Vibrant Art Exhibits and Attractions to Visit This Year

By BT Editor
May 7, 2024
Murals in Bernal Heights, San Francisco - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association

Take a vacation that inspires creativity and imagination, and celebrates artistic skills and ingenuity. These fun exhibits and showings around the country are a great way to explore local culture or add an educational element to your next vacation.

Check out street art in San Francisco, California

A mural in progress in San Francisco - courtesy of the San Francisco Travel Association

Street art has a long history in San Francisco that dates back to the 1800s and has played an important part in the city's art scene, culture, and political activism. Nestled amidst the eclectic neighborhoods and bustling streets of San Francisco lies a treasure trove of vibrant murals, thought-provoking graffiti, and captivating street art installations. From the colorful alleys of the Mission District to the iconic walls of Balmy Alley, San Francisco's diverse neighborhoods serve as an ever-evolving canvas for local and international artists alike.

Drag queen, party impresario, activist, and philanthropist Juanita MORE! is one of San Francisco's most beloved residents, so much so that she's been celebrated with over half a dozen different street murals throughout the city. Juanita MORE!'s murals can be found in neighborhoods including in SoMa (Elliott C. Nathan's Loads of Love at the Powerhouse), the Castro (by J. Manuel Carmona, outside Unionmade), Polk Gulch (Serge Gay Jnr's creation on the exterior of Lush Lounge at Fern and Polk streets), Steiner Street at Grove (by J. Manuel Carmona and Guilherme Lemes Cardoso e Silva) and also outside the revived Love Shack by SPARC at 502 14th St., in the Mission (again by Gay Jnr.).

The Polk Gulch neighborhood is known for its vibrant tapestry of street art and testifies to the city's rich cultural history. Once hailed as San Francisco's 'first LGBTQIA+ neighborhood' with a thriving scene from the 1950s to the late 1970s, before the Castro neighborhood claimed the spotlight. Among the latest additions to its artistic landscape is a captivating piece by Serge Gay Jnr, located on the corner of Post Street and Larkin Street.

Renowned San Francisco artist, Amos Goldbaum, has recently decorated the public garden walkway in Bernal Heights with one of his iconic murals. Titled “City in a Garden,” Goldbaum's masterpiece spans 13 panels and was crafted in just over a month. The mural showcases stencil-like depictions of the city's iconic landscape, adding a touch of vibrant creativity to the neighborhood's scenery.

Murals first appeared along Balmy Alley in the mid-1980s as a poignant expression of outrage over human rights violations and political corruption in Central America. Today, the themes depicted have evolved to include broader societal issues such as gentrification and government injustice. The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts is just a few blocks away for those seeking additional arts and culture when visiting San Francisco. Alongside its impressive collection of exhibits, it offers several theatre, music, and dance workshops.

Kick off the summer in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sunset in Virginia Beach by Daniel Halseth - Unsplash

The summer travel season is just around the corner, and Virginia Beach is poised to welcome visitors to its sunny shoreline with a packed opening weekend of festivals to suit a variety of entertainment themes. A pair of brand-new events build on the destination's arts and music scene paired with the return of a top international action sports competition and a spotlight on the city's patriotic personality. Add some sizzle to a summer vacation plan with a visit to enjoy any, or all, of the events planned for the first weekend in June.

Outdoor street-corner sculptures that dot the primary corridors of Virginia Beach's ViBe District add color and creativity to the walkable arts community. A group of 15 artists will live paint all the neighborhood identifiers during the inaugural festival weekend (May 30-June 2, 2024), and an interactive and family-friendly community mural invites all visitors to contribute to its design. Shop a vibrant community of artisans, crafters and restaurants that add to the appeal of the free, new event just steps from the beach.

Additionally, three other festivals are happening the same weekend — so be sure to hit up all the entertainment while in town. Virginia Beach will be jammin' as a new, seaside festival spotlights reggae music, food and culture. Gates open daily at noon for the Point Break Reggae Festival (June 1 & 2, 2024) with more than 20 concerts headlined by Grammy-nominated Rebelution and alternative rock band Sublime plus performances by Steel Pulse, Stephen Marley and Wiz Khalifa. General admission tickets and travel packages are on sale now.

More than 500 athletes from eight countries bring their skills back to the beach when the nation's premier adventure sports competition returns this summer, JACKALOPE. Adrenaline rushes fuel competitors and spectators alike with mind-blowing exhibitions in street and vert skateboarding, bouldering, freestyle motocross, BASE jumping and skimboarding. This free event held at 31st Street Park and on oceanfront courses is a perfect match for thrill seekers this summer. Hotel and VIP viewing packages plus a series of ticketed athlete-led workshops are available now.

Finally, there's the USO Experience, May 30 – June 2. Virginia Beach is home to four military installations and thousands of U.S. military servicemembers, and the city celebrates their service with a series of live concerts and informational exhibits in the 17th and 24th Street Parks on the oceanfront.

Visit a hidden gem museum in Raleigh, North Carolina

Skyline of Raleigh, North Carolina by TJ Wallace - Unsplash

Where can you find one of North America's largest museum art parks, a collection of 30 Rodin sculptures and one of only two permanent Judaic art displays in the country? Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, offers all of this and more.

The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) may not have the fame of the Louvre or the name recognition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it is undeniably a hidden gem in the art world, welcoming more than one million visitors to its campus in 2023. Nestled in Raleigh, N.C., this international art museum is home to a collection of 4,353 artworks from around the globe. With its diverse exhibitions and exquisite displays, it is a destination that deserves recognition and exploration. The idea for the Museum traces back to the establishment of the North Carolina State Art Society in 1924, with a mission to generate support for a state-funded art museum. An ambitious mission at the time, the Museum received funding from the North Carolina General Assembly in 1947, becoming the first state-funded art museum in the nation.

Today the NCMA showcases an impressive collection that spans over 5,000 years of artistic history. The permanent collection, The People's Collection, was fully re-installed in 2022 to share a more inclusive art historical narrative and to re-imagine a more dynamic experience of the arts through newly conceived geographic and thematic galleries. Notable changes include joining Egyptian art with African art, interactive and accessible digital labels and community voices, which invited citizens throughout North Carolina to respond to objects in the collection in conversation with labels written by museum curators. The People's Collection includes works by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Georgia O'Keeffe, El Anatsui and Yayoi Kusama, among many others. Remarkably, public admission to The People's Collection is always free.

The Museum's Rodin collection of 30 sculptures is the most extensive Rodin collection between Philadelphia and the West Coast and is always on view inside the West Building and outdoors in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Court and Garden. The Museum is also celebrating its 40th year of Judaic art and has a gallery devoted to historic ceremonial Jewish objects. This collection is one of only two permanent Judaic art displays in an American art museum.

One of the distinctive features of NCMA is its stunning outdoor park, filled with sculptures and installations that surprise and delight. As one of North America's largest museum art parks, the 164-acre campus provides a serene and immersive experience where art and nature intertwine. Visitors can bike or stroll along 4.7 miles of trails, marvel at outdoor artworks, native plants and wildlife and enjoy live music in the Museum's amphitheater. The Museum Park has been transformed over the last 40 years with the goals of stewardship and sustainability in mind. An ever-evolving space, current projects focus on stream restoration, stormwater management and connectivity.

Consciousness is supported and spearheaded by NCMA's Director, Valerie Hillings, who took on the role in 2018. Hillings previously worked in various senior positions at the Guggenheim and its partner institutions, curating more than 15 exhibitions on four continents. She is the ninth director of the Museum and the first woman in this role. With a strong leadership and curatorial background, Hillings initiated the reimagining of The People's Collection in 2022, lifting diverse curatorial voices and enhancing the Museum's accessibility features.

In addition to its permanent collection and outdoor park, the Museum hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions catering to diverse artistic interests. Current exhibitions include To Take Shape and Meaning: Form and Design in Contemporary American Indian Art. Upcoming exhibitions include Venice and the Ottoman Empire, The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure and the sell-out annual floral art installation Art In Bloom, which returns every March. The NCMA also offers educational programs, lectures, workshops, markets and performing arts and film events that engage visitors and community members of all ages and foster a deeper appreciation for the arts. Museum programs engaged over 220,000 people across all 100 North Carolina counties, reflecting collaborations with over 415 partners for 797 programs in 2023.

Whether you are an art or history enthusiast or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, the North Carolina Museum of Art is a destination worth adding to your bucket list. From its expansive collection to its beautiful outdoor park, this hidden gem offers a rich and immersive journey through the world of art.

Encounter Mesoamerican sculptures in Illinois

Fernando Ramirez Founder and President of MCCD with an artist from Mexico - courtesy of MCCD / DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau

Mexican Cultural Center DuPage (MCCD) in coordination with Meztli Mexico and in partnership with the College of DuPage Public Art Project (COD) and the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) is proud to announce an exciting new project: “Olmec Trails: Culture and Legacy.” This new outdoor exhibit featuring hand-painted large-scale renditions of iconic Mesoamerican sculptures will be displayed this summer throughout DuPage County in an expansive exhibition highlighting the culture of the ancient Olmec civilization in a fresh and accessible way.

The colossal stone heads, crafted by the Olmecs between 1400 BCE to 400 BCE, originated in the southern part of Veracruz, Mexico, the cultural heart of this early Mesoamerican civilization. Each multi-ton sculpture, chiseled from a single stone using primitive tools, reflected the Olmecs' artistic prowess and their significant influence on subsequent Mesoamerican cultures. Today, these iconic heads are celebrated globally as prime examples of pre-Columbian art and adorn various museums and public spaces. Notably, the Olmecs, Mesoamerica's earliest civilization, left enduring legacies, including the precursor to sports like basketball and soccer.

“Olmec Trails” pays tribute to the indigenous roots of Mexican heritage as well as brings attention to the importance of public art by showcasing the immense talent and creativity of more than 30 contemporary artists from across North America. The artwork will connect spectators to these one-of-a-kind works in a healthy and enjoyable outdoor setting with both physical and mental benefits. Installations will be located numerous sites throughout DuPage County including the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, campus of COD, National Museum of Mexican Art and the City of West Chicago. The project is looking to partner in additional host cities. For more information visit

The creation of the works for this exciting international exhibition is already underway and will be completed in June of 2024. Artists in Mexico have begun painting some of the Olmec head sculptures and 18 international artists will arrive in May to paint on-site at two locations in DuPage County: the MCCD, 103 W. Washington St. in The City of West Chicago, Ill. and the MAC, 425 Fawell Blvd. on the campus of COD in Glen Ellyn, Ill. Installations and openings at the MCCD, COD and various forest preserves will begin June 1.

The exhibition will be celebrated throughout the summer with a variety of events including the Olmec Trails Family Fiesta Kick-Off Party at the MAC's Lakeside Pavilion June 30. More information about events, sponsorship opportunities and exhibition updates will be available at

Support for “Olmec Trails: Culture and Legacy” is provided in part by the Mexican Cultural Center DuPage, College of DuPage, the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau, Illinois Office of Tourism and the National Museum of Mexican Art. Artist support is provided in part by Meztli Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Arts Alliance.

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This Florida Destination has Wildlife Encounters, Family Fun, Art Shows, and More

The Palm Beaches, renowned for 47 miles of sun-kissed coastline and a vibrant collection of activities, welcomes the arrival of spring with an array of fresh offerings. Visitors will find new experiences through the destination's tremendous growth, with The Palm Beaches seeing a total combined investment of more than $500 million across a dozen hotels over the past few months alone. Within the next two years, an anticipated $1 billion collective investment for 16 new properties in the pipeline is expected to add nearly 2,200 more rooms. To help travelers plan their perfect getaway, Discover The Palm Beaches recently introduced an interactive quiz on its official website. This personalized tool highlights the new brand campaign, “The Palm Beaches Collection,” and recommends tailored experiences based on individual interests, offering insights into the destination's diverse offerings and unique attractions, including arts and culture, shopping, sports, spa and wellness, nature and outdoors, or culinary. The website offers free tools to simplify the planning process, including a comprehensive Visitors Guide, direct hotel booking platform, a calendar of upcoming events, dining recommendations, and more. Book accommodations at one of these new hotels A family at Hilton West Palm Beach - courtesy of Discover the Palm Beaches Several hotels and resorts throughout The Palm Beaches have recently undergone substantial updates to enhance the guest experience. Tideline Palm Beach Ocean Resort and Spa has been reimagined with a dramatic new design, following a $20 million renovation by owner and financier Jeff Greene. The refurbishment has touched all areas of this coveted resort, including the stylistic pool entrance, the grand lobby, and the outdoor dining patio offering stunning views alongside a private beachfront. The Renaissance Boca Raton recently debuted in Midtown Boca Raton after a multimillion-dollar renovation, including updated guest rooms, main lobby, corridors, meeting space, club lounge, and fitness center. The renovation also includes the addition of a 30,000-square-foot resort-style pool deck with a waterfall backdrop, and a “WET by Meat Market” tiki bar to service pool and VIP cabana guests with food and beverage options. The Hilton West Palm Beach has debuted a $25 million renovation with 400 refreshed guestrooms, including 43 suites, four enhanced dining destinations, a reimagined pool deck, and six newly constructed cabanas. In addition, there is a new lobby bar and a variety of wellness activities such as meditative sound healing, poolside sessions, weekly fitness classes, and more. Flagler Club, the ultra-luxury, private-access boutique hotel nestled within the top two floors of The Breakers Palm Beach, experienced a full-scale renovation with a new, modern aesthetic extending throughout 21 guest rooms and suites, as well as its lounge and terrace. The transformative new look from Tihany Design was inspired by the cosmopolitan lifestyle of The Breakers' clientele. The Seagate Golf Club in Delray Beach has reopened its course after a major renovation to its Joe Lee-designed 18-hole championship golf course and practice facilities. World-renowned architect J. Drew Rogers oversaw the renovation, which enhanced the gameplay of each hole and, in some instances, resulted in complete redesigns. The Seagate also renovated its 41,064-square-foot Golf Clubhouse. The Singer Oceanfront Resort is set to debut this spring after a multimillion-dollar renovation and conversion to Curio Collection by Hilton. The property will offer a coastal escape on Singer Island with 223 freshly renovated guest rooms and suites, all with private outdoor balconies. The vibrant culinary program will offer three new concepts, including the island's only beachfront bar, “Top Shell,” signature restaurant “Caretta Caretta,” and grab-and-go style gourmet retail at “The Market at Singer.” Dine out for amazing views, Mediterranean food, and more A couple enjoys drinks on a rooftop - courtesy of Discover the Palm Beaches Elevate Skye Bar & Lounge has opened on the rooftop at the Opal Grand in Delray Beach, overlooking the city's bustling Atlantic Avenue with stunning ocean views. The casually sophisticated open-air sanctuary offers a menu starring small plates and shareable dishes. For more amazing views, Elisabetta's Ristorante, Bar and Pizzeria has just opened Bar Capri, a rooftop bar with sweeping views of West Palm Beach, including the Intracoastal Waterway and the town of Palm Beach. The 75-seat covered bar area will serve Elisabetta's bar bites and pizza, as well as cocktails, wine, and beer, Monday-Friday starting at 4 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 12 p.m. Mediterranean cuisine lovers will have plenty of options to choose from. Tutto Mare will be developed inside the Palm Beach Playhouse at The Royal Poinciana Plaza as Palm Beach's first and only intra-coastal waterfront restaurant. The Mediterranean concept is from Tutto il Giorno restaurant group, founded by husband-and-wife team, Gianpaolo de Felice and Gabby Karan de Felice, daughter of fashion designer Donna Karan. The restaurant is set to debut later this year and will seat 200 guests. The Blue Door, a coastal bistro in West Palm Beach's “SoSo” (South of Southern Boulevard) district, has opened with indoor and al fresco seating. The restaurant offers a Mediterranean-inspired menu with an emphasis on seafood, and a beverage program featuring wines from smaller vineyards in coastal Europe. NiMo Coastal Mediterranean, a new restaurant in Tequesta, offers dishes that pay homage to the Mediterranean and Middle East. Acclaimed star chef Niven Patel and his business partner Mohamed Alkassar earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand Honor for their Miami restaurant, Ghee Indian Kitchen, and NiMo is their first restaurant in The Palm Beaches. Corvina Seafood Grill in Boca Raton has kicked off Santorini Saturdays with an Aegean Sea-inspired selection of Coastal Greek specialties and cocktails and live music on Saturday evenings, along with a Complimentary Cava Cart. In addition, the restaurant has unveiled new dishes under the direction of Executive Chef Jeff Tunks, who has been at the helm of the restaurant since it first opened. For great Italian, Campi Italian has opened at The Ray Hotel in Delray Beach. The casual yet swanky experience seeks to transport diners on an Italian voyage by serving age-old Italian favorites with an upscale twist, from in-house made fresh pasta to tableside flambéed Fiorentina steak. Fiolina Pasta, a new restaurant in Boca Raton's Restaurant Row, is inspired by the female pasta makers of Italy who carry on the art of making pasta by hand. Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning Chef Fabio Trabocchi leads the restaurant, which features authentic classic and regional Italian cuisine. For a fun experience, Radcliffe's Speakeasy & Supper Club has been reborn with a “secret alley entrance” behind its sister restaurant, The Wine Room Kitchen & Bar. The revival of this historic Delray Beach hidden treasure offers a unique dining and entertainment experience with live jazz and R&B performances and an eclectic, upscale menu.The area has also recently welcomed five new immersive Omakase dining experiences: Bōken at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan, Sushi By Bou Omakase at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Konro in West Palm Beach's Flamingo Park area, and AlleyCat Boca and Kapow Noodle Bar in Boca Raton. These establishments offer intimate seating of 12 or fewer, providing the perfect setting to indulge in an interactive chef-driven meal. Guests at Bōken can enhance their culinary journey by pairing meals with a selection of drinks, ranging from premium sake, Japanese craft beer, house-infused cucumber sake, and Fukucho Seaside, a sparkling sake from a female-owned brewery in Japan. Meanwhile, at Sushi by Bou, guests can sit back and let the chef decide their menu and unique libations. Konro is a Japanese Grill helmed by Chef Jacob Bickelhaupt that serves a 10-14 course tasting menu with classic old-world techniques, such as the A6 “drunken” Wagyu tripled seared over rare Binchotan charcoal which earned the chef two Michelin stars from his first restaurant in Chicago. AlleyCat Boca now offers an exciting omakase-meets izakaya social dining experience by award-winning celebrity Chef David Bouhadana and Chef Eric Baker. Kapow offers a Sake Sommelier for seasoned enthusiasts and newcomers to enjoy a selection along with signature dishes, providing a harmonious blend of delicate flavors and nuanced profiles at all price points. Take the whole family out to these fun attractions Rapids Waterpark in Riviera Beach has unveiled its newest and biggest attraction: MEGA MAYHEM, Florida's only dueling water coaster, and the longest one of its kind. The ride features two side-by-side flumes where riders speed down twists and turns and then are propelled uphill by a unique blast of water jet technology. PopStroke Palm Beach has broken ground on its new location in West Palm Beach and is expected to open later this year. The mini-golf experience, which Tiger Woods and TaylorMade back, will boast two 18-hole putting greens with views of Palm Beach International Airport along with a two-story modern restaurant, sushi bar, club, rooftop pool, outdoor beer garden with games, lounge, and an outdoor playground. The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, in association with INFINITY Experiences, Felix & Paul Studios and PHI Studio, will present Space Explorers: THE INFINITE funded by William A. Meyer, from June 4 through September 2, 2024. The highly acclaimed experience will transport visitors on a journey as they roam freely inside a state-of-the-art, virtual 3D replica of the International Space Station (ISS), float in space alongside the astronauts, and admire breathtaking sights of Earth that only a handful have ever seen before — all without ever leaving the ground. Get up close to wildlife with these encounters and exhibits Snorkeler at Phil Foster Park - courtesy of Mike Scott Photography/Discover the Palm Beaches Manatee Lagoon – An FPL Eco-Discovery Center is expected to debut an innovative seagrass nursery exhibit this spring. The new tanks will serve as an educational resource for visitors, as well as a functioning nursery to facilitate the growth of seagrass, manatee's preferred food source. Loggerhead Marinelife Center is launching new sea turtle experiences during nesting season this summer. From Sunrise Nest Excavations to Hatchling Releases and Guided Turtle Walks, these new Eco Experiences offer an insightful and hands-on approach to understanding the importance of preserving our ocean and the creatures that call it home. Lion Country Safari has welcomed a male southern white rhinoceros calf to its herd, one of the country's largest. “Orion” the calf is a significant addition to the park's rhino herd and to the White Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan, a national collaboration to save imperiled species from extinction. Guests can see “Orion” and his mother, “Bloom,” from their vehicles in the park's Hwange National Park section of the safari. Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has welcomed a baby Hoffman's two-toed sloth to mother sloth “Wilbur” and father “Dustin” through a Sloth Species Survival Plan. Guests can see “Wilbur” and her baby in the sloth habitat. In addition, guests can also enjoy a new Bear Experience, which offers an unforgettable experience with the zoo's resident rescued black bear brothers “Lewis” and “Clark.” Take in the local arts and culture scene Japanese Gardens at the Morikami Museum - courtesy of Discover the Palm Beaches Maltz Jupiter Theatre has a new $5 million state-of-the-art 198-seat "black box" style theatre, located adjacent to the MainStage, named The Island Theatre. The Island Theatre features a two-story layout with 198 comfortable seats and cutting-edge technical infrastructure. Its flexible design allows for various performance configurations, from intimate musicals and thought-provoking plays to captivating museum exhibitions, movie screenings, and vibrant cabarets. MOSAIC (Month of Shows, Art, Ideas and Culture) is an annual month-long celebration of The Palm Beaches' art and cultural scene from the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County. All during May, visitors can take advantage of special offers such as “buy one, get one” deals and up to 50 percent off discounts on admission tickets, retail purchases, and unique experiences throughout the culturally rich region. Participating organizations range from the beloved Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society to the interactive Cox Science Center and Aquarium and the world-class Norton Museum of Art. Throughout the month, more than 90 artists will participate in Palm Beach County Open Studios on Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19 between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. With more than 25 limited-time, one-of-a-kind deals on a wide range of experiences, MOSAIC is the perfect time to visit The Palm Beaches. SunFest is marking its 40th celebration along the West Palm Beach waterfront May 3-5. The lineup for SunFest 2024 includes Nelly, Cole Swindell, Rebelution, Third Eye Blind, Billy Idol, Yung Gravy, The Revivalists, Elle King, Shaggy, Dashboard Confessional, and many more. New this year, SunFest is introducing The Palm, a three-hour all-inclusive VIP culinary experience with views of the Ideal Nutrition Stage and amenities. A Delray Beach Family Affair celebrates freedom, history, and family on May 19 in the backyard of the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum. The family-reunion-style event features speakers who will engage the audience with accounts of Florida's history, which includes news of the emancipation of enslaved people that reached the state's citizens on May 20, 1865. The Center for Arts and Innovation in Boca Raton is hosting the “RPBW Exhibition” on display from April 20-May 19. Renzo Piano is a renowned Pritzker Prize-winning architect who spearheaded the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the company selected to design the center as the new arts and cultural destination in the city. Focus on wellness Eudēmonia (Greek for "life well lived”) is launching this year from November 1-3 in West Palm Beach. Through a partnership between DTPB and the team that brought Wanderlust festivals to more than 20 countries, this transformational three-day summit is designed to empower guests to cultivate their well-being in all dimensions of life: physical, mental, and social. The event will offer a range of talks from leaders on the frontiers of health and longevity, experiential activities such as treatments, classes, and workouts, an expo hall filled with the latest brands in wellness tech, and daily culinary experiences designed to fuel guests' journeys. Guests can sign up for the newsletter for early access to tickets.


Get Ready for Summer with These Fun Family Vacation Ideas

Summer is right around the corner. Get excited with these fun ideas for a great family vacation, including road trip inspiration, educational attractions, and outdoor activities. Take a ride on this giant indoor roller coaster in Missouri Town scene on the Fire in the Hole coaster - courtesy of Silver Dollar City The largest family roller coaster in the Heartland, Fire In The Hole, is now open at the internationally awarded Silver Dollar City theme park, in the heart of the Ozarks. At over 32,000 square feet, Fire In The Hole represents the 1880s theme park’s single-largest attraction investment to date — a nearly 3-minute long ride retelling an account of the night the real town Silver Dollar City now sits on was burnt to the ground. Integral to the ride’s story, “volunteers” are asked to board their very own “pumper” — an 1880s steam-powered, firefighting wagon — and save the burning town from notorious vigilantes, the Baldknobbers. 14 iconic show scenes are paired with 3 gravity-driven drops, while the journey ends with a surprise, quick water-splash finale. The final product is a result of years of collaboration with Idaho’s Rocky Mountain Construction and Herschend Creative Studios. “Fire In The Hole is truly one-of-a-kind,” said Duane Marden, founder of the Roller Coaster Database, a worldwide database with statistics on over 10,000 roller coasters and counting from around the world. “The ride combines a family coaster experience all can enjoy with indoor elements illustrating the history of this area, all in a massive building that ends with a water splash. There’s nothing like it anywhere and will be an absolute must-ride every visit.” True to the theme park’s 1880s roots, the new coaster recounts the story of a real night in Ozark Mountain history when the mining town of Marmaros — the once-real town Silver Dollar City now resides on and inspiration for the park’s theme — was burned to the ground by the Baldknobbers. This new coaster follows in the legendary footsteps of the original Fire In The Hole, a 51-year-old coaster that held final rides on Dec. 30, 2023, after hosting over 25 million riders since 1972. Now, housed in a 5-story, temperature-controlled building, the new family coaster will always be open regardless of the day’s weather and temperature. “Fire In The Hole is a testament to the hard work and ingenuity of the men and women who work here at Silver Dollar City,” said Brad Thomas, President of the Silver Dollar City Company. “Work on this massive addition started back in 2021, with planning much before that. They have poured tens of thousands of hours into this project, and their craftsmanship can be seen in every nook of this ride, from the queue line and coaster building, all the way to the hand-painted backdrops and lush foliage.” Effectively doubling the size of one The City’s most popular areas, Fire In The Hole is the new centerpiece in the newly incorporated Fire District. Additionally located in The Fire District is Sadie’s Pretzel Cafe, an all-new restaurant serving handmade pretzels, pretzel dogs and pretzel sandwiches. Plus, just across the street, the new Flanders Dry Goods offers a line of “Flanders-branded” merchandise, connecting the store location back to Fire In The Hole’s rich lore. “This new Fire In The Hole continues our mission of creating memories worth repeating, as we look to always improve the experience for our guests and towards the future of our park,” said Thomas. “This coaster, just like the original, ensures the whole family makes lasting memories for the foreseeable future, and the only place you can ride something like this is Silver Dollar City. Fire In The Hole marks the beginning of an action-packed summer this year at Silver Dollar City, with the park’s Summer Celebration kicking off June 8, with extended nighttime hours starting July 13 with Summer Nights, all the way through August 4. And, there’s plenty of fun between now and then, too, as this spring The City celebrates the final year of Street Fest from April 11-29. Then, Bluegrass & BBQ from May 2-27, awarded “Top Bluegrass Event” by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). Enjoy inshore and ocean fishing Florida Fishing in the waters of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and The Beaches - courtesy fo Florida's Historic Coast Spend a leisurely day casting a line into the surf with toes in the sand or wrestling a sport fish out of the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, it's easy to understand why fishing is Florida's favorite pastime. And there's no better place than St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches, where there's a myriad of backwater honey holes, guided charters, challenging tournaments, and passionate fishing experts. Saltwater fishing is king here—kingfish, that is. St. Augustine is home to the Southern Kingfish Association, which sanctions more than 100 tournaments throughout the Southeast. The ocean waters are also home to blackfin tuna, tarpon, flounder, wahoo, mahi mahi, sailfish, cobia, and king mackerel. Hop on board one of Sea Love Charters' public trips for a deep-water adventure or charter a fishing boat from the Conch House Marina or the Nix Boat Yard Road Marina. The ever-popular fishing tournaments are on. If you want to put a little more on the line, enter one of the many tournaments hosted on Florida's Historic Coast. Kingfish tournaments lure in large crowds of fishermen and fisherwomen after big fish and even bigger cash prizes. St. Augustine Kingfish Mayhem kicks off on May 30th and Old School Kingfish Tournament follows on June 8th. The Ancient City Game Fish Association hosts the Kingfish Challenge on June 28th and 29th. Go from the big water to the backwater with any number of guided fishing charters that explore the marshes, creeks, and bays that vein Florida's Historic Coast. The area is known for its local redfish, as well as flounder, tarpon, black drum, and speckled sea trout. The aptly named Drum Man Charters and Fishardy Charters can navigate St. Augustine's inland waters and venture 30 miles offshore, while First Coast Inshore Fishing, Chips Coastal Charters, and Prime Time Charters specialize in Ponte Vedra's inland waterways. Bringing your own boat? Get bait, gear, hot local tips, and tie-up overnight at Devil's Elbow Fishing Resort or Genung's Fish Camp. Along Florida's Historic Coasts 42 miles of pristine beaches, Surf fishing at sunrise is a must-do. Cast past the waves during the warm summer months and land speckled sea trout, pompano, or jack crevalle. Vilano Beach, St. Augustine Beach, Crescent Beach, Matanzas Inlet, and South Ponte Vedra Beach Recreation Area are all perfect places to surf cast – just remember to be respectful of other beach-goers! Anglers also have tremendous fun fishing from the area's piers and bridges. Most well-known is the St. Johns County Ocean Pier on St. Augustine Beach. The $6 fee to fish includes a fishing license! There are also Lighthouse Park on Anastasia Island, the Vilano Beach Pier and Usina Boat Ramp Fishing Pier on Vilano Beach, Vaill Point Park in St. Augustine South, and the Rose of Sharon Pier just north of the Bridge of Lions. Give bridge fishing a try at the Matanzas Inlet Bridge on A1A or the May Street Bridge. Having fun on the water is key, but remember, these waters are very sensitive ecosystems that can easily be damaged. Help preserve the natural environment for future generations by following a few simple rules. Don't discard any fishing materials or refuse in the water; discard used fishing line in designated receptacles, where it can be safely recycled; stay off the dunes; and boat at safe speeds. Fishing, fresh air, and the water are sure to stoke the appetite. Grab some delicious bites packaged to enjoy in the great outdoors from Kaiser's Deli on Anastasia Island, the Floating Food Company on Vilano Beach, Stir It Up on St. Augustine Beach, or Trasca and Company in Ponte Vedra Beach. Fishing is just the beginning of the adventure on Florida's Historic Coast. Be sure to take advantage of the unforgettable stays and deals available on Florida's Historic Coast this Spring and summer. Explore outdoor recreation in the Laurel Highlands Visitors enjoy the rivers in the Laurel Highlands - courtesy of GO Laurel Highlands The Laurel Highlands is home to excellent outdoor recreation on the Youghiogheny and Stonycreek rivers as well as eight state parks (Keystone, Kooser, Laurel Hill, Laurel Mountain, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Summit, Linn Run and Ohiopyle) and two state forests (Forbes and Gallitzin). Architecture aficionados flock to the Laurel Highlands to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater – a UNESCO World Heritage site – as well as Mantyla and the Duncan House, both of which are located at Polymath Park, and Kentuck Knob. History lovers are drawn to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Fort Ligonier and the Flight 93 National Memorial. Family vacations are especially popular in the region, which is home to Idlewild and SoakZone, Laurel Caverns, Jennerstown Speedway and Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Ann Nemanic, executive director of GO Laurel Highlands – the official destination marketing organization of Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties – said the region's diverse range of activities and experiences make it the perfect summer getaway. “Summer is a season filled with anticipation,” she said. “Three months filled with dates circled for family gatherings, celebrations, parades, and vacations simply are not enough. “The Laurel Highlands has always been a summer destination because the region checks many boxes for visitors,” Nemanic said. “An entire week could be filled with outdoor experiences alone – hiking numerous trails, biking the Great Allegheny Passage, floating a kayak on calm water, or screaming excitedly over Class IV rapids on the Yough. A blend of history and cultural assets is appealing to many, with museums and artist studios scattered throughout the landscape. For little tots, Idlewild and SoakZone create memories for their first amusement park experience. Pepper in farmers markets for fresh-grown ingredients to take home, and you have yourself one tremendous escape this summer.” Recently, Ohiopyle Borough, which has about a dozen year-round residents captured the USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice Award as the Best Small Town in the Northeast. The popularity 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. The Great Allegheny Passage was recently in a contest for the top recreational trails in the U.S., and Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Mill Run – just a few miles outside of Ohiopyle – is currently a nominee for Favorite RV Campground. Save on sight-seeing in San Antonio, Texas The Alamo by Gower Brown - Unsplash As of March 1, admission to The Alamo's – Exhibit and Church is now included in San Antonio CityPASS® tickets. CityPASS tickets, the first-ever bundled attraction tickets in North America, offer substantial discounts on combined admission to iconic attractions in 16 North American destinations. The Alamo, part of Texas' only UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Lone Star State's top tourist destination, is a fantastic addition to the already impressive San Antonio CityPASS lineup of attractions. Renowned worldwide for its significant role in American history, the Alamo offers a unique and immersive journey through 300 years of history. While first established as a Spanish mission in the 1700's, the Alamo is best known as the site of a tragic battle during Texas' quest for independence from Mexico. It was during this 1836 Siege of The Alamo by Mexican General Santa Anna that every last Texas defender, including famed frontiersmen David Crockett, William B. Travis and James Bowie, perished while fighting for freedom. That tragic event transformed the site into a sacred place to which travelers have paid homage for nearly 200 years. One of the most iconic of the historical buildings at the Alamo is the Church, dating back to the site's Spanish Mission era. The Long Barrack, located near the cherished Alamo Church, houses exhibits detailing the Alamo's history and the events leading up to the famed Battle of the Alamo. Visitors can engage in interactive demonstrations of early 19th–century daily life, military drills and other activities in the Living History Encampment. While entry to the Alamo grounds and Church is always free to the public, admission is charged for the Alamo Exhibit located inside the Ralston Family Collections Center. San Antonio CityPASS tickets cover this admission fee. The Alamo Exhibit offers a state-of-the-art curatorial environment dedicated to the preservation of the Alamo. Here, visitors can view priceless artifacts gifted to the State of Texas by musician and historian Phil Collins (yes, that Phil Collins!), including the Battle of the Alamo Diorama featuring his narration. Additional period pieces are showcased in the Donald and Louise Yena Spanish Colonial Collection among the many displays and interactive exhibits. Perfect for budget-conscious travelers, the San Antonio CityPASS program bundles discounted prepaid admission into one easy-to-use mobile ticket. Visitors can now save 39% on combined admission to four of the following must-see San Antonio attractions: Go Rio San Antonio River CruisesSan Antonio ZooThe Tower of The AmericasThe DoSeumSan Antonio Botanical GardenWitte MuseumSan Antonio Museum of ArtNEW The Alamo — Exhibit and Church Visiting is easy with a San Antonio CityPASS mobile ticket. The tickets cost $59 (value $92), for adults and $49 for children ages 3-11. Once scanned at the first attraction visited, CityPASS tickets are valid for nine consecutive days starting with the first day of use. (Should travel plans change, a 365-day refund is available for nonactivated tickets.) Tickets can be purchased online at or at one of the participating attractions. Customers can use the My CityPASS app to access their tickets, make reservations, and find entry instructions, directions, special offers, and more for each attraction. Experience the iconic Route 66 in Illinois Sprague's on Route 66 in McLean County, Illinois - courtesy of Bloomington-Normal Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Nestled in the heart of Illinois, McLean County invites travelers to embark on an unforgettable adventure along Route 66. As the legendary Mother Road weaves through the county, it leaves a trail of history and nostalgia, offering a personalized travel experience. With a multitude of attractions, dining, shopping, and events capturing the essence of Route 66, McLean Countyensures a memorable journey for all. What sets McLean County apart is its commitment to personalized travel, without the hustle and bustle of big city travel. Discover the cultural heritage and create lasting memories in McLean County, where warmth and hospitality await all travelers. For travelers venturing into McLean County, step back in time at Sprague's Super Service station in Normal. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and meticulously restored to its former glory, this landmark, now known as Ryburn Place, serves as a poignant reminder of Route 66's storied past. This location is great for photo taking and has a popular route 66 gift shop. Bloomington offers travelers a huge array of dining and shopping opportunities along Route 66. Exploring the Cruisin' with Lincoln on 66 Visitor Center in Bloomington to get your passport stamped, shop and discover the local area. Spend time at the McLean County History Museum in Bloomington, where exhibits chronicle the region's pivotal role in shaping the American landscape. Stroll through the charming streets of Downtown Bloomington, where there's something to delight every palate and preference. Funks Grove in Shirley beckons travelers with its idyllic scenery and warm hospitality. Visitors can explore Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup, a family-owned maple syrup farm that has been producing delicious syrup for generations. Visitors can't miss Memory Lane in Lexington or the thrill of Dead Man's Curve in Towanda. And for those seeking great photo locations, the Route 66 Monuments in Bloomington, Normal, Lexington, Chenoa, and McLean stand as the perfect backdrop for your travel photo taking. The adventure continues with a lineup of Route 66 events that promise excitement and camaraderie. From the annual Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festivals hosted in many communities in McLean County to the adrenaline-pumping 11th annual Get Your 6.6 on Route 66 run/walk from Funks Grove to McLean, there's no shortage of ways to celebrate the spirit of the Mother Road. Check out the new EV charger at Miller Park pavilion in Bloomington that highlights the region's commitment to sustainability and accessibility along Route 66. Looking ahead, the eagerly anticipated Route 66 Murals slated for Cruisin' with Lincoln on Route 66 Visitor Center, Downtown Bloomington, Lexington, and McLean promise to captivate and inspire visitors starting June 2024.


Plan the Perfect Trip to Sunny San Diego, California

San Diego is a perfect budget-friendly destination that works for all kinds of vacationers—couples, families, friend groups, and solo travelers. There's something for everyone: music festivals, beautiful beaches, great food, and kid-friendly entertainment. Several new restaurants and attractions, plus fun events and activities make 2024 the time to visit this Southern California city. See family-friendly attractions LEGOLAND California is ready to roar in '24: Not only is the park in coastal Carlsbad celebrating its 25th birthday (aka “brickday”), but it will open a new themed area called Dino Valley as well as hosting North America's very first LEGO World Parade. Dino Valley will include two brand-new rides as well as plenty of interactive features for young visitors. SeaWorld San Diego, which has been remaking its patron experience over the past few years with numerous new rides and attractions, is adding another twist in 2024: An aquarium called Jewels of the Sea: The Jellyfish Experience. With its walk-through arch and giant viewing wall, the aquarium promises to be as immersive as things can get without actually swimming alongside the jellies. One of the most distinctive structures in San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park, the Botanical Building was built in 1915 and is recognized as one of the largest wood lath structures in the world. This home to hundreds of rare, tropical and indigenous plants has undergone a major reconstruction intended to restore the building to its original design, and will reopen in 2024. Birthdays don't get much more monumental than The Nat's: The venerable Natural History Museum in Balboa Park marks its 150th in 2024. Now the oldest scientific institution in Southern California, The Nat will celebrate with free birthday admission, a new Nature Garden and giant-screen movie, and a whole lot more.Enjoy arts and entertainmentWonderfront Festival - courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority Two years after San Diego and Tijuana jointly received designation as World Design Capital 2024 — a major global honor — the yearlong WDC24 celebration is about to kick off. San Diego is the first U.S. city to be named or co-named World Design Capital, and the city teamed with its cross-border neighbor of Tijuana, Mexico, to beat out Moscow (the other finalist) for that distinction. Now the two cities will mark WDC24 with an extended series of events and happenings centered on the theme of “Home.” The WDC designation helped inspire AFAR Magazine to include San Diego and Tijuana in its “Where to Go in 2024” roundup of “the 25 most exciting places around the world to visit next.” After taking a hiatus in 2023, the sprawling Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival will again unfold along San Diego's sparkling Embarcadero, with three days of music, food and fun. The fest, last held in 2022 with headliners including Gwen Stefani and Kings of Leon, is moving from its previous November slot to a new time frame (dates and artists have yet to be announced). The art of exquisite automotive design will get a world-class showcase here in 2024 —with a breathtaking setting to match — as the La Jolla Concours d'Elegance unfolds at La Jolla Cove in April. From a “Porsches on Prospect” sports-car extravaganza to chic VIP happenings to the vintage spritz of the event's “Roaring '20s and Glamorous '30s” theme, the Concours d'Elegance promises to be a car-lover's nirvana. And with more than 170 classic vehicles on display, there will be plenty to love. Historic Copley Symphony Hall — the longtime indoor home of the San Diego Symphony — will stage its much-awaited reopening in 2024 after a $125 million renovation. Improvements to the nearly 100-year-old Downtown performance space (formerly the Fox Theatre) include a reconfigured stage, a reshaped main seating level, improved acoustics and more. Some five years after its last edition in Del Mar, the popular KAABOO music festival is making its return in 2024. While the lineup of artists has yet to be announced, the fest has a rep for big-name performers and will again unfold at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.Dine at creative, sustainable, and award-winning restaurants Lafayette Hotel - courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority/Haley Hill Since San Diego's CH Projects took over ownership of the venerable Lafayette Hotel in North Park, it has gone on a wildly creative binge with its dining and drinking options. The eight Lafayette eateries now open or coming online in 2024 include everything from the retro Beginners Diner to the Oaxacan restaurant Quixote to The Gutter, a bar with its own two-lane bowling alley. As San Diego continues to gain worldwide renown for its restaurant prowess, the region will enter 2024 with a full five restaurants that have been honored with coveted Michelin stars. They include the elegant Addison at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, one of only a handful of restaurants in all of California to earn the maximum three Michelin stars. One of the most celebrated chefs to come out of Baja California's fertile Valle de Guadalupe will mark 2024 by opening a new restaurant in San Diego's North Park. Drew Deckman, who hails from Georgia but has been a fixture in Baja culinary circles for more than a decade (and earned a Michelin star in Europe before that), is launching Watershed on University Avenue, with sustainability as a guiding principle. San Diego is known these days as the Capital of Craft, but you could argue that the region's critical mass of craft-beer-itude began in 1989, when Karl Strauss Brewing Co. opened its first tasting room on Columbia Street. Now, as Strauss gets ready to celebrate its 35th anniversary, the grandaddy of San Diego craft brewers has reacquired that original location, which it plans to “reimagine as an homage to the San Diego brewing scene.” The just-opened Malibu Farm restaurant — owned and operated by chef Helene Henderson and her husband, actor John Stockwell — is the latest addition to the waterfront Seaport Village, whose rising profile and surge of new eateries should make it a place to put near the top of your itinerary for 2024. It's been a decade since the much-loved Whaling Bar at La Jolla's La Valencia Hotel — the renowned “Pink Lady” of San Diego — served its last cocktail. Now, after a refitting of the historic watering hole, the Whaling Bar is set to return in 2024 under the auspices of the SDCM Restaurant Group, which runs eight other San Diego bars and restaurants.View exciting sports eventsPetco Park - courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority Gallagher Square is already a much-loved focal point of Petco Park — home of the San Diego Padres and the No. 1 MLB ballpark in America, as deemed by USA Today. Now a $20 million glow-up, set for completion in 2024, will bring even more great features to the family-friendly square, including a new Tony Gwynn Terrace viewing deck and picnic space, a dog park, temporary pickleball courts, public art displays spotlighting San Diego-area artists, and much more. Speaking of Petco Park: The Downtown ballpark, which hosts not only MLB baseball but pop concerts, college football's annual Holiday Bowl and many other special events, marks its 20th anniversary in 2024. Look for the Padres to host plenty of happenings and commemorations as the big anniversary season unfolds at this beautiful venue. And there will be yet another exciting new development at Petco Park in 2024: The Padres, in partnership with C5 Rodeo Company Inc and Outriders Present, are presenting the ballpark's first-ever rodeo in January. The three-day event will transform the park into a Downtown rodeo zone, with the world's top cowboys competing for more than a half-million dollars in prize money. With the stunning success of the San Diego State men's basketball team, which made a thrilling run to the national title game in 2023, San Diego has cemented its rep as a basketball hotbed. The new Rady Children's Invitational builds on that track record, bringing top college hoops teams from around the nation to the UC San Diego campus for the second edition of this exciting Thanksgiving Weekend tournament. The Del Mar Racetrack is fast becoming a go-to home for the Breeders' Cup, one of the most prestigious annual events in Thoroughbred racing. The two-day event, with awards and prizes in excess of $30 million, will unfold in Del Mar in both 2024 and 2025, building on an inaugural run “where the turf meets the surf” in 2021. Excitement over women's professional volleyball is spiking big-time, and now our town is getting in on the action with the 2024 debut of the San Diego Mojo, a Pro Volleyball Federation club owned by Olympian and beach-volleyball luminary Kerri Walsh Jennings. The Mojo begins play in February at Viejas Arena on the San Diego State University campus. San Diego's strong and ever-growing rep as a sports town is exemplified by the return in 2024 of the State Games of America, an Olympic-style national event held every two years and showcasing matchups among State Games medal winners from more than 30 U.S. states. Some 12,000 amateur athletes are expected to compete in more than two dozen sports here, from archery to figure skating to surfing.Bask in the sunMission Beach in San Diego by Sean Mullowney - Unsplash Waterfront Park along San Diego's scenic Embarcadero is adding to its already expansive offerings with a $3 million project to bring pickleball courts, an off-leash dog park, shaded seating and more to the 12-acre oasis, which boasts beautiful views of San Diego Bay and beyond. And of course, San Diego just wouldn't be San Diego without itsamazing beaches and their world-famous plenitude of surf, sun and fun. While there are always lots of new things to do and see in this ever-dynamic city, you can always count on our 70 miles of coastline — from its beaches to its boardwalks to its bays — to make a visit here way more than worthwhile.


Scenic Destinations for Nature Lovers to Book this Spring

Springtime beckons travelers to get outdoors. Surround yourself with natural beauty at the destinations below, and discover new attractions and ways to enhance your experience in the outdoors. Enjoy outdoor experiences in Eastern Tennessee Eastern Tennessee is a popular destination for travelers wanted to explore the Great Smoky Mountains, but this spring there are even more reasons to find yourself in this part of the country. In Gatlinburg, buckle up for a thrill ride on Anakeesta's new Hellbender Smoky Mountain Coaster, with heart-pounding twists, gravity-defying drops and jaw-dropping views. Nearby, in Sevierville, a first-of-its-kind lazy river experience, Kaleidoscope Kavern Lazy River, features a uniquely immersive tunnel inspired by the Smoky Mountains, dynamic kaleidoscope lighting and sound to captivate the imagination at Wilderness at the Smokies. While in town, don't forget to see the Dolly Parton Experience, opening in May at Dollywood; it includes exhibits which span Dolly Parton's iconic career, a look at the inspiration for her biggest dreams, importance of family and a curated exhibit highlighting her signature style through the years. In northeast Tennessee, stargazing adventures and breathtaking views await on the Tennessee Night Sky Trail. Unveil a unique journey traversing the trail by your zodiac sign at one of the nine viewing areas. In Knoxville, on May 11th this year, the Southern Skies Music & Whiskey Festival returns to World's Fair Park with a brand new TN Whiskey Experience, food trucks, craft beer, wine, specialty cocktails, Maker Market and performances by Old Crow Medicine Show, The Dirty Guv'nah's and Maggie Rose. In addition to the popular draw of the Smokies, there are also plenty of amazing state parks in the state. Learn new skills like backpacking or birding, take a guided kayak tour, night moon hike or enjoy spring events and festivals at one of 57 Tennessee State Parks. See the beauty of Illinois, beyond Chicago Starved Rock Waterfall - courtesy of Illinois Office of Tourism The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Office of Tourism today announced its new outdoor video series featuring stories from Illinois adventurers spotlighting the extensive range of outdoor recreation and activities available throughout the state. The series of videos titled, “Real People, Real Stories, Real Outdoors,” aims to capture genuine experiences of Illinois residents and visitors exploring the outdoors, while highlighting the state's natural beauty and outdoor adventures. Home to 70 state parks and recreation areas, 2,900 lakes and seven national scenic byways, there is no shortage of outdoor adventure in Illinois. The stories featured in this new content series uncover picturesque nature trails, hidden gems, iconic landmarks, unique stays and beyond. Travelers can find inspiration in this new content to plan their own getaway to the state. "This campaign inspires visitors to explore all that Illinois has to offer and positions the state as a leading outdoor destination – especially in downstate Illinois,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “Illinois' one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences have the power to attract a large market of outdoor enthusiasts and bring economic development to more rural areas of the state. This campaign shows the world why Illinois' outdoor wonders should be at the top of everyone's travel bucket list.” "In our increasingly hectic and digital world, it's vital to reconnect with the great outdoors, where every hiking trail offers a journey of discovery and every beautiful scene reveals a moment to remember,” said Natalie Phelps Finnie, Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The content series features up close and personal stories of friends and families in Illinois as they explore outdoor destinations, including: A love letter to family camping & fishing in Illinois: For Dennis and Carol Sporleder, visiting their home state of Illinois is an opportunity to create special memories with their granddaughters by returning to some of their beloved places like Rock Cut State Park near Rockford and Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Park in Oglesby. To watch the Sporleder family's experience, click here. Finding beauty in a nature escape from Chicago: Watch as a group of friends escape Chicago to discover the beauty of diverse landscapes like Camp Aramoni's luxury safari-style campground in LaSalle County and Rend Lake in Southern Illinois. The group's experience creates an easy itinerary for outdoor adventure options like paddling, swimming and off-the-grid camping with friends and family. To watch their adventure, click here. Adventures in Illinois to challenge and inspire you: Follow Chicago adaptive climber Meaghan Cusack and her squad to some of Illinois' best climbing spots for people of all abilities and skill levels, including Cave-in-Rock State Park, Giant City State Park near the Shawnee National Forest and breathtaking Pere Marquette State Park along the Mississippi River. To watch Meaghan's inspiring journey, click here. Feel enchanted under the night sky of Arizona Saguaro National Park at night - courtesy of Arizona / Ray Cleveland Soak in breathtakingly clear star-scattered skies by visiting Arizona's 7 Dark Sky Communities, 12 Dark Sky Parks, and 1 Urban Night Sky Place. Stargaze in Flagstaff, the first ever Dark Sky Community and home to the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered. Then start making plans to return to Lowell this fall to participate in the opening of its new Discovery Center. All three of Arizona's National Parks have been recognized for their limited light pollution with both the Grand Canyon National Park and Petrified Forest National Park being designated International Dark Sky Parks and Saguaro National Park being an Urban Night Sky Place. Catch sight of the Milky Way while exploring Sedona, Fountain Hills, Chiricahua National Monument in Willcox and Mt Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory in Tucson. Looking for a unique place to stay? Live within an earth and log hoghann (Hogan) and enjoy a traditional Navajo dinner thanks to the Navajo Experience offered by Shash Dine Eco-Retreat located near Page. During your two-night minimum stay, hear Navajo stories while eating savory lamb, bread and desserts underneath an endless starry sky before waking up for the morning walking tour to witness an unparalleled sunrise. Add additional BMW convertible tours that explore the desert, night sky and sunrise to reconnect with nature. Explore a luminous site at Lookout Mountain, Georgia Rock City gardens in Lookout Mountain, Georgia by Chris Boyer - Unsplash Rock City is one of the South’s most popular natural attractions. Known for its unique geological and botanical wonders, the enchanted, 4,100-foot walking trail is a true marvel of nature featuring massive ancient rock formations, a large waterfall that cascades down Lookout Mountain and the Swing-A-Long Bridge that spans nearly 200 feet. See Rock City like never before at Rock City Nights: Flora Luna, the attraction’s brandnew evening experience! Visit nightly from April 5 through May 12, Sunday through Thursday, from 6 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. Low-light lanterns illuminate this one-of-a-kind garden party with a fine selection of wine and beer, luminous art creations and locally sourced small plate food. “Flora Luna invites guests to discover Rock City in a whole new way while enjoying small bites and drinks in an artful and inspiring environment,” said Kim Jackson, Flora Luna storyteller and curator. “One-of-a-kind sculptural installations, an original musical score and poetic story stitches are woven together to invite guests to engage, reflect and contemplate what inspires them.” Flora Luna highlights Rock City’s natural environment and artfully tells the story of the Enchanted Trail’s beginnings. Follow the path that Rock City founder Frieda Carter first marked with red string over 90 years ago and be one of the first to cross the Swing-A-Long Bridge at night! The softly lit trail winds through multiple food and beverage locations, where tastes and flavors thematically compliment the sights and sounds of the gardens’ surroundings. Hear an original musical composition by composer Tim Hinck blend with the natural sounds of water, wind and cicadas. “Flora Luna offers guests the opportunity to learn about the amazing local farms, producers and fantastic foods that exist right here in our area,” said Aaron Reed, SRC director of food and beverage. “The southern Appalachia region is extraordinarily abundant in food, and we are proud to be a steward of that rich and wonderful heritage.” The culinary experience begins with seasonal fruit and cheese skewers featuring Sequatchie Cove Creamery cheese and locally sourced fruits and mint. Head to Café 7 for slow-smoked brisket, fresh-braised greens and twice-fried Mediterranean wings with a regional craft beer or Italian wine. Enjoy a culinary experience with a view while listening to the tintinnabulation of the sound installation, Chime Tree. Choose from a wide drink selection at Perch and enjoy a relaxed experience in a sittable sculpture installation and suspended woven papasan chairs in this avian-inspired location. The foodie experience continues at Hearth for cast-iron-grilled red wine-braised short rib on French potatoes and poached chicken thighs on artichokes. Make room for dessert; both Hearth and Café 7 are serving Clumpies’ Brownie a la mode and seasonal ice cream with fudge sauce. Tickets are available online only at Guests can purchase a sip and savor pass with their ticket purchase to receive all food and beverage offerings at a discount. Gem members receive free admission and a free food item or non-alcoholic beverage at Parterre at The Garden Party.