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Celebrate Labor Day with these last-minute deals
It’s been a long, hot summer and Americans have certainly been hitting the road — according to a recent survey by TripIt, 82 percent said they’d already traveled in the last three months while 98 percent said they had plans to within the next year. If you are going to be traveling, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends not doing so unless you’re fully vaccinated, following travel health guidelines at your destination, and taking extra precautions if you haven’t been vaccinated. Play it safe — wash your hands, and wear a mask and keep your distance anytime you’re indoors or spending time with those outside your group. If you’re ready for a road trip or seeking a staycation closer to home this holiday weekend, there are still deals to be had. Here’s where to celebrate Labor Day weekend this year, with all hotels within driving distance of major U.S. cities and prices under $260 a night (based on a three-night stay from Friday, September 3, to Monday, September 6, 2021). Delaware Thanks to Southern Delaware’s Bike & Stay specials, you can spend your days cycling along scenic trails to local breweries, restaurants, distilleries and shops, and your nights at charming boutiques in Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Milton or Dewey Beach. Mention the “Bike & Stay” package when booking through a participating hotel — paddle & stay packages are also available for those who prefer kayaking. Washington, D.C. Two popular hotels near Dupont Circle are offering summertime deals, which works out perfectly if you’re planning to be in town for DC JazzFest. The Summer of Lyle package (at Lyle) includes valet parking, daily breakfast, complimentary welcome drinks and soft serve ice cream, with rates from $246 a night over Labor Day weekend. Nearby, The Ven at Embassy Row’s Soak Up the Sun package gives you two signature cocktails, sunscreen, koozies and access to a viewing of the film “Dodgeball” as part of the hotel’s rooftop movie program, from $249 a night. Virginia Unwind in style with Colonial Williamsburg Resorts’ Spa Escape Package, which, from $254 a night, includes overnight accommodations, two tickets to Colonial Williamsburg’s museums and historical exhibits, up to $350 in resort outlet coupons, and your choice of a 50-minute massage or a 50-minute facial. In southern Virginia, The Bristol Hotel has packages from $245 a night including daily breakfast at Vivian’s Table (the golf package also throws in two Turtleson golf shirts and tee time at a local 18-hole luxury golf course), while business travelers can save with rates from $189 a night and daily breakfast. South Carolina While nightly rates at The Caravelle Resort start at an affordable $145 over the holiday weekend, families with flexible travel dates can save more on a Myrtle Beach trip by staying Sunday through Thursday, when prices shrink to $65 a night. Tennessee In Memphis, the Somewhere Your Summer Deserves package at the Hu Hotel, available now through September 30, 2021, gives you daily breakfast at Lucy’s Café and 20 percent off stays of at least two nights, bringing starting rates over Labor Day weekend down to $252 a night. Mississippi Not all heroes wear capes. In Gulfport’s Centennial Plaza complex, the Grand Centennial Hotel is honoring all teachers, healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, AMR ambulance and military personnel with a 10 percent hero discount, meaning Labor Day weekend rates start at $207 a night (starting rates for everyone else start at $229 a night). Spend some time relaxing on the beach — if you can tear yourself away from the lazy river, slides, pools, and dancing fountain. Ohio Moxy Columbus Short North is offering rates from $146 a night when you book five or more nights, so spending an extra-long weekend from Thursday, September 2 to Tuesday, September 7, could be a great staycation option. The Moxy is pet friendly, too, so you can take the whole family along, including your beloved fur baby. Indiana Vera Bradley fans, rejoice! Just opened in July 2021, The Bradley in Fort Wayne offers a chic Midwestern staycation option about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis or a 2.5-hour drive from Detroit. Labor Day weekend rates hover around $157 a night, making it a great base for checking out the city’s concerts and other events. Missouri Save 15 percent on a Kansas City stay and get Labor Day weekend started off right with the Crossroads Hotel’s Somewhere Your Summer Deserves package. Nightly rates start at $239 and include two complimentary koozies, two ice-cold PBRs and two frozen cocktails at the hotel’s swanky Percheron Rooftop Bar. Texas In San Antonio, Hotel Valencia Riverwalk is offering 15 percent off stays of at least two nights, bringing starting rates over the long weekend down to $229 a night. The hotel is right in the heart of downtown and makes a great base for checking out the historic Pearl District, The Alamo, and the San Antonio Museum of Art, among other popular attractions. Don’t miss the Ford Parade of Lanterns, happening along the River Walk from September 3–5 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wisconsin About a two-hour drive from Milwaukee or Madison (or a 40-minute drive from Green Bay), Fox Cities is a fun place to plan an affordable long-weekend getaway, especially if you want to spend time outdoors on Lake Winnebago. CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel & Spa, part of Best Western’s boutique Premier Collection, puts you in the middle of all the Appleton action with rates from $107 a night. About 15 minutes away in Neenah, kick back at the Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel, which offers family friendly amenities like a water park, mini-golf course, an arcade and pickleball and tennis courts, with rates from $161 a night. Arizona Two hotels in Scottsdale are offering summertime specials just in time for Labor Day weekend. Downtown, nightly rates at The Saguaro Scottsdale start at $125 for a king room with a private balcony when you use promo code Saguaro, while stays of three or more nights are 30 percent off, with rates from $128 a night (use the same promo code). Nearby, Hotel Adeline has a daily happy hour deal that includes two cocktails and appetizers at SelfMade, from $209 a night. Families planning outdoorsy adventures in northern Arizona should check out Hyatt Place Page / Lake Powell’s Sweet Summer Fun package, which throws in a candy charcuterie board with fresh fruit and a mix of sweet, sour and spicy locally made candy; s’mores; and a water toy for children ages 12 and under; with Labor Day weekend rates from $219 a night. Another hiking-themed package, from $239 a night, includes a map to some of the most scenic spots in the area and a picnic lunch for two, complete with sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, chips and water. California Save 20 percent on a stay at the Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs when you book three or more nights this summer and use promo code SZCOOL. Rates over Labor Day weekend start at $182 a night, giving you the perfect excuse to visit one of Palm Springs’ newest hotels. For a real treat, visit the St. Somewhere Spa or try some craft cocktails at the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar.
50 Budget-Friendly Black Friday and Cyber Monday Travel Deals
Whether you’re planning a staycation or an epic adventure, these Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals will help you do it for less, with rates starting under $200 per night and most travel dates extending through 2021. Note that blackout dates apply, most properties and tour companies have flexible cancellation policies and some links won’t be active until sales begin on November 27, 2020. Vacation Packages and Guided Tours Amtrak Vacations: This year’s round of “Track Friday” specials includes savings of up to $300 per couple on National Parks Rail Vacations and up to $300 per couple on private sleeper upgrades when you book at least five nights November 26–30 and travel in 2021. Apple Vacations & FunJet Vacations: Book November 25–December 3 for travel through October 31, 2021 to save up to $175 on trips of at least two nights within the continental U.S. (use promo code BLACKFRIYAY5) or up to $500 on trips of at least three nights to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Caribbean (use promo code BLACKFRIYAY4). Booking.com: Make up for lost time and book hotels through the site or app now through December 1 to save at least 30% when you travel by December 31, 2021. Cheap Caribbean: Save up to 75% on trips booked through December 1 for travel through December 2021. You’ll also save $75 on trips of at least five nights (use promo code CYBER75 and travel by December 31, 2020), $150 on trips of five to six nights (use promo code CYBER150 and travel January 1–December 31, 2021) and $250 on trips of at least seven nights (use promo code CYBER250 and travel January 1–December 31, 2021). Contiki: Now through December 3, travelers ages 18–35 can save 30% on tours happening April 1, 2021–October 31, 2022. Just make a deposit during the Cyber Sale and pay off the rest of it by March 31, 2021. Expedia: Save up to 50% on hotels and attractions all over the world by booking now through December 1—plus an extra 12% if you use the Expedia app—and traveling by September 12, 2021. Friendly Planet Travel: You’ll be able to save up to $1,300 per person on more than 60 guided tours including round-trip airfare, luxury accommodations and most meals by booking November 30–December 7 with a $99 deposit. G Adventures: Save up to 21% on select trips from January 1–December 21, 2121 when you make a deposit of $1 now through November 30. Pay the full deposit amount by January 31, 2021 and the rest of your trip fees at least 60 days prior to departure (120 days ahead for Expedition tours). Intrepid Travel: Save 20% on all international trips and 10% on all domestic trips when you book now through December 1 for travel January 1–December 15, 2021. Toucan Travel: Adventure travel fans can save 35% on 12 of Toucan Travel’s most popular guided tours by booking now through December 8. Best of all, travel dates extend through 2021 and 2022 so there’s plenty of time to plan your perfect trip. Hotels in the U.S. Aparium Hotel Group: Seeking a boutique hotel staycation? Look no further than the Crossroads Hotel in Kansas City, Detroit Foundation Hotel in Michigan, Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis, Hotel Hava in Tampa, the Surety Hotel in Des Moines and the MC Hotel in Montclair, New Jersey. Receive a $50 food and beverage credit each night when you use promo code THANKS, book November 27–30 and visit by February 28, 2021. Carter Hospitality Group Winery Resorts: Save 20% at Carter’s family-owned resorts in Temecula, California, and Texas Hill Country and receive a welcome bottle of wine when you book by December 1 and stay by September 12, 2021. Hyatt: Book a stay at Hyatt’s participating properties by December 6 and get 20% off when you stay by April 4, 2021. Sign up for the World of Hyatt loyalty program, as members can save 22% and earn rewards toward future stays. Kimpton: Sign up for IHG Rewards Club, then reserve a night at one of Kimpton’s hotels now through December 7 for travel through September 7, 2021 to save 25%. Kimpton’s also donating $5 per night to No Kid Hungry, so you’ll be helping to end childhood hunger while taking a much-needed break. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts: Save 25% on stays at more than 9,000 hotels in 90 countries with this week-long mobile app flash sale starting November 24. Download the app, enroll in the Wyndham Rewards loyalty program and book at least two nights by December 1 for travel through January 18, 2021. California Paso Robles Inn: Just 3.5 hours from Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Paso Robles Inn is offering savings of 40% on stays through May 27, 2021 when you book by December 2. You’ll also save 15% on gift certificates to the hotel, its sister property The Piccolo, Terro Rooftop Bar and The Piper Wine Bar. Casa Secoya: Use promo code BLACKFRIDAY to save 25% on stays through April 1, 2021 at this charming dog-friendly abode in Monte Rio, located along the Bohemian Highway and Russian River in Sonoma County. Pacifica Hotels: Plan a California coast staycation at one of 30 independent boutique hotels—and save 45% when you book November 27–30 and travel by March 31, 2021. The Meritage Collection: Save 21% on two-night Napa Valley stays, score a $21 daily food and beverage credit and donate $21 to the First Responders Children’s Foundation when you book by December 1 and stay by April 30, 2021. Fishing: Monterey Bay is an ideal fishing spot for finding "big fish" (Western Outdoor News). Embark from Old Fisherman's Wharf with J&M Sport Fishing and save more than 30% on a fishing trip. Colorado The Curtis: Plan a staycation in Downtown Denver at this retro-chic hotel known for its hyper-themed rooms. Track down limited rates from $53 a night during its Black Friday sale, happening November 27–30. Florida El Paseo: This charming Miami-meets-Mediterranean hotel, located along Española Way in South Beach, is offering 40% off stays in 2021 when you book now through December 4. Plunge Beach Resort: Use promo code Save50 to save 50% at this chic Lauderdale-By-The-Sea resort. Just book via the website (or call 754-312-5775) by December 1, 2020 and plan to stay Sunday through Thursday in 2021. Provident Hotels & Resorts: Save 25% at Crystal Palms Suites, Oceana Beachfront Suites and Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites in Treasure Island—located about 20 minutes from St. Petersburg and 40 minutes from Tampa—when you book November 27–December 4 for trips through December 23, 2021. Club Med: Save 60% off at amenity-packed resorts in the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida. Hawaii Kauai Beach Resort save more than $400 on regular rates and puts you in a remodeled room. Plus, with availability through June 2021, there's plenty of time to pack your bags and decide when to treat yourself to a Hawaiian escape. Massachusetts Hotel Commonwealth: Treat yourself to a staycation in Boston, with rates from $106 a night, complimentary parking and 6 p.m. check-out. Just use promo code Cyber6, book November 27–November 30 and visit by March 31, 2021. New Jersey Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa: Atlantic City lovers can save 10% and receive a $20 food and beverage credit by booking November 30–December 5 for stays through March 31, 2021. The Asbury Hotel: Head to Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore, where you’ll save 20% for one night, 30% for two nights, 40 for three nights and 50% for four nights. Use promo code MERRIER on November 27 to book stays through April 30, 2021. New York The James New York–NoMad: Save 50% on a trip to this NYC institution, located in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, by booking your stay before December 7 and visiting through December 31, 2021. The Naples Hotel: Looking for an affordable wine-filled escape to the Finger Lakes? Use promo code NHBF2020, book November 27–30 and visit by April 30, 2021 to save 25% on one night. Note that a two-night minimum stay is required for weekend trips. North Carolina The Monte Vista Hotel: Whether you want a cozy winter getaway, refreshing spring escape or an early summer trip, you'll save nearly 35%. This cozy mountain retreat is a short walk from the local shops, museums and restaurants of Black Mountain and offers easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway Oregon LOGE Bend 45% off at the newly opened LOGE Bend. Did we mention it’s valid from ski season into early spring and weekends are also included? Rhode Island The Wayfinder Hotel: Save 30% on rooms booked November 30–December 6 when you stay by December 31, 2021. Hammetts Hotel: It’s a buy-one-get-one-free sale at Hammetts Hotel in Newport. Book your stay November 27–December 1, either by using this link or calling 401-324-7500 and visit by April 29, 2021. Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina: Save 50% on suites and 40% on hotel rooms when you book now through December 1 and stay visit by December 30, 2021. Providence Marriott Downtown: Enjoy perks like 2 p.m. late check-out, complimentary parking and two 30-minute spa treatments at the onsite G. Salon & Spa, plus rates from $199 a night when you book November 25–December 1. Note that stays must happen Tuesday–Sunday through February 28, 2021. Texas Hilton Anatole Dallas: Save 20% on Breakfast with Santa packages, with rates from $187 per night when you book through this link from November 27–30. You’ll get 1 p.m. check-out, a special breakfast for two adults and two children with the man himself and access to other holiday events happening at the hotel. Vermont Hotel Vermont: Enjoy an escape to Burlington with rates from $159 a night when you book on November 30 for stays January 1–April 30, 2021. You’ll also receive a welcome drink at onsite restaurant Juniper, one of the best places in town to find locally sourced meals. Virginia The Alexandrian: For a fun getaway from Washington, D.C., head to nearby Alexandria, and save 20% on stays from December 3, 2020 to March 31, 2021 when you book now through November 30 via this link. Sessions Hotel: Close to the Virginia and Tennessee border in Bristol, Virginia, this stunning Marriott property is offering king rooms from $129 per night with a $25 gift card to Southern Craft, its onsite BBQ restaurant. Book “The Winter Getaway” by calling 276-285-5040 November 27–30 and staying December 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021. Lansdowne Resort & Spa: About 45 minutes from Washington, D.C. in Leesburg, Virginia, Lansdowne Resort & Spa is a great place to unwind. Save 30% on stays in 2021 with promo code BFCM when you book November 27–30. Hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean AMResorts: Save on stays at more than 60 all-inclusive hotels and resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico, with rates starting at $55 per night at Sunscape Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, $68 per night at Sunscape Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa and $92 per night at Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa, among a host of other offerings. While travel dates vary, most can be booked for stays through December 22, 2021. Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts: Enjoy 75% off your next all-inclusive stay in the Caribbean, Mexico or Spain when you book now through December 3 and travel by December 17, 2021. You’ll also score $1,200 worth of resort credits for four-night stays or $1,630 in resort credits for seven-night stays, which can be used toward spa treatments, room upgrades, meals, golf and other perks. Karisma Hotels & Resorts: This year’s Mystery Mexico Sale lets you save up to 80% with rates at adult-only all-inclusives in Riviera Maya and Cancún from $99 per person per night and family resorts from $129 per person per night. Book now through December 5 and travel anytime in 2021. Renaissance Curaçao: Stay in the heart of Willemstad on your next trip to Curaçao with this deal that saves you up to 20% on stays through December 21, 2021 when you book November 27–30. Jungle Bay Dominica: This deal saves you 5% and brings starting rates at the luxury wellness resort down to $203 per night when you book November 27–December 26 and travel by May 1, 2021. Saint Lucia’s Cyber Monday Sale: Save up to 60% and receive complimentary upgrades and other perks at 17 participating properties, each with its own booking and travel dates, deals, promo codes and minimum-night stay requirements. Affordable options include Bay Gardens Hotel (from $82 a night), Bay Gardens Inn (from $87 a night), Bay Gardens Marina Haven (from $92 a night), Harbor Club (from $131 a night), Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort (from $141 a night) and Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa (from $152 a night). Ocean Club Resorts: Every third night booked at this Turks and Caicos haven November 27–30 is free as long as you reserve more than two nights, travel March 1–December 18, 2021 and use promo code BFCM.
The 10 best day trips in the US Midwest
In the Midwest, you’ll find friendly small towns as well as urban sprawls. Roll call for the region's cities starts with Chicago, which unfurls what is arguably the country's mightiest skyline. In Cleveland, the best action is in its walkable neighborhoods. Detroit rocks, plain and simple. Day trips in this region have everything from parks and museums to architectural delights to breweries. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Best day trips from Chicago Indiana Dunes National LakeshoreAt the southern tip of Lake Michigan, 15 miles of white-sand dunes and more than 50 miles of trails await outdoor adventurers. At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, you can swim, bike, fish, ski or hike, depending on the season – or camp overnight from April to October. Beaches fill up fast in the summer, so arrive early to pick the best spot. 1hr 10min by car. Lakefront walking path in Lake Geneva ©Sandy Swanson/Shutterstock Lake Geneva Shore Path, Wisconsin You’ll find something fascinating along just about any stretch of this nearly 26-mile path, which was originally forged to link Native American villages. It winds past excellent lake views, wooded stretches and beautiful estates. Strike out in either direction from Lake Geneva Library for the easiest route. 2hr by car. Windmill Island Gardens, Holland, MichiganGet a taste of Dutch life in delightfully kitschy Windmill Island Gardens. The top attraction in the aptly named town of Holland, this 36-acre park contains gardens, dykes, canals, picnic areas and, of course, a giant windmill imported from the Netherlands in 1964. In the spring, more than 100,000 blooming tulips draw admiring crowds to town. 2hr 20min by car. Illinois is a great base to explore Frank Lloyd Wright's designs ©Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock Racine, WisconsinArchitecture aficionados shouldn’t miss Racine, which is home to several notable Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Manufacturer SC Johnson is based here, and its third-generation CEO commissioned Wright to build not only his home, Wingspread, but also the administration building and research tower for SC Johnson itself. 2hr 20min by car. See more day trips from Chicago. Best day trips from Detroit Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, DearbornPlunge into American history. The indoor Henry Ford Museum contains a wealth of American culture, such as the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, the limo in which Kennedy was killed and the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The adjacent outdoor Greenfield Village features Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers’ airplane workshop. 30min by car. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand RapidsThe 158-acre gardens feature impressive blooms and hulking works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and others. The sculpture park offers paths and lawns bejeweled with works by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Claes Oldenburg and Anish Kapoor. The five-story glass conservatory bursts with tropical plants. The children’s garden provides lots to smell, touch and dig into. The tranquil Japanese Garden is another highlight. 2hr 30min by car. Sample the craft beer at the breweries in Kalamazoo ©blizzard_77/Getty Images Breweries, KalamazooKalamazoo has an offbeat charm that will surprise first-time visitors. But it’s the local beer that has got people talking; over a dozen breweries produce a huge range of them. The leader is Bell’s Brewery, one of the top craft breweries in the country. 2hr 40min by train. See more day trips from Detroit. Best day trips from Cleveland Cuyahoga Valley National Park has several waterfalls and hiking trails ©fdastudillo/Getty Images Cuyahoga Valley National ParkLike a great, cold snake, the Cuyahoga River worms over a forested valley, earning its Native American name of "crooked river" (or possibly "place of the jawbone"). Either name is evocative, and hints at the mystical beauty that Cuhayoga Valley National Park engenders on a cool morning, when the mists thread the woods and all you hear is the honk of Canadian geese and the fwup-fwup-whoosh of a great blue heron flapping over its hunting grounds. 30min by car. Fast action thrills of a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point ©AWelshLad/Getty Images Cedar Point, SanduskyCedar Point on Lake Erie is one of the world’s top amusement parks, known for its 17 adrenaline-pumping roller coasters. Stomach-droppers include the Top Thrill Dragster, among the globe’s tallest and fastest rides. It climbs 420ft into the air before plunging and whipping around at 120mph. The Valravn is the world’s longest ‘dive’ coaster, dropping riders at a 90-degree angle for 214ft. Check the park’s opening times before planning a visit. 1hr by car. Topiary Park, ColumbusIf you’ve ever thought, "I wonder what Georges Seurat’s post-impressionist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte would look like made out of yew trees," this park is for you. A local sculptor and his green-thumb wife created the Topiary Park some 30 years ago to brighten a neglected patch of downtown. Today you can wander around seven acres and admire the 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, monkey and cat carved from shrubs to resemble Seurat’s famous painting. 2hr by car.
Delta turns flight around because passengers refused to wear a mask
Last week, a Delta Airlines flight out of Detroit had to return to the gate after two passengers aboard refused to wear a mask. A spokesperson for Delta stated that the "customers in question were removed due to non-compliance with Delta’s mask requirement." Delta's website states the current mask policy as this:Delta customers and employees are required to wear a face mask, or appropriate cloth face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their travel, aligning with best practice guidelines from the CDC, opens in a new window. Plastic face shields may be used in addition to a mask but are not approved mask replacements. Any mask with an exhaust valve is not approved as an acceptable face mask for customers traveling on any Delta operated flight. Face coverings will be required across all Delta touchpoints: Lobby Check-in Delta Sky Clubs Boarding Gate Areas Jet Bridges On board the aircraft for the duration of the flight – except during meal service Usage is strongly encouraged in high-traffic areas, including security lines and restrooms.
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.
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
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