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.
Inspiring Places to Celebrate Women's History Month
March is Women's History Month, and if you're looking for a great way to celebrate, plan a trip to one of these places full of incredible history and museums, monuments, and educational experiences. Across the country, these inspiring sites highlight women's involvement in abolitionism, the suffrage movement and fight for political equality, labor rights and strides made in the workforce, and other incredible accomplishments. Learn about Harriet Tubman in Maryland Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center - courtesy of nps.gov Harriet Tubman was perhaps the most famous American abolitionist, guiding nearly 70 slaves up the East Coast to freedom in the north through the Underground Railroad. One of two park locations dedicated to this amazing woman, Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Maryland is a tribute to her daring and important work to rescue enslaved African Americans. Escaped slave Harriet Tubman made 13 trips back to Maryland before the Civil War to help free over 70 slaves on the “Underground Railroad.” Follow her path on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for 125 miles and 36 sites, including station houses, secret meeting places, and spots where daring rescues and escapes occurred. The Byway also includes the visitor center at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Church Creek, which houses exhibits about Tubman’s rescue missions and later activities as a spy during the Civil War. About an hour east of Washington, D.C., the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center is dedicated to preserving her memory and continuing her work of fighting for the rights of women, minorities, and the disabled. Revisit the women's suffrage movement in New York The M'Clintock House in Seneca Falls, New York - courtesy of nps.gov On July 16, 1848, Mary Ann M'Clintock hosted a planning session for the First Women's Rights Convention. At this session she, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and perhaps several others drafted a document they called the Declaration of Sentiments. It was ratified on the second day of the First Woman's Rights Convention and signed by 100 men and women. Modeled on Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, this document proclaimed that "all men and women are created equal." The Women’s Rights National Historical Park tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848. It includes to homes of early women's rights activists, such as the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House, the M'Clintock House, and the Richard Hunt House, and includes an up-close look at artifacts and stories of the women’s suffrage movement. Conveniently located just a short drive from Seneca Falls is the town of Auburn, where tourists can learn more about Harriet Tubman’s work for both civil rights and women’s suffrage after the war at her former home, now a national historic site. After emancipating herself and members of her family, she moved them from Ontario, Canada to Fleming and here in Auburn, New York in 1859. Central New York was a center for progressive thought, abolition, and women’s suffrage where Tubman continued to fight for human rights and dignity until she died in 1913. About an hour away from Seneca Falls and Auburn is Rochester, New York. A National Historic Landmark, the Susan B. Anthony house at 17 Madison Street was the headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and Anthony was even arrested in the house’s front parlor for voting illegally in 1872. Anthony was also an abolitionist and an advocate for equal education and pay for women. In 1906, she died in the house, 14 years before the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. See Amelia Earhart's Birthplace in Atchison, Kansas Amelia Earhart's childhood home and birthplace - courtesy of travelks.com Before Amelia Earhart took to the skies, she grounded herself in her family home in Atchison, Kansas. Called the Otis House, after her grandfather, Judge Alfred G. Otis, Amelia was born in the southwest bedroom and raised there until she was 12. Earhart would grow up to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Even though she lived in many different cities, she considered Atchison her hometown. The Amelia Earhart Birthplace, which is on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, stands to be one of the few remaining tangible associations with this aviation legend. Visitors who tour her home not only get a glimpse into life in the early 20th century, but they also learn about the Ninety-Nines, an organization of 99 female pilots who elected Amelia Earhart as their first president. In addition to touring Earhart’s birthplace and childhood home, don’t miss the opportunity to meet Muriel, the last surviving 1935 Lockheed Model 10 Electra airplane, located in the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum. It’s identical to the one flown by Earhart on her fateful quest to fly around the world — a quest on which she lost her life. Visitors are invited to try their own navigation skills and pilot Amelia’s historic 1932 flight across the Atlantic Ocean via virtual reality. The experience mirrors obstacles Amelia overcame to become the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic. Visitors will be provided a virtual reality headset that will place them inside the cockpit of Amelia’s “Little Red Bus”, a Lockheed Vega 5B. Discover Rosie the Riveter's legacy in Richmond, California Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park visitor education center - courtesy of nps.gov When World War II began, millions of American men left their jobs and joined the military. The shrinking workforce and growing war industry led to more diverse hiring practices and huge social changes. Initially white women were recruited, followed by minority men, and finally minority women. Doing their jobs well and supporting the war effort, women earned a new respect and "cracked open" the door to equal rights. This would have a profound impact on the Women's Movement and change American culture forever. During World War II, six million women entered the workforce. "Rosie the Riveter" and her "We Can Do It" motto came to symbolize all women Home Front workers and is remembered at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park. Visit historic sites and museums across Washington, DC The Hall of Portraits in the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument - courtesy of nps.gov The nation's capital is home to several sites and places honoring the legacy of women in America. Be sure to stop at some (or all!) of these places below in you find yourself in town: Mary McLeod Bethune was a renowned educator, organizer, national political leader, president of the National Association of Colored Women and founder of the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune’s house became the first headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women where Bethune and the council spearheaded strategies and developed programs that would advance the interests of African American women and the black community in D.C. Today, this location is preserved as the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site.Constructed in 1800 on Capitol Hill, the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument stands as a testament to the community of women who dedicated their lives to winning women’s rights. The National Woman’s Party used the building as their headquarters for nearly 90 years. Named after Alva Belmont (National Woman’s Party President from 1920-1933) and Alice Paul (one of the most prominent members of 20th-century women's rights movement), the monument tells the story of those who advocated for the Equal Rights Amendment and equality for women.As an extension of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial is a statue of three uniformed women tending to a wounded soldier. The memorial was erected in 1993 to honor the contribution of women in the Vietnam War, many of whom were nurses.Just a few blocks northeast of the White House, easily recognized by the large sculptures displayed on the median of New York Avenue, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only museum in the world that exclusively celebrates female artists. Visit to see the only Frida Kahlo paintings on display in Washington, D.C., along with a wide range of paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other works of art by female artists.The table where the Declaration of Sentiments was signed is now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.A statue of Eleanor Roosevelt stands at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Practical Ways to Save on a Disney Vacation
Most kids dream of visiting a Disney park from the moment they realize these magical wonderlands exist. They grow up watching Disney fairytales unfold on television and in their favorite movies, envision their lives as Disney princes or princesses, and yearn for the day when they can see the iconic Disney castles with their own eyes. According to a recent analysis by Time Magazine, the average four-day Disney vacation costs families $6,360. That includes the costs of hotels, transportation, park admission, food, souvenirs, and extras. The reality is, even the average, non-luxury trip to Walt Disney World isn’t going to be cheap. Even if you can drive to a park, you’ll need to pay for park admission, hotel stays, and food at a very minimum. If you want your kids to have any special experiences like dinner in Cinderella’s castle, that costs extra, too. You could do it cheaper, they noted, if you stayed off the resort, shortened your visit, drove instead of flying, avoided “park hopper” tickets that let you visit more than one park in a day, and ate entirely off the resort. However, the cheapest realistic budget they could come up with for a Disney vacation still came out to $3,564. But, what if you could save even more on your trip? Some experts say it’s possible to whittle down the cost of your Disney vacation significantly if you’re willing to think outside the box, sacrifice in a few areas, and plan way ahead. Budget Travel has plenty of deals to find at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California—and they aren't the only way to save money. CouponChief.com has assembled the ultimate guide of practical ways to save for a Disney vacation. Whether you plan to visit Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando or Disneyland Resort near Anaheim, California, there are tons of savings strategies that can add up in a big way. Book with a Disney-approved travel agent “Look for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner,” says Steve Griswold, owner of Disney-themed travel agency Pixie Vacations. According to Griswold, authorized Disney vacation planners are travel agencies that the Walt Disney Company has given this designation to. These travel agencies usually specialize in Disney vacations such as Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Aulani. “Most agencies are free to work with and their knowledge and service will help you find and plan the perfect vacation just right for you and your family,” he says. For example, these agencies will typically watch prices for you so that, if a new offer comes out that would save you money, you can reconfigure your vacation right away. “This is also very convenient as you don’t have to look for new discounts every day or spend hours on hold with Disney.” Griswold also notes that hiring an agent can help you save time since they typically help with Disney dining reservations and going over the different dining packages with you, along with booking fast passes and other Disney extras. Shop for these items getting to the park or resort Disney merchandise - courtesy of disneytouristblog.com Travel necessities – Disney Authorized Vacation Planner Sandy Nussbaum-Giercyk of Instant Impressions Travel Services says one of her favorite savings tips is hitting the Dollar Store to buy necessities before she leaves. “I get throw-away rain ponchos, glow sticks, and some little toys to keep us and those around us busy in line,” she says. You could also head to the Dollar Store or any discount store to stock up on additional supplies you might need for your trip – things like paper plates, toothpaste, and shampoo.Souvenirs – While Disney parks offer all kinds of activities to take part in, they are also chock full of distractions intended to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Souvenir shops and game stalls abound and, if you take advantage, you could wind up spending hundreds of dollars on extras and souvenirs. Disney-branded items can be purchased for much less than official gear or items on-site. Pack some Disney stickers or stuffed animals purchased cheaply at home and hand them out to your kids as required. They won’t know the difference, but you’ll avoid the huge mark-up on souvenirs at the parks. Alternatively, if you're set on doing on-site shopping, be firm with a budget. Give kids an upfront dollar limit in terms of what they can spend on souvenirs. If they have $30 to spend, for example, they might be choosier when it comes to what they buy with their spending money.Meals and snacks – You can absolutely bring your own food into any Disney park (as long as it is not alcohol or inside a glass container). This can include a cooler with drinks and sandwiches or little snacks to help you get through the day. If you can avoid even $20 in snacking at the park over five days, that’s an easy $100 in savings. If you have Amazon Prime Now or another favorite grocery delivery service, take advantage of these services if you're staying at hotel or condo with a refrigerator and kitchen. Select a limited number of special dining experiences; there is no need to pay Disney prices for every meal—especially if you have young kids that may not eat much of what is offered. Save on park ticket prices Save with an annual pass - courtesy of thepointsguy.com Consider multi-day passes – While planning a longer trip might sound counterintuitive for those wanting to save, Nussbaum-Giercyk points out that park tickets become cheaper per-day when you stay longer. “Disney park tickets are front-loaded with cost, so a single day or two seems very expensive,” she says. “Add on at day 5 or 6 and it costs about the same as going to the movies!” Obviously, staying longer will cause the total cost of your trip to surge, but you may get more value in return if you’re able to buy a multi-day ticket and find other ways to save on your trip.Buy discounted park tickets through UndercoverTourist.com – While the discounts can vary quite a bit, it’s possible to save on the cost of park tickets through UnderCoverTourist.com. Make sure to compare prices before you choose this option. Also compare whether you would save more if you purchased a full-fledged Disney vacation package instead of buying tickets and lodging ala carte.Plan for just one park per day – While the idea of buying “park hopper” tickets that let you visit multiple parks every day does sound intriguing, many families are able to save substantial sums of money by visiting just one park per day. Most families can save $250 or more on their trip if they skip the “park hopper” upgrade and plan their visit accordingly. You still get to visit the parks you want this way, but you have to be more mindful in terms of the rides you want to ride and when, along with the special amenities you plan to take advantage of each day.Buy an annual pass – If you’re visiting Disney parks multiple times per year, buying an annual pass can absolutely pay off. A Disney Platinum Plus Pass is currently $829 for those ages 3 and up, but it includes unlimited admission to most Disney parks as well as free parking. This pass also allows you to visit more than one park in a single day. Florida residents also get special discounts. Don't live in Florida, but have a grandparent living there? Not only do Florida residents get discounted pass prices, but they can purchase resident-rate passes for grandkids (under age 18). Utilize travel credit card rewards Driving instead of flying can save hundreds of dollars, but it isn't the only way to save on transportation costs. It’s possible to avoid the cost of flying if you’re savvy with credit card rewards. By racking up miles with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, for example, you can often fly round-trip into Orlando or into several California airports for just the cost of airline taxes and fees, which works out to $5.60 per person, per leg. You can earn Southwest miles by signing up for a co-branded Southwest credit card, flying with Southwest, shopping through their shopping portal, or signing up for the Southwest Dining Club. Disney does offer a co-branded credit card with Chase, but the rewards are paltry compared to what you can get with other cash-back and travel rewards cards. If you’re looking for ways to get at least part of your Disney vacation covered for free, it might be worth it to look into travel credit cards that offer flexible points or travel credit. Just be sure to pay down your credit card each month, otherwise the interest will negate the benefits and rewards. Get smart about Disney gift cards The entrance to Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida - courtesy of orlandoinformer.com One of the best ways to save for a Disney vacation is to take advantage of offers for Disney gift cards. “You can save five percent by buying Disney Gift Cards at Target, for example,” Griswold notes. To do so, you’ll need to sign up for a Target REDCard, which allows you to save 5 percent on Target purchases. According to the vacation expert, there is a special app that lets you type in your Disney gift cards so they are all organized and ready to be used and applied to your Disney World vacation balance. Sam's Club is also a popular place to buy Disney gift cards at a discounted price (usually 3% to 10% off). Just be sure to always purchase your gift cards from a trusted retailer and, if possible, in person, as there are plenty of websites online that are scams. Rent a vacation condo or stay at an off-site hotel Florida rental property - courtesy of orlandovacationhomes.com If you’re worried about the high costs of staying on-property at your favorite Disney resort, you may want to consider renting a condo or timeshare week off-site. Doing so can typically net you plenty of savings and more room than you might have otherwise. For example, you may be able to pay less for a week in a two-bedroom condo than you would in a Disney resort with two queen beds. If you stay at an off-site hotel, it is likely possible you can shuttle to the parks instead of taking your rental car and paying for parking. Many off-site hotels offer their own shuttles to entice guests, so make sure to check. Sit through a timeshare presentation Lots of local resorts offer special deals on Disney vacations (or Disney lodging) if you’re willing to sit through a timeshare presentation that can last between 90 minutes and 4 hours. These presentations don’t require a purchase but often include high-pressure sales techniques. While some of these pitches offer free or discounted hotel stays, others offer free tickets to a local Disney park in exchange for your time. While these opportunities can absolutely help you save on a Disney trip, Griswold says you should think long and hard about pursuing this option and what your time is worth.“You will see booths all over Orlando offering discounted park tickets,” he says. “You are going to waste at least half a day in timeshare presentations and most have very high-pressure sales people.” If your trip is fairly short already, the time you spend may not be worth it. Skip Disney during one day of your trip Just because you’re in Florida or California near a Disney park doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment soaking up the Disney experience. If you plan a “free day” or skip the park for a single day, your savings can be substantial. A free day can be anything you want it to be. Maybe your kids would be happy as clams swimming in the hotel pool. If you’re near the beach, you can also pack a picnic and let the kids play in the surf for the day (this option would require a rental car). Lastly, you could shop or explore other less expensive parks nearby such as city parks or water parks. You could even go roller skating or take the family to the movies! — For more ways to save on a Disney vacation, check out the full guide at CouponChief.com.
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.
2023's Best Cities for Kid-friendly Vacations
Family vacations are perfect for reconnecting and building lifelong memories together. But which cities are optimal for keeping the kiddos entertained? To find out, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best Cities for Kid-Friendly Vacations. They compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities, looking for plenty of family-friendly accommodations, attractions, and restaurants. They also considered transportation options, affordability, and safety, among 23 total metrics. Catch up with the kids, and use these rankings to help plan your next spring break or summer vacation. Dreams Come True in these Florida Cities Disney World's Animal Kingdom Lodge - courtesy of disney.com The Sunshine State in general is great for outdoor fun. You don’t need to go camping to have nature at your fingertips in Orlando (No. 2), Miami (No. 3), Tampa (No. 6), or Fort Lauderdale (No. 15). These cities offer plenty of kid-friendly outdoor activities. Not only can you head to the beach to spot crabs and dolphins, but Tampa and Miami also tie for the most zoos. Make your kids’ dreams come true with a family trip to our No. 2 city, Orlando, Florida. Orlando shines with the most family-friendly accommodations and the most water parks to cool down when you’re in the hot Florida sun. Home to Disney World and Universal Studios, it’s no surprise that the City Beautiful also comes in second for its number of both kid-friendly attractions and theme parks. Miami is also great for families who like to feast. It’s Lawn Love's top city for sweet tooths and has the most kid-friendly restaurants per square mile in the rankings. In Orlando: Immerse yourself in ocean life in a 360-degree ocean tunnel at Sea Life Orlando Aquarium. For a more down-to-earth day, head to Gatorland, the perfect place to learn about today’s reptilian giants in the Alligator Capital of the World.In Miami: Soak up the sun while you admire Wynwood Walls, an outdoor museum featuring incredible street art. Need a break from the sunshine? Check out Miami Children’s Museum, Perez Art Museum, or the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.In Tampa: A trip to Busch Gardens is always a blast. Tampa also hosts more than 8,000 creatures at The Florida Aquarium and is home to the interactive and imaginative Glazer Children’s Museum. Vegas is Always a Good Idea (Surprisingly) Hershey's Chocolate World in Las Vegas - courtesy of hersheyschocolateworldlasvegas.com Sin City might not be everyone’s first idea for a family vacation, but Las Vegas (No. 4) hits the jackpot as a kid-friendly travel destination. As the Entertainment Capital of the World, there are plenty of things to do in Las Vegas for kids big and small. In fact, Vegas ties with Orlando for having the second-highest number of amusement and theme parks. There are also abundant kid-friendly attractions, zoos, and water parks, as well as kid-friendly dining options to keep their stomachs from grumbling. Skip the casino to race around in go-karts, see the circus, or indulge at Hershey’s Chocolate World Las Vegas. Sleepy Southern Cities Chattahoochee RiverWalk in Columbus, Georgia - courtesy of visitcolumbusga.com Small cities in the South aren’t so exciting for families with kids. Places like Columbus, Georgia (No. 199), Fayetteville, North Carolina (No. 198), and Montgomery, Alabama (No. 196), landed at the bottom next to Clarksville, Tennessee, in last place. These cities are budget-friendly, but low safety scores and a lack of child-friendly activities and accommodations sent them to the very end of our ranking.That isn’t to say they don’t offer anything fun for families. Each of these cities has natural spaces and historic spots to explore, as well as museums and performing arts centers. But if your child isn’t old enough to be interested in history or nature walks, their experience might not be so memorable. In Columbus, Georgia: Get some fresh air by taking a walk on the Chattahoochee RiverWalk. Make it an educational trip and stop by the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, National Infantry Museum, and National Civil War Naval Museum.In Fayetteville, North Carolina: Spend time outside at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden or River Trail. Let your kid’s imagination run wild at the hands-on Fascinate-U Children’s Museum.In Montgomery, Alabama: As the birthplace of the civil rights movement, there are many educational spots throughout the city, including The Legacy Museum, Rosa Parks Museum, and Dexter Parsonage Museum, the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thrifty Texas Towns Space Center Houston - courtesy of spacecenter.org Everything is bigger in Texas, including vacations. Texas is one of the fastest-growing states, so it makes sense that there’s plenty to do in major cities like Houston (No. 8), San Antonio (No. 10), and Dallas (No. 11). Houston has numerous amusement parks, Dallas has several water parks, and San Antonio boasts plenty of both. These three cities also have zoos and aquariums for animal-loving kids. There will be even more for families with young kids to do when visiting the Lone Star State once Universal opens its new theme park in Frisco. One thing that isn’t bigger when it comes to Texas is trip costs. Staying, eating, and being entertained in these cities won’t hurt your wallet as much as a trip to New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles would. In Houston: Engage in 90,000 square feet of fun (and education) at Children’s Museum Houston. If you have a science buff in your family, be sure to stop by Space Center Houston and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.In San Antonio: Take the family strolling or kayaking along Texas’ top attraction, the River Walk. Other parts of the city boast fun amusement parks like Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first inclusive and accessible theme park.In Dallas: Spot your favorite animals at the Dallas Zoo, the oldest zoo in Texas. Explore the ocean and distant parts of the world such as South Africa, Mundo Maya, and Borneo at The Dallas World Aquarium. The best of the best: New York, New York A family watches a show at the New Victory theater - courtesy of newvictory.org The top city, New York, has it all, including the highest number of kid-friendly attractions out of all the cities we ranked. Grab a slice before going for a stroll in one of the city’s many museums, zoos, or parks. If walking around doesn’t blow off some steam, you can let the kids play at one of the more than 1,900 playgrounds in the city. When they’re old enough to sit still for a couple of hours, bring your children to see an unforgettable Broadway show. There are many highly acclaimed children’s theaters producing fantastic shows throughout the city, such as The New Victory Theater and New York City Children’s Theater. If you want to take on the town past the kids’ bedtime, NYC also has the most babysitters for hire. — For the complete rankings, visit LawnLove.com.
The Cheapest NYC Trip Ever
New York is in the middle of its annual New York Hotel Week, where visitors can take advantage of a 23% discount on over 140 hotels in the city. Before you feel a tinge of disappointment at being too late, don’t worry – Hotel Week is actually over a month long, and you can grab the discounts until February 12th. There’s a wide range of hotels taking part, located in almost every area of the city, so make sure to shop around and find a unique property for your Big Apple adventure. InterContinental Times Square (Midtown West) InterContinental Times Square - courtesy of nycgo.com With a chic Manhattan residential feel encompassing natural elements, the 36-story InterContinental Times Square features 607 guest rooms, including 29 suites and a 2,700-square-foot duplex penthouse. Get inspired and celebrate in 14,000 square feet of flexible event and banquet space, including the elegant Gotham Ballroom. The Stinger is currently open daily for breakfast. The Hoxton (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) The Hoxton, Williamsburg, Brooklyn - courtesy of nycgo.com The Hoxton Williamsburg is located in Brooklyn with 175 bedrooms spread across four categories: Cosy, Cosy with a Brooklyn View, Cosy with a Manhattan View, and Roomy. Each room features a king-sized bed with bed linens by local Brooklyn designer, Dusen Dusen, walk-in shower, and desk, along with the usual Hox perks: free coffee, tea and water, WiFi, one hour of free calls and a mini-fridge to stock with items from the Hox Shop. Guests enjoy vibrant public spaces, a coffee bar, and a brand-new rooftop restaurant—chef Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook's Laser Wolf. ModernHaus (Soho) Set against the backdrop of Soho’s iconic cast-iron buildings and cobblestone streets, ModernHaus is a gathering place for urban travelers—and a thoughtfully designed extension of the neighborhood’s creative and dynamic spirit. Artworks from some of the most influential figures of the past century, such as George Condo, Harland Miller, Jean Dubuffet and KAWS, grace the walls. It’s ModernHaus’ homage to the neighborhood’s artistic past and an inspiring canvas for a thoroughly modern stay. Hotel Belleclaire (Upper West Side) Hotel Belleclaire - courtesy of nycgo.com Located on Manhattan's Upper West Side near Central Park, the Beacon Theatre, Lincoln Center and the American Museum of Natural History, Hotel Belleclaire boasts a blend of classic charm and modern comfort. All 240 guestrooms and suites are tastefully designed and feature luxurious Frette linen, deluxe C.O. Bigelow bath amenities and complimentary WiFi. The hotel is outfitted with a 24-hour fitness center, complimentary media lounge, meeting room and a French café, Mille-Feuille, located in the hotel lobby. The W (Union Square) Revel in the rhythm of the W - Union Square, located in the 1911 beaux arts-style Guardian Life building, with 270 guest rooms and suites, this is a contemporary spot to see and be seen. Have cocktails at Lilium, a seductive subterranean lounge, or grab a bite at Todd English’s restaurant, Olives. With glamorous shopping, electric music venues, and a dynamic art culture, here, the city is at your fingertips. And the savings don't stop with hotels... Dinner at Baar Baar - courtesy of nycgo.com Hotel Week is not the only way to save on a winter NYC trip. New York Restaurant Week, Broadway Week, and Must-See Week are also running until February 12th (together, they all make up the NYC Winter Outing). Restaurant Week sees some of the city’s best restaurants offering fixed-price menus for the duration of the event. Some of the establishments involved can typically have some eye-watering price tags, so it’s a rare opportunity to sample some world-class food without breaking the bank. Baar Baar (East Village) sets the bar high when it comes to modern Indian cuisine. Chef Sujan Sarkar’s deep-fried chicken nuggets come bathed in masala sauce and bordered by a tuft of lemony foam. The elevated street food on hte menu pairs well with a New Delhi sour cocktail made with bourbon, aromatic rose hip shrub, egg white and bitters. Other great small plates include Kashmiri lamb and tandoori octopus. The dark, roomy lounge and dining area is enhanced by a compelling fresco of an elaborately bejeweled woman. In Queens, a Forest Hills gastropub and barbecue joint, Queens Bully, pays homage to flavors around its home borough. Sandwiches reference the Greek food of Astoria, the Latin flavor of Corona and the Indian influence from Jackson Heights. The barbecue—pulled pork, brisket, even jackfruit—is all smoked in-house. Bar at Carmine's, Upper West Side - courtesy of nycgo.com For those looking for old-school Italian, the legendary family-style Southern Italian Carmine’s delivers everything but the red-checkered tablecloth. Sopranos fans will feel comfortable in both the Times Square and Upper West Side locations, where the portions are absurdly generous, bottles of Chianti abound and the river flows with red sauce. For a quintessential New York-diner experience, there's East Village Ukrainian eatery Veselka Restaurant. In business since 1954, it offers neighbors and visitors 24-hour comfort food in a diner-type atmosphere. The kids love the pierogis and potato pancakes; the adults love the borscht and sweet cheese blintzes. On the way out it’s hard to pass up the pastry counter with its pies, cupcakes, cookies and homemade muffins. Of course, plenty more options can found in just about every part of the city, with cuisine that will fit just about anyone's style. Broadway Shows, Museums, & More The Metropolitan Opera auditorium - courtesy of nycgo.com Broadway Week offers a simple buy-one-get-one offer on most Broadway shows and reduced-rate upgraded tickets. All put together, there’s no better time to visit New York. Just be prepared for the crowds! But the entertainment doesn't stop with Broadway—there's plenty to do with Must-See Week, which includes discounts for everything from attractions and tours, to museums and performing arts across all the five boroughs. Get iconic views of the Big Apple with a trip to the Empire State Building Observatory See a performance at The Metropolitan OperaVisit the Kings County Distillery for whiskey tours and tastingsEnjoy contemporary art at the Lower East Side's New Museum Get ready to plan your cheapest NYC trip ever with more ideas here!
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.