The Best Family Attraction in Every State in the USA

Rollercoaster ride

A family vacation takes a lot of planning. Where will we stay? How will we get there? How can we AFFORD this? The worst thing you can do on a family vacation is plan like crazy the how and the where, but forget about the what to do when you arrive. Everyone will just sit on their hands staring at each other, or more likely fighting about who touched whom, and who is being annoying at that particular moment.

No worries though, because we have you covered. We looked at every state in the USA and chose the top family attraction worth traveling for. This way, if you’re headed somewhere in the US, you’ll know ahead of time where one awesome, unforgettable family activity is waiting for you. We chose these attractions based on positive traveler reviews, amount of fun for all (or most) ages, and bang for your buck. So worry about the travel planning all you want, we have your family activities covered:

Alabama (Mobile): Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center
Alaska (Anchorage): Anchorage Museum
Arizona (Tucson): The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
Arkansas (Hot Springs): Magic Springs & Crystal Falls Water and Theme Park
California (Sacramento): Fairytale Town
Colorado (Glenwood Springs): Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Connecticut (New Haven): Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Delaware (Fenwick Island): Coastal Kayak
Florida (Jacksonville): The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
Georgia (Atlanta): Georgia Aquarium
Hawaii (Maui): Old Lahaina Luau
Idaho (Boise): The World Center for Birds of Prey
Illinois (Chicago): The Magic Parlour
Indiana (Fort Wayne): Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Iowa (Dubuque): Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
Kansas (Hutchinson): Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center
Kentucky (Lexington): Kentucky Horse Park
Louisiana (Layfayette): Kart Ranch
Maine (Bar Harbor & Orono): Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School
Maryland (Cumberland): Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
Massachusetts (Boston): Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
Michigan (Flint): Sloan Museum
Minnesota (St. Paul): Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
Mississippi (Jackson): Mississippi Children’s Museum
Missouri (Springfield): Hammons Field: Home of the Springfield Cardinals
Montana (West Glacier): Glacier National Park
Nebraska (Nebraska City): Arbor Day Farm
Nevada (Reno): Reno Rodeo
New Hampshire (Lincoln): Alpine Adventures
New Jersey (Cape May): Cape May Whale Watch
New Mexico (Albuquerque): Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway
New York (Brooklyn): Luna Park in Coney Island
North Carolina (Raleigh): Marbles Kids Museum
North Dakota (Bismarck): North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum
Ohio (Cleveland): The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Oklahoma (Oklahoma City): Museum of Osteology
Oregon (Government Camp): Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl
Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh): Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Rhode Island (Providence): Providence Performing Arts Center
South Carolina (Myrtle Beach): Myrtle Beach Safari
South Dakota (Keystone): Rushmore Tramway Adventures
Tennessee (Pigeon Forge): Titanic Museum
Texas (San Antonio): Morgan’s Wonderland
Utah (Moab): Hauer Ranch
Vermont (Woodstock): Billings Farm and Museum
Virginia (Virginia Beach): Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Washington (Tacoma): Children’s Museum of Tacoma
West Virginia (Fayetteville): Cantrell Ultimate Rafting
Wisconsin (Milwaukee): Discovery World
Wyoming (Cody): Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Be sure to read our older post in this series, featuring Top Restaurant in each state.

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Save Money with Vacation Home Rentals Next to Resorts

Think you can only have luxury and extravagance when vacationing at a resort? You thought wrong! Why spend double, maybe even quadruple, when you can have all of the above for a lot less with the comfort of home? Read on to discover the vacation rentals with the hot deals just around the corner from their lavish neighbors!

  1. Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay [from $825/night]                                                

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Ocean view B&B MoBay Pool Chef Wi-Fi [from $199/night]

Feel like you are at home: whether it is taking a dip in the pool, enjoying the ocean view from your room or relaxing with a massage or facial. Why go to a restaurant when you can have a home cooked meal come to you: the B&B has an onsite executive chef to make you dinner on your very own patio! Don’t feel stuck: you are within a 20 minute walk to town filled with shopping and golf!

  1. Bodrum, Turkey

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Golden Savoy [from $950/night]

 

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Penthouse Apartment Overlooking Pool & Sea [from $58/night]

Feel like you are at home: This gated community includes a balcony in each room overlooking the Aegean Sea. Hang out on the outdoor dining sun beds underneath a terrace umbrella and go at your own pace. Spot a celebrity or two cruising by on a yacht or flamingos on the lake! Have the best of both worlds: Enjoy the sea and beaches on one side and lake and forest views on the other.

  1. Gstaad, Switzerland

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Gstaad Palace [from $490/night]

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Beautiful Luxury Chalet [from $297/night]

Feel like you are at home: Built as a place to enjoy with family and friends, this property contains cozy amenities such as a big table for long dinners and board games, log fire and powerful showers. You do not have to get dressed for dinner, for someone is available to cook when you are hungry. Use the ski room to store your gear after a short walk to the lift!

  1. Bali, Indonesia

St. Regis Bali Resort [from $950/night]

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Villa in Bali [from $344/night]

Feel like you are at home: This 5 bedroom eco-friendly rental was built to give you simplicity and clarity. You do not have to leave the house to have fun; the party is located onsite: take advantage of the entertainment room complete with a 50” television and disco lighting. Take a dip in your private pool as you gaze into the sunset or a 20 minute walk to the beach.

  1. Sedona, Arizona

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Mii Amo Spa [from $2520/night]

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Desert Flower Luxury Town Home [from $175/night]

Feel like you are at home: The sights of the red rocks from the private balconies of the two master suites are stunning! Start your morning off in the large gourmet kitchen filled with new appliances and fresh coffee beans. HDMI cables make it easy for you to hook up your computer and do what you would at home. Bring your four legged friend with you on the bike path located steps outside!

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The Steps to Booking a Vacation Rental

Booking a vacation rental can be a quick and easy process if the correct steps are taken to ensure a stress free search. Being organized and planning at least six months in advance are key to a painless booking process. By following the steps below, you should be able to secure the rental home of your dreams at a great price.

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Decide on your details

The first step in any vacation rental home search is deciding on exactly what you are looking for.

Where do you want to go? Not only do you need to decide on the city or town you want to stay in, you should determine if there is a particular area or attraction that you would like to be close to. Narrowing down the location will ease the process by allowing you to focus on only the properties that are located where you want to be.

What size vacation rental are you looking for? Think about how many people you need to fit comfortably, how many beds you need, and how many bathrooms you would like to have. Use filtering tools when searching to only show properties with your required number of bedrooms.

Next, decide on the exact dates you’d like to travel. Take a peek at the availability calendar for each and every rental you view, but remember that not every owner keeps their calendar up-to-date, so it may be smart to confirm availability in an inquiry. Beginning your search early will better ensure availability is open for properties you are interested in.

Lastly, decide if there are any amenities that are completely vital in your search – such as handicapped access, hot tub, WiFi, or air conditioning.

Start searching

Now the fun part begins! Get online and explore the thousands of vacation rentals listed on VacationHomeRentals.com. Save a list of those which interest you and meet your requirements. Make sure to take your time when reading each property’s description, reviews, and owner/manager information. Begin sending inquiries to owners to request more information and confirm availability.

Compare and contrast

Once you’ve heard back from the owners you’ve inquired with regarding availability, pricing, and additional information, begin to compare and contrast each available property by looking at location, pricing, size, and owner reputation. Make sure you have all of the information you need and don’t be afraid to ask the owner for more – including asking for a copy of the rental contract. Narrow down your options one-by-one until you have just a handful of favorites. Share these options with friends and family who may be traveling with you as their opinions will certainly help influence your final decision.

Finalize your trip

Once you’ve decided on your rental home, get in touch with the owner to finalize payment details. Plan to touch base with the owner closer to the date of your trip to discuss getting the key and other check-in technicalities.

Sit back and relax!

Planning ahead pays off – you’ll now have plenty of time to organize the rest of your vacation!

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The Best Restaurant in Every State in the USA

Menu & Cutlery on A Restaurant Table

It’s simple really – the fastest way to a travelers heart is through his or her stomach. No matter where you go, you need to eat. A tried and true way to get a feel for the local culture is by eating the local fare. Owners should strive to surprise and delight tourists through the quality of their food, their service, or their decor. The list we’ve compiled below represents the best restaurant in each state in the USA. These winners were chosen based on a mouth-watering menu, impeccable service, delightful atmosphere and positive traveler feedback. So feel comfortable choosing any of these spots on your next road trip, or try the winner near your hometown to see what all the fuss is about!

Alabama (Birmingham): Hot and Hot Fish Club
Alaska (Girdwood): Seven Glaciers Restaurant
Arizona (Phoenix): The Breadfruit
Arkansas (Little Rock): The Pantry
California (San Francisco): State Bird Provisions
Colorado (Boulder): Black Cat
Connecticut (Westport): The Whelk
Delaware (Wilmington): Domaine Hudson
Florida (Miami Beach): Yardbird Southern Table and Bar
Georgia (Atlanta): Watershed
Hawaii (Lahaina): Mala Ocean Tavern
Idaho (Boise): State and Lemp
Illinois (Murphysboro): 17th Street BBQ
Indiana (Indianapolis): Late Harvest Kitchen
Iowa (Grinnell): The Prairie Canary
Kansas (Lawrence): Genovese
Kentucky (Louisville): Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar
Louisiana (Houma): Cristiano
Maine (Portland): Petite Jaqueline
Maryland (Bethesda): Black’s Bar & Kitchen
Massachusetts (Sturbridge): Cedar Street Grille
Michigan (Kalamazoo): Food Dance
Minnesota (Wayzata): 6Smith
Mississippi (Greenwood): Delta Bistro
Missouri (Clayton): Niche
Montana (Missoula): The Pearl Cafe
Nebraska (Lincoln): Dish
Nevada (Reno): Beaujolais
New Hampshire (Glen): The White Mountain Cider Co.
New Jersey (Princeton): Agricola
New Mexico (Santa Fe): Shokho Cafe
New York (New York): The Spotted Pig
North Carolina (Charlotte): Carpe Diem
North Dakota (Bismarck): Pirogue Grille
Ohio (Broadview Heights): Cork & Cleaver
Oklahoma (Nichols Hills): The Coach House
Oregon (Portland): Pok Pok
Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh): Cure
Rhode Island (Bristol): Persimmon
South Carolina (Charleston): McCrady’s
South Dakota (Rapid City): Tally’s Silver Spoon
Tennessee (Nashville): Kayne Prime
Texas (San Antonio): The Granary ‘Cue and Brew
Utah (Salt Lake City): Pago
Vermont (Waterbury): Hen of the Wood
Virginia (Falls Church): 2941
Washington (Lummi Island): Willows Inn
West Virginia (Charleston): Bridge Road Bistro
Wisconsin (Madison): Harvest
Wyoming (Jackson Hole): Snake River Grill

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Best Destinations for 2014/2015 Ski Season

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Vail, CO

A late-bloomer in the arena of celebrated Colorado ski towns (the town’s main resort did not open until 1952), Vail is known for its high celebrity quotient, chic fashion boutiques, and fine dining restaurants. Part of the Colorado Rockies, Vail boasts two large ski resorts where lift tickets are interchangeable – giving skiers full access to the town’s high-quality snow and diverse terrain.

Average snowfall: 348 in./yr
Après-ski pick: Make a reservation at Mountain Standard and enjoy modern American cuisine prepared via a unique, primal cooking method – over an open and live wood fire.

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 Aspen, CO

Aspen is another town known for its glitz and glamour. Located in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains, the town offers four world-class mountains – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk. While shopping and dining in Aspen may not offer much bang-for-your-buck, an Aspen lift ticket is valid at all four mountains. Part-time home to Cher, Michael Douglas, and numerous other celebrities, you may even find yourself sharing a lift with one of Hollywood’s stars.

Average snowfall: 300 in./yr
Après-ski pick:
Experience the flavor of the Swiss Alps by dining on sweet and savory fondues and delicious crepes at Aspen’s only alpine restaurant, Creperie du Village.

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Telluride, CO

In the midst of the San Juan Mountains, Telluride is a former gold rush town that has been known for its stellar downhill skiing since the 1970’s. Telluride’s terrain is notoriously steep and jagged, and here, you’ll find some of the highest peaks in Colorado. Take a ride on the Mountain Village Gondola to experience breathtaking views of the area’s towering slopes and gorgeous wide, groomed trails.

Average snowfall: 200 in/yr
Après-ski pick:
Take a cooking class with award-winning chef and Season 10 “Top Chef” Contestant Eliza Gavin of Telluride’s 221 South Oak. You’ll learn some of Chef Gavin’s favorite cooking techniques, trade secrets, and sample amazing dishes paired with wines of the world.

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Stowe, VT

Set on Vermont’s tallest mountain, Mount Mansfield, Stowe is a wonderful place for skiers of all levels and is also known for its cross-country skiing, offering miles of groomed and backcountry trails. In addition to Mount Mansfield, Stowe skiers have access to Spruce Peak, which is connected to the main mountain by a gondola. Together, the two peaks boast 116 ski trails and 13 lifts. For those who don’t ski, the area offers plenty of other options – such as ice-skating, tubing, snow-mobiling, and hiking.


Average snowfall:
333 in./yr
Après-ski pick:
Inspired by “The Sound of Music,” Trapp Family Lodge is a European-inspired resort now overseen by Johannes, the youngest of the von Trapp children. Fans of the film may enjoy a visit to the Lodge’s Brewery for a cold beer before walking over to the Lodge’s main dining room for a romantic, candlelit dinner.

Back Country Skiing

Jackson Hole, WY

Jackson Hole in Northwest Wyoming is known for its extreme terrain frequented by some of the nation’s most skilled downhill skiers. Boasting a vertical of over 4,000 feet, the area is a surprisingly spectacular choice for families, offering smaller slopes for beginner skiers and an impressive kid’s ski school program known as Kid’s Ranch. With three ski resorts located in the Jackson Hole valley area: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Resort and Grand Targhee Resort, there are guaranteed to be plenty of choices for dining and nightlife after a day on the slopes.

Average snowfall: 475 in/yr
Après-ski pick: The National Museum of Wildlife Art’s award-winning architecture permits the structure to appear as though it is a natural rock, seamlessly intertwined with the area’s landscape. The museum boasts an impressive collection of over 5,000 cataloged items allowing the public to further appreciate the link between humanity and nature.

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Surprising Travel Hot Spots from Summer 2014

With summer coming to an end, we’ve pulled together a short list of some of the season’s most unexpectedly popular vacation rental destinations in the United States, compiled via VacationHomeRentals.com web traffic. These off-the-beaten path locations provide plenty of fun-in-the-sun for families and couples alike.

Poconos

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Typically known as a destination for romantic getaways and honeymoons, the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania are also a great place for a family vacation. The area provides an outdoor playground for hiking, biking, camping, and water sports – making it a wonderful choice for those looking to plan an affordable, active escape. Rent a lakeside chalet for the ideal Poconos experience and make sure to take advantage of the wide array of local attractions and activities.

Maine

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The beautiful state of Maine offers a variety of vacation destinations perfect for those looking for a relaxing coastal retreat. Maine’s largest city, Portland, is a charming metropolis full of ocean views, cobblestone streets, fun restaurants, and one-of-a-kind boutiques. Bar Harbor, home to Acadia National Park, offers an array of activities from kayaking to whale-watching and boasts a gorgeous rocky coast lined by granite cliffs. Beach-goers may also enjoy renting a seaside cottage in the picturesque town of Old Orchard Beach – a popular spot for family getaways, with over seven miles of sandy beaches.

Branson, Missouri

Branson, MO

Long been a popular destination for travelers from the Missouri area, the city of Branson is soon becoming a location visited by vacationers from all regions of the country. Known as the Live Music Show Capital of the World, the city hosts an impressive collection of entertainment theatres and entertainment industry-based attractions. After experiencing a magic or comedy show downtown, enjoy nature in the nearby Ozarks – a prime spot for fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and boating.

Southwest Michigan

Southwest Michigan

The population of Southwest Michigan, in particular the town of Traverse City, swells incredibly in the summer months. While Lake Michigan’s beautiful lakeside beaches draw thousands of travelers, the biggest draw is the area’s National Cherry Festival. With Lake Michigan as its backdrop, the large festival offers parades, country-fair–style games, and unique area cuisine. Even with the large crowds, the area still retains its small-town feel, leading guests to return back year after year.

Mesa, AZ

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

This Southwestern city offers the best of both worlds by providing visitors with a fine balance between nature and city culture. With convenient access to three lakes, two rivers, and a large selection of hiking trails – travelers will enjoy an abundance of outdoor recreational activities. After a day spent out in the sun, head to the city’s vibrant downtown area which boasts a variety of museums, art studios, restaurants, and shops. Experience the state’s capital by taking a short, 30 minute drive to Phoenix – a city full of more shopping, art, fine cuisine, and world-class golf courses. 

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Best Vacation Destinations for Empty Nesters

Now that the kids are out of the house, it’s your time to see and do things that may have seemed impossible with a family on board. Whether you enjoy adventure, history, relaxation or sightseeing – we’ve found five unique vacation ideas that are perfect for two.

Antarctica

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A trip to Antarctica is certain to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with memories of astonishing landscapes and unique wildlife. It’s simply impossible to be unimpressed with Antarctica’s stunning preserved, natural beauty. You’ll discover magnificent icebergs, oceans home to gorgeous orcas, and beaches lined with penguins and seals. GeoEx offers a variety of tours through this polar paradise – including voyages aboard National Geographic ships on which travelers are invited to assist National Geographic researchers in penguin studies and underwater adventures. You and your significant other will surely enjoy your time together in the peaceful solitude of this vastly unpopulated continent.

 

Africa

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Immerse yourself in nature with a visit to Africa for a true safari experience. This type of vacation requires a bit of prep work and research – making it a much better choice for those who no longer have to worry about the kid’s missing school or getting the required immunizations in order to travel to Africa. Whether you are looking for a luxurious safari tour, or a more affordable experience, you’ll discover some of the most interesting wildlife and jaw-dropping landscapes in the entire world. Camp amongst wild camels in Kenya, stargaze in Tanzania, and spot black rhinos, cheetahs, and elephants in Namibia. If you’ve got time, end of your Journey with a relaxing vineyard tour in South Africa, or a sun-filled weekend at one of Morocco’s many luxurious resorts.

 

Scotland

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For the less adventurous couple, plan a visit to Scotland for a romantic retreat full of culture and history. Experience the elegant city of Edinburgh before renting a car to tour the many iconic castles scattered throughout the Scottish countryside. You’ll truly appreciate being able to slowly explore the beautiful area without having to worry about keeping the kids entertained. A golfer’s paradise, Scotland offers some of the oldest and most picturesque golf courses in the world. Kensington Tours runs a six-day Golf Pilgrimage Tour, which includes a guaranteed tee time at The Old Course at St. Andrews. After you’re off the green, book a cottage rental in the Scottish Highlands to experience the flavor of Scotland’s rural life.

 

Alaska

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Cruise to Alaska to explore the rugged wilderness, breathtaking wildlife, and natural wonders the vast state has to offer. Witness dramatic icebergs and glacial fields, visit ancient cultures that have inhabitated Alaska for thousands of years, and marvel at the beauty of humpback whales rolling through the frigid sea. Princess Cruises offers multi-day Alaskan adventures departing from Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, as well as rail tours led by expert guides (which may be best for those looking for more of a land-based adventure.) Extend your vacation by staying at one of the cruise line’s own custom built Wilderness Lodges, or rent a river-front cabin for more of an intimate escape.

 

Turks and Caicos

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For the sun-loving couple, Turks and Caicos is the perfect option for a relaxing beach vacation. Consisting of two groups of islands, the Caicos Islands and the Turks Islands, Turks and Caicos is known for being one of the most uncrowded and unspoiled areas in all of the Caribbean. Compared to other Caribbean destinations, the islands cater to an older, more mature clientele. With white, sandy beaches and incredibly clear, blue waters, Turks and Caicos is an excellent spot for snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. Book an elegant villa on the north shore for closest proximity to the 12-mile long Grace Bay Beach, as well as the islands top restaurants, and the largest coral reef in the area.

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Let’s Get Physical: Fitness-Inspired Vacation Destinations

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Activity: Hiking
Muscle Groups:
Glutes, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves

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To experience some of the best hiking in the New England area (as well as breathtaking fall foliage,) plan a visit to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, offers challenging trails that will be sure to provide hikers with a full body workout. Located nearby, Mount Monroe and Eisenhower may be better options for less experienced hikers. Book a log cabin in nearby North Conway for close proximity to these mountains, and extend your workout with a trip to the town’s outlet shopping center, Settlers’ Green – no reason why shopping can’t be considered cardio!

Port Angeles, Washington

Activity: Snowshoeing
Muscle groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Abductors/adductors, Hip flexors

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Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, Washington is considered by many to be the top spot for snowshoeing in the United States. Its most popular snowshoe trail, Hurricane Hill to Hurricane Ridge, offers spectacular views along a 6-mile incline. Lined by ice-coated evergreens, this trail offers beauty in all directions, but also holds the possibility of danger. Weather on Hurricane Ridge is often unpredictable, so be sure to come prepared for a variety of weather conditions. The challenge will be well worth your effort once you reach the summit, where you’ll find a majestic view of Mount Olympus, the tallest mountain in western Washington.

Hayward, Wisconsin

Activity: Biking
Muscle groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings

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The Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association off-road bike trail system in northern Wisconsin offers more than 300 miles of marked and mapped bike trails through a secluded area of beautiful forests. The CAMBA system consists primarily of singletrack trails connecting Hayward, Seeley, Cable and Namakagon forests. After biking your way through steams, bogs, and forests full of tamarack trees – pitch a tent at one of the area’s many campsites, or kick back at a nearby vacation rental. The city of Hayward offers plenty of family-friendly attractions and is also a great place for fishing and hiking.

Park City, Utah

Activity: Skiing
Muscle groups: Abdominal, Obliques

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Park City contains several world-class resorts with their own independently-run mountains located within a few miles of each other, making it possible to ski for days without ever repeating the same run. Due to the cold temperature, dry air, and moisture coming from nearby Great Salt Lake, Park City boasts consistently light and fluffy snow – perfect for skiers of all levels. The area holds over 50 lifts, multiple terrain parks, and plenty of trails to keep you busy all day. After leaving the slopes, hit Park City Main Street to experience the flavor of a restored mining town offering great shopping, dining, and nightlife.

The Everglades, Florida

Activity: Paddling
Muscle groups: Core, Obliques, Biceps, Triceps

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Within its 10,000 tiny islands, The Everglades offers miles of untouched forests, rugged landscapes, and freshwater swamps. The peaceful area is a prime spot for canoeing and kayaking amongst an array of wildlife – such as snakes, alligators, manatees, dolphins, otters, and sharks. Everglades National Park is a great place to start your paddling journey, with over 1.5 million acres of protected land and waters. Whether you make your own route, our take a guided kayaking tour, you’ll be certain to embark on an unforgettable adventure, on top of getting a great upper body workout.

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Five Best Locations to Snorkel in the World

Snorkeling is an exciting way to see some of the amazing sights the ocean has to offer. It is an easy and affordable method of exploring any tourist destination, and is also a great source of exercise.  Below I’ve outlined some of the top spots to snorkel in the world, and provided recommendations for trusted tour groups who can help you truly appreciate each area’s underwater splendor and diversity.

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Tahiti

Located in the South Pacific, Tahiti has some of the most densely populated waters in the world. Here, bright, tropical fish swim against a backdrop of warm, shallow waters in vibrant shades of blue – making it no surprise that Tahiti is considered a paradise for snorkelers of all levels. While snorkeling on the islands of Tahiti, you’ll encounter coral reefs, giant manta rays, dolphin, sharks, and even humpback whales. Although Moorea and Bora Bora are among the most popular snorkeling sites in the area, many consider the best diving experiences to be in lagoons located off-the-beaten-path.

Best tour: Windstar Cruises offers lavish week-long tours of Tahiti aboard a graceful sailing yacht. Tours include drift snorkeling among coral gardens, water sports, and local entertainment. For those looking for a more casual snorkel, Tahiti Tourism provides a thorough online guide to diving, as well as suggestions for top tour groups and training centers on the Islands.

 

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Philippines

A prime snorkeling destination, the 7,107 islands of the Philippines are a mix of Asian, European, and American cultures.  As the gateway to the Coral Triangle (considered the world center of marine biodiversity) the Philippines offer warm, tropical waters surrounded by miles of gorgeous beaches. Hundreds of classes of coral dwell in the 13,124 miles of coral reefs located within the Philippine archipelago. Snorkelers can expect to see distinctive aquatic life such as gorgonian butterfly fish, giant sponges, seafans, and starfish.

Best tour: Wilderness Travel hosts multi-day snorkeling journeys through two separate UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the Philippines. Led by marine biologists, these expeditions are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to immerse yourself in the area’s culture and marine life.

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Australia

The shallow waters of coastal Australia contain a world of diverse and scenic underwater ecosystems that are perfect for snorkeling. In these waters, you’ll find everything from giant clams and baby sea turtles to gigantic whale sharks, red bass, and dolphin. Lord Howe Island, located offshore of Sydney, is a prime destination for anyone looking to explore an untouched reef system which is home to over 500 species of fish and 90 species of coral. This World Heritage location is ideal for children, offering a clean and clear lagoon protected by the world’s southern-most coral reef.

Best tour: Lord Howe Island Environmental Tours operates coral viewing and snorkeling tours featuring glass-bottom boats for an optimal viewing experience.

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Hawaii

Hawaii offers some of the most unique marine life in the world. In fact, more than a quarter of the species found in its oceans are unique to Hawaii. The Big Island boasts some of the healthiest reefs in the Islands with stunning coral formations and beautiful tropical fish, shielded by cliffs and breathtaking mountains. Less than 30 miles away, Maui is home to an abundance of sea life – including green sea turtles, pincushion sea stars, butterfly fish, humpback whales, and manta rays.

Best tour: Fair-Wind Cruises provides an array of snorkeling tours throughout The Big Island, with snorkeling gear, lunch, and expertise instruction included.

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Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands offer a snorkeling experience like no other. Since the Galapagos Islands span multiple marine sub-provinces, snorkeling throughout the islands varies immensely from site to site. However, no matter where you are snorkeling on this diverse set of islands, you’ll discover some interesting wildlife – such as sea lions, blue-footed boobies, parrot fish, giant tortoises, iguanas, and even penguins.

Best tour: Natural Habitat Adventures offers private snorkeling tours designed to provide small groups of snorkelers with intimate wildlife viewing experiences.  Affiliated with WWF, the world’s leading environmental conservation organization, these tours are led by seasoned instructor’s who will be sure to show you the Islands prime snorkeling sites.

Visit the Vacation Home Rentals Pinterest page for more photographs of these gorgeous destinations!

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Top Hiking Trails in New England

Whether you are looking for a fun family adventure, scenic day trip, or rigorous escapade… New England offers its fair share of beautiful hiking trails. From Connecticut to Maine, you can be sure to find a trail that will offer both challenges and rewards for hikers of all ages. I’ve outlined some of the most popular hiking trails in each New England state below.

Connecticut (Pine Knob Loop Trail)

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This 2.5 mile round trip trail located on Coltsfoot Mountain in Sharon, CT is a short, but challenging trail. Situated within Housatonic Meadow State Park and Camping Area, Pine Knob Loop Trail covers two peaks – one at 1,120 feet and the other at 1,160 feet. Summit views showcase rolling hills and serene river valley scenes. One of the most family-friendly hikes in the region, this trail is easily accessible by car as parking is conveniently located directly off the highway.

Rhode Island (Jerimoth Hill)

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Located near the Connecticut border in Foster, RI, Jerimoth hill is the highest point in Rhode Island (even at just 812 feet.) While it is hardly a mountain, Jerimoth Hill originally generated interest from hikers because it was so difficult to access. The hill was previously considered one of the State’s most restrictive areas, due to the fact that the owner’s only opened the trail to the public a few times a year. Rumor has it that they even shot at people who tried to trek the hill at times when it was not designated as ‘open to the public.’  Since ownership was taken over by the State several years ago, Jerimoth hill is now open to the public daily, beginning at 8am. Perfect for hikers of all skill levels, the hill’s summit is a large rock, located just 200 yards from the main road.

Massachusetts (Appalachian Trail, Mt. Greylock)

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At 3,491 feet, Mt. Greylock is considered the highest point in Massachusetts. The mountain’s Appalachian Trail is located near Adams, MA and transcends through the Berkshires mountain range. Mt. Greylock contains several forest communities and is designated as an ‘IBA’ (Important Bird Area) due to the fact that many of the species of birds found on the mountain are not normally found in MA. Most suitable for experienced hikers, Appalachian Trail is about 15 miles round trip and therefore considered by most to be an all-day affair. From the peak, dramatic views extend 60-90 miles out and encompass 5 states: Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The trail to the summit is open seasonally from the end of May to the beginning of November.

 Vermont (Sunset Ridge Trail, Mt. Mansfield)

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One of the most scenic trails in New England, Sunset Ridge Trail on Mt. Mansfield boasts a beautiful series of cascades and impressive summit views. Situated in the Green Mountains, about 17 miles east of Burlington, Mt. Mansfield is Vermont’s highest peak. The moderately difficult trail runs along a brook and crosses several streams. Along the ascent, hikers are presented with rare alpine plants and flowers and should expect rocky, exposed ledges and a few extremely steep areas (foot-and-hand holds are plentiful for everyone’s convenience.) Sunset Ridge Trail is approximately 6.6 miles round trip and is open daily.

New Hampshire  (Basin Cascades Trail, White Mountains)

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Situated in Lincoln, NH, Basin Cascades Trail is part of Franconia Notch State Park within New Hampshire’s White Mountains. While most popular during the autumn months when foliage is at its peak, the trail sees a steady stream of hikers year round.  Hikers are attracted to the trail’s multiple waterfalls and cascades, the biggest being Cascade Brook – which falls 35 feet between a narrow gorge, over two sets of rocky steps. The 2 mile hike takes about 1.5 hours round trip, and is suitable for all skill levels. Picture link

Maine (Hunt Trail, Katahdin Mountain)

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As the centerpiece of Baxter State Park, Katahdin Mountain is Maine’s highest peak – standing at 5,269 feet tall.  The mountain is formed primarily of granite and contains 5 separate peaks.  Hunt Trail is one of the most frequented trails on the mountain – a strenuous 10.4 mile round trip trail which was first explored by Henry David Thoreau in 1846. The rugged trail, which was chronicled in Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, includes waterfalls, boulders, and rock staircases. The steep climb offers extensive views in all directions, from start to finish – as the majority of the trail is above tree line. Weather can be harsh and unpredictable, so layers and high-quality hiking shoes are recommended.

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