If you’re in the mood for a challenging but rewarding hike, Phoenix is ready to deliver. The city boasts a variety of mountain trails that’ll have you scrambling over boulders, marveling at saguaros, and earning incredible views. Phoenix features over 200 miles of hiking trails, but these seven are among the most iconic mountain hikes in the city.
Before you set out, make sure that you’re taking the necessary safety precautions. Phoenix is a dry, desert climate, so bring plenty of water(!!) and a fully charged cellphone, and wear sunscreen and protective gear. And, of course, read up on these Phoenix peaks to decide which is suitable for you before hitting the trail — consider distances and elevation gains carefully, and only attempt hikes that you're confident you are physically capable of completing safely.
Located smack dab in Central Phoenix, Piestewa Peak is the third highest peak in the city, at 2,610 feet. “The Stairmaster” is an apt nickname for the out-and-back Summit Trail, which climbs 1,200 feet in 1.2 miles. Be prepared for a trail that rises dramatically almost from the get-go and only levels off occasionally. The hike gets more intense closer to the summit, with metal handrails to guide you up the trail. At the very top, hikers scramble up a few rocks to reach the apex. Your reward for all the effort? Epic views of all of metropolitan Phoenix.
Named after the shape it takes on the skyline, Camelback Mountain is the highest point in Phoenix at 2,704 feet. There are two popular trails on this mountain: Echo Canyon, and Cholla, although Cholla Trail is currently closed for renovation. Some consider Cholla the easier of the two but make no mistake, both trails are a challenge. Expect to get dusty and sweaty as you scramble to reach the top, ascending a staggering and heart-pumping 1,280 feet in 1.2 miles. The steep slope begins not far from the trailhead, with railroad ties used as steps that help hikers navigate the rocky terrain. After the seemingly endless climbing, the work pays off with stunning city views and a deep sense of satisfaction. Mind your footing on the way back down for a 2.5-mile hike.
Located in the McDowell Mountains of Scottsdale, Tom’s Thumb was named after the first person to climb it, Arizona Mountaineering Club member Tom Kreuser. When you reach the end of the trail, you can’t miss the granite formation at the summit of this trail that looks like… yep, you guessed it: a thumb pointing toward the sky. Hikers will get an intense cardio workout as the trail ascends more than 1,300 feet in 2.5 miles. The stellar hike features switchbacks, scenic vistas, dramatic granite outcroppings, and desert flora and fauna. As you’re working up a sweat from start to finish, be sure to pause and take in the sweeping and stunning views of North Scottsdale and the surrounding area. The view from Tom’s thumb is particularly unforgettable. After enjoying the sights and a well-earned breather, simply hike out the way you came for a round-trip that’s about 5 miles.
Siphon Draw to Flatiron Trail
About 40 miles south of Phoenix, the Flatiron Trail is a hike that is simultaneously iconic, challenging, and totally epic. Part of the Superstition Mountains (“the Supes,” to locals), Flatiron towers high at 4,861 feet. Hikers can anticipate a 2,750-foot elevation gain if they hike this out and back 6-mile journey. Begin your hike at the Siphon Draw trailhead in Lost Dutchman State Park. The hike from Siphon Draw will take you into a canyon of the same name. This trail is 4 miles round trip and offers plenty of scenic Sonoran desert vistas untouched by development. Many hikers will turn around at the end of the Siphon Draw Trail. If you’re up for a steep climb and have the experience and stamina, scramble up Flatiron, sticking to the left to stay on course. Before you reach the top, you’ll have to scale a (gulp) 12-foot wall to reach the summit. Once you’re there, relax, revel in your accomplishment, and take in breathtaking views of the Apache Junction area.
Shaw Butte Trail
Back in Central Phoenix, the Shaw Butte Trail in North Mountain Park is well-maintained and one of the easier mountain peak hikes in town. Parts of the trail are even paved, and it all kicks off at a well-developed visitors center. It’s relatively flat for the first mile, after which the course begins its reasonably steep climb. The trail dips and rises a few times before topping out at Shaw Butte, which stands high at 2,149 feet. At the summit, you can’t miss the radio towers and sweeping views of the Central Valley of the Sun. On your way back down, be sure to check out the concrete remnants of Cloud 9 Restaurant—a swanky spot that burned down in 1964—for a hike that’s around four miles total.
At more than 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one the largest municipal parks in the entire country. Its Holbert Trail is one of the most popular hikes for one key and beautiful reason: Dobbins Overlook. Dobbins is the highest point in the park that is open to the public (at 2,330 feet), and it offers sweeping views of the entire Valley. By following this steep 2.5-mile hike that covers 1,100 vertical feet, hikers can reach this iconic viewpoint. Sure, you can drive to the top… but hiking the Holbert Trail and following the detour that leads to the Overlook is admittedly more rewarding. Once you’ve soaked up all the views, turn back the way you came – by the time you’ve returned to the trailhead, you’ll have hiked about 3.6 total miles.
Lookout Mountain Summit Trail
Lookout Mountain is a short peak hike that’s tucked away in a North Phoenix neighborhood, making it ideal for hikers who are short on time. Anticipate an elevation gain of about 400 feet in less than a mile. Near the summit, be prepared to do some scrambling on this mostly moderate trail. At the top, take in panoramic views of metro Phoenix before you head back down.
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New York State Kicks Off Winter Season
New York State welcomes travelers this winter season with new events like the 75th Anniversary Celebration of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” one-of-a-kind activities including riding the only Olympic bobsled east of the Rockies and top-notch skiing and snowboarding whether you are a beginner or pro. Travelers will find outdoor adventure options to mix up their ski mountain fun, miles of trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and a diverse mix of restaurants and craft beverage spots for the well-deserved après-ski. Family friendly events include Ice Castles in Lake George, Westchester’s Winter Wonderland Drive-Thru Holiday Light Extravaganza and Zoo New York’s Winter Wonderlights that will leave adults and kids in the right magical winter mindset. The cold weather turns New York into a winter wonderland, making it the perfect destination for a quick getaway or an extended break from hibernation. Here's a sampling of new experiences in New York State this winter: Hit the Slopes! Pack your bags and grab your skis or board for an amazing getaway at one of over 50 ski areas across the state. Remember: third and fourth graders ski free at many of these mountains, and be sure to check the latest Ski Association of New York Snow Report for the most up-to-date conditions. · Windham Mountain invested more than $4 million in capital improvements, including snowmaking upgrades, an environmentally friendly groomer, the redevelopment of the Children's Learning Center and a new "Magic Carpet" conveyor lift. · Holiday Valley in Ellicottville installed the Yodeler Express, a high-speed detachable quad chairlift that helps beginners, allowing for increased efficiency - transporting 2,400 people per hour to the 2,000-foot summit. · Catamount Mountain Resort in Hillsdale made significant upgrades to their snowmaking system, installed two new chairlifts and added new food and beverage options to the base area. · Whiteface in Wilmington has a new SkyTrac quad, continued into phase II of their three-phase snowmaking improvement project (including almost 30,000 feet of replacement snowmaking pipe) and finished renovating their Cloudsplitter Gondola. · Bristol Mountain in Canandaigua added a new trail called Polaris to their Galaxy Lift Pod, improved their snowmaking capabilities and installed Axess Smart Gates on all lifts so skiers and riders can access the mountain with their Bristol Gateway Cards. · Oak Mountain in Speculator doubled their snowmaking capacity, replaced their Bunny Hill T-Bar with a Sunkid surface lift, and added new skis and snowboards to their "Rossignol Rental fleet." Celebrate Winter and History Winter festivals are some of the most popular annual events across New York State. This year, there is no better place to celebrate the season with commemorations and events. · Celebrate Harriet Tubman's 200th birthday by visiting her home in Auburn, along with the surrounding communities in Cayuga County. Special activities during Harriet Tubman Week, scheduled for March 10-15, 2022, will be held at various sites, including her home at the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, Seward House Museum, and Fort Hill Cemetery where she is buried. More commemorations will be announced. · In Seneca Falls, join the 75th Anniversary Celebration of "It's a Wonderful Life" from December 8-12 where many of the cast members will reunite, including the Bailey children and their friends. · Ice Castles comes to New York State for the first time, featuring ice displays with LED lights and colors at the Festival Commons at Charles Wood Park in Lake George. This new winter event is expected to be open from early January to early March, depending on weather. Also in Lake George, Lake George Winterfest is held mid-December to March, and the Lake George Winter Carnival is held every Saturday and Sunday in February. · LuminoCity Festival is coming to Long Island for the first time this winter. The immersive light display will be at Whitney Pond Park in Manhasset through January 9. Also on Long Island, the Shimmering Solstice will take place at Old Westbury Gardens through January 9, transforming the grounds into stunning light displays with music. This new seasonal event is ideal for the whole family. · The Holiday Market, a new series of outdoor community events, will take place on the grounds of Gallery North and the Three Village Historical Society in Setauket on Saturdays from November 27 to December 18. · Zoo New York, the "only zoo dedicated to the animals of New York State," is hosting Winter Wonderlights on weekend evenings from November 26 to January 2. Explore the zoo at night to see it illuminated with multicolored lights. · See even more lights, holiday animations and new displays at Westchester's Winter Wonderland Drive-Thru Holiday Light Extravaganza at Kensico Dam Plaza, November 26 - January 2. Cozy Eateries & Craft Beverage Spots Enjoy comfort food, taste classic New York bites and sip locally produced craft beverages this winter season. · Southern Tier Brewing Company opened a new location in the Harborcenter in Buffalo, offering a full tasting room and a "beer-inspired" food menu. · Brick & Ivy is a newly opened BIPOC-owned restaurant in Rochester that features a unique mix of dishes, such as fried cauliflower, jerk seared salmon, and confit duck leg. · Embrace the chilly temperatures at one of Lake George's ice bars, including The Sagamore's famous Glacier Ice Bar, Adirondack Pub & Brewery's Funky Ice Fest and Winterfest at Erlowest. · Newly opened Willa's Bakery in Catskill offers a wide variety of scratch-made baked goods, along with seasonal breakfast and lunch dishes made using locally sourced ingredients. · DisBatch Brewing Company, slated to open this December in Macedon, is Wayne County's first brewery. It was started by first responders who wanted to provide the community with a place to gather and relax. · In Albany, Skinny Pancake, scheduled to open soon, plans to feature various crepe dishes that utilize local ingredients. · Recently opened Nova Kitchen & Bar in Blauvelt, Rockland County, uses locally sourced seasonal ingredients to create innovative daily specials and is the brainchild of a couple that worked their way up in the industry from busgirl and dishwasher to manager and head chef. Exciting New and Recently Opened Attractions With both indoor and outdoor attractions, visitors of all ages can participate in seasonal excitement. · Schenectady's Mohawk Harbor is hosting a new winter experience featuring a 60x100 foot ice skating rink, Holiday Pop-Up Shop by Beekman 1802, and food options from Druthers Brewing Company, Shaker & Vine and the restaurants at Rivers Casino & Resort. · Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery will feature the Renaissance Impressions: Sixteenth-Century Master Prints from the Kirk Edward Long Collection exhibit until February 6. The exhibit includes 82 masterworks by diverse artists, highlighting the visual culture of the Renaissance. · Lark Hall in Albany was recently restored and repurposed as a concert venue, hosting a diverse mix of bands and performers. · The Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail system in Gerry, Chautauqua County, expanded in 2021 and features more than three miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. · At Niagara Falls State Park, witness the splendor of the frosted Falls from all angles. For a unique perspective, Cave of the Winds takes visitors down an elevator into the Niagara Gorge to get an up close and personal view of Falls from one of the two open observation decks. On the Horizon Mark your calendars for this exciting upcoming event. · The FISU World University Games will be held in Lake Placid and the surrounding communities from January 12-22, 2023, featuring competition among exceptional international collegiate athletes. It is the second largest multi-sport winter event in the world. For those inspired by the upcoming Winter Olympics, they can head to Lake Placid to experience Olympic history at the Olympic Museum, the recently opened Cliffside Coaster or ride the only Olympic bobsled east of the Rockies. For more information on new developments and other happenings in New York State, visit iloveny.com.
Outdoor holiday celebrations around the United States
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and many parts of our country are feeling festive despite the pandemic. If you are still cautious, or on the fence, or simply prefer an outdoor experience, this list is for you! Here are a few places around the U.S. where you can get into the holiday spirit outdoors and admire holiday decorations and lights from walking paths. Here’s where to celebrate the holidays this year— remember to check out our private booking platform with discounted rates! Northeast New York City, New York The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit daily from from 6am-12am. On Christmas Day, the Tree is lit for 24 hours and on New Year’s Eve it is lit from 6am to 9pm. New Hampshire The 2.5-mile drive-through light show at the New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon features 400 different lighting displays with snow-covered mountains in the background. Woodstock, Vermont Celebrate the holidays Victorian style at Billings Farm & Museum, where you can try your hand at candle dipping, watch traditional holiday cooking demonstrations, create your own gingerbread ornaments—or just head straight to the onsite Dairy Bar for cider donuts. Mid-Atlantic Maryland At Ocean City, Maryland's Winterfest of Lights guests can explore zillions of sparkling holiday lights, animated light displays, and a 50-foot holiday tree on display along a paved path in Northside Park. The Annmarie Sculpture Garden is transformed into an outdoor wonderland until January 1st with many light sculptures of wild animals, winter wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, and magical beings. Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia The White House isn’t the only place in the nation's capital that’s getting in on the holiday spirit. Civilians can enjoy the undeniable festive energy in the District through New Year’s Day by visiting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The National Menorah will be lit throughout Hanukkah. About 25 minutes away in Vienna, Virginia, celebrate the season at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’ Winter Walk of Lights. Stroll the one-way half-mile path full of holiday lights and festive decorations, admire the Fountains of Lights and watch as the “sing to me” tree’s lights dance along with all your favorite holiday tunes. Timed tickets must be purchased online ahead of time and are available on a limited basis. Roanoke, Virginia Treat yourselves to a lovely half-mile walk through the woods, toast marshmallows around the fire, shop for presents at the Artisan Christmas Market, donate canned goods to help others, meet Santa and his elves, and feast your eyes on more than 500,000 lights during the Illuminights Winter Walk of Lights at Explore Park. Purchase timed tickets online or by phone to access this event. Virginia Beach, Virginia Head to Virginia Beach for a unique beach-themed holiday lights display. At the Holiday Lights at the Beach, you’ll drive on the Atlantic Ocean boardwalk that has been transformed into a nautical lights display, including a surfing Santa. Southeast Aiken, South Carolina Enjoy more than two miles of beautifully lit paths with over 100,000 lights and holiday decorations at Christmas in Hopelands Gardens. This year, the colorful displays will be lit up all December long to help keep spirits bright. The Christmas Craft show features handmade crafts and goodies made by talented artisans from across the Southeast. There is sure to be something for everyone’s style, taste, and budget. The Christmas Craft Show is also a great place to shop for your holiday gifts and décor. South Walton, Florida If you’re in the Florida panhandle, don’t miss 12 Nights of Lights at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, located about halfway between Pensacola and Panama City Beach in South Walton. Enjoy a festive light show every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday leading up to Christmas! This sparkling event will also be featured during our special holiday edition of the Wednesday Night Concert Series. Watch three dazzling shows each night! Houston, Texas The Space Center in Houston is hosting Galaxy Lights, a technological holiday celebration featuring kinetic light shows, choreographed light and music sequences, an interactive light pad, a large light tunnel and the chance to see a film about astronauts celebrating the holidays in space, among other themed attractions. Galaxy Lights requires its own tickets, which can be purchased online, and takes about 90 minutes to fully enjoy. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features an award-winning spectacle, set in the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. The festival features over 5 million lights, and even include fireworks this year. Midwest Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Visit the Tree of Light, a 55-foot silver maple tree decked out in 30,000 lights near the River Walk in Wisconsin Dells. As the holiday season kicks off, Wisconsin Dells will deliver a little extra cheer again this year with one of the biggest and brightest displays of all. In the open-air located off the River Walk in downtown Wisconsin Dells, a towering 55-foot silver maple tree will showcase 30,000 dazzling points of light, making it the only – and we mean only – light display of its kind in the Midwest. Stroll along the River Walk and view additional lighting in the form of 70 holiday trees, all sponsored by area businesses. Indiana The Santa Claus Land of Lights is a 1.2 mile Drive-Through Family Christmas Light Adventure located inside Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Enjoy the largest campground holiday light show in North America and the only light show that tells a story in lights and storyboards! Create new family memories and family traditions this Christmas Season at the Santa Claus Land of Lights – Family Christmas Light Adventure! For more themed light displays cruise through The Christmas Lake Village Festival Lights. The gated community of Christmas Lake Village invites you to drive through nine miles of festive light displays! Awards for Judges’ Favorite, Kids’ Favorite, Reason for the Season, and Best Lights will be awarded to four homes. Cheyenne, Wyoming Celebrate the holiday season Western-style this year in Cheyenne, where you can get your letter to Santa stamped by an Elf and see the mail get picked up by a Pony Express rider, visit holiday horses at Santa’s Saloon and Stables, hear Cowboy Carolers sing and meet Mr. Claus by the fire at Kringle Ranch, part of an event by the Little America Hotel & Resort. Check the calendar for more Old West holiday festivities happening through December 31. West Sonoma County, California Cue that legendary piano music and celebrate trees of all shapes and sizes all December long at Windsor’s annual Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove. This year, more than 200 trees were decorated by neighborhood families, classes, small businesses and community groups for you to enjoy on a socially distanced stroll through Windsor Town Green. San Luis Obispo, California Don’t miss San Luis Obispo’s annual Light Up Downtown event, the region’s destination for making holiday memories for more than 40 years. This year, they will feature the return of our annual Holiday Parade, Santa's House, and the Classic Carousel. Explore and celebrate local businesses and check out the lights, sights, and family fun in the Holiday Plaza! Nevada The Polar Express in Carson City, Nevada drive-through lights experience is operating until Christmas Eve. The brilliant light show will feature Santa, Mrs. Claus, and dozens of elves busy at work as they prepare for Christmas. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite holiday pajamas and bring hot chocolate as they travel through the North Pole experience. Hawai’i Get into the Mele Kalikimaka spirit at the 25th anniversary of Kauai’s Festival of Lights. The displays use recycled and reclaimed materials at the Historic County Building park and can be enjoyed until New Year’s Day. Millions of colorful lights illuminate the park’s looming coconut palm trees wrapped in colorful lights as well as upcycled decorations including aluminum can flowers and water bottle butterflies. Arizona Make the best of the holidays at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. The gardens offer a dash of holiday magic with 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights. Las Noches de las Luminarias includes pre-recorded carols to enjoy during the experience. In Lake Havasu City experience London Bridge Resort's Festival of Lights—the Bridgewater Channel is lit up with over 500,000 lights that set the water aglow and spark the holiday spirit.
You can now book the Home Alone house on Airbnb
This season, fans are set to have their dreams come true with an overnight stay in the original Home Alone house. While the McCallisters are away on their annual trip (all of them but the pet tarantula, this time), four guests will get the opportunity to relive their favorite scenes from the holiday classic and let their inner eight-year-olds run free for the evening without the interruption of pesky intruders. Big brother Buzz McCallister will join thousands of Hosts on Airbnb by opening the doors to his family’s Chicago home as the ultimate gift this month. Following the release of Home Sweet Home Alone, the all-new holiday film now streaming on Disney+, this Airbnb stay offers a trip down memory lane and an unforgettable way to celebrate the holidays. “You may not remember me as particularly accommodating,” says Buzz, “but I’ve grown up, and I’d be happy to share my family home – my pizza, even – with you this holiday season. Just try not to let my tarantula, Axl, loose this time.” Buzz will host a one-night stay* for up to four guests at the McCallister residence on Dec. 12 for only $25**. During their stay, guests will enjoy: A cozy holiday scene with twinkling lights and a perfectly trimmed tree in celebration of the season.Booby traps galore (but don’t worry – you’ll be setting them, not sidestepping them!).Surprisingly searing splashes of aftershave and ample opportunity to scream into the mirror.All the ‘90s favorites their hearts desire, including plenty of Chicago’s finest pizza and a candlelit dinner of microwavable Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.A meet and greet with a real-life tarantula. A viewing of the film franchise’s newest holiday adventure, Home Sweet Home Alone.A LEGO Ideas Home Alone set to take and build at home. “We may all be older and wiser now, but we’re never too old for holiday hijinks,” Buzz said. “So this year, spend the holidays not-so-home-alone at my parents’ house.” Those hoping to stay in the McCallister home should note that this stay’s rules require strict adherence with local COVID-19 guidelines. Onsite staff will follow applicable local, state and federal guidelines as well as Airbnb’s COVID-19 Safety Practices, which include wearing a mask and practicing social distancing when required by local laws or guidelines, and abiding by our five-step enhanced cleaning process. Guests are responsible for their own travel to and from Chicago. Mischief makers can request to book this stay beginning Tuesday, December 7 at 1:00 PM CT at airbnb.com/homealone.
Affordable American Winter Beach Escapes
When the mercury drops a little too much and the snow piles up a little too high, it’s time for a winter escape. We’ve rounded up some of America’s finest winter beaches, each with its own distinct flavor at a price that’s right. THE GEORGIA COAST When it comes to warm beaches, great price, and convenience, Georgia should spring to mind this time of year. The barrier islands of the state’s southern coast offer some of the best stretches of sand, great weather, and the welcoming vibe every vacationer craves. We love St. Simons Island for its incredible white-sand beaches, history, and ample golf courses, but we also love that the best way to get around the island may be on a rented beach cruiser bike, giving you the opportunity to leave your car behind and truly disconnect from all the stuff you went on vacation to escape. Points of interest on the island include a charming lighthouse, a 19th-century church, and ancient oak trees with their distinctive moss drapery. Grab a plate of shrimp and grits at Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill and grab an affordable room (well under $150/night) at the Village Inn & Pub and other hotels on the island. To learn more about St. Simons Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. An easy day trip from St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island is relatively wild (more than 60 percent of its land is protected from development) and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Georgia. Just drive back to the mainland from St. Simons and over the bridge to Jekyll, where you’ll find 10 miles of beach (including favorites Driftwood and Glory), the 250-acre Historic Landmark District, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a water park, and four golf courses. To learn more about Jekyll Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. Tybee Island is a 20-minute drive from Savannah, making it one of the most convenient winter escapes in the U.S., not to mention one of the most affordable. Here, you’ll find classic beach activities like a boardwalk, pier, and souvenir shops, low-key restaurants like the Crab Shack (yu must try the steamed oysters and Low Country boil with shrimp, sausage, and potatoes), and comfy motels, the beachfront Hotel Tybee (well under $150/night) and others. What’s not to love? Don’t miss the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, a 270-year-old site with historic buildings that visitors can tour and the Civil War-era Fort Pulaski National Monument on nearby Cockspur Island. To learn more about Tybee Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. MOLOKAI, HAWAII No traffic lights. No resorts. The world’s highest sea cliffs. Volcanoes (don’t worry they’re extinct). If you can’t relax on Molokai, the least-visited of the major Hawaiian islands, it’s possible you’re just not trying hard enough. Seek out the gold sand of Papohaku beach, visit the island’s biggest town (a whopping 7,000 people live there), and head to downtown Kaunakakai for local Hawaiian favorites such as mahi-mahi. CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA For anyone who has visited Los Angeles and complained about the traffic (aka, everyone): We love the fact that cars aren’t allowed on Catalina, just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, unless you count golf carts, which you can rent if you really need to. Yes, this is a place to really get away from it all. After the 90-minute ferry ride, you’ll enter another world, where bicycles are the best way to get around, and exploring the island’s interior in search of birds (you may even see a bald eagle), is one of the prime activities. The town of Avalon is where you’ll find charming shops, restaurants, and affordable lodging. PUERTO RICO Besides being a quick flight from many U.S. cities, no passport required, Puerto Rico can also use your help: Tourism dollars help fund the island’s recovery from hurricane damage sustained in 2017. You’ll love the beaches, great food, and natural beauty, typified by El Yunque National Forest, a rainforest (bring a poncho!), perfect for a half- or full-day guided tour of sites such as La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Lookout Tower. Feast on traditional local fare such as arepas and plantains, washed down with a pina colada (the drink was invented in Puerto Rico in the 1950s), and tour charming Old San Juan, one of the oldest and most historic city centers in the U.S. For great views, visit El Morro National Monument, a 16th-century Spanish colonial fort that offers some of the most Instagrammable moments in the Caribbean. ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS The easternmost point in the United States is in the Caribbean, in the U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Croix may be small as far as islands go, but when it comes to winter getaways, it sure reminds you that good things come in small packages, with great opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, eating Caribbean favorites such as conch and snapper, and acres of golf for those who define “vacation” as time on the links. We love historic Christiansted, where you’ll find reliable hotels and restaurants at good prices.