Budget Travel Lists
There is just something about historic railroads. Unfortunately, many of the engines and trains that have been saved are static. Lifeless. But there are places in America where you can see a steam engine come alive and run at speed (go fast), where you can climb America’s only accessible 14-thousand-foot mountain, ride on a 150-year old railroad lost in time and coming back to life in the beautiful valleys of central Pennsylvania and ride on the original subway cars from 1916 and 1930’s to places such as Coney Island in Brooklyn. This is where open windows, strap hangers and swaying cars are as fun as the rides found at Coney Island. Yes, there are great train rides this summer, and here’s a ticket to four of the most interesting. THE BROADMOOR, MANITOU & PIKES PEAK COG RAILWAY (Manitou, CO to the summit at Pikes Peak – 14,115 feet) Climb every mountain. Well, there is only one 14-thousand-foot mountain in the US that you don’t have to climb. You can take the train. A unique train – a cog. At The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, America’s highest railway reaches a height of 14,115 feet. This is where the words to the song “America the Beautiful” were composed. Completely rebuilt it is back and better than ever climbing up America’s Mountain. This iconic railway is one of only two cog railways in the U.S.Originally built in 1891 and owned and operated by The Broadmoor since 1925, this historic railway is the highest railroad in America, the highest cog railway in the world, one of Colorado’s top attractions, and one of the nation’s most unique experiences. The Railway runs every day. For information and reservations hop onboard at www.cograilway.com THE GRAND CANYON RAILWAY (Williams, AZ on Rt. 66 to steps from South Rim, Grand Canyon) Courtesy Xanterra Travel Collection Grand Canyon Railway has been taking people to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon since 1901 when it was built by the legendary Atkinson, Topeka and Santé Fee (ATSF). Grand Canyon Railway runs daily from Williams, AZ on historic Rt. 66 to within steps of the Grand Canyon South Rim and El Tovar. The pristine train, comprised of railcars from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, including luxury dome cars and an open platform observation car, as well as vintage coaches with opening windows, departs at 9:30 a.m. and returns at 5:45 p.m. with a 2.5-hour layover at South Rim of Grand Canyon. The train rolls directly into Grand Canyon National Park, taking an estimated 70,000 cars off the road.During most of the summer and into early fall, the Railway pulls the daily train once a month with a steam engine built in 1923 and that runs on waste vegetable oil.There is no extra charge for the steam engine pulled trains. It be believed Grand Canyon Railway is the last standard gauge passenger railroad in the US where steam engines are still scheduled to pull revenue trains.You can save 30% on train tickets when you book in conjunction with any 1 or 2-night stay at The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Visit thetrain.com or call 1-800-THE.-TRAIN (1-800-843-8724) for updated and current information on both the hotel and the train.It is now also possible to charter an entire luxury private railroad car or even an entire private train complete with chefs, bartenders, entertainers, and staff. These are ideal for “milestone” moments, such as graduations, family reunions, anniversaries, weddings, birthdays, etc. For charters call 928-635-5700 or visit www.thetrain.com/charters. THE EAST BROAD TOP RAILROAD (Orbisonia, Central Pennsylvania) Courtesy of The East Broad Top Railroad It's one of the true treasures in American railroading. The East Broad Top Railroad (EBT) located in Orbisonia, PA and nestled in the rolling hills and farmlands in the central part of the state-started train rides and historic railroad shop tours this spring. The 150-year-old railroad is considered by the Smithsonian to be one of the best-preserved examples of 19th century American narrow gauge railroads (the rails less than 4 feet apart so the trains, and everything is smaller than "standard" railroads) and industrial complexes in the country.It was already an antique when it was shut down in 1956; today is it a true treasure that far exceed the trains and tracks. The EBT still has six narrow-gauge steam locomotives, each awaiting their turn for restoration, one of which is expected soon. Initially, the railroad will offer one hour train rides in a vintage caboose, passenger car or even an open-air car on a nine-mile round-trip ride from the historic roundhouse and shops in Orbisonia to Colgate Grove and back. Prices begin at $20 for adults and $18 for children.Reservations are strongly suggested. For information and reservations visit www.eastbroadtop.com or call 814-447-3285. THE NEW YORK TRANSIT MUSEUM & NOSTALGIA RIDES (New York City) Brooklyn Union Elevated Car Courtesy of The New York Transit Museum Yes, the New York subway is a railroad and a rather large one at that with 665 miles of mainline track and 472 stations that caters to more than a billion rides a year. It even has a museum in Brooklyn. Founded in 1976, the New York Transit Museum is dedicated to telling and preserving the stories of mass transportation – extraordinary engineering feats, workers who labored in the tunnels over 100 years ago, communities that were drastically transformed, and the ever-evolving technology, design, and ridership of a system that runs 24 hours a day, every day of the year.Housed underground in an authentic 1936 subway station in Downtown Brooklyn, the Transit Museum’s working platform level spans a full city block, and is home to a rotating selection of twenty vintage subway and elevated cars dating back to 1907.However, what most people don’t know is that this is not just a static museum. It maintains and operates a wide variety of vintage train cars dating back to 1907. These historic subway trains are occasionally run on what's called “Nostalgia Rides.” Some go to Yankee Stadium, other to Coney Island or the Rockaway Beach & Boardwalk, and some venture to historic cemeteries or decommissioned subway stations. We’re talking open windows, flickering light bulbs, hanging on to strap hangers and swaying cars. It’s a trip, and a trip back in time on the real things, right down to the rattan seats and car card (ads) that try to sell everything from bras and cookies, the ZIP code and baseball games at the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field and of course, Yankee Stadium. For information on the museum and Nostalgia Rides visit www.nytransitmuseum.org.
Here are our top picks for how to escape the crowds and find a slice of pristine wilderness in some of the country’s most visited national parks. Mineral King Found in Sequoia National Park Sure, you’ll have to drive an hour down a rugged dirt road to get to Sequoia’s Mineral King area, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada Range and plentiful hiking and backpacking opportunities. The trail up to Franklin Lakes (12 miles round trip) is an awesome day hike or overnight trek, passing by waterfalls and, in summer, spectacular wildflowers. Serious adventurers might want to tack on a 3-4 day journey over Franklin Pass to secluded Kern Hot Springs. East Inlet Trail Found in Rocky Mountain National Park Situated on the far less traveled, western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, the East Inlet Trail is a great jumping off point for hikers seeking big mountain vistas, wildlife, waterfalls, and, most importantly, solitude. The trail starts with Adams Falls, then steadily climbs up through a mountainous valley, with views getting better the further your climb. It’s a 16-mile round trip to Spirit Lake, and an even farther overnight trek for those who want to travel to Fourth Lake and over Boulder Grand Pass. Kolob Canyon is a little-visited area in Utah's Zion National Park © Nickolay Stanev / Shutterstock Kolob Canyon Found in Zion National Park Located in the park’s northern, higher elevation section, Kolob Canyon has all the fabulous red rock and big vistas that you’d expect from Zion, but with far fewer crowds. Take a scenic drive along East Kolob Canyon Road, then go on a hike amidst towering, rust-colored fins and escarpments on the La Verkin Creek Trail. Serious trekkers won’t want to miss Kolob Arch (15 miles round trip – mostly flat) as a long day hike or a mellow backpacking trip along a gently burbling creek (permits available online or at the visitor center). Schooner Head Overlook & Tide Pools Found in Acadia National Park Download a tide schedule app onto your phone, then traverse the Park Loop Road to Schooner Head Overlook. Head down to the rocky seashore at low tide to check out numerous tide pools filled with barnacles, sea urchins, and crabs, just watch out for slippery seaweed on the rocks. Visitors comfortable scrambling on wet rocks will definitely want to check out Anemone Cave, which can be accessed only at low tide via careful rock-hopping. Like the NPS, we don't recommend entering the cave, but the interior can be safely viewed from the rocks nearby. You'll have quiet places like Hetch Hetchy Reservoir all to yourself © Nickolay Stanev / Shutterstock Hetch Hetchy Found in Yosemite National Park Located in the least-visited northwestern quadrant of the park, Hetch Hetchy is an area John Muir once called “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” Unfortunately, the valley was dammed to create a reservoir for drinking water, but the surrounding mountainous landscape is still spectacular and free of the usual hustle and bustle of the rest of Yosemite. Visitors can day hike here or check out an epic, 25-mile backpacking loop that traverses several of the area’s stunning lakes and waterfalls. Go in spring for rainbow bursts of alpine wildflowers. Sidewinder Canyon Found in Death Valley National Park Just 20 minutes by car from Badwater Basin lies a small, unsigned parking lot and a vague trail leading toward a series of three slot canyons. After hiking .6 miles up an imposing desert wash, visitors here can squeeze, shimmy, and scramble through narrow breccia rock formations. Grab detailed, printed directions for the 5-mile (round trip) journey at the ranger station in Furnace Creek if you’re at all nervous about off-trail exploration, and be sure to pack plenty of water. With the water from this nearby waterfall rushing by, the Sinks is a perfect place for a relaxing swim © Ehrlif / iStock / Getty The Sinks Swimming Hole Found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Enjoy one of the most picturesque spots on the Little River Road scenic drive, located just 12 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Travelers here can hang out on the massive river boulders, relax near a rushing waterfall, and swim in the clear, natural pools to cool down on a hot, summer day. The bravest of your group might even want to try cliff diving from the nearby rocks, a popular activity among locals. Bogachiel River Trail Found in Olympic National Park Bypass the ever-popular Hoh Rain Forest Trail while still enjoying the same temperate rainforest ecosystem, filled with verdant spruce, mossy alders, and gardens of sword fern. Hikers can go the distance and parallel the river for a 12-mile round-trip out-and-back or simply turn around whenever they’ve seen enough. At .3 miles from the trailhead is a junction with the Kestner Homestead Loop, which is a lovely, accessible trail to an old barn, house, and outbuildings that colors the historic significance of the area. The Lone Star Geyser is a little out of the way, but it offers the spectacle of Old Faithful without the crowds © Kris Wiktor / Shutterstock Lone Star Geyser Found in Yellowstone National Park Escape the madness at Old Faithful and visit Lone Star Geyser instead. A mellow, 4.8-mile (round trip) hike or bike ride down an old park road takes visitors here through a dense pine forest, occasionally opening up to beautiful meadow views. At the turn-around point is Lone Star Geyser. The geyser erupts about every three hours, so use a geyser times app to check the predicted schedule. It’s a great spot to hike to for lunch and hang out as you wait for the geyser to blow. Be sure to download the NPS Yellowstone App onto your phone before going on this hike – there’s little to no cell service inside the park. Shoshone Point captures the scope of the Grand Canyon without the crowds seen at more popular spots © Chr. Offenberg / Shutterstock Shoshone Point Found in Grand Canyon National Park Shoshone Point has all the grandeur of Mather Point and Bright Angel, without the throngs of crowds that can make it difficult to snap a decent picture. That’s because travelers here have to walk an easy, 1-mile (each way) former service road to get to the viewpoint. Gaze out at layer upon layer of bright red canyon rock and try to catch a glimpse of the powerful Colorado River, a vertical mile beneath your feet. Go at sunrise to have the place all to yourself.
When you think Alaska, does your mind’s eye may immediately conjure the image of a moose? Or an icy blue glacier? Rugged granite peaks topped with snow? Immense brown bears? What you may not realize is that the city of Anchorage and its surrounding area is one place where you can truly “have it all” - and more! Here, an easy and affordable guide to this extraordinary community. Visit the Chugach Range Matt Anderson/Dreamstime One thing you’re certain to notice upon arriving in Anchorage is that the Chugach Mountains seem close enough to touch. Well, almost. Many of the gorgeous range’s trails and access points are a short drive, about 20 minutes, from just about anywhere in the city, meaning you can balance a comfy hotel stay and first-rate restaurant options with a truly wild experience amid the 9,000 square miles of Chugach State Park and Chugach National Forest. Take your pick of hiking, rafting, or simply contemplating the serenity of this virtually untouched natural area. Paddling, cycling, climbing, and even ogling glaciers are all on the Chugach’s menu of options. Spend a few hours, a few days, or an entire week exploring its bounty. (If the Chugach whets your appetite for glaciers, consider a day cruise from nearby Seward or Whittier to see even more.) Explore Alaska History and Culture The Anchorage area has been at the crossroads of Alaska history for centuries. Set aside a day or more to explore the Alaska Native Heritage Center with its introduction to the stories, dances, traditions, and customs of Alaska’s 11 major native cultures. For a taste of Alaska’s history, hop aboard the railroad that helped tame the wilderness. In summer, visitors to Anchorage may choose to continue their Alaska Adventure by embarking on a train trip to Seward, Prince William Sound, Denali, Talkeetna or Fairbanks. But you don’t have to go too far to savor the joy of train travel - the Glacier Discovery train is a beautiful day trip to nearby Spencer. Explore Alaska’s Mining History Hands-On Kids of all ages will love playing prospector at a hands-on mining destination such as Indian Valley or Crow Creek. These spots combine a museum experience, complete with authentic mining tools, with entertaining history lessons about the great gold rush that once attracted people from all over the world with dreams of striking it rich. Best of all, visitors learn the basics of panning for gold and take home more than just memories. Go Cycling on the Coastal Trail Anchorage is one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, with 135 miles of cycling paths. The one you especially won’t want to miss is the paved 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, where you can rent a bike and explore Anchorage’s Cook Inlet all the way from downtown to Kincaid Park, including marshes, hills, and patches of forest. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, moose, and other local denizens. Visit One of America’s Best Museums Sure, you come to Anchorage for the natural beauty, but we bet you didn’t know that the city is also home to an incredible museum devoted to the entire Alaska experience. The Anchorage Museum is the biggest museum in the state and it immerses visitors in human history and the arts, natural history, and much more. A walk through the museum is a bit like experiencing a guidebook sprung into three-dimensions, a unique way of appreciating this unique state from its earliest days to its vibrant present. Look for Wildlife Anchorage is home to more than 1,000 moose. (We’re guessing your hometown isn’t.) The majestically awkward-looking giants can be spotted in almost any green space in Anchorage if you spend enough time outdoors, and you can always count on seeing one at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It takes a little more effort to spot whales here, but they are also abundant. Belugas, the friendly looking white whales that can be as long as a minivan, can be seen on a trip down Turnagain Arm. Alaska is also the only place in America where black bears, brown bears, and polar bears abound. Head out of Anchorage for the rivers and streams of Katmai National Park to see bears feasting on salmon. Surf the Bore Tide Courtesy of Alaska.org - Credit: Jeff Schultz Tides in Anchorage are extreme, with some of the highest tides in the world. The shallow, narrow waters of Turnagain Arm help form a bore tide, a wave up to 6 feet tall that rolls for miles along the inlet. The Seward Highway is dotted with good vantage points to watch this natural phenomenon, and perhaps even spot the intrepid surfers who seek to ride the wave. Content presented by IntrepidYour North America adventure is right here, right now. Learn more at https://www.intrepidtravel.com Check out more people and planet-friendly adventures at Intrepid Travel:Explore epic national parks of the USIntrepid
There are plenty of fun, interesting ways to walk on the wild side all across North America, but these destination zoos lead the pack by offering some of the most memorable visitor experiences rooted in animal encounters, community outreach, conservation efforts, unique programming and special events. Lincoln Park Zoo The 35-acre Lincoln Park Zoo was founded in 1868 on Chicago’s north side, making it one of the oldest in the country. Movie buffs might remember the Lester E. Fisher Great Ape House from its appearance in the 1999 film Return to Me; although the habitat has since transformed into the $26 million Regenstein Center for African Apes, the mighty gorillas are still a major draw. There’s also an amazing conservatory on site to check out. Best of all, the zoo stays open 365 days a year, and while you may have to pay for parking, admission is always free. San Diego Zoo Long respected for its conservation initiatives, the Balboa Park-based San Diego Zoo houses more than 3,700 animals across 650 different species, many rare or endangered. The property is massive and navigation can be a little overwhelming; double-decker bus tours make it easier to get the lay of the land. A few of the most popular animal attractions include the Australian Outback koalas, the 2.5-acre elephant habitat and the penguin-populated Africa Rocks exhibit. Hearts broke when the zoo’s beloved giant pandas were returned to their Chinese homeland in spring 2019. However, the adorable red pandas are still around to admire. Cincinnati Zoo Fiona - Courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo Paired with a world-class botanical garden, the Cincinnati Zoo has been delighting Midwestern youngsters and their families since 1875 when it opened under the direction of the Zoological Society of Cincinnati. A pioneer in successful breeding efforts, the facility launched the Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife in 1986 to help propagate and preserve globally endangered species. Amid the lovingly tended collection of animal exhibits, visitors tend to gravitate toward the cheetah run, the meerkats and the lions, but the world-famous Fiona — a charming young hippo born in early 2017 — is the biggest animal celebrity in residence. Bronx Zoo A much-loved New York City fixture since 1899 and the largest city zoo in the US, the Bronx Zoo gives guests a glimpse into the world-wide animal kingdom within the beating heart of the urban jungle. With more than 260 forested acres to explore and 6,000 animals from aardvarks to zebras, this expansive attraction merits at least a full day to truly appreciate. Expect to do a lot of walking; you can always hop on the Wild Asia monorail or the seasonal Dinosaur Safari for a quick breather. The facility is also notable for having opened the very first veterinarian-staffed animal hospital back in 1916. Henry Doorly Zoo Home to the largest indoor desert habitat in the world, the Henry Doorly Zoo’s soaring glazed geodesic Desert Dome has come to be one of the most recognizable landmarks in Nebraska. Inside, a 55-foot tall central “mountain” divides the landscape into distinctive Namib, Australian and Sonoran habitats; nocturnal creatures make their home in the Kingdoms of the Night exhibits on the lower level. Elsewhere on the property, immersive Asian Highlands, Alaskan Glacier Bay and African Grasslands exhibits transport visitors around the world without ever leaving Omaha. The stunning Scott Aquarium facility showcases sea turtles, sharks and other marine life. Indianapolis ZooMila - Courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo - Erik Markov Arranged in five distinctive biome areas, the Indianapolis Zoo delivers a comprehensive visitor experience for animal lovers of all ilks. The organization partners with global researchers to promote animal conservation and education, acknowledging the work of worthy recipients with the coveted Indianapolis Prize awarded annually. The ethereal Dolphin Pavilion often doubles as an event space (guests can even arrange in-water adventures to swim along), and the Simon Skojdt International Orangutan Center furthers efforts to study and support these majestic animals in the wild. Access to the lovely White River Gardens is included in the price of admission. St Louis Zoo One of several appealing attractions that populate Forest Park, the city’s verdant crown jewel, the free-to-visit St Louis Zoo receives approximately 3 million visitors each year. A leader in animal management, conservation and awareness with assistance from the Saint Louis Zoo Wildcare Institute, this friendly Midwestern facility houses and cares for more than 17,000 resident mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects on site. The zoo originated during the 1904 World’s Fair, taking shape around the original Flight Cage that still stands as part of the Cypress Swamp exhibit in the Historic Hill section. Woodland Park Zoo This Seattle-based organization enlightens visitors as to the vital roles conservation and sustainability play (particularly in the Pacific Northwest region) through field projects and interactive exhibits spanning 70 developed acres. Bioclimate zones range from tropical rainforest and Australasian to temperate forest and African savanna habitats, housing more than 1,100 animals across 300 species. African Lions and Malayan Tigers and Brown Bears — oh my! Don’t miss the Assam Rhino Reserve, a partnership project with the International Rhino Foundation that raises funds to protect these threatened animals from illegal poaching. Detroit Zoo Courtesy of the Detroit Zoo - Jennie Miller With sections that showcase African forest and grasslands dwellers; Arctic animals; and American, Asian and Australian-hailing creatures, the 125-acre Detroit Zoo offers plenty of incentives to visit. The state-of-the-art Polk Penguin Conservation Center has reopen after a major renovation, visitors are able to observe the antics of 75 resident penguins in a spectacular 25 foot-deep, 326,000-gallon aquatic facility. You can also enjoy the butterfly garden, the bird enclosures and a diverse variety of other animal exhibits. Sedgwick County Zoo Wildlife park meets mainstream animal attraction at this award-winning Wichita zoo, where guests can watch elephants splash, play and eat in the third largest dedicated habitat in the country. Spend some time in the Downing Gorilla Forest, then marvel at the big cats in the immersive Slawson Family Tiger Trek. Animals are grouped according to geographical origin, making it easy to beeline directly to African, Asian, North American or tropical settings. A leisurely wander through the impressive aviary caps off the adventure in fine feathered form.
6 Great Places for Cool Winter Fun
From skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing, tubing, and fat-tire biking, America's winter athletes are spoiled for choice, while those who prefer a less intense approach are often left out in the cold. Well, no more. We’ve found some great ways to enjoy the season without breaking too much of a sweat—and all of our picks have the usual options too, so we've got you covered, whether you’re looking to take a break from the slopes or build a trip around something a bit more unconventional. Either way, you’ll earn that hot chocolate. 1. Colorado (Courtesy Ice Castles LLC) Areas like Aspen and Vail get lots of love from the ski-bum contingent, but there’s more to Colorado than its primo powder. The adventurous can learn a new sport here, like ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park (ourayicepark.com), while cautious travelers can enjoy activities like a snowcat adventure at Breckenridge Nordic Center (breckenridgenordic.com), an evening excursion that lets you take in the scenery from the vehicle's heated glass cabin, with a stop for s’mores and hot chocolate along the way. If you don't mind the cold, the town of Dillon’s Ice Castles (icecastles.com) are not to be missed. A frozen phenomenon hand-made by a team of professional ice artists, the castles feature everything from LED-lit sculptures to ice-carved tunnels, slides, fountains, and frozen thrones. Open seasonally, each castle takes about two months to make and utilizes anywhere from 5,0000 to 12,000 icicles; the finished structure covers an entire acre, weighing in at more than 25 million pounds. 2. Utah (Courtesy Sundance Mountain Resort) With its glorious national parks and a stunning array of premiere skiing destinations, it’s no wonder the Beehive State has one of the best sports-participation rates in the country. Like-minded visitors will find no shortage of opportunities to jump into the fray, and there’s low-key fun to be had as well. At Sundance Mountain Resort (sundanceresort.com), take in nearly 4,000 feet of scenery from the zip line, do some fly-fishing on the Provo River, or, for something unique, sign up for a Night Owling session. Under the guidance of a wildlife expert, you’ll meet live owls and learn about the local flora and fauna, then take a snowshoe tour around Mount Timpanogos to call and track down those wise creatures in the wild. At the Park City resort (parkcitymountain.com), guests can check out the state’s largest alpine coaster, a thrill-a-minute ride that winds through snow banks at speeds of up to 30 mph, or stick with the simple pleasures and cozy up under a blanket for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Visit on the weekend to enjoy an après ski concert and, on the first Friday of the month, a gorgeous alpine fireworks display. In Ogden, tour the New World Distillery (newworlddistillery.com) and sample the small-batch gin, vodka, and agave spirits (the tart-cherry liquor is especially tempting), and get out some aggression with an axe-throwing outing (socialaxethrowing.com)—though please, not in that order. Explore the nearby dark-sky park, one of 12 in the state, via bike, snowshoes, or cross-country skis, or opt for an even closer look. As of January, stargazers can take in the cosmos at the Compass Rose Lodge (compassroselodge.com), a 15-room boutique property that doubles as an observatory, thanks to a 16-inch aperture Ritchey-Chretien-style telescope that allows guests to sneak a peek at Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s moons, not to mention galaxies, nebulae, and globular clusters. 3. Alaska (Joe Sohm/Dreamstime) When it comes to traditional winter fun, the 49th state is hard to beat. Action-oriented specialty tours abound—think: fat-bike excursions in Willow, from operators like Snowhook Adventure Guides and Alaska Trail Guides; guided snowmobile tours in the Glacier View area, from Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours and Sheep Mountain Lodge; and biologist-led nature hikes and snowshoe tours on the outskirts of Fairbanks, from Leaf Out Nature Guides—but for our money, the northern lights are where it’s at. Explore Denali by day and book in at Tonglen Lake Lodge (tonglenlake.com) for evenings of unfiltered aurora borealis views from the communal deck, or head to the interior for a more private scene, courtesy of Borealis Basecamp (borealisbasecamp.net), where the igloo-style accommodations come with clear ceilings so you can watch the show from the comfort of your bed. Before you head out into the wilderness, learn to capture the night sky for posterity with a photography workshop from Aurora Bear (aurora-bear.com), near Fairbanks, then head south to toast to your newfound talents at Arctic Harvest (akgrownspirits.com), a farm-to-bottle distillery outside of North Pole that offers tours, tastings, cocktails, and more on its family-run farm. 4. Big Sky, Montana (Courtesy Big Sky Resort) Given its location in the mountains of Montana, just an hour northwest of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky's (bigskyresort.com) great skiing isn’t a surprise, but the resort’s lesser-known pursuits are a happy discovery. For a bird’s-eye view, strap on the snowshoes and trek up to the nature zipline, where you’ll traverse a bucolic, snow-covered gully from heights of 30 to 50 feet. Other ways to achieve lift-off include a second zipline, which is faster and longer, as well as a bungee trampoline and a giant swing. For more grounded options, look off-property, where you can enjoy an old-fashioned sleigh ride, strap in behind a team of huskies for a dog-sledding excursion, or arrange for a snowmobile tour of Yellowstone’s highlights, including Old Faithful, through a third-party operator. Closer to home, you can spend a Saturday evening around the campfire as the slopes close, scarfing down s’mores and watching the ski-patrol rescue dogs show off their skills. (Pro-tip: If you are planning on getting in a few runs while you're here, be sure to get your lift passes in advance—you'll get the best rates if you buy early.) 5. Redding, California (Courtesy National Park Service) If you enjoy the great outdoors, summertime in the Shasta Cascades is pretty much paradise, with hiking, fishing, and water sports galore. But it’s just as magical in December, when its snow-covered peaks offer access to skiing, snowtubing, and snowmobiling. Intrepid explorers should visit Lassen Volcanic National Park (nps.gov/lavo), where they can go backcountry skiing (proper avalanche gear required) or take a ranger-led snowshoe tour on the park’s active volcano. Still on the strenuous side but slightly lower impact, the ice-cave tour at Lava Beds National Monument (nps.gov/labe) is a weekly, three-hour outing that shows off the Cristal Ice Cave’s most dazzling formations (above). You’ll have to haul yourself up a sheer, sloped, icy floor by a rope, pull yourself through a tight hole, and navigate shaky, rocky floors with patches of ice, but if you can make it through, the payoff is well worth it. 6. White Mountains, New Hampshire (Courtesy Sarah Miller/Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel) Skiers and snowboarders know to hit New Hampshire’s White Mountains for fresh powder and challenging runs, but there’s plenty here to keep everyone else occupied too. The Mt. Washington Auto Road (mtwashingtonautoroad.com) reaches breathtaking heights at any time of year; hitch a ride to the treeline for a glimpse of the wintery wonderland at 4,200 feet. Try Great Glen Trails (greatglentrails.com) for snow tubing and miles of snowshoeing, check in at Loon Mountain Adventure Center (loonmtn.com) for ziplining and ice skating, or take a guided snowmobile tour with an operator like SledVentures, Northeast Snowmobile, or Northern Extremes Snowmobiling. But the real showstopper here has four legs: Muddy Paw Dog Sled Kennel (dogslednh.com) offers dog sledding, with proceeds going toward the care and upkeep of the organization’s 80-plus canines. Take a guided tour and interact with the pups, getting them ready for the trail, hooking them up to the sleds, and giving them some love afterwards—belly rubs most definitely welcome.
Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns 2022
Budget Travel was born from a simple idea: “Vacations for Real People.” Our audience (that’s you, by the way) is curious, discerning, intelligent, and down to earth. You want the best travel experience that money can buy, and you want to enjoy travel without the hassle. Our Coolest Small Towns in America series has been going strong for more years than we can count, and it reflects on a couple of our founding beliefs: you don’t need to break the bank to have a nice vacation, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We want to invite you to explore the possibility that your next transformative travel experience might be just around the corner. Maybe in your own state, or maybe a day’s ride from home. This year, we want to highlight the small towns that not a lot of people have heard about and have a strong and thriving community. Trends may come and go, destinations may fall in and out of fashion. But curiosity, discernment, and intelligence are always in style. Our 2022 Coolest Small Towns are spread across the country, so that you can Rediscover America. Meet Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns for 2022: Content presented by Have Fun Do Good Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) is on a mission to provide adventure seekers with a unique experience that allows them to travel while giving back to the community through volunteering. Learn more at https://havefundogood.co/Presented by Have Fun Do Good
Red Lodge, Montana - Coolest Small Towns 2022
If Red Lodge didn’t have you at “Gateway to Yellowstone,” consider that the drive from Red Lodge to Yellowstone National Park’s northeast entrance takes you over the Beartooth Highway, perhaps the most beautiful, dizzying, surreal, and thrilling drive in the world, reaching an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet above sea level at the top of the pass. But whether Red Lodge serves as your gateway to the wonders of Yellowstone or as your first stop back in the “real world” after exploring the park, the town is legit cool all on its own, with its own outdoor recreation offerings, family activities, authentic culinary traditions, and much more. Spend some time getting to know the town’s arts and culture — art galleries like the Clay Center, unique shops, Pride Park, and walking tours of historic downtown (once said to have a “saloon on every corner,” but nowadays decidedly more sophisticated) will keep you busy. And while catching a fleeting glimpse of wildlife in Yellowstone depends very much on luck, it’s an everyday occurrence at Red Lodge’s Yellowstone WIldlife Sanctuary, a few blocks from downtown and home to “non-releasable” mountain lions, wolves, bears, bison, eagles, hawks, and many other native Montana animals. More about Red Lodge Red Lodge, MT Red Lodge, Montana - Gateway to Yellowstone Park via the beautiful Beartooth Highway. Come and experience true western hospitality in this quaint, historic, mountain town. Keep Reading... Meet Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns for 2022: Content presented by Have Fun Do Good Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) is on a mission to provide adventure seekers with a unique experience that allows them to travel while giving back to the community through volunteering. Learn more at https://havefundogood.co/Presented by Have Fun Do Good