Unique New Years Eve Drops
Everyone knows that New York City is famous for its New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, but for those looking for something a little more unique and symbolic to ring in 2022, these towns are hosting slightly weird yet totally “on-brand” drops on December 31.
MoonPie Drop , Mobile, Alabama
Mobile’s mantra is “Born to Celebrate,” which makes New Year’s Eve a pretty exciting time around here. At midnight, you can witness a 600-pound electric MoonPie drop from the sky, complete with fireworks and a laser light show. Mobile’s big claim to fame is that it’s home to America’s original Mardi Gras. In the mid-1900s, locals started tossing sticky-sweet (but still-wrapped!) MoonPies from their Mardi Gras floats. Spectators went crazy for them and today an estimated half-million pies get tossed during an average Carnival season. Since Mobile loves a good party – and consumes more MoonPies per capita than anywhere else (including the pies’ hometown of Chattanooga) – its citizens decided to create the world’s largest electric MoonPie to help them usher in each new year.
Mushroom Drop, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is part of the Brandywine Valley, is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” because more than 60% of all the mushrooms in the United States are grown here. Celebrate their nickname – and their favorite crop -- by dropping a 700-pound lighted mushroom on New Year’s Eve during the annual Midnight in the Square event. The mushroom will be raised right before 9 p.m. and the drop will be live-streamed across social media at midnight.
Marlin Drop, Orange Beach, Alabama
The Wharf, a popular dining, shopping and entertainment district in the town of Orange Beach, is hosting Reelin’ in The New Year from 5 p.m. to midnight on December 31. The highlight of this event is the Marlin Drop, a fishy nod to one of the many outdoor activities that draw visitors here year round. It’s free admission for the drop, and the whole family can come and ring in the new year Gulf Coast-style.
Apple Drop, Winchester, Virginia
To celebrate the arrival of the new year, a 400-pound apple is dropped more than 100 feet during the First Night Winchester event. First Night Winchester has been a tradition in the Northern Shenandoah Valley since 1987. Winchester is known as the “Apple Capital” because it’s the largest apple-producing area in all of Virginia and home to countless apple orchards.
Giant Acorn Drop, Raleigh, N.C.
Each December 31 a giant copper acorn, the official monument commemorating the bicentennial of “the City of Oaks,” is transported from Raleigh’s Moore Square to the roof of the Civic Center where it’s dropped to celebrate the New Year - First Night Raleigh.
Clam Drop, Yarmouth, Maine
On December 31, Yarmouth's First Universalist Church lowers a giant clam named Steamer 25 feet from the bell tower. The Clam Drop includes music, cookies and cocoa to stay warm.
Giant Potato Drop, Boise, Idaho
This year will be the 9th annual Idaho Potato Drop in Boise, Idaho. From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., ring in the new year with food trucks, a beer garden, fireworks, and of course, the potato drop in front of the Idaho State Capitol.
Eight things you didn’t know about Hawaii
For most people on the mainland, a trip to Hawaii feels like an international escape. The environment is different, the scenery is nothing like anywhere else in the states, and the culture is unique. So even though it’s a part of the union, it’s not quite like any other place you know. Speaking of things you know, here are seven interesting facts about Hawaii that you probably didn’t. Courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority 1. A culture of 'leave no trace' Before traveling to Hawaii, this is one of the most important things to know. Natural elements like plants, animals, stones, and flowers carry spiritual significance in Hawaiian culture and beliefs and require respect. Leaving no trace comes from the idea that people are guests and should not disturb the land. This includes cultural sites like volcanos and temples. Do not take stones and do not touch the wildlife. Touching endangered wildlife is not only extremely disrespectful it’s also illegal. So if you come across a Hawaiian sea turtle basking in the sun, steer clear. 2. Hawaii is the only state with a royal palace The Hawaiian Monarchy formed in 1810 when King Kamehameha united all of the islands under one rule. The kingdom only lasted 80 years when American businesspeople and sugar farmers plotted a coup against Queen Liliuokalani in 1893. The entire kingdom dissolved over the next few years as it became a US territory and eventually the 50th state in the union. Liliuokalani was kept in Iolani Palace under house arrest after attempts to resurrect the Monarch. Iolani Palace, located on Oahu, is the only official palace in the United States that belonged to a royal family. The first two floors are available to tour. The interesting and unique history of the Kingdom provides insight into the darker colonial story in Hawaii. The rules of succession in the Hawaiian Kingdom were quite progressive. The monarch recognized any children and adopted children of the ruling families could be eligible rulers. Centuries later, many Hawaiians could be considered eligible successors. 3. Hawaii is the only state to grow coffee and chocolate commercially It’s the only state that falls within “the coffee belt,” where the warm temperature makes it suitable to grow. A Spaniard colonist planted the first coffee plant in 1817 that failed to take but inspired the Hawaiian Monarchy to pursue it again in 1825. Over the next 50 years, experimental coffee growers explored the different islands, finding Kona the most promising. Kona’s rich volcanic soil nourished the plants, so they thrived in the valley sheltered by volcanoes. While coffee production remained steady, it barely compared to the number of colonial sugar plantations. Over the years, Kona coffee continued to grow, drawing more and more attention for its unique flavor. The secret, they say, is love. Everything made in Hawaii must be done with Aloha. Photo of island chickens provided by Kylie Ruffino 4. You'll see tons of wild chickens Tourists may be surprised by the number of chickens just walking around random parts of the islands (especially Kaui), but locals aren't. In fact, it's kind of a sore subject. The local legend has it that 1992 Hurricane Iniki destroyed much of Kaui's farmland including crops... and chicken coups. The chickens escaped into the wild and no one was able to tell who's chickens belonged to who. Some speculated that the domestic chickens used for farming started breeding with the jungle fowl brought to Hawaii a thousand years ago. National Geographic proved both correct. Their genetic testing showed how the wild chicken population grew so much. It's definitely a shock to walk around market streets and just see chickens, but when you're interacting with locals, it's better to keep your surprise amongst yourselves. It's not a particularly pleasant topic and they hear about it a lot. 5. It has its own language: Pidgin Hawaii is the only state to have two official languages. English and Hawaiian are both recognized but don’t be surprised to hear a third, informal language called Pidgin. Though the language can sound foreign, it comes from the communication between Hawaiians, plantation owners, and international laborers. It’s a mix of English, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Portuguese words. You’ll see Pidgin the most among signage and hearing local slang. For example, “We Stay Close” is Pidgin for “Closed.” Any traveler knows that learning local languages can enhance your trip. In Hawaii, learn Pidgin. It’s a culmination of mixing words, cutting words out, or saying things in a different pretense. 6. There are roughly ten million visitors a year When a state’s population is less than 1.5 million people, bringing in 10 million visitors like they did in 2019 is impressive. In 2019, the islands could expect over 200,000 tourists walking around on any given day. Visitor spending was over 17 billion dollars in 2019 and supported 200,000 jobs. While tourism in Hawaii remains down by 60% since COVID, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority last month noted a 1.1% increase in visitors compared to March 2020. The first increase in a year. They also report bringing in some international travelers, including Japan and Canada, but it still doesn’t compare to the millions in past years. Despite the obvious importance of travel for Hawaii’s economy, the disparity between locals and tourists can strain the culture and environment. Hawaiian tourism is hoping to use insights gained by COVID and the ability to control how they open up travel to set more intentional tourist practices. Hawaiian beaches courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority 7. Hawaii has 14 different climates to explore In fact, they have ten of the world’s 14 climates across the islands. Eight of them exist on the Big Island. The Koppen Climate Classification System, the most accepted method by climatologists, helps categorize the world’s climate zones. It’s kind of crazy to think that so many can be found on an island that is only 4,000 square miles. Many of the ten zones found in Hawaii are tropical climates, including Tropical Continuous Wet Zone, Tropical Monsoon Zone (which is actually quite rare), Tropical Winter-Dry Zone, and Tropical Summer-Dry Zone. Some of the more unusual climate zones in Hawaii are the Periglacial Climate Zone and Desert Climate Zones. The first one describes the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The temperatures reach below freezing, with a treeless, tundra-like landscape. Some areas near certain beaches qualify as desert zones with hot, year-round temperatures and less than ten inches of rainfall. 8. You can send coconuts in the mail Let me repeat. You can MAIL coconuts. While you can mail them from any post office in Hawaii, a few things need to be noted. You can’t mail a coconut you find on the side of the road or in a supermarket because that interferes with agriculture inspections. Don’t worry, several shops around the island will sell decorated coconuts that are ready to mail. In theory, you can send it anywhere in the US, but Postmasters in Hawaii are more familiar with coconut mail than your average USPS.
Get your history fix in Philadelphia
There is plenty to splurge on in Philadelphia, from rooftop cocktails at the Hotel Monaco to High Tea at the Rittenhouse Hotel. And while hitting up a pricey art museum and then indulging in Vetri Cucina's quattro piatti for dinner is a good time, Philly doesn't have to be expensive - especially if you're a history buff. Luckily, most of Philly's top attractions are easily accessible via public transportation, which is very affordable. One-way subway rides are just $2.50. For just $13, you can get a one-day SEPTA Independence Pass, which allows you to switch between modes of transportation. Then there's the tourist-friendly Philly PLASH bus which stops at the city's main tourist attractions for just $2 per ride or $5 for a day pass. Here is our guide to taking in Philadelphia's history and culture without breaking the bank. Philly's top historical sites Entrance to the Liberty Bell Center is free, and it's open on a first-come, first-serve basis with capacity restrictions in place. While the bell is visible from outside the center, there are benefits to waiting in line to get inside. One side of the hallway is lined with exhibits, and there's also a space for rotating temporary exhibitions. And once inside, you get an unobstructed photo op of this American icon. Independence Hall tickets must be reserved online in advance. They carry a $1 reservation fee, which is less than the cost of a small "wooder" ice anywhere in Philly. Guided tours last 30 minutes and run every 15 minutes, with the last one each day starting at 4:45 PM. Between the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall sits the President's House, an outdoor exhibit that explores the contradiction of freedom and slavery during the founding of the United States. The 24-hour open-air display sits on the former grounds of America's first executive mansion. George Washington and John Adams lived here while James Hoban was constructing the first White House. Beneath the large glass vitrine at the south end of the exhibit, you can see the foundations of the predecessor to The White House. Philly's best history museums under $10 The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall get most of the much-deserved attention when it comes to historic sites in Philly. But both are surrounded by history museums that are affordable and family-friendly. Just a couple blocks east of the Independence Visitor Center, you can tour the Betsy Ross House with an audio guide for under $10. Each tour includes a Q & A with a Besty Ross reenactor dressed in period clothing. For no additional fee, you can find out why she kept the name "Ross" after remarrying twice and learn what George Washington was like to do business with. Before you reach the Betsy Ross House, you'll pass Benjamin Franklin's gravesite, which you can visit between noon and 4 Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5, but many choose to experience Ben's final resting place by throwing pennies onto his gravestone through the cemetery gates. You are better off saving your $5 and using it to enter the Benjamin Franklin Museum, located just one block south of his final resting place. You'll get much more for your money, including five rooms of exhibits, videos, touchscreen interactives, and hundreds of artifacts. Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Photo by Sean Pavone, iStock Explore America's oldest residential street A couple blocks east of the Betsy Ross house is Elfreth's Alley. This well-preserved, car-free cobblestone street is widely recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited street in the United States. There's a small museum halfway down this short, narrow alley, sandwiched between homes that date back to 1755. The museum is open from noon to 4 Friday through Sunday. Admission is just $3, with an optional audio guide for an additional $3. Even if you cannot stop by during their business hours, you can't leave the City of Brotherly Love without visiting Elfreth's Alley. The Fireman's Hall Museum is located one block north of Elfreth's Alley. This restored 1902 firehouse has various tools of the trade on display, some of which date back to the earliest days of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Reservations are free but must be made in advance, and donations to the fire department are appreciated. Live our your Rocky fantasy for less than the price of a movie ticket Regardless of the time of day or year, the Rocky Statue is a major attraction. You may have to wait in line to get your picture snapped with the world's most famous fictional sports hero, but it's an essential Philly experience! From there, you should climb the 72 steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some run like young Rocky did, while the rest ascend at a more leisurely pace reminiscent of an aging Rocky in the first Creed movie. Once atop, you can take in the view of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Logan Square, and the Philly skyline. Get lost in a public market Reading Terminal Market dates back to 1893. Before Philly had the subway system that we know today, the Reading Railroad Company operated the city's main market. Back then, it had 250 specialty vendors and up to 100 farmers on any given day. Today, the National Historic Landmark market operates daily from 8 to 6 with more than 70 vendors. Inside, you'll see (and smell) Philly cheesesteaks, as well as a mix of fresh fish, meat, and cheese. You can also purchase treats sold by Amish vendors from nearby Lancaster County. If you're driving in and plan to explore the area for a couple of hours, it's worth making a $10 purchase at the market. That will get you two-hour validated $5 parking at two of the nearby garages. But it's even more affordable to take the SEPTA Regional Rail to Jefferson Station or the underground MFL to 11th Street ----- SPONSORED BY GEICO Carefully crafted collaboratively between GEICO, Budget Travel, and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.
With the cold air starting to nip at our nose and the holiday season upon us, what better time to start planning your next winter getaway. But which ski resorts are the best bang for your buck? Holidu, the search engine for vacation rentals, decided to carry out a study to determine which US ski resorts offer the least expensive trips without having to sacrifice on the slopes this season.1. Powder Mountain, Utah $74 (Average per person per day; ski pass + accommodation) Coming in at the top of our list is snowy Powder Mountain in Utah. Located in Eden, Utah this slope comes in with a whopping 135 km, and has the most skiable acreage of any other resort in the United States. Open 9AM to 9PM daily and with 9 operational lifts, you are sure to get your money’s worth on this mountain. On Powder Mountain there are 154 runs, 25% of which are best for beginners, 40% are designed for intermediate, the remaining 35% is reserved for the advanced. With over 500 inches of annual snowfall, Powder Mountain should be at the top of any ski enthusiast list. Total Ski Area: 135 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.83 2. Schweitzer Mountain, ID $78 Considered some of the best skiing in Idaho, Schweitzer Mountain, located in Sandpoint, comes in second for the most affordable places to ski in the United States. Considered the largest ski area in Idaho, there is truly something for everyone at Schweitzer Mountain. From Nordic Skiing trails to Terrain Parks you are sure to find something that suits you within its 95 km of slopes. With 10 lifts carrying a whopping 15,900 riders every hour, Schweitzer Mountain is sure to impress. Schweitzer Mountain also offers many other fun experiences such as twilight trails and even tubing! Total Ski Area: 95 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.21 3. Mt. Hood Meadows, OR $103 Next on our list is Mt. Hood Meadows in Oregon coming in with 90 km of ski slopes. Located in Mount Hood, Oregon this resort is only 90 minutes from Portland. With a special permit, this resort operates in the Mt. Hood National Forest and intern has some of the most stunning views! Check out some of their specials or events including Breakfast with Santa on December 22 + 23, or get your ski on this New Year’s Eve and check out their extra special celebratory dinner presented by pFriem. No matter the reason for your trip, make sure to check out Mt. Hood Meadows for all your ski and snowboarding needs this winter season. Total Ski Area: 90 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.87 Mt Hood Wilderness, Oregon. Photo by Laura Brown, Budget Travel 4. Alta, UT $109 Celebrating its 84th winter, the next on our list is Alta in Utah. With 85 km of skiable slopes, this resort packs in 105 trails and 12 lifts. Alta offers everything from ski school for the kids to mountain adventures and helicopter skiing for the thrill seekers. Alta also has 19 restaurants, 5 of which are even directly on the mountain for all your apres-ski needs. So what are you waiting for! Plan your next winter wonderland trip to this snowy mountainside. Total Ski Area: 85 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.12 5. Purgatory Resort, CO | $110 5. Purgatory Resort, CO $110 Head on down to the charming ski town of Durango, Colorado for our next top pick, Purgatory Resort. With 116 km of ski slopes, this resort is equipped with 119 runs and 6 lifts. Ski through the wide open mountain or check out one of their more challenging tree trails, Purgatory has so much to offer. Nestled along the San Juan Mountains you are sure to get your ski fix in this snowy town! Total Ski Area: 116 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.77 Purgatory Resort in Durango Colorado 6. Mt. Baker, WA $112 Mt. Baker is located in the North Cascades of Washington nestled on the border of Canada, this resort gets a whopping average snowfall of 663 inches, making it the perfect place for your next ski adventure. This expansive resort has a variety of 38 widely ranging trails on its 100 km of slopes, making it perfect for any type of skier. If you are looking for a ski season without having to break the bank, look no further than Mt. Baker! Total Ski Area: 100 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.89 7. Sugarloaf, ME $117 Sugarloaf is located in the heart of Carrabassett Valley, with 162 trails & glades on its 87 km of skiable slopes. Maine's Western Mountains surround this gem that holds the title of the second-tallest mountain in Maine! With 57% of its mountain dedicated to intermediate and beginner skiers, this is a great place to bring family and still be able to enjoy the 43% reserved for advanced and experts! Get ready for a trip of a lifetime that won’t leave holes in your pocket. Total Ski Area: 87 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.74 8. Mission Ridge, WA $125 Open since 1966, Mission Ridge is located 12 miles from Wenatchee, Washington. It is home to 100 km of skiing slopes on the Cascade Mountains. With only 10% of the trails labeled as easy, this is definitely not a mountain for the faint of heart. The chair lifts are equipped to carry over 4,900 skiers every hour to its 36 designated trails. Grab your skis and polls for a winter packed of skiing on a budget! Total Ski Area: 100 km ///// Recommended For: Intermediate to expert ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.80 9. Mt. Bachelor, OR $132 As the 6th largest ski resort in the US, Mt. Bachelors has 4,300 acres of terrain accessible by ski lift and 100 km of skiable slopes. Located in Oregon’s Central Cascades, Mt. Bachelor is actually on top of a shield volcano, making it a super unique skiing destination. This mountain has 101 runs and gets an average of 462 inches of snowfall every year. With over half its trails focused on more intermediate to expert slopes, Mt. Bachelor is definitely the place to go to get your ski on if you are a more seasoned skier. Total Ski Area: 100 km ///// Recommended For: Intermediate to expert ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.76 Mt. Bachelor, Oregon. Photo by Bobbushphoto, iStock. 10. Winter Park Resort, CO $135 With over 80 years of history, Winter Park Resort is the state's longest continually operated ski resort. Located in Winter Park Colorado about 66 miles from Denver and is argued the closest major destination resort to Denver’s International Airport. This resort has 23 lifts, 166 trails, and a summit of over 12,000 ft. With 26% reserved for beginner to intermediate and the remaining 72% for advanced to experts, Winter Park skiing is no joke! But with its expansive slopes covering 143 km the whole family is sure to find suitable slopes. Look no further than Winter Park Resort for your next snowy adventure. Total Ski Area: 143 km ///// Recommended For: Intermediate to expert ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.06 Winter Park, Colorado. Photo by bauhaus1000, iStock -------- Methodology: Holidu surveyed over 500 ski resorts in the United States and selected all with over 80 kilometers of slopes for the 2021/2022 Ski Price Index. The vacation rentals data was collected on 11/23/2021 from the Holidu database. The travel period 12/06/2021 - 12/27/2022 (high season) and 03/28/2022 - 04/25/2022 (low season) were considered. For the price analysis, an average was taken from the median weekly price of vacation rentals per person per night. The prices for ski passes were taken from the official websites of the ski resorts. Where seasonal prices for 2021/2022 were not available, prices for 2020/2021 were used as a reference. Ski resorts could not be considered if no ski pass prices were available for the ski resort. About Holidu Holidu’s mission is to finally make the search and booking of vacation rentals easy. Its search engine for vacation rentals allows travelers to book the ideal accommodation for the lowest price. The company also helps vacation rental owners multiply their bookings with less work through its software and service solution under the Bookiply brand. Brothers Johannes and Michael Siebers founded Holidu in 2014. The high-growth startup is headquartered in Munich and has local offices in the most attractive travel destinations in Europe and the US. For more information, see https://www.holidu.com and https://www.bookiply.com.
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. Piestewa Peak 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. Camelback Mountain 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. The top of Camelback Mountain. Photo by Reuben Schulz, iStock Tom’s Thumb 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. Sunset in the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Brent_1, iStock Images 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. Holbert Trail 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. __________ SPONSORED BY GEICO This content was produced in partnership with GEICO, Lonely Planet, and Budget Travel.Sponsored by Geico