Archive for the ‘Parks’ Category

Mulled Wine, Snowshoes and Ice Climbing – Best Ways to Brighten Your Winter Months

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Skiing and snowboarding may be winter’s top activities but there are plenty of other fun ways to embrace the cooler temps. If you’re looking for something to do this winter, whether with friends, on a date, or just some family fun, try a few of these winter must-do’s.

  1. Drink hot buttered rum and mulled wine – and hot chocolate for the kiddos, of course.
  2. Hot tubbing – Kick back in an outdoor Hot Tub. Is there really anything better?
  3. Take a carriage ride through downtown – Assuming that the weather outside is above zero, take a romantic carriage ride through a downtown near you.  By day or by night, there’s something special about snuggling with blankets and the gentle jingle of bells tinkling to the stride of strapping horses.Snowmobiler Driving Through Snow
  4. Ride on a snowmobile – A snowmobile is winter’s convertible.
  5. Take a trip to Reno - The city’s proximity to ski resorts and other recreational areas make Reno a top winter vacation spot. You can find 18 ski resorts in the Reno and Lake Tahoe area.
  6. Stay in the Québec Ice Hotel - The Hôtel de Glace is a must-see attraction to discover each winter. With its huge snow vaults and its crystalline ice sculptures, the Hôtel de Glace impresses by its dazzling decor. From January 5th to March 23th, enter this magical universe and live an incredible experience by visiting this ephemeral work of art.
  7. Strap on some snowshoes – Even your backyard can become a new adventure.  Local outdoor stores have hourly rentals for a one-time extravaganza.
  8. Try ice climbing – Learn to climb waterfall ice in New Hampshire. There are multiple guide companies to help you get your crampons.
  9. Visit Old Faithful and Yellowstone National Park - The famed national park is even more splendid in the. For a very unique experience stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The only way to get there is by a commercial snow coach.
  10. Watch the 2014 Olympic Winter Games – A great excuse to veg out on the couch and cuddle up by the fire in the dreariest month of the winter.

 

 
 

 

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10 Ways to Leave A Vacation Destination Better Than You Found it

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

We all want to have fun on our vacations, relaxing by soaking up sun and sipping cocktails on a tropical beach. However, traveling to a foreign country for vacation should be much more – a chance to learn the culture and connect with the amazing people who live there, and somehow leaving the place better off because of your presence. Here are 10 suggestions to do just that:

0_1139286641. Pick up litter.
I carry a few plastic bags in my backpack when I go sightseeing, visit natural attractions, or walk on the beach so I can pick up trash and carry it out. The locals usually look at me like I’m crazy, but that quickly turns to big smiles when they realize what I’m doing. Remember – it’s not just about cleaning up after yourself, but for those who aren’t so thoughtful, and setting a good example in the process.

2. Talk to the locals.
Don’t be afraid to say “hi” to the local people. Start out with a smile, ask their name, about their family, and joke around a bit. You’ll be amazed how warm and endearing people become once they see you show genuine interest in their lives. Some of the coolest people I’ve ever met around the world have humble jobs in tourism, but once we made a simple human connection we became lifelong friends.

3. Leave good reviews.
The tourism industry, like so many others there days, is dominated by online content from sites like Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, LoneyPlanet, Yelp, etc. Reviews can make or break a business so when you’re having a good experience at a hotel, restaurant, or bar, take the time to snap a few photos and leave a nice review on these sites. Be sure to let the management know so they can give good feedback to their employees, but if you don’t like a place for some reason, also tell the management before you leave a bad review, giving them a fair chance to fix it.

4. Make a donation locally.
Before your vacation is over and you get back on a plane, leave a donation with a local charity or community organization. It doesn’t matter how much you give because the simple, gracious act of wanting to help people goes a long way. Donating to a big organization online is great, but next time actually go meet face to face with someone at the church, community center, or town hall and learn about the people you’ll be helping.

5. Tip.
Tipping isn’t required in most countries outside the United States, but it still can make a big difference in someone’s life. In many tourist destinations the locals work 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week for only a couple hundred dollars a month. Leaving a dollar or two may be insignificant to you, but it could mean the world to them and be the difference of a good meal. If a waiter, bellboy, taxi driver, or tour guide was friendly and made your stay better somehow, remember to tip them. I give a big tip to the hotel when I leave to spread evenly among the whole staff, so the more backstage, humble workers like maids and maintenance men get rewarded too.

6. Respect the people who live there.0_BBK67D
Remember that you are in someone else’s home, so think of yourself as a special guest and act accordingly. Of course you want to have a few drinks and have fun, but you can loosen up and still be conscious of the local people around you who make a living in tourism and treat them like gold.

7. Learn to say “Please” and “Thank you,” in the native tongue.
Just by learning a few basic words in the language you’ll open the door to new friendships and opportunities. The locals will love it that you’re showing appreciation and respect for their culture.

8. Patronize locally-owned businesses.
Too often, tourists frequent the bigger chain hotels, restaurants, and attractions, owned by corporations or foreign investors. So make an effort to seek out some smaller local establishments, too – you’ll be directly supporting someone’s family and probably get a better meal or room at a lower price, as well as a taste of the authentic culture.

9. Keep in touch.
Exchange email addresses and add people you meet on Facebook. It’s fun to keep in touch and build lifelong friendships with some of the great people who live there. Who knows – you might come back, or they might come visit you in the U.S. one day so you’ll get the chance to return the hospitality!

10. Practice a random act of kindness.
Before you leave, do something nice for a local person or family you’ve met. Leave a big tip for the cleaning ladies, take a local family out for dinner, or fund a class field trip at the local elementary school. Get creative and have fun with it – the good karma you create will remain long after you’ve gone home.

This is a guest post contributed by Norm Schriever. Norm is an Amazon.com best selling author, pro blogger, expat, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone who hopes to leave this planet a little better than how he found it. 

 
 

 

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Hotels To Inspire Your Travel for the New Year

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

If you’re like me, then you’re already thinking about all the places you want to visit in 2014. But we can all use a dose of travel inspiration. And maybe it’s not where you go, but where you stay that needs that inspiration. Hotels.com® recently recognized some of the most outstanding hotels based on insights from the more than 10 million verified Guest Reviews found on the leading hotel booking website.

Best Ski Hotels

YMs68xaP7RI-C_SFKLgT1iF9fPYsbEzLYY_0k22nVtkThe Arrabelle at Vail Square in Vail, Colo. was rated 4.8 out of 5 by Hotels.com guests and for good reason; it has an ice skating rink on site! Hotel Madeline in Telluride is another excellent choice in Colorado, rated 4.7 by Hotels.com Guests, featuring everything from a ski valet to a wintertime hot chocolate bar. In Jackson, WY, The Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa is the place to go, with several acres to explore on ski, foot, sled, or snowmobile – it’s the winter outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

Best Spa Hotels

Relaxation-seekers will be hard pressed to find any better places to kick-off 2014 than at any of the top spa hotel picks from Hotels.com. The Guerlain Spa at The Roosevelt New Orleans (4.6 rating) is one of only three in the country and has a 180 year tradition in beauty and relaxation. New spas, like the one in the 2-year-old Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta (4.8 rating), are also offering unparalleled services that receive high marks from Hotels.com guests. In San Diego, the 4.9 rated Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa is an award-winning wellness oasis that includes a Yoga Pavilion, Pilates studio, advanced exercise programs and retreats.

Best Casino Hotels

The Wynn Las Vegas (4.7 rating) is among the most glamorous destinations on the Las Vegas Strip. Along with its sister property Encore at Wynn Las Vegas (4.6 rating), the two hotels offer a luxurious high-limit gaming experience with quality complimentary drinks and a number of high limit table games. The all-suite Palazzo Resort Hotel & Casino (4.6 rating) is the largest building in the U.S. after New York’s World Trade Center Towers (according to The Real Deal real estate magazine in New York City) and offers the most standard accommodations on the Strip.

Best Golf HotelssqJqTapHKWzo6Xj9V35EtH7Fzbohv6ucpw7LsXHz-Ws

The Mediterranean-inspired Grand Del Mar – San Diego (5.0 rating) offers everything from practice facilities and an instructional golf academy, to golf-hotel packages and a junior course for youth. The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (4.8 rating) features two striking golf courses that traverse around granite rock and boulder piles outside of Scottsdale, Ariz. The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (4.8 rating) boasts three 18-hole championship golf courses amidst the island’s natural beauty and even offers unique activities such as yoga for golfers.

Best Bed & Breakfasts

The Almondy Inn (4.9 rating) in Newport, R.I. is one of the top bed and breakfasts in New England, serving up afternoon wine and cheese within steps of famed Bannister’s Wharf. Visitors to Cape Cod’s Provincetown can stay in the luxurious rooms of the Revere Guest House (4.9 rating). Eva’s Escape at the Gardenia Inn (4.9 rating) in San Antonio offers guests in-room massages, as well as afternoon and evening desserts.

Feel Inspired? I sure do. Happy and Safe Travel for the New Year!

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Keep Your Head in the Clouds & Your Toes in the Sands of Costa Rica

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

You have big decisions to make when you visit Costa Rica: beach or jungle? Clouds or Volcano? Monkey versus sloth? If time allows, you can just choose them all. Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. Take time to immerse yourself in the natural wonders it has to offer.

There are two great hikes through the jungle to gorgeous beaches at the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, located in the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica. This national park was the first protected area in the country and has paved the way for Costa Rica’s eco-tourism initiatives.

Most anywhere along the coast, visitors have their pick of yoga studios in town and can go horseback riding on the beach, sail, snorkel or go on a fishing excursion to Tortuga Island. The privately owned Curu National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see birds and wildlife and it has a lovely, deserted beach.

In Monteverde, take one of the zip-line canopy tours. I recommend the tour in Selvatura Park, which also features other interesting exhibits. It’s here that you’ll explore the rainforests with howler monkeys and macaws. Take the time for the Cloud Forest Tour or the horseback mountain tour. And some say the Extreme Tarzan Swing ($35/each + $15 for the headcam video is one of the craziest things they’ve ever done; up for the challenge?

Manuel Antonio National Park is a small conservation area that manages to encompass both the jungle and pristine beaches. Thousands of wildlife species thrive here. It’s hard to miss the fuzzy sloths hanging from branches, toucans nesting in the treetops and green iguanas basking in the leaves. Capuchin monkeys may even join you on the beaches.

Costa Rica is home to six active volcanoes. This is both intimidating and exciting to me. Arenal is one of the country’s most active and most visited volcanoes. There are Hanging Bridges to cross and Hot Springs that actually surround the volcano and serve every budget and style. It’s easiest to visit from San José so plan accordingly when laying out your route.

What did I miss? Bird watching, kayaking, rivers and lakes, coffee plantations, ATV tours… there’s much to explore in the tiny republic of Costa Rica or you could just grab a good book and head to a hammock on the beach. Which only means one thing: a few good reasons to come back and visit again.

 

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Next Stop Niagara Falls

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

TSBCotM

 

 

 

 

Tourist Boat in Niagara FallsFrom Marilyn Monroe to Superman, to The Office wedding of Jim and Pam, Niagara Falls is an icon of romance and adventure. Located between two major urban areas: Toronto, Ontario, Canada to the north and Buffalo, New York, USA to the southwest, Niagara Falls is not actually one waterfall, but three.

More than eight million visitors flock to the falls each year. You’ll spend more money and face more crowds by visiting in the summer but you can take full advantage of the weather and attractions. Spring and fall see fewer tourists with colder weather. And the winter sees many attractions like the boat tours to shut down. My husband actually surprised me for a Valentine’s weekend of fun in Niagara and nearby Toronto. And even on the coldest day of the year (at that time), we had a blast taking the Journey Behind the Falls tour. And you will definitely need a passport and an additional photo ID if you want to walk across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada or to participate in any of the attractions that originate on the Canadian side of the falls (like the Journey Behind the Falls tour).

Getting There

From US cities, I think flying into Buffalo Airport is the easiest and least expensive way to get to Niagara Falls. From the airport and depending on your trip plans, rent a car or take a shuttle to visit the falls.

Things to Do

It’s touristy for a reason! The Maid of the Mist boat tour is as good as it gets for that impressive, “as close as you can get”, experience seeing the American and Horseshoe Falls. These boat tours have been operating for more than 100 years.

stk211412rkeAnd if you are into how stuff works then be sure to visit The New York Power Authority free visitor center. See first-hand how the water from Niagara Falls generates enough electricity to power nearly two million households. Check out the view from the Power Vista’s Observation Deck 350 feet above the Niagara River Gorge. Kids will enjoy the hands-on activities.

Holidays in Niagara Falls

And, if you are looking for a haunted getaway to Niagara Falls, check out their spook-tacular Halloween happenings coming up this weekend. Plus, the Falls are lit up with lights for Christmas in Niagara Falls.

Later this week, read more about great spots to explore in and around Niagara Falls and the best hotels in the area, too.

 

 
 

 

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The Government Shutdown & How It Affects Travel

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Lincoln by Daniel Chester FrenchGood afternoon -

If you went to bed before midnight ET last night, then you’re waking up to potentially disrupted travel plans. The US Government put more than 800,000 workers on furlough this morning, and has closed more than 368 National Park Service Sites.

That’s right. As of right now, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and all the other national monuments and museums in Washington DC, Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee, The Statue of Liberty, and all our countries battle forts are now closed, just to name a small few.

Millions of visitors will be turned away.

In need of a passport? You’re likely going to have to wait.  Yes, passport processing is a non-essential government function, as well.

Is this government shutdown affecting any of your plans? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 
 

 

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Wizards, Minions & Barney: Our Two Days at Universal Studios Florida

Friday, August 9th, 2013

IMG_9184We recently spent a few fun days at the Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, FL. My nearly nine year old has been knee deep in Harry Potter books this summer so we thought it was the right time to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure Theme Park.

The town of Hogsmeade is tucked away within Islands of Adventure. And what there is of it does not disappoint. It is a mini replica of Hogsmeade with Diagon Alley and all of the kid’s of Hogwarts favorite places, but we expected there to be more of it for all the hype. The best attractions were just out of reach (height limits) for Harry’s biggest fans (kids under 48 inches) including the Hogwarts main attraction, leaving the retail shops and a few small attractions available for the whole family to enjoy.

Islands of Adventure is more like a traditional amusement park with lots of roller coasters and water rides. I knew we were in for trouble when we saw the volume of people wearing swimsuits. I didn’t mind getting soaked with the kids but if you do, then be prepared. At least five rides at Islands of Adventures are super soaker water rides and there are splash fountains throughout the park.

Expert Tip: Wear a bathing suit, and pack a change of clothes and a towel

The 3D Spiderman ride was a ton of fun!

The 3D Spiderman ride was a ton of fun!

Universal Studios Florida is still a real working production studio complete with rides, shows, movie sets and attractions. This was our favorite day of the trip. Our favorite rides were, by far, the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack, Transformers -3D and The Simpsons Ride™. We really enjoyed this theme park as a family and felt there was more for kids to do under the age of 10.

Even Eleanor, our nearly two year old, was captivated by the Barney live show, A Day in the Park with Barney™. Yes, that giant purple dinosaur and his sidekicks still can get the little ones going!

With so many theme parks that cater to children under 13 in Orlando, it was nice to see these theme parks packed with thrill rides that older kids and adults can enjoy. In fact, I think these parks are better for teens and adults than I do for families with smaller kids. The fun for adults continues into the night as you enter and exit the parks into Universal’s City Walk, which features numerous restaurants and night clubs.

The kids and I with The Cat and The Hat's Thing 1 and Thing 2!

The kids and I with The Cat and The Hat’s Thing 1 and Thing 2!

Tickets to Universal Studios
The best place to purchase tickets is through the Universal Orlando website. There are discounts for multi-day ticket purchases and you can even print them at home and avoid the lines.

Get the Express Pass

To get through the lines faster and avoid long waits in the Florida heat, you can buy an express pass for each person. This is an additional purchase per person/per day on top of the base ticket price. Express Passes work on practically every ride (except for two or three) at the two theme parks. We never waited more than five minutes to get into an attraction, which really helped to maximize our time and make the most of our experience.

The tricky thing about purchasing an express pass is that the price varies by the day based on demand. A pass could be as low as $19.99 and could be as high as $89.99 per ticket.

The way to avoid these extra fees is to consider staying at one of the three Loew’s Universal resorts. When you stay at one of these on-site hotels, then Express Passes are exclusively included for the duration of your stay and for every guest in your group. Just make sure you indicate the correct number of guests on your initial reservation.

IMG_9192Hotels near Universal Studios Florida
There are numerous hotels and vacation rentals to choose from in Orlando. Based upon your budget and stay requirements, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you are looking for.

Consider these things when booking a hotel in Orlando: distance to the theme parks, free shuttle service, Internet, breakfasts, pools and activities. Hotels located on-site with theme parks may be the better value, so consider all of your trip expenses before choosing a hotel. If you can avoid a rental car because a hotel offers shuttle service to/from the airport and to the nearby attractions then you may want to consider it.

We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort and had a wonderful experience. Staying at this hotel made it super easy to get up and get to the parks in the morning. Staying on-site provides an exclusive additional hour at the parks before they open to the public each day. We were walking distance or a quick boat ride to the parks AND we received complimentary Express Passes (which were valued over $69/ticket during our trip). We also really enjoyed the lagoon style pool at the Royal Pacific Resort and the kids took part in many of the evening games and activities, including a Dive-In movie, hula show and more.

Next week, the kids and I are heading to San Antonio for Kidcation! I can’t wait to share our Texas adventure and hope to see some of you there!

 

 

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Mackinac Island, Michigan

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

TSBCotM

 

 

 



Of all the places that I have traveled in my life so far, few are as distinctive as Mackinac Island, Michigan. I first visited Mackinac Island with my parents when I was in high school. And to be honest, not much has changed since then nor had it been much different 30, 60 even 90 years prior. And that’s just the way it’s supposed to be!

Located in Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsula of the state and just 300 miles north of Detroit, Mackinac Island has been America’s quintessential summer vacation spot for more than 125 years.

So what makes Mackinac Islandso perfectly timeless and special?

Mackinac Island Bridge

Well, there are no cars or motorized vehicles on the island, for starters. That’s right! A ferry ride will get you there and once on the Island, a horse and buggy, bicycle or your feet will take you the rest of the way. Its Victorian era charm has been painstakingly preserved and is the picturesque backdrop to any summer wedding or family memory.

In 1980 the cult-favorite flick, Somewhere in Time, was filmed on the island. Not one set had to be built for the film that was set in 1912. And I’m not alone in how great I think the film that starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour is. The movie’s fan club flocks to the island and its famed Grand Hotel every fall to pay homage to the film and its starring location.

MI fudgeSomewhere in Time was filmed at The Grand Hotel, probably one of the most recognizable and definitely won of the most decorated hotels in the world. It’s front porch, at 660 feet, is the world’s largest, and is visible as you approach the island from the ferry. When first opened in 1887, a stay would cost you $3 -$5. Today rates are higher but include full breakfasts and five-course dinners in most guest room rates, and children 12 years old and younger stay and eat free.

Mackinac Island slows the pace of life a bit, yet is full of fun for visitors for all ages. You can definitely perfect the art of the stroll here. The sweet smell of chocolate emanates from quaint shops in the historic downtown. You can stroll right into Murdick’s Candy Kitchen and try some of Mackinac’s famous fudge.

The beautiful Mackinac Island State Park covers 80% of the island and is ripe for exploration including the old Fort Mackinac. The park was actually the second national park created after Yellowstone but was eventually transferred over to the state when the fort was decommissioned by the US Army. Touring this area is definitely worthwhile.

Check out the blog later this week and I’ll provide a timeless itinerary for visiting Mackinac Island!

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

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10 Incredible Parks You Can’t Miss

Friday, July 26th, 2013

If you’re backpacking, or on a leisurely vacation, chances are you want to experience the destination in all its glory. Often the first places that enthused travelers are itching to check out are historical monuments, museums, clubs, bars, and restaurants. However, there is one destination that is truly underrated: parks.
All across Europe and the U.S. breathtaking parks are open to the public. Visiting these parks allows one to experience serene, natural, beauty and provides an idyllic getaway to the craziness that sometimes consumes traveling and exploring. Here are the 10 most incredible parks you can’t miss when gallivanting around the globe.

Vondelpark_Hotelsdotcom1. If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in Amsterdam, there’s nothing like grabbing a bottle of wine and some snacks for a visit to Vondelpark, the biggest park in the city where you can experience live music and theater performances on the weekend. This park features lakes, wildlife, and rose gardens away from the canals and restaurants.

2. One park in particular that is both inspiring, as well as an adequate exercise is Park Güell in Gracia, Barcelona. Get a unique, art-fix here while adventuring through the windey trails you will encounter various Gaudi designed statues, foundations, sculptures, pillars, and of course the famous gingerbread houses that bring you back to your childhood memories of playing Candy land.

3. Considered an educational hotspot, with its nature and art tours, The High Line park in New York was once an old, abandoned railroad track. Today however, it has been transformed with lush grasses, trees, flowers, and bushes, additionally, the original railroad tracks have been incorporated into the design. The concrete slants and various artist booths alongside extravagant plants and trees is a unique experience you can’t pass up.

4. Home to the Taste of Chicago food festival, the SummerDance festival, and of course “The Bean” (Cloud Gate), Grant Park, Chicago offers sports, arts, concerts, and plenty of sunshine in the “Windy City.”

5. Spectacular in length, The Grand Entrance to London’s Hyde Park features massive columns and iron gates leading to the three hundred and fifty acre Park, equipped with meadows, tennis courts, british bowling, and putting greens. Rent a boat and tour the grounds by water while making your way to the adjacent Kensington Gardens.

High Line_Hotelsdotcom6. Away from the normal rise and grind of Los Angeles, Griffith Park is the largest stretch of nature in the city, reaching 4,000 acres of adventure including: horseback riding, swimming, and the Griffith Observatory. A short walk up Canyon Drive leads to The Bronson Caves, an outcropping where dozens of movies, and TV shows (Batman!) have been shot. So if you’re looking for green things to do in LA, this park can’t be beat.

7. A vivacious, urban playground, El Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid has ample romantic architecture and dynamic musicians, fortune tellers, vendors. On Sunday evenings, young bohemians are often present jamming away on their bongos and enjoying endless bottles of wine and a sunset.

8. The Englischer Garten in Munich is one of Europe’s largest municipal parks, equipped with beer gardens, a lake, bike and jogging paths, and at times, nude sunbathers. If you’re looking for something different; enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at the Japanese tea house.

9. Away from the typical manicured gardens, Buttes-Chaumont’s plants are untended and lush. One of the biggest parks in Paris, Buttes has various panoramic views, but for the best, guests should venture to the park’s central lake and then to the historic Temple of Sybil – a stone gazebo modeled to replicate an ancient Roman temple-that sits quietly atop the island in the middle of the water. Venture further and encounter a quaint bridge that provides access to a cave where you’ll experience one of the most awe-inspiring and romantic things to do in Paris.

10. The meadows of The Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California harbor the epic festival Outside lands, eight lakes, and the de Young Museum, an incredible building with all the aspects of a fairy treehouse, encompassing a living roof with almost two million plants and a four-story rainforest, bustling with the life of thirty-eight thousand animals!

This article is by Party Earth. Click here to get the inside scoop on the best concerts, festivals, parties, and more in your city every weekend!

 

 

 
 

 

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What’s More American than Our National Parks?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013


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Whether you’re planning a day trip for the whole family or a multi-day backpacking trek, National Parks are the perfect destination for your summer travels. Amongst these, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado offers some of the most versatile terrain, wildlife and activities easily accessible to guests of all different ages and interests boasting over 358 miles of trails and 150 lakes.

It’s no surprise that you will not be able to cover the whole park in a single weekend or even week – but no matter how you choose to explore, you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by beautiful Colorado landscape. The key to getting the most out of your Rocky Mountain experience? Plan ahead!

Rocky Mountain National Park by Car

The first, and perhaps most convenient way to explore Rocky Mountain National park is by car. If you only have a day or two but want to get an all-inclusive overview of what the park has to offer – this may be your best option.

The most popular drive is Trail Ridge Road, which takes you from Estes Park west to Grand Lake. There are many view points you can stop off at – notably Tundra World Nature trail where you can take a closer look at the plants and animals of the Rocky Mountains and Rainbow Curve which offer views of 9 different mountain peaks. If you have more time, Bear Lake Road allows you to park your car and take an easy walk to Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, Emerald Lake and Moraine Park Museum. Old Fall River Road doesn’t offer as many stop-offs to get out and walk around, but this steep drive up a gravel road is the original road over the continental divide and will give you a more rugged (but just as beautiful) Rocky Mountain experience.

Rocky Mountain National Park on Foot

If you have a couple days and feel like doing some more extensive exploring by foot, you definitely have some options. If you’re looking for an easier day hike, there are many trailheads that will take you to beautiful lakes, waterfalls or mountain views.

JARIRF-00003752-001The most popular trails are in the eastern portion of the park, and a great trailhead to start at is the Bear Lake trailhead. From here the Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake trails are all relatively easy and under a few miles round trip. These lakes are some of the most beautiful sights in Estes Park, but because of this, they’re very popular tourist destinations so it’s best to go during the week or early in the morning if you want to avoid crowds.

A slightly more challenging but much less crowded hike is the Black Lake Hike that starts at the Glacier Gorge trailhead. You’ll pass through Alberta Falls, Mills Lake and Jewel Lake. If you have time, you can reserve a back country camping pass to one of the many sights in that area and explore The Loch, Lake of Glass, Sky Pond or Andrew’s Glacier – incredibly beautiful sights that see slightly less tourism as they’re further from the trail heads and harder to get to.

For serious backpackers, heading to the Southern part of the park will give you many hiking/camping options with little to no tourists. From the Wild Basin Trailhead, you can explore more strenuous hikes such as the strenuous, 13.2-mile hike to Thunder Lake. You can veer off and explore but just remember, backcountry camping sites must always be reserved in advance!

As you can see, Rocky Mountain National Park has something for everyone. The best way to maximize your experience here is to divide and conquer. Whether you choose to take a scenic drive, day hike to one of the parks beautiful lakes, or adventure on backpacking journey – feel free to share your experiences below!

 

 
 

 

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