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    Everglades,

    Florida

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    The Everglades is a natural region of tropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large drainage basin within the Neotropical realm. The ecosystem it forms is not presently found anywhere else on earth. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles (97 km) wide and over 100 miles (160 km) long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades experience a wide range of weather patterns, from frequent flooding in the wet season to drought in the dry season. Throughout the 20th century, the Everglades suffered significant loss of habitat and environmental degradation. Human habitation in the southern portion of the Florida peninsula dates to 15,000 years ago. Before European colonization, the region was dominated by the native Calusa and Tequesta tribes. With Spanish colonization, both tribes declined gradually during the following two centuries. The Seminole, formed from mostly Creek people who had been warring to the North, assimilated other peoples and created a new culture after being forced from northern Florida into the Everglades during the Seminole Wars of the early 19th century. After adapting to the region, they were able to resist removal by the United States Army. Migrants to the region who wanted to develop plantations first proposed draining the Everglades in 1848, but no work of this type was attempted until 1882. Canals were constructed throughout the first half of the 20th century, and spurred the South Florida economy, prompting land development. In 1947, Congress formed the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, which built 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canals, levees, and water control devices. The Miami metropolitan area grew substantially at this time and Everglades water was diverted to cities. Portions of the Everglades were transformed into farmland, where the primary crop was sugarcane. Approximately 50 percent of the original Everglades has been developed as agricultural or urban areas.Following this period of rapid development and environmental degradation, the ecosystem began to receive notable attention from conservation groups in the 1970s. Internationally, UNESCO and the Ramsar Convention designated the Everglades a Wetland Area of Global Importance. The construction of a large airport 6 miles (10 km) north of Everglades National Park was blocked when an environmental study found that it would severely damage the South Florida ecosystem. With heightened awareness and appreciation of the region, restoration began in the 1980s with the removal of a canal that had straightened the Kissimmee River. However, development and sustainability concerns have remained pertinent in the region. The deterioration of the Everglades, including poor water quality in Lake Okeechobee, was linked to the diminishing quality of life in South Florida's urban areas. In 2000 the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved by Congress to combat these problems, which at that time was considered the most expensive and comprehensive environmental restoration attempt in history; however, implementation faced political complications.
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    Road Trips

    6 road trips stops along the underrated Gulf Coast

    On a recent road trip with my family from Pensacola, Florida, west along Interstate-10 through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, I got a taste of all I’ve been missing out on in the Gulf Coast. I’m pretty sure this stretch of Interstate-10 and the backroads branching off make for the the most underrated road trip in the South. Read on for a six great stops to make during a road trip along the surprising Gulf Coast. ALABAMA Meet sloths and lemurs at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo There is so much to love at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores, Alabama, it’s hard to know where to start. Dubbed “The little zoo that could” for how it’s survived three major hurricanes (and now the pandemic, too), this beautiful and largely open-air facility offers phenomenal animal encounters you hardly find everywhere, including the chance to hand-feed sloths for just $19.95 per person (in addition to zoo admission, which is $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids ages 3 to 12). Whatever you do, don’t miss the zoo’s butterfly exhibit, featuring a jaw-dropping collection donated by a local resident that’s housed inside a room designed to look like a field research tent. Hundreds of incredible butterflies and moths (some with patterns on their wings that look just like snake heads, to scare off predators) are the stuff of pure wonder. Even if you’re not visiting the zoo itself, you can still have lunch on a spacious deck overlooking the grounds at The Safari Club (no zoo admission required), where a menu of delicious wood-fired pizzas, Gulf Coast seafood and more awaits. For a bike ride through Gulf State Park, Alabama Home to bobcats, bald eagles, alligators, owls and many more animals, Gulf State Park (free admission) has 28 miles of paved trails and boardwalks that are a blast to explore by bicycle. The park even has a free bike share program you can access with your smartphone. And you can rent tandem bikes and trailers for pulling kids along the trails, too, through Beach Bike Rentals in Orange Beach, Alabama (all rentals come with helmet and locks, starting from $25 for the day). When you’re not paddling through the coastal habitats, make time to relax at Gulf State Park’s two miles of white sand beaches and check out the Gulf State Park Campground, one of the best places to put up a tent or pull in with an RV in the state. Shrimp boats at sunset. Credit: Coastal Mississippi. MISSISSIPPI Hang out in the adorable town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi Continuing west along Interstate-10 into Mississippi, plan to spend a night or longer in the adorable coastal town of Ocean Springs, where a stay at the new-in-2020 Beatnik hotel (rooms from $157 per night) is nothing short of revelatory. The property has just four cabins decorated in mid-century boho style, each with a private patio complete an outdoor shower and hammock. There’s a communal plunge pool and fire pit, too, where guess gather for socially-distanced drinks at sunset. Stroll along Front Beach, the town’s small sandy beach, or visit the many outdoor galleries and cafes in Ocean Springs’ compact downtown. The best spot for a delicious and budget-minded breakfast is undoubtedly The Greenhouse on Porter, right next to the Beatnik, with heavenly housemade biscuits slathered with honey butter. Mississippi Aquarium Brand new in August 2020, the Mississippi Aquarium (admission $29.95 per person, $24.95 for kids ages 3 to 12) in Gulfport houses over 200 species of animals and native plants within indoor and outdoor exhibition areas overlooking the Mississippi Sound in downtown Gulfport. Among the many interesting animals you can see here are bottlenose dolphins, cow nose rays, American crocodiles and green-winged doves. Visitors age 10 and older can even get into the water with SeaTREK ($79.95 per person), a two-hour experience during which you don a helmet and enter one of the aquarium’s habitats to see fish, sharks and rays upclose from a perspective that’s similar to a scuba diver’s vantage point. LOUISIANA Go deep into Honey Island Swamp on a bayou tour with Cajun Encounters in Slidell, Louisiana This Florida girl got an education on the difference between the Everglades and freshwater bayou habitats during a fascinating tour by boat into Honey Island Swamp in Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish with Cajun Encounters (from $57.50 per person, $37.50 for kids ages 3 to 12). We spotted wild boars sloshing around the bald cypress tree-filled bayou (essentially a flooded forest, as the guide explained it), learned all about the mythical bayou swamp monster called Letiche and even visited a floating village that looked like something straight from a Swamp People episode. Private and group tours are available. Take a family-friendly hike with Canoe and Trail Adventures in Covington, Louisiana Prefer to stay on dry land when exploring the bayou? A Louisiana Master Naturalist is your guide during hikes that can be as easy or adventurous as you like with Canoe and Trail Adventures in Covington, Louisiana (the company also offers paddling tours and canoe and kayak rentals). I loved exploring trails maintained by local Boy Scouts troops at Northlake Nature Center with our guide, Chad Almquist, who showed my kids how to scoop up crawfish and tiny minnows using nets in the shallow bayou waters. Our hike led us along boardwalks and trails through wetlands and hardwood forests where we scouted for salamanders under rocks and spotted native birds (private tours from $49 per person).

    National ParksBudget Travel Lists

    The 10 best glamping locations around US national parks

    This content is sponsored by Fireside Resort Cabins, Wyoming Enjoy the outdoors sustainably without compromising comfort at Fireside Resort Cabins in Wilson, Wyoming. The 25 LEED-certified individual cabins offer modern luxuries in a rustic setting near the mountain town and ski slopes of Jackson Hole. Each cabin has hardwood floors, craftsman-style décor, Native American artwork, king-sized Tempur-Pedic bed, walk-in rain shower and a living room with a fireplace and kitchenette. The atmosphere of a wooded campground is complete with a private campfire and hot tub. Some of the best-known parks in the country – Grand Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park, are nearby. Moab Springs Ranch, Utah Located just minutes outside Arches National Park, the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park, Moab Springs Ranch is a locally owned, eco-friendly resort. There are studio-style stand-alone bungalows with private porches, and spacious townhouses with one, two or three bedrooms to accommodate large families. The resort itself backs up to Moab’s majestic red rocks and offers walking, biking and hiking trails, as well as a relaxing garden with hammocks and waterscapes. Tiny Town Cabins, Colorado Since there are no accommodations inside Rocky Mountain National Park, most visitors choose to stay at the bustling city of Estes Park. The energetic town filled with eclectic restaurants and shops, is located at the footsteps of Rocky Mountain National Park, just 90 minutes from Denver. For a typical Colorado-style cabin experience, stay at Tiny Town Cabins at Trout Haven Resorts outside the park. Located alongside the trout filled Big Thompson River, the 19 individual cozy cabins offer a blend of modern amenities and historic architecture. In case you want to bring your four-legged family members along, the cabins are also dog friendly. Lazy Z Resort, California Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountain in Sonora, California, Lazy Z Resort is a family-owned retreat offering 13 cabins and cottages in 40 acres of pines, cedars, and oaks. The expansive rooms come with private kitchens and decks, while common areas include a rustic club house filled with family heirlooms and a relaxing swimming pool in the woods. The mountain retreat is great for nature lovers looking for peace and tranquility, and an easy access to Yosemite National Park. Treetop Hideaways, Georgia Located at the border of Georgia and Tennessee, Treetop Hideaways is one of the most luxurious and sustainable treehouse accommodations. Made of reclaimed wood, copper-lined whiskey barrels, and backed by a crowdsourcing campaign, the two treehouses offer the ultimate glamping experience. Complete with climate control, heated floors, walk-in rain-head showers, and ultra-fast internet, these treehouses feel like an ultimate nature resort in the sky. Nearby, explore Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the first and largest national military park in the country. Glacier Bay Lodge, Alaska The rustic Glacier Bay Lodge is the only hotel accommodation available within the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in this remote part of Alaska. Glacier Bay Lodge offers spectacular views and easy access to Bartlett Cove and the Fairweather Mountain range. It is also the perfect place to embark on an adventure day cruise to see towering snow-capped mountains, magnificent glaciers, humpback whales, moose, mountain goats, brown and black bears, and bald eagles. Sunshine Key Tiny House, Florida Sunshine Key Tiny House Village features all the comforts of home cleverly designed in a fascinatingly small space. The bright tropical colored tiny homes are ideally located on the 75-acre island of Ohio Key, in the lower Florida Keys. Each tiny house is individually designed and decorated to express a unique personality (such as Hemingway), and inside you’ll find comfortable sleeping accommodations, a kitchenette, full bathroom and a flat screen TV. With steps from the beach, Sunshine Key Tiny House Village provides the perfect getaway for ocean activities, or for just relaxing at the water's edge for romance. Tiny House Village is next to the Bahia Honda State Park in Florida. The Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park are also just two hours away. Falling Waters, North Carolina Inspired by ancient Mongolian design, the yurts at Falling Waters Nantahala provide a unique alternative to cabin rentals. Falling Waters’ Yurt Village in the Smoky Mountains encompasses 8 yurts scattered across 22 acres in the scenic vistas of Western North Carolina. Watch the stars from the domed skylights while lying on a comfortable queen size bed, or gaze at pristine Fontana Lake from a private deck. These yurts come with a refrigerator, coffee maker and heater for those chilly nights. Falling Waters is located within a few minutes of Nantahala National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Castle House Estate, California Situated just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, near Los Angeles, The Castle House Estate is a unique glamping site that looks like a medieval castle. Different lodging options at the nine-acre desert estate include yurts, trailers, and guard towers. The estate offers incredible stargazing opportunities in one of California's designated International Dark Sky Parks. Shash Diné Eco Retreat, Arizona Shash Diné Eco Retreat is one of the few glamping bed-and-breakfast that allows guests to stay directly on the Navajo Nation. The homey Bell Tents, cabins and shepherd huts are outfitted with king size beds, hot water showers and candle lanterns. There are also two Navajo Hogans, which are traditional dwellings of the Navajo with earthern floors. Each site has a fire pit to make s’mores under a star-studded night sky. Located just 12 miles south of Paige, Arizona, Shah Diné acts as an easy base from where you can access Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Grand Canyon National Park. View of the Grand Teton Mountains from Oxbow Bend on the Snake River © RIRF Stock / Shutterstock Tips for Glamping in 2021 Whether you are planning to camp, glamp or stay at a hotel, traveling during the pandemic requires some advanced planning and additional safety measures. Always call the property ahead to inquire if it’s currently open, at what capacity, and what safety measures they are taking to sanitize the rooms and public areas. Some places may offer touchless check-in, to-go breakfast only, or may temporarily close hot tubs and reception areas. When venturing to the national parks, keep in mind many of them now require advanced reservations to visit. Make sure to print out your reservation confirmation and enter the park during the allotted time. Cell phone reception is generally limited inside the parks, so make sure to download park and surrounding area maps ahead of time. A good way to plan your road trip and hiking trails in advance is by using the free National Park Trail Guide app. Avoid the most popular trails during peak hours and plan your routes in reverse order to escape traffic. Most facilities inside the parks, such as restaurants and gift shops, are closed due to COVID-19 or may have limited operations. Therefore, it is better to prepack snacks, food and drinks for the day before entering the park. Public restrooms inside the park are generally open, but carry PPP items such as hand sanitizers, wet wipes and masks to ensure an extra layer of protection. Carefully crafted collaboratively between GEICO, Budget Travel, and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

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    National Parks

    How the Great American Outdoors Act will save US national parks

    On Wednesday, Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which combined two earlier bills to commit $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and $9.5 billion over five years to address critical infrastructure updates across the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. “Passing the Great American Outdoors Act is quite simply the most significant investment in conservation in decades," said president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation Collin O’Mara in a statement. “It’s a huge win for wildlife, our natural treasures, our economy, and all Americans, who enjoy our America’s public lands for solace, recreation, and exercise, especially amid this pandemic. All Americans will benefit from this historic legislation, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, expand outdoor recreation opportunities in every community, and accelerate our nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.” Rafting tours down the Snake River near Grand Tenton Mountains ©Mark Read/Lonely PlanetThe expansion of access to outdoor spaces, and the restoration of existing destinations is crucial as more and more Americans have turned to outdoor recreation in recent years. Some 327 million travelers a year visit national parks, forests, and Wild and Scenic Rivers from Mt. Rainier and the Rouge River to the Great Smokey Mountains and the New River Gorge, traveling over some 5000 miles of paved roads, nearly 20,000 miles of trails, and making use of almost 25,000 buildings. Back in June, when the US Senate initially passed the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land Trust Alliance noted that the LWCF has "only been fully funded once in its history," despite the fact it's been promised $900 million a year since its inception and supports "over 41,000 state and local park projects, contributing $778 billion to the nation's economy annually and providing 5.2 million sustainable jobs nationwide." Men from the Civilian Conservation Corps finish a shelter house at South Mountain Reservation, New Jersey, 1935. Many such structures are still in use today. © New York Times Co. / Getty ImagesBecause budgets haven't increased even as traffic on public lands has grown, officials haven't been able to keep up with the deterioration of key infrastructure nearing, or past, the end of its lifespan. A significant portion of the federal assets at national forest campgrounds, national parks, and state parks were built nearly a century ago, when the Civilian Conservation Corps was put to work during the Great Depression. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, 70% of the National Park Services' overdue projects pertain to structures at least 60 years old. That's had big, costly consequences that impact visitor experiences. For example, a sink hole nearly the length of a subcompact car opened up in Shenandoah National Park on the busy George Washington Memorial Parkway last May – and it wasn't the first such incident in the park. The series of sinkholes were the result of delays to roadwork and updates to storm water drainage networks, the kind of problems that are cheaper to fix before they eat into an entire roadway. Hunt's Mesa at sunrise, Monument Valley, Arizona, Utah, USA ©Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/500Meanwhile, the Transcanyon Pipeline in the Grand Canyon is fifty years old and perpetually leaky. Built in the 1960s in the midst of Mission 66, one of the last major flurries of upgrades to the national parks system that formed in response to similar concerns about degraded infrastructure and funding, the pipeline has been a focus for replacement for years. Although the pipeline supplies all the potable water to the South Rim of the park, officials have carried on with makeshift repairs because they haven't had the $100 million necessary to build an alternative. "LWCF is an issue I've been working on since my introduction into the outdoor policy world six years ago," said Katie Boué, founder of the Outdoor Advocacy Project. "This week's passage marks a huge victory for so many advocates who have invested years in making it happen. In a time when our public lands and green spaces are more valued and visited than ever before, it gives me hope to see Congress stepping up to support them." High-angle view of Jackson city covered in snow and the Teton Valley. ©Adventure_Photo/Getty ImagesBudget constraints have also made it harder to establish new public lands and expand existing parcels, especially around fragile conservation areas like the Everglades and the Grand Tetons that are experiencing increased development nearby. In January environmentalists celebrated when the state of Florida purchased 20,000 acres of swampland that feeds the Everglades in order to end Kanter Real Estate's multi-year quest to drill oil on the parcel. A greater number of similar deals will be possible at the federal level now the Great American Outdoors Act has secured permanent funding. It's been proven that new national parks can be a big hit, like when visitor numbers soared at Indiana Dunes after it was designated a national park in January of 2019. The same was true for White Sands National Park in New Mexico – the newest of the country's 62 national parks. The increase in funding could aid efforts to upgrade a handful of national forests and monuments that advocates hope could be national parks candidates, like Craters of the Moon in Idaho and Louisiana's Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, without further stretching a cash-strapped National Parks Service. White Sands National Park Yucca picnic area covered in sand in New Mexico. ©krblokhin/Getty ImagesExactly where and how to first apply the funds secured by the Great American Outdoors Act still needs to be decided by multiple federal agencies. But legislature's passage is reason enough for outdoor enthusiasts and activists to celebrate – it heralds the biggest overhaul the parks have received in a generation. And with many grounded travelers turning to road trips and visits to state and national parks in lieu of international travel as a result of the global coronavirus outbreak, the timing couldn't be better for the country's beleaguered public lands. "As an avid outdoors woman and activist, I’ve been going to DC for many years advocating for more funding for our national parks, public lands and green spaces," said Caroline Gleich, an Utah-based environmental advocate and pro ski mountaineer who summited Mt. Everest last year. "As America is dealing with the pandemic, more and more of us are turning to our parks and public lands for our mental and physical well being. The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act gives us something to celebrate. It gives us hope for the future."

    Inspiration

    From stagecoach to motorcoach, a history of RVs in the USA

    Duck into the Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming and you'll see so many chuck wagons, sleek phaetons, and sturdy stagecoaches you'll think you stumbled onto a Clint Eastwood film set. The museum, part of the broader Frontier Days rodeo complex, is home to the largest collection of of pre-automobile vehicles West of the Mississippi. It's also, somewhat unintentionally, a prologue to the sprawling RV/MH Hall of Fame in Ekhart, Indiana – the midwest manufacturing town that's turned out most of the motorhomes, travel trailers, toy haulers, and recreational vehicles you'll see on highways not only in the US, but around the world. That's because long before Winnebago was a household name, and even before companies like Ford made the automobile king of the road, the buggies, coaches, and wagons you'll see on exhibit in Cheyenne or the Plains Museum in Laramie were the original RVs that helped Americans get outside not for work, but for the sheer fun of it. Now a century later, RVs are having something of a renaissance. Not only have sales gone up in recent years, RV users are increasingly diverse. And many in the industry are predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic is about to create a major boom for motorhomes as many adopt RVing as a way to travel while practicing social distancing. But how did these rolling homes on wheels get their start? To answer that, you'll have to travel back to the wild west, and the rugged landscape of Wyoming. One of the original touring coaches used to guide visitors around Yellowstone National Park before the advent of the automobile © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely PlanetThe history of the first RVs One of the jewels of the Old West Museum is an original Yellowstone stagecoach in the signature bright yellow hue that's still standard for the park's current fleet of buses and snow coaches. The Tally-Ho Touring Coaches, as they were known, were manufactured by Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire especially for the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company. The century-old paint job is flaking off the museum's example, but it's still easy to get a sense of what it would be like to tour the United States' original national park behind a team of horses after making the long journey from cities back east via the Northern Pacific Railroad. Long before major thoroughfares like the Lincoln Highway or Route 66 linked states from coast to coast and made road trips to national parks possible, visitors arrived in train cars and stayed in grand hotels built by the railroad companies themselves, often with an architectural style that blended western rustic with Old World alpine motifs – a genre that came to be known as "parksitecture." Back then, a multi-day tour through the park cost about $50 a passenger (over a $1,000 today if you account for inflation), and took you from the North Pacific Railroad's station in Cinnabar, Montana, to the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs, which you can still visit today. Little boy sitting on bumper of early RV circa 1915. © Vintage Images / Alamy Stock PhotoSoon the well-to-do tourists who went to the trouble and expense of trips out west wanted their own recreational vehicles in which to tour national parks, or the countryside closer to their homes and summer retreats. Carriage companies began to add extra features like fold-out beds, sinks and "potted toilets" to the landaus they were already manufacturing – landaus being a kind of precursor to the modern convertible, with a broad passenger seat and a fold-down top. In 1910, Pierce-Arrow debuted its new Touring Landau at the Madison Square Garden auto show. It was a swift, sporty carriage equipped with many of the comforts of home, perfect for the leisure class's recent yen for escaping the polluted, crowded city in favor of outdoor adventures. The Pierce-Arrow was not only the first RV as we know them today, it was also the ancestor of today's Type B motorhomes – part car or truck, part home on wheels. A car pulls an early caravan with tent construction in the Kaibab National Forest on the northern edge of the Grand Canyon circa 1929 © Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock PhotoRVs in the age of the automobile It didn't take long for other carriage makers to roll out their own versions of the Pierce-Arrow – or for the burgeoning auto industry to get in on the small but exciting RV trend. Some of the innovative wealthy converted Packard trucks into the first ever Class C motorhomes (the mid-size RV models built on truck chassis, often with a bed in a pop-out over the cab) and in 1910, a Michigan company called Auto Kamp started rolling out the first pop-up campers much like the ones you know today, with space for sleeping, cooking, and dining. What set the Auto Kamp apart was that it was designed not to be pulled by horses like the Touring Landau, but by the brand new Model T's that rolled off Ford's Detroit factory lines just two years before. The age of the automobile had arrived, giving a broader swath of Americans access not only to Yellowstone, but the six other national parks that had been established in the decades following the United States' first national park, including Sequoia, Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, Wind Cave, and Mesa Verde. An exhibit at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart Indiana shows a number of RV styles from decades past © Vespasian / Alamy Stock PhotoJust three years after Pierce-Arrow introduced the first RV and five years after the Model T debuted, an instructor at Cal State invented his own model of travel trailer to tow behind his own "Tin Lizzy," as the Model T had affectionately become known. It was called the Earl after its inventor, who hired a local carriage company to build out his design, which is still on display at the RV/MH Hall of Fame. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, as automobile ownership continued to increase and slews of new national parks were designated from Grand Canyon to the Everglades to Great Smoky Mountains, new types of RVs debuted, too. It was an era of "Tin Can Tourists" as one RV enthusiasts club called itself, a reference to the gleaming silver campers of the era – a style that lives on in the perennially popular Airstream, which debuted in the early 1930s. No longer were visitors to national parks limited to the railroad's massive lodges. Now they could camp throughout Yellowstone and its descendants – and at a variety of other outdoor destinations, too, including the first proper RV parks that cropped up across the country, along with filling stations and motels along brand-new "auto-trails" like the Dixie Highway, Egyptian Trail, Evergreen National Highway, and New Santa Fe Trail. Desi Arnaz and Lucile Ball appear in the film "Long, Long Trailer" © United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock PhotoHow RVs became part of American culture Though the Great Depression slowed the sale of RVs along with everything else in America, the Civilian Conservation Corps was hard at work on numerous projects in national and state parks around the country, constructing campgrounds and other outdoor recreation facilities still in use today. By the time World War II was over, the economy was roaring again and Americans were eager to explore. The age of nuclear family road trips and summer vacations had arrived, and so had a new generation of RVs that were bigger and more luxurious than ever, packed with new technology and ready to run on plenty of cheap gasoline. Sprawling Class A models (the largest size of RVs, which often resemble tour busses) rolled onto dealers' lots, along with the first RVs known as "motor homes." RVs had started to make their way into pop culture through films like 1943's What's Buzzin' Cousin? and 1953's Long Long Trailer. A decade later, a VW microbus appeared on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, just a year after Donna Reed took her fictional TV family on western vacation in a Dodge Travco RV. Also in 1962, an aging John Steinbeck hit the road in a camper named for Don Quixote's horse, in search of the American essence and whatever the country was becoming, perhaps unaware that his journey itself, and the means by which he traveled, typified the very questions he was trying to answer. Steinbeck's experience, recorded in the great travelogue Travels with Charlie, later inspired CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt to start filming America's back highways for a segment called On the Road, a project that ultimately lasted twenty years and six motorhomes. By the end of the 1960s there was no denying that RVs were firmly cemented in both mainstream family life and counterculture, as American as apple pie. A family packs up for a summer vacation in their travel trailer sometime in the 1960s © ClassicStock / Alamy Stock PhotoMotorhomes from the midcentury to today Many of the carriage manufacturers who started the RV travel trend had been put out of business by big auto decades earlier, but a new generation of RV-builders were about to become household names. Small buses and conversion vans like the VW Type 2, Westfalia Vanagon, and conversions of Dodge and Ram commercial vehicles came to the fore in the 1950s and 60s and have stayed popular to this day. Meanwhile, Winnebago released its first model in 1966, and thanks to its iconic design and affordability, the brand quickly became genericized, the company's name synonymous with RVs in general. Competitor Jayco was founded two years later, and in 1972, a small family-run building supply company in Red Bay, Alabama, purchased an ailing RV manufacturer and turned it into Tiffin Motorhomes. That was the same year the RV/MV Hall of Fame Heritage Foundation was started in Elkhart, which later developed the Hall of Fame. Barbie got her first RV in 1970, the same year the Partridge Family hit the road in a brightly painted Chevy school bus to make their first gig at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. It was just a few years before the oil crisis put a dent in the RV industry juggernaut, slowing sales. But by the 1980s, America was still in love with RVs, giving them pride of place in popular films like Space Balls, The Blues Brothers and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, proving that travel – even in far-flung galaxies – was still very much synonymous with the all-American motorhome. RVs are gaining popularity with Latinx and African American outdoor enthusiasts in recent years © Wendy Ashton / Getty ImagesIn recent years, new demographics have been getting in on RVs. As the outdoor industry diversifies, so have rentals and purchase of the recreational vehicles people use to access their favorite destinations. The popularity of the vanlife movement and a proliferation of RV influencers on YouTube and social media have contributed to RV's shedding their retirees-only image, as new generations of "schoolies" and "dirtbags" adopt vintage school busses and new models like the Dodge Ram ProMaster and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans as permanent rolling homes. Meanwhile, Volkswagen is putting the finishing touches on an all-electric version of its classic surfer van, ushering in a new, more sustainable era of RVing. Many of those now-classic brands like Coachmen and Fleetwood that became synonymous with motorhomes over fifty years ago are putting out new models with a host of features modern travelers demand, like USB chargers and faux-marble countertops. And there's been a crop of glampgrounds mushrooming around the world where guests can savor the style of vintage Airstreams and Shastas, from Hotel Caravana in the Hudson Valley to The Vintages Trailer Resort in Oregon wine country. The first century of RVing has been a long, strange trip. Fortunately, if you're still curious to learn more about how your contemporary adventure rig evolved, you can gas up your current model and head to the Old West Museum, Plains Museum, the RV/MH Hall of Fame, John Sisemore Traveland RV Museum, Steven Katkowsky Vintage Trailer Museum and beyond to see the original recreational vehicles for yourself, not to mention those gleaming space-age Tin Cans, canned hams, Winnies, toy-haulers, and everything in between. You might just run into a national park or two on the way, and see some of the places that inspired your favorite motorhomes all those years ago. This article first ran on our sister site, Lonely Planet.

    National Parks

    Current status of National Park closures due to COVID-19

    On April 2, 2020, the National Park Service has announced the closure of two more national parks, Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree due to COVID-19. A few of the major parks that are still open to visitors (with minimal services) are: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Shenadoah, and Zion. As always, please check with the National Parks website before you plan a trip, and make sure you adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines. Here is the current status of all 62 national parks as of April 3 2020: Acadia - park roads, facilities and services closed to slow spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) In support of federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), all park roads, facilities, restrooms, carriage roads, campgrounds, visitor centers and services are closed. Please call or email for park information. Arches National Park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Badlands Visitor Centers and Entrance Stations Closed as of 3/18/20 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Visitors Centers and Entrance Stations are temporarily closed. Roads/trails/campgrounds remain open Big Bend National Park Temporarily Closed No entry will be allowed into the park, except for employees, residents, and other authorized persons. Through traffic will be prohibited, as will travel on Terlingua Ranch Road within park boundaries. Until further notice. Biscayne Bay - Modification in Operations Land facilities at Convoy Point, Boca Chita, Elliott and Adams Keys are closed temporarily to public access. Visitor activities and Biscayne National Park Institute tours are suspended until further notice. Park waters remain open. Black Canyon of the Gunnison: South Rim Campground and Visitor Center Closed The South Rim Campground and Visitor Center are closed until further notice to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Bryce Canyon is Open - Though Some Facilities Have Closed Updated: Tuesday March 31, 2020, 11 am. Precautions are being taken due to the novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19). Shuttle operations will be delayed. Follow the link for the latest updates. Canyonlands National Park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Precautions are being taken due to the novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19). Follow the link for the latest updates Capitol Reef National Park is Open - Visitor Services Limited The park remains open. To support CDC recommendations, visitor services are limited. The visitor center building and the Gifford House are closed. Park staff will rove to provide information and be available by phone. The Fruita campground is closed. Carlsbad Cavern and Visitor Center are Temporarily Closed as of March 21 Following guidance from the CDC and state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, the cavern and visitor center are temporarily closed. Park roads, desert trails, and picnic areas will remain open. Channel Islands COVID-19 Park Closures The mainland visitor center is closed until further notice. The park transportation concessioner Island Packers has temporarily cancelled boat service to the islands. However, the islands are open for private boater landings. Congaree National Park Closed (4.2.2020) Congaree National Park has modified operations in order to implement the latest health guidance. Congaree National Park, including all facilities and trails, will be closed until further notice. All in-park programs are cancelled. Crater Lake National Park is Closed In accordance with Executive Order 20-12 issued by the governor of the state of Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is temporarily closed to visitors to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Highway 62 through the park remains open for travel. Cuyahoga Valley is OPEN Boston Mill Visitor Center is CLOSED until further notice. Park information is available at the kiosk outside. All programs are cancelled. Park trails, parking lots, and some restrooms in popular locations are open. Death Valley: All park facilities are CLOSED All restrooms, campgrounds, and visitor centers are closed. Some trailheads and secondary roads are closed. Denali's Visitor Centers are Closed Following guidance from the CDC and from state and local public health officials, the Winter Visitor Center, Sled Dog Kennels, and Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station are closed. Public spaces throughout the park remain open (e.g., winter trails). Dry Tortugas Islands and camping closed, no programs or services Following guidance from the CDC and federal/state/local public health authorities, Dry Tortugas National Park has temporarily closed islands and camping. Programs and concession tours are cancelled. Marine waters and both harbors remain open. Everglades Wilderness Campsites Closed Effective April 1, 2020 at 6:00 a.m., wilderness (backcountry) campsites with chickees and ground campsites will be closed until further notice. Portable toilets parkwide will also be closed. Beach campsites are open and permits are not required. Park Land Access is Closed, Programs Cancelled Land-based park access has closed to the public at Gulf Coast (Everglades City), Shark Valley, East Everglades area, and the main park road from the Homestead entrance to Flamingo. Park waters remain open for access from outside the park. Glacier National Park Is Temporarily Closed  Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health authorities in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Glacier National Park is temporarily closed. Glacier Bay Facilities Temporarily Closed As a public health precaution, Glacier Bay NPS facilities are temporarily closed to non-approved entry. To reach someone in the park please call them directly or call the park's general information line for assistance: 907-697-2230. Grand Canyon National Park Is Closed Due to Public Health Concerns (COVID-19) Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2020, 7 am. Visit the link below for details. Grand Canyon National Park is closed until further notice. Grand Teton National Park is Closed In consultation with local county health officers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Great Basin Cave Tours Temporarily Suspended, Lehman Caves Visitor Center and Campgrounds Temporarily Closed Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, cave tours, Lower Lehman Campground, and Lehman Caves Visitor Center are temporarily closed Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center is Closed and Campground Opening Delayed All outdoor spaces in the park and preserve are open. Following guidance from federal, state and local authorities, the Visitor Center is temporarily closed and the campground opening is delayed. Great Smoky Mountains Park Extends Closure to Support Regional COVID-19 Prevention Efforts Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that all park areas, except the Foothills Parkway and Spur, will remain closed until further notice. The park is likely to remain closed at least through April 30. Guadalupe Mountains is OPEN Changes in Park Operations to Protect Visitors and Employees from the Coronavirus pandemic Effective March 25th, 2020. The park will be closed to all overnight camping and backcountry camping. Visitor Center and contact stations remain closed. The park trails will remain open for day use only. Haleakalā National Park Summit Closed as of March 21, 2020. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Haleakalā National Park will temporarily close, this includes the Kīpahulu District and Summit District. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Closed In response to the latest health guidance from the CDC and actions outlined by the Governor of Hawai‘i, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is temporarily closed to all visitors until further notice. Hot Springs Gulpha Gorge Campground & picnic area temporarily closed as of Thursday, April 2, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media. Additional Information on Current Conditions Page.more info Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center is temporarily closed as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media. Additional Information on Current Conditions Page. Indiana Dunes is OPEN Temporary Closure of Buildings and Restrooms As a public health precaution, Indiana Dunes National Park buildings and restrooms are temporarily closed for the safety of staff and visitors until further notice. Check back for updates via social media and park website. Isle Royale National Park Houghton Headquarters & Visitor Center is Closed to Non-essential Visitors In response to the developing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Isle Royale National Park has closed the Houghton Visitor Center and Headquarters complex to all non-essential visitors. This closure will be evaluated daily as conditions evolve. Joshua Tree National Park is Closed In consultation with the local county health office to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Joshua Tree National Park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Kenai Fjords National Park public building closures Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health officials, the Park Headquarters building and Exit Glacier area winter public use cabin and vault toilets are closed. Public spaces will remain open. Kings Canyon is CLOSED Effective 3/25, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are temporarily closed to all visitors until further notice. CA Hwy 180 remains open for through traffic to access Forest Service land and private property. All other roads and parking lots are closed. Kobuk Valley Northwest Arctic Heritage Center Closed As a public health precaution, the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center is temporarily closed for the safety of staff and visitors as of March 16th. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media channels. Lake Clark Park Headquarters in Port Alsworth is closed indefinitely Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the NPS' goal to protect staff and visitors, the Park Headquarters is closed to the public until further notice. Staff are still working and can help you with any requests. Please call (907) 781-2218 for assistance. Lassen Volcanic National Park is Temporarily Closed Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Lassen Volcanic National Park is temporarily closed. Mammoth Cave is CLOSED The Visitor Center, Cave Tours, and Campgrounds are Closed On Tuesday, March 24, all campgrounds in the park will be closed until further notice. The park has already closed all cave tours & the visitor center in response to the CDC guidance. Surface trails are still open for hiking, biking & equestrian use. Mesa Verde National Park is temporarily closed as of sunset, March 25, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Mesa Verde National Park is temporarily closed as of sunset, March 25, 2020. Mount Ranier is CLOSED Temporary Closure of Park Facilities and Roads Following guidance from the CDC and state, local, and NPS public health officers, all park roads are closed to vehicles. Backcountry areas remain open to dispersed recreation. All park visitor centers, lodges, shops, and restaurants are closed. North Cascades NPS Complex is Temporarily Closed Effective April 3, 2020, North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area will be closed to all park visitors until further notice. SR20 will remain open to just west of the town of Newhalem. Olympic is CLOSED Temporary Closure of All Park Facilities, Roads, and Campgrounds as of March 24 Following guidance from the CDC and state, local, and NPS public health officers, and in response to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Proclamation by Washington State, park entrance roads, facilities, campgrounds and restrooms are closed. No services available Pinnacles is Closed to All Day-Use Visitation The campground remains open. Existing reservations are required to enter the park, prior to arrival. Campers must arrive between 8am-6pm. No walk-ins permitted. Previous closures remain in effect. See our News Release or social media for more information. Limited Services Available in Pinnacles National Park Following guidance from the CDC, the West side of the park, and all Nature Centers and Visitor Centers are closed. Shuttles are not be operating at this time. Trail Closures Are In Effect Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Safety Officers, the Bear Gulch Caves, Balconies Caves, and High Peaks Steep and Narrow trails are closed, effective 3/19/20. Redwood National Park is Open but Facilities and Many Roads Closed; Services Extremely Limited March 29: The park remains open but modifications to operations are in effect to slow the spread of COVID-19, including: closed facilities, limited services, and closures of many areas and roads to vehicles. Rocky Mountain National Park is temporarily closed as of March 20, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Rocky Mountain National Park is temporarily closed. Saguaro National Park Visitor Centers and Restrooms are Closed Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from public health authorities, Saguaro National Park is temporarily closing visitor centers, restrooms and all public programs. Fee collection operations are also suspended until further notice. Sequoia National Park is CLOSED Effective 3/25, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are temporarily closed to all visitors until further notice. CA Hwy 180 remains open for through traffic to access Forest Service land and private property. All other roads and parking lots are closed. Shenandoah Shenandoah National Park is open Please check our website or social media for details. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is open. Visitor Centers are temporarily closed as of March 18th. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Services, TRNP Visitor Centers are temporarily closed. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media. Virgin Islands National Park is OPEN As of March 23, 2020 the Cruz Bay Visitor Center is closed. All programs are cancelled and all restrooms are closed. Food service and watersports rental at Trunk Bay is closed and fees are not being collected. Park trails, beaches, and waters remain open. Voyageurs National Park is Still Open; Visitor Centers & Headquarters are Temporarily Closed The park remains open to visitors year-round, and we encourage visitors to get outdoors and experience the park. The Rainy Lake Visitor Center and Park Headquarters are temporarily closed. These closures will be evaluated continually as conditions evolve. White Sands National Park is temporarily closed as of Sunday, March 22, 2020. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, White Sands National Park is temporarily closed. Wind Cave National Park is OPEN Following CDC and state and local public health authority recommendations, the park visitor center and the Elk Mountain Campground are closed now through April 15. Park roads and hiking trails remain open at this time. Yellowstone National Park is closed In consultation with local county health officers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Yosemite National Park is closed Yosemite National Park has modified operations at the request of the local health department. Yosemite National Park is closed to all park visitors until further notice. Zion National Park is open Zion National Park has limited service available to the public and the park is recommending visitors comply with the Governor’s directive to temporarily discourage unnecessary travel and concentrated recreational use to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

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    FamilyBudget Travel Lists

    7 best US national parks to take your kids

    Trying to plan a family vacation in a national park can feel overwhelming. With 62 official parks in the US and counting, there are simply too many options to go down the list, one-by-one, and tick off the best options for kids. To help narrow it down, here are our top picks for family-friendly trips in some of America’s most treasured national parks. With towering trees, colorful badlands, rocky tide pools, and epic wildlife sightings, there’s something for even the pickiest city kid on this list. Death Valley is a great place for outdoorsy families to find some sun in the winter © Armin Adams / Getty Images Death Valley When to visit: Spring, fall, winter Best for: Hiking, rock scrambling, wild west history, scenic drives, car camping Whenever you read about Death Valley, you’ll often find it described as a park of superlatives. It’s the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America. It’s also the largest national park outside of Alaska by over a million acres, which means it’s a massive desert wonderland for families to explore. Most of the top attractions, though, like Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Devil’s Golf Course, Zabriskie Point and Artist’s Palette, are only a short hike from the car, and many are stroller-accessible. Furnace Creek is the main hub for lodging and food in Death Valley, with several park campgrounds and hotels like The Inn at Death Valley, The Oasis at Death Valley, and The Ranch at Death Valley, all of which have swimming pools for those scorching shoulder season visits. The best time to go to Death Valley is typically the “off season” for other parks – winter – meaning it’s a wonderful option for outdoorsy families looking to escape the snow and go on a road trip! You might also like: US national parks: how to see the best of 5 epic parks in one day each Sequoia When to visit: Summer, fall Best for: Big trees, hiking, backpacking, car camping Kids will feel like they’ve entered into Jurassic Park when they gaze up, awestruck, at the giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park. This park is all about big mountains and forest bathing, and the Parks Service has done an excellent job to making the big trees as easy-to-reach and family-friendly as possible. Take Generals Highway up from Three Rivers, then look for deer and black bears on the accessible Big Trees Trail, which circles Round Meadow. Afterwards, soak up some history and learn about the park’s flora and fauna at the Giant Forest Museum before heading off to see the General Sherman Tree. Looking to take the family on a backpacking trip? Sequoia National Park has several great treks up to stunning vistas with water sources that are under 7 miles each way. There are also seven park campgrounds for those looking to car camp, plus several more in neighboring Kings Canyon. If you’re not into roughing it, The Wuksachi Lodge, located inside the park, is dog friendly and offers a full-service restaurant. For interesting wildlife and beach camping, head to the Everglades © Stefanie Grewel / Getty Images Everglades When to visit: Spring, fall, winter Best for: Wildlife viewing, boat tours, beach camping, car camping Because they’re located on the southernmost tip of Florida, the Everglades stay warm and tropical year-round, making them a prime spot for snowbirds looking to escape the frigid winter up north. Kids will love the guided airboat safaris that help visitors spot native birds and cruise right up to the park’s most notorious resident – the alligator. Stick around after the boat ride to catch a wildlife show, included with your ticket. Everglades National Park offers two drive-in campgrounds for car camping and multiple backcountry tent sites, though families looking for epic beach access, a restaurant, and a pool will want to rent a car and stay in nearby Miami, which is only a one-hour drive from the park. Yellowstone When to visit: Summer, fall Best for: Geyser gazing, wildlife viewing, car camping, hiking Imagine the look on your child’s face the first time they see the face of a 2,000-pound bison walking alongside the car. That’s the magic of Yellowstone National Park. There’s wildlife galore, ample lodging options, and many top sights require only a short stroll to reach. The multi-use trail that circumnavigates Yellowstone’s infamous Geyser Basin and Old Faithful is fully accessible for those with strollers or mobility issues and is a must see for any first-time visitor. As for lodging, Yellowstone has got you covered. With nine hotel/cabin facilities and twelve campgrounds located inside the park itself, there’s something to suit everyone’s needs. We love the historic Old Faithful Inn, finished in 1904, which features live music, a full-service restaurant, and easy access to the park’s celebrity geysers. You might also like: National Parks: 11 ways to be sustainable in Yellowstone Acadia National Park has a great Jr. Ranger program and plenty of family-friendly hikes © Jerry Monkman / Getty Images Acadia When to visit: Summer, fall Best for: Tide pools, scenic drives, fall foliage, hiking, biking, car camping With one of the most unique Junior Ranger programs in the U.S. park system, Acadia is a fantastic place to bring ocean-loving little ones. Hop onto a ranger-guided boat cruise, search for seals, and touch real sea life brought up from the water below, then head to the Carroll Homestead for pioneer games and an official Junior Ranger booklet and badge. Looking to expend some energy? Acadia also has 125 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of historic carriage roads, suitable for biking or those with strollers. As for accommodations, Acadia offers three NPS campgrounds that book up far in advance during summer months and fall weekends. For hotels, check out nearby Bar Harbor, with options galore, many of which have heated swimming pools and a spa to pamper tired parents. Grand Canyon When to visit: Spring, fall Best for: Scenic drives, hiking, backpacking, car camping The Grand Canyon is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list family road trips that should be on everyone’s radar. The park features one of the most robust paved trails in the entire park system, the 13-mile accessible South Rim Trail, which is virtually flat and perfect for strollers and kids of all ages. Start at the Bright Angel Lodge and continue onto the interpretive Trail of Time, where children can touch samples of rocks and learn about the unique geology of the area. Families who don’t want to hike out and back can hop onto a shuttle bus at the end of the journey and ride it back to the lodge. Horseback riding and mule tours are also a great way to explore the rich history of the canyon. Though backpacking down to the Colorado River is rated as strenuous and not suitable for small kids, Grand Canyon National Park offers three car-friendly campgrounds, two of which can be reserved in advance. Those looking to splurge on a full-service hotel within the park’s boundaries will want to book early and check out the historic Bright Angel Lodge or the panoramic views at the El Tovar Hotel. You might also like: The Grand Canyon: how to get the most from a short trip Carlsbad Caverns When to visit: Year-round Best for: Caving, bat viewing, short hikes Crawl, hike, and shimmy through spectacular, underground rock cathedrals at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. With cave tours (open to ages 4 and up) spanning anywhere from one to five hours, there’s adventure to suit everyone’s attention span and ability level here. Stick around for sunset for a real treat, though. Every evening during the summer, thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats soar out of the mouth of the cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It’s a breathtaking natural wonder, and a ranger-lead talk helps explain this unique wildlife phenomenon to visitors of all ages. Though only primitive, backcountry camping is available within the park’s boundaries, nearby Carlsbad, New Mexico offers plentiful kid-friendly hotel options, many of which have a pool and free breakfast buffet.

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    DESTINATION IN Florida

    Miami

    Miami (), officially the City of Miami, is a coastal metropolis located in Miami-Dade County in southeastern Florida, United States. With a population of 442,241 as of the 2020 census, it is the 44th-largest city in the United States and the core of the nation's eighth-largest metropolitan area. The city has the third-largest skyline in the U.S. with over 300 high-rises, 58 of which exceed 491 ft (150 m).Miami is a major center and leader in finance, commerce, culture, arts, and international trade. The metro area is by far the largest urban economy in Florida and the 12th largest in the United States, with a GDP of $344.9 billion as of 2017. In 2020, Miami was classified as a Beta + level global city by the GaWC. In 2019, Miami ranked seventh in the United States and 31st among global cities in business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement. According to a 2018 UBS study of 77 world cities, the city was ranked as the third-richest in the world and the second-richest in the United States in purchasing power. Miami is nicknamed the "Capital of Latin America" and is one of the largest majority-minority cities in the United States with over 72.7% of the population being of Hispanic and Latino descent.Greater Downtown Miami has one of the largest concentrations of international banks in the United States, and is home to many large national and international companies. The Health District, home to Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami among others, is a major center for hospitals, clinics, and the biotechnology and medical research industries. PortMiami is the busiest cruise port in the world in both passenger traffic and cruise lines, and refers to itself as the "Cruise Capital of the World". Miami is also a major tourism hub for international visitors, ranking second in the country after New York City.Miami continues to contend with a range of challenges affecting the metropolitan area, including significant and rising levels of traffic, continued rapid commercial development and urban sprawl as well as rising levels of crime. A significant risk to Miami as well as the state of Florida arises from environmental factors including hurricanes and other tropical storms, rising sea levels and the ongoing impact of climate change on the coastal areas of the city.

    DESTINATION IN Florida

    Fort Lauderdale

    Fort Lauderdale () is a city in the U.S. state of Florida, 25 miles (40 km) north of Miami. It is the county seat and largest city of Broward County. As of 2019 census bureau estimates, the city has an estimated population of 182,437. Fort Lauderdale is a principal city of the Miami metropolitan area, which was home to an estimated 6,198,782 people in 2018.The city is a popular tourist destination, and Yachting Capital of the World, with an average year-round temperature of 75.5 °F (24.2 °C) and 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. Greater Fort Lauderdale, encompassing all of Broward County, hosted 13 million overnight visitors in 2018. There were over 560 hotels and nearly 36,000 hotel rooms. From that, the county collected nearly $87 million from its 5% hotel development tax it charges. Additionally, 3.89 million cruise passengers passed through its Port Everglades, making it the 3rd largest cruise port in the world. Greater Fort Lauderdale has over 4,000 restaurants, 63 golf courses, 12 shopping malls, 16 museums, 132 nightclubs, 278 parkland campsites, and 100 marinas housing 45,000 resident yachts.Fort Lauderdale is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the Second Seminole War. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale (1782–1838), younger brother of Lieutenant Colonel James Lauderdale. William Lauderdale was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort. Development of the city did not begin until 50 years after the forts were abandoned at the end of the conflict. Three forts named "Fort Lauderdale" were constructed: the first was at the fork of the New River, the second was at Tarpon Bend on the New River between the present-day Colee Hammock and Rio Vista neighborhoods, and the third was near the site of the Bahia Mar Marina.