Where to See the Most Beautiful Spring Blooms
With spring officially underway, landscapes across America have begun to burst into color with incredible blooms. Some of the most lovely scenery in the country becomes infinitely more magical as seasonal plants and flowers come to life. If you're looking to take advantage of this unique time of year, head to one of these locations below. With desert valleys, mountain meadows, prairie fields, and more, there's something for everyone, everywhere. Desert "Superblooms" in Death Valley - California Wildflower bloom in Death Valley National Park - courtesy of nps.gov Death Valley is famous for its spectacular, spring wildflower displays, but those are the exception, not the rule. Only under perfect conditions does the desert fill with a sea of gold, purple, pink or white flowers. These tend to average once a decade, with the most recent superbloom years being 2016, 2005, and 1998. Most of the showy desert wildflowers are annuals, also referred to as ephemerals because they are short-lived. Oddly enough, this limited lifespan ensures survival here. Rather than struggle to stay alive during the desert’s most extreme conditions, annual wildflowers lie dormant as seeds. When enough rain finally does fall, the seeds quickly sprout, grow, bloom and go back to seed again before the dryness and heat returns. By blooming enmasse during good years, wildflowers can attract large numbers of pollinators such as butterflies, moths, bees and hummingbirds that might not otherwise visit Death Valley. If you're not sure when to plan a trip, the National Park Service and several websites exist to track the Death Valley blooms each season. While there is not predicted to be a superbloom in Death Valley in 2023 due to a lack of fall and winter rains, visitors can still spot decent spring flora most years. Rarely is there a year totally absent of flora. However, elsewhere in California there may be superblooms to visit this year. California even has a tracking page for bloom predictions. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is expected to have small pockets of wildflower blooms throughout the park this year. Sand verbena, desert lily, dune evening primrose, and desert sunflowers are blooming with enthusiasm at Coyote Canyon/DiGiorgio Road, Henderson Canyon Road, and June Wash. Chino Hills State Park also has a great wildflower viewing experience along Bane Road and the Bane Ridge Trail with flora including canterbury and school bells, arroyo lupine, and California poppy. Ennis Bluebonnet Trails - Texas Ennis bluebonnets - courtesy of Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival Ennis, Texas was designated by the 1997 State Legislature as the home of the Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail and was designated the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas. From April 1-30, Ennis showcases over 40 miles of mapped driving Bluebonnet Trails sponsored by the Ennis Garden Club. These trails are the oldest such trails known in the state, and tens of thousands of visitors make the short trek to Ennis to view this wonderful wildflower show. The Ennis Garden Club will drive the trails to check the bloom status each week starting in April. The Club then reports to the Ennis Welcome Center about the latest status of the bluebonnets so that visitors can be well informed where the best flowers are on the trails at the time of their visit. Each year, the bluebonnets will appear on different trails as these are natural to the area. In Ennis, the bluebonnets typically peak around the 3rd week of April. This can vary year to year due to weather conditions and terrain, so please check their website or call before visiting. The Ennis Welcome Center will be open 7 days a week in April (closed Easter Sunday). Downtown Ennis also hosts an annual Bluebonnet Festival in the middle of April. The event features kids activities, live music, arts and crafts vendors, food, and, of course, wildflower walks. Biltmore Blooms - North Carolina A bird's eye view of the gardens and conservatory at the Biltmore - courtesy of biltmore.com Spring at the historic Biltmore estate in North Carolina is one of the property's most glorious seasons. Experience a spring break mountain escape with all the charm of a European retreat. Immerse yourself in thousands of colorful tulips as Biltmore Blooms transforms our gardens and grounds. The estate's horticultural experts continually work to preserve Frederick Law Olmsted’s original vision for the gardens and grounds, including the Rose Garden that features more than 250 varieties. As a century-old model for forest conservation (and, more recently, for sustainability, thanks to nine acres of solar panels), Biltmore continues to honor George Vanderbilt’s legacy of environmental protection. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival - Washington The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Washington state was officially inaugurated in 1984 by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. Chamber directors Jerry Diggerness and Joan Houchen saw that people were coming by the thousands to view the tulips and, through a retreat, decided to add events and festivities to enhance the visitors’ trip to the Skagit Valley. In 1994 the Tulip Festival broke off from the Chamber of Commerce and became an entity of its own, eventually opening a separate office and store. The festival is one of the destination events for the Pacific Northwest, held through the entire month of April, celebrating millions of tulips bursting into bloom. As with all things governed by Mother Nature, the tulips bloom according to their own schedule sometime during the festival. The tulips allow us to share our corner of the world and showcase Skagit Valley agriculture. Crested Butte Wildflower Festival - Colorado Crested Butte, Colorado - courtesy of Crested Butte Wildflower Festival A little later in the year, during July, the "Wildflower Capital of Colorado" hosts a Wildflower Festival. The event is an annual 10-day festival offering over 200 workshops in wildflower expertise each July, be it painting, pollination, photography, culinary arts, or leading hikes into the wild beyond in the heart of Crested Butte. The festival is held by a local organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the beauty of the montane and alpine wildflower environments in and around the Gunnison Valley. Holland's Tulip Time - Michigan Holland's only tulip farm is ablaze with acres of tulips from late April to mid-May. Veldheer farms began in 1950 when Vern Veldheer planted a couple hundred tulip bulbs as a hobby. Now, Veldheer's plants around 5 million tulip bulbs each year! In addition to tulips, there are several other imported flowers and perennials for you to enjoy and even purchase for your own garden. Several varieties of lilies bloom throughout the spring and summer, and you can enjoy the beautiful perennial gardens through mid-October. Veldheers is a must visit for garden and floral enthusiasts. Over 8 days in May, the town also hosts the Tulip Time festival. It features events and activities that take place in different locations, most within a 4-mile radius of Downtown Holland. Tulips can be seen for no charge in public parks and along downtown streets. However, for just a $15 ticket you can access an incredible, unique display of 65,000 tulips create by world renowned Dutch horticulturist, Ibo Gülsen. The outdoor exhibit allows visitors to be in the midst of the blooms at eye-level for an exciting display and photo-perfect experience. Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies - Tennessee & North Carolina Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, Great Smoky Mountains National Park - courtesy of Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage After a quick drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll quickly see why it's dubbed "Wildflower National Park," in the spring and summer. For an expert-led tour, arrange your trek during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage (SWFP) in April, which takes you the park's most beautiful displays with a naturalist. The SWFP is an annual nonprofit event features professionally-guided walks, exhibits, and other learning opportunities to explore the region's rich natural and cultural resources. Pilgrims from more than 40 states and several countries make the pilgrimage each year to learn more about fungi, ferns, wildflowers, trees and shrubs, medicinal plants, insects (terrestrial and aquatic), salamanders and snakes, birds, mammals (bats to bears), journaling, art and photography, and park history. Kauai's McBryde Garden - Hawaii Located on the South Shore of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, McBryde Garden is nestled in the picturesque and historic Lawa’i Valley. The garden is a veritable botanical ark of tropical flora and home to the largest ex situ collection of native Hawaiian flora in existence. Our extensive collections of palms, flowering trees, rubiaceae, heliconias, orchids, and many others have been wild-collected by botanists and biologists from throughout tropical regions around the world and transported to McBryde Garden to research, cultivate and thrive. Tours of McBryde Garden and the adjacent Allerton Garden are available by appointment only. Visitors are transported into the garden via a short, narrated shuttle ride along the stunning coastline of the South Shore. Be on the lookout for whales, dolphins and other marine life as you make your way into the garden over a historic railroad trestle road and into the magnificent valley. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve - California Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve - courtesy of timeout.com Each spring, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve comes alive with the seasonal surprises of the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat. The duration and intensity of colors and scents vary from year to year. The wildflower season generally lasts from as early as mid-February through May, with a variety of wildflowers creating a mosaic of color that changes daily.Eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, make the park a wonderful place to hike and explore any season. Get away from the city and relax in the quietude of the countryside, with the birds singing and hawks gliding silently overhead. Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife, such as meadow larks, lizards, and gopher snakes. If you're lucky, you may spot a coyote or bobcat. Numerous burrows around the trails may shelter mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, beetles, scorpions, or others. Delta Magnolias and Wetland Blooms - Mississippi Known for is dependability, resiliency and of course, beauty, Mississippi is aptly named the Magnolia State for sharing qualities with the flowering tree within its history and people, and these characteristics are especially present in the Delta region. Experiencing this beloved flower in the spring, whether it’s through Quapaw Canoe Company’s Mississippi River excursions or along the Blues Highway, is an ideal time to visit given its peak in bloom and Mississippi’s gorgeous climate during the spring months. As one of the most well-preserved wetlands in the United States, the coastal region of Mississippi is untouched oasis, offering a variety of aquatic plant life (and of course, beautiful Gulf views). The American Lotus, native to Mississippi and a symbol of enlightenment, blooms in the marshes along the coast, bringing new life each spring and a vibrant yellow-white color to the area. North Cascades National Park - Washington North Cascades wildflowers - courtesy of travel-experience-live.com Wildflowers can be found everywhere in the North Cascades in Washington state. They occur across the entire range of habitat types from wet hillside seeps and moist, shady forest floors to dry east-side slopes and exposed alpine ridges. The great differences in elevation, exposure, and precipitation that exist in the North Cascades promote a range of flowering times. Some plants are flowering by late February and early March in the low elevation forests, and as late as August and early September in the alpine zone. While most of the flowers are insect or wind pollinated, those blooming during the relatively warmer days of April and May, such as salmonberry, Indian plum, and red-flowering currant will be visited by hummingbirds returning to breed. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch - California For over sixty years, Mother Nature has transformed the rolling hills of North San Diego County into one of the most spectacular and coordinated displays of natural color and beauty anywhere in the world. The 55-acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers that make up The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch in Carlsbad, California, are in bloom for approximately six to eight weeks each year – from early March through early May – literally bringing the famous fields back to life. This annual burst of color, which has become part of the area’s local heritage, also is one of nature’s official ways of announcing the arrival of spring here in Southern California.
Avoid Crowds at These Outdoor Attractions in Colorado
Planning a trip out west for the summer? Colorado's Rocky Mountains and scenic natural areas are a popular choice for travelers. If you're looking to avoid big crowds, plan to make a trip to Grand Junction, Colorado—an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Recently named to The New York Times’ list of “52 Places To Go in 2023” and located just a few hours west of Denver, visitors find themselves surrounded by more than 1 million acres of public lands providing access to rivers, canyons, mesas and mountains. And, with so much space to roam, Grand Junction offers a welcome respite from summer crowds. From road cycling and mountain bike trails galore, to epic watersports and action-packed ATV experiences, this vibrant Colorado town packs a big punch and provides the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable adventure. Here a few hidden gems near the Colorado town. The Colorado National Monument The perfect place for canyoneering, rock climbing, and hiking is Colorado's "unofficial national park." The Colorado National Monument is a breathtaking must-see while visiting the area and a lesser-known gem in the park system. At 7,000 feet, the Monument offers incredible hiking trails and inspires photographers with panoramic views of towering red rock spires. Visitors can drive or bike across the National Monument’s Rim Rock Drive to enjoy 20,000 acres of vibrant red sandstone canyons and mesas rising above the Colorado River. Start the day with exciting terrain and breathtaking views of Colorado National Monument through a new guided climbing trip from Grand Junction Adventures. Climbers will have the option to experience the western desert sandstone rock slabs or red sandstone towers with the safety and navigational skills of a certified guide. Rattlesnake Canyon Rattlesnake Canyon - courtesy of visitgrandjunction.com Outside of Grand Junction, there is a collection of 35 natural arches tucked away in Rattlesnake Canyon. These soaring spans, protected in the 123,400-acre McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, form the second largest concentration of arches in the world. The Rattlesnake Canyon Arches are one of Colorado’s most spectacular wonders, but also one of its best-kept secrets. Adrenaline Driven Adventures is now offering Jeep and RZR Tours that take guests to the arches making them more accessible than ever before. Grand Junction Adventures is also offering new guided day trips to view the arches that include a 13-mile off road drive as well as a guided hike and lunch. The Colorado Riverfront Trail The Riverfront Trail - courtesy of visitgrandjunction.com Easily accessible from Downtown Grand Junction, the Colorado Riverfront Trail is a 30-mile flat, mostly paved trail that connects Palisade in the east to Fruita in the west with Grand Junction, which makes it incredibly easy to bike ride to all of the towns. There are over 200 species of birds that visit the Audubon Section of the Colorado Riverfront Trail including bald eagles, blue heron, osprey, several varieties of hawks and ducks. Order gourmet deli sandwiches and yummy snacks to-go from The Hog & The Hen, or Kulina Lani Organic Sourdough Bakery and enjoy a scenic picnic along the trail.The confluence of two of the largest rivers - the Colorado and the Gunnison - makes Grand Junction a paradise for those seeking water-based activities. With multiple parks along the rivers and adjacent lakes like the James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park and Highline Lake State Park, jet boating, wakeboarding, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and more are all available to visitors. Paddleboarding, kayaking, tubing and wading are available along the Colorado River at the newly opened Riverfront at Las Colonias Park. The 130 acre park is the latest development in the “string of pearls,” connecting points of the Colorado River with parks in the Grand Junction area along the Colorado Riverfront Trail.Getting out on the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers is easy with many put-in areas, as well as guides to take guests on rafting, canoeing or kayaking trips. Float along the Colorado River in Ruby-Horsethief Canyon or take on class III rapids in Westwater Canyon with the help of Rimrock Adventures. Grand Junction Adventures offers guided standup paddleboarding down the Gunnison River. Jet Boat Colorado offers tours on the Colorado River in custom New Zealand-style jet boats. Grand Junction's Mountain Bike Trails Mountain biking on the Lunch Loop Trail - courtesy of flickr.com Grand Junction is a mountain biker’s paradise. The Lunch Loops trails are a straight shot from downtown Grand Junction and the perfect spot to sneak in a lunchtime ride. Located on the side of the Grand Mesa, Powderhorn Mountain Resort is more than just a ski resort. In the summer months, Powderhorn opens its lifts to those looking for a downhill two-wheel thrill. The nearby Kokopelli’s Loop Trails Area is a playground for mountain bikers offering spectacular points to look down on the Colorado River set against red rock walls. For expert riders, there is the Palisade Plunge, one of the longest downhill-only mountain bike trails in the country. Boneshaker Adventures offers mountain bike camps. Their experienced and passionate coaches can help those new to the sport build a solid foundation, or help experienced riders step up their skills to the next level. Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Reserve Paint horse and foal - courtesy of visitgrandjunction.com The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Reserve encompasses more than 30,000 acres of rugged canyons and plateaus, and is home to roughly 100 wild mustangs. It is one of only three ranges in the U.S. set aside specifically to protect wild and free roaming horses. Wild horses have lived for more than a century in the rugged maze of canyons, buttes, sage-dotted meadows and pinyon-juniper forests atop the Little Book Cliffs. Ask Marty Felix about any of the wild horses and she probably can tell you the horse's name, it's lineage and where on the range it can be found at various times of the year. Known as "The Wild Horse Lady" because of her long history working with the area's horses, Felix first set eyes on a band of wild horses in the Book Cliffs on March 18, 1973. "I was hooked just like that," she says. She's been at it since then. Felix visits the range at least once a week as a volunteer for the federal agencies that manage the land and monitor the herd. She and other members of Friends of the Mustangs photograph the horses, help count horses and foals and assist in fertility-control so the herd doesn't outgrow the available forage. Visitors are treated to marvelous silence, solitude, wide-open vistas and even a few geologic oddities. But of course the main attraction is the range's 124 horses, which Felix says tend to run in small bands of four or five. Summer days can be hot, and visitors to the remote area at any time of year should take plenty of water, food, clothing and supplies in case of unexpected storms or a vehicle breakdown. Felix discourages travel when rain is in the forecast. Late spring and early summer are the perfect times to visit the wild horses. During this time of year, many mares descend to lower elevations near the trailhead with their young foals to graze. The best viewing times are early morning and evening, according to Felix. "To see the horses, you have to look with your binoculars in the far, open fields," she says. "You might only get to see them from a distance. They're not going to be standing by the road."Felix suggests Indian Park as the best place for viewing horses. It's accessible from the Winter Flats and Dry Fork roads, which begin near De Beque about 30 miles east of Grand Junction on Interstate 70. Another good access point is Coal Canyon Road, which begins at the Cameo exit from I-70 about 15 miles east of Grand Junction. (Note that Coal Canyon Road is closed from Dec. 1 to May 30 to protect foaling areas.) All routes require high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Best States for Camping
Few things are more relaxing than a night under the stars while camping with your favorite folks. Which states offer the best spots for a rustic retreat? To kick off the start of camping season, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best States for Camping in America. They compared the 50 states based on 25 metrics, such as campsite access, acreage, and trails. They also considered safety, supplies, camper satisfaction, and affordability. They then grouped those factors into five categories: Access, Quality, Supplies, Safety, and Affordability, and ranked each state accordingly. Map out your camping bucket list with the rankings below. West Coast adventures Joshua Tree - courtesy of morethanjustparks.com California hikes to first place for the second year in a row, while Washington state trails just behind at No. 2. Both states scored high in Access, Quality, and Supplies, but the Golden State gives campers the most space for a night off the beaten path. Stay safe if you camp in these two states: They lack phone coverage and have high rates of park deaths. California holds the record for the most park deaths between 2010 and 2020 at 300 — 151 more than the next state, Arizona. Always check the weather before venturing out, and bring enough water to last your journey. However, with 7.2 million first-time campers hitting the trails in 2022, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make camping reservations. It might be hard to book a site at Yosemite, but have no fear — The Golden State is full of top-tier camping destinations. From seaside escapes at Channel Islands National Park to waterfalls and redwoods at Big Basin Redwoods State Park to the sand dunes in Joshua Tree, California has a mega variety of environments to roam. Camp near meadows of wildflowers and an active stratovolcano at Mount Rainier National Park. Explore valleys, waterfalls, and more than 300 glaciers at North Cascades National Park. Another icon, Olympic National Park, offers abundant wilderness, with diverse landscapes including temperate rainforests, breathtaking coastlines, and icy mountains. Many beautiful camping opportunities exist in Oregon (No. 21). Unfortunately, the Beaver State lags behind its Pacific Coast neighbors at No. 49 in Affordability and with the third-worst average consumer rating for campgrounds. Wide-open spaces Mountains in Big Bend National Park - courtesy of nps.gov Texas (No. 3) is a big state full of diverse camping opportunities. The Lone Star State claims the second-highest number of campgrounds, campsites, and camping supply stores. There’s plenty of room to roam with a high total acreage of campgrounds (No. 4) and state and national parks (No. 6). Cowpokes and campers can sleep comfortably under starry skies, with abundant sites with access to water (No. 2) and toilet facilities (No. 4). Sleep under the stars at Big Bend National Park, which is a designated International Dark Sky Park. Camp on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore, or float around the Texas Hill Country at Guadalupe River State Park. Trailing behind Bison in the Yellowstone River, Wyoming - courtesy of nps.gov America is full of bountiful camping opportunities, with unique spots in every state. Less populated states like West Virginia (No. 41), Wyoming (No. 42), Rhode Island (No. 49), Delaware (No. 44), and South Dakota (No. 45) land at the bottom alongside North Dakota in last place. These states aren’t necessarily bad for camping. In fact, with lower populations, you might even have less competition and a better chance of scoring a peaceful campsite. Their low rankings are due to a lack of camping locations, attractions, amenities, and supplies compared with the more populated, higher-ranking states. Wyoming stands out with the third-highest total campground, state, and national park acreage. Delaware has the biggest share of highly rated campgrounds, while North Dakota boasts the best average consumer rating of campgrounds and Safety record. Elevated experiences Camping in the Adirondacks - courtesy of visitadirondacks.com Many mountainous states climb to the top, offering breathtaking views for hikers and campers alike. From the Adirondacks and Catskills in New York (No. 5) to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado (No. 6) to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (No. 12), many supreme camping states are home to iconic hiking destinations. Additionally, nine out of the 14 states that encompass the Appalachian Trail landed in the top half of our ranking. New York, Colorado, and Tennessee provide ample campgrounds, trails, and campsite activities to keep visitors busy. The wilderness and fresh air in Upstate New York have attracted campers for ages. Roll out your sleeping bag on a mountain in the Adirondacks or Catskills. You can also rent a cabin and go kayaking on the Finger Lakes or along two of the Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario. Seaside scenery Bahia Honda State Park, Florida - courtesy of supersimplesaltylife.com Some of the best states for camping also reel in sublime opportunities for fishing. Oceanside states like Florida (No. 4) and North Carolina (No. 9) bob at the top along with Michigan (No. 7) and Minnesota (No. 10). Florida floats to No. 1 in the Supplies rank, thanks to the highest number of RV rental offers. North Carolina, Michigan, and Florida each have top camping Access overall, with The Sunshine State landing at No. 2 in that category. Minnesota is also among the most affordable states for camping and swims to No. 2 in Safety. Wake up with a fresh sea breeze when you camp at Bahia Honda State Park. Ocala is more than a destination for campers who also love horses. Canoe, bike, or hike through the stunning Ocala National Forest. — To see more details and the full rankings, visit Lawn Love.
3 Spring Destinations for Outdoor Adventurists
With the weather warming up and spring just around the corner, many travelers are eager to get back outside. If you're looking for a place to spend spring break, a family-friendly vacation, or just somewhere to take in the beautiful natural landscape, here are three great destinations with outdoor activities for any age and type of adventure-seeker.For a surreal desert escape - Palm Springs, California Palm Mountain Resort - courtesy of Palm Mountain Resort There’s so much for budget-conscious travelers to see and do in Palm Springs. Visitors can take in the gorgeous desert landscape with a ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for walking and hiking in the nearby San Jacinto Mountains. Less than an hour's drive away is Joshua Tree National Park, where two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California. Families with kids will appreciate a visit to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, which features rhino encounters, behind-the-scenes shuttle tours, and private safari tours, as well as a petting area, an interactive discovery center, nature trails, a wildlife hospital and conservation center, and an assortment of animal species from all over the world. Visitors will also want to take a stroll down Palm Canyon Drive, to enjoy the shopping, restaurants, and more in town, and take a peak at the Palm Springs Art Museum. For accommodations, Palm Mountain Resort is a beautiful Palm Springs resort nestled in the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. It's the ultimate desert escape for all ages of traveler, and all budgets. Just steps away from the famed Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Mountain is the ideal walkable location for exploration. Soak up the sun at their family-friendly pool deck before walking to town, or stay on property and head to the newly refreshed spa. Palm Mountain loves dogs and offers pet-friendly rooms so you can bring along the whole crew! It’s also less than 10 minutes from the Palm Springs Airport, with direct flights from over twenty major hubs nationwide. For a classic beachside getaway - Panama City Beach, Florida Hyatt Place PCB Beachfront - courtesy of hyatt.com Panama City Beach is the perfect getaway for families, couples, and adventurist travelers looking to make memories that last a lifetime. Enjoy everything from live entertainment, kid-friendly programming, lazy rivers and on-site dining while staying on the beachfront at family-friendly resorts including the Holiday Inn Resort and the new Hyatt Place Panama City Beach.Those who live for adventure and excitement can choose between activities on land, at sea and in the air, including swimming with dolphins off Shell Island, skidding through inland marshland on an airboat or flying across the ocean on a jet ski. A “Shell Island” adventure with Panhandle Helicopter takes guests above the area’s emerald coast water where they can spot some of the destination’s beautiful sea-life from the sky. PCB is also known for some of the best shipwreck diving on the Gulf Coast, and is a premier diving destination for both beginner and advanced divers. For deep sea game fishing, the crystal-clear depths of Panama City Beach’s sandy shores are home to a vast array of wildlife for adrenaline pumping offshore fishing for both novice and experienced anglers. Families can snorkel and paddleboard through the destination’s crystal-clear waters, embark on a thrilling airboat adventure, or beat the heat at Shipwreck Island voted as one of "America’s Best Water Parks" by TripAdvisor two years in a row. Take in amazing views at SkyWheel, with 360-degree panoramic views of the Emerald Coast from 180 feet up. For a romantic night out, Island Time Dolphin Sunset Cruise takes tourists through the Grand Lagoon past the marinas, state parks and stately beachside homes. After that, guests sail right into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico where they can get a 365-degree view of the stellar Florida sunset. For snowy sports and slopeside fun - South Tahoe, California South Lake Tahoe - courtesy of rnrvr.com South Tahoe resorts provide some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world—and recent Sierra storms have laid the groundwork for an extended snow season, which includes cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and more. Then there’s the wildly popular concept of après-ski, a French term made popular in the Alps during the 1950s rise of commercial skiing. It means “after ski,” or as stated in the Oxford dictionary, “the social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing.” In Tahoe, après-ski is an umbrella term for popular post-ski activities. It can refer to a Champagne toast on slope-side terraces, craft beers around ski lodge fire pits or a soak in a hot tub at one of RnR’s coveted vacation homes. There’s no official time frame for après ski, although it usually begins around 4 pm, following the “last run” of the day. (By the way, never call it your last run, it’s bad luck). In Tahoe, après ski can last well into the night given South Shore’s unique lineup of casinos, nightclubs, and bars. RnR Vacation Rentals has a number of great accommodations available—whether you want a home with a private beach on the lake, a boat dock in the Keys, access to hiking trails in your backyard, or a short walk to the ski lift. A short walk out the door of your vacation rental reveals the natural splendor that makes Tahoe one of the most coveted destinations in the world. Hit the hiking trails, visit the rushing waterfalls, head up the Heavenly gondola or take a boat ride along the crystal-clear waters of the deep-water lake that is the jewel of the Sierra. There is literally something for everyone at South Tahoe, a destination that has redefined the idea of spring break.
Where to Have the Most Fun in 2023
Everyone’s personal brand of fun is different. Some people like trying new restaurants, traveling, going to bars and clubs or playing outdoor sports. Others enjoy riding roller coasters, going to the movies, or playing video games. But having fun can be expensive – the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American spends over $3,500 on entertainment per year. To help Americans find the cities with the greatest number and variety of fun yet cost-effective options, WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities based on 65 key metrics. They range from fitness centers per capita to movie costs to average open hours of breweries. With such different preferences, what, then, makes a fun city? To help Americans find the cities with the greatest number and variety of fun yet cost-effective options, WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities based on 65 key metrics. Below are some of the best places to visit based on their different metrics. Best Cities for Foodies Little Havana in Miami - courtesy of marriott.com For those who love to try new cuisine and enjoy culinary experiences, five cities tied for most restaurants per capita. Foodies will have plenty to look forward to in Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Chicago. These cities are also known for great nightlife, entertainment, vibrant culture, and iconic landmarks—they make a great destination for almost any type of traveler! Looking for the best Cuban food? Head to Miami to sample this incredible cuisine. In Little Havana on Calle Ocho, visitors will find authentic vaca frita, croquetas, cortados, and much more. If Chinese food is more your style, San Francisco is home to the largest and oldest Chinatown outside of Asia. Best Cities for Nature Lovers and Fitness Enthusiasts Diamond Head State Park - courtesy of loveoahu.org Prefer the outdoors? WalletHub found that Las Vegas, New York City, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Charlotte (NC) are the cities with the most park playgrounds per capita. Families with young kids, couples that enjoy a romantic evening walk, and those looking for a scenic morning run on their trip will appreciate these towns for their abundant park space alongside other fun amenities like great food, nightlife, and entertainment. For those seeking out more nature than the typical city park can offer, these towns boast the most parkland per capita: Anchorage, AK; Chesapeake, VA; Honolulu, HI; Jacksonville, FL; and Scottsdale, AZ. Each of these cities has a unique landscape and climate. Honolulu, in particular, boasts several different ways to explore the outdoors with wonderful beaches for surfing, swimming, and playing, as well as volcanic mountain escapes for hiking, exploring, and stargazing. In addition to the above towns, Fort Lauderdale, FL; Tempe, AZ; Huntington Beach, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; and Rochester, NY have the most fitness centers per capita—so no matter the weather, visitors will have a great chance of looking for other ways to stay active while traveling. Best Cities for Bar Hoppers and Nightlife Lovers OMNIA at Caesars - courtesy of vegas.com WalletHub ranked the top cities with the most accessible bars: Fort Lauderdale, FL; Rochester, NY; Providence, RI; Buffalo, NY; and Richmond, VA. Fort Lauderdale ranked number one in this category, but this Florida town has another going for it—with the most fitness centers per capita, bar hoppers that partied a little too hard the night before will have plenty of options to sweat it out the next day at the gym! Alternatively, those that like to dance the night away will find that San Francisco or Las Vegas will be more their style. These two cities tied for first when it came to the most dance clubs per capita, followed by Orlando, Houston, and New York City. Finally, for those looking for a particularly good deal, WalletHub found that the cheapest beers can be found in bars in Brownsville, TX; Las Cruces, NM; Gulfport, MS; Milwaukee, WI; and Missoula, MT. Best Cities for Entertainment Seekers Mardi Gras in New Orleans - courtesy of mardigrasneworleans.com It turns out that San Francisco doesn't just have great restaurants, and Honolulu isn't just for nature lovers—both these cities also top the rankings when it comes to festivals per capita. New Orleans, LA and Tampa, FL tied for the top spot as well. New Orleans is probably best know for their festival thanks to their incredible Mardis Gras celebrations. While it is an iconic celebrations, visitors will find many other opportunities throughout the year to see the streets come alive in New Orleans. Of course, if festivals aren't quite your thing or you're hoping to avoid a noisy crowd, take note of these towns for the cheapest movie tickets around: Port St. Lucie, FL; Montgomery, AL; Montgomery, AL; Jackson, MS; Akron, OH; and Corpus Christi, TX.
Book a Winter Adventure at these Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches
There is no better place to spend time with your family than on a winter dude ranch vacation – away from the hustle and bustle of the overcrowded shopping malls and busy holiday season. If you are looking for a snowy adventure in the stunning Rocky Mountains look no further than these ranches listed below. Snowshoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, relaxing by a crackling fire, enjoying wonderful food and cozy accommodations, and making memories to last forever is what you will find at these DRA member dude ranches. Keep reading to learn more and start planning your winter dude ranch vacation today! Western Pleasure Ranch – Sandpoint, Idaho Western Pleasure Ranch - courtesy of duderanch.org As a blanket of white transforms, the Western Pleasure Ranch into a winter wonderland, you and your family can enjoy scenic horse-drawn sleigh rides powered by one of their many draft teams. You will feel like a child again as they jingle through a 2-mile loop trail of dense forests in the foothills of the Cabinet Mountains with amazing views of the Selkirk Mountain Ranch. With a wide variety of horse-drawn sleighs, including a five-passenger, three twelve passengers, and a two-passenger, they have the right size sleigh to accommodate your family, friends, and even that special someone for the romantic two-passenger sleigh. Triangle X Ranch – Moose, Wyoming Triangle X trail ride and the Tetons - courtesy of duderanch.org Head to the iconic Jackson Hole, Wyoming for some incredible skiing and winter fun! Bask in the beauty of the snow-covered Teton Mountain Range and enjoy the comforts of Triangle X Ranch. The cabins are cozy, the food is divine, and the hot tub will make you never want to leave! Triangle X Ranch is located in the heart of Grand Teton National Park and is the only concession open to operate in the wintertime! They offer unsurpassed cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, photography, and wildlife viewing right out your front door. After a full day, return to the comfortable lodge and relax western style with a warm fire and a large outdoor jacuzzi. Triangle X Ranch opens the day after Christmas for their winter season, so be sure to book soon! Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, Montana Carriage ride on Bar W - courtesy of duderanch.org Are you dreaming of Montana? Many people are right now! Escape to the Big Sky State to enjoy all of the winter activities that Montana has to offer. At Bar W Guest Ranch you will find snow activities like sleigh rides, ski & stay packages, cross-country & nordic skiing, winter fat biking, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, ice skating, snowshoe tours and much more! Schedule the trip that makes you feel like you are in a holiday Hallmark movie at the Bar W Guest Ranch! Latigo Ranch – Kremmling, Colorado Sunset on Latigo Ranch - courtesy of duderanch.org Skiing and snowshoeing in the mountains of Colorado during winter vacations is probably one of the dreamiest vacations you can think of if you are an outdoor enthusiast. Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado has just what you are looking for. Cozy cabins, miles of trails for adventures, gourmet meals, stunning scenery, and good company are what you will find at Latigo. You will also find yaks! They are a fun addition to the ranch and a rarity at dude ranches. Find your perfect winter ski vacation away from the crowds at resorts and at a dude ranch. Sundance Trail Guest Ranch – Red Feather Lakes, Colorado Winter horseback riding, stargazing from the jacuzzi, storytelling in front of the crackling fire, hearty homecooked meals, and welcoming accommodations, what more could you ask for? Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Northern Colorado offers all of these great things listed before and more! When you are planning your holiday vacation, do not count out Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. They are easy to get to from Denver International Airport, offer a quiet, peaceful, and wonderful winter vacation for your group, and you can bring your pets! It really isn’t a true family vacation if the furry friends can’t come along, right? C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, Colorado C Lazy U Ranch - courtesy of duderanch.org Take a trip to Grand County this winter and enjoy all that C Lazy U Ranch has to offer for winter fun! Snowmobiling, snow tubing, ice hockey, ice skating, sleigh rides, skiing and so much more are offered at C Lazy U to keep everyone busy, enjoying the outdoors, and making memories together. Delicious hearty meals will keep you fueled throughout the day and comfortable cabins will leave you well-rested and ready for more action. Enjoy the holidays at C Lazy U Ranch or spend other time throughout the winter when things are a little slower. No matter when you visit, a great vacation is what you will receive at C Lazy U Ranch. Vista Verde Ranch – Steamboat Springs, Colorado Luxury, adventure, beauty, peacefulness, and a whole lot of fun and memory making is what you will find at Vista Verde Ranch in the wintertime. Activities like snowmobiling, snowshoeing, snow tubing, sleigh rides, skiing, and much more is offered at Vista Verde Ranch along with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, and scenery that will leave you breathless. Whether you are booking a holiday vacation or just a winter getaway, do not overlook Vista Verde Ranch outside of beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
10 Macabre Cities to Visit for Halloween
Some U.S. cities are perfect to visit during Halloween because of their spooky or mysterious culture, like the above ground cemeteries and voodoo traditions in New Orleans, the famous 17th century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, or the Headless Horseman legend in Sleepy Hollow, New York. New Orleans, Louisiana From above ground mausoleums and tombs to haunted hotels to voodoo culture, New Orleans has a distinct culture that involves elements of the macabre. Founded in 1718 before the United States was officially founded, it has a history full of urban legends, including werewolves prowling the bayou or vampires in the French Quarter. Popular landmarks include the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in the St. Louis Cemetery, walking past the gruesome past of LaLaurie Mansion, or Blacksmith’s Shop Bar where the ghost of pirate Jean Lafitte resides. Walk the cobblestone streets past brightly colored houses with iron balconies on a ghost tour on a foggy night to experience the unusual. Savannah, Georgia Savannah may ooze more than southern charm. With more than 300 years of gruesome history, the entire historic district is reportedly haunted. There’s been rumors and sightings of paranormal activity at Hamilton-Turner Inn as well as Marshall House, a haunted hotel that was a hospital three times in the past. Madison Square was the site of a bloody Civil War battle and has many haunted mansions that line the streets. Wander through Bonaventure Cemetery or Colonial Park Cemetery if you dare. Sleepy Hollow, New York This village thrives in its folklore history due to the Headless Horsemen in the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. You may experience a ghostly encounter when walking through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery or exploring the town by lantern and shining jack-o-lanterns. Wander through popular colonial era manors include Philipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, or Lyndhurst Mansion to learn more about local Sleepy Hollow history and haunts. Salem, Massachusetts Founded in 1626 as a Puritan fishing community, Salem is the location of the famous 1692 Salem witch trials in which Colonial America’s mass hysteria led to 19 people being hanged with more dying from other causes. Much of the town’s cultural identity revolves around this event, and many of the sites from the witch trials over 300 years ago still stand. Many historic sites are reportedly haunted, including one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, Old Burying Point Cemetery, and home of a Witch Trial Judge, The Witch House. Explore the muted colors of the town and brick-paved streets yourself to learn more about the sinister history rooted here. Tombstone, Arizona Riddled with a violent past, this historic mining ghost town is said to be home to lingering spirits of cowboys, grieving mothers, and citizens killed in large fires. OK Corral, the site of the famous Old West gunfight, is reportedly haunted by the cowboys. Boot Hill Graveyard and Bird Cage Theatre are popular destinations where unexplainable phenomena occur in Tombstone. St. Augustine, Florida Presumably the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is home to centuries of history, beautiful houses, and supposedly, spirits. The masonry fortress Castillo de San Marcos is the location of many battles and invasions. Dangerous criminals in grotesque conditions were held at The Old Jail and apparitions with tragic deaths have been described at St. Augustine Lighthouse. Stroll the cobblestone streets among the Spanish colonial architecture to immerse yourself in this ancient city. San Francisco, California Among the vibrant scenery and sloping hills, some locations around San Francisco may send you chills even amidst the warm weather. Alcatraz, or “The Rock,” is a famous maximum-security military prison and haunted landmark that housed inmates including Al Capone. See if you hear voices or footsteps behind you if you visit. Take your pick of the macabre from friendly ghosts at The Queen Anne Hotel, dead army men performing their daily routine at the National Park The Presidio, or ethereal beings at the Sutro Baths. Charleston, South Carolina Known as a port city with cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages, Charleston also has some dark history from the first shots of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter to slave labor on plantations. Learn about the macabre with locations like the White Point Garden where 50 pirates were hanged in the 1700s, the Old City Jail which housed the state’s first female serial killer, or The Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon which held Revolutionary War soldiers. San Antonio, Texas Bursting with rich culture and modern attractions, San Antonio also has a creepy past. The Menger Hotel is reputed to have strange occurrences but is decidedly the location of The Battle of the Alamo, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders recruitment, and a devastating fire. The Southern Texas region also gives way to the Spanish urban legend of La Llorona, the weeping woman. Walk along the river or visit the Alamo Williamsburg, Virginia Existing as early as the 18th-century, Williamsburg has diverse Colonial America history, including part in the U.S. Civil War. Not all of its history is for the faint of heart though. Said to be cursed by the slave of the wife, the Peyton Randolph House was built in 1715 and the location of at least 30 deaths. The Public Hospital was the country’s first insane asylum. other haunted locations are the Wythe House, colonial prison Public Gaol, and Fort Magruder Hotel which was the site of the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862.