Visit these Seaside Landmarks for National Lighthouse Day
Coming up soon on August 5 is National Lighthouse Day. While perhaps this isn't the most celebrated holiday on the calendar, it can serve as a great excuse to plan a quick day trip or journey to a nearby coastline. Lighthouses not only offer a glimpse into the unique history of the areas in which they are built, but they are often perched in locations that offer incredible views of the surrounding areas (especially those that are open to climbing to the top). Below are five must-see lighthouses in the US.
Point Reyes Lighthouse (Inverness, California)
The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870 to help ships navigate around the Point Reyes Headlands, a land mass jutting out 10 miles into the sea near San Francisco Bay. It was retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light instead, though today the lighthouse is part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Visitors can drive Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the western-most point of the Headlands to visit the lighthouse. The National Park Service recommends planning one hour and forty-five minutes for the drive (three hours and thirty minutes round-trip) from the Santa Rosa area, northwest San Francisco, or the northern East Bay, as the road is windy and slow-going.
New Dungeness Lighthouse (Sequim, Washington)
The New Dungeness Lighthouse is located near Sequim on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula between Port Townsend and Port Angeles, and situated in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge at the end of the Dungeness Spit extending 5 miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was the first US lighthouse completed on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and has operated continuously since its lard oil lamp was lit for the first time in December 1857. Visitors can trek along a five-mile hike, boat or kayak in from nearby public boat launch Cline Spit, or simply drive right to the lighthouse. Additionally, the lighthouse allows families a unique opportunity to be "Lighthouse Keepers" for a week.
Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum (St. Augustine, Florida)
Completed in 1887, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is Florida's tallest lighthouse. Once a month, during the full moon, the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse Preservation Association hosts special evening tours of the site. This year on National Lighthouse Day (Saturday, August 5) visitors to the lighthouse and museum will get a special opportunity to celebrate the founding of the US Light-House Establishment. From climbing 175 feet to the top of Florida’s tallest lighthouse to touring the world-famous lighthouse museum, guests will discover 250 years of American lighthouse history at one of the nation’s largest and most authentic light stations. Family-oriented activities including living history interpretations, hands-on workshops, and kids crafts will also be available to guests. All special activities are provided free of charge with regular admission from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
Boston Light (Boston Harbor Islands, Massachusetts)
Built in 1716, the historic Boston Light overlooks the sea from Little Brewster Island, casting a light beam 27 miles into the Atlantic. It is the oldest continually used and last staffed lighthouse in the country. While Little Brewster Island is closed to the public, visitors can hop on a two-hour cruise around the Boston Harbor, which features close-up views of the Boston Light, Graves Light, and Long Island Light. Tours depart from the Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Center.
Bodie Island Light Station (Nags Head, North Carolina)
The Bodie Island Light Station is located at the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. It is open seasonally for self-guided climbs—with over 200 steps (equal to a 10-story building) and no air conditioning it is a strenuous climb and, therefore, not recommended for everyone. However, those who are able to make it to the top will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and Pimlico Sound. Two other lighthouses can be seen nearby, though they are currently not open for tours or climbing; the Cape Hatteras Light House is currently closed for restoration and the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse is only open periodically for viewing from the base.
Science class might have been boring in school, but these excursions that put visitors up close and personal with wildlife and nature are anything but dull. If you're looking to add an educational element to your next family trip, learn more about the places you're visiting, or just enjoy any excuse to plan an outdoor adventure, be sure to check out the great excursions below. Join an educational sailing trip off the coast of Florida Science and biology meet sailing in the newest offering from St. Augustine Sailing. Sail Science Adventures offers guests a chance to set sail with resident professor Dr. Dale Edgar and learn about various topics, including local wildlife, geology, and history. Each excursion is two hours long, and guests will set sail on one of St. Augustine Sailing's luxury sailing yachts. Private and shared excursions are available as well. Sails depart daily from the Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor marina, at the base of the Vilano Bridge. Currently, tours are available that focus on birds, manatees, turtles, and dolphins. Kayak to bat caves in Tennessee Bats taking flight by Clement Falize - Unsplash Enjoy a 3-mile guided kayak tour, soak in scenic views and potentially spot otter, osprey, bald eagles and bats leaving a cave at dusk during the Nickajack Bat Cave Sunset Kayak Tour. Biologically, Nickajack Cave is one of the most important caves in the Tennessee Valley, serving as a maternity roost for the gray bat. Pregnant females arrive in spring to give birth to a single pup. Pockets in the cave ceiling trap warm air, which provides just the right temperature for developing baby bats. Gray bats feed on insects over the reservoirs, consuming thousands of emerging adult aquatic insects, moths, and beetles each night. In one year, this colony may consume 274,000 pounds of insects. Cliff swallows feed on the same insects during the day. They build jug-like mud nests in the twilight zone on the ceiling of Nickajack Cave. The bats and birds share the same habitat and food source, but on different schedules. However, the cave is gated to protect the bats within the cave and no caving or climbing is permitted. If kayaking isn't your thing, the bats can also be seen from a viewing platform each evening between late April and early September (in the fall, they migrate to cooler caves to hibernate). To access the viewing platform, park at the Maple View Recreation Area and walk along the board walk and trail to the viewing platform. Go birding in Alabama A sternidae flies over Orange Beach, Alabama by Steven Van Elk - Unsplash One of America's most biologically diverse states, Alabama is a bird-watching paradise for tourists and natives alike. The Yellowhammer State is home to no less than 430 species of colorful birds, from bald eagles to wild turkeys. For 2023, Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Tourism Department launched the “Year of Alabama Birding.” The Year of Alabama Birding will showcase Alabama's abundant and unique wildlife, unspoiled natural beauty and hidden outdoor attractions that are sure to interest birders and other lovers of nature. Visitors can find great places to view different species of birds here as well as in the 2023 Alabama Vacation Guide, which includes top birding trails and events. “Growing up on a farm in rural southwest Alabama, I have always been fascinated with the wide variety of beautiful native and migratory birds gracing our skies,” said Governor Ivey. “Birding is a wonderful pastime and Alabama offers so much to the outdoor lover. The Year of Alabama Birding is dedicated to introducing both tourists and residents to many of Alabama's 'unsung' feathered friends, and to encourage the personal discovery of Alabama's wildlife and natural wonders.” While he is committed to making birding one of the department's popular “Year of” campaigns, Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell said the title may not give the campaign its full due. “We aren't ending it after one year,” Sentell said. “We will be launching components of the birding campaign during the next two years, and the impact will carry on far beyond that.” Visit the newly-renovated Audubon Aquarium Care to explore nature, but away from the summer humidity, sun, and bugs? There's a destination for that, too. The Audubon Nature Institute recently completed its renovation of the Audubon Aquarium of Americas and Insectarium this summer. This project is the biggest renovation of the Aquarium since it opened on Canal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1990. The new renovation includes approximately 17,000 square feet of new exhibit space constructed inside the existing walls of the Aquarium as well as 2,500 square feet of the existing Aquarium breezeway space that will be enclosed to create a shared public lobby. Tickets to visit the renovated Audubon Aquarium are on sale here. Cruise Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River Lake Erie by Taylor Noble - Unsplash The 120-foot dining and entertainment ship, Lady Caroline, started service this year in mid-June in Cleveland, Ohio with sightseeing cruises on Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. Lady Caroline is equipped with four decks, three climate-controlled and one open-air, all featuring scenic views of the city skyline and waterfront. Lady Caroline departs from the Flats West Bank with a variety of cruise options, including lunch, brunch, dinner and private charter cruises. Trek through Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Trails in Canyonlands National Park by Christoph von Gellhorn - Unsplash Lodging by Field Station in Moab, Utah is conveniently located just outside of both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Field Station isn't your typical overnight accommodations, but is a brand focused on the outdoor community and exploration. They offer bookable experiences, community offerings, and gear rentals to make exploring the parks and region around Moab easy. rom a mountain biking tour of Moab or testing teamwork with white-water rafting down the Colorado River, Field Station's guided tour partners help guests get safely in and out of their comfort zones. Field Station also hosts guest speakers and regular workshops and classes, and their rental program offers everything needed for a hike in Arches or Canyonlands and other local adventures, including trekking poles, backpacking gear, kid carriers, and more. "Van Life Posts" also offer guests access to all communal areas, WiFi, hookups, bathrooms, showers, and the outdoor pool starting at just $29 per night. “Our vision is to integrate beautiful design with welcoming hospitality in the outdoors and make it easier for people to experience nature is coming true in Moab today,” said Neil Dipaola, CEO and founder of AutoCamp Hospitality Group. “Moab, Utah is our inaugural Field Station hotel bringing lodging, retail, rental gear, outdoor education, and experiences all under one roof to offer the active outdoor community a welcoming place to engage and begin their next adventure.”
5 Sustainable Ways to Experience San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo County, also known as "SLO CAL," is located along the coast of California, roughly equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Not only does this location make for easy access from major cities and a great option for weekend or day trips, but it is a perfect year-round destination that averages 315 days of sunshine annually. Between the gorgeous beaches, rolling countryside, and small-town charm, SLO CAL has something for everyone. Here are five ways to explore the area sustainably. Sip sustainably-made beer The top beer producer in SLO CAL is “brewing for the future.” Firestone-Walker has been a leader in clean craft brewing since it opened back in 1996. For the 500,000+ barrels of beer it brews annually, Firestone-Walker uses renewable energy via a 10-acre solar array that moves with the sun. This alone offsets 3,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually. They order nearly all of their grains in bulk to eliminate packaging waste, and repurpose or recover 10,000 tons of spent grains each year, primarily by feeding local livestock. And while it's true that brewing beer requires a lot of water, Firestone-Walker does so as sustainably and responsibly as possible. The company invests in local reservoir sourcing, recycles water through a custom water reuse system, and treats water onsite to return to the local aquifer — conserving more than 40 million gallons each year. Visitors to the Firestone-Walker campus in Paso Robles can taste a wide array of the company's pioneering brews in the Taproom, along with a satisfying menu of elevated pub grub. Book a tour to see the inner workings of the operation, including plenty of behind-the-scenes areas that highlight Firestone-Walker's commitment to sustainability. Enjoy fine dining at its greenest Rolling hills in San Luis Obispo by Jason Moyer - Unsplash While MICHELIN awarded The Restaurant at JUSTIN Winery a coveted star in 2022, it also awarded a MICHELIN Green Star, which honors restaurants that meet the highest standards of sustainability. That makes JUSTIN the only winery in the United States to receive both stars — and a bucket-list experience for anyone interested in dining well and dining responsibly. Chef Rachel Haggstrom and her team source an overwhelming 95 percent of ingredients for the restaurant from their own property and from local purveyors. They pull from a 26-acre estate garden that includes 150 fruit trees, edible flower fields, vegetables, herbs, and an apiary. Doing so keeps the challenge fresh for Haggstrom, who crafts her multi-course menu based almost solely on what's available. Each dish can be paired with JUSTIN's legendary Bordeaux-style wines, made from grapes grown exclusively in SLO CAL. See a carbon-neutral film at the Palm Theatre The Palm Theatre - courtesy of SLO Film Fest and SLO CAL Sit back and enjoy the finest in solar-powered entertainment. The three-screen Palm Theatre in downtown San Luis Obispo has been a beacon of arthouse and alternative cinema in SLO CAL since the 1970s, in addition to film festivals and special events. In 2004, owners Jim and Patty Dee harnessed the sun's energy by installing 98 solar panels on the roof of the theater, making it the first cinema in the United States to operate fully on solar power. In the projection room, the Palm has converted fully to digital media to minimize wasting energy and other resources. Audiophiles love that the Palm has 5.1 Dolby sound in all three screens. (Earth-lovers also appreciate that they partner with Dolby, a company that intends to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.) The Dees have also added white roofing to minimize energy consumption, which passively stabilizes its temperature and keeps the theater cool and comfortable, even on hot days. Don't forget the popcorn! The Palm offers the best deal on popcorn anywhere in SLO CAL. It tastes even better knowing it's made with free energy. Savor wine from the eco-friendliest producers Of the 250 wineries that make up SLO CAL wine country, 50 properties are certified sustainable. Whether the winery has a Regenerative Organic certification, Biodynamic certification, is certified organic or LEED-certified, these 50 businesses prioritize their commitment to sustainability. Consider choosing your wine-tasting destinations based on eco-friendliness. Good spots to hit include Tablas Creek Vineyard & Winery in Paso Robles, a pioneer in the regenerative farming movement who employ goats to graze down their cover crops, chickens to fertilize, and biodynamic solutions for keeping the vineyard healthy. In the SLO Coast Wine region, Chamisal Winery in San Luis Obispo has made huge strides to reduce its carbon footprint and play to the strengths of its natural resources. In 2020, the winery planted a rapid-growth Miyawaki forest to sequester carbon emissions; Chamisal also maintains a healthy population of predatory birds to manage unwanted pests, and has completely ended its use of herbicides in favor of using cover crops and biodynamic measures. And at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery in Arroyo Grande, a strong ecosystem includes water reclamation, compost re-use, and providing owl boxes for natural predators of pests. The company also ensures that all employees receive comprehensive benefits packages (which are, sadly, not the norm for many agricultural workers) to steward their human resources as well as their natural ones. Buy from eco-conscious artisans SLO CAL Crafted Maven Leather - courtesy of Acacia Productions and SLO CAL If you really want to support green-minded leaders in SLO CAL, shop small. Every dollar you spend in the community of SLO CAL Crafted businesses goes right back into the local economy. Chances are, those artisans care about protecting natural resources, too! Check out Life Elements in Atascadero, a bath and body shop whose products are wrapped in mushroom-based packaging. At Maven Leather in Cayucos, founder Emma Thieme fashions handbags, wallets, belts, guitar straps and journals from scraps called “rescued hides,” which would otherwise go unused. WildHouse Paper based in San Luis Obispo sources paper that meets a variety of high sustainability standards, and plants a tree for every order made. And at Morro Bay Oyster Company, fighting climate change is a necessity for the future of the business; the company combats both haste and waste by harvesting only after 12 months, and by hand sorting every oyster before it reaches the customer.
With summer travel in full swing and families traveling to enjoy Broadway experiences this season, Hilton New York Times Square has unveiled an Aladdin's Times Square Palace suite complementing the hotel's close proximity to Disney's Aladdin the Musical on Broadway. Perfect for families enjoying a staycation or traveling in for their first Broadway adventure, the immersive suite draws inspiration from the timeless musical ballads and venturous storylines from the hit Broadway musical and has been masterfully transformed to welcome guests into “A Whole New World” within the tale's Arabian desert kingdom known as Agrabah. Located just feet away from the New Amsterdam Theatre, Hilton New York Times Square guests will feel seamlessly transported to Aladdin's city of mystery with only a one-minute walk between the production's intricate Cave of Wonders set and the elaborately designed Aladdin's Times Square Palace suite. Genie lamp decor - courtesy of Hilton New York Times Square “Our location in Times Square offers an exceptional homebase for travelers and families visiting New York City for Broadway, with the hit show Aladdin the Musical at the New Amsterdam Theatre just steps away from our doors,” said Thomas Caska, general manager, Hilton New York Times Square. “We're thrilled to partner with this incredible musical to transport our guests to the fictional world of Agrabah where guests can embrace the magic of the show, creating an exclusive, memorable stay at our property in the heart of the Big Apple.” Aladdin's Times Square Palace Suite View of the Aladdin palace suite - courtesy of Hilton New York Times Square Designed by Broadway's top dressing room designer for its most legendary stars, Devin Sparkles Design, the spacious one-king bedroom studio corner suite complete with a pullout couch allows for “High Adventure” in the magical world of Agrabah while taking in wall-to-wall views overlooking Manhattan. As guests step into their desert oasis, they'll encounter a selection of show prints adorning the wall along with costume and scenic design sketches. Agrabah-inspired furnishings include bedding, Moroccan wall sconces, a selection of magic carpet Moroccan rugs, Jasmine-inspired silks throughout, a magic genie lamp light, lago-inspired bird light, and bright curtains that truly transform the suite into Agrabah. The “Cave of Wonders”-style washroom features gold mirror and bath accents including vases and gems. The Aladdin's Times Square Palace suite experience includes two “Genie-tini” cocktails and two Magic Mocktails, a lively wake-up call from the Broadway musical's Genie himself, Michael James Scott, Aladdin coloring materials for kids, complimentary breakfast for up to four guests and complimentary parking. Guests that book the enchanted suite will also receive up to four complimentary Premium Orchestra tickets to see Broadway's Aladdin the Musical and show merchandise upon arrival to the theater. 'Aladdin the Musical' Hotel Experiences Try a Genie-ini at Pinnacle Bar & Lounge - courtesy of Hilton New York Times Square Available through October 31, 2023, guests can visit the hotel's website or call (212) 913-9488 to reserve the suite. Rates for the Aladdin's Times Square Palace suite and tickets start from $599 per night and must be booked 72 hours in advance. If the price of a night in Agrabah seems a little too much, there's good news: any Hilton New York Times Square guest can enjoy magical experiences including a genie lamp photo opportunity, “Genie-tini” cocktails and Magic Mocktails served at Pinnacle Bar & Lounge, a Genie wake-up call upon request, and Aladdin coloring activities. For more information about Hilton Hotels & Resorts, visit Stories.Hilton.com.
Low-Key Summer Festivals with Great Live Music
Music festivals are a great excuse to plan a vacation and take advantage of the great summer weather with outdoor performances. While events like Bonnaroo and Burning Man typically draw the most crowds and attention, there are plenty of other great gatherings across the country with less-pricey tickets, smaller crowds, great food, and amazing artists. If you're looking for a more low-key experience to round out your late summer plans, check out some of the events below. AVL Fest (Asheville, North Carolina) Asheville shines as a music destination for being the home of luminaries – like Nina Simone, Bill Monroe and Robert Moog – a trove of storied venues, and an abundance of music and record shops. This summer is poised to go down in Asheville music history, as the inaugural AVL Fest kicks off on August 3rd and goes through August 6th. The three-day music festival features local and national acts, performing at more than 20 venues across town. Make a whole trip out of it and go hiking in the mountains, plan a bike ride, tour the Biltmore, and catch great food and drinks in town. Farmstead Roots Creek Dinner Series (Leiper's Fork, Tennessee) Going on this summer until October 7th, the Farmstead Roots Creek Dinner Series at Wines in the Fork are multi-course meals prepared by local chefs paired with wine under the stars, cocktails and cigar-rolling. While the star of this festival is local cuisine, dinners are accompanied by live music and local artisan demonstrations. The location also makes for an excellent addition to any country music lovers trip, as Leiper's Fork is just a short drive outside of Nashville. Add in plans to see a bigger concert in town, tour the historic Ryman Auditorium, and take a stroll through the Country Music Hall of Fame to round out this low-key getaway to Music City. The Colonial Oak Music Park Concert Series (St. Augustine, Florida) Sailboats at sunset in St. Augustine, Florida by Kristin Wilson - Unsplash The Concert Series at The Colonial Oak Music Park in St. Augustine, Florida continues through the summer and into the fall. These free concerts feature local musicians and improv actors at an exceptional music venue. Music acts range from country, rock, pop, and dance. Improv shows rely heavily on audience participation, so come ready with some ideas. Tucked away on St. George Street, The Colonial Oak Music Park features towering oaks and plenty of space to dance or relax. Food and beverage from the adjacent St. Augustine Seafood Company is available during all events. Concerts are free and offered weekly, from Thursday through Sunday. Glenville Festival's Commemoration of Hip Hop's 50th Anniversary (Cleveland, Ohio) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland - courtesy of Destination Cleveland Beyond being known as a rock 'n' roll city, Cleveland has a deep history with hip hop. The trailblazing Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Kid Cudi and Machine Gun Kelly hail from The Land. MC Chill became Cleveland's first hip hop star in the 1980s, and, today, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honors hip hop artists and their contributions to the artform. This summer, Cleveland offers multiple experiences to explore various genres and attend signature music events. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's new exhibit commemorates 50 years of hip hop with never-before-seen and “new school” artifacts from artists like DJ Kool Herc, Roxanne Shante, The Sugarhill Gang, Salt-N-Pepa and Jay-Z. An annual neighborhood event, Glenville Festival, takes on a hip hop theme this year on August 12th with a lineup of local hip hop artists and a DJ battle. The neighborhood is where Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and other Cleveland hip hop artists started out, and the event is known for live music and surprise headlining artists. Blossom Concert Series (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio) The renowned Cleveland Orchestra returns July 1 - September 9 for a summer lineup at Blossom Music Center inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The 2023 Blossom Concert Series features a diverse array of musical performances and special guests, including Beethoven's Ode to Joy, music from Final Fantasy, Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings, as well as Sibelius' First Symphony and an evening with six-time Tony award-winning artist Audra McDonald. For the Culture KS Fest (Topeka, Kansas) A new first-of-its-kind festival celebrating African American culture and heritage is coming to Kansas’ capital city this summer. “For the Culture KS Fest” (FTC KS Fest) will run July 28-30, 2023, in Topeka, Kansas and include musical performances and vendors, as well as networking and panel sessions focused on professional and personal growth for Black individuals. The three-day event will feature several musical performances from local artists: Kansas-native Justin Aarons, a Top 8 contestant on The Voice; saxophonist JahVelle, who recently performed at the NFL Draft; Topeka-native rapper Brandon “Bizzy” Evans, and more. Discussion panels, hosted by a diverse group of experts, will range from business development to personal wellness. Additional activities include a choir hour with participation from five different churches; a two-hour African American history bus tour led by local Topeka historians Sherri Camp and Donna Rae Pearson; an art exhibit at the historic Jayhawk Theater; and scholarship giveaways of $1,000 to three local high school students. “We wanted to create a sustainable art and cultural initiative for the state of Kansas that celebrates the positive influences in our local communities,” said co-founder Rodney Harmon, a Department of Justice - Bureau of Prisons retiree living in Topeka who has since dedicated his time to community volunteering and mentoring. “We’ve never seen Black culture represented on this scale before, and we wanted it to be more than a music festival. This is why we sought to include activities focusing on more than just performances, bringing together the intersection of art, business, health, and history of the African American community.” Sunflower Blues & Gospel Festival (Clarksdale, Mississippi) Close-up of a microphone by Israel Palacio - Unsplash Taking place August 11-13, the Sunflower Blues & Gospel Festival is one of the oldest festivals celebrating authentic blues music since 1988. This event is free to the public and located inClarksdale, in Coahoma County, often referred to as the “Birthplace of the Blues.” Visitors will want to be sure to add a visit to the Delta Blues Museum and historical sites that were significant to the history of blues music such as The Crossroads, W.C. Handy’s home, Muddy Water’s home, WROX Radio Station, the Riverside Hotel, and the Blues Alley Railroad Depot. Hop Country Music Festival (Yakima, Washington) Hop Country Music Festival returns on September 15 and 16 this year, and features multi-Platinum sensation Neal Mccoy joined by stars Chris Janson and Easton Corbin. Chinook Fest has partnered with SOZO Sports of Central Washington to bring the thrilling festival back to the playing fields. Hop Country Music Festival is a new event for Central Washington with all proceeds going toward putting more youth on the field. For one weekend in September, country music stars will be at the complex for a festival filled with music, food, and fun! Find the full 2023 lineup here.