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10 Social Distancing Getaways In or Near Atlanta
Some days, you just need to escape, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your health or safety to do so. To help you get out of the house while still social distancing, I’ve compiled a list of 10 mini vacations within three hours of Atlanta. 1. Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon Visit one of Georgia’s most unique parks: Providence Canyon State Park. Hike between the towering walls of the canyon and wonder whether you’ve been transported to Utah. It’s recommended you visit this park during the week in order to properly social distance. Weekends can be exceptionally busy. Once you’re done hiking for the day, head to the campsite you’ve reserved at the nearby Florence Marina State park. COVID-19 information: Providence Canyon is currently open; however, it has been experiencing a high number of visitors. Before you go, check the GA State Parks’ site to ensure the park has not restricted access due to high visitation. 2. When in doubt, kayak Go kayaking on Lake Allatoona for up to five hours by renting kayaks from Lake Allatoona Kayaking. To give you an idea of price, $70 will get you a two-person kayak, life vests, and pickup and delivery of the kayak. Afterwards, head to the campsite you’ve reserved at Red Top Mountain State Park and find a private spot to enjoy the sunset. COVID-19 information: Red Top Mountain is currently open; however, some parks have experienced a high volume of visitors. Before you go, check the GA State Parks’ site to ensure there is not restricted access due to high visitation. Photo by Bill Rubino 3. Ice cream and the Savannah River Travel to Augusta, Georgia to experience a dynamic city. Grab lunch at the Sno-Cap Drive-In but be sure to save room for dessert! The one they’re most known for is their root beer float. Once you’re done stuffing your face with ice cream, walk it off by hiking a few of the short trails at the Phinizy Center & Nature Park. Afterwards, get settled in your unique houseboat Airbnb located on the Savannah Riverwalk. COVID-19 information: The playground, restrooms, water fountains, and visitor center at the Phinizy Center & Nature Park are all currently closed. Additionally, the park’s adjusted hours are from 7 am to 7 pm. 4. Scenic Byways and German towns Head out early towards the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway via Alt US-75. Once you reach the byway, turn left to travel clockwise around it. It takes approximately three hours to drive the whole thing, so stop and eat your picnic you packed when you find a scenic overlook you like. Then head to the quaint guesthouse you rented in Helen, Georgia. It’s walking distance to downtown, so you can easily explore the German charm Helen is known for. COVID-19 information: The byway is open, but the spur to Brasstown Bald is closed. Most businesses in Helen have reopened, and even more will be opening by mid-June. 5. Where there’s a wine, there’s a way Many people don’t know this, but northern Georgia encompasses wine country. Grab a standard guest room at the Barefoot Hills Hotel to put yourself right in the middle of it all. Once you’ve gotten settled in your room, head to one (or more) of the award-winning wineries nearby. One that’s suggested because of their strict COVID-19 measures is Montaluce Winery & Restaurant. A tasting for one involving a choice of five different wines will cost you $30. COVID-19 information: The hotel and much of wine country is located in Dahlonega, Georgia. The city appears to be following Governor Kemp’s phased reopening process. For updates before you travel to this community, take a look at the city’s COVID-19 news page. Photo by @montaluce_winery 6. Experience Atlanta's quirkiness Explore Atlanta by seeing some of its quirky side. First, head to the hotel that you never would have imagined seeing in the city: The Social Goat Bed & Breakfast, a small farm. Check into the Yellow Room located in a 1900 Queen Ann Victorian. Then head outside to spend some quality time with the five goats on property! Once the sun begins to go down, mosey over to the Starlight Drive-In Theatre. Get your nostalgia on by watching a double feature in your car for just $10 a person. Afterwards, take the quick 7-minute trip back to the B&B and dream of the next morning’s complimentary breakfast. COVID-19 information: The Starlight Drive-In is enforcing social distancing rules. Patrons must watch the films from inside their vehicle, and they may not park within 10 feet of another vehicle. 7. Blueberry picking (and blueberry eating) It’s just about blueberry season in Georgia, so take advantage by heading to DJ’s U-Pick Blueberry Farm. Their blueberries will be ripe for the picking by mid-June, but take a look at their Facebook page before heading over to make sure they’re open. Take a full gallon of blueberries back to your Airbnb for just $20. On your way there, pick up sugar and puff pastry (and maybe some ice cream) so you can make this blueberry cobbler recipe. The Airbnb we suggest has a full kitchen, so you should have no problem whipping it up. COVID-19 information: It is up to the individual to social distance while at the farm, but you should have no problem as it has over 700 blueberry bushes. Photo by @jahi._ 8. Embrace the spooky Embrace the side of you that loves creepy things on this adventure. Explore Oakland Cemetery by purchasing either a self-guided tour map or scavenger hunt in one of three difficulty levels. For lodging, book a room at The Highland Inn, a hotel believed by some to be haunted. In particular, try to book room 130, one rumored to be a paranormal hotspot. COVID-19 information: While the cemetery is open, the visitor center and restrooms are currently closed. Hummingbird mural and photo by Marcus Fetch 9. Get artsy in Birmingham Head to Birmingham, Alabama, just about two hours from Atlanta. There you’ll find a city abounding in street art. See over 30 murals by following a 13-mile route either by foot, bike, or car. If you want to see even more murals, take a look at local muralist Marcus Fetch’s map of his artwork. Your lodging for the evening is a downtown loft that brings you fantastic views of Birmingham, a hammock chair, and a shared rooftop deck with, you guessed it, more incredible views of the city. COVID-19 information: Birmingham is slowly reopening, but there is a city ordinance requiring face coverings to be worn through June 12th, 2020. This ordinance has been extended multiple times, so take a look at Birmingham’s coronavirus updates before heading to the city. 10. Discover your love for yurt life This final mini vacation is simple. Rent this incredible yurt on Lookout Mountain. Suggested activities include playing a few board games you’ve brought, eating dinner while sitting on the large deck, stargazing, drinking a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise, and simply disconnecting. COVID-19 information: Thorough cleaning procedures are implemented between each guest’s stay. Martha Anderson is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.
51 affordable discoveries across America
Our mission is simple: track down outstanding destinations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico where lodging averages well under $200/night and great food and drink, natural beauty, and vibrant arts and culture share the spotlight. No pressure, right? Here’s to kicking off the new decade with an unparalleled to-do list! Alabama: Muscle Shoals It’s time for Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to take its rightful place alongside America’s major pop music destinations like Memphis, Cleveland, and Detroit. Here, in this small town in the northwestern corner of the state, some of the most popular and critically acclaimed rock and soul music – including seminal works by Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, and Lynyrd Skynyrd – was recorded at Fame Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. These days, you can enjoy a music-themed visit to the area while also savoring its first-rate comfort food and natural beauty. Tour the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, in Tuscumbia; make a pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, in Sheffield; and drop by Pegasus Records, in Florence, for its Friday-night showcases of emerging musical talent. Alabama Shakes were discovered at Pegasus – who will you discover? The Kenai Peninsula brings all your Alaskan adventures within reach © CSNafzger / Shutterstock Alaska: Kenai Peninsula Alaska isn’t quite as far away as you think: an authentic Alaska experience, complete with whale watching, hiking, fishing, and ogling wildlife, is available in the Kenai Peninsula, along the state’s southern coast, south of Anchorage. Whether you approach this vacation wonderland via cruise ship or a road trip on the Seward Highway (one of America’s finest scenic drives), you’ll find enough activities to last a week or a month, including a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park; hiking in Chugach National Forest, and viewing animals you won’t easily find in the lower 48, including orcas and puffins. And an irresistible perk of visiting this corner of Alaska is that you’ll taste the freshest, most deeply flavorful salmon anywhere in the world. Arizona: Saguaro National Park Some travelers keep a list of rare or unique sights they must see. The saguaro cactus is something every American should visit in person. Saguaro National Park, Arizona, near the always rewarding city of Tucson, is devoted to protecting and preserving a forestful of the immense succulents, which are unique to the Sonoran Desert and can grow to a height of 50 feet and live more than 200 years. In addition to these “kings of the Sonoran Desert,” you’ll also find towering pine-covered mountains alive with wild javelina, coyotes, desert tortoises, and, at higher elevations, black bear and the Mexican spotted owl. The Ozark-St Francis National Forests are great destinations anytime of year © Mark C Stevens / Moment / Getty Arkansas: Ozark-St. Francis National Forests Not one but two major national forests crossed by six US Scenic Byways? Yes, Arkansas delivers thousands of acres of four-season activities in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, in the state’s northern and eastern regions. Here, from the shores of the Mississippi River to the deep woods filled with wildlife and opportunities for water sports, visitors discover an unexpected side of Arkansas. Choose between cycling and canoeing, fishing for striped and largemouth bass and catfish, swimming in Bear Creek Lake, camping amid the hardwood trees, and hopping an ATV – or, our recommendation, try them all. California: San Pedro Think you know California? Meet San Pedro, at the southern point of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and home to the Port of Los Angeles, the largest in the US. Here in this up-and-coming must-see city, you’ll delight in packing your days with an array of pursuits: ride the free San Pedro Downtown Trolley with hop-on-hop-off stops at the incredible collection of nautical vessels at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, beautiful Cabrillo Beach, and the jaw-dropping Cabrilla Marine Aquarium, designed by Frank Gehry. History buffs and kids of all ages will want to visit the Battleship Iowa Museum, the only battleship open to the public on the West Coast, and everyone will appreciate a meal at California’s biggest seafood restaurant, the San Pedro Fish Market & Restaurant – get ready to snap a few they-won’t-believe-this-back-home pics of the immense shrimp trays. The lesser-known Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has Grand Canyon-quality vistas with fewer crowds © AlexeyKamenskiy / Getty Images Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Southwest Colorado is home to a lesser-known gem: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Located near the city of Montrose, the site is an incredible natural landscape featuring black cliffs (formed 2 billion years ago) towering 2,000 feet above the Gunnison River. Stock up on food and water in Montrose, then head for the canyon’s South Rim, where you’ll find gentle nature trails with Instagram-ready overlooks, backcountry experiences for visitors who yearn to get off the beaten path, and an array of opportunities for camping, fishing, and rock climbing. Consider participating in ranger-led programs to learn about the geology and wildlife of the area. Connecticut: Mystic Seaport For travelers in the Northeast, America’s most important collection of National Historic Landmark maritime vessels is just off I-95 in northern Connecticut. Mystic Seaport’s towering sailing ships will delight children, of course, and grownups (especially fans of the novels of Patrick O’Brien and Herman Melville) who want to step back in time to the days of wooden ships. Tour a whaleship, an active waterfront, planetarium, gardens, and hands-on experiences that help you appreciate the crafts that went into the construction and maintenance of these amazing vessels. Art lovers will savor the excellent Maritime Gallery, which hosts major exhibitions of marine art and intricately detailed miniature ship models. Big things come in small packages in Lewes, Delaware © Mdgmorris / E+ / Getty Delaware: Lewes We believe too many travelers simply pass through compact Delaware on their way somewhere else. It’s time to slow down and enjoy this welcoming mid-Atlantic state, and the charming town of Lewes, where the Atlantic Ocean meets Delaware Bay, is the perfect place to do so. The vibrant downtown is perfect for strolling and popping into unique boutiques and seafood restaurants, and the lovely beaches just minutes away. Have your camera or smartphone ready for iconic shots of Breakwater Lighthouse, cycle or walk the Lewes Canalfront, and devote some time to exploring Cape Henlopen State Park with its scenic trails, beaches, campgrounds, and pier. Florida: St Augustine If “founded in 1565” sounds unusually old for an American city, well, it sure is. St Augustine is commonly referred to as the oldest city in the US (in actuality, it is the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the nation). Here, visitors find an experience that is decidedly different from – and a wonderful complement to – Florida’s beaches and theme parks. Immerse yourself in 400 years of history that includes an array of cultures, including Native American, Spanish, British, African American, and Greek. Must-see sights include the Castillo de San Marcos (this is the classic I’m-in-St.-Augustine image), the narrow European-style streets, an array of museums dedicated to local history and cultures, and even Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon’s legendary “Fountain of Youth.” Georgia: Alpharetta From the coast to bustling Atlanta to the mountains, Georgia offers well-known vacation charms. We want travelers to add the city of Alpharetta, in the Atlanta metro area, to that list. If you’re looking for a welcoming community with endless eating options (more than 200 restaurants), an exceptional craft brewery experience at Jekyll Brewing, and ample parkland (750 acres), including the eight-mile-long Big Creek Greenway, Alpharetta, an easy drive from downtown Atlanta, makes a great day trip or weekend escape. If all that sounds as if it ought to be topped off with an evening of fine music, head to The Velvet Note, honored by Downbeat Magazine as one of the world’s best jazz venues. Kaua'i's Waimea Canyon is known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" © MNStudio / Shutterstock Hawaii: Waimea Canyon State Park Have you seen the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”? On the western side of the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i, Waimea Canyon is 14 miles long, more than 3,600 deep, and boasts an array of colorful, gorges, and buttes that do, indeed, remind many visitors of Arizona’s famous canyon. And, of course, this being Hawaii, the gorgeous surroundings go beyond the canyon: Waimea Valley is home to a 45-foot waterfall and thousands of beautiful botanicals along an easy paved path. For an elegant splurge, there are 60 vintage restored cottages along the beachfront just south of the park. Idaho: Snake River Valley Another canyon that most travelers have not yet discovered awaits in Idaho, where the Snake River winds through prehistoric lava flows to create a 50-mile canyon where you’ll find photo-ready waterfalls and springs. Stroll along the 10-mile paved walking path on the south rim with access to a visitor center. Then head to the iconic Perrine Bridge, where you can stand nearly 500 feet above the river and recall the exploits of 1970s daredevil Evel Knievel, who attempted to jump the canyon here (unsuccessfully, alas). You may also see BASE jumpers taking the plunge off the bridge. Just south of the bridge, you’ll find scenic overlooks of the canyon and at the beautiful Shoshone Falls; beautiful; Centennial Waterfront Park is just west of the bridge. Route 66 contains many examples of quirky Americana, such as the The Gemini Giant sculpture at the Launching Pad restaurant © Marco Bicci / Shutterstock Illinois: Route 66 Heritage Project Sure, you know kitschy Route 66, and may have driven a stretch or two of the “Mother Road.” But exploring the 300-mile Illinois portion of the quintessential US highway may be the kitschiest stretch of all. Snap some pics at the beginning of your journey, in downtown Chicago at the “Route 66 Begin” sign on E. Jackson Boulevard. Once you’re on the road, there are many tempting places to stop: Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket has been famous or its fried chicken since the 1940s; the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum is a treasure trove of vintage artifacts; the 19-foot-high Paul Bunyan clutching an immense hot dog across the street from The Palms Grill Cafe announces its presence from a distance and delights passersby; the world’s largest covered wagon awaits not far down the road, alongside a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The road rolls on, and the kitsch rolls along with it, all the way to the Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi and into St Louis, Missouri. Indiana: Nashville Did you know there was “another” Nashville? And that it’s also a significant music destination? Here in southern Indiana, Nashville was an artists’ colony in the early 20th century, establishing a tradition of creativity complete with galleries and crafts studios. These days, the community has become a mecca for musicians, with a great schedule of performances at the Brown County Playhouse and shops like Weed Patch Music Company with its stash of custom guitars and banjos. Music pours forth from cafes and wine bars, and, of course, on the streets. Sioux City is where small-town charm meets big-city culture © BergmannD / iStock / Getty Iowa: Sioux City This little city in northwest Iowa has earned big honors for its livability, cuisine, and economic development. For travelers, that all translates into an experience that combines small-town warmth with big-city style and culture. Families will especially love the LaunchPAD Children’s Museum and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Culture vultures must see the Art Center and hear the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra. Outdoor fun is a four-season priority here, as the city continues to develop trail connectivity and riverfront development, and a wide diversity of multicultural cuisine sets Sioux City apart from most small cities in the heartland. Kansas: Colby Start at the Prairie Museum of Art and History to get a sense of Colby’s place in the settlement of the prairie and its vibrant artistic legacy; while you’re at the museum, don’t miss its Cooper Barn, the largest barn in the state. Colby’s new 2.2-mile walking trail is a good way to get a sense of this special town, with its especially noteworthy historic courthouse. The best times to get to know Colby may be during its annual festivals: in April, you can take a taste of the Great Oasis Cookoff; in July, you’ll love the Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival; and kids will especially appreciate a December visit to Santa City. Kentucky Wild Rivers are overflowing with adventure © Ehrlif / iStock / Getty Kentucky: Kentucky Wild Rivers Say the word Kentucky and most travelers will immediately think bourbon, bluegrass, and horses. While that’s perfectly understandable, don’t forget the wild waterways. With more than 2 million acres of national forest and more navigable rivers than any other state in the lower 48, paddlers can take their pick from more than 1000 miles of running water. Nine of them are designated Kentucky Wild Rivers, which means they are, and always will be, protected from development. Novice paddlers will find gentle waters on the Cumberland River, while experienced whitewater enthusiasts will enjoy the Class IV rapids found on the Big South Fork River; and, of course, there’s something for everyone in between. Louisiana: Cajun Country When it comes to an eye-opening, transformative trip, Louisiana’s Cajun Country may be unrivaled in the US. Here, about a four-hour drive northwest of New Orleans, a diversity of cultural traditions came together in early colonial days, with French, Spanish, African American, and Caribbean people mingling language, cuisine, and religious traditions in a way not found anywhere else in America. In and around the town of Natchitoches (pronounced nack-a-tish), you can tour winding European-style streets, see authentic Creole cottages, partake of distinctive dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, and get to know the history of plantations like Melrose and Oakland, where enslaved Africans created finely crafted artwork that combined West African religious traditions with Christian iconography. Sunset from the Appalachian Trail, Bigelow Mountain, Maine © Cavan Images / Getty Maine: High Peaks Region With Portland as your gateway city, exploring Maine’s extraordinary lakes and mountains is an unforgettable four-season opportunity that rivals the better-known “peak experiences” found out West. Located where the Appalachian Trail reaches its northernmost point, this region contains 10 of Maine’s highest peaks, with seemingly endless opportunities for camping, cycling, camping, and paddling glacial lakes and gin-clear rivers. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy a moose photo safari, or just take a memorable drive along one of three scenic byways: High Peaks, Grafton Notch, and Rangeley Lakes. Autumn brings some of the deepest reds, golds, and oranges anywhere in the US, and winter offers cozy cabin fireplaces and some of America’s finest ski resorts. Maryland: Chesapeake Bay Maryland’s star attraction may be the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US, which manages to touch beautiful waterfront towns, wild spaces, and the state’s biggest city. With such a variety of settings, the activities for visitors are nearly infinite. For starters, be sure to experience Annapolis, the state capital and the sailing capital of America; a ferry ride to Smith Island, where residents still speak with a trade of the Elizabethan accent of the first settlers 350 years ago; Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, available for tours via a ferry from Annapolis; and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, with its great seafood, public concerts, and National Aquarium. Many travelers overlook Falmouth, Massachusetts, on their way to Cape Cod, but this coastal community is worth a stop © KenWiedemann / E+ / Getty Massachusetts: Falmouth Some New England visitors know Falmouth only as a name on a roadside sign on the way to points farther out on Cape Cod. But this charming community on the western end of the Cape offers an array of affordable lodgings and activities to satisfy even the most discerning traveler. Eight decidedly New England villages are set along more than 60 miles of shore here, with exceptional seafood, historic lodgings such as the Sea Crest on Silver Beach, and a great local theater scene that dates back to the summer stock of the early 20th century. Start at the Falmouth Village Green to get a sense of place; the bell you hear ringing each hour from the First Congregational Church was cast by Paul Revere – it doesn’t get any more New England than that! Michigan: Charlevoix Even seasoned travelers sometimes forget that the US has four coasts. The pristine beaches of Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan are found up north in Michigan, and offer a laid-back vacation experience that reminds many visitors of bygone days. First, there’s the water and all that comes with it: charted sailboats, kayaks, and paddleboards; 20 hiking trails and nature preserves, not to mention the iconic Earl Young Mushroom House and the majestic Castle Farms. In search of seclusion? Head to Beaver Island. Looking for cool boutiques, great food, and public events along Round Lake? That’s exactly what you’ll find in the town of Charlevoix. No wonder visitors become regulars, and the Charlevoix region becomes a summer family tradition. Split Rock Lighthouse on the Lake Superior shore © Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography / Getty Minnesota: Lake Superior State Parks Speaking of the beaches of the Great Lakes, northern Minnesota’s Lake Superior shoreline is home to eight state parks where nature lovers’ dreams come true. All reachable from the city of Duluth, some highlights include: Gooseberry Falls delivers not only Lake Superior shore but also Instagrammable waterfalls, rivers, and forest, a paved cycling trail, and excellent cross-country skiing; Split Rock Lighthouse, with a superb visitor center, exhibits, and documentary film; Temperance River offers gorges, footbridges, and waterfalls for hikers to discover; and Cascade River boasts trails that can get you up Lookout Mountain for – what else? – spectacular views. Mississippi: Gulf Coast Islands The Gulf Coast is always a good idea, and Mississippi’s Gulf Islands National Seashore is the perfect place to get up close and personal with the region’s wild side, amazing gourmet seafood, and craft beer. The six barrier islands beckon visitors with attainable adventures like exploring the bayous and marshland of Cat Island; taking a boat ride from Biloxi to the beach at Deer Island; doing some serious pelican watching (and photography) on Horn Island; and hitting up the tiny islands of Round Island and Petit Bois for a look at visiting migratory birds (they’re here for the great seafood, just like you). Missouri: Hermann Just an hour west of St Louis, in the Missouri River valley, the town of Hermann is like stepping into a wormhole to old-world Germany. Start at Historic Hermann Museum for an overview of the settlement of the area from the 1830s to the 1900s. Then be sure to pack an appetite for comfort food and good local wine as you explore local eateries and favorite sights such as: Deutschheim State Historic Site with its exhibits and galleries of artifacts from the days when German immigrants settled here; Hermann Farm with its living history exhibitions; and a variety of excellent local wineries. The mountains are never very far from Bozeman, Montana © Carol Polich / Lonely Planet Montana: Bozeman By Western standards, Bozeman is “near” both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, though folks from back East will notice that “near” can mean a few hours in the car. But we love Bozeman not just for its proximity to amazing parkland and amazing skiing but also for the city itself, a college town with great community spirit, food that even Californians envy, and one of the finest museums in the US, the Museum of the Rockies. Set aside most of a day to take in all the museum has to offer, from its excellent planetarium to its Montana history division, natural history exhibitions with a special emphasis on the dinosaur fossils unearthed in Bozeman’s backyard at Hell Creek, and its living history pioneer cabin. In Bozeman, you’re never far from a gorgeous mountain vista or a great meal – we especially love the huge, reasonably priced sandwiches at the Pickle Barrel. Nebraska: Grand Island When it comes to friendly, historic towns, we love Grand Island. The community may be best known for its access to the epic Sandhill Crane migration here in central Nebraska, but that’s just where the fun begins. Start in the town’s historic downtown, known as the Railside District, to take in the finely restored buildings, then grab a craft beer and grub at one of the excellent downtown breweries. Then explore the city’s Stuhr Museum with its Railroad Town pioneer village and beautifully landscaped grounds, and take a dip in one of Grand Island’s public pools. Be sure to visit the gentle Platte River, an important landmark from the days when settlers from the East headed west across the prairie. Located near Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park features some of Nevada's most unique landscapes © Alexander Howard / Lonely Planet Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park How did Nevada’s Valley of Fire get its name? How about 40,000 acres of red sandstone? Here in Valley of Fire State Park you’ll come face-to-face with the ancient, including petrified trees and petroglyphs left by native people more than 2000 years ago. Hit the park’s visitor center for an overview and great exhibits devoted to prehistoric times, geology, and the history of the region – pick up maps and tips here as well. As wild as the terrain looks, the park still provides two campsites with tables and grills and running water (including RV hookups), plus miles of trails for those who want to explore this unique environment. New Hampshire: Seacoast When you mention New Hampshire’s “coast” to some people, they look at you kind of funny. Sure, New Hampshire is mostly landlocked, and better known for its mountains and forests, but it also boasts a vibrant Atlantic shoreline that’s just a few miles long but includes the cool small city of Portsmouth with its cobblestone streets, winding alleys, historic John Paul Jones House and Strawbery Banke, and quaint shops like the excellent Riverrun bookstore, plus lovely beaches and more. Take kids to the Seacoast Science Center for a hands-on deep dive into marine life, including a “please touch” tide pool and other stuff the little ones love to explore. Architectural window details in silhouette at historic old casino along the boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ © littleny / Shutterstock New Jersey: Asbury Park Asbury Park has been dubbed one of America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2017, featured on Bruce Springsteen’s debut studio album and regularly called one of the best destinations on the Jersey Shore. Yet few people have heard of it. It’s time to visit before everybody else gets the word. Conveniently located between New York City and Philadelphia, and boasting amazing seafood, art galleries, and legendary music venues and the boardwalk that Springsteen helped put on the map back in the 1970s, Asbury Park welcomes visitors from everywhere and delivers a first-rate weekend escape. New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park The jaw-droppingly beautiful Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico, not far from the Texas border, are the site of a national park whose secret is about to get out: Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers beautiful terrain to hike, including canyons, cactus, grassland, and its namesake cave – which is a staggering 250ft high and 4000ft long. Ranger-led tours of the caverns, plus hikes and other programs at the visitor center and out in the park’s terrain are a wonderful way of getting to know this noteworthy landmark. Tucked away in America's largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is idyllic bliss © Patty Barker / 500px New York: Blue Mountain Lake When visiting New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack State Park, it’s easy to forget you’re even in New York – the mountains and lakes make you feel transported to, say, Wyoming. Of all the communities in this, America’s largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is an ideal place to begin your exploration of the region, thanks to its incredible namesake lake and the Adirondack Experience, an immense museum with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits devoted to the natural history, human history, and wildlife of the Adirondack Mountains. Set aside at least a full day for the museum, or visit more than once in between paddling local waterways, hiking to scenic overlooks, and enjoying great BBQ and craft beer just about everywhere you turn. Just up the road from Blue Mountain Lake, Great Camp Sagamore offers a rustic, unplugged experience you’ll never forget. North Carolina: Boone & Blowing Rock Take the Blue Ridge Parkway into North Carolina and you’ll notice that the area around the town of Boone seems to have received more than its fair share of stunning scenery. Endless hiking trails and scenic overlooks abound outside of town – you must experience the Mile High Swinging Bridge with its views of the Carolina Piedmont. In town, there’s just as fine a variety of living history like the Hickory Ridge Museum and the Daniel Boone Heritage Gardens. In nearby Blowing Rock, you’ll love the Ultimate Adventure park’s ziplines, and the town’s nice array of quaint shops and indulgent spa treatments. Dickinson is the gateway to North Dakota's iconic Badlands © Rruntsch / Getty North Dakota: Dickinson Cowboys + dinosaurs – what’s not to love about North Dakota’s star attractions? The town of Dickinson is best known as the gateway to amazing Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and it enjoys two scenic byways, the Old Red Old Ten and the Kildeer Mountain Four Bears. But the town itself is decidedly ready for its close-up. The Dickinson Museum Center exhibits life-size dinosaurs, fossils, and other reminders of ND’s prehistoric residents; an assortment of beautiful spots like Patterson Lake Recreation Area and West River Community Center for watersports; and annual festivals like Roughrider Days and the Ukrainian Festival bring the community together and are a great time to pay a visit. Ohio: Put-In Bay Ohioans know there’s a 2.5-by-5-mile island in Lake Erie that makes for a spectacular vacation. And now you know too. Put-In Bay is one of those family escapes that pack plenty of great activities and attractions into a small package. The island boasts a cave you can explore, winery tours, parasailing, jet skiing, and fishing for the area’s prized walleye. And don’t miss the chance to ride the elevator up to the observation deck atop of Perry’s International Peace Memorial for endless views of Lake Erie all the way to the Cleveland skyline when the air is clear. Oklahoma's second-largest city is still an underrated charmer © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock Oklahoma: Tulsa You don’t have to be a devotee of folk singer Woody Guthrie, composer of “This Land Is Your Land,” or of novelist S.E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders when she was 15 years old, to fall in love with Tulsa. But it won’t hurt. Those two pop culture iconoclasts, whose work happens to have deeply touched and even transformed lives, hailed from this Oklahoma city. That may not be a coincidence: From its unique 100-acre Gathering Place public park along the Arkansas River to the Philbrook Museum’s collection of art from the classics to the modern era in a Renaissance-style villa built by the founder of Philips Oil and donated to the city in the 1930s, Tulsa exceeds expectations. You can even take a tour of a house that played a starring role in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of The Outsiders – the house has been meticulously restored and outfitted with artifacts and film memorabilia. Oregon: Columbia River Gorge Choosing a National Scenic Area for your next trip guarantees you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. And the Columbia River Gorge is the largest designated scenic area in America, with vistas that rival any in the world. The Columbia River runs from its source in the Canadian Rockies down through Washington State and into Oregon, where it eventually meets the Pacific. Along the way, it has cut a majestic gorge through the Cascade Mountains, delivering dozens of waterfalls, some of which can be ogled right from the Historic Columbia River Highway. The opportunities for outdoor recreation along the way are extraordinary, including cycling the Post Canyon mountain bike network or hiking up Dog Mountain. And, this being the Pacific Northwest, you can pretty much count on great craft beer, fresh locally raised fare, and an array of pinot noir, chardonnay, and other fine wines. Pennsylvania: Alleghenies It’s time to get to know the Alleghenies, Pennsylvania’s vast south-central region between Pittsburgh and Gettysburg. You can expect a warm welcome in small towns that boast covered bridges and elegant Victorian-era homes. Elsewhere, explore miles of mountain trails on foot or on two fat tires, and dive into this important historical region with its rich Native American legacy, Revolutionary War landmarks, and reminders of the early days of the republic, when this was literally the American frontier. College sports fans will enjoy a stop in State College, home to Penn State and its loyal fans, not to mention tasty comfort food and craft beer. Puerto Rico: Culebra We’ll get this right out in the open: when your friend tells you she’s visiting Puerto Rico but refuses to give away exactly where she’s headed, she may be headed to the 10-square-mile island of Culebra, about 20 miles off PR’s Fajardo coast. Fans of Culebra, which was a US naval base until 1975, have good reason to keep it top secret. Twenty percent of the island is a designated national wildlife refuge, protecting endangered sea turtles and other wild denizens. So far, the island has been untouched by giant hotels, casinos, golf courses, and fast-food restaurants. If that sounds like heaven, get ready to explore Culebra’s “diamond-dust” beaches (the star is Flamenco Beach, but you’ll find others that are more secluded), snorkeling sites, and hiking trails. Narragansett packs Rhode Island's best qualities into an easily digestible size © Shobeir Ansari / Moment / Getty Rhode Island: Narragansett Everybody knows that Rhode Island is the smallest state geographically. What everybody also needs to know is that the small size belies a wealth of vacation opportunities. Narragansett may be Exhibit A: the town is home to four popular beaches, minutes away from affordable hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals via the town’s fine public transportation system. You can also opt for camping at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park, which locals prize for its “seaside village” atmosphere. Get ready to snap pics of the Point Judith Lighthouse at the entrance to Narragansett Bay, and set aside some time to explore the unique and vital exhibitions at the Pequot Museum, devoted to Native American history and culture and the natural history of the New England region from prehistoric times through the arrival of European settlers and beyond. South Carolina: Greenville If you haven’t already heard the great word-of-mouth generated by folks who have visited Greenville, take it from us: if your idea of vacation perfection is a charming Main Street packed with great art galleries, excellent local restaurants, and a cycling- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and outlook, this is a place you must see for yourself. Start in lovely Falls Park, where the 345-foot-long Liberty Bridge crosses the Reedy River (you can grab a great cup of coffee at the bridge entrance). Cyclists will want to hit the curiously named Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail (say it five times fast, or just call it “Swamp Rabbit,” as locals do), which runs more than 20 miles from Lake Conestee Nature Park to the nearby town of Travelers Rest. Tour local craft breweries, visit one of the local live theaters, hit up local galleries, studios, and public murals, and you’ll soon be one of the people spreading Greenville’s great word-of-mouth yourself. Boxwork is an rare type of rock formation that forms honeycomb-like structures in caves © Zack Frank / Shutterstock South Dakota: Wind Cave National Park What’s the oldest national park you’ve perhaps never heard of? Wind Cave, in the prairie grasslands in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, where the buffalo roam along with elk and other wildlife, was founded in 1903 and consists of lovely preserved prairie aboveground and an intricate cave system below, known for rare rock formations called boxwork. Easy hikes and ranger-led programs abound, including a 1-mile round-trip hike from Elk Mountain campground, a loop from Prairie Vista visitor center, and, of course, tours of the cave. Note that as we publish this story, the elevators at Wind Cave are closed for maintenance – please check nps.gov/wica before planning your trip. Ranger programs, including an excellent documentary film, and above-ground activities remain open daily, and access to the cave will resume when maintenance is complete. Tennessee: Franklin Psst: seventeen miles south of Nashville, the welcoming small city of Franklin beckons with history (for starters, it was founded way back in 1799 and named for Founding Father Benjamin Franklin), great dining (there are more than 500 restaurants to choose from, and we especially love the upscale versions of Southern favorites like fried chicken and oyster po’boys), and unique shopping for locally made apparel, crafts, and snacks (if you haven’t the Tennessee favorite Goo-Goo Clusters, do yourself a favor). Start on Main Street, designated a “Great American Main Street,” learn about the 1864 Battle of Franklin (and see the bullet-riddled Carter House), and spend some time on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs through Franklin and the village of Leiper’s Fork, where great art galleries rub elbows with fantastic BBQ – the Natchez Trace runs from Nashville all the way to Natchez, Mississippi, and is the eighth most-visited site in the National Park system. El Paso is a cultural melting pot with influences from the Southwestern USA and Mexico © Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock Texas: El Paso El Paso’s unique location, in the far western corner of Texas, bordering both Mexico and New Mexico, utterly defines the city’s culture. As national attention has focused on this border region, El Paso has been in the midst of a construction boom, including new hotels, the restoration of a streetcar lines, new craft breweries, and even a Minor League Baseball team, the Pacific Coast League’s Chihuahuas, part of the San Diego Padres franchise. Reasons to get to know El Paso include the beautiful El Paso Museum of Art with its collection of 12th-through-21st-century works; Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in America within city limits, with elevations reaching more than 7,000 feet above sea level; and, of course, a unique culinary tradition that blends Mexican traditions like exquisite tacos with Texas’s love of good steak, plus upscale taverns serving innovative dishes and great cocktails. Utah: Moab Sure, you want to visit Utah’s amazing national parks, but, like many travelers, you’re not sure where to start? One word: Moab. The Utah town is in close proximity to both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, providing you with a comfy home base from which to explore the incredible red rock landscape that makes some visitors feel as if they’ve landed on Mars. Here in Moab, affordable lodging, great Southwestern and gourmet food, and the Colorado River make for a beautiful stay. When you’re not hiking in one of the two national parks, be sure to set aside time to discover Dead Horse Point State Park, along the Colorado River with its seven-mile rim trail and great vistas that include some of the terrain in Canyonlands. Groton, Vermont, in the state's Northeast Kingdom region, is great in the fall © Nan Zhong / Moment Open / Getty Vermont: Northeast Kingdom As the name may suggest, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom region, including Caledonia, Esses, and Orleans counties, is a world unto itself. You won’t find cities up here, but you’ll find plenty of elbow room, pristine lakes, and forests just waiting for you to discover them. An array of state parks serves as the best way to plan your Northeast Kingdom adventure, offering campsites, cabins, and cottages – and in some cases a lodge – from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Groton State Forest will keep you busy with more than 26,000 acres of fly fishing, swimming, and hiking. Virginia: Jamestown Settlement If you’re looking for a living history experience that dates back to the early colonial days, Virginia is the place to be. Jamestown Settlement is where the first permanent English colony was settled. Here, visitors are introduced to the settlement’s origins as a business venture, the ways in which the English arrival affected the local Powhatan Native American way of life, and the arrival of the first enslaved Africans on Virginian soil. You’ll want to spend most of a day exploring gallery exhibits, documentary films, and outdoor re-creations of a Powhatan village, a 17th-century fort, and even a replica of a sailing ship that brought the first English colonists to what they called the New World. While you’re in the Jamestown area, you can further immerse yourself in colonial history with a visit to nearby Colonial Williamsburg and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. A path through the Hoh Rain Forest is filled with old temperate trees covered in green and brown moss © Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock Washington: Olympic National Park Yes, the American West is so packed with amazing national parks, we can forgive you if you’ve overlooked a true gem on the Washington State coast. Olympic National Park covers nearly 1 million acres that includes an exceptional variety of ecosystems, including mountains, old-growth rainforests (yes, it may be drizzling during your visit, but that’s all part of the experience), and more than 70 miles of coast. Visit the Elwha Valley, just 11 miles from the town of Port Angeles (a good place to find charming, affordable lodging), which is home to the popular Elwha River and the surrounding mountains that make for a lovely introduction to the park’s offerings. Hurricane Ridge is easily reached and the views on a (rare) clear day are incredible. Hit the Olympic Hot Springs Road and Whiskey Bend Road for access to a number of great trails like the Boulder Creek and Humes Ranch loop. West Virginia: Lewisburg If you love truly cool small towns as much as we do, you must discover Lewisburg, on the Greenbrier River, with its fabulous arts, outstanding artisanal food scene (think way beyond traditional Southern fare here, with menu items like the Middle Eastern spiced lamb burger), and eminently shoppable downtown. Don’t miss the unique Salt Cave and Spa and its indulgent treatments and unusual location within a cave system. The opulent Greenbrier Resort is worth-it splurge that delivers value, and the grounds and restaurant are worth a visit even if you’re not spending the night. Head out along the stunningly beautiful Greenbrier River Trail, a repurposed railroad route that’s part of the West Virginia state parks system, for a hike or cycling trip; you won’t run out of things to see – the trail is 70 miles long. The statue of coach Vince Lombardi outside the Historic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers and also known as The Frozen Tundra © Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock Wisconsin: Green Bay Sure, the name Green Bay is synonymous with NFL football, but there’s a lot more to this beautiful region of Wisconsin than adorning one’s head with an immense cheese replica. The city if named for the big bay on which it stands, and you’ll find plenty of “green” in the city’s wild-ish places, like the Brown County Reforestation Camp and the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. Families will love the Children’s Museum of Green Bay with plenty of hands-on experiences, the National Railroad Museum, including train rides through October and a Polar Express at holiday time. For grownups, brewery tours take you behind the scenes for a taste of the fine crafting going on here. Oh, and if you absolutely must have a football-themed experience in Green Bay, the Packers Heritage Trail is a cool city walk that takes you to commemorative plaques dedicated to the creation of the Green Bay Packers franchise. Wyoming: Rockies to Tetons First of all, yes, we adore Yellowstone. But we want you to know that Wyoming offers a wealth of other outstanding outdoor adventures. One of our favorites is the Rockies-to-Tetons road trip that takes you from the Snowy Ridge, in southeast Wyoming, all the way to Grand Teton National Park. Your first step will be visiting the Snowy Ridge Range, which includes the 12,000-foot Medicine Bow Peak, via nearby Laramie. Then you’ll have to tear yourself away from all that gorgeousness on your way to Dubois, where affordable hotels and the Longhorn Ranch Resort are options (as is taking in a Friday-night rodeo in summer). From Dubois, you’ll head toward the Grand Tetons, ideally with a stop for rafting the Snake River in Jackson, then enter the beautiful national park, where you can try your hand at shooting some of the iconic peaks and landscapes made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. (And from Grand Teton National Park, you can sneak a visit to adjoining Yellowstone with no additional entry fee.) Produced by Budget Travel for GEICO. All editorial views are those of Budget Travel alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.Presented By
Oakland Is the Bay Area’s New Style Capital
Visitors to Northern California’s Bay Area have a legendary array of sights to see and experiences to savor, from the natural beauty of Marin County to the cultural cornucopia of Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and other communities. But lately, we’ve noticed that Oakland in particular is setting itself apart when it comes to attracting fashion-forward shoppers. The city of Oakland itself has taken notice of its stylish status as well, launching a new Oakland Style digital fashion guide to help visitors and locals explore Oakland-based apparel and accessories. Unique Local Style With Meaning Shoppers in the know are attracted to Oakland’s style scene not only because the clothing and accessories are original and beautiful but also because Oakland style often holds deeper meaning, reflecting local history (black berets are just one example), popular culture (remember MC Hammer’s parachute pants?) and even politics. Oakland’s Sherri McMullen styled iconic looks for Michelle Obama; Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. launched the Dope Era fashion brand; Oakland native and NFL player Marshawn Lynch created Beastmode, an “athleisure” brand; and local Viscera crafts unique jewelry using a 3D printer. We love how Oakland-inspired clothing brand Oaklandish pursues a mission to spread “local love”: with local-pride T-shirts and accessories and by creating quality jobs for inner-city locals. And we applaud vintager clothing boutique Regina’s Door for serving as a sanctuary for homeless youth, young creatives, and survivors of sex trafficking. A Handy Guide for Visitors and Locals Oakland Style (visitoakland.com/style) highlights five distinct local fashion styles: Town Pride, Vintage and Consignment, A Night on The Town, Elevated Style and Lakeside Lounging. “We are excited to launch the Oakland Style campaign, and to promote shopping at local Oakland businesses to visitors and locals alike,” says Mark Everton, CEO of Visit Oakland. “Oakland’s diverse makers and business owners are what make our city unique, and we are thrilled to highlight their creative products in our digital fashion guide.” Put Oakland on Your California Must-See ListOakland is always a good idea, whether you’re visiting for its stylish clothing or for its other ample charms, including great food, the unique urban parkland around Lake Merritt, and the exceptional Oakland Museum of California, which combines art, history, and science in a user-friendly environment. Oakland is an easy day trip across the bay from (the significantly more expensive) San Francisco and a must-stop for anyone exploring Northern California.
Travel News: Happiest Countries on Earth, Cheap Flights for April, and Booking National Parks Campsites Just Got Easier
From vacation options in the countries that boast the highest levels of personal happiness to jaw-droppingly affordable domestic airfares to brag-worthy destinations, plus a brand-new options for researching and booking federal campsites, this week’s travel news is all about making your spring travel dreams a reality. Happiest Countries on Earth Although we can’t guarantee that visiting one of the world’s happiest countries will deliver a perfect vacation, we’re thinking it can’t hurt, right? In that spirit, we’re always interested to see the latest rankings of 156 countries by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which analyzes survey data from Gallup including such factors as GDP, supportive social networks, life expectancy, freedom, and basic emotions such as happy and sad. For the second year in a row, Finland has taken the top spot. It’s also worth noting that four of its neighbors in Scandinavia and Northern Europe are the runners-up on the happiness scale this year, so this may be the year to plan that spectacular Norway road trip, a tour of Iceland, or pop over to Amsterdam to ogle the eye-popping spring tulips. Here, the top five happiest countries on earth (the United States, btw, ranked 19th): Finland Denmark Norway Iceland Netherlands Cheap Flights for April When it comes to round-trip domestic flights under $300, our friends at Skyscanner always come through with some great suggestions. They’ve crunched the numbers on the most affordable April flights, and their top 5 list could serve as your menu of spring break options. Here, the current ranking of the cheapest 5 flights, plus average prices (which are, of course, always subject to change): Long Beach, CA ($217.61) Myrtle Beach, SC ($223.16) Oakland, CA ($230.20) Denver, CO ($235.72) Chicago, IL ($244.09) Booking National Parks Campsites Just Got Easier We’re cheering “hip-hip-hooray” for Hipcamp. As we’ve already reported, Hipcamp makes it easier than ever to book exceptional camping experiences (some industry folks like to call it an “Airbnb for campers”). Now, Hipcamp has announced that, in addition to the thousands of public and private campgrounds it already lists, it will now list all federal campgrounds as well. That means researching and booking your next National Park camping adventure just got a lot more convenient, with not only Hipcamp but also other booking services gaining access to—wait for it—100,000 federal campsites.
Locals Know Best: St. Louis, Missouri
Ten years ago, if you asked Tamara Keefe where she thought she’d be today, she definitely would not have said St. Louis. In 2008, she moved to the city from California “kicking and screaming,” as she puts it. But her resistance was futile. Within six months, she had fallen under its spell and to this day she declares St. Louis is her one true love. The owner of Clementine’s Creamery, which has two scoop shops in town and a third opening in the spring, joins a number of other culinary entrepreneurs who’ve made the city their home, creating an accidental community of bakers, butchers, brewers, and craftspeople who see to it that locals have fresh baked bread, handmade kombucha, and plenty other delicious eats each day. Add to that the astonishingly low cost of living and a multitude of cultural options, many of them free, and it’s clear that the risk of falling in love with this town is high. (And that’s to say nothing of how Midwesterners are “gloriously friendly people,” Tamara quickly learned.) We checked in with Tamara to learn more. A City of Neighborhoods One of the many things that’s easy to love about St. Louis is its assortment of distinct neighborhoods. And there’s enough to do in each of them that you can spend the day and still leave not having done it all. Tamara has a fondness for Lafayette Square, the city’s oldest and most historic district that’s seen a lively community grow around its historic fixtures and sprawling park. Tamara recommends starting a day there with breakfast at Sqwires (sqwires.com), a secret among locals known for its killer brunches (smoked brisket hash, anyone?) and its bloody mary and mimosa bars on the weekend. Walk it off with a leisurely stroll through the boutiques and galleries along Park Avenue, the main drag. An eatery like Polite Society (politesocietystl.com) is a top pick for lunch, with plates like wild boar ravioli among the many choices. “It’s funky American cuisine and they do it right,” Tamara says. Nearby is one of her scoop shops, so definitely drop in to try one of her boozy creations, like maple bourbon or chocolate milk stout. (Those are the “naughty” options. She’s got “nice” liquor-free ones, too, like gooey butter cake.) Unwind at the end of the day with a drink at Planter's House (plantershousestl.com), which Tamra calls a “sexy little cocktail bar.” Cherokee Street (AKA: Cherokee Antique Row) is another neighborhood that’s worth a wander. With its many antique stores, it’s a Shangri-La for vintage lovers who can easily spend hours sifting through inventories of furniture, home goods, jewelry, clothing and much more. One standout is Dead Wax Records, an overflowing vinyl shop owned by one of the same people that runs the Mud House (themudhousestl.com), a coffee shop nearby that Tamara recommends. Once you’re all shopped out, cap off the day at Chaparritos, Tamara’s go-to for amazing chili verde and mean margaritas. A Hub of Culture If you live in St. Louis, it’s easy to see—and hear—your tax dollars at work. Many museums are free, the zoo is free, there’s an outdoor theater, the Muny (themuny.org), where nearly 1500 seats are offered for free at every performance, and St. Louis is home to one of the country’s most celebrated opera companies, which you can see for as little as $12. “The arts are huge here and it’s really important for them to have access to it—for everyone to have access. It’s not just for the elite,” Tamara says. “Coming from SoCal, where you pay outrageous prices for everything, it’s just awesome.” Every city has a movie theater--or several--for regular entertainment, but St. Louis's main cinema, the independent, old-time-style Chase Park Cinema in the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel, comes with an added delight. His name is Jerry and he plays the vintage organ before every show and sees people off after the movie with a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss. Tamara estimates he's been there for decades. "Everyone knows him, everyone looks forward to it," she says. Nature Calls Should you need a break from the city, there are a few ways for heeding the call of the wild. Castlewood State Park, for one, features walking and running trails that snake along the Merrimack River. There are cliffs that make perfect perches for a picnic lunch. Tamara suggests stopping at Parker’s Table at Oakland and Yale (parkerstable.com) a wine and food market where you can pick up provisions like sandwiches, soups, and the house sausages for the day. For kids, there’s an uncommon nature sanctuary. The Butterfly House at the Missouri Botanical Garden (missouribotanicalgarden.com) is a glass-walled conservatory that’s home to more than a thousand tropical free-wheeling butterflies. “They land on eyelashes, hair, clothes," Tamara says. "It’s so sweet and kinda magical. You feel like you’re in a Disney movie.” Daytripping Everywhere you go these days it seems like you're close to a wine country, and St. Louis is no exception. About 90 minutes west, Hermann (visithermann.com), a village settled by German immigrants, is Missouri’s wine region. A concentration of wineries could certainly keep you entertained for a full day. Break up the wine tastings with a stop at Old Stone Barn (oldstonebarn.com), a working hay farm that doubles as an antique emporium. Another destination if you want to hit the road is Cottleville, and old-timey town with still yet more antique shops and charming B&Bs. Stone Soup Cottage (stonesoupccottage.com), a restaurant in an old house with just enough space for ten tables, is worth the trip alone, says Tamara. Perch yourself on the wraparound porch and start your evening gazing at the stars. Dinner, chef’s choice, consists of whatever’s fresh off the farm that day, so expect a wholesome meal.
6 U.S. Scenic Byways You Must Discover
Daydreaming of a road trip? The Federal Highway Administration has done all your homework for you. Though anyone who’s ever crept along in 5 miles-per-hour traffic may have a hard time admitting it, the United States has magnificent highway infrastructure, and when it comes to road trips, no element of that blacktop web is greater than the America’s Byways collection. To earn a place on this treasure map of 150 routes, the road must show "outstanding archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic value," according to the FHA, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. When taken as a whole, the Byways are truly the beating pulse of our country's artery system. You could spend years exploring them, but if you’ve only got a couple weeks, here are six unforgettable routes. 1. ROUTE 66: THE MOTHER ROAD The most famous of the Scenic Byways also is one of the longest, and depending where you grew up, you’ll instantly think of certain stops as “the main stretch of Route 66.” For West Coasters, it’s the Santa Monica endpoint and dust-red Arizona towns, but over in the Midwest, Illinois has its own Route 66 Heritage Project to preserve the beginning of this iconic American road. After departing Chicago's metropolitan area, it’s all cornfields, small towns, and roadside attractions until you get to Springfield, the Land of Lincoln and gateway to serious Americana antiquing. SEE: It’s said that ghosts haunt Joliet, a city 30 miles southwest of Chicago. If you’re hoping to spot ghosts, check out Rialto Square Theater and Joliet Prison. Pontiac-Oakland Museum is a haven of American car memorabilia. And since you’ll be passing through Springfield, make time for the Lincoln Home historic site. EAT: Not much has changed on the menu at Springfield's Chili Parlor (thechiliparloronline.com) since it opened in 1945. You can even get a glass of buttermilk to drink at this Food Network favorite. 2. TURQUOISE TRAIL, NEW MEXICO Many of the Scenic Byways have wonderfully expressive names. Case in point: this stretch of highway connecting Santa Fe with Albuquerque. The Turquoise Trail (turquoisetrail.org) is largely surrounded by golden and red earth, although on a normal sunny, arid day, the sky will indeed be turquoise as you pass by ranches, former mining towns, and historic sites. SEE: Quirky roadside attraction Tinkertown Museum (tinkertown.com) in Sandia Park, about 50 miles south of Santa Fe, is a treasure trove of antique toys. The canyon-set mining town-turned-art-colony Madrid, about 20 miles further north en route to Santa Fe, offers galleries and restaurants, and at Casa Grande Trading Post you can stock up on souvenir turquoise. EAT: Jezebel Soda Fountain in Madrid is known for bakery pies, chocolate-dipped ice cream cones, American diner food, and kitsch décor with a 1920s wink. 3. LARIAT LOOP, COLORADO (Jordan Blakesley) Colorado has 11 America’s Byways, and it’s hard to say that one is better than the rest, but for a truly broad range of culture touchstones in a relatively short stretch of roadway, Lariat Loop (lariatloop.org), a 40-mile circle that starts and ends in Golden, stands out. It’s been a Denver-area day drive since the 1920s, when one can only imagine people taking their Ford Model A's up Lookout Mountain. A generation before that, trains were the main mode of transportation, and Buffalo Bill Cody was a household name. And several millennia before, dinosaurs proliferated and left their indelible tracks throughout the mountain passages. SEE: Before—or after—the drive, take advantage of the riches Golden offers, like a historic walking tour, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and the many beer gardens. Speaking of beer, the town is home to Coors Brewing (serving the malt-brewed golden taste of America since 1873!), where free tours are offered Thursdays through Monday. Other stops along the loop include Dinosaur Ridge, the Colorado Railroad Museum, and Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite. EAT: The Fort (thefort.com) in Red Rocks territory is known for its game meats and “New Foods of the Old West” 19th-century recipes updates. 4. A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME SCENIC BYWAY, UTAH Where other designated byways take you back a few centuries, the epically named 286-mile Utah stretch takes you back to when mammoths roamed the earth. If that sounds dramatic, just wait until you’re at nearly 9000 feet, the red rocks and sub-alpine fir forests arrayed far below. National parks Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon, state parks including Kodachrome Basin, and four-wheel destinations like Hole-in-the-Rock are all detours along this all-American road that can take five hours, four days, or a lifetime to traverse. SEE: Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is a must-see for geology enthusiasts. Anasazi State Park Museum is a history lesson in Native American lore. Long-distance hikers should make stops at Hell’s Backbone and The Box, but you only need to be human to appreciate Dixie National Forest and the arches of Red Canyon. Also, if you love cowboy culture, try to meet up with the Bryce Canyon Rodeo. EAT: The seasonal Sweetwater Kitchen (sweetwaterkitchen.com) in Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch features about 95% organic ingredients on its tightly edited locavore menu. The mouthwatering dishes are a great way to refuel after a day hiking around Hell’s Backbone. 5. BEACH BOULEVARD SCENIC BYWAY, MISSISSIPPI (Ken Murphy) With a name like Beach Boulevard (gulfcoast.org), you’d think this route maps a West Coast drive, but in a plot twist, we’re actually heading to the Gulf Coast. Yes, the Southeast has its own beach Byway that traverses several states—and yes, Mississippi lays claim to the most beautiful part. Start out in Waveland, visit historic coastal towns, wend your way along 26 miles of beachfront, check out stately homes, and eat fresh seafood galore. If you want a bustling city, check out the casinos in Biloxi. SEE: Mississippi Sound views from Pass Christian (aka “the Pass”) cannot be beat. Gulf Islands Water Park is a top pick for families, and be sure to check out the classic Main Street of artist enclave Ocean Springs—named one of our 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2018. EAT: There’s a lot of good gumbo, fresh fish, and more along this route. Start the AM drive at PJ’s Coffee in Pearlington located on the “The Pearlington Scenic Byway to Space,” just west of where Highway 90 becomes Beach Boulevard. Work up an appetite as you drive east and dive into lunch at Claw Daddy’s, White Cap Seafood, or Half Shell Oyster House in Gulfport. 6. OLD CANADA ROAD If you’ve never driven through rugged, forested, river-crisscrossed upper New England, this journey will be a wonderful deep-dive. Bucolic photo ops abound: a clapboard cabin, a glimmering lake, a large woodland creature. And in fall, this route offers the caliber of fall foliage that turns people into lifetime leaf-peepers. The endpoint of this 78-mile historic byway is, as promised, a border crossing to our northern neighbor and Acadian delights. SEE: If it's summertime, before you follow the south-to-north route, check Lakewood Theater's schedule of musicals. The venue, situated at the southernmost point of the road, is an outdoor culture paradise. It's even worth overnighting here. In the morning, as you head north, pull over for a panorama photo moment at Robbins Hill Scenic Overlook, just below Wyman Lake. The lake is a delightful site for a picnic if the weather allows. Up the road past Caratunk, veer off the byway at The Forks to the stunning drop of Moxie Fall. Retrace a few grueling steps of the historic Kennebec River to the Dead River route that the infamous Benedict Arnold took during his brief moment as a war hero. And as you motor along, note that this route overlaps with the Appalachian Trail, so be on the lookout for people hiking the perilous pilgrimage of a lifetime just off the highway. EAT: If the weather’s warm enough to enjoy the scenery, opt for a lakeside picnic over a restaurant. Buy picnic supplies at Williams’ General Store. When the Northeast's chill hits, join the rowdy crowd at the Marshall Inn, about 80 miles north of Augusta, for food, drinks, and live entertainment.
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Berkeley ( BURK-lee) is a city on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California, United States. It is named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington to the north. Its eastern border with Contra Costa County generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. The 2020 census recorded a population of 124,321. Berkeley is home to the oldest campus in the University of California system, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is managed and operated by the university. It also has the Graduate Theological Union, one of the largest religious studies institutions in the world. Berkeley is considered one of the most socially liberal cities in the United States.
San Francisco (; Spanish for "Saint Francis"), officially the City and County of San Francisco, is a cultural, commercial, and financial center in the U.S. state of California. Located in Northern California, San Francisco is the 17th most populous city in the United States, and the fourth most populous in California, with 873,965 residents as of 2020. It covers an area of about 46.9 square miles (121 square kilometers), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second most densely populated large U.S. city, and the fifth most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is the 12th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States with 4.7 million residents, and the fourth-largest by economic output, with a GDP of $592 billion in 2019. With San Jose, California, it forms the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area, the fifth most populous combined statistical area in the United States, with 9.6 million residents as of 2019. Colloquial nicknames for San Francisco include SF, San Fran, The City, and Frisco.In 2019, San Francisco was the county with the seventh-highest income in the United States, with a per capita income of $139,405. In the same year, San Francisco proper had a GDP of $203.5 billion, and a GDP per capita of $230,829. The San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area, with a GDP of $1.09 trillion as of 2019, is the country's third-largest economy. Of the 105 primary statistical areas in the U.S. with over 500,000 residents, this CSA had the highest GDP per capita in 2019, at $112,348. San Francisco was ranked 12th in the world and second in the United States on the Global Financial Centres Index as of March 2021.San Francisco was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established the Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and Mission San Francisco de Asís a few miles away, both named for Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. San Francisco became a consolidated city-county in 1856. San Francisco's status as the West Coast's largest city peaked between 1870 and 1900, when around 25% of California's population resided in the city proper. After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. In World War II, San Francisco was a major port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. It then became the birthplace of the United Nations in 1945. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, significant immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the "beatnik" and "hippie" countercultures, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States. Politically, the city votes strongly along liberal Democratic Party lines. A popular tourist destination, San Francisco is known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Fisherman's Wharf, and its Chinatown district. San Francisco is also the headquarters of companies such as Wells Fargo, Twitter, Square, Airbnb, Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., Salesforce, Dropbox, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Uber, and Lyft. The city, and the surrounding Bay Area, is a global center of the sciences and arts and is home to a number of educational and cultural institutions, such as the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the University of San Francisco (USF), San Francisco State University (SFSU), the de Young Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the SFJAZZ Center, and the California Academy of Sciences.
Walnut Creek is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States, located in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, about 16 miles (26 km) east of the city of Oakland. With a total estimated population of 70,166, Walnut Creek serves as a hub for its neighboring cities because of its location at the junction of the highways from Sacramento and San Jose (I-680) and San Francisco/Oakland (SR-24) and its accessibility by BART. Its active downtown neighborhood features hundred-year-old buildings and extensive high-end retail establishments.
Burlingame () is a city in San Mateo County, California. It is located on the San Francisco Peninsula and has a significant shoreline on San Francisco Bay. The city is named after diplomat Anson Burlingame and is known for its numerous eucalyptus groves, high quality of life, walkable downtown area, and excellent public school system. In April 2021, the typical home value in Burlingame was $2.4 million. As of the 2020 U.S. Census, Burlingame had a population of 31,799.