10 social distancing day trips from Washington, DC
1. Great Falls Billy Goat Trail
Great Falls Park is just outside the beltway on the Potomac River, where the river has carved a rock paradise that seems perfectly designed for an excellent afternoon of hiking. The Billy Goat trail is 3 miles of climbing over rocks and exploring hidden crevices. It’s a great workout.
2. Kayak in Mallows Bay Marine Sanctuary
Mallows Bay Marine Sanctuary is the newest marine sanctuary in the United States. Visitors can kayak or canoe through the largest ship graveyard in the western hemisphere, featuring over 225 sunken ships. It is located 30 miles south of DC in Charles County, Maryland.
Interested visitors can book a guided tour through Charles County Parks & Recreation https://www.charlescountyparks.com/parks/kayak-tours or bring their own canoe/kayak.
Teddy Roosevelt Island. Photo: Eric Lewis, Grand Atlas Tours
3. Explore Teddy Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is mostly wilderness—deliberately so, and appropriate for the president who founded the National Park Service. Accessible only via a footbridge from the Virginia side of the Potomac River, the island is actually legally a part of the District of Columbia.
There are miles of trails to walk in relative solitude around the perimeter of the island and bird watchers will often find wading birds, raptors, and warblers. In spring and early summer, flower enthusiasts enjoy gorgeous wildflowers.
Another way to enjoy the island is to canoe/kayak; those so inclined can bring their own craft: simply you can put it in the water near the footbridge from the Virginia shore or near the culvert between the two parking lots. You can also rent a vessel in Georgetown; note that the Potomac is wide—and often busy!
Getting to the footbridge without a vehicle is possible. Pedestrians and bicyclists can reach the parking lot and footbridge by following the Mount Vernon Trail south from the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Lynn St. in Rosslyn, near Key Bridge. The closest Metro station is Rosslyn, on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines.
The centerpiece of the island is a plaza with the centerpiece memorial, dedicated in 1967. It includes a 17-foot-tall statue by famed American sculptor Paul Manship and four large stone towers with a selection of Roosevelt's quotations. Contemplate them in relative solitude.
4. Canoeing/Tubing in Front Royal
The town of Front Royal, about an hour west of DC on I-66, features both the entrance to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. It is also a great launchpad for day trips on the plethora of local rivers nearby. Front Royal Outdoors offers canoeing, kayaking and tubing trips.
Bring friends and some beers, and enjoy a day on the relaxing Shenandoah River.
5. Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive is a 105 mile parkway that winds through the top of the mountain ridge through Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive is a perfect way to spend a weekend driving through the mountains and chasing the sunset. It is especially magical in late summer and early fall, where meteor showers and brilliant sunsets abound, and the leaves of the mountains begin turning into their infinite shades of gold and red.
The park’s North entrance is in Front Royal, Virginia. There are 3 additional stops to highways that can take you home along the way. Campers will find a well-managed campground at Big Meadows Campground (51.2) and Loft Mountain Campground (Mile 79.5).
There are also several major hikes to fill the day. We recommend Old Rag for the experienced hiker and Stony Man for those wanting an easier day.
6. Manassas Battlefield
Just outside DC in Manassas, Virginia, is the site of the first and second battles of Bull Run, the first major conflict of the American Civil War. The battlefield and related era structures have been preserved, There are more than 40 miles of hiking trails available for people who want to spend a day stepping back in time.
7. National Arboretum
The U.S. National Arboretum was created in 1927 and is operated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. It is open to the public Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Azalea, boxwood, daffodil, daylily, dogwood, holly, magnolia, and maple specimens are among those visitors to the Arboretum enjoy on foot. Other major garden features fill the 446 acres, including aquatic plants, the Friendship Garden, and a collection of conifers.
In the National Grove of State Trees, each state is represented across 30 acres. Walk among bald cypresses one might see in Louisiana. Just beyond are pines and birches one would recognize from New England. Redwoods represent California and cottonwoods will remind guests from Great Planes states of home.
A particular highlight is the National bonsai collection, and perhaps most famous are the National Capitol Columns, originally from the United States Capitol, replaced when the building was enlarged in the 19th century. It’s an especially popular place for wedding photos—you’re quite liable to see an engaged couple posing for very unique shots!
Picnicking is allowed in the National Grove of State Trees.
There are two entrances to the Arboretum: the R Street gate is open to cars and pedestrians 1pm to 2pm weekdays and from 8am to 5pm on weekends.
From 2pm to 5pm on weekdays, the R Street gate is pedestrian only.
The gate at 3501 New York Avenue is open to cars whenever the Arboretum is open.
Loudoun County has 40+ vineyards. Source: Visit Loudoun/Todd Wright Photography
8. Spend the weekend in Loudoun County
Loudoun County is a winning choice for a road trip in the greater DC area – without having to deal with the big city. Just 25 miles west of the nation’s capital, it offers a mix of rolling vineyards, mountains, and colonial towns that will delight travelers looking for off-the-radar choices. It’s a getaway that won’t make you feel like your social distancing – and the perfect place to plan an outdoor and safe vacation amidst this new era we live in.
There’s plenty to do for everyone without feeling like travelers are conceding to rigorous restrictions. Social distancers can take the LoCo Ale Trail and sample the best local craft beers Loudoun has to offer, responsibly of course. There’s also Harpers Ferry Adventure Center, where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, full of outdoor adventure activities including whitewater rafting, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. The center also offers the possibility to camp, and features both cabins and camp space to bring your own tent. Or rent one of 12 vacation cottages along the Potomac River at Algonkian Regional Park. Keeping six feet away has never felt so good. Stroll or bike the Washington and Old Dominion Trail or get lost in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park with its Blue Ridge Mountain vistas, river views, and a generous dose of Civil War. Unwind later in the day with some rosé from one of the 40+ vineyards in the region.
9. Go apple and pumpkin picking near Frederick
Less than an hour Northwest of DC is a town called Frederick, Maryland. Frederick is surrounded by farmland, making it an ideal place to go in the Fall for apple picking and pumpkin patch outings. Summers Farm offers a pumpkin patch, corn maze, sunflower field, and all sorts of fall-themed activities that kids and their parents can enjoy.
The Lincoln Memorial at sunset. Photo by Laura Brown
10. Take a guided tour of the National Mall
DC has some of the world’s best monuments, and everyone should take a professionally guided tour of the National Mall sometime in their life. Our favorite tour company is Grand Atlas Tours, which offers affordable and personalized private tours of DC catered to your interests.
We especially recommend touring the monuments at night, when lights bring out the shining marble of the monuments against the night sky.
10 amazing outdoor adventures near Los Angeles
While the city of Los Angeles is a tourist destination in and of itself, it is sometimes necessary to leave the city and venture somewhere new. Especially when every part of you is itching to travel right now. Fortunately, L.A. is centrally-located to many cities that offer socially-distanced activities to suit any preference. <ost restaurants offer only outdoor dining or takeout service. Many of these cities are accessible by train within a couple of hours, as Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route runs up and down the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Take a ferry to Catalina Island Board the Catalina Express and in about an hour you will be transported to the town of Avalon, what was once a playground for Hollywood’s glitterati. Fancy parasailing? Here you can enjoy the ultimate social distancing activity as you glide through the air, admiring the views below. Catalina is the home to about 150 wild buffalo, which are the descendants of a small herd that was left there by a film crew in the 1920s. During the two-hour Bison Expedition with Catalina Tours, you’ll hop into an off-road vehicle and venture into the precipitous Cape Canyon, where bison and other wildlife are often spotted. For a special treat, dine on the waterfront patio at Bluewater Grill, which offers a variety of sustainable seafood options. ©Mate Steindl/EyeEm/Getty Images Hike the trails at Joshua Tree Located at the intersection of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, Joshua Tree National Park is a mystical place. Many say that these twisted trees with pointed spines belong in a Dr. Seuss book and they wouldn’t be wrong, although that is part of the appeal. Options to explore the park are endless, and depending on your skill level you can embark on nature treks or more challenging backcountry hikes. For more adventurous types, you can traverse over different rock formations by climbing or bouldering. If you plan to stay after dark, don’t miss the myriad of stargazing opportunities-- because of its remote location, you’ll be treated to an astronomical display of stars, planets, and the Milky Way. Ride the zip line in Santa Margarita Imagine tasting wine on an outdoor patio and then, aided by liquid courage, traveling by zip line over acres of Pinot Noir vines with not a care in the world. Riding tandem is your partner-in-crime, laughing giddily at the incomparable feeling of soaring through the pines. At Ancient Peaks Winery, which is located in the tiny town of Santa Margarita, you can do just that. Sample wine at their tasting room and then venture out to their 14,000 acre ranch, where guests can choose among six different zip line tours of the vineyard. On a recent tour by Margarita Adventures, participants spotted a variety of wildlife; including deer, turkeys, hawks, and even a bear. Laguna Beach. ©Ron and Patty Thomas/Getty Images Indulge your inner beachcomber in Laguna Beach The small enclave of Laguna Beach is well-known for its summer art festivals, which were an annual occurrence until COVID hit. For those dedicated to ocean exploits, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel, paddleboard, or surf at one of the many beaches and coves that dot the coastline. Be sure to visit Victoria Beach at low tide, which is a beloved spot for skimboarders and also home of the Instagrammable “Pirate Tower,” a 60-foot stone turret. Another popular area along the coast is Crystal Cove, where tidepools abound. While you’re there, have lunch at The Beachcomber, which is located right on the sand. (Or, sidle up to the adjacent Bootlegger Bar at sunset.) Walk through a unique art installation in Paso Robles If you haven’t yet been to international artist Bruce Munro’s acclaimed art installation Field of Light at Sensorio, you are in for a treat as it has recently been extended through January 2021. Follow the pathway through an open field filled with thousands of tiny “flowers”-- solar-powered lights mounted on stems that are lit by fiber optics, their colors everchanging. Be sure to reserve tickets early, as they do sell out, and they are taking extra efforts to follow protocols related to COVID-19. While in Paso Robles visit Tin City, a small warehouse district that houses a variety of wine tasting rooms, breweries, a cidery, and even a distillery. Satisfy your appetite with one of the many food trucks lined up nearby. Explore Balboa Park in San Diego Balboa Park is a cultural treasure-- located in the center of the city, it has seventeen museums, several types of gardens, and is also the home of the San Diego Zoo. At over 1,200 acres, there is plenty of room to roam. Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden, the lily pond at the Botanical Building, or the artist studios at the Spanish Village, then find a spot in the sun and dive into a good book. Currently the San Diego Museum of Art has reopened with limited capacity and new safety measures, while other museums there remain closed. Dine next door at Panama 66, or venture a short distance outside of the park and ignite your palate with Mexican soul food at Barrio Star. Santa Barbara Coastline. ©Jon Bilous/Shutterstock Spend a day on Santa Barbara’s coastline Often referred to as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara’s stunning coastline and dedication to fine wine certainly lives up to its moniker. Stroll through the Funk Zone, the city’s arts district, and admire the colorful murals before stopping at one of the many tasting rooms in the area that make up the Urban Wine Trail. Enjoy al fresco dining at Hotel Californian’s Goat Tree, a gourmet cafe that serves creative Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The ocean also offers its pick of activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. You can find your zen with “Soundwave Sessions”-- yoga on the beach with provided headphones, which allows you to listen to music and instruction simultaneously. (They also offer bilingual sessions en español.) Go fishing at Big Bear Lake Rent a pontoon boat and fish to your heart’s content on Big Bear Lake, or lounge and listen to your favorite tunes as the boat’s massive deck allows for plenty of room to relax. Or, you can opt to kayak or swim in the lake. Inhale the crisp alpine air and become one with nature as you hike Castle Rock Trail, a steep tree-lined path that winds around huge granite boulders and rewards you with sweeping panoramic views of the lake. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bald eagle. Venture out to Big Bear Village and take your pick of restaurants, depending on your appetite. Highly recommended is The Himalayan, which serves a variety of dishes from India and Nepal. Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway #1 at the US West Coast traveling south to Los Angeles, Big Sur Area. ©Michael Urmann/Shutterstock. Take the Highway 1 Discovery Route The Highway 1 Discovery Route extends for a hundred miles along California’s Central Coast, which stretches from Monterey Bay all the way down to Ventura. Between the months of October and February, monarch butterflies migrate to groves along the coast from Pismo Beach to Morro Bay. There are a variety of ways to visit these groves, and many can be viewed from golf courses that line the coast, such as Sea Pines, a resort and nine-hole executive golf course in Los Osos. The Highway 1 Discovery Route also encompasses the Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo region, a sweet spot for wine tasting. Spend some time sampling wine in the charming town of Los Olivos, which is surrounded by vineyards, lavender farms, ranches, and orchards. Visit California’s oldest neighborhood in San Juan Capistrano Well-known as the former home of migrating swallows every March, San Juan Capistrano is also where the state’s oldest neighborhood, the Los Rios Historic District, is located. Wander across the dusty tracks of the Capistrano train depot, where you’ll encounter a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as a petting zoo. Stop for coffee under the trees at Hidden House, or if you’re hungry, dine on the outdoor patio at Trevor’s at the Tracks or Rancho Capistrano Winery-- both offer delectable dishes that are often accompanied by live music. Then, walk a short distance to Mission San Juan Capistrano, which has a museum and chapel on the property. The close proximity to the Amtrak station makes this a convenient day trip from L.A.
The budget guide to Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe sits on the border of California and Nevada, and offers beautiful scenery, hiking, beaches and winter sports. It is a perfect location for adventure travelers, photographers, and winter sports enthusiasts. Here is our guide to getting the best deals at Lake Tahoe. Getting There Lake Tahoe has its own airport, which can easily be accessed by flying through Denver. For the cheapest rates, look to Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, or Alaska Airlines. The nearest major city is Reno, Nevada. Where to Stay Accommodations are one of the areas where you can save while visiting Lake Tahoe. By choosing your hotel wisely you can make room in your budget for more days on the slopes. Given that there are majestic views around every bend in the road in Lake Tahoe, your hotel room will simply be a comfortable place to lay your head at night. Worth considering, is the Postmarc Hotel Spa and Resort boasts recently renovated rooms and the majority of them feature a spa tub. Listed on their website is a special for 20% off their published rates which makes this place even more endearing. Rates vary from $90-$100 without the applicable discount. If snowboarding is your sport of choice then staying at the Forest Suites Resort at Heavenly Village is convenient. The resort is right by the ski gondolas which take you to the top of the Heavenly ski slopes. The hotel is advertising a holiday sale with 30% off and a winter sale with 40%, these are some serious savings. Rates are currently $100 a night before applicable discounts. The Northern shore of Lake Tahoe is much quieter and made up of residential neighborhoods. The Tahoe Vistana Inn located North offers many amenities that make the stay even sweeter. The facilities offer a grill as well as firepits for guests to use on those cooler nights. The Inn offers its guests free usage of their bikes, paddleboards and kayaks which is a huge perk. Rates are currently $95 a night. What to Do When you arrive at Lake Tahoe head to one of the multiple Visitor Centers to look for brochures that may contain coupons for kayaking, boating and the countless number of water activities available at the lake. Lake Tahoe is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Every single viewpoint in Lake Tahoe is scenic. During the summer, you’ll gravitate to the lake and all of the water activities you can take advantage of. Kayaks and paddleboards can be rented right next to the lake, right on any beach. One of the most beautiful beaches to kayak is Sand Harbor. Hiking the Lake Tahoe area is another beautiful way to spend your day. There are multiple hikes to waterfalls in the area. Some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area are Cascade Creek Falls, Eagle Falls and Horse Tail Falls. It’s essential to pack a lunch on your hike to one of these impressive waterfalls. Sprouts Natural Foods Café has sandwiches packed chock full of the vegetables you need to nourish you as you hike. Driving out of Lake Tahoe heading South you can take a quick hike before heading home. You can hike a small part of the Pacific Crest Trail (which extends from Canada to Mexico) by hiking the Frog Lake trail. This dog-friendly trail takes you through lightly wooded forests as well as through rocky terrain. Your ultimate reward is the small lake when you reach the top and the beautiful views you get from there. Hiking frog lake is the perfect way to end your exploration of the Lake Tahoe area. Male skier skiing downhill on powder snow, Lake Tahoe, California, USA. ©Succes'S IBC/Getty Images Winter Sports The extraordinary views as you are skiing or snowboarding down the slopes are what makes Lake Tahoe such a unique place to ski. Unfortunately, affordability is not what Lake Tahoe is known for. Lift tickets can cost upwards of $130 during peak seasons. Luckily, Lake Tahoe has fifteen ski resorts which allow the budget-conscious skier to compare prices as well as the types of terrain and runs they wish to ski. When it comes to skiing, going during the week is your best bet for finding a deal. If avoiding the crowds sounds like a good idea then resorts like Homewood and Diamond Peak are under $100 during the week. Both of these resorts are family-friendly with Diamond Peak being the friendliest. At Diamond Peak children under six are free and they also offer an interchangeable ski ticket that can be used amongst the two parents. If your heart is set on the Heavenly Resort, which is the top-rated resort in Lake Tahoe, then you need to be prepared to spend a bit more. Currently, a one-day ski pass is $133 a day at Heavenly, with an Epic Day Pass. This includes 20% discounts at select quick-service restaurants at the ski resort as well as discounts on lodging.
Budget Travel guide to the Florida Keys
If you’re looking for a road trip that combines nightlife, laid back beaches, and a little Key Lime pie, the four hour drive from Miami to Key West is the perfect adventure. The Florida Keys are a chain of islands just south of Miami that stretch 125 miles, and the most ideal time to visit is during the spring months from March to May or during the fall after hurricane season has ended on November 1st. But truly, visiting the Keys is a good idea no matter what time of year. Whether it's a family vacation, a girlfriend getaway, or a solo expedition, there’s something for everyone in the Keys. Read on for a guide to where to stay, what to do, and where to eat along the way. MIAMI If you’re flying into Miami, I recommend spending at least one night on South Beach. There’s a wide range of accommodations - the Fontainebleau Miami Beach (starting at $350) or the The Setai (starting at $530) are good places to spot A-list celebrities. But if you’re craving something a little more lowkey (this is Budget Travel, after all), book a room at Miami’s favorite hostel The Broken Shaker (starting under $30 a night for a shared room) or the Selina Miami (starting at $75) that’s tucked away in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. If you’re just driving through Miami and only have a few hours to spare, find a parking garage (street parking is notoriously hard to find), and stroll down Ocean Drive. Rent a bike, watch the bodybuilders, or snap a picture in front of one of the unique lifeguard stands For the full Miami experience, book a table at one of the many restaurants along Ocean Drive like the South Beach incon, A Fish Called Avalon ($$$). For something a little more understated, check out one of my favorite restaurants near Lincoln Road mall, Taqueria Bodega ($$). The tacos are authentic and the sodas are homemade. For a real treat, use the “secret door” in the back to enjoy a hidden after hours lounge. Big brown pelicans in the Florida Keys. ©romrodinka/Getty Images KEY LARGO Once you leave the neon lights of Miami, things slow down considerably. The keys have a laid back, hippie vibe that thumbs its nose at its northern neighbor. Located about 70 miles from Miami, Key Largo is the largest section of the keys and a gateway to the rest of the Florida Keys. You won’t find any highrises in Key Largo, but you’ll find a lot of RV campsites, kitschy souvenir shops, and billboards advertising a chance to feed alligators. Accommodations range from quiet luxury to bare bones. Check out the Playa Largo Resort and Spa (starting at $219) where you can lounge in a hammock on the white sand beach and order drinks from the poolside bar. But for something a little more off the beaten path, check into any one of the condos, airbnbs, or smaller hotels along the main highway like the Coconut Palm Inn (starting at $159). Key Largo is also home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, which is great for scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. Because of its small beach area, John Pennekamp is more suited for activities, so if you’re looking for a beach with a more sandy area to lay out on, try nearby Cannon Beach or Far Beach. Big Betsy the Giant Lobster is a featured roadside attraction in Islamorada. ISLAMORADA From Key Largo head south on US Highway 1 for about 17 miles to Islamorada. The area, named by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, means “Purple Isle.” And although it’s only 20 miles long, there’s still plenty to do. For a quick bite, stop by the food truck Taco Jalisco. Locals love the Mexican eatery, and you can order tacos and hang out next door in the Florida Keys Brewing Company beer garden and listen to live music. Across the street is Morada Bay, an open air restaurant directly facing the Florida bay. You can order from the more casual beach cafe side or eat the upscale Pierre’s Lounge. Either way, enjoy a stunning sunset while sipping a Key Lime Colada or Cucumber Martini. We highly recommend the Key Lime Colada - it's a must-have. Stop in Islamorada at the Rain Barrel Artist's Village for some local handmade crafts and boutiques. You'll know you've found it when you see Betsy the Giant Lobster out front. Another must see attraction in Islamorada is Robbie’s. The marina is a hub for water activities like parasailing, jet skiing, and paddle boarding, but the main attraction is feeding the tarpon. Walk through the vibrant open air marketplace to the back of the marina, and after paying the $2.25 admission, you can buy a $4.00 bucket of fish to feed the monster tarpon that can grow up to 8 feet long. After the adrenaline rush of Robbies, settled in for the 30 mile drive to Marathon. MARATHON The road between Islamorada and Marathon is lined with iconic stilt houses, nature trails, and some of the best beaches in Florida. In Marathon, get your swimsuits and cameras ready. I recommended visiting Bahia Honda State Park. There's a $8 per vehicle entry fee (plus a county surcharge), but the views are priceless. Step onto the fine white sand, and wade out into the crystalline waters or take the short hike up the beach trail and snap pictures off the Old Bahia Honda Bridge that was built in the 1900s. Other nearby beaches to check out are Sombrero or Cocoplum Beach. After splashing around, it’s time for the final stretch to Key West, just 50 miles away. Watch the sunset from Mallory Square. Photo by Laura Brown. KEY WEST One of the most spectacular views of the road trip is driving over the famous 7 mile bridge that starts in Knights Key in Marathon and ends in Little Duck Key. The commute feels like you’re driving across the ocean, and on a sunny day the sun glitters off the turquoise waters, making it hard to look away. If you need a jolt of caffeine, head over to the Cuban Coffee Queen. There are several locations, but if you want to announce your arrival to your Instagram followers with a picture in front of the “Greetings From Key West” mural, be sure to visit the Margaret street location (284 Margaret St). Once you reach Key West, head straight to the “90 miles to Cuba” buoy. The marker is a huge attraction, and lines can get long. If it’s your first time in the Keys, it’s worth getting a photo. Don’t let the long lines dissuade you - there’s always something to keep you entertained. People in Key West are talkative and friendly, and you can buy fresh coconut water or shaved ice from one of the street vendors while you wait. Besides you’re now on Key West time, which means everything is a little slower. Key West is made for walking, but there are several ways to get around town. I recommend parking in a lot for the day and then either renting a scooter or golf cart. Not ready to brave the roads? Hop onto the Duval Loop, a free public bus that will take you around downtown Key West. Make sure you catch a sunset from Mallory Square. You can also tour Ernest Hemingway's Key West house, known for its famous 6-toed cats. If it’s your first time in Key West, it’s worth it to check out some of the well known establishments like Blue Heaven restaurant or the famous Sloppy Joes and Hog’s Breath Saloon bars. But if you want something different, check out restaurants like Santiago’s Bodega, Mo’s Restaurant, El Siboney, or Bad Boy Burrito. Some lively options for bars include Tiki House, The Rum Bar. or Captain Tony’s Saloon. It’s not a trip to Key West without some Key Lime pie. While there are many places that claim to serve the best pie, you can’t go wrong with these three: The Key Lime Pie Company, Key Lime Pie Bakery, or Kermit's Key Lime Shop. My advice? At the end of a long day of exploring Key West, pick the closest one and enjoy a cool, tart slice of pie in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Explore the giant fortress at Dry Tortugas National Park. Photo by Laura Brown. DRY TORTUGAS Key West offers a launch point for people who would like to experience one of America's most remote National Parks. Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles west of Key West, and can only be accessed by boat or sea plane, both of which leave from Key West and can be booked at https://www.drytortugas.com/. Those who make the trip to Dry Tortugas will get a day of exploring an old brick coastal fortress in Fort Jefferson, or snorkel the protected coral reefs. For an additional fee, you can camp overnight at Fort Jefferson, which offers some of the best stargazing options on the East Coast. You'll see several shipwrecks from old boats that hit the reefs, and get a new appreciation for the people who lived and worked in the Florida Keys.
Yellowstone, America’s first national park is big — 2.2 million-acres big. In addition to its size, Yellowstone divides into distinctly different regions and habitats that include geysers, fumaroles, and other geothermal features plus a canyon, a lake, and a series of limestone terraces as well as an abundance of roaming wildlife. With such vastness and variety, the park can be overwhelming. To make the most of your Yellowstone visit, follow these insider tips. 1. See Old Faithful in the early morning or in the evening. Almost everyone who enters the park heads to Old Faithful. For a more intimate experience, explore the Upper Geyser Basin in the early morning before the day visitors arrive or in the late afternoon after they leave. 2. Visit Yellowstone Lake in the afternoon. While the day visitors view Old Faithful and the surrounding area, head to 136-square-mile Yellowstone Lake, the largest in the park. Consider signing up for a guided boat tour or rent a boat on your own. 3. Take a hike. Don’t just see Yellowstone’s wonders through your car window. Walking even a ½ mile on a boardwalk or trail offers you a more complete sense of Yellowstone’s features and landscape. 4. Look for wildlife at the right times. Your best chance of spotting the park’s legendary bison as well as other critters is in the early morning or evening. 5. Explore Lamar Valley. Often less-visited than other areas, Lamar Valley’s habitat draws wildlife and the open vistas create optimum viewing conditions. You may see elk, bear, coyote, bighorn sheep, and eagles, especially if you arrive early. Consider booking the park’s early-morning Wake Up to Wildlife Tour. 6. Stop at the Visitor Centers. Each facility presents educational exhibits that focus on their region of the park. While at the centers, check for the ranger programs. 7. Look at the stars. Go outside after dark. Walk 100 yards from your lodge or drive a short distance to a turnout, then park, scan the lot for wildlife and if none is present, exit your car to look up at the dazzling display of stars. With little light pollution, the night sky is a wonder. 8. Carry a flashlight at night. Since the park keeps the outdoor lighting soft, bring a flashlight for comfort, especially when traveling with young children. 9. Bring binoculars. Stay a safe distance from the wildlife. If you want to see what a bison or elk looks like up close, view them through your binoculars. 10. Pack for multiple seasons. Even in summer low temperatures at night can hover near freezing and daytime highs shoot into the 80s. Pack layers. For more information and reservations, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311. For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.