The Most Affordable Water and Amusement Parks This Year
Amusement parks are one of the most popular summer outings. More than 100 million people visited the 20 most popular North American amusement parks in 2021 with another 10 million attending the most popular water parks—and attendance is expected to rise in 2023. It’s not just visits that are up, though. Theme park prices are also high, especially for families where costs are multiplied across several people. To determine which U.S. parks are the most affordable for families, Forbes Advisor analyzed the price of admission, food, parking and nearby lodging for the most popular amusement and water parks. Take a look at the cheapest amusement parks nationwide to plan an exciting day out while meeting your budget’s bottom line. Top Five Cheapest Water Parks Slides at a water park by Aquavera - Unsplash Water parks dominate the list of cheapest parks for families, accounting for eight of the top 10 most affordable parks nationwide. On average, the admission cost of a water park is half that of an amusement park. Though water parks tend to be smaller, there’s still more than enough to fill a day (or more!) when visiting with your family. 1. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix is the cheapest water park in the United States for a family to visit. A family of four would spend just under $300 for a day at the park, including four admissions, four all-day dining passes and parking for one car. Families with young children may save even more. Airbnbs in the area have a median nightly price of $255.67 over the summer for properties that sleep four to eight people, ranking 15th on our list for lodging. If you need less space or can secure cheaper lodging through hotel free night certificates, this park could be a great pick. 2. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown Houston’s Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown ties for the lowest one-day admission price at U.S. water parks, charging $34.99 for entry. Relatively inexpensive parking and dining plans are also available. In fact, for day-trippers, this Texas park actually comes in cheaper than Hurricane Harbor Phoenix—though the higher cost of nearby lodging pushes the park to number two on our list. 3. Six Flags White Water Atlanta Similar to other Six Flags-branded locations, admission to Six Flags White Water Atlanta is only $34.99 per person, making this another cheap water park option for families. Though overnight stays are more expensive here, it might make sense for guests who also want to visit Six Flags Over Georgia, a more traditional theme park only 20 miles away. 4. Aquatica A part of the SeaWorld family, the Aquatica park in Orlando ranks fourth on our list of most affordable water parks. Here, admission is more expensive than the Six Flags water parks but cheap lodging helps bring the cost down for traveling families. An overnight trip to this water park would cost $655.63 for a family of four (including four one-day admission passes, four dining passes, one day’s parking and one night of lodging at a family-sized Airbnb). 5. Adventure Island An hour away from theme park central, Adventure Island in Tampa Bay, Florida is an affordable water park option for families. At around $655, the cost for an overnight visit here is nearly identical to a trip to Aquatica, so park goers can choose which location is a better fit for their interest or overall travel plans. Top Five Cheapest Theme Parks A ride at Cedar Point in Ohio by Aaron Burden - Unsplash When it comes to a day at the park, sometimes you’re looking for traditional thrills. These cheap amusement parks have classic rides plus new, inventive rides sure to excite. Best of all, they cost well under the nationwide average admission of $113 and offer all the fun at a better price for families. 1. Hersheypark In the small town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, you’ll find the cheapest theme park in America. The estimated daily spend for a family of four is $400.56, which covers one-day admission tickets, dining passes and parking. Compared to other locations on our list, you’ll also note that the Hershey area has affordable lodging. The median nightly price for an Airbnb sleeping four to eight people is approximately $190 in the middle of summer. It’s also an easy drive for anyone living in the northeast or mid-Atlantic, helping families avoid the cost of airfare. 2. Kings Island Kings Island in Cincinnati is an exceptional value for families. Admission is reasonable and includes access to Soak City Water Park for a two-in-one experience. Overnight lodging bumps the total experience cost a bit: families should budget about $670 for a one-day visit to the park with an overnight stay. 3. Six Flags Great America For an easy side trip from Chicago, plan a day at Six Flags Great America, which is one of the most affordable amusement parks. The low cost of a dining pass at $20.99 helps keep your price down, though general admission and parking are also competitively priced. As you may expect for Chicagoland, overnight stays can be more expensive here. 4. Cedar Point At only $54.99 for admission, Cedar Point is a fun, cheap amusement park. A day at the park would cost a family of four $371.07 for admission, dining and parking—even cheaper than Hersheypark. However, lodging expenses drop Cedar Point to number four on our list. To save even more, stay in Toledo instead, which is only an hour away and one of the most affordable cities for family vacations. 5. Six Flags Great Adventure Another cheap theme park is Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, where admission and a dining pass adds up to $75.98 per person. If you live within day-tripping distance, which includes both New York City and Philadelphia, you can keep costs down to a total of $341.43 for a family of four. The median cost of a summer Airbnb sleeping four to eight adds another $350 to your trip cost. — For more details about the study and ways to save money on your next family theme park adventure, visit Forbes Advisor.
3 Fun Ideas for a Father's Day Vacation
If you needed another excuse to plan a summer vacation, Father's Day is fast approaching (this year, it lands on Sunday, June 18th). Look no further than the fun ideas below to plan a getaway (or two) this season for the history buff, outdoor enthusiast, or mechanically-minded dad in your life. Explore the Old West in Wyoming Cowboy Bar in Wyoming by Makenzie Cooper - Unsplash Whether he gets to release his inner child while digging for dinosaur bones Jurassic Park-style, surf the sand dunes, ghost hunt, or hike, bike, and more—the Star Valley (southwest) corner of The Cowboy State has experiences that are hard to find anywhere else. Killpecker Sand Dunes are the second largest active sand dune field in the world, encompassing approximately 109,000 acres and stretching 55 miles east from the Green River Basin across the Continental Divide into the Great Divide Basin. Rent an ATV and get out on the 11,000 acres of designated play space - Novice riders learn the ropes on flatter areas and smaller dunes while the experts show their skills on mammoth dunes that reach 100 feet high. Or surf down the dunes on a sled or skis! Descend 50 Million years into the past at the American Fossil in Kemmerer, which offers scheduled fossil digs between May and September. This dino dig area is located outside of Kemmerer, in the northern part of the Green River Formation and perfect for any dad wanting to experience a childhood Jurassic Park dream. You can expect to uncover fossils of various species, like turtles, fish, birds and insects. It’s one of the few places in the country you can take home some of your favorite finds or purchase fossils others uncovered. Complete with old graveyards, original log structures and worn-out wagon trails, Old West ghost towns in Wyoming feed the imagination with actual artifacts from this transformative piece of American history. Fort Bridger State Historic Site is renowned as one of the most haunted places in Wyoming and is a stop on the Oregon Trail. But it isn’t just the soldiers you may encounter wandering around Fort Bridger. A dog named Thornburgh is reported to have earned a medal of honor after saving a child. When he died, he was buried at the fort. He now stands guard over the cemetery. Master the Art of Sailing in the Finger Lakes Sailing on Canandaigua Lake - courtesy of Mower / The Lake House on Canandaigua This Father’s Day, why not skip the shirt and tie and gift dad an experience he’ll never forget: the art of sailing. He’ll learn to harness the wind and trim the sails from an experienced captain and crew on the seemingly endless Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. This exclusive sailing adventure at The Lake House on Canandaigua promises a unique blend of relaxation, exploration and lifelong memories for dad and his loved ones. During a Lake House sailing excursion, guests become part of the crew. Participants will assist the captain and learn the ropes of navigating a sailboat firsthand – providing for both an educational and empowering adventure that will leave dad with new skills and a sense of accomplishment. See Vintage Motorcycles at the Harley-Davidson Museum Motorcycle by Harley-Davidson - Unsplash Make Father’s Day an unforgettable experience with a trip to the Harley-Davidson Museum. Start your day with a trip through the unrivaled collection found in the H-D Museum – including the new, special exhibit, “Mama Tried: Bringing it Together.” Dads get in free all day! After your tour, come spoil the #1 Dad in your life and shop our newest arrivals at the Harley-Davidson® Shop. Finish it off at MOTOR, where Dads and Grandads can score a free grill special including a Usinger's hot dog or bratwurst served with potato salad and coleslaw when you purchase a beverage! Go up against dad with lawn games like giant Connect Four and more on our sun-splashed patio. On Saturday, June 24th, the museum is also hosting Wild Ones: Vintage Motorcycle Rally. Come celebrate Harley-Davidson’s unrivaled motorcycle heritage with a vintage 1940s-style motorcycle rally at the H-D Museum. In partnership with The Knucklehead Company’s Annual Reunion, this family friendly event features an antique motorcycle ride-in show and the AMCA Badger Heritage Chapter hosts authentic motorcycle field games with proceeds benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin. The museum also has regular programming all summer long. All wheels unite every Thursday from 5 to 9 pm at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Join riders (and non-riders) for free live music from some of our favorite bands, fun, drool-worthy rolling sculptures and outdoor food and beverage specials from MOTOR. Visit the museum campus on Saturdays to experience the fun and freedom of a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle. Riders with their motorcycle endorsement/license will be able to choose from a dozen of the latest and greatest #FreedomMachines from Harley-Davidson, including Touring, Softail® and Sportster® models. A pre-determined scenic route through the Menomonee Valley will give riders the chance to explore the H-D Museum’s surrounding neighborhoods. Sign-up is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Riders and passengers must be at least 18 years of age. All riders (and passengers) must wear a helmet, eye protection, shirt, long pants and closed-toe shoes with heel strap. All riders and passengers must bring their own riding gear.
Summer Getaways Any Dad Would Love
June is the perfect time to get outdoors, and for many dads, classic summer activities like boating, fishing, hiking, and camping are a favorite. Celebrate this Father's Day with an epic summer trip to the mountains, lake, or river. With lodging options from cabins and glamping, to RVs and backwoods tent campsites—there's something to suit the comfort level of everyone in the family. Family Fun in the Rocky Mountains For families and groups looking for the ultimate Colorado adventures this summer, YMCA of the Rockies announced programming highlights at both of its locations at Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado. The popular mountain vacation destinations, both recently named as Good Housekeeping’s 2023 Family Travel award winners, are located at gateways to the state’s treasured Rocky Mountain National Park, offering stunning alpine views, affordable cabin and lodge room accommodations, and a nostalgic, unplugged vacation experience with camp-like activities for all ages. “Whether it’s capture the flag and kick-ball games on the open fields, daily educational sessions with our trained staff on topics like wildlife ecology and stargazing, or campfire singalongs, we create summer experiences for our guests to unplug and connect with nature, and each other, in a meaningful way,” said Kellen Toulouse, Marketing Director, YMCA of the Rockies. This summer, guests will enjoy activities such as pickleball, archery lessons, creating keepsake projects in the craft centers, playing miniature golf, roller skating, swimming, rock climbing with skilled instructors, family-friendly hikes to waterfalls, and of course the summer tubing hill at Snow Mountain Ranch. For the adventurous, there are also fly-fishing lessons, mountain biking trails, whitewater rafting and guided hikes through the national park. Accommodations range from affordable hotel-style lodge rooms with common areas perfect for groups traveling together, and pet-friendly multi-bedroom private cabins featuring wrap-around porches, full kitchens, and a variety of sleeping options including bunk beds. Snow Mountain Ranch also features yurts and campsites in the summer months. Most lodge rooms and cabins do not have televisions, providing a truly unplugged experience for everyone involved. Favorite activities include: The Enger Family Nature Trail - A new pet-friendly hiking and walking loop that winds along Glacier Creek located on the property’s 860 acres bordering Rocky Mountain National Park.Master Naturalist Classes - For the first time, these popular classes will be offered during the summer months, featuring multi-day workshops focused on birding, geology, plants, wildflowers, and the history of Rocky Mountain National Park.Hanging with Huskies - Meet some of the members of the Snow Mountain Ranch dogsled team and play with them in the dog park – free for overnight guests and day pass holders.Glamping in the Colorado Rockies - Yurt Village is a popular option for camping-light with each yurt sleeping up to six people.Kids Camp - Day Camps will be available at both Estes Park and Snow Mountain Ranch for children ages 3 -17 Monday through Friday from early June through mid-August. Guests may register for one day, a few days or weeks at a time. Rates start at $47/day at Estes Park Center and $140/week at Snow Mountain Ranch. Go Fishing in Tennessee Tellico Lake by Susanne Alexander - Unsplash Thousands of acres of lakes and streams make Loudon County a favorite for serious anglers, casual fishermen and recreational boaters. The waters of the Tennessee River feed lakes, streams and coves that create a haven for those who love to be on the water. Fort Loudoun Lake is known among anglers for its quality largemouth and smallmouth bass and is also a top location for crappie, catfish and bluegill. Tellico Lake is a 15,500-acre reservoir with cooler waters that make it a top spot for rainbow and brown trout in addition to walleye and bass. Located on the Tennessee River, Watts Bar Lake is popular for boating, swimming and fishing. A scenic overlook near the dam gives visitors a panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding landscape. Before heading out on your trip, though, stock up on the essentials at one of these great BBQ spots—be sure to ask about the by-the-pound options. Smokin' F BBQ & Barn (1821 Lynn Road, Philadelphia, Tennessee 37846; 979-436-3482) brings new options for food and fun. The lunch menu is available from the Smokin’ F Food Truck during the week. The Barn is open Fridays and Saturdays and serves up live music and a barn dance atmosphere with the meal.Sons of Smoke (304 Cedar Street, Loudon, Tennessee 37774; 865-657-3332) has specialties like the fried pork tenderloin sandwich, smoked meatloaf and pork stuffed baked potato, as well as all the standard fare.Taste-O-Texas (1562 Highway 72 N, Loudon, Tennessee 37774; 865-657-9684) proudly serves their version of authentic Central Texas style barbecue. The specialties include beef brisket and smoked sausage, cooked over a wood fire. For those who want sauce, their Sassy and Smokin’ versions offer variety. There is plenty of public access at numerous public boat ramps and marinas in the area. For those who just want to enjoy a fun day on the water, boat rentals are available, too. Tennessee National Marina (8301 Tennessee National Drive, Loudon, Tennessee 37774; 865-657-3617) has pontoon boats for rent as well as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Fort Loudon Marina (5200 City Park Drive Lenoir City, Tennessee 37772; 865-986-5536) has pontoon rentals, also. To make the most of a visit to this outdoor paradise, many choose to stay in one of the beautiful campgrounds in the region: Yarberry Campground (4825 Yarberry Road, Lenoir City, Tennessee 37771; 865-986-3993) is located on the shores ofFort Loudoun Lake and has beautiful views. Its large sites accommodate the largest of RVs but tents are also welcome. The property includes a boat ramp and a day use area with a sandy beach, picnic tables and grills. A variety of watercraft are available for rental, from pontoons to paddleboards.Soaring Eagle Campground (3152 Buttermilk Road W., Lenoir City, Tennessee 37771;865-376-9017) is situated with sites on the Clinch River and Watts Bar Lake. It has both large RV sites and secluded primitive tent sites. There is a bathhouse and general store onsite, as well as a dock and boat ramp, picnic area and swimming pool. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and canoes are available for rent.Tellico Lake has Lotterdale Cove (17177 East Coast Tellico Parkway, Greenback, Tennessee 37742; 865-856-3832), with 90 RV sites and three tent sites, has amenities that include boat docks and easy access boat ramp, beach with designated swimming area and an on-site convenience store. Pitch a Tent, Pack Up the RV, or Go Glamping Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park by Aaron Burden - Unsplash Spacious Skies Campgrounds, owner and operator of 15 campgrounds from Maine to Georgia, is kicking the fun up a notch this year by introducing common themed weekends. Weekends throughout the year will cover topics such as “Mother’s Day,” “Father’s Day,” “Farm Life,” “Outer Space,” “Hollywood” and more. Prospective guests should check the specific campground pages on the Spacious Skies website for opening and closing dates to confirm the weekends each campground will be available to participate. “Regardless of which campground our guests are visiting, the theme will be the same fun with a little local flair,” said Kate Thompson, director of communications of Spacious Skies Campgrounds. “I think we had almost as much fun coming up with the ideas as the people will have participating in these weekends. Not only will our teams have fun planned for our campers, we hope our guests embrace each theme by decorating their RV or their sites as well, so the whole campground feels festive.” The various campsites, located up and down the eastern region of the US, offer up several different camping options depending on what your family's interest is: RV, glamping, yurts, tent rentals, cabins, and primitive campsites. Set within the mountainous Appalachian region of central Maine, dotted with lakes both small and massive, Spacious Skies Balsam Woods gives you and your family and friends the best that nature has to offer—the serenity of the wilderness, and the adrenaline-pumping excitement adventurers seek. See your campsite as home base for a variety of nearby adventures in the Moosehead Lake/Mt. Katahdin region, hike or bike to any number of lakes and waterfalls in the region, or simply take in the peace and quiet of the grounds, no road noise to be heard, and gaze dreamily up at the stars above by the warmth of your campfire.Spacious Skies Adirondack Peaks is the perfect spot for family fun or peaceful quality time, tucked away in the piney setting of North Hudson, New York, yet conveniently located right off I-87. With countless activities and opportunities for adventure on the grounds, you won’t need to roam, but with desirable destinations like Lake George and Lake Placid less than an hour away, you may want to take advantage of this prime location.Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views sits up on an evergreen hill in the Shenandoah Valley with views that span for miles off the Blue Ridge Mountains. The famous Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is a short drive away, as are the Luray Caverns for spelunking, the Shenandoah River for rafting and tubing, and a number of historic Civil War sites for your educational pleasure.
Celebrate Mother’s Day in Columbus, Ohio
Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and Experience Columbus is inviting residents and visitors to honor the people who’ve spent the last year doing it all. Celebrate the mother figure in your life with everything from unforgettable experiences to locally made, hand-crafted gifts that are sure to bring a smile to any face this holiday.“Those who play such an important role in our lives of guiding and taking care of us deserve appreciation and celebration, and Columbus is full of unique and memorable ways to make this Mother's Day your best yet,” said Sarah Townes, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at Experience Columbus. “Experience Columbus makes it easy for everyone to show their gratitude by highlighting some of the region’s best attractions, restaurants and artisanal gifts with local flare.” Shop Local for the Perfect Gift Get mom something to unlock her inner foodie with artisanal cocktail mixers from Simple Times Mixers, locally distilled pineapple rum from Echo Spirits Distilling Co. or handmade cured meats from the mother and son owned North Country Charcuterie. For a much-needed relaxing day at home, visitors can pick up several local bath and body goods from Tiki Botanicals, Glenn Avenue Soap Company and Penn & Beech Candle Co. Find Activities for All Ages Family stroll outside in Columbus, Ohio by Chris Hardy - Unsplash Columbus Modern (CoMo) Dance Company will host its 11th annual outdoor springtime performance at the Mothers Day Tea in the Garden on May 13–14. This free event is a CoMo favorite and the perfect outing for mom and the whole family. Modern dancers perform within the Topiary Park’s plant sculptures that recreate the impressionist painting “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. Tea and cookies will be served at intermission. This Mother’s Day, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens invites guests to decorate a flowerpot and plant a flower to give as a gift from 11 am–2 pm. Afterwards, enjoy a complimentary performance from Magpie Consort, a mixed-voice choral ensemble based in Columbus that will present selections from their upcoming summer repertoire, Sounds of Summer. Take the mom in your life to the Columbus Museum of Art where admission is free on Mother’s Day. Visitors can also enjoy special discounts on memberships during the month of May. Understory is kicking off the 2023 market season with a special Mother’s Day Market on May 13. From 11 a.m.-4 p.m., shop from over 40 local makers and artisans in the Understory top floor events space and terrace. There will be a full bar set up on the market floor for drinks, and guests are welcome to head downstairs to enjoy brunch in the Commons and Patio beginning at 10 a.m. The best science museum in the country, COSI, has a new traveling exhibition, Tutankhamun: His Tomb and Treasures. Visitors are invited to explore the archaeology of ancient Egypt and view King Tut’s tomb and treasures as they were discovered in 1922. The reproduction of the burial treasure, in its original archaeological context, provides an insight into the historically unique discovery of the Pharaoh’s tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings. With 1,000 objects, graphics, movies and an audio guide, the monumental complete context is presented in an educational, exciting and entertaining way. Have a Relaxing Brunch There are few things more synonymous with Mother’s Day than a delicious brunch, and many of Columbus’ best restaurants will be offering special menus and events to celebrate moms this year. Columbus' favorite Cameron Mitchell Restaurant Group has special brunch menus at their 16 restaurant concepts throughout the city. Explore the City's Budding Culinary Scene The Short North Arts District in Columbus by Uche Chilaka - Unsplash Why stop at brunch? Columbus has several new fine dining restaurants. Acclaimed Columbus Chef Avishar Barua has a full plate. Just six months after opening Joya’s, a Bengali American daytime café in Old Worthington, he has opened the doors to a new restaurant in Columbus’ Brewery District. Agni, named after the Hindu god of fire, offers a menu built around foods prepared over an open flame. Pulling from fond memories of Midwest backyard barbecues, the Top Chef Season 18 contestant is serving up a five-course tasting menu that includes dishes such as Bengali Shrimp Taco, Dry Aged Rohan Duck and Caramelized Chai Pudding. Agni is not the only new restaurant to open in the past month. Downtown, Chef Josh Dalton of Veritas opened Speck in February. The restaurant, which offers a modern interpretation of Italian cuisine in a vibrant and eclectic setting, has quickly become one of the hottest reservations in town. In Columbus’ historic Trolley District, more carefully restored historic buildings are opening with a new purpose. Joining East Market food hall is the Columbus Brewing Company Beer Hall, which features multiple bars and dining areas, 24 taps and globally inspired food. The 13,000 square foot building, which dates to the late 1800s, was originally used as a mechanic’s shop to repair the trolleys that ran down Broad Street and throughout Columbus. Towering 28 stories over High Street in the vibrant Short North Arts District is the city’s new and tallest rooftop lounge, Stories on High, which offers 360-degree views of the city with floor-to-ceiling windows and two expansive outdoor terraces. Columbus is also celebrating the news that acclaimed restaurateur BJ Lieberman of Chapman’s Eat Market (named in The New York Times’ 2021 Restaurant List) and Ginger Rabbit Jazz Lounge, was recently named a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category for the 2023 James Beard Awards.
5 Ways to Celebrate Mother's Day
More often than not, its the mothers of the family that do the most planning and details-handling for everyone's activities. While mom might be in charge of the schedule, don't let Mother's Day sneak up on you this year. Plan a weekend getaway, day trip, or a just a special afternoon to celebrate and give mom some much-needed relaxation.Relax with a Budget-friendly Spa Retreat Stone massage by Engin Akyurt - Unsplash Is there anything more relaxing than a spa vacation? Head to Florida to try the Salt Spa St. Augustine for an unforgettable, but affordable, relaxation experience. Inspired by the Wieliczka salt mine in Poland, this 5-star halotherapy (salt therapy) health resort offers several different natural health services. A single session in their salt cave filled with 25,000 pounds of Himalayan crystal salt costs only $36 (45 minutes). Other services include a float sessions in a sensory deprivation tank filled with 900+ pounds of Epsom salt, infrared sauna sessions, massages, rejuvenating facials, and more. For a more rural escape, take a short drive northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico to the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. The natural hot springs are surrounded by nothing but the rugged, desert landscape. Visitors can stargaze while enjoying one of the several outdoor thermal pools, swim in the saltwater pool, or take a dip in the natural mud fountain where guests can "bake" in mud before rinsing off. Pick Out New Reads at a Quaint Bookstore Books at the Strand Book Store by Filip Mishevski - Unsplash If relaxing with a good book (or just simply having some peace and quiet) sounds like your mom's ideal afternoon, plan a trip to New York City, where you'll have your pick of beloved bookstores. The Strand is a popular spot in the East Village, famous for its "18 miles of books," but there are several other wonderful establishments throughout the city. Bauman Rare Books on Madison Avenue keeps an ever-changing display of rare books in an assortment of subjects, and Argosy Book Store in midtown Manhattan is an antiquarian and out-of-print items. On the Upper East Side, Ursus Books & Gallery specializes in art books; and, in Brooklyn, Honey and Wax Booksellers offers rare first prints as well as more unique, whimsical editions and copies of books. Enjoy Afternoon Tea in an Historic Setting Afternoon tea by Sebastian Coman - Unsplash Treat your mother to a classy dining experience with high tea in a gorgeous setting. In Nashville, visitors can book a "delightfully southern" afternoon tea at The Hermitage Hotel every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The event, “Spillin’ Tea with Draper James,” is inspired by recipes from Reese Witherspoon’s cookbook, Whiskey in a Teacup, and includes champagne, tea sandwiches, pastries, scones, and a commemorative keepsake menu. In Boston's Back Bay, The Courtyard Tea Room overlooks the beautiful Italianate Courtyard at the Boston Public Library. The tea room serves a classic tea with a twist of New England culinary favorites, and also offers signature tea-infused cocktails "inspired by literary greats who were inspired by the great spirits featured in our menu." Spend a Weekend in Wine Country Wine glass at a vineyard by Kym Ellis - Unsplash Unwind with a glass of wine and enjoy the idyllic scenery that comes along with a trip to wine country. Spend a weekend in Afton, Virginia with a stay at the The Farmhouse at Veritas, a bed and breakfast next to Veritas Vineyards and Winery and nestled in the heart of the Monticello American Viticulture Area. Explore other vineyards in the area, including Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Flying Fox, Hazy Mountain, King Family Vineyards, and more. If a weekend trip isn't quite in the cards, plan a special meal or tasting at a vineyard within driving distance. In Rhode Island, head to Newport Vineyards for a special Mother's Day brunch, with a farm-to-table buffet crafted by executive chef Andy Teixeira. Or, head over to the finger lakes region of New York, where the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is hosting a Rosé in May event this year. Get a Break From the Daily Grind A family enjoys a night out by Pablo Merchán Montes - Unsplash Some moms might cherish a weekend spent doing family activities together; others might be craving a little alone time. While the two options seem to be polar opposites, either one of these can be satisfied with a simple "staycation." For family activities, pick a fun hotel in your hometown and "be a tourist" by trying new cuisine and activities. For alone time, book a kid-free hotel or a quiet Airbnb with a tranquil atmosphere, ideal for enjoying time to herself. Both scenarios can be tailored to specific interests and budgets, but in either case, be sure to set aside extra to book a house cleaning service, schedule grocery deliveries, or simply just put in the extra work to make sure any household tasks that need to be done are still taken care of—the real key here is to not make mom regret taking time off by returning to a chaotic living situation.
Educational and Fun Family Vacations
Summer break is just around the corner, and now's the perfect time to plan a vacation that is fun for the whole family. If you're hoping to keep kids engaged throughout their days off from school, there are plenty of ways to incorporate educational activities to your family trip—without making it boring. Hands-on, in-person experiences definitely beat out boring review sheets and summer work packets; plus, adults might even learn something new, too. Below, we've rounded up the best activities to add to your summer vacation, and which ones are best suited to the specific interests that inspire your kids. For animal lovers Outside the Monterey Bay Aquarium by Manpreet Singh - UnsplashMonterey Bay Aquarium - Monterey, California. Learn about ocean habitats, animals, and conservation at "the most admired aquarium in the US." The aquarium even has an "underwater explorers" program where kids ages 8 to 13 are introduced to the underwater world through surface scuba diving. Kids are safely guided by Aquarium dive staff in the Great Tide Pool, where they'll meet amazing animals while getting a fish's-eye view of the wonders of the bay. Caretta Research Project - Wassaw Island, Georgia. Caretta Research Project is a hands-on research, conservation and education program dedicated to studying and protecting loggerhead sea turtles on Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The organization provides a unique opportunity for people to experience the ancient rituals of sea turtle nesting and hatching. Volunteers spend one week in the heart of the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge, living right alongside Sea Turtle Biologists and being involved in every facet of the project. While collecting data and protecting nests, volunteers may experience the wonder of seeing an adult turtle emerging from the ocean to lay her eggs or the joy of witnessing hatchlings "boiling" up from the sand and scurrying down the beach to the ocean.San Diego Zoo & Safari Park - San Diego, California. Regarded as one of the best zoos in the country, the San Diego Zoo has an incredible number of animals and environments to learn about, along with a Safari Park next door. For an extra special experience, families can book an "Inside Look tour," an entertaining and educational 90-minute adventure offering guided views and interesting information about how the zoo takes care of wildlife. For budding history buffs Governor's Mansion in Colonial Williamsburg by Christian Alvarez - Unsplash America's Historic Triangle - Williamsburg, Virginia. Trace the story of early America from Jamestown, through Williamsburg, and then finish in Yorktown. At the Jamestown Settlement, explore expansive gallery exhibits before heading to the outdoor history areas where historical interpreters demonstrate daily life in early Jamestown. Explore life-size recreations of a 1610-14 fort, Paspahegh Town, and the three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607. At Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum, visitors can see iconic sites, working tradespeople, historic taverns, and two world-class art museums. Finally, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown tells the story of the nation’s founding, from the twilight of the colonial period to the dawn of the Constitution and beyond. Exciting indoor galleries feature period artifacts, immersive environments, and films. In the outdoor areas, visit a recreated Continental Army encampment and explore a Revolution-era farm. Bristol Renaissance Faire - Kenosha, Wisconsin. Got a kid that loves playing dress-up, loves fantastical stories with knights and dragons, or a fan of princesses? A renaissance faire might be just the place to go this summer. At The Faire, 9 glorious weekends starting in early July, each Saturday and Sunday, plus Labor Day Monday, visitors take a rollicking romp through Elizabethan England, complete with 16th-century games, rides, arts, crafts, food, music and one-of-a-kind encounters with a spectacular cast of characters. High Desert Museum - Bend, Oregon. Nostalgic for the classic Oregon Trail computer game? Introduce your kids to the real deal with a visit to the High Desert Museum in Oregon. Get a close-up view of native wildlife, such as river otters, porcupines and raptors. Talk with historic characters who share tales of early Oregon homesteaders. Visit an authentic ranch and sawmill from 1904. Experience a close encounter with owls, falcons, hawks and even a vulture. Learn about Native American culture and history, and delight your children with one of many fun, hands-on programs that bring history and science to life. For inquisitive engineers Satellite in orbit by NASA - UnsplashOld Car City - Cartersville, Georgia. Explore a forest of forgotten cars at Old Car City USA, the world’s largest known classic car junkyard. Located just outside of downtown Cartersville, Georgia. Also in town is the Savoy Automobile Museum, which also hosts movie nights, highlighting films with iconic cars that are often displayed on stage by the big screen. When looking for a place to stay nearby, larger families should look no further than to Barnsley Resort, an expansive Southern retreat spanning 3,000 acres of cozy accommodations that span cottages and a three-story Inn, an array of dining choices, a spa, and outdoor activities such as horseback riding, golfing and more.US Space & Rocket Center - Huntsville, Alabama. At the Rocket Center, visitors can be space explorers for the day and take part in an Apollo 11 virtual reality experience, experience a Discover Shuttle launch simulation, learn to fly an F-18 Super Hornet, and test their limits on the Multi-Axis Trainer. For outdoor adventurists Carlsbad Caverns by Hoyt Roberson - UnsplashCarlsbad Caverns National Park - New Mexico. Got a future explorer on your hands? Explore the amazing underground network of caves at Carlsbad Caverns. High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus, and desert wildlife decorate the ground in the Chihuahuan Desert, but hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Explore the trails at your own pace, or join a ranger to explore other caves. Each evening from late-May through October, enjoy a ranger program about the Brazilian free-tailed bats that live in Carlsbad Cavern and see them emerge. Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona. Visiting the Grand Canyon is a quintessential family vacation to one of the most incredible formations on our continent. You can't go wrong with a visit here; there is something for all ages and outdoor activities and hikes for all different skill levels.Dinosaur Journey - Museums of Western Colorado - Fruita, Colorado. Dinosaur Journey is a regional paleontological and geological museum that tells the story of the history of life in western Colorado and surrounding areas with real fossils, cast skeletons, and reconstructions of dinosaurs. The hands-on, interactive museum includes over 15,000 fossil specimens in its collections, exhibits and displays featuring discoveries from the region, a viewable paleontology laboratory where dinosaur bones are prepared for display, an earthquake simulator, a dinosaur library reading, a sandbox for making your own dinosaur tracks, and a “quarry site” where kids can uncover actual Jurassic dinosaur bones. You can even be a paleontologist for a day. For sports fans and young athletes Baseballs by Lesly Juarez - UnsplashNational Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum - Cooperstown, New York. While watching a live baseball game is a classic summer family activity, little athletes with big dreams will be even more inspired by a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. From museum tours to holding a bat from their collection to renting the sacred Plaque Gallery for a private party - the Museum offers everything for an unforgettable experience. Prefer football or basketball? There are similar museums for those fans, too.
Where to See the Most Beautiful Spring Blooms
With spring officially underway, landscapes across America have begun to burst into color with incredible blooms. Some of the most lovely scenery in the country becomes infinitely more magical as seasonal plants and flowers come to life. If you're looking to take advantage of this unique time of year, head to one of these locations below. With desert valleys, mountain meadows, prairie fields, and more, there's something for everyone, everywhere. Desert "Superblooms" in Death Valley - California Wildflower bloom in Death Valley National Park - courtesy of nps.gov Death Valley is famous for its spectacular, spring wildflower displays, but those are the exception, not the rule. Only under perfect conditions does the desert fill with a sea of gold, purple, pink or white flowers. These tend to average once a decade, with the most recent superbloom years being 2016, 2005, and 1998. Most of the showy desert wildflowers are annuals, also referred to as ephemerals because they are short-lived. Oddly enough, this limited lifespan ensures survival here. Rather than struggle to stay alive during the desert’s most extreme conditions, annual wildflowers lie dormant as seeds. When enough rain finally does fall, the seeds quickly sprout, grow, bloom and go back to seed again before the dryness and heat returns. By blooming enmasse during good years, wildflowers can attract large numbers of pollinators such as butterflies, moths, bees and hummingbirds that might not otherwise visit Death Valley. If you're not sure when to plan a trip, the National Park Service and several websites exist to track the Death Valley blooms each season. While there is not predicted to be a superbloom in Death Valley in 2023 due to a lack of fall and winter rains, visitors can still spot decent spring flora most years. Rarely is there a year totally absent of flora. However, elsewhere in California there may be superblooms to visit this year. California even has a tracking page for bloom predictions. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is expected to have small pockets of wildflower blooms throughout the park this year. Sand verbena, desert lily, dune evening primrose, and desert sunflowers are blooming with enthusiasm at Coyote Canyon/DiGiorgio Road, Henderson Canyon Road, and June Wash. Chino Hills State Park also has a great wildflower viewing experience along Bane Road and the Bane Ridge Trail with flora including canterbury and school bells, arroyo lupine, and California poppy. Ennis Bluebonnet Trails - Texas Ennis bluebonnets - courtesy of Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival Ennis, Texas was designated by the 1997 State Legislature as the home of the Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail and was designated the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas. From April 1-30, Ennis showcases over 40 miles of mapped driving Bluebonnet Trails sponsored by the Ennis Garden Club. These trails are the oldest such trails known in the state, and tens of thousands of visitors make the short trek to Ennis to view this wonderful wildflower show. The Ennis Garden Club will drive the trails to check the bloom status each week starting in April. The Club then reports to the Ennis Welcome Center about the latest status of the bluebonnets so that visitors can be well informed where the best flowers are on the trails at the time of their visit. Each year, the bluebonnets will appear on different trails as these are natural to the area. In Ennis, the bluebonnets typically peak around the 3rd week of April. This can vary year to year due to weather conditions and terrain, so please check their website or call before visiting. The Ennis Welcome Center will be open 7 days a week in April (closed Easter Sunday). Downtown Ennis also hosts an annual Bluebonnet Festival in the middle of April. The event features kids activities, live music, arts and crafts vendors, food, and, of course, wildflower walks. Biltmore Blooms - North Carolina A bird's eye view of the gardens and conservatory at the Biltmore - courtesy of biltmore.com Spring at the historic Biltmore estate in North Carolina is one of the property's most glorious seasons. Experience a spring break mountain escape with all the charm of a European retreat. Immerse yourself in thousands of colorful tulips as Biltmore Blooms transforms our gardens and grounds. The estate's horticultural experts continually work to preserve Frederick Law Olmsted’s original vision for the gardens and grounds, including the Rose Garden that features more than 250 varieties. As a century-old model for forest conservation (and, more recently, for sustainability, thanks to nine acres of solar panels), Biltmore continues to honor George Vanderbilt’s legacy of environmental protection. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival - Washington The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Washington state was officially inaugurated in 1984 by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. Chamber directors Jerry Diggerness and Joan Houchen saw that people were coming by the thousands to view the tulips and, through a retreat, decided to add events and festivities to enhance the visitors’ trip to the Skagit Valley. In 1994 the Tulip Festival broke off from the Chamber of Commerce and became an entity of its own, eventually opening a separate office and store. The festival is one of the destination events for the Pacific Northwest, held through the entire month of April, celebrating millions of tulips bursting into bloom. As with all things governed by Mother Nature, the tulips bloom according to their own schedule sometime during the festival. The tulips allow us to share our corner of the world and showcase Skagit Valley agriculture. Crested Butte Wildflower Festival - Colorado Crested Butte, Colorado - courtesy of Crested Butte Wildflower Festival A little later in the year, during July, the "Wildflower Capital of Colorado" hosts a Wildflower Festival. The event is an annual 10-day festival offering over 200 workshops in wildflower expertise each July, be it painting, pollination, photography, culinary arts, or leading hikes into the wild beyond in the heart of Crested Butte. The festival is held by a local organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the beauty of the montane and alpine wildflower environments in and around the Gunnison Valley. Holland's Tulip Time - Michigan Holland's only tulip farm is ablaze with acres of tulips from late April to mid-May. Veldheer farms began in 1950 when Vern Veldheer planted a couple hundred tulip bulbs as a hobby. Now, Veldheer's plants around 5 million tulip bulbs each year! In addition to tulips, there are several other imported flowers and perennials for you to enjoy and even purchase for your own garden. Several varieties of lilies bloom throughout the spring and summer, and you can enjoy the beautiful perennial gardens through mid-October. Veldheers is a must visit for garden and floral enthusiasts. Over 8 days in May, the town also hosts the Tulip Time festival. It features events and activities that take place in different locations, most within a 4-mile radius of Downtown Holland. Tulips can be seen for no charge in public parks and along downtown streets. However, for just a $15 ticket you can access an incredible, unique display of 65,000 tulips create by world renowned Dutch horticulturist, Ibo Gülsen. The outdoor exhibit allows visitors to be in the midst of the blooms at eye-level for an exciting display and photo-perfect experience. Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies - Tennessee & North Carolina Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, Great Smoky Mountains National Park - courtesy of Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage After a quick drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll quickly see why it's dubbed "Wildflower National Park," in the spring and summer. For an expert-led tour, arrange your trek during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage (SWFP) in April, which takes you the park's most beautiful displays with a naturalist. The SWFP is an annual nonprofit event features professionally-guided walks, exhibits, and other learning opportunities to explore the region's rich natural and cultural resources. Pilgrims from more than 40 states and several countries make the pilgrimage each year to learn more about fungi, ferns, wildflowers, trees and shrubs, medicinal plants, insects (terrestrial and aquatic), salamanders and snakes, birds, mammals (bats to bears), journaling, art and photography, and park history. Kauai's McBryde Garden - Hawaii Located on the South Shore of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, McBryde Garden is nestled in the picturesque and historic Lawa’i Valley. The garden is a veritable botanical ark of tropical flora and home to the largest ex situ collection of native Hawaiian flora in existence. Our extensive collections of palms, flowering trees, rubiaceae, heliconias, orchids, and many others have been wild-collected by botanists and biologists from throughout tropical regions around the world and transported to McBryde Garden to research, cultivate and thrive. Tours of McBryde Garden and the adjacent Allerton Garden are available by appointment only. Visitors are transported into the garden via a short, narrated shuttle ride along the stunning coastline of the South Shore. Be on the lookout for whales, dolphins and other marine life as you make your way into the garden over a historic railroad trestle road and into the magnificent valley. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve - California Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve - courtesy of timeout.com Each spring, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve comes alive with the seasonal surprises of the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat. The duration and intensity of colors and scents vary from year to year. The wildflower season generally lasts from as early as mid-February through May, with a variety of wildflowers creating a mosaic of color that changes daily.Eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, make the park a wonderful place to hike and explore any season. Get away from the city and relax in the quietude of the countryside, with the birds singing and hawks gliding silently overhead. Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife, such as meadow larks, lizards, and gopher snakes. If you're lucky, you may spot a coyote or bobcat. Numerous burrows around the trails may shelter mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, beetles, scorpions, or others. Delta Magnolias and Wetland Blooms - Mississippi Known for is dependability, resiliency and of course, beauty, Mississippi is aptly named the Magnolia State for sharing qualities with the flowering tree within its history and people, and these characteristics are especially present in the Delta region. Experiencing this beloved flower in the spring, whether it’s through Quapaw Canoe Company’s Mississippi River excursions or along the Blues Highway, is an ideal time to visit given its peak in bloom and Mississippi’s gorgeous climate during the spring months. As one of the most well-preserved wetlands in the United States, the coastal region of Mississippi is untouched oasis, offering a variety of aquatic plant life (and of course, beautiful Gulf views). The American Lotus, native to Mississippi and a symbol of enlightenment, blooms in the marshes along the coast, bringing new life each spring and a vibrant yellow-white color to the area. North Cascades National Park - Washington North Cascades wildflowers - courtesy of travel-experience-live.com Wildflowers can be found everywhere in the North Cascades in Washington state. They occur across the entire range of habitat types from wet hillside seeps and moist, shady forest floors to dry east-side slopes and exposed alpine ridges. The great differences in elevation, exposure, and precipitation that exist in the North Cascades promote a range of flowering times. Some plants are flowering by late February and early March in the low elevation forests, and as late as August and early September in the alpine zone. While most of the flowers are insect or wind pollinated, those blooming during the relatively warmer days of April and May, such as salmonberry, Indian plum, and red-flowering currant will be visited by hummingbirds returning to breed. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch - California For over sixty years, Mother Nature has transformed the rolling hills of North San Diego County into one of the most spectacular and coordinated displays of natural color and beauty anywhere in the world. The 55-acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers that make up The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch in Carlsbad, California, are in bloom for approximately six to eight weeks each year – from early March through early May – literally bringing the famous fields back to life. This annual burst of color, which has become part of the area’s local heritage, also is one of nature’s official ways of announcing the arrival of spring here in Southern California.