Head to This State in Mexico for Wilderness Adventures and Cultural Connection

By The State of Nayarit Tourism Board
March 18, 2024
The lush wilderness of Nayarit, Mexico - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board

The Mexican state of Nayarit has long been a favorite for beach travelers, but few tourists are fully aware of all that this unique part of Mexico has to offer. While Nayarit is indeed blessed with one of the most spectacular coastlines in the country, it is also a region steeped in ancient history, arts and culture, and gastronomy. It provides unparalleled wellness experiences and is a champion of environmental and social sustainability. Add to that adventure-packed outdoor experiences, national parks, and more magical towns than any other state in Mexico.

The overall vibe of Nayarit is to take a step back, embrace the present, and get in touch with nature. You won't find late-night clubs with thumping music, or raucous party bars. Instead, the lifestyle in Nayarit is about toes-in-the-sand dining, cultural connections, or deep dives into history. It is also is one of the easiest states to reach from the U.S. and Canada. Visitors to Nayarit can fly into Puerto Vallarta and drive up the coastline. For interior visits to Nayarit, travelers can fly into Guadalajara or Tepic. In 2023 Aeromexico launched its first route between Mexico City and Tepic. If you’re looking for the next great adventure in Mexico, read on to discover why 2024 is the year to experience the State of Nayarit.

Step back in time with historical sites and "Magical Towns"

The capital of Nayarit is Tepic, a city whose rich legacy can be seen through its architecture, museums, and traditions. Tepic was founded in 1531 as the capital of the Kingdom of New Galicia, a region that was made up of central, northern, and western Mexico. A visit to Tepic starts downtown in the Plaza de Armas and its Purisima Concepcion Cathedral, built between 1804 and 1896. You will also find the Cruz del Zacate Temple and the Government Palace, which houses murals from Jose Luis Soto. Museums in Tepic include the Regional Museum of Nayarit, as well as the Juan Escutia House-Museum, located in the 18th-century birthplace of this national Mexican hero — among many other museums dedicated to art, archaeology, and history.

Surrounding Tepic are majestic mountains, which hold many of the state's secrets, from its adventure and ecotourism offerings to its native communities. One such attraction is the Los Toriles archaeological site, home to 93 historics structures, including a pyramid dedicated to the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. There is also the "Magical Town" of Amatlán de Cañas, which feels paused in time. Surrounded by mountains and sliced by rocky canyons, this town is known for its historic temples. Nayarit is blessed with nine of these "Magical Towns"—the most for one state in the country. The Magical Towns of Mexico, or Pueblos Magicos, is a government-granted designation given to towns or villages in Mexico that best exemplify aspects of culture, history, tradition, art, food, nature, and beyond. These recognized places have something unique to them that helps to tell the story of the soul of Mexico. In addition to Amatlán de Cañas, there is also Sayulita, Compostela, Jala, Mexcaltitán, Ahuacatlán, Ixtlán del Río,San Blas, and Puerto Balleto (Islas Marías).

Travelers who want to learn more about the indigenous communities of Nayarit can head to the Sierra del Nayar, a region of Nayarit characterized by mountain ranges, jungles, and native communities that have kept their traditions and customs alive. The groups that settled in the Sierra del Nayar are the Coras, Huicholes, Tepehuanos, and Mexicaneros. A visit to the community of El Nayar is the best place to learn about these communities. The main ethnic groups here are the Cora and Huichol and their Holy Week has been designated an Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO. The event features men painted in body paint from head to toe, fighting ritual battles with wooden swords, dancing, feasting, and much more.

Discover fascinating flora and fauna

A whale off the coast of Mexico - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board

The natural beauty and wildlife of Nayarit is unparalleled, from marine life to migratory birds, jungle wildcats, and beyond. So much of the state is protected in Natural Reserves where its wildlife can thrive. Parque Nacional Islas Marietas, for example, located just five miles from Punta de Mita, is home to a diverse number of endemic species, while Sierra de Vallejo is home to the Santuario del Jaguar, a nearly 5,000-acreprotected area known for its jaguar population.

Nayarit is home to some of the most unique islands in Mexico. Mexcaltitan is a Magical Town island known for its canals that have earned the nickname, "Venice of Mexico." Further out to sea are Islas Marias, a former federal prison now a protected natural environment.

The state is also home to three of Mexico's National Parks. The first is Islas Marietas National Park, an archipelago five miles from Punta de Mita made up of two islands, two islets, and several rocky shallows home to endemic and migratory marine and bird life. La Tovara National Park, located in San Blas, is a habitat of estuary and freshwater springs, with canals surrounded by mangroves, vegetation, and brilliant orchids and bromeliads. Finally, Isla Isabel National Park is a virgin coastal paradise known for its panoramic Pacific Ocean views, sea-facing cliffs, and rolling mountains.

A leader in environmental preservation, Nayarit's tourism growth is focused on sustainability. Nayarit is a member of the Hotel Basics initiative of the World Travel and Tourism Council, which seeks to take an important step towards the care of natural environments and respect for the communities. Hotels must work under sustainability criteria, such as reducing energy and water consumption, reducing carbon emissions, protecting the environment, and contributing positively to the environment and its communities.

Experience ancient healing rituals

A beach in Nayarit, Mexico - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board

The beautiful jungle-covered mountains, crashing Pacific coastline, and abundance of wildlife sets the ideal backdrop for a wellness journey. Whether it's an indulgent treatment at a world-class spa in Punta de Mita, a multi-day yoga retreat in Sayulita, or an ancient healing ritual rooted in centuries of indigenous tradition, Nayarit has everything travelers need to embark on a wellness journey.

Enjoy local delicacies and fine coffee

Nayarit's wealth is not only determined by its natural beauty. Its gastronomy is part of what makes this state unique. Each year, Nayarit is one of the hosts of Festival Gourmet International, a world-class food festival spread across dozens of restaurants bringing roughly 75 chefs, events, and thousands of foodies to Riviera Nayarit, Tepic, and Puerto Vallarta. Dishes like Pescado Zarandeado and Chicharron de Pescado can trace their roots back to pre-Hispanic times. Also native to Nayarit is Tlaxtihuilli, a seafood soup that uses shrimp, corn, and guajillo chiles. Don’t forget to sample the raicilla, a highly potent spirit made from the agave plant, similar to tequila and mezcal. Additionally, just south of Nayarit, in the municipality of Jala, is Peseta del Cielo, a vineyard that was launched in 2019. In 2022 the first Nayarit wines were produced, using Syrah and Macabeo grapes. The Syrah 2022 ranked among the Top 99 Mexican Wines of Cava Magazine. In 2023 Meseta del Cielo opened for tourism.

Coffee culture is more than just a trend in Nayarit — it's a way of life. Some of the best organic coffee in the world is grown in the state. The warm, humid climate, volcanic mountain soil, and high altitude make Nayarit one of the best coffee producers in Mexico. Not only is it possible to sip a great cup of coffee, but visitors can tour the coffee plantations. Grupo Terruño Nayarita is a business that organizes the small farms of sustainable coffee production in the state. The group consists of nearly 400 local producers.

Plan an outdoor adventure

Explore the wilderness of Nayarit - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board

Nayarit's landscape is the perfect playground for adventure enthusiasts. From epic surf breaks along the Pacific Coast, to hiking, biking, and zip lining, there is no shortage of outdoor adventure to explore in the state. Other fun things to do in Nayarit include rappelling, ATV off-road adventure tours, or a guided backcountry eco-adventure tour aboard a4×4 Mercedes Benz jeep.

It's impossible to talk about Nayarit and not mention its spectacular beaches. From Nuevo Nayarit up to the border with Sinaloa, the coastline is blessed with some of the best beaches in Mexico. Towns like Bucerias, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta de Mita, Sayulita, San Pancho, Lo de Marcos, Guayabitos, and San Blas — also known as the Riviera Nayarit — have been drawing sun worshippers, surfers, and beachcombers for decades. With such a stellar coastline comes ample opportunity for world-class surfing. There are seven different surf “breaks” circling the Punta Mita southern peninsula alone, from Anclote to Sayulita. These provide surfers of all skill levels with many options — from zippy reefs to perfect point breaks. Other incredible surf breaks can be found further north in Chacala and San Blas.

Islas Marias is a true story of transformation and repurposing to create something beautiful. About 80 miles off the coast of San Blas is a string of islands that was once home to one of the most infamous federal prisons in Mexico. Today, however, it is one of UNESCO's natural protected areas and a center for environmental tourism. Accessible only by boat, the protected islands are home to a cultural center, hiking trails, wildlife, and the Pueblo Magico of Puerto Balleto.

See local artistic traditions

Central to Nayarit is the Huichol, or Wixáritari, community. Their artistic traditions are deeply rooted in spirituality, represented through spectacular beadwork. The Huichol artwork takes inspiration from symbolism and the balance of opposites, like the relationship between light and dark or the rainy and dry seasons. You can find Huichol art in galleries and gift shops throughout Nayarit, particularly in the mountain communities as well as the coastal towns and villages.

Part of the Huichol tradition is creating beautiful crafts. Artisans across the state specialize in a few key crafts that have become integral to the Huichol culture. The Tzicuri, or "God's Eye," is one of the most iconic, symbolizing protection over children. The weave of five interconnected diamonds is seen as a symbol of power and protection. Similarly, the Nerikate are ritual tools rooted in spirituality, made with yarn or beads on large wooden canvases. They represent divine revelation. Finally, Nayarit is known for its alebrijes, vibrant and cheerful surrealistic folk art sculptures that usually take the form of animals.

Add in a little luxury to your vacation

The coastline of Nayarit, Mexico - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board

If you want to budget in a little more, Nayarit has options to upgrade your vacation. Luxe legends like Punta Mita have been home to brands like Four Seasons and St. Regis for decades. Up the coastline, the newer, dreamy, elegant Mandarina development has a One&Only resort. Coming soon, Nayarit is expecting a Rosewood Hotel and a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Nayarit has dozens of boho-chic boutique hotels all up the coastline, as well, particularly in Punta de Mita, Sayulita, and San Pancho.

Exclusivity and luxury set the tone for the nine golf courses in the state, designed by legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Jim Lipe, Percy Clifford, and Robert Von Hagge & Baril. Thesetop-tier golf courses feature spectacular views over the Bay of Banderas and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the beautiful beaches and mountain rainforests of the Sierra Madres.

Plan Your Next Getaway
Keep reading

Plan a Spirited Tour of these Tennessee Distilleries for Women's History Month

There's nothing wrong with a typical boozy girls trip to idyllic vineyards, but for something unexpected and adventurous, try a tour across Tennessee to discover these women-led distilleries. Here, a new narrative is unfolding. From the hallowed grounds of storied distilleries to the forefront of innovation, a number of remarkable Tennessee women not only shaped the landscape of one of America's most iconic industries but also shattered glass ceilings and defied convention. For Women's History Month this March, celebrate the indomitable spirit and groundbreaking contributions of women in the Tennessee whiskey industry. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey (Shelbyville, Tennessee) A woman of many talents, Fawn Weaver is an entrepreneur, a New York Times-bestselling author, a TED speaker and CEO/founder of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, the fastest-growing American whiskey brand in the U.S. — and the best-selling African American founded spirit brand of all time. Equally talented is Victoria Eady Butler, who fills the role of Master Distiller at Uncle Nearest. It's a family affair: Butler's great-great-grandfather was Nathan “Nearest” Green, the enslaved (and later emancipated) Tennessean who taught Jack Daniel the craft of distilling. During a guided tour, go behind the scenes at Nearest Green Distillery, and taste the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey flight, which includes the Master Blend Edition, sold exclusively on-site. And don't miss the craft cocktails at the distillery's Humble Baron Bar, where you'll enjoy 518-foot-long showpiece bar (the world's longest!), live music and a gospel brunch celebration every Sunday. Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. (Tullahoma, Tennessee) Nicole Austin of Cascade Hollow - courtesy of TN Dept of Tourist Development Fun fact: George Dickel is the only American whiskey distillery owned by a woman in the 1800s that's still in production. Now renamed Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., the Tullahoma distillery — and its women-powered energy — live on in the 21st century. Master Distiller since 2018, Nicole Austin is the whiskey genius behind some of Cascade Hollow's most beloved releases, including such legacy items as George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond and Dickel Bourbon. Cascade Hollow offers regular “Meet the Distiller” experiences, with Nicole guiding whiskey fans on a distillery tour, a Q&A session and tastings. Check the event calendar for upcoming events. Nelson's Green Brier Distillery (Nashville, Tennessee) Another woman who looms large in the history of Tennessee whiskey is Louisa Nelson, who emerged as a pioneering force in the industry during the late 19th century. In 1863, she married Charles Nelson, who initiated the Nelson Distillery in Greenbrier, Tennessee in the early 1870s. Following Charles's passing in 1891, Louisa assumed leadership, transforming the distillery's footprint from 50 acres to a staggering 980 acres, propelling Nelson's Green Brier Distillery to international acclaim until prohibition forced them to close. Louisa's descendants revived the family business and pay homage to their matriarch with her own line of liqueur. Visitors interested in learning more about this “great woman behind a great whiskey” can explore the Nelson's Green Brier Distillery exhibits at the Greenbrier Historical Society Museum and Library (Wed.-Fri., 10am-4pm or Sat., 10am-1pm). Take a guided tour of Green Brier Distillery's Marathon Village location in Nashville and learn more about how brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson revived the family business. Big Machine Distillery (Lynnville & Nashville, Tennessee) Initially a tattoo artist and part-time bartender, Devin Walden stumbled into the craft beverage industry as a temporary employee on the bottling line at Woodford Reserve. She immersed herself in the craft, eventually becoming the famed brand's first female distillery operator. Now at Big Machine Distillery in Tennessee, she tackles diverse challenges daily, from cooking mash to refining production schedules. At its downtown Nashville location, Big Machine Distillery offers an entertaining/educational tour with a tasting of a wide array of its craft spirits. As an add-on, guests can bottle their own Double Gold Award-Winning Platinum-Filtered Big Machine Vodka, or Single Barrel Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey straight from the barrel. Leiper's Fork Distillery (Franklin, Tennessee) From grain selection, mashing, fermentation, distillation, barrel aging and bottling — Leiper's Fork controls every step of its intricate whiskey-making process. Leading this fiercely independent charge is Head Distiller Kendra Anderson, whose dedication to using pre-prohibition technique and a small-batch approach (the distillery only makes 25,000 gallons of whiskey annually) has resulted in some of the finest spirits to ever come out of Tennessee. On a guided tour of Leiper's Fork, you'll visit the distillery's stillhouse, learn how they make this traditional small-batch whiskey and get a taste of their spirits in a 200-year-old tasting room. Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery (Chattanooga, Tennessee) Tiana Saul of Chattanooga Whiskey - courtesy of TN Dept of Tourist Development Tiana Saul, Head Distiller at Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery, left an indelible mark on Tennessee's spirits world with innovations like barrel-aged gins and infused liqueurs. Her adept blending skills also played a crucial role in shaping the acclaimed Chattanooga Whiskey Finishing Series and Bottled in Bond Vintage Series. At the helm of Chattanooga Whiskey, Saul leads a team of 15 full-time employees, overseeing all aspects of production from grain to glass. With over 100 different barrels maturing in the aging cellar, every visit to the experimental distillery is an exploration of the past, present and future of hand-crafted bourbon. Reserve a tour and tasting to check out the latest and greatest. Jack Daniel Distillery (Lynchburg, Tennessee) Lexie Phillips's journey at the legendary Jack Daniel Distillery began in quality control and distillery operations, where she steadily rose to the position of Assistant Distiller. Today, she works closely with Master Distiller Chris Fletcher to drive whiskey innovation. As one of the few women to serve in this role, Lexie is keen on inspiring the next generation of female distillers and passionately shares her knowledge as a brand ambassador through tasting events, brand education, and insightful distillery tours for Lynchburg visitors. On the immersive Jack n' Back tour, spend a day in historic Lynchburg, with plenty of tastings and the full story of how the highest selling American whiskey in the world grew from the smallest county in Tennessee. Old Dominick Distillery (Memphis, Tennessee) Alex Castle of Old Dominick Distillery - courtesy of TN Dept of Tourist Development Whiskey isn't just a job for Alex Castle, Old Dominick Distillery's Master Distiller and Vice President. It's a lifelong passion. “I love that I get to be creative,” she says. “I really enjoy product development and getting to play with different flavors and ingredients.” With early experience in the heart of Kentucky's bourbon belt, Alex brings a spirit of experimentation to her work at Old Dominick — you must try their oatmeal raisin cookie bourbon. From an in-depth discussion into the history of whiskey in Memphis to an exclusive look into Old Dominick's aging loft, the Beyond the Barrel experience is a whiskey lover's dream come true. Tennessee Hills (Jonesborough, Tennessee) Born and raised in Washington County, Jessica Callahan's roots run deep in the community that Tennessee Hills Distillery calls home. Alongside her husband and co-owner Stephen, she left behind a comfortable 9-to-5 job, immersing herself in every aspect of the whiskey business, from the hands-on labor to the intricate art of constructing stills. That relentless dedication culminated in the opening of Tennessee Hills Distillery in 2016, housed in the historic Salt House of Jonesborough. Do yoga and whiskey go well together? At Tennessee Hills they do! Every Wednesday from 4:30-5:30pm, join a yoga session — and then enjoy a sampling of the distillery's best offerings.A Sip of History (Hermitage, Tennessee) This spring on April 6th, Andrew Jackson's Hermitage and the Tennessee Whiskey Trail will host the ninth annual Sip of History event, an afternoon of whiskey sampling, live music and dog-friendly fun at Nashville's presidential homesite. Taking place in one of Tennessee's most beautiful and historic settings, Sip of History offers visitors the chance to learn about and support several of Tennessee's woman-led distilleries, including Old Dominick, Uncle Nearest, Cascade Hollow, Jack Daniel and more. For more Tennessee whiskey experiences, discover the Tennessee Whiskey Trail.


Spend Spring in These Charming Small Towns

Beaches, theme parks, campgrounds, and big cities all might be feeling a bit crowded as spring breakers and travelers plan warm-weather trips. If you're looking to unwind and escape the bustle of popular destinations this season, get off the beaten path and head to one of these small-town America and enjoy the local charm and slower pace of life. White Rock, New Mexico Bandelier National Monument by Jael Coon - Unsplash The Travel, an online travel journal, recently named White Rock, New Mexico, the “Happiest Small Town in America” in their 2024 rankings. Based on the criteria of a town with a population below 8,000, as well as low poverty, crime, and unemployment ratings, White Rock—located in Los Alamos County—received the highest score. “With a rural feel and a close-knit community, White Rock is one of the happiest small towns in America, where the abundance of picturesque landscapes is great," The Travel wrote in their article. “We’re honored to have White Rock receive such high acclaim from The Travel, and we know the town is certainly deserving of the title,” Ellyn Felton, Marketing Specialist for Los Alamos County said. “With a friendly atmosphere, tons of trails through and around town, beautiful dark skies, and unique local businesses, White Rock is a gem among small towns across America.” For those visiting White Rock, be sure to start your visit at the White Rock Visitor Center for maps and an overview of local activities. A must-see destination for all history and anthropology lovers, Bandelier National Monument transports visitors back in time, where they can climb ladders and explore ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings. Additionally, with a variety of hiking trails, some even paved and ADA accessible, Bandelier is perfect for exploring the outdoors and viewing local wildlife. For more beautiful outdoor scenery, grab your camera and prepare for stunning shots at White Rock Overlook Park. With 270-degree views of the Rio Grande, running along the Jemez Mountains, you’ll have the chance to take in one-of-a-kind sunsets and explore trails on foot, horse, or bike, along the rim or down to the bottom of the canyon. Named in TravelAwaits’ list of 15 Best Small-Town Restaurants across the U.S. in 2021, Pig + Fig Café features delicious creations from Laura Crucet—award-winning chef and graduate of the globally-renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. Enjoy a variety of fresh-made dishes—many of which can be offered with vegan, gluten-free, or nut-free options—as well as local twists featuring New Mexico chile. Extend your visit and explore nearby Los Alamos, New Mexico, famed as the former home of The Manhattan Project and J. Robert Oppenheimer. Located just 15 minutes away from White Rock, groundbreaking scientific discoveries occur to this day at Los Alamos National Laboratory. To plan your visit or explore all there is to see and do in White Rock and Los Alamos, go to www.visitlosalamos.org. Mariposa, California Mariposa Hotel Inn - courtesy of Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau The charming town of Mariposa, California is in the national spotlight again for a cultural scene that residents and returning visitors alike know is among the best in the United States. Recently, Mariposa was named as one of 20 finalists for the 2024 USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice travel award in the category of Best Small-Town Cultural Scene. To be considered for the award, a town must have fewer than 25,000 residents and have outstanding examples of museums, art galleries, performing arts and a strong stable of local events. Despite its population of just 1,060 people, Mariposa is home to three museums including the Mariposa Museum and History Center, which was named by the Smithsonian as one of the best small museums west of the Mississippi River. The town boasts three art galleries, local filmmakers that debut their works here in Mariposa and holds the title of being the smallest town in America with a symphony orchestra, The Mariposa Yosemite Symphony Orchestra. The Mariposa Arts Council's work to host its Music on the Green concert series and rejuvenate Mariposa with new murals and art installations is a huge boost to the local cultural scene. Mariposa is home to multiple annual events including the Mariposa County Fair which showcases the rich agricultural scene that many destinations have left behind. Each spring, Mariposa is home to the Mariposa Butterfly Festival, a family-friendly event that releases hundreds of butterflies. Mariposa's history goes back well beyond Spanish colonization to the Southern Sierra Miwuk, a local tribe that has called modern-day Mariposa home for hundreds of years. The Miwuk and other local tribes are honored each year with an event of their own in Mariposa, the Mariposa Pow Wow. A great place to stay for visitors, Mariposa is home to great lodging options running the gamut from camping to bed and breakfasts to boutique hotels and hotel brands that visitors from all over will recognize. Mariposa is the county seat of Mariposa County, California, a large, but lightly populated county on the southwestern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The county is home to rich Gold Rush history, outdoor activities like hiking, whitewater rafting, skiing and snowboarding, and skydiving, as well as Yosemite National Park, a world-renowned outdoor destination, and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania Cucumber Falls - courtesy of GO Laurel Highlands Ohiopyle has long been known as one of the best places for outdoor adventure in the Eastern United States. Now, the charming Fayette County borough, surrounded by Ohiopyle State Park, can earn a new title: Best Small Town in the Northeast. A panel of experts and USA Today's 10Best editors has selected Ohiopyle as a Readers' Choice Awards nominee. With its idyllic location along the banks of the Youghiogheny River and encompassed by the lush embrace of Ohiopyle State Park, the town offers a perfect blend of tranquility and excitement for visitors and residents alike. From cascading waterfalls to winding hiking trails, Ohiopyle beckons adventurers to explore its captivating landscapes and discover the wonders of the great outdoors in the Laurel Highlands. “The significance of Ohiopyle and Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands runs deeper than most visitors will ever realize,” said Ann Nemanic, executive director of GO Laurel Highlands. “As Pennsylvania's largest state park, Ohiopyle is a destination for any outdoor enthusiast. Whitewater rafting, an abundance of hiking trails, unique native fauna, waterfalls, and a hub for cyclists on the Great Allegheny Passage all mesh in over 20,000 acres of natural beauty. Native Americans named and respected the 'white, frothy water' that so many enjoy today. Ohiopyle is a four-season destination and provides all the amenities one would want nestled in a picturesque river/trail town. Come for a visit; we can assure you this will not be a one-and-done experience.” With a population of 37 according to the 2021 census, Ohiopyle certainly fits the “small town” category, but Mayor Mark McCarty says the number of year-round residents is probably closer to a dozen. Ohiopyle's nomination isn't surprising to McCarty, who has called the borough home since the state park was dedicated in 1971 and has served as mayor for decades. “I realized it was a wonderful small town more than 50 years ago,” he said. “I left Pittsburgh and ran away to the mountains and never looked back.” The Youghiogheny River runs through the heart of town, with the 20-foot drop of Ohiopyle Falls visible from Main Street and four outfitter services offering whitewater rafting trips on the river, ranging from family-friendly floats to wet-and-wild adventures. Kayaking, fishing and swimming are also popular activities in the Yough, which recently was nominated as Pennsylvania's river of the year. Over the years, the town's popularity has grown along with the outdoor activities available in it. Backpackers flock to the borough to access the trailhead of the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, while cyclists riding the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage – which USA Today readers named one of the nation's top recreational trails – pedal above Main Street on the Ohiopyle Low Bridge. “The tourism has picked up, especially with the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail through town,” said Jessica Kruse, Ohiopyle borough council president. “There's been an increase in lodging in town that means more people can stay. They used to come for day trips. Now, with so many opportunities, there are longer stays – weekend stays, three-day stays and even weeklong stays.” Ohiopyle State Park attracts more than one million visitors per year, with the adventurous testing their nerve at the Meadow Run Natural Waterslides while waterfall lovers gather at Cucumber Falls, an Instagrammable 30-foot bridal waterfall that is just yards from a parking lot. Outdoor adventures aren't the only reason to visit Ohiopyle. It's also a popular spot for architecture lovers. Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is 3 1/2 miles north of town, while Kentuck Knob, another home designed by the architectural genius, lies two miles to the west. The surrounding region of Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands has been showcased multiple times by USA Today 10Best. Keystone State Park was named the Best Destination for Fall Foliage in the U.S., and the Foggy Goggle at Seven Springs Mountain Resort was chosen the Best Apres-Ski Bar in North America. Ohiopyle outfitter Wilderness Voyageurs was voted one of the 10 Best Whitewater Rafting Tours last year, and Greensburg's El Diablo Brewing Co. was one of the nation's top new breweries in recently concluded voting. A magnificent mountainous region, the area spans 3,000 square miles in southwestern Pennsylvania. Located just an hour east of Pittsburgh, the beautiful four-season destination offers spectacular natural scenery, outstanding skiing, hiking, biking and golfing opportunities, historic sites and attractions, family activities and world-class resorts. Visitors to the Laurel Highlands can find information online at GoLaurelHighlands.com.


Celebrate Art and Culture in San Francisco for Women's History Month

In honor of Women's History Month, the San Francisco Travel Association celebrates women in the arts whose work amplifies San Francisco's ethos of experimentation and creativity. San Francisco's rich and diverse cultural scene features new exhibits, artistic programs and events led by dozens of dynamic and innovative women. Here are a few of those charting the next chapter. Watch a global premier at the San Francisco Ballet Tamara Rojo's blockbuster inaugural season as San Francisco Ballet's artistic director features bold new global premiers such as Mere Mortals and beloved classics like Swan Lake. The current repertory season runs through May 5. SF Ballet will return to the War Memorial Opera House in December with performances of the Nutcracker. Expect even more innovation and spellbinding performances from SF Ballet in the years to come. In February, SF Ballet – the nation's oldest professional ballet company – received a historic $60 million anonymous donation to fund new works and acquisitions of masterpieces and bolster Rojo's and SF Ballet's vision of revolutionizing ballet. See European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums This fall, the Legion of Honor marks the start of its 100th anniversary celebration. Emily A. Beeney, the newly appointed chief curator of the Legion of Honor and curator-in-charge of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, will play a significant role by leading the curatorial and interpretation effort underway to present the historic collections at the Legion and the stories they contain through a fresh and inclusive lens. This initiative will involve selective gallery reinstallations and enhancements to the visitor experience. A specialist in French paintings and drawings of the 17th through 19th centuries, Beeny will present Mary Cassatt at Work (Oct. 5, 2024–Jan. 25, 2025) to kick off the Legion's 100th anniversary. Too often dismissed as a sentimental painter of mothers and children, Cassatt was a radical modernist and pioneering female impressionist painter and printmaker. The exhibition is the first major U.S. presentation of Cassatt's work in over 25 years, and it is one of the Fine Arts Museums' focused season of exhibitions emphasizing the groundbreaking works of historic and contemporary women artists. The Legion's centennial celebration will continue through the fall of 2025 and offer audiences a special program of exhibitions and events closely tied to the collections on view at the Legion. Learn about local artists at ArtSpan Led by ArtSpan Executive Director Joen Madonna, the 50th annual SF Open Studios production (SFOS) marks a milestone for the nonprofit, which connects diverse audiences to local art and artists. Themed From Disco Days to the Tech Craze: 50 Years of Championing Local Arts, SF Open Studios 50th production will expand to include local art and culture happenings across the city from June through November, with the annual flagship SFOS taking place Sept. 19 through Oct. 13. Since its launch in 1975, SFOS has grown into a month-long, citywide season of art held annually in the fall with over 800 participating artists and more than 100,000 visitors. It's a testament to the enduring power of art to bridge communities and to the unyielding spirit of the artists who have been at the forefront of shaping San Francisco's cultural identity. “ArtSpan is a beacon for the creative community that ensures artists shine as an essential part of San Francisco's legacy of groundbreaking artistic expression. San Francisco is a magical place that reinvents herself with the desires and drive of her people—so too does ArtSpan to support artists where their needs are greatest,” said Madonna. Explore sports in culture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher is helping San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) get into the game ahead of the 2025 NBA All-Star Game at Chase Center next February with a new exhibition exploring the powerful role of sports in contemporary culture. The Get in the Game exhibit (on view from Oct. 19, 2024, through Feb. 18, 2025) will examine how sports permeate culture, bring people together, and offer a critical lens through which to consider ongoing conversations about gender, race, national identity and the human body, as well as the will and desire to compete and succeed. Dunlop Fletcher, together with Christopher Bedford, Seph Rodney, and Katy Siegel, is curating the exhibit, which will be SFMOMA's largest to date. Since 2008, Dunlop Fletcher has organized several key acquisitions and exhibitions at SFMOMA, focusing on bold visionary works of design from the late 20th century to the present. “SFMOMA's Architecture and Design collection and programming began with a focus on bold visionary works from the late 20th century. I've furthered this emphasis on radical thinking while also expanding the focus to include works and voices previously marginalized,” said Dunlap Fletcher. Enjoy award-winning theatre at American Conservatory Theater Pam MacKinnon and Jennifer Bielstein of the A.C.T. - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association Under the direction of Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon and Executive Director Jennifer Bielstein, A.C.T. is rolling out a blockbuster season of plays. Following the success of the world premiere of BIG DATA, A.C.T. will be staging the Pulitzer Prize finalist play Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord (March 30 – May 5), the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical A Strange Loop (April 18 – May 12), and the five-time Tony Award-winning production The Lehman Trilogy (May 25 – June 23). “A.C.T. is thrilled to be making work with and giving platform to gorgeous and important theater artists. With versatile actors who bring their all to unlock the power of a character and story, or brilliant designers who create magical worlds, or unparalleled craftspeople in our costume, scenic and prop shops who realize the visions, San Francisco and Bay is full of creative, nurturing, innovative makers and dreamers,” said MacKinnon. Bielstein added, “A.C.T. is proud to be an integral part of the San Francisco Bay Area's vibrant and diverse arts ecosystem. We bring artists and Bay Area residents together to inspire and provoke through what they experience on our stages, and we think that the value we offer with a live, in person, communal experience is more important than ever in these times.” View works by emerging Asian and Asian American artists Abby Chen in front of Pattern Recognition - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association / Asian Art Museum Since joining the Asian Art Museum as Head of Contemporary Art in 2019, Abby Chen has swiftly positioned the museum as an essential platform for emerging and established — as well as historically underrepresented — voices from Asia, the Asian diaspora and the wider Asian American community. In just a few short years, the award-winning exhibitions, attendant programs, and publications organized by Chen have helped the Asian Art Museum to reshape the narrative of contemporary Asian art outside of Asia. Chen's experimental approach often explores the intersectionalities of race, sexuality, gender, nation, migration, and especially technology in the U.S. and Asia. “I want audiences to learn there is more to modern and contemporary art than what they've been told, that it is not a monolith in terms of gender, sexuality, culture, and place, but an intersection. How else can we do the essential, but hard work of redefining the story of American art to meaningfully include Asian American and diaspora voices?” said Chen. With the addition of Senior Associate Curator to her title, Chen now leads the largest curatorial team at the Asian Art Museum. She helped the museum acquire the largest collection of SF Bay Area Asian artists, securing works by Bernice Bing, Zheng Chongbin, Jenifer K Wofford and Rupy C. Tut, among others. Chen's next major exhibition, a collaboration with award-winning designer Jenova Chen, will debut in spring 2025 when the Asian Art Museum will be the first museum to present a first-of-its-kind immersive “gaming” exhibition. Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Museum of the African Diaspora Monetta White, CEO, Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) - courtesy of the San Francisco Travel Association The Museum of the African Diaspora will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2025. CEO Monetta White has led the museum's successful efforts to expand its global reach and digital audience since she took the helm in 2019, creating new opportunities for Black curators and artists. MoAD bridges local and global narratives, fosters a sense of belonging, and celebrates the rich diversity of the African Diaspora. This year's exhibitions include “!!!”, a solo exhibit showcasing works by acclaimed British visual artist and painter Rachel Jones. On view from March 27 through Sept. 1, Jones' new body of work continues the artist's exploration into Black interiority and personhood. Catch a performance by the San Francisco Opera Following the San Francisco Opera's dynamic centennial celebration, the company returns with another incredible summer season from May through June. Music Director Eun Sun Kim will open the season on May 30, conducting Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute, featuring an international cast and staging rooted in the aesthetic of silent film that incorporates stunning animated projections which interact with the singers. SF Opera will also present the U.S. premiere of Kaija Saariaho's last opera, Innocence, a San Francisco Opera co-commission. In the fall, the free SF Opera in the Park will take place in Golden Gate Park on Sept. 8, with Eun Sun Kim leading the orchestra in an afternoon of arias and ensembles performed by stars from SF Opera. Browse the contemporary art gallery of Jessica Silverman Jessica Silverman - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association Since founding her eponymous international contemporary art gallery in 2008, Jessica Silverman has become one of the country's leading galleries and a champion of Bay Area artists. She represents artists who make museum-worthy art at all stages of their careers. Silverman's contemporary art gallery is known for building Bay Area and international artists' careers and supporting art buyers keen on establishing relevant collections. In 2021, Silverman moved to a larger gallery space in Chinatown. The gallery's summer solo opening on July 25 features San Francisco-based artist Chelsea Ryoko Wong. This will be the artist's first major show at the gallery and will present large-scale figurative paintings inspired by California landscapes and communities, like San Francisco's Chinatown. “The Bay Area is home to ambitious and diverse artists, many of whom the gallery represents—a third of our artists live and work here. Local artists are an essential focus for museums in this community, too. ICA SF, San Francisco's newest institution, recently presented a solo exhibition of Rupy C. Tut, an artist who joined the gallery in 2023. An installation by Sadie Barnette, another gallery artist, is on view at SFMOMA through June. Titled “SPACE/TIME,” it celebrates the legacy of her Oakland-based family. Across the street, Chelsea Ryoko Wong is featured in the “Bay Area Now 9” biennial hosted by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). Visit Chinatown Edge on the Square in Chinatown - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association A stone's throw from Jessica Silverman is Edge on the Square, a new contemporary art hub in the heart of San Francisco Chinatown led by Executive Director Joanne Lee. The art hub hosts art exhibitions, music events and cultural gatherings year-round. Returning this year is Edge on the Square's third annual Contemporary Art Festival (slated to return on Saturday, Sept. 7). The festival aims to fuel revitalization efforts through the cultural arts. The one-day festival will feature an array of original art experiences, ephemeral installations, family-friendly activities, creative performances, panel conversations, culinary delights, and interactive exhibitions. To date, Edge on the Square has collaborated with more than 50 BIPOC artists and 30 merchant and vendor partners. “Edge on the Square is Chinatown's contemporary arts hub where you'll find compelling exhibitions, dynamic programs and surprise events by API and BIPOC collaborators. Created by and for the community, our offerings aim to reflect the rich history and culture of our neighborhood, all the while fueling the local economy towards the revitalization of Chinatown,” said Lee. Grant Street will also become the permanent home of the Chinese Culture Center (CCC) of San Francisco. CCC Executive Director Jenny Leung led the historic purchase of the organization's future building in Chinatown this February. Leung is known for her commitment to cultural diversity, equity, and arts access, as well as for expanding the organization's programming while focusing on cross-racial solidarity and combating anti-Asian hate. “CCC was one of the first Asian American arts organizations. It is truly meaningful for CCC at this stage to continue to chart a new course and continue its legacy in shaping a prototype for what Asian American arts can and should be. I feel deeply honored that CCC can create new expanded spaces for the community, in a pivotal and transformational moment for Chinatown as it is recovering from the pandemic, and at the same time having an awakening for artistic and cultural expression,” said Leung. CCC's current exhibition, Perilous Playground, is on view at its longtime Visual Art Center and Design Store near Portsmouth Square in Chinatown. The multidisciplinary exhibition guest is curated by C & G Apartment, formerly of Hong Kong, and presents innovative work in film, video, new media, sculpture, and mixed media by local and international artists examining the community's urban changes.


With Sunnier Days Approaching, It's Time to Book an Outdoor Adventure

It's a great time of year to get outside; Daylight Savings is just around the corner, and that means more sunshine and warmer temperatures. Look ahead to the brighter months of the year and book a trip for a memorable outdoor adventure. Journey through Utah's canyon country A guided tour in Utah encounters pictographs - courtesy of GeoCultura GeoCultura's 2024 tours offer its guests a journey through landscapes and an immersive experience led by knowledgeable guides and experts. Offering an insightful journey through the stunning landscapes and geology of Utah's canyon country, their southeastern Utah tour promises an unforgettable exploration of nature's wonders and human history. The first departure of this guided tour will be April 23 – 28, 2024. Led by expert guide Russell Davies, participants are invited to delve into the mysteries of Utah's National parks and monuments, where dramatic landforms and geological phenomena await discovery. From the majestic Colorado National Monument to the iconic Arches National Park, visitors will unravel the secrets behind these breathtaking landscapes, pondering the processes that shaped them over millennia. But the GeoCultura Tour offers more than just scenic vistas; it provides a window into the rich cultural tapestry of southeastern Utah. Delving into the history of Fremont, Ancient Puebloan, and Native American peoples, participants will explore cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and pictographs, gaining deeper insights into their way of life and enduring legacies. The tour includes a glimpse into the challenges faced by Mormon settlers as they traversed the rugged terrain of southeastern Utah, showcasing resilience and ingenuity in taming the wild landscape. Among the highlights of the journey is a visit to Monument Valley, renowned not only for its cinematic allure but also as the ancestral home of the Navajo people. Here, visitors will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Navajo culture and tradition, gaining a newfound appreciation for this sacred land. Throughout the tour, participants will meander through quaint desert towns like Bluff and Moab, each offering its own unique charm and character. From the sleepy streets of Bluff to the bustling adventure hub of Moab, visitors will experience the diverse tapestry of life in southeastern Utah. The GeoCultura Tour is designed for both the curious traveler and the avid explorer, offering a balance of easy to moderate activities suitable for all levels of fitness. With comfortable transportation and accommodations providing a seamless experience, participants can focus on soaking in the sights and sounds of this captivating region. Explore the ecosystem of Florida's Historic Coast The beach near St. Augustine, Florida - courtesy of Florida's Historic Coast Residents and visitors alike are charmed by the historic sites and natural beauty of Florida's Historic Coast. Cresting the Bridge of Lions, you're more likely to feel like you're descending into a Spanish village than a coastal town in Florida. This is thanks to St. Augustine and St. Johns County's incredible dedication to sustainability and preservation. It's a great region to explore the natural beauty and wilderness of Florida. Several businesses in the area also do an excellent job of reducing negative environmental impacts. These lands have been the site of numerous historic moments, and their preservation is just as important. The natural environment of the area boasts over 40 miles of pristine beaches, tens of thousands of acres of maritime hammocks, marshes, oyster beds, and more. Both the Florida and National Parks Systems actively promote responsible environmental impact and sustainability practices to protect St. Augustine's historic buildings, like the Castillo de San Marco National Monument, and seashores, like Anastasia State Park. The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to provide stewardship, facilitate research, and educate the public. Visitors are eager to learn about this spectacular environment that locals have grown up appreciating and protecting. Eco-tourism allows travelers to experience the natural habitat with tour operators that approach tourism ethically and sustainably. Outfits like St. Augustine Sailing, Florida Water Tours, St. Augustine Eco Tours, and GeoTrippin Adventure Company offer education-based tours that explore the ecosystem and its wildlife thoughtfully and non-invasively. Many local attractions and businesses are committed to instituting environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices. Eateries like the Ice Plant Bar & Restaurant, Harvest & Reel, The Floridian, and Catch 27 Restaurant pride themselves on using locally-grown produce and ethically sourced meats and seafood in their restaurants. The St. Augustine Distillery, which produces craft spirits like bourbon and gin, has prioritized sustainability since its inception eight years ago. Its home, a repurposed ice plant built in 1917, has been recognized by the Urban Land Institute of North Florida for preserving as many elements of the original building as possible. Several lodgings on Florida's Historic Coast, from major hoteliers like Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa to locally-owned enclaves like Carriage Way Bed and Breakfast Inn, have earned the Florida DEP's Green Lodging designation. The DEP has also awarded the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine Shipyard, and Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor with its Clean Marina Program, for their above and beyond efforts to protect the local marine ecology. The St. Augustine Amphitheatre has a landmark initiative known as Green Hands that reduces its impact through innovative processes, like utilizing a reusable cup deposit system. Get off the beaten path in Arizona Off the beaten path in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park Discover secluded areas within Petrified Forest National Park with eight new Off the Beaten Path guides that direct hikers away from busier areas to explore the park's hidden gem trails. Adventures include following old roadbeds, trekking into the wild badlands of the Painted Desert and hiking a path made by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The trails are open all year round and range from four to eight miles. The new guides are available at the park's visitor center. Be one of the first to visit and explore Rockin' River Ranch State Park in Camp Verde, which just opened in February 2024. Spend the day at Arizona's newest state park and enjoy hiking trails, kayaking or fishing while you take in remarkable views of the cottonwood tree-lined Verde River. Then, have a picnic at this day-use-only park. After visiting, take the opportunity to explore the surrounding Verde Valley for even more outdoor adventures such as visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument and touring the area wineries. Discover caverns and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia by Sarraf A - Unsplash Spacious Skies Campgrounds is a fast-growing owner and operator of RV campgrounds with RV, tent, cabin and glamping sites across 15 locations from Maine to Georgia. The company’s mission is to offer a fun, relaxing and authentic campground experience in destinations with abundant outdoor recreation and attractions. Their locations in North Carolina and Virginia, around the Blue Ridge Mountains, happen to also be near some of the most beautiful caverns. Head to their Hidden Creek location in Marion, North Carolina for an epic mountain adventure. The nearby Linville Caverns were discovered when a fishing expedition saw trout swimming through what looked to be a solid rock. Instead, it was an opening to a large cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites as well as a bat population. In late April, visitors can also enjoy the Fire on the Mountain festival in Spruce Pine, just a half an hour from Marion. The festival celebrates blacksmiths and their skill forging metal into useful items, art and functional art. Following that festival, in mid-May, visitors can catch another unique event in Marion. The WNC Bigfoot Festival welcomes both believers and skeptics who enjoy Bigfoot activities, educational panels, food and fun competitions. For more caverns, head north to Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views in Virginia and visit Luray Caverns. Luray is the largest cavern in the eastern United States, and some rooms have ceilings 10 stories high.