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The Top 5 Lakes to Visit for Memorial Day Weekend

As Memorial Day approaches, signaling the unofficial start of summer, HomeToGo, the marketplace with the world’s largest selection of vacation rentals, has unveiled its ‘Lake it Easy’ Index. Highlighting the nation’s top spots for stays by the water over the holiday weekend, the index casts a wide net to identify ideal lakeside destinations across the country, based on criteria such as accommodation price, popularity, lake size, and weather conditions. Noting strong last-minute demand, HomeToGo recorded a 54% month-on-month increase in overall search volume from March to April for vacation rental stays in the U.S. over Memorial Day. “Each year, families and friends venture to waterfront destinations to kickstart summer over Memorial Day weekend—and in 2024, we've observed a trend of travelers organizing their celebrations at the eleventh hour. Alongside a surge in short-notice demand, our data shows a noteworthy 16% decrease in the median nightly price for a vacation rental over the Memorial Day weekend based on searches carried out in April versus March – suggesting that there are deals and savings to be found for those who prefer to plan spontaneously,” said Eleanor Moody, HomeToGo Spokesperson and Travel Expert. “Featuring lakeside destinations across the country, our comprehensive index was created to guide and inspire travelers to plan a relaxing lakeside getaway, just in time for the day of remembrance.” Destinations across 12 states in total are featured, with Tennessee, California, North Carolina, and Utah leading the way. To rank each of the 24 lakeside spots, HomeToGo researched the following four key indicators, compiling scores based on the findings: Price Score (the median nightly price for a vacation rental on HomeToGo; the lower the median price per night, the higher the score); Popularity Score (the search volume for vacation rental stays on HomeToGo; the higher the search volume, the higher the score); Size Score (the lake surface area in acres for each destination; the larger the lake, the higher the score); and Weather Score (the average maximum temperatures for the months of May and June; the higher the temperature, the higher the score). Travelers dreaming of a warm, budget-friendly lakeside Memorial Day getaway can find HomeToGo’s full 2024 ‘Lake it Easy’ Index here. #5 High Rock Lake, North Carolina Price Score: 8.63, Popularity Score: 5.33, Size Score: 6.07, Weather Score: 8.40; Total: 28.43 Nestled in the Piedmont region, High Rock Lake invites guests to tranquil waters ideal for fishing, tubing, and watching the sun set. Don't miss the nearby town of Lexington, touted as the "Barbecue Capital of the World". Median nightly price for a vacation home: $295.38. Find a High Rock Lake rental. #4 Bear Lake, Utah/Idaho Bear Lake - courtesy of HometoGo / Getty Images Price Score: 5.00, Popularity Score: 7.10, Size Score: 10.00, Weather Score: 6.60; Total: 28.70 Dubbed the "Caribbean of the Rockies," Bear Lake dazzles with its turquoise waters and sandy beaches. Straddling the Utah-Idaho border, it's a hotspot for trout fishing. Travelers can enjoy life on the bright blue waters and participate in a handful of water sports like jet skiing, boating, and swimming. Of the featured destinations, it boasts the largest acreage. Median nightly price for a vacation home: $479.52. Find a Bear Lake rental. #3 Lake Lure, North Carolina Lake Lure - courtesy of HometoGo / Getty Images Price Score: 6.06, Popularity Score: 9.93, Size Score: 5.03, Weather Score: 8.20; Total: 29.22 Tucked in Hickory Nut Gorge, Lake Lure offers serene boat tours, refreshing swims, and sun-soaked shores. Venture to nearby Chimney Rock State Park for hiking trails and breathtaking cliff-top views. Median nightly price for a vacation home: $425.52. Find a Lake Lure rental. #2 Shasta Lake, California Shasta Lake - courtesy of HometoGo Price Score: 10.00, Popularity Score: 5.29, Size Score: 7.10, Weather Score: 8.60; Total: 30.99 Emerald waters and cascading mountains frame Shasta Lake, a haven for houseboating, fishing, and hiking in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Explore miles of shoreline and hidden waterfalls in this majestic outdoor playground. Shasta Lake, California is also home to the most budget-friendly accommodations for the two weeks surrounding Memorial Day weekend. Median nightly price for a vacation home: $225.72. Find a Shasta Lake rental. #1 Douglas Lake, Tennessee Douglas Lake - courtesy of HometoGo / Getty Images Price Score: 5.02, Popularity Score: 10.00, Size Score: 7.18, Weather Score: 8.80; Total: 31.00 Douglas Lake enchants with its Smoky Mountain backdrop, offering endless water sports and trophy-sized bass fishing. Discover secluded coves (perfect for picnics or birdwatching) while hiking its scenic surrounding trails. Median nightly price for a vacation home: $478.44. Find a Douglas Lake rental.Honorable Mentions: The South leads the way While the top 5 lakes ranked the highest, lakes in the Southeastern US had an impressive showing in the top 10. These lakes are not to be excluded if you're still trying to find the perfect retreat: Lake Placid, Florida (#6); Lake Sinclair, Georgia (#7); Center Hill Lake, Tennessee (#8); Lake Burton, Georgia (#9); and Lake Jocassee, South Carolina (#10). —For a complete breakdown of the methodology and all 24 destinations in the 2024 Lake It Easy Index, read the full report here. MEDIA NOTE: Hi-res images can be found HERE.

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Fall In Love: Where to Find Tennessee's Best Waterfalls

Tennessee is an excellent state to visit this summer if you're looking to book an outdoor adventure full of hiking, camping, kayaking, and exploring. Below are some of the more beautiful and majestic waterfalls in the Volunteer State. Plan a trip to see one or more of these amazing sights. Tall Falls: Fall Creek Falls Spencer's Fall Creek Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States at an awe-inspiring 256 feet. You'll find the falls located in one of Tennessee's largest and most-visited state park, Fall Creek Falls State Park, with 29,800 pristine acres. Make your way to one of several scenic outlooks, feel the spray and soak up the views. A Mighty Roar: Abrams Falls Abrams Falls in the fall - courtesy of Natalie Strong There are taller waterfalls in Tennessee — but Abrams Falls might be the loudest. Standing at 20 feet tall, the water cascades with a mighty roar into the pools below. You'll hear it before you see it! Located in the legendary Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Abrams is ideal for hikers; you'll take a round trip of five miles of moderate to difficult terrain, including a few narrow (but fun!) log bridges. Bring your best hiking shoes! Easy To See: Bald River Falls Don't feel like hiking? No problem. You can get an eyeful of the 90-foot Bald River Falls in Cherokee National Forest from the comfort of your car. But if you want to stretch your legs a bit, trails take hikers high above the falls along the Bald River Gorge. However you see it, this spot is truly spectacular year-round, with nature lovers and photographers flocking to enjoy its majesty. Waterfall for All: Cummins Falls Cummins Falls in Cookeville, TN - courtesy of TNVacation.com Nine miles north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, Cummins Falls State Park has been a summer favorite amongst Tennesseans for over a century now. But in 2024, things are getting even better. The park just unveiled a 3,600 sq. ft. ADA accessible overlook at the end of the .4-mile Falls Overlook Trail, providing easy access for wheelchair users to enjoy the 75-foot-tall Cummins Falls. Good to know: Gorge Access Permits are required to access the gorge — reserve yours here.Make a Splash: Greeter Falls Located within the scenic Savage Gulf State Park in Palmer, Greeter Falls boasts a lovely 15-foot upper ledge that flows freely over a 50-foot lower ledge. The water ends up in a plunge pool that provides the perfect opportunity for cooling off in during summer's hotter days. Be cautious, however — there are no lifeguards on duty! Good to know: Between them, the nearby South Cumberland State Park and Savage Gulf State Park have several major waterfalls, and many smaller ones. Tennessee Jungle: Lost Creek Falls Lost Creek State Natural Area in Sparta, TN by Brice Cooper - Unsplash Fun fact: Lost Creek Falls (located in Lost Creek State Natural Area) was one of a handful of Tennessee filming locations in the 1994 version of Disney's beloved The Jungle Book. Once you see it, you'll understand why Mowgli and Baloo felt so at home here. Surrounded by lush ferns and flowers in the summer, Lost Creek Falls drop dramatically 40 feet from a large spring before disappearing mysteriously into underground caverns. Hidden Historic Gem: Walls of Jericho According to local lore, the Walls of Jericho in Belvidere were one of famed frontiersman David Crockett's favorite hunting grounds. He kept them a closely guarded secret back in the old days, and they're still among the lesser-known falls in Tennessee. But they're very much worth seeking out. Located along the Tennessee-Alabama line, the water spills down rugged cliffsides into gorgeous blue pools. Kayaker's Delight: The Great Falls Rock Island State Park waterfalls by Intricate Explorer - Unsplash Freestyle Kayakers at The Great Falls in the 883-acre Rock Island State Park get to enjoy an authentically interactive experience at the 30-foot horseshoe cascading waterfall. The power of the falling water often creates whitewater-like conditions, creating a thrilling challenge for even the most experienced aquatic adventurers.Hancock County Hot Spot: Elrod Falls Take a day trip to Hancock County, a northeastern Tennessee rural gem filled with bluegrass heritage, rolling hills — and waterfalls, of course. About half an hour southwest down the valley from downtown Sneedville you'll find the multi-tiered Elrod Falls, a must-see natural attraction in the area. The first tier of this three-tiered waterfall can be accessed via car, and a short hike will bring you up and around to the second and third tiers. Grand View: Upper Piney Falls This waterfall is located in the aptly named Grandview. And grand views are what you'll get when you reach Piney Falls, one of only 14 National Natural Landmarks in Tennessee. Little Piney Creek plunges 80 feet over Upper Piney Falls into a pool below and then drops another 40 feet over Lower Piney Falls. At Upper Piney Falls, a concave ledge circles behind and around the falls where you can follow a trail for incredible panoramas of the gorge. —Learn more about Tennessee waterfalls at TNvacation.com.

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Scenic Destinations for Nature Lovers to Book this Spring

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

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Dreamy, Earth-friendly Vacations for the Conscientious Traveler

Celebrate the environment, sustainability, and natural beauty by booking a trip to these lovely and Earth-friendly destinations. These places not only enchant visitors with their beautiful scenery, but special care is made by local organizations to protect and preserve their charm for generations to come. While booking a vacation for Earth Month (April) is a fun idea, there's really no bad time to visit these spots below. Explore and preserve the beauty of Hawaii Hawaii is one of the most beautiful and unique states in the US, and local efforts to preserve the people, place, and culture are strong. County of Hawai'i's Hawai'i Sustainability Summit 2024 Community Celebration takes places this year on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, April 20, 2024. Held at Kailua Kona' Brewery Block, this celebration will showcase the accomplishments of this year's Hawai'i Sustainability Summit and establish commitments to the county's sustainable initiatives. The celebration will conclude this year's summit with a community event featuring local-grown foods, sustainable products and live, local music and talent. Also on the Big Island, the Hawai'i Land Trust (HILT) has opened its first series of Talk Story on the Land Hikes and Volunteer Days at the Māhukona Navigational and Ecological Complex on the Kohala Coast. In December, HILT, in partnership with the nonprofit Nā Kālai Waʻa as well as federal, state and county agencies, and the Kohala community, announced that it had closed on its largest-ever purchase, permanently protecting 642 acres at Māhukona. The public is invited to join community representatives for a brief guided interpretive hike or volunteer service opportunity. Both experiences aim to offer the community opportunities to learn about the Māhukona area's cultural significance and history as well as elements of traditional Hawaiian ocean navigation. On Oahu, the International Market Place (IMP) is hoping to inspire mindful travel and protect and preserve Hawai'i's natural world with its recent partnership with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for beach cleanups. Participants in IMP's DIY Beach Cleanup Program can receive a $20 gift card valid through December 1, 2024. Visit the IMP's Customer Service Desk on Level 1, Mauka Court to learn more. Turtle Bay Resort is home to the 480-acre Kuilima Farm, which provides the resort with more than 700 lbs of fresh produce each week, and even more produce to the local community. Kuilima Farm offers 45-minute farm tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Tour participants enjoy a scavenger hunt for native Hawaiian plants and, occasionally, the opportunity to help with new native plantings. Wayfinder Waikiki has created volunteer experiences for residents, visitors and hotel guests to explore O'ahu and make a lasting impact on the planet. The activities include farm experiences, beach cleanups, and cultural education and sustainability initiatives such as the ones listed below. As part of the hotel's Mālama Hawaiʻi initiative, $1 per night of every stay is donated to the Bishop Museum. Cultural Education and Sustainability Initiatives with the Bishop Museum — The recently launched “Hawaiian Stars and Stories: Wayfinder Planetarium Adventure” is a special initiative, happening every third Friday monthly, allowing participants to explore the science of traditional non-instrument navigation practiced by early Hawaiians and learn about Hawaiian history and royal artifacts on a guided tour of the museum's Hawaiian Hall.Taro Field Restoration with Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi Farm — On the final Friday of each month, participating Wayfinder Waikiki guests are driven by shuttle to Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi farm to participate in the restoration of its lo'i kalo (wetland taro terraces), forge connections with its dedicated workers and gain an appreciation for the cultural and environmental importance of O'ahu's Heʻeia community.Beach Cleanups with Waikīkī 'Ohana Workforce (WOW) and 808 Cleanups — Wayfinder Waikiki regularly partners on volunteer beach cleanups with these nonprofit environmental organizations committed to restoring the natural beauty and ecology of Hawaiʻi's coastlines. Book a beach trip to St. Augustine, Florida The sun ripples over the beach in St. Augustine, Florida by Maddie DiFilippo - Unsplash Each year, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches, known as Florida's Historic Coast welcomes visitors from around the world to enjoy its unique charms. One of the region's main attractions is the 42 miles of pristine beaches that stretch from Ponte Vedra south to Marineland. Tucked into a slight nook on North Florida's Atlantic Coast, the beaches provide a place for play and relaxation, a protected habitat for numerous animal and plant species, and a barrier that protects many waterfront homes, hotels, and businesses. Florida's Historic Coast residents and officials are passionate about preserving this precious resource for today and future generations while still providing access to an important part of the destination. And soon, visitors and residents can enjoy lush, freshly restored beaches! Much like the historic architecture that lines St. Augustine's Historic District and the lush vegetation that thrives throughout Florida's Historic Coast, resources like the beaches need regular and highly specialized care to ensure their integrity and natural beauty stay intact. St. Johns County, home to St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches, is taking measures to protect its beaches by performing beneficial restoration projects with minimal impact on beachgoers throughout the summer. The short and sweet of it – the beaches will be open and ready to welcome visitors. Visitors and residents can plan their beach visits around the current work sites by visiting the St. Johns County project website here. The beach is ready and waiting. As it has been for generations, surfing on Florida's Historic Coast is a favorite pastime here. The Springtime winds kick up just enough waves for buggy boarding, traditional surfing, and the thrills of kite surfing. There are plenty of surf shops to set you up with the right gear. Once summer hits, plan to swim in the calm ocean waters, relax and soak up the sun on the newly restored beaches. What better way to see long expanses of the Atlantic Ocean than to bike the beach? Riding at low tide offers beach bikers a nice firm sand base. And, nothing beats a drive along the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway – A Must Do Experience. There are several beautiful oceanfront resorts and hotels, as well as vacation rentals and campgrounds along Florida's Historic Coast. Something for every budget and style. Use the trip planner to plan your seaside getaways to St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and The Beaches today. View wildlife in and around Seattle, Washington Mount Rainier National Park by Joshua Peacock - Unsplash Seattle's historic Pioneer Square neighborhood is getting a new hotel in 2024. Located in RailSpur, a sustainable micro-district that includes three historic warehouse buildings, the hotel will include 120 guest rooms and suites, signature indoor and outdoor restaurant on activated "Railspur" alley, as well as a rooftop bar. Hotel Westland is anticipated to be one of the most sustainable hotel openings in the U.S and only the second hotel in the country to be “carbon-positive.” While in town, check out the three national parks – Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park – are within driving distance of Seattle, making the city a fantastic basecamp for outdoor exploration. From stunning lake hikes to fall colors, to wildlife sightings of pikas, mountain goats, and marmots, there's lots to love about our state's national parks. Don't forget to hit up a local brewery after your outdoor forays. Anticipated to be completed in summer 2024, the Seattle Aquarium's Ocean Pavilion shares the story that we have the power to save our oceans. In the Ocean Pavilion, visitors will be able to witness the exquisite biodiversity of a reef ecosystem in the Coral Triangle, a marine area in the tropical Pacific – coming face-to-face with sharks, rays, schooling fish, mangroves, seagrasses, and nearly 30 species of coral. For a unique wildlife sighting, plan to come sometime between July and November, when visitors can witness three species of Pacific Salmon passing through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks. See as many as hundreds of salmon per day through huge glass windows at the fish ladder as they return upriver to spawn. An average of 15,000 Chinook salmon pass through the Locks each year, with peak viewing in August. Sip sustainably in Santa Cruz, California A bottle of Carbon-nay - courtesy of Evan Nelson/WarRoom Cellars + Bonny Doon Vineyards Always innovating, Bonny Doon Vineyards in Santa Cruz, California is set to become the first winery in the country to use fully-recyclable paper wine bottles. The winery’s rosé wine — which is being marketed as Carbon-nay — will be sold at Whole Foods stores throughout California this spring and will expand to other stores throughout the U.S. This new packaging - shaped like a wine bottle - is five times lighter than a traditional wine bottle, reducing the carbon footprint of bottling and shipping.  Fully recyclable, the packaging weighs just under three ounces, providing expanded real estate to print information and artwork around the bottle. Designed from 94 percent recycled paperboard with a food-grade pouch inserted to contain the wine, paper bottles are becoming ubiquitous in Europe. Through innovative practices like popularizing screwcaps and the first winery to embrace true transparency with its ingredient labeling initiative, Bonny Doon Vineyards grew to become the 28th largest winery in the U.S. and is credited with popularizing Rhône grapes in California. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is one of the oldest in the country and many wineries within Santa Cruz County employ eco-friendly practices. Storrs Winery, located in Corralitos sits on the site of a former quarry. A 6,800 square-foot structure houses the production facility, barrel room and tasting room, adjacent to a vineyard complete with helpful signage explaining the habitat and wildlife that make this place their home. The organically-farmed site is also a teaching opportunity for biodynamic farming, catering to home gardeners and small scale farmers. A rare 1945 Willys Overland convertible also graces the site, as well as a piece of stained glass from an old church found at an antique shop decades ago and a table milled from pines culled from the estate’s property. Relying on stellar fruit from Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards, Storrs’ Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are all hand-crafted from this boutique winery. Located along the Central Coast, Santa Cruz County, California, is approximately 70 miles/113 km south of San Francisco and 349 miles/562 km from Los Angeles. Many visitors choose to take scenic Highway 1 along the California coastline to Santa Cruz or Highway 17 through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Visitors can also choose to fly into San Francisco International Airport or San Jose Mineta International Airport.   Cycle through central Mississippi Cyclists explore Ridgeland, Mississippi - courtesy of Explore Ridgeland Explore Ridgeland, based in central Mississippi, has introduced the Ridgeland Bikeshare Program, providing visitors with free bicycles for exploring Ridgeland and its surroundings. The program aims to offer convenient and sustainable transportation options for both locals and tourists to explore Ridgeland's attractions, including the National Park - Natchez Trace Parkway, the Chisha Foka Multi-Use Trail, the Reservoir Overlook, shopping districts such as the Railroad District, Renaissance at Colony Park, and the Township at Colony Park as well as crafted trails. Chris Chapman, executive director and CEO of Explore Ridgeland, stated, "We're excited to offer our guests free bicycles to explore Ridgeland's shops, boutiques, restaurants, and outdoor recreational venues. Thanks to our partners, Bikeshare racks are conveniently located, and bicycles can be unlocked using the Koloni App." As featured on the Bikeshare brochure and Bikeshare video, cyclists can explore natural scenery along the Chisha Foka Multi-Use Trail or urban routes along Highland Colony Parkway, passing through outdoor shopping and lifestyle districts like Renaissance at Colony Park. The Bike Crossing and the Ridgeland Visitors Center are available to assist both locals and visitors interested in using the Bikeshare service. Bikes are available during daylight hours based on availability, and safety is encouraged. The city of Ridgeland requires cyclists to wear protective helmets which are conveniently provided with the bike share program. Bikeshare cyclists will find helmets in the bike baskets. Since its launch in February, the program has seen interest from visitors nationwide. “My wife and I had a wonderful date on Ridgeland's new Bikeshare bikes,” Russ Daniels, an entertainer from New York City, said. “We rode around the Renaissance, explored the bike paths, and ended by eating at Aplos. The process to rent the bikes was simple and the scenery was beautiful! We love Ridgeland!” Ridgeland is renowned as Mississippi's premier cycling destination, hosting various cycling events such as the annual Natchez Trace Century Ride. Visitors are also encouraged to bring their own bikes to explore Mag Ridge BMX Track and at the Ridgeland Mountain Bike Trails.

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Plan a Dream Vacation to Hawaii This Spring

Embark on a transformative journey to the Hawaiian Islands this spring. Immerse yourself in Hawai'i's first culture, its indigenous Hawaiian culture, which makes our islands a place like nowhere else in the world. Your days exploring Hawaiʻi will unveil opportunities to connect with its living traditions, be serenaded by its local musicians and performers, and embark on cultural adventures promising to awaken your knowledge and sense of wonder. Read on, discover and participate in the array of unique experiences awaiting you. Book a stay at one of these new luxurious hotels Unveiled in February, the Grand Wailea's Kilolani Spa (Maui) honors the stargazers of early Hawaiʻi who looked to the skies to navigate their ocean course. Drawing inspiration from the kaulana mahina — Hawaiian lunar calendar — which divides each month into three helu pō, or moon phases, Kilolani aims to create what the resort calls “space for healing, rejuvenation and restoration.” The spa's programming evolves in tandem with the current anahulu (10-day period) and features native botanicals, holistic bodywork treatments and mindfulness practices enhanced by modern wellness methods. www.GrandWailea.com. Hotel Wailea (Maui) recently debuted its Land, Sea, Air experience, which aims to capture Maui on all three levels. Designed for couples, the exclusive experience offers a romantic getaway celebrating the beauty of Maui. www.HotelWailea.com Land - Explore the island at leisure in a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster reproduction, with a picnic basket packed with snacks and beverages curated by Hotel Wailea Executive Chef Ryan Cruz keeping you energized and hydrated throughout the day.Sea - Discover Maui aboard a classic Columbia 57-foot sailing yacht on a private, two-hour sunset sail. The voyage, reserved solely for Hotel Wailea guests, offers panoramic coastline and sunset views as well as bites and sips.Air - Experience a helicopter flight along Maui's north coast featuring bird's-eye views of waterfalls and sea cliffs. Passengers will land within a Hāna-area rainforest to explore its lush vegetation and enjoy a picnic prepared by Executive Chef Cruz with champagne and wine selections. Outrigger Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel (Oʻahu) and Cirque du Soleil will announce the title, theme, show schedule and debut date for their anticipated Hawai'i-inspired show this spring. The Outrigger Waikiki Beachcomber will be home to the new Cirque du Soleil experience led by co-creators Simon Painter (The Works Entertainment) and Neil Dorward (The Illusionists, Circus 1903), with cultural direction by Aaron Salā, Ph.D. www.CirqueDuSoleil.com The Renaissance Honolulu Hotel and Spa (Oʻahu) opened in February 2024. This is the Renaissance brand's first Hawai'i location and one of the first new hotels constructed in Honolulu in 25 years. Situated in the city's vibrant Ala Moana neighborhood, the 39-story hotel's rooms and suites spotlight floor-to-ceiling glass windows and contemporary design. Other highlights of the new property include a Sky Terrace and Renaissance Spa complete with traditional Japanese ofuro soaking tubs, Himalayan salt saunas, a fitness center with LifeFitness equipment, and a glass-enclosed yoga space. www.Marriott.com The healing power of horses is at the heart of Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort's (Maui) Unbridled Retreat. The July 24 through 28 retreat, led by Equine Coach Devon Combs, aims to provide what the resort describes as “a path to clarity, mindfulness and sustainable well-being” through Combs' “unique synergy with horses and expert, intuitive coaching.” The four-night equine experience at the adults-only wellness enclave also includes a horseback ride, massage, sunset sail, complimentary daily classes, empowerment encounters and round-trip travel from Honolulu to Lāna'i on Lāna'i Air. www.FourSeasons.com Enjoy incredible culinary experiences Fresh fruit from Hawaii - courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority The Veranda, located within the Moana Surfrider (O'ahu), is hosting an enchanting twist on its traditional Afternoon Tea, partnering with Paradise Monarch to host a Butterfly Keiki Tea every second Saturday of the month until the end of spring. Keiki (kids) will step into the captivating realm of the Butterfly Dome surrounded by enchanting butterflies and participate in a butterfly release under the Moana Surfrider's iconic banyan tree. They'll also learn about how their efforts contribute to plant pollination and enhancing Hawai'i's biodiversity. Partnering with her friend and baker, Katherine Yang, James Beard Award-winning chef-owner Robynne Maii of Fête is readying a spring opening for Mille Fête (O'ahu), a bakery concept featuring new treats and some of her restaurant's most popular desserts. Sushi Gyoshin OMAKASE by Hiroshi Tsuji (Oʻahu) is a new 16-course omakase restaurant. Prepared by Chef Hiroshi Tsuji, each dish honors traditional sushi. The fish served at Sushi Gyoshin are sourced from Hawaiʻi and Japan's famed Tsukiji Market. The restaurant's omakase menu includes small plates and intricate sushi creations. Tasting Kaua'i's (Kauaʻi) new Waimea Walking Food Tour offers two-and-a-half hours of walking, tasting local food, and learning about the rich history and lifestyle of the island's west side. Following the tour, participants are encouraged to visit the lookouts of Waimea Canyon State Park — also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific — and check out Kōke'e State Park. Experience local art and culture Strumming a ukulele - courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority Debuting in March in the J.M. Long Gallery, the Bishop Museum's (Oʻahu) new exhibition, “Corned Beef & Kalo,” was curated by Healoha Johnston, the museum's director of cultural resources and curator for Hawaiʻi and Pacific arts and culture. It features the works “Pisupo lua afe (Corned Beef 2000)” by Michel Tuffery and “KALO” by Bernice Akamine, bringing together both contemporary artworks to, according to the museum, “consider how artists make visible issues related to agricultural subsistence, environmental sustainability and everyday life where food imports and structured land use intertwine.” Presented by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) and Kilohana by CNHA, a new version of the renowned Waikīkī hula show once put on by Kodak debuted at the Waikīkī Shell in February. Running Sundays through Thursdays, the free, open-to-the-public Kilohana Hula Show (Oʻahu) will highlight mele (songs) honoring Waikīkī and feature dancers from six award-winning hālau hula (hula groups) from across Hawai'i. CNHA is working with Rick Barboza, Native Hawaiian plant specialist and co-owner of Hui Kū Maoli Ola, on reintroducing Native Hawaiian plants to the Waikīkī Shell venue. Timbers Kauaʻi (Kauaʻi) is offering new cultural programming aimed at immersing guests in the rich heritage and history of the island. Guests can learn the art of ti kūpeʻe (ti-leaf bracelet making) typically used in hula as adornments, and 'ohe kāpala, the Hawaiian art of bamboo stamping, typically utilized for printing designs on paper or fabrics. Timbers Kaua'i also offers Hawaiian language, 'ukelele and lei-making lessons. Plan an exciting outdoor adventure Visitors and tour operators headed to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (Island of Hawaiʻi) should expect delays in the months ahead as a two-year Disaster Recovery Project commences to repair, improve and remove damaged buildings and infrastructure at the summit of Kīlauea volcano. Delays should be expected at the park's entrance station, coinciding with temporary area closures and limited parking availability. The project will also include the removal of the former Thomas A. Jaggar Museum — which was damaged during the 2018 Kīlauea eruption and summit collapse — a new roundabout near the park's entrance station to improve safety, and a new USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory facility near Kīlauea Military Camp on the park's grounds. The Twin Fin Hotel (Oʻahu), in partnership with Beach Candy Waikiki and the Jamie O'Brien Surf Experience, recently launched the new Jamie O'Brien School of Surf Waikiki. Housed in the oceanfront hotel's ground-level storefront, the Jamie O'Brien School of Surf Waikiki is a new venture from Oʻahu resident, professional surfer, filmmaker and Banzai Pipeline surf competition champion Jamie O'Brien. The school specializes in family and group surf lessons, with all surf experiences conceptualized and designed by O'Brien and led by local instructors selected for their ocean knowledge and surf skills. The County of Hawai'i County Department of Parks and Recreation has reopened Kaūmana Caves (Island of Hawaiʻi) in Hilo to the public. The caves, a destination for locals and visitors, had been closed since September 23, 2023, due to a rock fall. For more information on Kaūmana Caves, call the Department of Parks and Recreation administration office at (808) 961-8311. Kualoa Ranch (Oʻahu) recently launched a new three-hour deluxe semi-private UTV tour. Offered six-times daily, the guided tour utilizes Kawasaki off-road UTV vehicles for a behind-the-scenes adventure to the backcountry of the ranch's Kaʻaʻawa and Hakipuʻu valleys unreachable by other vehicles and tours. Guides customize the tour's narration to guests' Kualoa interests, sharing stories of Hollywood movies filmed in the valley, its historic places, Hawaiian legends, and valley farming, aquaculture and ranching. The Umauma Experience (Island of Hawaiʻi) now offers a family-friendly Triple-Tier Waterfall Rappel and River Tour for adventure seekers interested in immersive experiences. Guests on the tour rappel alongside the triple-tier waterfalls of Umauma Stream and can swim or float in water tubes. All needed gear is provided, and no experience is necessary. The Umauma Triple-Tier Waterfall Rappel and River Tour is operated by Island Mountain Guides LLC on the Umauma Falls property. Attend one or more of these festive events The coastline of Maui - courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority Kauaʻi 'Ukulele Festival (April 14, 2024) — World-class music festival that unites music enthusiasts globally to commemorate the transformative influence of music. This festival is situated in the heart of Līhuʻe with ample complimentary parking available. The festival's roster showcases a diverse array of skilled local musicians, ranging from established to up-and-coming talents. 28th Annual East Maui Taro Festival (Maui, April 20, 2024) — This annual celebration in Hāna pays tribute to kalo/taro, the essential sustenance of the Hawaiian community, featuring music, hula performances, food stalls offering taro-based dishes, and cultural demonstrations. 17th Annual Waimānalo Kanikapila (Oʻahu, April 20, 2024) —This annual event honors Cyril Lani Pahinui and his father, Gabby Pahinui, two iconic figures in Hawaiian music, and celebrates the musical legacy of the Waimānalo community. Initiated by Cyril Pahinui in 2007, the Waimānalo Kanikapila is reminiscent of the musical gatherings from his childhood, attracting over 100 musicians and thousands of fans. The festival offers unforgettable performances and all-star jams by some of Hawai'i's greatest musicians. Support for the event is generated through the sale of t-shirts, available both at the event and online. 54th Annual Maui Marathon and Half Marathon (Maui, April 21, 2024) — The Maui Marathon is one of Hawai'i's longest consecutively-held running events and claims to be the oldest marathon west of the Mississippi River. Runners can participate in a full marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K or a newly added full marathon relay. All runners will participate in a special memorial during the race, offering lei to be placed on the Lahaina Memorial on the Lahaina Bypass. 11th Annual Big Island Chocolate Festival (island of Hawaiʻi, April 26-27, 2024) — Check out this festival for everything from chocolate cooking demos and a unique tequila and chocolate pairing event to a grand gala. The festival is presented by the Kona Cacao Association with a mission of promoting Hawai'i Island's cacao industry. All festival events happen at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. Waikīkī SPAM JAM® (Oʻahu, April 27, 2024) — The 20th annual Waikīkī SPAM JAM® will celebrate Hawai'i's ongoing love for, of course, SPAM®, with local Waikīkī restaurants offering creative SPAM® dishes. Attendees will find food and retail booths, custom festival T-shirts, arts and craft vendors, keiki activities and appearances by SPAMMY™ characters and friends. The event benefits Hawai'i Foodbank — the state's largest nonprofit feeding those in need — the Waikīkī Community Center, and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaiʻi. Lei Day Celebration (O'ahu, May 1, 2024) — As one of Hawai'i's most emblematic symbols of aloha, lei — and the crafting of lei — have been celebrated in the Hawaiian Islands on Lei Day since 1927. The City and County of Honolulu's official Lei Day event is held at Kapi'olani Park in Waikīkī, honoring lei and the traditions surrounding it with festivities, including pageants and competitions for lei queen and the crafting of colorful, fragrant flower lei. 8th Annual World Whale Film Festival 2024 (Maui, June 6, 2024) — A non-profit dedicated to safeguarding the ocean and its inhabitants, the Pacific Whale Foundation calls upon filmmakers and artists to participate in the Annual World Whale Film Festival (WWFF), which serves as a platform to raise awareness about various ocean-related issues, including marine wildlife conservation, indigenous ecological knowledge, environmental stewardship, and solutions for ocean preservation and human well-being. In response to the Maui wildfires of 2023, the WWFF will introduce a new category focusing on climate change and natural disasters. 43rd Kapalua Wine and Food Festival (Maui, June 6-9, 2024) — One of Hawai'i's longest-running culinary festivals, the Kapalua Wine and Food Festival annually celebrates the delicious pairing of great food and great wine with a four-day culinary extravaganza. The festival's aim is to explore trends in the gastronomic world, bringing together winemakers, master sommeliers, chefs and industry insiders for themed tastings, seminars and gala evening culinary events. 13th Annual Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (Oʻahu, June 6-16, 2024) —The Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FestPAC) is the world's largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders. For the first time, the 13th annual celebration will convene in Hawaiʻi on the island of O'ahu. More than 2,500 delegates including artists, cultural practitioners, scholars and officials from over 20 nations will gather on Oahu for 10-days of cultural exchange, appreciation and celebration at various venues across the island. The theme for FestPAC Hawaiʻi 2024 is “Ho'oulu Lāhui: Regenerating Oceania,” honoring the traditions that FestPAC works to perpetuate with an eye toward the future. FestPAC serves as a platform for Pacific Island nations to showcase their rich heritage and artistic talents. 41st Annual Pan-Pacific Festival (Oʻahu, June 7-9, 2024) — After a five-year hiatus, the Pan-Pacific Festival Foundation is thrilled to announce the return of the festival to Honolulu. The Pan-Pacific Festival began in Hawai'i in 1980 as a cultural exchange between the state and Japan. Visiting participants from Japan were invited to enjoy the familiarity of Japanese music, crafts, traditions and foods, while Hawai'i residents and other visitors were offered opportunities to gain a deeper appreciation of Japanese sensibilities and cultural heritage. Today, the festival features events held throughout Waikīkī showcasing Japan's pageantry and includes a ho'olaule'a (celebration) block party, art fair and hula performances, culminating with a grand parade on Waikīkī main street Kalākaua Avenue. Ka'ū Coffee Festival (Island of Hawai'i, June 8, 2024) — Though coffee had been farmed in the island of Hawai'i's Ka'ū district for generations dating back to the 1800s, the area's beans and roasters only began earning notice on the global specialty-coffee scene in the early 2000s, winning numerous international awards. Held each spring, the Ka'ū Coffee Festival celebrates the district's now firm standing as a world-class coffee-growing region and honors the farmers, roasters, gatherers and rich agricultural landscape that have all played a role in its renown. King Kamehameha Day Celebrations (June 11, 2024) — Celebrated across the state of Hawaiʻi on June 11, the Kamehameha Day holiday honors Kamehameha I, the island of Hawai'i chief who united the Hawaiian Islands under his rule in 1810. Festivities span across Kaua'i, O'ahu, Maui, Moloka'i and the island of Hawai'i and include lei draping ceremonies, parades, pā'u (skirted) riders on horseback representing the Hawaiian royal court to other special gatherings with ʻono (delicious) food and family-friendly activities, residents and visitors alike come together in celebration of the great aliʻi nui (king).

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Celebrate the Earth With These Wonder-filled Escapes Into Nature

April is Earth Month, culminating with Earth Day on April 22nd. If you're looking for a way to celebrate our beautiful planet, book a trip to one of the awe-inspiring destinations below.Stargaze in southern OregonThe Milky Way shines over the "Oregon Outback" - courtesy of Joey Hamilton/Travel Southern Oregon If you're looking for an amazing stargazing experience, head west to Oregon. A 2.5-million-acre area of southeastern Oregon was certified as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary recently by DarkSky International, making it the world's largest Dark Sky Sanctuary to date. The Sanctuary, which is approximately one-half the size of New Jersey and is located within an area commonly referred to as the Oregon Outback, has committed to protect its starry night skies for the benefit of visitors, residents, and wildlife. A Dark Sky Sanctuary is a certification given by the DarkSky International to public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment. To qualify as a Dark Sky Sanctuary, the area must meet strict criteria for sky quality, commit to protecting the night sky through responsible lighting practices, and provide public outreach. These sanctuaries provide opportunities for stargazing, astrophotography, and other nighttime activities that benefit from minimal light pollution. The Outback is located within the largest, contiguous, pristine dark sky zone in the lower 48 states, and this certification helps to protect a large portion of the designated zone. Within the Oregon Outback International Dark Sky Sanctuary (OOIDSS) are the unincorporated communities of Adel, Plush, and Summer Lake, the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, a portion of the Fremont-Winema National Forest, nearly 1.7 million acres of land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Summer Lake Wildlife Area, nearly 80,000 acres of state-owned rangeland, and the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. The intentions behind pursuing a large-scale sanctuary are to protect much of the unique, pristine, dark sky zone, to keep any additional dark sky recreation dispersed (as it is now), to allow a number of incorporated gateway communities to economically benefit from the same project, and to more effectively and efficiently manage a certification within a remote area. “As the population of Oregon and the trend of light pollution continue to rise, the unparalleled scale and quality of the Outback's dark skies will long serve as a starry refuge to people and wildlife alike,” said DarkSky Delegate Dawn Nilson, the environmental consultant who managed and authored the application. “This four-year collaboration brings together so many of the elements we try to achieve in regenerative tourism,” said Bob Hackett, Executive Director of Travel Southern Oregon. “It not only elevates the destination experience for visitors to Lake County and opens up opportunities for local businesses, but it also helps agencies and residents steward their lands in ways that celebrate a legacy of starry night skies for generations to come.” The OOIDSS is situated in the northern extent of the Basin and Range Province of the Western United States. It's sparsely populated, very remote, and primarily comprised of public lands. It's a high desert area characterized by sage scrub and abrupt changes in topography that alternates between narrow faulted mountain chains and flat, arid valleys and basins. Within this unique geography of geological wonders is priority habitat for an array of wildlife, including American pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage grouse, white-tailed jack rabbit, and migratory birds navigating the Pacific Flyway. The region is also culturally significant and is home to a 13,000-year-old human occupation site. Dispersed within the OOIDSS are hot springs, wild horses, private rangelands, ranches, and cattle. Celebrate Earth Day in Sonoma, California Wildflowers in Sonoma County, California - courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism Celebrate Earth Day with Safari West as they proudly host 35 conservation organizations. Visitors can immerse themselves in interactive activities, informative displays, and captivating live animal presentations. Earth Day holds special significance at Safari West. Through initiatives like our Earth Day celebrations, Safari West strives to engage the community in meaningful discussions about sustainability and the preservation of biodiversity. This event is April 20th at 10:00 am. Chanslor Ranch, a historic dairy ranch on coastal route Highway 1 in Bodega Bay, was recently acquired by Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District for use as county regional park, and is now open to the public. Long a privately owned getaway known primarily for horseback trail rides, the 378-acre ranch across Highway 1 from Bodega Dunes and Salmon Creek state beaches is now in county hands and open to the public. Visitors can hike 4.5 miles of trail leading up coastal hills, down to Salmon Creek and around the rugged landscape, which is bounded in part by the creek. Horseback riding is available through Five Brooks Bodega Bay. The land is known for a diversity of habitats, from wetlands to coastal prairie, as well as many plants and animals. The wetlands are a stopover for migrating birds, as well. Hike, bike, and explore Williamsburg, Virginia A creek winds through the woods in Williamsburg, Virginia by Mayer Tawfik - Unsplash Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown offer adventure seekers plenty of reasons to get outdoors. Whether hiking scenic trails, biking unexpected paths, or exploring its waterways, Williamsburg has no shortage of outdoor activities. Walkers and more experienced hikers can find ample trails to enjoy. At Waller Mill Park, walkers explore a 3.7-mile paved trail with lake views and a 2.5-mile wooded path. There is also plenty to discover while walking through Freedom Park, where multiple trails wind around historic relics and Williamsburg Botanical Garden offers 18 different habitats along the pathways. Hikers can head to Lookout Tower and take in its panoramic views of the woods and lake or trek the Powhatan Creek Trail on a 696-foot-long timber bridge and take in some of Virginia’s most scenic vistas filled with ponds, wetlands, forests, and wildlife. For bikers, the Colonial Parkway links the three destinations with a beautiful 23-mile ride. In Williamsburg, cyclists on the Greensprings Interpretive Trail pedal its 3.5-mile loop, with markers along the way pinpointing environmental, historical, and area wildlife points of interest. For more adventurous mountain bikers, Williamsburg’s New Quarter Park is a six mile, single-loop trail that shouldn’t be missed. It follows the contours of a natural ravine before sliding into tight turns and climbing with elevated platforms and ramps. Multiple trails, ranging in distance and skill level, are also available at York River State Park. Black Bear Run is excellent for beginners, with only slight elevations and obstacles. For the advanced rider, the Marl Ravine Trail twists and turns as it follows steep ravines cut into ancient shell deposits. Bikers on the The Historic Jamestowne Bike Trail take in views of Jamestown island, James River, the marshlands, and regenerating forests. Also in Jamestown, The Virginia Capital Trail is a 51.7-mile, fully paved trail running through four jurisdictions, with dozens of attractions along the way. In Yorktown, visitors bike past quaint shops, beautiful river views, and a scenic beach. Several marked paths are also available to bicyclists on Yorktown Battlefield, including the seven-mile Battlefield Tour and nine-mile Encampment Tour. Surrounded by the James, York, and Chickahominy Rivers, visitors can explore the region’s shores. The water trails around Williamsburg are ideal for canoers, kayakers, and paddle boarders. Visitors can rent rowboats, canoes, and pedal boats at Waller Mill Park, or kayaks and canoes from Chickahominy Riverfront Park’s facilities, while Bay Country Kayaking offers guided excursions. Those looking to explore by boat can enjoy sightseeing cruises with York River Charters, Jamestown Discovery Boat Tours, Yorktown Sailing Charters, and Williamsburg Charter Sails. Fishing for bass, perch, catfish, and other species is popular in the waters around Williamsburg. Little Creek Reservoir Park is a scenic spot overlooking a 996-acre reservoir. Freshwater and saltwater meet at York River State Park, a marshy preserve with three different areas for anglers. And Jamestown Beach Event Park benefits from a newly restored beachfront, paddle-craft launch, and a designated fishing area.Go birding and see nature-inspired art in FloridaA spoonbill feeds at the sunset in St. Augustine Beach, Florida by Alla Kemelmakher - Unsplash Enjoy fresh ocean air and the beautiful coastline of Florida. Sailors can mark their calendars for St. Augustine Race Week from April 6th to April 13th. If two feet on land is more your speed, there are a host of road and trail runs! Check out the Spud Run 5K and Cabbage Crawl and Race to the Taste 5K. For a two-wheeled adventure, the 12th Annual Spoonbills and Sprockets Cycling Tour on April 20th starts at Marineland and winds its way through St. Augustine, the Hammock, and Flagler Beach. Spoonbills are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the 2024 Florida's Birding & Photo Festival on April 24th through 28th. This jam-packed festival has over 100 events focused on birding and outdoor photography. For those interested in more terrestrial pursuits, the Earth Day Celebration at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park celebrates the symbiotic relationship between us and the Earth. The Plein Air Paint Out on Apr 24th to 28th is a favorite of artists, encouraging painters to venture outdoors and be inspired by the beauty of Florida's Historic Coast. Makers, artisans, and crafters offer their finest products April 13 & 14 at the Arts & Crafts Show at St. Augustine Beach.

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Head to This State in Mexico for Wilderness Adventures and Cultural Connection

The Mexican state of Nayarit has long been a favorite for beach travelers, but few tourists are fully aware of all that this unique part of Mexico has to offer. While Nayarit is indeed blessed with one of the most spectacular coastlines in the country, it is also a region steeped in ancient history, arts and culture, and gastronomy. It provides unparalleled wellness experiences and is a champion of environmental and social sustainability. Add to that adventure-packed outdoor experiences, national parks, and more magical towns than any other state in Mexico. The overall vibe of Nayarit is to take a step back, embrace the present, and get in touch with nature. You won't find late-night clubs with thumping music, or raucous party bars. Instead, the lifestyle in Nayarit is about toes-in-the-sand dining, cultural connections, or deep dives into history. It is also is one of the easiest states to reach from the U.S. and Canada. Visitors to Nayarit can fly into Puerto Vallarta and drive up the coastline. For interior visits to Nayarit, travelers can fly into Guadalajara or Tepic. In 2023 Aeromexico launched its first route between Mexico City and Tepic. If you’re looking for the next great adventure in Mexico, read on to discover why 2024 is the year to experience the State of Nayarit. Step back in time with historical sites and "Magical Towns" The capital of Nayarit is Tepic, a city whose rich legacy can be seen through its architecture, museums, and traditions. Tepic was founded in 1531 as the capital of the Kingdom of New Galicia, a region that was made up of central, northern, and western Mexico. A visit to Tepic starts downtown in the Plaza de Armas and its Purisima Concepcion Cathedral, built between 1804 and 1896. You will also find the Cruz del Zacate Temple and the Government Palace, which houses murals from Jose Luis Soto. Museums in Tepic include the Regional Museum of Nayarit, as well as the Juan Escutia House-Museum, located in the 18th-century birthplace of this national Mexican hero — among many other museums dedicated to art, archaeology, and history. Surrounding Tepic are majestic mountains, which hold many of the state's secrets, from its adventure and ecotourism offerings to its native communities. One such attraction is the Los Toriles archaeological site, home to 93 historics structures, including a pyramid dedicated to the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. There is also the "Magical Town" of Amatlán de Cañas, which feels paused in time. Surrounded by mountains and sliced by rocky canyons, this town is known for its historic temples. Nayarit is blessed with nine of these "Magical Towns"—the most for one state in the country. The Magical Towns of Mexico, or Pueblos Magicos, is a government-granted designation given to towns or villages in Mexico that best exemplify aspects of culture, history, tradition, art, food, nature, and beyond. These recognized places have something unique to them that helps to tell the story of the soul of Mexico. In addition to Amatlán de Cañas, there is also Sayulita, Compostela, Jala, Mexcaltitán, Ahuacatlán, Ixtlán del Río,San Blas, and Puerto Balleto (Islas Marías). Travelers who want to learn more about the indigenous communities of Nayarit can head to the Sierra del Nayar, a region of Nayarit characterized by mountain ranges, jungles, and native communities that have kept their traditions and customs alive. The groups that settled in the Sierra del Nayar are the Coras, Huicholes, Tepehuanos, and Mexicaneros. A visit to the community of El Nayar is the best place to learn about these communities. The main ethnic groups here are the Cora and Huichol and their Holy Week has been designated an Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO. The event features men painted in body paint from head to toe, fighting ritual battles with wooden swords, dancing, feasting, and much more. Discover fascinating flora and fauna A whale off the coast of Mexico - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board The natural beauty and wildlife of Nayarit is unparalleled, from marine life to migratory birds, jungle wildcats, and beyond. So much of the state is protected in Natural Reserves where its wildlife can thrive. Parque Nacional Islas Marietas, for example, located just five miles from Punta de Mita, is home to a diverse number of endemic species, while Sierra de Vallejo is home to the Santuario del Jaguar, a nearly 5,000-acreprotected area known for its jaguar population. Nayarit is home to some of the most unique islands in Mexico. Mexcaltitan is a Magical Town island known for its canals that have earned the nickname, "Venice of Mexico." Further out to sea are Islas Marias, a former federal prison now a protected natural environment. The state is also home to three of Mexico's National Parks. The first is Islas Marietas National Park, an archipelago five miles from Punta de Mita made up of two islands, two islets, and several rocky shallows home to endemic and migratory marine and bird life. La Tovara National Park, located in San Blas, is a habitat of estuary and freshwater springs, with canals surrounded by mangroves, vegetation, and brilliant orchids and bromeliads. Finally, Isla Isabel National Park is a virgin coastal paradise known for its panoramic Pacific Ocean views, sea-facing cliffs, and rolling mountains. A leader in environmental preservation, Nayarit's tourism growth is focused on sustainability. Nayarit is a member of the Hotel Basics initiative of the World Travel and Tourism Council, which seeks to take an important step towards the care of natural environments and respect for the communities. Hotels must work under sustainability criteria, such as reducing energy and water consumption, reducing carbon emissions, protecting the environment, and contributing positively to the environment and its communities. Experience ancient healing rituals A beach in Nayarit, Mexico - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board The beautiful jungle-covered mountains, crashing Pacific coastline, and abundance of wildlife sets the ideal backdrop for a wellness journey. Whether it's an indulgent treatment at a world-class spa in Punta de Mita, a multi-day yoga retreat in Sayulita, or an ancient healing ritual rooted in centuries of indigenous tradition, Nayarit has everything travelers need to embark on a wellness journey. Enjoy local delicacies and fine coffee Nayarit's wealth is not only determined by its natural beauty. Its gastronomy is part of what makes this state unique. Each year, Nayarit is one of the hosts of Festival Gourmet International, a world-class food festival spread across dozens of restaurants bringing roughly 75 chefs, events, and thousands of foodies to Riviera Nayarit, Tepic, and Puerto Vallarta. Dishes like Pescado Zarandeado and Chicharron de Pescado can trace their roots back to pre-Hispanic times. Also native to Nayarit is Tlaxtihuilli, a seafood soup that uses shrimp, corn, and guajillo chiles. Don’t forget to sample the raicilla, a highly potent spirit made from the agave plant, similar to tequila and mezcal. Additionally, just south of Nayarit, in the municipality of Jala, is Peseta del Cielo, a vineyard that was launched in 2019. In 2022 the first Nayarit wines were produced, using Syrah and Macabeo grapes. The Syrah 2022 ranked among the Top 99 Mexican Wines of Cava Magazine. In 2023 Meseta del Cielo opened for tourism. Coffee culture is more than just a trend in Nayarit — it's a way of life. Some of the best organic coffee in the world is grown in the state. The warm, humid climate, volcanic mountain soil, and high altitude make Nayarit one of the best coffee producers in Mexico. Not only is it possible to sip a great cup of coffee, but visitors can tour the coffee plantations. Grupo Terruño Nayarita is a business that organizes the small farms of sustainable coffee production in the state. The group consists of nearly 400 local producers. Plan an outdoor adventure Explore the wilderness of Nayarit - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board Nayarit's landscape is the perfect playground for adventure enthusiasts. From epic surf breaks along the Pacific Coast, to hiking, biking, and zip lining, there is no shortage of outdoor adventure to explore in the state. Other fun things to do in Nayarit include rappelling, ATV off-road adventure tours, or a guided backcountry eco-adventure tour aboard a4×4 Mercedes Benz jeep. It's impossible to talk about Nayarit and not mention its spectacular beaches. From Nuevo Nayarit up to the border with Sinaloa, the coastline is blessed with some of the best beaches in Mexico. Towns like Bucerias, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta de Mita, Sayulita, San Pancho, Lo de Marcos, Guayabitos, and San Blas — also known as the Riviera Nayarit — have been drawing sun worshippers, surfers, and beachcombers for decades. With such a stellar coastline comes ample opportunity for world-class surfing. There are seven different surf “breaks” circling the Punta Mita southern peninsula alone, from Anclote to Sayulita. These provide surfers of all skill levels with many options — from zippy reefs to perfect point breaks. Other incredible surf breaks can be found further north in Chacala and San Blas. Islas Marias is a true story of transformation and repurposing to create something beautiful. About 80 miles off the coast of San Blas is a string of islands that was once home to one of the most infamous federal prisons in Mexico. Today, however, it is one of UNESCO's natural protected areas and a center for environmental tourism. Accessible only by boat, the protected islands are home to a cultural center, hiking trails, wildlife, and the Pueblo Magico of Puerto Balleto. See local artistic traditions Central to Nayarit is the Huichol, or Wixáritari, community. Their artistic traditions are deeply rooted in spirituality, represented through spectacular beadwork. The Huichol artwork takes inspiration from symbolism and the balance of opposites, like the relationship between light and dark or the rainy and dry seasons. You can find Huichol art in galleries and gift shops throughout Nayarit, particularly in the mountain communities as well as the coastal towns and villages. Part of the Huichol tradition is creating beautiful crafts. Artisans across the state specialize in a few key crafts that have become integral to the Huichol culture. The Tzicuri, or "God's Eye," is one of the most iconic, symbolizing protection over children. The weave of five interconnected diamonds is seen as a symbol of power and protection. Similarly, the Nerikate are ritual tools rooted in spirituality, made with yarn or beads on large wooden canvases. They represent divine revelation. Finally, Nayarit is known for its alebrijes, vibrant and cheerful surrealistic folk art sculptures that usually take the form of animals. Add in a little luxury to your vacation The coastline of Nayarit, Mexico - courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board If you want to budget in a little more, Nayarit has options to upgrade your vacation. Luxe legends like Punta Mita have been home to brands like Four Seasons and St. Regis for decades. Up the coastline, the newer, dreamy, elegant Mandarina development has a One&Only resort. Coming soon, Nayarit is expecting a Rosewood Hotel and a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Nayarit has dozens of boho-chic boutique hotels all up the coastline, as well, particularly in Punta de Mita, Sayulita, and San Pancho. Exclusivity and luxury set the tone for the nine golf courses in the state, designed by legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Jim Lipe, Percy Clifford, and Robert Von Hagge & Baril. Thesetop-tier golf courses feature spectacular views over the Bay of Banderas and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the beautiful beaches and mountain rainforests of the Sierra Madres.