sharing the grounds’ toilets and coin-operated showers with the visitors on the old-school camping grounds. Meals are not included, though grilling utensils are available for loan, and you can add the “morning coffee” option when you book if you need that initial shot of caffeine. There are plenty of restaurants and markets on the island if you want a night out or need to replenish supplies. stayleanto.com.

5. Collective Governors Island, a New York City Retreat: New York, NY

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(Courtesy Collective Retreats)

Just a few minutes by ferry from both Manhattan and Brooklyn, Collective Governors Island, a New York City Retreat, lets you escape the bustle of the city and sleep under the stars – albeit in a luxury tent inspired by Scandinavian minimalism. Governors Island, a former military base that opened to the public in 2004, is filled with historical buildings, pop-up art and cultural exhibits, and green space like the Hills, which feature four giant slides and British artist Rachel Whiteread’s permanent installation of a New England-style concrete cabin, not to mention dazzling skyline vistas. The Collective is nestled on the western side of the island, and its accommodations are contained on a central lawn. All tents include plush beds, electricity, WiFi, and a French press for coffee; Journey tents are the basic option, but you can upgrade to the higher-end Summit tents, which come with 1,500-thread-count sheets, private decks, and en-suite bathrooms. At the highest end are the Outlook Shelters, non-tent shelters that feature larger floorplans and stunning views of the NYC skyline. Have dinner at the quaint Three Peaks Lodge, a restaurant offering a farm-to-table cornucopia, or opt for something more casual and grab the BBQ-in-a-Box or a wrap, salad, and juice from Magic Mix Juicery. Nighttime brings campfires, s’mores, and the knowledge that you’re safe from run-ins with bears or moose in this urban enclave. collectiveretreats.com.

6. Under Canvas Grand Canyon: Valle, AZ

Glamping-Arizona-Under-Canvas.jpg?mtime=20190426074800#asset:105629(Courtesy West Elm)

A 25-minute drive into the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Under Canvas is the perfect way to get up close and personal with one of the Seven Wonders of the World. An extravagant campsite with nearly 100 safari tents offers access to varied activities, like horseback riding and hiking through the campgrounds, which cover 160 acres of juniper forest. The two main tent styles – the Deluxe and the Stargazer – are furnished with a king-size bed and feature ensuite bathrooms, wood stoves, and private decks, but the Stargazer stands out for its groovy viewing window. A third option, the Suite Tent, has an additional lounge area with a queen-size sofa bed for a family or group. Package options include guided tours by foot, bike, helicopter, and jeep, plus meals served at the camp’s fast-casual restaurant. (Boxed lunches are available for those planning to spend the day out and about.) The communal firepit offers gratis s’mores and a prime view of the stars. undercanvas.com.

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Adventure

The Best Roller Coasters in America

Roller coasters give you the opportunity to spend a sunny summer day staring death in the face. They come in all sizes, speeds, types, layouts, and track materials. With some, the ride experience is profoundly terrifying, leaving you shell shocked. Others induce an exhilarating sense of panic that’s addictive. What all coasters have in common, however, is that they assault the senses, sending your adrenaline levels off the charts. And once you walk away, you can say you survived a brush with death. No wonder coasters provoke such infatuation. Millennium Force – Cedar Point, Ohio Riders shoot through tunnels, crest hills, and veer past lagoons on this steel coaster that’s for those who crave speed, lots of airtime and heights. The first ascent offers panoramic views of the park as well as Lake Erie, which might be enjoyable if it weren’t for that slight feeling of doom. This initial climb leaves riders shaking as they ascend at an impressive 45-degree angle. Once at the top, all that’s left to do is gape straight down from a more than 300-foot perch. Then riders are catapulted down at close to a 90-degree angle at an astounding 93 mph. Coaster devotees are particularly keen on the sustained G force on a turn that’s banked at a max of 100-some degrees. Kingda Ka – Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey This steel coaster was made for those who want to be scared silly, starting before they even board. After all, the coaster’s enormous U-shaped track can be seen from just about anywhere in the park, towering some 45 stories above the ground, and making it one of only two coasters in the world that plunge at least 400 feet. In a dumbfounding 3.5 seconds, the train accelerates from 0 to 128 mph, rocketing up at a 90-degree angle. And then, it swoops down in a brain-scrambling 270-degree spiral. The terrifying ride is intense but short, over in a mere 28 seconds. Image courtesy of Knoebels Amusement Resort Phoenix – Knoebels Amusement Resort, Pennsylvania It’s not the tallest, fastest, scariest or newest, but this is a much loved, thrilling, old-school coaster with a storied history. When an amusement park closed in San Antonio, Texas, the 1940s wood coaster was dismantled, moved cross country via almost three dozen tractor trailers and, piece by piece, resurrected as the aptly named Phoenix. With a top speed of 45 mph, the Phoenix sweeps riders through a long, dark tunnel, also inducing plenty of giddiness on 12 airtime-filled hills, where the lap bar lets riders readily bounce out of their seats. Montu – Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Florida Named for the hawk-headed ancient Egyptian god of war, this steel, inverted coaster boasting a top speed of 65 mph gives aficionados what they yearn for: a feeling that they’re careening out of control. The close to 4,000-foot-long track is rife with surprises, including high-speed dives, underground trenches, and tight curves, as well as seven inversions. Among these multiple inversions is the Immelmann, a horseshoe-shaped diving loop that’s ominously named for a World War I German fighter pilot; a pair of 45-degree vertical loops, one that’s 60-feet high; and a Zero-G Roll. With all this dizzying action, it’s no wonder that coaster fans keep coming back for more. Image courtesy of Carowinds Copperhead Strike – Carowinds, North Carolina On this double launch coaster — the first in the Carolinas — the shocks start as soon as the train leaves the station with a jojo roll that treats riders to an upside-down twist. Then, in a 2.5-second flash, the train is launched from 0 to 42 mph, propelling it into a 360-degree inversion. Perhaps the most heart-pounding experience is after the second launch with an 82-foot hang-time loop, the coaster’s highest point. This winding ride boasts five complete gut-flipping inversions, more than any other double launch coaster in North America. Coaster enthusiasts are also wild about the airtime hills aplenty, and the tight, close-to-the-ground twists and turns. Lightning Rod – Dollywood, Tennessee This coaster will cure anyone of the idea that wood coasters are tame. As the world’s fastest wood coaster, Lightning Rod rockets at a top speed of 73 mph. It throttles from 0 to 45 mph, speeding up the 20-story lift hill. This launch is the equivalent of a whopping 1,500 horsepower, making the coaster’s name and 1950s hot rod theme apt. Riders get impressive views of the surrounding verdant hills and valleys from the lift hill’s twin summits. But there’s little time to relish in the scenery, given the subsequent daring, almost vertical, 16-story dive. With the ride’s astounding 20 seconds of airtime, as well as a four-part element with twists, banks and plunges, serious screaming is warranted. Image courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain Twisted Colossus – Six Flags Magic Mountain, California The original wooden Colossus coaster was given a makeover with steel tracks, converting it into this hybrid, one of the world’s longest, with nearly a mile of track. The four-minute ride gives riders a wild time with rapid rolls and spirals, 18 airtime hills, and steep banked turns. The brief time spent hanging upside down when the train slows in the Top Gun Stall element seems like an eternity. And the Western Hemisphere’s first High Five element gives riders in two trains the illusion that they are high fiving each other when they extend their arms.

Adventure

Where to Swim With Sharks (Really)

Sharks are absolutely crucial when it comes to having a healthy ocean environment. Luckily, supporting shark conservation comes in many different forms and you can be a part of it. From shark-tagging with scientists in the Bahamas to swimming with sharks in Hawaii to photographing them in Rhode Island, here’s where to score quality time with these misunderstood creatures. 1. Exuma, Bahamas The gorgeous waters off Great Exuma are home to tiger sharks, nurse sharks and Caribbean reef sharks galore. Thanks to the Bahamas' distinction as a shark sanctuary, the shark population here is protected and healthy. That said, it’s an ideal place to conduct shark research. That’s where Beneath the Waves, a nonprofit-organization focused on shark conservation, and The Grand Isle Resort & Spa, come in. Its shark-tagging program gives people the chance to step into the role of shark scientist for the day. For four hours you’ll be gathering scientific data from sharks to help scientists understand the shark’s movements and how the sharks are using their habitats. Guests, if they choose, help measure the sharks, take small tissue and fin-clip samples and attach tags and tracking devices to sharks. So far, the team has tagged almost 200 sharks in the Bahamas. Afterward, relax at Grand Isle with a massage, a dip in the infinity-edge pool or a Bahamian-inspired dinner at 23° North Beach Club. Hotel guests have full access and non-guests may purchase a day pass for $50. If you’re ready to venture out again, the hotel can arrange lunch on a private island or a boat tour through the Exuma Cays for cave snorkeling and a stop at a gorgeous sandbar. How it works: Reserve spots on shark-tagging adventures by making a donation to Beneath the Waves. What else is there to see: Stingrays, sea turtles, and an island of iguanas. When to go: Keep an eye on the website to find out when the next excursions will be. 2. La Jolla, Calif. Each year, leopard sharks flock to the photogenic coast of La Jolla, a seaside community in San Diego. What makes it so special? It’s the largest annual aggregation of leopard sharks in the world. Thanks to the calm, shallow water and nutrient-rich kelp forests, it’s an ideal place for hundreds of pregnant female leopard sharks to take up residence; they’re often just a few feet from shore. Say hello to the sharks while you flipper-kick through four microhabitats in the La Jolla Underwater Park. An hourlong leopard-shark tour with Everyday California is perfect for newbie shark enthusiasts since leopard sharks (typically about 4 feet long) are virtually harmless. Added bonus: Their distinctive markings make for some epic underwater photos. If you’re lucky, you may spot tiny baby leopard sharks. Continue the adventure by kayaking to the sea caves or hiking Mount Soledad for epic views of San Diego County. When hunger strikes, pop into Blue Water Seafood for drool-worthy fish tacos, oysters and homemade seafood soups. How it works: Meet at the Everyday California shop and two snorkel guides will lead you through the rocky reefs in search of leopard sharks. What else is there to see? Shovel nose guitar fish, dolphins, sea lions, lobsters and turtles. When to go: July through September 3. Tiger Beach, Bahamas The Bahamas is also home to Tiger Beach, a consistently sharky spot attracting divers from around the world. Known for their beautiful stripes and broad, flat heads, tiger sharks are the star attraction of this dive spot. You can’t miss ‘em: These mammoths can weigh more than 1,900 pounds. An added bonus: Reef sharks, lemon sharks, hammerheads and nurse sharks love to frequent the area, too. Because visibility is often 100 feet or more at Tiger Beach, it makes for not only an unforgettable dive but also an insane backdrop for photos. Believe it or not, many of these creatures travel thousands of miles each year and end up back at Tiger Beach consistently. West End Watersports, a dive shop located at Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour, is where the adventure begins. From the hotel, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride to Tiger Beach. You’ll have two 1-hour long dives in approximately 25 feet of water. How it works: Groups are limited to a maximum of eight divers. Guests staying at Old Bahama Bay receive a diving discount. What else is there to see: Sea turtles, mahi mahi, tuna, grouper, snapper and barracuda. When to go: September to April 4. Cancun, Mexico To score some quality time with the biggest shark in the ocean, the whale shark, visit Cancun. Hundreds of the majestic creatures (some are the length of a school bus) migrate here every year to feed and socialize. You can get close enough to the gentle giants to clearly see the perfectly patterned pale yellow dots and stripes on their skin. Don’t worry, though: Plankton is their snack of choice. Blue Caribe Tours takes guests (up to 10) on a day trip that gives you two glorious hours swimming with the whale sharks. Afterward, enjoy a pitstop in Punta Norte in Isla Mujeres to snack on fresh ceviche. Rest your head at TRS Coral Hotel, an adults-only all-inclusive in Cancun. Treat your muscles to a hot and cold hydromassage bath at the spa, relax in the pool in a floating chair or take a ride on the boat channel system. With one private beach club, seven à la carte restaurants, one show-cooking restaurant and 18 bars, it’s impossible to be bored. Be sure to leave time to see the Mayan ruins and a nearby cenote. How it works: For the whale-shark tour, Blue Caribe picks guests up at the hotel around 7:30 a.m. and returns them around 4 p.m. What else is there to see: Sea turtles, manta rays and starfish. When to go: June through September 5. Narragansett, Rhode Island New England is home to about 50 species of sharks. The main ones you will come across, though, are the blue shark and the mako shark. Hitting speeds of up to 60 m.p.h., makos are the fastest shark in the ocean. Both travel the Gulf Stream waters here, and it’s one of only a few locations in the world where they can regularly be encountered. Rhode Island Shark Diving, run by award-winning shark cinematographer Joe Romeiro, offers a 12-hour excursion on a 45-foot research vessel custom-made for interacting with and filming wildlife. Throughout the day sharks will arrive at the boat as you drift over different sites. How it works: Most trips are run in three consecutive days to maximize the animals you see. There are a few days per month, however, for one or two-day trips. Divers must wear all-black wetsuits, fins, gloves, hoods, masks and snorkels. What else is there to see: Whales, dolphins, mola mola and mahi mahi. When to go: Mid-June to mid-September 6. Oahu, Hawaii About three miles off of Oahu’s North Shore, it’s possible to find Galapagos sharks, sandbar sharks and tiger sharks. For a chance to spend quality time with them, sign up for a 2-hour pelagic shark snorkel with Ocean Ramsey’s One Ocean Diving, and you might meet Captain Pancakes, Frankenfin or Miss Aloha. (The team has affectionately named some of the repeat shark visitors.) When it comes to sharks, Ramsey’s goal is to replace fear with education. Guests join marine biologists on the excursion and learn all about shark conservation and research. How it works: Guests don snorkels and stay near the boat. For divers who want a more in-depth look at sharks, consider the 4-hour One Ocean advanced shark diving and tiger search program where you’ll learn even more about shark behavior. What else is there to see: Green sea turtles, spinner dolphins, monk seals, flying fish, Booby birds, whales (November-May) and whale sharks. When to go: All year long. Galapagos Islands If you are itching to see Scalloped hammerheads, here’s your chance. Four major currents combined with nutrient-dense waters make the Galapagos Islands an incredible home for sharks, especially hammerheads. Ecoventura’s Galapagos Sky, a live-aboard built specifically for diving in the Galapagos, takes guests on a 7-day cruise to places like the remote Wolf and Darwin Islands, which have the highest abundance of sharks in the world. Here, it’s common to see big schools of hammerheads. Wreck Bay Dive Center, on San Cristobal Island, is a solid choice if you’d like to do a day or two of diving. How it works: Due to strong currents and diving depths, divers must be advanced. What else is there to see? Penguins, turtles, sea lions, Galapagos Sharks, silky sharks, whitetips, blacktips, horn sharks, eagle rays, manta rays, dolphins, sea lions, Galapagos penguins, green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, mola mola, endemic marine iguanas and whale Sharks (late May thru November). When to go: All year. Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet’s weekly newsletter. Check out adventure tours for every traveler from our trusted partners.

Adventure

Explore the U.S. Space Program: 8 Places to Celebrate the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and what better way to pay tribute to the U.S. space program than by planning an epic adventure? From informative exhibits and spacecraft on display to activities that bring visitors closer to the stars, here are eight destinations across America that offer an out-of-this-world experience. 1. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Merritt Island, Florida (Thomaskelley/Dreamstime) Spread out along Florida’s Space Coast, the Kennedy complex (kennedyspacecenter.com) is organized into mission zones, with attractions and tours arranged in chronological order. The Heroes and Legends exhibit honors pioneers in space exploration, while another tour gets up close and personal with the space shuttle Atlantis. Nearby, the American Space Museum and Walk of Fame in downtown Titusville is staffed by former space-center employees and has exhibit halls dedicated to the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo missions. At Port Canaveral, wander the Exploration Tower’s seven-story museum, then head up to the observation deck for a bird’s-eye view of the Cape’s launch pads and the entire port. Cap off the day at the Cove’s restaurant row for an alfresco meal at casual spots like the Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar or FishLips Waterfront Bar and Grill. 2. Space Center Houston: Houston (Bambi L. Dingman/Dreamstime) Playing an iconic role in NASA history since 1961—who could forget Apollo 13's ominous message, “Houston, we have a problem”?—this Texas metropolis has more than earned its Space City moniker. The Space Center Houston (spacecenter.org) serves as both visitors’ center for the NASA Johnson Space Center and home to a massive collection of moon rocks and multi-flown aircraft in various galleries. Take a NASA tram tour of the JSC, then step inside a replica of the shuttle Independence, which is mounted on the NASA 905 shuttle aircraft. Visit the Starship Gallery to see the Skylab training module and the command module of Apollo 17, plus a fragment from its 1979 Earth reentry and JFK’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech podium. Across the main plaza at the Astronaut Gallery, scope out the space suits worn Wally Schirra and Kathryn Sullivan plus Sally Ride’s shuttle coveralls, then check out the Houston Museum of Natural Science for some stargazing at the George Observatory. Back on earth, Houston also has the Downtown Aquarium, the zoo, and the Museum of Fine Arts, and plenty of prime foodie options too. Try Truth BBQ’s 18-hour smoked brisket and the venison sausage spiked with black pepper and garlic at the Pit Room, or split a few things at Nancy’s Hustle, a modern bistro and bar with a plate-sharing theme. 3. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: New York (Tomasz Wozniak/Dreamstime) On the western edge of Manhattan's Hell’s Kitchen, docked at Pier 86, this aircraft carrier turned museum (intrepidmuseum.org) not only has an incredible aircraft collection representing all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, but it also holds the Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for the space shuttle program. At the Space Shuttle Pavilion, immersive exhibit zones with films, audio, artifacts, and photos tell the story of its legacy. Once you’ve had all the space you can handle, head four blocks south to Lucky Strike for some friendly competition over bowling and billiards. Add on six more blocks, and you’ll arrive at Hudson Yards, a high-end restaurant and retail enclave with an eye-catching, ticketed-entry spiral staircase called the Vessel. For even more meal choices, Gotham West Market has a small mix of artisanal food stalls, and Hell’s Kitchen’s Ninth Avenue is lined with dining options. 4. Arecibo Observatory: Arecibo, Puerto Rico (Ivan Kokoulin/Dreamstime) A facility of the National Science Foundation, Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory (naic.edu/ao) is the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, covering an area of about 20 acres. Self-tour the Science and Visitor Center or opt for the VIP version to see the 1,000 feet reflector up close from a vehicle; you can also take in the astronomy exhibits and check out the observation deck. Outside of the observatory, the Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park journeys through five eras of Puerto Rican history, and also has a mini-zoo, restaurant, and play area for the youngest aspiring astronauts. Other must-see spots include Cueva Ventana, which overlooks Rio Grande de Arecibo Valley and offers guided tours that touch on the cave’s ecosystem; Cueva del Indio, featuring impressive cliffs, petroglyphs, and a naturally formed rock bridge; and Arecibo’s La Poza del Obispo, a remote but popular beach spot. 5. U.S. Space & Rocket Center: Huntsville, Alabama (Leonardospencer/Dreamstime) Huntsville is true to its nickname, Rocket City, not least because the museum at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (rocketcenter.com) displays one of only three authentic Saturn V moon rockets in the world. Catch an astronomy show at the INTUITIVE Planetarium, take on the challenge of a Mars climbing wall, and experience a motion-based flight simulation on the HyperShip. You can also tour the Redstone Arsenal—home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center—by bus. And aim for the stars with hands-on astronaut training at Space Camp (spacecamp.com), the center’s anchor program. Back on earth, the Huntsville Botanical Garden houses an aquatic garden, herb garden, children’s garden, and an education center with amphibians and reptiles along with an open-air butterfly house. For dinner, opt for Cotton Row Restaurant, an upscale surf-and-turf establishment, or try Humphrey's Bar & Grill for traditional bar food. Thirsty for more? The city’s brewing scene is pouring over with Salty Nut Brewery, Straight to Ale, and Yellowhammer Brewery. 6. National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution: Washington (Zhi Qi/Dreamstime) Centrally located on the National Mall, D.C.’s Air and Space Museum (airandspace.si.edu) takes flight with 22 exhibition galleries covering aviation, spaceflight, astronomy, and planetary science. In 2022, the museum will add to its roster with Destination Moon, which chronicles the race to the lunar landing. Craving more time with the cosmos? Take in a planetarium show or catch a movie on the museum’s five-story IMAX screen. Outside, the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory offers a closer look at the sun, planets, and double stars. A short walk or a free Southwest shuttle-bus ride will get you to the Wharf, a new and evolving entertainment destination on the Potomac River, and you'll also want to stop by the Washington National Cathedral to view the Space Window, a stained-glass symbol of our connection to the stars. Pro tip: To see the Discovery space shuttle, head across the river to the the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the museum's companion facility, located 30 minutes away in Chantilly, Virginia. 7. Great Lakes Science Center: Cleveland (Daniel Hancock/Dreamstime) Home to the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, one of 11 in the United States, the Great Lakes Science Center (greatscience.com) goes in depth on how astronauts eat, sleep, and learn via its Living in Space exhibit. Peek inside the real-life 1973 Skylab 3 Apollo Command Module and go on a multi-media trip through significant moments in space history, take your photo in a spacesuit and see a moon rock along with artifacts from John Glenn’s February 20, 1962, Friendship 7 mission. (Later, you can experience another kind of rock at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame). The accomplishments of female scientists and astronauts take the spotlight at the International Women’s Air & Space Museum at Burke Lakefront Airport, an essential stop. For refreshments, the Terrestrial Brewing Company has stellar suds and food trucks. 8. Museum of Science and Industry: Chicago (Cmlndm/Dreamstime) From Sputnik to SpaceX, the Windy City’s Museum of Science and Industry (msichicago.org) goes into orbit with visual and virtual presentations on space. Its Henry Crown Space Center's Space Is the Place exhibit honors stories of exploration through artifacts and interactives: Hear tales recounting the missions that brought us to the moon, see the actual Apollo 8 module and the Aurora 7 capsule, and try a docking simulation in the walk-in mockup of the International Space Station. For an additional ticket fee, you can step into the role of an astronaut working outside the International Space Station via a VR Spacewalk ride. Near the museum, Hyde Park has lunch spots such as Jolly Pumpkin, a pizzeria and brewery; Medici on 57th,, with yummy Angus burgers, milkshakes, and baked croissants and pastries; and Piccolo Mondo, a white-tablecloth Italian eatery. Further north, near the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium is all about astronomy. For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.

Adventure

Europe's Coolest Cycling—and Wine Tasting—Tour

Terroir. Spend any time in one of the world's great wine-producing regions, whether it's Northern California's Napa Valley, Italy's Tuscany, or France's Loire Valley, and you'll eventually hear some version of this evocative term. Derived from the French word for "land," terroir officially refers to the combination of land and climate—the trees, the flowers, the rainfall, the soil itself—that produces a distinctive wine grape. (You may also hear the term used to describe varieties of cocoa and coffee beans and other products.) The best wine regions take terroir quite seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the names of wines—several hundred in France alone—are regulated so that, unless your grape is grown in a designated area, you can't just slap a name (or "appellation"), such as Côte du Rhône or Champagne, on your bottle. That's terroir in its literal, and commercial, sense. But I love how the term has also taken on a larger meaning, evoking the unique sense of place you experience when you immerse yourself in a destination. If the water running down from the mountains and the flowers that grow in the fields can affect the flavor of a grape, then certainly the personality of the people and the daily rhythms of work, food preparation, and leisure time can determine the flavor of a vacation. And in that sense, terroir is exactly what you get when you rent a bicycle in the charming French town of Saumur and embark on the Loire à Vélo, a cycling trail through the towns and forests, past châteaus and farmland, of one of the country's major wine regions. WHAT IS LA LOIRE Á VELO? (David Elliott/Dreamstime) La Loire à Vélo (it means literally "the Loire on a bicycle") is a one-of-a-kind cycling route that traverses more than 500 miles of the Loire Valley, attracting more than 800,000 cyclists each year. Still under construction, the route is literally growing by the kilometer to allow cyclists to explore the region at their own pace, hitting cities such as Nantes and Angers, and getting a taste of the land along the way at châteaus, in tiny villages, and in the dark, chilly, delicious tasting rooms of local wineries. More than a third of the Loire à Vélo consists of quiet roads that don't have much automobile traffic; nearly another third consists of green ways; and another third is closed to cars. Fully two-thirds of the route runs along the Loire River itself, and there are hundreds of spots for cyclists to stop. The Loire River Valley has been a popular cycling destination for years—it's just the kind of place that makes people want to feel the earth under their feet—or under their wheels. The Loire is often referred to as a "fairy tale" destination for its stunning, turreted châteaus (manor houses that were once home to nobility and other serious land owners, including French kings when they wanted to get out of Paris), beautiful forests, and not only the lovely Loire but also the Maine, Vienne, and Indre rivers. The central Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the entire valley has been nicknamed the Garden of France not only for the vineyards that grow the grapes for extraordinary wines but also for the rolling farmland that produces bushels of fresh cherries, artichokes, and asparagus. (For Loire à Vélo maps and detailed routes, plus updates on the growing trail, visit cycling-loire.com.) HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT CYCLE (Ukrphoto/Dreamstime) Bicycle rental shops such as Detours de Loire, (detoursdeloire.com) a chain that has a shop in Saumur, are plentiful in the region and, depending on how you arrive in the Loire, may be the most convenient way to get geared up for your ride. Rental-shop owners will usually speak English, and you should let them know your level of skill (be honest—there's no point pretending you know what you're doing if that just translates into mayhem or injury on the trail), and if you have a preference for any particular kind of riding—such as all-terrain cycles, road bikes, or hybrids. A rented cycle should come with a tire pump and repair kit, a bell, properly working gears, and a place to hold a water bottle. If you'll be renting for more than one day, ask about multi-day discount rates. A half-day bike rental typically starts under $20. Another alternative is to bring your own bicycle—high-speed trains allow travelers to zoom from Paris to the city of Angers in about 90 minutes, and local trains link the major towns and cities along the Loire à Vélo, including Orléans, Blois, Tours, Saumur, Angers, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, and others. Cycling brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Loire each year, and local trains are equipped with ample storage space for cycles. SAVOR THE TOWN OF SAUMUR Besides the great service you'll get if you rent a bike at Saumur's Detours de Loire, the town is also a great place to base yourself for a few days. It happens to be the headquarters of the French national riding academy, produces 100,000 tons of mushrooms each year, and the nearby winery area, Saumur-Champigny, produces tasty Cabernet Franc (the basis of many popular red wines) and tasty white Chenin Blanc. (Due to the Loire Valley's cool climate, not only the white wines of the region but also the reds tend to be on the pleasantly crisp side.) Be sure to park your bike outside a unique restaurant, Bistroglo (bistroglo.com), and enjoy the wines—and the mushrooms—of the area at this bar/bistro that has been literally carved out of the limestone cliffs in nearby Turquant. (The caves of the Loire serve as underground mushroom farms and the perfect place for aging wine casks, helping to impart a certain je ne sais pas to the wine's taste.) When you're ready to take to the trail, head east—Château du Petit Thouars is an hour's leisurely ride from Saumur and you will pedal through the pretty villages of Candes-Saint-Martin and Montsoreau on the way. When you arrive at Château du Petit Thouars, (chateaudptwines.com) in Saint-Germain-sur-Vienne, get ready to spit. In the wine-tasting room, that is. The château has produced award-winning Cabernet Francs and welcomes visitors Tuesdays to Saturdays for wine tastings. If you haven't quite gotten that sense of terroir when you first stepped into Detours de Loire to rent your bike, by now the grapes, the mushrooms, and the limestone cliffs should have put you well on the way to understanding that "sense of place" that has been drawing people to the Loire for centuries. HOW TO TASTE TERROIR As we've seen in Napa and other U.S. wine regions, the notion of establishing a great restaurant inside a winery has caught on in a big way. Think of it as "Ask not what wine will go best with my food, but what food will go best with my wine." One of the Loire's most noteworthy—and worth a $55 splurge—is chef David Guitton's La Table de la Bergerie (latable-bergerie.fr) at the Domaine de la Bergerie Yves Guegniard winery, in Champ-sur-Layon. With house-made ravioli, a fish of the day, and reds and whites from the winery, this is a meal you'll talk about when you get back home. EXPLORE THE TOWN OF ANGERS If wetting your whistle at wineries proves, well, intoxicating, pedal over to the Museum of Wine Growers and Wine of Anjou, in Angers, on the western edge of the Loire Valley. Here, you'll learn the history of the region, its vinocultural practices, and view exhibits of vineyard tools. Anjou is a wine subregion of the Loire that includes Saumur's red wines. ("No, I'm not guzzling more wine—I'm going to a museum!") Angers, a city of more than 250,000 with more than 30,000 students, has a much livelier vibe than some of its quiet Loire neighbors. If you crave nightlife, head to Place du Ralliement or Rue St.-Laud for a hoppin' bar and cafe scene. Angers is pleasantly placed on either side of the Maine River, with a major château dominating its historic center, where the "Apocalypse Tapestry," depicting the revelation of St. John, is on display. The tapestry, one of the most ambitious and accomplished of its kind, was lost during the 18th century but recovered and restored in the 19th. The Cathedrale Saint-Maurice d'Angers, also known simply as Angers Cathedral, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, is known for its stained glass windows, one of which includes an unusual portrayal of St. Christopher with the head of a dog. The "Apocalypse Tapestries" resided at the cathedral before their disappearance and partial destruction. PACE YOURSELF While the awesome trails and relative peace and quiet of the roadways may tempt you to turn your trek across the Loire into a road race, we respectfully suggest that you take your time. Linger at a comfortable hotel, like Le Clos des 3 Rois (closdes3rois.fr) in Thouarcé. Linger at the wineries to ask questions (and maybe get the kind of behind-the-scenes tours that aren't on the agenda), and don't measure your vacation in miles. Though you may arrive in the Loire with visions of the Tour de France, you may find yourself remembering humble—and more meaningful—details. Like the way the evening light plays over the surface of the Loire. The gentle arches of the Pont du Verdun. The unique aroma of an underground mushroom farm. And when those details—along with the feel of the breeze in your hair and the thrill of pedaling your way through France—come back to you, you'll remember the word: terroir. HOW TO GET THERE The Loire River Valley is in western France. A high-speed train from Paris to Angers takes about 90-minutes (raileurope.com). BOOK A CYCLING TOUR Biking France offers Loire à Vélo package tours that include accommodations in two- and three-star hotels, complimentary breakfasts, bike and equipment rental, and luggage transfer. Package tours include a six-day trip from Orléans to Tours, a seven-day trip from Saumur to the Atlantic coast, and four days in the Loire's château country, all reasonably priced (often well under $1,000).