California's 10 best hiking trails
Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions due to COVID-19 or the California wildfires before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
A hugely scenic trail on Lake Tahoe's western shore. It ribbons along the lakeshore for 4.5 mostly gentle miles from Vikingsholm Castle (add a mile for the downhill walk to the castle from Hwy 89) in Emerald Bay State Park, then leads past small coves perfect for taking a cooling dip, and treats you to great views along the way.
Add an extra mile to loop around and visit the restored historic lighthouse, a square wood-enclosed beacon (that looks a lot like an outhouse) constructed by the Coast Guard in 1916. Poised above 6800ft, it’s the USA’s highest-elevation lighthouse.
Mist Fall Hike
This very enjoyable 8-mile, round-trip walk along the riverside, up a natural granite staircase and finishing at the falls, which (when the wind is right) blows refreshing water droplets at hikers on arrival, highlights the beauty of Kings Canyon. The first 2 miles are fairly exposed, so start early to avoid the midday heat on the 700ft ascent.
Continuing past Mist Falls, the trail eventually connects with the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail to form the 42-mile Rae Lakes Loop, the most popular long-distance hike in Kings Canyon National Park (a wilderness permit is required).
Hit your stride on this 10.5-mile stretch, starting at Fort Funston, crossing 4 miles of sandy Ocean Beach and wrapping around the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. Casual strollers can pick up the restored trail near Sutro Baths and head around the Lands End bluffs for end-of-the-world views and glimpses of shipwrecks at low tide. At Lincoln Park, duck into the Legion of Honor or descend the gloriously tiled Lincoln Park Steps (near 32nd Ave).
High Sierra Trail
A contender for the best trail in Sequoia National Park – it's definitely on many world's best hike lists – the High Sierra trail begins at Crescent Meadow and continues for 49 miles. From 6700ft it climbs to an altitude of 10,700ft, crossing ridges, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and offering the most jaw-dropping mountain and valley views. It also connects to junctions for the famous John Muir Trail.
If you can only manage one hike in Tuolumne, this should probably be it. Cathedral Lake (9588ft), the lower of the two Cathedral Lakes, sits within a mind-blowing glacial cirque, a perfect amphitheater of granite capped by the iconic spire of nearby Cathedral Peak (10,911ft). From the lake’s southwestern side, the granite drops steeply away, affording views as far as Tenaya Lake, whose blue waters shimmer in the distance.
Parking for the Cathedral Lake Trailhead is along the shoulder of Tioga Rd. Due to the popularity of this hike, parking spaces fill up fast, so arrive early or take the free shuttle.
Santa Monica Mountains
A haven for hikers, trekkers and mountain bikers, the northwestern-most stretch of the Santa Monica Mountains is where nature gets bigger and wilder, with jaw-dropping red-rock canyons, and granite outcrops with sublime sea views. The best trails are in Pacific Palisades, Topanga and Malibu. The Backbone Trail is the longest trail in the range, linking – and accessible from – every state park. It’s 67 miles all told, running from Will Rogers to Point Mugu State Park, and can be completed in a few days.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Walkers and hikers explore eight miles of hillside sandy trails in a wilderness oasis of 2000 acres. Choose from routes of varying difficulties in this well-trodden coastal state park in La Jolla. The 0.7-mile Guy Fleming Trail (currently closed due to COVID-19) has panoramic sea views and paths through wildflowers, ferns and cacti. Meanwhile, the 1.4-mile Razor Point Trail (currently closed due to COVID-19) offers a good whale-spotting lookout during winter months.
Flora and fauna is abundant in this protected area. During quieter times, with fewer stomping feet, quiet walkers may spot raccoons, rabbits, bobcats, skunks and foxes among plenty of other types of wildlife. You'll have to pay for parking.
Considered historic and sacred by the Agua Caliente people, this gorgeous canyon, located in the Greater Palm Springs, can be explored via a fairly steep and rocky 1.8-mile (round-trip) hike culminating at a 60ft waterfall. An interpretive trail guide that's available at the visitor center points out rock art, viewpoints and native plant life. The center also has natural- and cultural-history exhibits and screenings of The Legend of Tahquitz video about an evil Cahuilla shaman.
Bring a picnic, water and be sure to wear sturdy footwear. If you don't want to head out on your own, join a ranger-led 2½-hour hike departing four times daily (once daily July to September) from the visitor center.
Boy Scout Trail
For an immersion into Joshua Tree flora and topography, embark on this tough 8-mile one-way trail cutting through canyons, washes and mountains along the western edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. Most hikers prefer to launch from Park Blvd near the Quail Springs picnic area and head north to Indian Cove. Arrange for pick-up at the other end or plan on camping overnight. Part of the trail is unmarked and hard to follow.
Rings Loop Trail
This fun 1.5-mile trail delivers close-ups of the Swiss-cheese-like cliffs of the Hole-in-the-Wall area at the Mojave National Preserve. Starting at the south end of the parking lot, it passes petroglyphs before entering an increasingly narrow canyon that you have to scramble out of using metal rings. You'll emerge at a picnic area and follow a paved road back to the parking lot. For a shorter experience (0.5 miles), use the rings to descend straight into the canyon and climb back out the same way.
This piece orginally appeared on our sister site, Lonely Planet.
10 amazing outdoor adventures near Los Angeles
While the city of Los Angeles is a tourist destination in and of itself, it is sometimes necessary to leave the city and venture somewhere new. Especially when every part of you is itching to travel right now. Fortunately, L.A. is centrally-located to many cities that offer socially-distanced activities to suit any preference. <ost restaurants offer only outdoor dining or takeout service. Many of these cities are accessible by train within a couple of hours, as Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route runs up and down the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Take a ferry to Catalina Island Board the Catalina Express and in about an hour you will be transported to the town of Avalon, what was once a playground for Hollywood’s glitterati. Fancy parasailing? Here you can enjoy the ultimate social distancing activity as you glide through the air, admiring the views below. Catalina is the home to about 150 wild buffalo, which are the descendants of a small herd that was left there by a film crew in the 1920s. During the two-hour Bison Expedition with Catalina Tours, you’ll hop into an off-road vehicle and venture into the precipitous Cape Canyon, where bison and other wildlife are often spotted. For a special treat, dine on the waterfront patio at Bluewater Grill, which offers a variety of sustainable seafood options. ©Mate Steindl/EyeEm/Getty Images Hike the trails at Joshua Tree Located at the intersection of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, Joshua Tree National Park is a mystical place. Many say that these twisted trees with pointed spines belong in a Dr. Seuss book and they wouldn’t be wrong, although that is part of the appeal. Options to explore the park are endless, and depending on your skill level you can embark on nature treks or more challenging backcountry hikes. For more adventurous types, you can traverse over different rock formations by climbing or bouldering. If you plan to stay after dark, don’t miss the myriad of stargazing opportunities-- because of its remote location, you’ll be treated to an astronomical display of stars, planets, and the Milky Way. Ride the zip line in Santa Margarita Imagine tasting wine on an outdoor patio and then, aided by liquid courage, traveling by zip line over acres of Pinot Noir vines with not a care in the world. Riding tandem is your partner-in-crime, laughing giddily at the incomparable feeling of soaring through the pines. At Ancient Peaks Winery, which is located in the tiny town of Santa Margarita, you can do just that. Sample wine at their tasting room and then venture out to their 14,000 acre ranch, where guests can choose among six different zip line tours of the vineyard. On a recent tour by Margarita Adventures, participants spotted a variety of wildlife; including deer, turkeys, hawks, and even a bear. Laguna Beach. ©Ron and Patty Thomas/Getty Images Indulge your inner beachcomber in Laguna Beach The small enclave of Laguna Beach is well-known for its summer art festivals, which were an annual occurrence until COVID hit. For those dedicated to ocean exploits, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel, paddleboard, or surf at one of the many beaches and coves that dot the coastline. Be sure to visit Victoria Beach at low tide, which is a beloved spot for skimboarders and also home of the Instagrammable “Pirate Tower,” a 60-foot stone turret. Another popular area along the coast is Crystal Cove, where tidepools abound. While you’re there, have lunch at The Beachcomber, which is located right on the sand. (Or, sidle up to the adjacent Bootlegger Bar at sunset.) Walk through a unique art installation in Paso Robles If you haven’t yet been to international artist Bruce Munro’s acclaimed art installation Field of Light at Sensorio, you are in for a treat as it has recently been extended through January 2021. Follow the pathway through an open field filled with thousands of tiny “flowers”-- solar-powered lights mounted on stems that are lit by fiber optics, their colors everchanging. Be sure to reserve tickets early, as they do sell out, and they are taking extra efforts to follow protocols related to COVID-19. While in Paso Robles visit Tin City, a small warehouse district that houses a variety of wine tasting rooms, breweries, a cidery, and even a distillery. Satisfy your appetite with one of the many food trucks lined up nearby. Explore Balboa Park in San Diego Balboa Park is a cultural treasure-- located in the center of the city, it has seventeen museums, several types of gardens, and is also the home of the San Diego Zoo. At over 1,200 acres, there is plenty of room to roam. Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden, the lily pond at the Botanical Building, or the artist studios at the Spanish Village, then find a spot in the sun and dive into a good book. Currently the San Diego Museum of Art has reopened with limited capacity and new safety measures, while other museums there remain closed. Dine next door at Panama 66, or venture a short distance outside of the park and ignite your palate with Mexican soul food at Barrio Star. Santa Barbara Coastline. ©Jon Bilous/Shutterstock Spend a day on Santa Barbara’s coastline Often referred to as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara’s stunning coastline and dedication to fine wine certainly lives up to its moniker. Stroll through the Funk Zone, the city’s arts district, and admire the colorful murals before stopping at one of the many tasting rooms in the area that make up the Urban Wine Trail. Enjoy al fresco dining at Hotel Californian’s Goat Tree, a gourmet cafe that serves creative Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The ocean also offers its pick of activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. You can find your zen with “Soundwave Sessions”-- yoga on the beach with provided headphones, which allows you to listen to music and instruction simultaneously. (They also offer bilingual sessions en español.) Go fishing at Big Bear Lake Rent a pontoon boat and fish to your heart’s content on Big Bear Lake, or lounge and listen to your favorite tunes as the boat’s massive deck allows for plenty of room to relax. Or, you can opt to kayak or swim in the lake. Inhale the crisp alpine air and become one with nature as you hike Castle Rock Trail, a steep tree-lined path that winds around huge granite boulders and rewards you with sweeping panoramic views of the lake. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bald eagle. Venture out to Big Bear Village and take your pick of restaurants, depending on your appetite. Highly recommended is The Himalayan, which serves a variety of dishes from India and Nepal. Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway #1 at the US West Coast traveling south to Los Angeles, Big Sur Area. ©Michael Urmann/Shutterstock. Take the Highway 1 Discovery Route The Highway 1 Discovery Route extends for a hundred miles along California’s Central Coast, which stretches from Monterey Bay all the way down to Ventura. Between the months of October and February, monarch butterflies migrate to groves along the coast from Pismo Beach to Morro Bay. There are a variety of ways to visit these groves, and many can be viewed from golf courses that line the coast, such as Sea Pines, a resort and nine-hole executive golf course in Los Osos. The Highway 1 Discovery Route also encompasses the Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo region, a sweet spot for wine tasting. Spend some time sampling wine in the charming town of Los Olivos, which is surrounded by vineyards, lavender farms, ranches, and orchards. Visit California’s oldest neighborhood in San Juan Capistrano Well-known as the former home of migrating swallows every March, San Juan Capistrano is also where the state’s oldest neighborhood, the Los Rios Historic District, is located. Wander across the dusty tracks of the Capistrano train depot, where you’ll encounter a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as a petting zoo. Stop for coffee under the trees at Hidden House, or if you’re hungry, dine on the outdoor patio at Trevor’s at the Tracks or Rancho Capistrano Winery-- both offer delectable dishes that are often accompanied by live music. Then, walk a short distance to Mission San Juan Capistrano, which has a museum and chapel on the property. The close proximity to the Amtrak station makes this a convenient day trip from L.A.
The 6 most haunted places in Tennessee
Tennessee is full of history, country music, BBQ and some haunted tales. For the history buffs, ghost hunters, and those seeking adventure this list is for you. These are five haunted places in Tennessee, full of historical stories and eerie events that may knock your socks off. 1. The Drummond Bridge/Trestle, Briceville Legend has it that Richard Drummond was hung in 1893 by a band of mercenaries. Drummond was hanged from the bridge after killing a young soldier in a rivalry brawl during the Coal Creek War. In 2009, a study was conducted by paranormal experts naming this bridge one of the most haunted places in Tennessee. The bridge is haunted by Drummond after he took his last breath on the train trestle. Some say you can still hear Drummond gasping for his last breath, some see his ghost pacing from one end of the bridge to another at the stroke of midnight, while other residents just see strange behaviors. Including cattle who avoid grazing the field below the bridge and dogs that will never go near or across the bridge. For those courageous enough to explore this bridge the advice given is to be cautious. The land around the bridge is grown which may have hazards, there are no walls around the bridge and there is spacing between the trestle tracks, so it is possible to fall through, 30 feet to the ground when it is dark. The Drummond Bridge is a piece of Tennessee’s haunted history that many may not know of but will pique the interest of those looking for a historically ghostly experience. 2. Shiloh National Military Park, Shiloh This national park was home to the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. This battle was during the American Civil War resulting in over 23,000 casualties. Among the many men that died in what is now a national park is also their spirits still lingering. These soldiers who haunted the battlefield let their past come alive. Visitors may hear drumming, voices, footsteps and gunshots. On many accounts’ visitors have seen the pond at Shiloh National Park turn blood red on different occasions throughout the year. Rumors have it that wounded soldiers and horses once cleaned their wounds in the pond, even though there is not solid evidence that this pond did exist in 1862. Shiloh National Park is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are special programs held on Memorial Day weekend and the rangers led programs on the battlefield sites from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The park also has a visitor center including artifacts from the battlefield. The visitors center also shows an award-winning interpretive film, “Shiloh: Fiery Trail” every hour from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Visitors will see a lot of history that intertwines in this beautiful park but only the lucky will encounter the souls from the past. 3. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg The 5.5-mile drive through the Great Smoky Mountains is full of historic cabins and mills and maybe even a hitch-hiking ghost. Lucy is a young enchanting woman who died in the early 1900’s when her family cabin burned down. Legend says after Lucy died a man named Foster saw her walking barefoot on a cold winter’s night through the dark overgrown forest. Foster offered Lucy a ride home on his horse, which she accepted, but he was enamored by her beauty and couldn’t stop thinking about her. Foster went back to the cabin and asked her parents if Lucy and him could be married. Her parents informed Foster that Lucy had died quite a while ago, causing him to realize that he had encountered a ghost. The fortunate catch sight of Lucy wandering the trail hitch hiking for a ride home. Although, there are places to pull off and explore the forest surrounding the trail. To visit the trail, use the Cherokee Orchard Entrance into the Smoky Mountains National Park, off main street in Gatlinburg, traffic light number eight or take Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard Entrance. After passing the Rainbow Falls trailhead, will the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail be found. 4. Sensabaugh Tunnel, Kingsport The Sensabaugh Tunnel has a few different legends on how this tunnel became a haunted place. The tunnel was built in the 1920’s and was named after the man who owned the land, Edward Sensabaugh. One rumor is that a homeless man entered the Sensaubaugh’s home to steal money and jewels. Ed Sensabaugh went after the thief who used their baby as a shield to escape from the house. Sensabaugh was unable to catch the thief and the thief drowned the baby in water next to the tunnel, now called Crybaby Pool. Another story goes that Ed Sensabaugh became a mad man one evening and murdered his wife and children while they were in bed. He took the bodies into the tunnel where he took his own life with a gun inside the tunnel’s walls. The third story says a young woman’s car broke down inside the tunnel. She left her car in the tunnel looking for help but it is unclear if she disappeared inside the tunnel itself or was murdered inside the Sensabaugh House. Either way no one ever saw her again. Legend has it if you turn off your car in the middle of the tunnel it won’t turn back on. Some say your car will turn back on when Ed Sensabaugh is seen heading to your car. Others say you will have to manually push the vehicle out of the tunnel before your car starts up again. There are warnings that a woman will be sitting in the backseat, a crying baby can be heard, Ed Sensabaugh will appear in the rear-view mirror, children’s handprints will be found on the car and the sound of footsteps can be heard as Ed is approaching your car. To those daring enough to test this tunnel and the hauntings that may occur it can be found off Big Elm Road in Kingsport filled with graffiti and a creek nearby. 5. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and Pigman Bridge, Millington Legend has it that an unknown man, now known as Pigman, haunts the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and the Pigman Bridge in Millington. This unknown man used to work at an underground powder and explosives production plant also known as Chickasaw Ordnance Works during WWII. There was an accident in the plant leaving him disfigured, including burning off the tip of his nose, which is how he received the name “Pigman.” He was shunned by coworkers and local residents and took off to haunt the park and the bridge looking for his next victim. The story goes when he finds his next victim, he lets out a blood curling pig scream. Go to the Pigman Bridge on a full moon, park in the middle of the bridge, turn off your engine and lights, roll down your windows and shout “Pigman!” three times while simultaneously flashing the car lights and he will appear. The Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7p.m. with a variety of camping opportunities. The park sits on almost 13,000 acres bordering the Mississippi River and includes 49 campsites with a table, grill electrical and water hookups for RVs, a bathhouse with hot showers and six two-bedroom cabins to rent. The Pigman Bridge is located on Shake Rag Road over Jakes Creek. The coordinates to this location are 35.339742, -89.954757 this will bring you straight to the Pigman’s Bridge where the brave can call him and wait for him to arrive. 6. The Bell Witch Cave, Robertson County The Bell Witch is, perhaps, Tennessee's most famous ghost. The Bell Witch is rumored to be the spirit of a woman named Kate Batts. When the Bell family cheated her in a land purchase, she swore on her deathbed that she would haunt them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. The first evidence of the Bell Witch haunting was in 1817, when she possessed several ghost dogs to chase people off the farm. The animals then turned into a nightmare house of spooky sounds and chains being drug through the house. Rumor has it that President Andrew Jackson spent the night at the Bell Farm, and was quoted as saying "I'd rather face the entire British Army than spend another night with the Bell Witch." Over time, the story of the Bell Witch prompted many visitors, which led to the farmhouse being torn down for safety. Today, you can tour the property, for a small fee, of course.
10 Macabre Cities to Visit for Halloween
New Orleans, Louisiana From above ground mausoleums and tombs to haunted hotels to voodoo culture, New Orleans has a distinct culture that involves elements of the macabre. Founded in 1718 before the United States was officially founded, it has a history full of urban legends, including werewolves prowling the bayou or vampires in the French Quarter. Popular landmarks include the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in the St. Louis Cemetery, walking past the gruesome past of LaLaurie Mansion, or Blacksmith’s Shop Bar where the ghost of pirate Jean Lafitte resides. Walk the cobblestone streets past brightly colored houses with iron balconies on a ghost tour on a foggy night to experience the unusual. Savannah, Georgia Savannah may ooze more than southern charm. With more than 300 years of gruesome history, the entire historic district is reportedly haunted. There’s been rumors and sightings of paranormal activity at Hamilton-Turner Inn as well as Marshall House, a haunted hotel that was a hospital three times in the past. Madison Square was the site of a bloody Civil War battle and has many haunted mansions that line the streets. Wander through Bonaventure Cemetery or Colonial Park Cemetery if you dare. Sleepy Hollow, New York This village thrives in its folklore history due to the Headless Horsemen in the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. You may experience a ghostly encounter when walking through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery or exploring the town by lantern and shining jack-o-lanterns. Wander through popular colonial era manors include Philipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, or Lyndhurst Mansion to learn more about local Sleepy Hollow history and haunts. Salem, Massachusetts Founded in 1626 as a Puritan fishing community, Salem is the location of the famous 1692 Salem witch trials in which Colonial America’s mass hysteria led to 19 people being hanged with more dying from other causes. Much of the town’s cultural identity revolves around this event, and many of the sites from the witch trials over 300 years ago still stand. Many historic sites are reportedly haunted, including one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, Old Burying Point Cemetery, and home of a Witch Trial Judge, The Witch House. Explore the muted colors of the town and brick-paved streets yourself to learn more about the sinister history rooted here. Tombstone, Arizona Riddled with a violent past, this historic mining ghost town is said to be home to lingering spirits of cowboys, grieving mothers, and citizens killed in large fires. OK Corral, the site of the famous Old West gunfight, is reportedly haunted by the cowboys. Boot Hill Graveyard and Bird Cage Theatre are popular destinations where unexplainable phenomena occur in Tombstone. St. Augustine, Florida Presumably the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is home to centuries of history, beautiful houses, and supposedly, spirits. The masonry fortress Castillo de San Marcos is the location of many battles and invasions. Dangerous criminals in grotesque conditions were held at The Old Jail and apparitions with tragic deaths have been described at St. Augustine Lighthouse. Stroll the cobblestone streets among the Spanish colonial architecture to immerse yourself in this ancient city. San Francisco, California Among the vibrant scenery and sloping hills, some locations around San Francisco may send you chills even amidst the warm weather. Alcatraz, or “The Rock,” is a famous maximum-security military prison and haunted landmark that housed inmates including Al Capone. See if you hear voices or footsteps behind you if you visit. Take your pick of the macabre from friendly ghosts at The Queen Anne Hotel, dead army men performing their daily routine at the National Park The Presidio, or ethereal beings at the Sutro Baths. Charleston, South Carolina Known as a port city with cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages, Charleston also has some dark history from the first shots of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter to slave labor on plantations. Learn about the macabre with locations like the White Point Garden where 50 pirates were hanged in the 1700s, the Old City Jail which housed the state’s first female serial killer, or The Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon which held Revolutionary War soldiers. San Antonio, Texas Bursting with rich culture and modern attractions, San Antonio also has a creepy past. The Menger Hotel is reputed to have strange occurrences but is decidedly the location of The Battle of the Alamo, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders recruitment, and a devastating fire. The Southern Texas region also gives way to the Spanish urban legend of La Llorona, the weeping woman. Walk along the river or visit the Alamo Williamsburg, Virginia Existing as early as the 18th-century, Williamsburg has diverse Colonial America history, including part in the U.S. Civil War. Not all of its history is for the faint of heart though. Said to be cursed by the slave of the wife, the Peyton Randolph House was built in 1715 and the location of at least 30 deaths. The Public Hospital was the country’s first insane asylum Other haunted locations are the Wythe House, colonial prison Public Gaol, and Fort Magruder Hotel which was the site of the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862.
The 10 best day trips in the US Midwest
In the Midwest, you’ll find friendly small towns as well as urban sprawls. Roll call for the region's cities starts with Chicago, which unfurls what is arguably the country's mightiest skyline. In Cleveland, the best action is in its walkable neighborhoods. Detroit rocks, plain and simple. Day trips in this region have everything from parks and museums to architectural delights to breweries. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Best day trips from Chicago Indiana Dunes National LakeshoreAt the southern tip of Lake Michigan, 15 miles of white-sand dunes and more than 50 miles of trails await outdoor adventurers. At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, you can swim, bike, fish, ski or hike, depending on the season – or camp overnight from April to October. Beaches fill up fast in the summer, so arrive early to pick the best spot. 1hr 10min by car. Lakefront walking path in Lake Geneva ©Sandy Swanson/Shutterstock Lake Geneva Shore Path, Wisconsin You’ll find something fascinating along just about any stretch of this nearly 26-mile path, which was originally forged to link Native American villages. It winds past excellent lake views, wooded stretches and beautiful estates. Strike out in either direction from Lake Geneva Library for the easiest route. 2hr by car. Windmill Island Gardens, Holland, MichiganGet a taste of Dutch life in delightfully kitschy Windmill Island Gardens. The top attraction in the aptly named town of Holland, this 36-acre park contains gardens, dykes, canals, picnic areas and, of course, a giant windmill imported from the Netherlands in 1964. In the spring, more than 100,000 blooming tulips draw admiring crowds to town. 2hr 20min by car. Illinois is a great base to explore Frank Lloyd Wright's designs ©Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock Racine, WisconsinArchitecture aficionados shouldn’t miss Racine, which is home to several notable Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Manufacturer SC Johnson is based here, and its third-generation CEO commissioned Wright to build not only his home, Wingspread, but also the administration building and research tower for SC Johnson itself. 2hr 20min by car. See more day trips from Chicago. Best day trips from Detroit Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, DearbornPlunge into American history. The indoor Henry Ford Museum contains a wealth of American culture, such as the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, the limo in which Kennedy was killed and the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The adjacent outdoor Greenfield Village features Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers’ airplane workshop. 30min by car. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand RapidsThe 158-acre gardens feature impressive blooms and hulking works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and others. The sculpture park offers paths and lawns bejeweled with works by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Claes Oldenburg and Anish Kapoor. The five-story glass conservatory bursts with tropical plants. The children’s garden provides lots to smell, touch and dig into. The tranquil Japanese Garden is another highlight. 2hr 30min by car. Sample the craft beer at the breweries in Kalamazoo ©blizzard_77/Getty Images Breweries, KalamazooKalamazoo has an offbeat charm that will surprise first-time visitors. But it’s the local beer that has got people talking; over a dozen breweries produce a huge range of them. The leader is Bell’s Brewery, one of the top craft breweries in the country. 2hr 40min by train. See more day trips from Detroit. Best day trips from Cleveland Cuyahoga Valley National Park has several waterfalls and hiking trails ©fdastudillo/Getty Images Cuyahoga Valley National ParkLike a great, cold snake, the Cuyahoga River worms over a forested valley, earning its Native American name of "crooked river" (or possibly "place of the jawbone"). Either name is evocative, and hints at the mystical beauty that Cuhayoga Valley National Park engenders on a cool morning, when the mists thread the woods and all you hear is the honk of Canadian geese and the fwup-fwup-whoosh of a great blue heron flapping over its hunting grounds. 30min by car. Fast action thrills of a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point ©AWelshLad/Getty Images Cedar Point, SanduskyCedar Point on Lake Erie is one of the world’s top amusement parks, known for its 17 adrenaline-pumping roller coasters. Stomach-droppers include the Top Thrill Dragster, among the globe’s tallest and fastest rides. It climbs 420ft into the air before plunging and whipping around at 120mph. The Valravn is the world’s longest ‘dive’ coaster, dropping riders at a 90-degree angle for 214ft. Check the park’s opening times before planning a visit. 1hr by car. Topiary Park, ColumbusIf you’ve ever thought, "I wonder what Georges Seurat’s post-impressionist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte would look like made out of yew trees," this park is for you. A local sculptor and his green-thumb wife created the Topiary Park some 30 years ago to brighten a neglected patch of downtown. Today you can wander around seven acres and admire the 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, monkey and cat carved from shrubs to resemble Seurat’s famous painting. 2hr by car.