7 Awesome Things to do with Kids in Oregon

Oregon is truly a visitor’s paradise, offering an abundance of things to see and do. But its not just grownups who have a great time in this state. There are a plethora of fun things for kids too, and we aren’t just talking your typical science centers and zoos. The state of Oregon encourages you to get outdoors with its towering ski hills, outdoor adventure centers, national parks and outdoor markets. You won’t find the kids telling you they are bored with any one of these 7 awesome things to do in Oregon.

7. Ski at Mt. Bachelor

Central Oregon’s most eligible ski gem Mt. Bachelor rises impressively over the high desert’s lava beds and pine forests. It hosts the highest-elevation ski runs in Oregon at just over 9,0000 feet and features 88 runs, seven high-speed quad lifts and a host of other activities that cater to the entire family. There are daily lessons to sign the kids up for, as well as adult lessons for the grownups.

If the kiddos don’t feel like strapping on the skies or snowboard, why not head over to the Snowblast Tubing Hill where kids and adults can slide down the 800ft hill. There are also free interpretive tours with a forest service naturalist on snowshoes. For something a little different why not head over to Oregon Trail of Dreams, a company offering winter sled dog rides. In the summertime Mt. Bachelor offers kids bike camps, disc golf, scenic chairlift rides and hiking.

6. Explore Crater Lake National Park

Traveling to Crater Lake National Park with kids is one serious volcano adventure that will thrill both the kids and the adults. The color of the water will surprise you, as it shines a brilliant blue, due to the fact that no streams flow into it and there is no sediment or other things to cloud the water. Head to the Rim Village Visitors Center where the kids can grab Junior Ranger booklets and check out the junior ranger activities that happen throughout the day.

Take the Rim Drive which offers many different outlooks as it loops around the lake, just make sure not to stop at every outlook as the kids will get bored. The two-hour boat trip around the lake is the perfect activity for kids, as they will learn about the different formations and history of the lake, or head to Cleetwood Cove which has access to the Lake, just beware the water is cold!

5. Play at Cannon Beach

This beautiful beach is known as the gem of the Oregon Coast, beckoning visitors from all over the world, along with a slew of locals who come to play here. The massive beach is a total of nine miles long and provides visitors with views of the Pacific Ocean and incredible sea stacks, including the iconic 235-ft. Haystack Rock. Cannon Beach is also full of tide pools featuring crabs, sea stars and other fascinating specimens.

Bonfires are popular amongst locals and visitors when the sun starts to fade and it’s an epic spot to watch a colorful sunset. In the sleepy town of Cannon Beach, visitors will find a handful of restaurants, galleries, cafes and a quaint small town feel.

4. Shop at the Portland Saturday Market

Head to the beautiful city of Portland where craft beer flows freely and the people are friendly. But there is more than that here in this wonderful city, including a plethora of awesome things to do with the kids. Besides the typical playgrounds and child-friendly activities, the Portland Saturday Market offers families the perfect outdoor outing. It is the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the United States.

This outdoor arts and craft markets are packed full of street entertainers, magicians and plenty of food trucks. Kids activities vary from week to week but include things like visitors from the Oregon Zoo, face painting, a puppet theatre and more. The main stage features a variety of local musicians and entertainers each week.

3. Explore Mt. Hood

There is endless fun for kids in the Mt. Hood area whether you are heading here in the winter or summer. Summertime brings free fishing clinics and guided hikes in the Mt. Hood National Forest, along with thousands of miles of hiking trails, with plenty of them family-friendly. Trillium and Frog Lake are the perfect canoe or kayak destinations and there are plenty of shops that offer rentals to visitors.

The Mt. Hood Adventure Park is open both summer and wintertime and provides endless hours of fun for all ages. In the wintertime plan on the kids sliding down the hills on tubes, riding kiddie sized snowmobiles, and an indoor heated play zone. In the summertime at this resort kids will have a blast mountain biking, bungee trampoline jumping, mini-golfing, rock climbing and more.

2. Visit Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

This 32,000-acre wonderland was created by ocean currents mixing with powerful winds, turning this landscape into more sandy hills and valleys then you can ever imagine. It is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America and there is no place like it on earth. Wind-sculpted dunes tower over 500-feet above sea level and provide a playground like no other.

Thousands come to drive these sands, whether on a motorcycle, quad 4X4 or sand rail. There are numerous rental shops in the area in case you don’t happen to have your own off-road vehicle. Besides whipping across the dunes, there are a plethora of other activities here such as hiking, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and camping. With over 30 lakes, ponds and streams and some awesome coastal forest to explore, get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air.

1. Whitewater Raft on the Deschutes River

There are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had in Oregon, especially when it comes to the town of Bend. From this town, families can book an exciting whitewater rafting excursion on the Deschutes River. Sun Country Tours have been running whitewater rafting excursions since 1978 and offer a number of family-friendly rides.

The Big Eddy Thriller is a favorite amongst families as the little ones don’t even have to paddle! Splashing through rapids that range form class I to class III, there is plenty of float time in-between for little ones to catch their breath. You will get all the gear you need, experienced guides, life vests and one heck of a good time!

The 12 Most Unique Movie Theaters in the World

Forget watching Netflix at home or going to a regular movie theatre, all around the world from the United States to Norway to the UK there are some extremely unique theatres to visit. Some take credit for being hundreds of years old while others use new technology to wow moviegoers. From an elementary school turned brewpub/theatre to an outdoor cinema set up in a cemetery; here are our top 12 choices for the most unique movie theatres in the world.

12. Kennedy School, Portland, OR

This one time elementary school has been turned into a 35-room hotel, restaurant, and movie theatre, all thanks to McMenamins, a local empire of brewpubs and entertainment venues. The movie theatre located in the school’s old auditorium is a mix of comfortable sofas, armchairs, and tables for two. It can fit up to 300 guests inside where second-run feature films are shown nightly.

Mommy matinees are shown during the day from Tuesdays to Thursday s where kids and their parents can come enjoy the first show, and it won’t matter to anyone if the wee ones fuss. Admission here is a steal, at just $4 per person and just $2 a child. There is a special theatre lounge and lobby to grab a drink and bite to eat before the show, or put in your order, as servers will come to your seat throughout the movie so you don’t have to miss a minute of it. Not surprisingly there are a number of McMenamins Craft Beers on tap here!

Via Lonely Planet

11. Colosseum Kino, Oslo, Norway

It is the largest cinema in Northern Europe and the largest THX cinema in the world and is dominating in structure due to its large spherical dome. The grey and cream dome looks more like a futuristic spaceship rather than a movie theatre but it was actually built in 1921.

Throughout its 90 year history, the Colosseum Kino has managed to keep up with technological advances such as sounds systems, and ticketing systems. In 1998 the theatre closed down for a period of time in which major interior and exterior renovations were made.

Via Cinemaholic

10. The Castro Theatre, San Francisco

Built in 1922 by pioneer San Francisco theatre entrepreneurs, this is one of the last remaining movie palaces in the nation that was built in the 1920’s that is still in operation. Both outside and it is breathtakingly gorgeous with the inside being just a touch more luxurious. Expect to see foamy balconies, wall-mounted busts of heroic figures and an auditorium that seat over 1,400 guests in a fantasy setting that is both lavish and intimate.

On either side of the screen are large organ grills, a large art deco chandelier hangs from the room and two dramatic staircases lead to the mezzanine and balcony. Showing here are foreign films, classic revivals, festivals and some of the most intense audiences in town.  In recent years the sound quality has been improved, new stage lighting was installed and larger and more comfortable seats were put on the main floor.

9. Electric Cinema, London

Visitors to the Electric Cinema in London should expect luxury service in this adults aimed hideout in the chic Notting Hill Neighborhood. It is one of the oldest working cinemas in the country, opening in 1910 and has run almost continuously since that time. The interior of the theater is made up of 65 leather armchairs with footstools and side tables, three 2-seater sofas at the rear and six double beds in the front row.

To make things even better, individual cashmere blankets are provided for guests. The bar opens 10 minutes before screening time, whereas the movie starts 30 minutes after screening time. Offering wine, beer, champagne and a variety of snacks; one must get their food and drinks ahead of time. On Monday mornings babies and their caregivers are invited to Electric Scream, a screening designed especially for them.

Via YouTube

8. Raj Mandir Cinema, Jaipur, India

It is nicknamed the “Pride of Asia” and is considered the crown jewel of India’s cinemas, and certainly lives up to its reputation. The theatre was created to make guests feel as though they were royal guests of a palace, a place full of style and elegance. Walking into this theatre is an experience unlike any other, high ceilings hung with huge chandeliers, lighting that changes from white to blue and walls covered in artistic artwork.

The seating here is divided into four sections, Pearl, Ruby, Emerald, and Diamond and once you are seated you will be faced with a huge screen covered by velvet curtains. This is such an experience that every single movie showing over the past 25 years has had a full house, now that is something to brag about. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any better place to take in the colorful sights and sounds of a Bollywood film.

7. Cine de Chef, Seoul, South Korea

This cinema gives a new meaning to “dinner and a movie” with its small luxurious theatre. Couples will begin their night by dropping their car off at the valet and taking the private elevator up to Cordon Bleu café for a quick meal before the show. Think upscale cuisine with a twist. Moviegoers are than put into a private screening room that seats just a handful of patrons.

The comfortable reclining chairs were designed by the same people who design seats for the United Arab Emirates Royalty and once you sit down you may never want to get back up. Footstools, side tables, and lamps complete the picture of this awesome yet small venue. Tickets start at just $54 per person for both dinner and a movie.

Via designseoda

6. Rooftop Cinema, Melbourne, Australia

Sitting on a rooftop bar watching a movie play on a large projection screen sounds like a dream come true. In fact, it is actually reality at the Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne Australia. Open daily from 11am-1am it is easy to grab a drink before the movie starts and hang around long after the credits roll. The rooftop cinema is open from December to April and prices start at $22 per person.

The seating up here is incredibly comfortable deck chairs and blankets are available to rent for just $5 for the course of the movie. Showings include art house films, classics, and recent releases. It is fully licensed up on this roof and moviegoers often bring up their cocktails and brews from the bar below. Enjoy the sky above you, the grass beneath you and an incredible view of the Melbourne skyline.

Via Time Out

5. Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA

The outdoor movie screenings here are hard to beat in terms of being unique as they are held on Fairbanks Lawn, an open grassy field inside the Hollywood Forever Cemetery; yes we did just say cemetery. Moviegoers here are responsible for bringing their own low lying chairs, blankets and pillows as well as picnics, wine and beer (note that no spirits are allowed). The Forever Cemetery is the final resting place for many, including John Huston, Peter Lorre, Bugsy Siegel and more.

The showing range from comedies to horror to old school classics and tickets generally cost $10-$15. Guests arriving at the showing will walk through the beautiful and historic cemetery before plunking down in front of the screen. There are restrooms on site to use and there are no in and out privileges. If you thought that watching a scary movie in a normal cinema was scary, wait until you watch one in a cemetery.

Via Hollywood Reporter

4. Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, TX

This quirky indie movie chain was started by a husband and wife team that had no movie qualifications, other than being devoted movie fans. Striving to create the perfect viewing experience for movie lovers there are some strict rules to follow here in order for everyone to enjoy. Some of these rules include absolutely no talking, no cell-phone usage, no unaccompanied children, no babies and no ads before the movies.

What you can expect is high quality and locally sourced food and beer that are served to your seat. This movie chain also runs some incredible events across their theatres. It once showed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy where viewers were only permitted to eat when the characters ate on screen, or how about the events when they call for every viewer to dress like a certain character. Its how movie showing should be, uninterrupted, fun and enjoyable.

Via Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

3. Secret Cinema, Unknown

Once a month moviegoers can be part of a secret audience, secret location and essentially a secret world. Secret Cinema brings together film, music, art, and theatre to create a larger than life experience in abandoned spaces. This is an entirely immersive experience where audiences must dress up as the characters or of the era of the film. They also have the chance to interact with the spectators and actors while having food and drinks, living in the world of the film before setting in to watch the film.

Tickets are not cheap for the event and start around $75 Great British Pounds per adult. Viewers must register online to receive the secret email for which film will be next on the list. Although this is not a standalone theatre, the concept and the delivery of these movies is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Via Stevenfollows.com

2. Hot Tub Cinema, UK, USA, Ibiza

One way to get people talking is to combine hot tubs and movies, because who doesn’t love both! This company started by combining great films with amazing space, lots of hot tubs and incredible people. The mantra here is that they don’t want you to watch films but instead celebrate them. This means your movie experience will be unlike any other you have had before.

Moviegoers are encouraged to dress up, sing, dance, drink and play, as well as spending plenty of time in the hot tub. With movies such as Dirty Dancing, Free Willy, Back to the Future and other classics, tickets sell out fast. Whole tubs can be rented out by buying 6 tickets for a friend or you can buy a pair of tickets and make some new friends as you share a hot tub. There are personalized tub waiters for each hot tub and you can assure this may just be the best night of your life.

Via AWOL

1. Sol Cinema, South Wales

It prides itself as the world’s smallest solar movie theatre and we have to say this may, in fact, be the most unique movie theatre in the world. The Sol Cinema is actually a mobile cinema in a caravan that is powered entirely by the sun. It can accommodate up to 8 adults comfortably and the choice is yours as to which movie is playing. Inside comfortable benches and surround sounds create the perfect viewing experience.

Guests here will get the utmost luxury treatment complete with a red carpet, usherette service and popcorn to snack on. The idea behind this solar movie theatre came when they wanted to reduce their own CO2 emissions but also show what is achievable with solar power. Creating this small cinema allows hundreds of people to be entertained on a daily basis and gives something unique and incredible to both creators and viewers.

Via Digital Spy

The 12 Best Food Truck Cities in America

There is no denying it; we are living in a glorious age where food trucks have become the hottest places to grab some grub. Cities all over America are host to hundreds of food trucks that offer everything from the typical taco to over the top gourmet meals. What makes a city better than another in terms of food trucks? We looked at how many food trucks operate in the city, how diverse the selections are and how friendly the cities are to these trucks. Without further ado, these 12 cities are the ultimate food truck cities in the country:

12. Honolulu, HI

Lunch wagons have been part of the landscape in Hawaii for generations and used to serve the same thing, a couple scoops or rice, some macaroni salad and gravy based main. But things have come a long way in recent years and innovative trucks have popped up all over Honolulu and visitors should be sure to check at least a few of them out. Melt Honolulu became an instant hit when it hit the streets in this city serving up incredible grilled cheese sandwiches, including one called the “Melt of Shame”. Fresh wood fired pizzas can be found at the Inferno’s truck or if you are in the mood for shrimp and grits, head to Soul Patrol. Warm weather all year round, awesome new food trucks popping up all over the city and the ocean at your fingertips; sounds like a pretty amazing food truck city to us!

Theodore Trimmer / Shutterstock.com
Theodore Trimmer / Shutterstock.com

11. Seattle, WA

Seattle has always been overshadowed by Portland in terms of being a food truck city but as the years tick by they are holding their own and home to some of the best food trucks in America. For some down home New Orleans cooking make sure to check out Where Ya At, a food truck that continuously rates as one of the best in the country. It is here where you will find Creole soul food, hot beignets and fried-oyster po’boys. Marination is another truck in this city that has garnered press country wide for its Hawaiian-Korean cuisine and attitude towards delivering incredible flavors and a dose of “Aloha” to the city. Seattle’s Largest Independent Food and Craft Festival happens yearly in the summertime and if you have a chance to check it out, we highly recommend it. One of the best cities in America for food trucks, yet highly underrated.

Photo by: Urban Beer Hikes
Photo by: Urban Beer Hikes

10. San Francisco, CA

This city is teeming with food trucks, new ones popping up every day and no matter where you are headed you are sure to find one that absolutely blows your mind. Although this city wasn’t the birthplace of the food truck craze, they have upped their ante by offering food of new gastronomic levels. Fried oyster and bacon sandwiches, curry goat tacos and Vietnamese caramel ribs are just a slice of what you can find here. The SoMa Streat Food Park is a popular place to head, especially for visitors looking to get a variety of trucks. The lineup here changes daily and features a dozen or so trucks, entertainment and picnic tables to eat at. If you are looking for sustainable meat and veggies make sure to check out Go Streatery who is famous for serving up their famous handmade brisket sandwiched piled high and topped with an incredible savory jam.

Photo by: Carlos Muela
Photo by: Carlos Muela

9. Tampa, FL

This city is all about food trucks and getting them out on the road. They even are home to a Food Truck Rally, a company that specializes in promoting local cuisine and connecting the public with the food trucks, hosting seminars for potential food truck owners and staging events all over the city. Tampa Bay’s Florida State Fairgrounds also holds the World’s Largest Food Truck Rally on a yearly basis! Wicked Wiches is one of the most popular food trucks in the city, offering gourmet sandwiches including a fried chicken sandwich served on jalapeno waffles. If you are after vegetarian or vegan seek out the Taco Bus who are known for their awesome menu and the fact they only ever use fresh ingredients.  But if there is one thing to try in this city it is the famous Gorilla Balls from the Fire Monkey Food Truck. Gorilla Balls are balls of mushroom risotto stuffed with beef and blue cheese, then deep fried to crispy perfection.

Photo by: Bay News 9
Photo by: Bay News 9

8. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta is an up and coming city when it comes to food trucks and there is no better time to experience these awesome trucks than now. This city is where you will find down home southern comfort food mixed with Mexican and Asian influences. Head first to The Good Food Truck where “the Poodle” is served from a lipstick red carriage. The Poodle is actually a hot dog, sandwiched between a French toast bun and loaded with apple-maple slaw and spicy mustard. If you are more in the mood for something a little more Mexican, head to the Blaxican where you will find Buffalo chicken tacos and collard green quesadillas. New laws in Atlanta have made it easier for trucks to operate on public roads and expect to see even more as the years go on.

Photo by: The Good Food Truck
Photo by: The Good Food Truck

7. Miami, FL

South Florida loves their food trucks and you will find hundreds of trucks lining the streets, with offerings you won’t find anywhere else. The Latin Burger is one of the most popular trucks in this city, serving up something they call the Macho Burger, created out of a combination of chorizo, chuck and sirloin, topped with caramelized onions and Oaxaca cheese. If you are looking for Asian fare there is only one food truck to seek out that that is Dim Ssam a GoGo who serves up gourmet sandwiches with ingredients such as foie gras, kimchi and pork. But the real hit in this city is HipPops, a truck that offers handcrafted desserts. Hugely popular, this truck offers the chance for customers to create their own custom dessert. Choose from gelato, sorbet or frozen yogurt, and three kinds of premium Italian chocolate dips. Top your POP with finely crushed pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans. And ta da; an incredibly delicious creation.

Photo by: The Latin Burger
Photo by: The Latin Burger

6. Denver, CO

Denver boasts over 100 food trucks and there is seemingly no bad place to grab a bite to eat. Whether you are looking to grab a green-chili cheeseburger, pizza or barbecue; you can find it in this city. If you are looking to try some delicious made from scratch tacos or quesadillas make sure to search out the pink food truck named Comida, the best of its kind in town. If you want to get back to your childhood there is no better food truck to visit than HEY pb&j, a truck that puts an innovative spin on the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Combinations such as The King (peanut butter, applewood smoked bacon, sliced bananas, clover honey) and the Mother Clucker (mo’ pecan-peanut butter, fried chicken, homemade green tomato jam, goat cheese, spicy hot honey) are true favorites.

Photo by: Comida
Photo by: Comida

5. Minneapolis, MN

Residents of the Twin Cities can certainly get their fill of any type of cuisine they are looking for in this city with its multitude of food trucks. Dozens of choices are parked along meters, outside the breweries and setting up shop at the farmers markets. Fans of tater tots will want o head directly to the TOT BOSS food truck where you can find anything from tater tot nachos to tot and beer burritos. If it is something like a burger you are after make sure to head over to Butcher Salt, where small town restaurant meets sustainability meets four wheels. Here you will find grass-fed beef sliders, candied maple bacon and a whole lot other deliciousness. If you are looking for something more gourmet head to Get Sauced, where you will find locally sourced and organic foods, all transformed from scratch into gourmet dishes.

Photo by: TOT BOSS
Photo by: TOT BOSS

4. Washington, DC

This city boasts more than 150 food trucks, many of them roaming the streets, many of them with permanent spots and a whole lot of them turning out for festivals. Washington stands out due to the unique and creative foods these trucks are seen serving up. Food truck pioneers The Fojol Bros are well worth a visit with their colorful trucks and carnival like costumes, not to mention the delicious food they are serving up including butter chicken and beef berbere. On a cool Washington day make sure you head over to Red Hook Lobster Pound where you can get a steaming cup of authentic New England clam chowder or delicious lobster roll. With all these food trucks it seems hard to keep track of but luckily the Food Truck Fiesta app has you covered with its real time map that lists where the trucks are and whose serving up what.

Photo by: Mobile Cuisine
Photo by: Mobile Cuisine

3. Austin, TX

Austin is a city which has been supporting food trucks at a time when no other city was, and it’s no surprise they have maintained that level of support. Featuring over 250 food trucks, this city is the perfect place to take a culinary tour. Visitors will want to head to the East King Side truck, a vibrant and colorful display of artwork that happens to serve up an incredible serving of beet home fries. The most famous food truck in this city though is Hey! You Gonna Eat or What?, a truck that is known for its snarky chefs and large sandwiches. The Shiner Bock Monte Cristo is the sandwich to order here and is loaded with cheddar, provolone, mesquite-smoked turkey and pit-smoked ham. It is then fried in batter, topped with powder sugar and served with a side of cherry-fig jam. Anywhere you turn in this city there is surely going to be a food truck to suit your needs.

Photo by: Hey!. You Gonna Eat or What?
Photo by: Hey!. You Gonna Eat or What?

2. Portland, OR

This city has been at the forefront of the food truck revolution and despite their reputation for being vegan hippies; you can find just about any food you want at one of their awesome trucks. With over 350 food trucks throughout the city, deciding which ones to visit will be your hardest choice. It is imperative that you head to the Grilled Cheese Grill where you can get your favorite childhood meal reinvented. The Cheesus is perhaps the most famous of dishes where a burger is served with grilled cheese sandwiches acting as the bun. Weenies from Another World is another truck you shouldn’t miss as this awesome looking vintage truck serves up homemade dogs, bread and incredible tater tots. If its southern food you are after head to Ms. Kate’s Southern Kitchen for homemade mac n’ cheese, pumpkin spiced waffles and buttery fluffy biscuits.

Photo by: Reddit
Photo by: Reddit

1. Orlando, FL

There are almost 200 food trucks in Orlando and counting, and this city wins in terms of having the most food trucks per capita in all of the United States. The good weather, the incredible creativity and the outpouring of support from citizens of this state all contribute to the number of them. One of the best food trucks to check out is Twisted Plates where you can get gourmet food without dolling out a ton of cash, or having to get dressed up. The menu here changes regularly depending what is in season. Dixieland Diner is where you will find Cajun and the best of southern food including shrimp and grits and jambalaya. The winning combination of southern hospitality and generous portions means this truck gets big lines, but it is well worth the wait. Natural juices, shaved ice, waffles and chicken, gelato, burgers and pizza are available state wide at a number of food trucks.

Photo by: Dixieland Diner
Photo by: Dixieland Diner

11 Fantastic Hikes in Oregon

A comprehensive collection of the best places to hike in Oregon could fill several volumes – in fact, guidebooks are often broken down by region to avoid overly cumbersome tomes. From the Pacific coastline to the Wallowa Mountains, from the Columbia Gorge to Crater Lake, from the Cascade Range to Central Oregon’s High Desert, there are stunning landscapes to be found throughout the state. So to keep this list manageable, we’re going to keep this to day hikes with difficulty levels from easy to moderate. Still, choosing just 11 was a challenge…

11. Tire Mountain

Love flowers? Then hiking Tire Mountain is a must. This trail, in the Willamette Valley foothills about an hour outside Eugene, is an easy 7.6 mile roundtrip hike, with all but the last mile featuring a gentle climb in elevation. It begins with a half mile walk through the forest before opening to the first of two small wildflower meadows. Despite the trail ending in a clearing that once housed a fire lookout, much of that view is obscured, so take time here to admire the view of the Hills Creek Reservoir and the mountains beyond. Continue on past another small meadow, admiring the various types of wildflowers, before emerging at the last, largest meadow carpeted in tiny pink flowers. It’s fine to stop here, but continuing on into the old growth forest will provide a chance for some solitude – this trail is almost never crowded – amid a beautiful backdrop.

Photo by: Pbase
Photo by: Pbase

10. Blue Basin at Sheep Rock

The Painted Hills, located in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in east-central Oregon, provide one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in Oregon. But with hikes extending barely more than a half-mile, hikers should admire the hills then plunge deeper into the monument, heading east for Sheep Rock Unit.  There, the Blue Basin provides a landscape appropriately far removed from the lush green forests and clear blue streams of western Oregon. The 3.25 mile loop takes hikers on a steep climb through bluish green rock formations, past juniper trees and sagebrush. The lookout, 700 feet up, provides visitors the chance to look down at the many geological layers on display throughout the surrounding hills and mountains. The interpretive markers placed along the trail help make sense out of both the geology and fossils surrounding the area, painting a picture of a trip way back in time.

Blue Basin at Sheep Rock oregon

9. Multnomah Falls and Beyond

Oregon’s mountains feature plenty of gushing cascades and picturesque trickles, and many of these gorgeous waterfalls can be viewed after little more exertion than a short stroll from the car. In fact, the sheer drop of Multnomah Falls itself doesn’t require a trek at all.  So why bother with 5 miles of steep slopes?  Well, in addition to fresh air and healthful exercise, this loop brings hikers up and across the distinctive bridge separating Upper and Lower Multnomah Falls (mind the tourists snapping photos), then on through past 10 waterfalls in total. In addition to beauties like Fairy Falls, which tumbles gracefully in its fan-like formation, hikers will also be treated to several lovely viewpoints above the Colombia River. Take care to stop at Multnomah Falls’ Upper Viewpoint – it may be crowded but the views from the top of the falls make the sight a must-see.

Multnomah Falls oregon

8. Wildhorse Lake

Steens Mountain is one of the more popular hiking destinations in Southeast Oregon, but this trail beneath the mountain’s summit transports hikers into a wilderness that feels far, far away. Yet this hike is just 2.5 miles roundtrip, descending from the easily-accessible overlook down an admittedly steep path. It’s worth picking through the rocky way, however, following a little stream to gorgeous meadows filled with white and yellow, pink and purple wildflowers. The lake itself seems to hover above the treeless valley floor, spreading out like a puddle and reflecting the cliffs above. Stay awhile to bask in the almost otherworldly atmosphere before tackling the tough trek back up. For those with energy to burn, the Steens Summit Trail provides a short climb from where the Wildhorse Lake trail descends, offering breathtaking views that, on a clear day, cross state lines to California’s Mt. Shasta.

Photo by: The Radical Capitalist
Photo by: The Radical Capitalist

7. McKenzie River

This trail is well known as one of the best mountain biking areas in the U.S., but hikers should add it to their list as well. Altogether 26 miles long, a rather more approachable trip for day hikers is to set off for a 4 mile hike to Tamolitch Pool. Also known as Blue Pool, this is where the McKenzie River slips back up through ancient lava flows after spending several miles flowing underground. As the name suggests, this pool is a stunning shade of turquoise, made all the more surprising by it appearing as if from nowhere. The water is so clear that it looks to be only a few feet deep, but is in fact deep enough that adrenaline junkies get their fix by cliff jumping from the surrounding rocks. Just know the water is ice cold, even in the depths of summer!

Photo by: Oregon Live
Photo by: Oregon Live

6. Bonny Lakes

The Wallowa Mountains are one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the United States, with wildflower meadows hiding amongst snowcapped peaks giving this northeastern corner of Oregon the nickname “Little Switzerland.” The bad news about the Wallowas is their inaccessibility means the best hikes are often backpacking trips, with the shorter trails feeling crowded due to the ease with which they’re reached by car. Bonny Lakes, however, gives a great glimpse of the beauty of the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area while still offering solitude. This moderate hike, best done in late summer, is 7.8 miles along a glaciated canyon, showcasing two alpine lakes at its peak. From the basalt benches to the rushing creeks to the wet meadows, there’s plenty of diversity along the trail. Those wanting wildflowers should head up in mid-August, when the lilies, purple monkhead and pink wild onion are at their most lovely.

Wallowa Mountains oregon

5. Eagle Creek

The Colombia Gorge is stuffed with waterfalls, so much so that almost any trail chosen will lead hikers to a hidden cascade. Yet the Eagle Creek trail is one of the most popular in Oregon, with the first two miles of this 12 mile hike quite crowded in the summer months. Many of those visitors are heading for one of the most beautiful sights in the state: Punchbowl Falls, a 36 foot cascade spilling into a stunning blue pool. Those not afraid of heights should continue on, braving the High Bridge and the path carved into the rock 120 feet above the ground. The ultimate reward comes after six miles, where the path turns to reveal the stunning 175 foot Tunnel Falls. About midway up its span, the trail passes through a tunnel behind the falls, providing a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the spray.

Punchbowl Falls Oregon

4. Cape Perpetua

Located 3 miles south of Yachats on the central Oregon coast, the Cape Perpetua headland is crisscrossed with nine trails, from easy paved walks to the tidal pools to more challenging hikes through the forest. The Saint Perpetua Trail, too, can be extremely simple, for those that park at the nearby Whispering Spruce trailhead and walk the quarter-mile loop. A greater challenge is completing the full 1.5 miles on the longer trail, including the 700 feet climb to the path’s true reward: the stone shelter built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This beautifully constructed viewpoint provides unparalleled views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean, and even allows the opportunity to search the horizon for spouting whales. A word of caution, however: the Oregon Coast is often “socked in”, or enshrouded in fog, even when it’s sunny inland, so plan accordingly.

Cape Perpetua Oregon

3. Mount Hood

Oregonians use their own vernacular when talking about the weather. To signal a sunny, clear day, those in the upper Willamette Valley will often say, “The mountain is out.” This means the near-perfect triangular form of Mount Hood, the tallest mountain in the state at 11,249 feet, is brilliantly showcased against a bright blue sky. But while the mountain looks spectacular looming above the Portland city skyline, the best views of Mount Hood require a bit of physical exertion. Take the Vista Ridge Trail for easy access to the Timberline Trail, where the first great views of the mountain can be seen. Persevere onwards and upwards, through the peaceful Wy’East Basin and past meadows dotted with wildflowers, until the trail turns sharply. There the mountain towers over ancient forests and rocky cliffs, providing an incomparable vista to those seen from the valley floor.

Mount Hood Oregon

2. Silver Falls

It’s not necessary to walk all 8.7 miles of the Trail of Ten Falls to get a feel for the beauty that is Silver Falls State Park, but those that do stick out this moderately challenging hike will be amply rewarded. This popular trail includes, as its name suggests, visits to ten waterfalls. The popular South Falls ends the loop, with a cave behind for crowds to look out from behind the water. But there are other such grottoes along this trail, including the magnificent view from the large cave behind North Falls, which offers a glimpse from the spray out into the deep green forest beyond. North Falls provides a steep, thundering wall of water, but the tallest on the loop is Double Falls, plunging 178 feet in two tiers. This trail is best hiked in spring, when winter runoff ensures the waterfalls will be at their most dramatic.

Silver Falls South Falls State Park Oregon

1. Mount Scott

Crater Lake National Park makes for a postcard perfect view from every angle, but it’s said that the only place a camera can capture its full circumference is from the summit of Mount Scott. The lake, which sits inside a deep caldera formed by a collapsed volcano, is astonishingly blue, reflecting the clouds above and the peaks around its edge. On a clear day, the view also extends from Mount Shasta to the Three Sisters, overlooking the Klamath Basin. Despite the 1,245 feet of climb, this is an easy 4.4 mile hike that families regularly undertake together. Take note: Because the trail begins so high up, it often doesn’t open until late July, but that’s fine because that’s also the best time to see the alpine flowers in full bloom along the path. Still, be sure to take a sweater, as the summit is often cold even in late summer.

Mount Scott view of Crater Lake Oregon

Exciting Things to See and Do in Portland

Portland, Oregon – a place many consider the hipster capital of the world, but for those willing to put that perception aside, this Northwest city offers up a little something for everyone. Foodies will delight in everything from lunches at food carts to the brunch rituals observed each weekend. Nature lovers can kayak the Columbia River at sunrise and hike the hills at sunset. Shopping addicts will be thrilled by the lack of sales tax as they flit around the city’s distinctive neighborhoods, browsing local stores as unique as Portland itself. The city offers so many enticements that it’s difficult to name just 10.

10. Walk the Hawthorne Bridge

@ Didier Marti / Getty Images

You can go native and bike across one of Portland’s nine bridges, but when you get caught up in the blur of cyclers, it’s difficult to slow down and properly absorb the views. While many companies offer walking tours to shuttle you back and forth across the river, you don’t need a guide to take in the scenery. Start the Hawthorne Bridge at Waterfront Park in downtown Portland and walk east across the Willamette River, glancing backward at the center’s sparkling skyscrapers and forward toward Mount Hood, the 11,250 peak that towers over the city on clear days.

9. Sit in the Crowd at a Professional Soccer Game

ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock

Portland is famous for its soccer fans. The Portland Timbers, a Major League Soccer team, play their home matches in Providence Park, nestled just on the edge of the city’s downtown. Win, lose, or draw, loyal supporters, pack the 22,000-seat stadium full for every match. The Timbers Army fan club creates a passionate, noisy atmosphere, waving flags and chanting for the full 90 minutes. Providence Park is also home to the Portland Thorns, the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League champions. Like the Timbers, the Thorns draw large crowds, and the Rose City Riveters supporters’ group makes sure the games are raucous.

8. Line up for Brunch

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

The question in Portland isn’t whether to brunch, it’s where. And visitors are likely to be able to identify the latest hot spot by the crowd of people lingering outside its doors. Even on rainy weekends, they flock to meet their friends for a leisurely brunch featuring anything from chicken and waffles to oysters on the half shell to French toast bread pudding. Portlanders also know that booze is often essential to a terrific brunch, and the city’s restaurants comply by offering up everything from Bloody Mary bars to bottomless mimosas.

7. Shop Portland’s Distinctive Neighborhoods

Guido Mieth / Getty Images

While downtown is mostly filled with ubiquitous chain stores, there are great finds to be had in almost any of Portland’s 95 officially recognized neighborhoods. Browse for locally-made jewelry or custom-made dresses as you stroll through the Victorian homes that populate the shopping district of the Nob Hill neighborhood. You’ll find socially-conscious clothing and footwear among the galleries of the Alberta Arts district. Vintage boutiques abound throughout the city, but head to Hawthorne Boulevard to find the best collection of eclectic resale shops. If you’re looking to redecorate, the Mississippi neighborhood provides both recycled and new home décor.

6. Learn the City’s History

TFoxFoto / Shutterstock

Oregon is where Lewis and Clark ended their historic expedition through the heart of the United States, but there’s much more to the state’s history than that well-charted journey. The museum of the Oregon Historical Society, located downtown, houses a collection of more than 85,000 items, including the penny used when determining whether Portland or Boston would win out as the city’s name. The museum doesn’t just dwell on statehood, however. It also showcases exhibits dedicated to the region’s earliest inhabitants and Native American artifacts, as well as displays outlining Oregon’s unique geography.

5. Dish Out the Food Carts

Hrach Hovhannisyan / Shutterstock

CNN declared Portland as the home of the world’s best street food, a claim that’s difficult to argue. The question isn’t what sort of food is available at Portland’s food carts, the question is what isn’t? The city doesn’t have 44 carts, it has 44 “pod” locations, meaning the trucks are rarely mobile. Instead, they hunker down together, providing a variety of options for reasonable prices. The over 600 carts serve everything from Norwegian flatbreads to Korean tacos. If you need a late-night nosh, the kitchens of the Cartopia pod will be pleased to serve you, dishing up poutine or crepes to make sure you don’t go to sleep hungry.

 

4. Paddle the Rivers in a Kayak

Rigucci / Shutterstock

Portland offers not only kayak rentals, but classes and guided tours of the city’s waterways. Paddling the Willamette River provides the chance to see blue heron, osprey, and even the occasional bald eagle, as well as gorgeous views of the city’s skyline. Some companies even offer sunset and moonlight tours. Wetland tours along the Columbia River give kayakers even more opportunities for wildlife spotting. For those chasing a bit more of an adrenaline rush, the Clackamas River is only an hour away, with surf waves and rapids that provide plenty of challenges.

3. Sip and Sample at Portland’s Craft Breweries

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Think you can just dive into Portland’s beer scene without any guidance? Think again. With over 50 breweries (and counting!) “Brewvana” is likely to overwhelm even the most seasoned beer connoisseur. Various companies offer brewery tours, loading up a van to take visitors safely from taproom to pub to outdoor beer garden. Destinations might include Hopworks Urban Brewery, which focuses on local and organic ingredients; Upright Brewing, which takes its inspiration from Belgian farmhouse ales; or Ecliptic Brewing, which focuses on seasonal creativity. And it’s almost certain you’ll make note of a few more breweries you pass along the route.

2. Visit Powell’s City of Books

Michael Gordon / Shutterstock

Even if you’re not an avid reader, a stop at Powell’s flagship store is a must for any visitor to Portland. Located on the edge of the city’s trendy Pearl District, the store takes up an entire city block, encompassing three levels and providing maps to outline what’s available in each of the nine color-coded sections. This mecca for lovers of the printed word stocks more than a million titles in 122 major subject areas, selling to over 3,000 customers each day. Grab a cup of coffee from the attached café and set aside at least an hour to browse the shelves.

1. Soak in the Scenery

David Gn Photography / Getty Images

Portland might be well-known for its persistent rain, but on clear days, there are plenty of places from which to view the city and its surrounding beauty. Portland City Grill provides breathtaking views from its 30th-floor location. The aerial tram provides unforgettable vistas during the four-minute ride, and there’s a patio at the upper terminal where riders can relax and take in the site of the city below. The best view might be from Pittock Mansion, where visitors can drink in not only the site of Mount Hood rising over the city but spot Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainer in the distance.

12 Things to See and Do in Maine

Located in the northernmost and easternmost state in New England, Maine is well-known for its incredible scenery. With the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, it’s jagged, rocky coastline is a sight to behold. The interior of the state is densely forested, while offering a mountainous terrain to explore, as well as many inland lakes and rivers. The cuisine includes a plethora of seafood…especially lobster and clams. If you are looking for the perfect place for fishing or hunting, snowmobiling, skiing, boating, camping, hiking or just about any outdoor activity, Maine offers it all, but also has so much more to offer.

1. Funtown Splashtown USA

Located in Saco, Funtown Splashtown USA, is a family-owned amusement park. One of the park’s most famous features is the wooden roller coaster, the Excalibur – the only one of its kind in Maine. It is also home to New England’s tallest and longest log flume, Thunder Falls and a 220-foot-tall (67m) drop tower called Dragon’s Descent. One of its most popular rides is the Astrosphere, an indoor scrambler with a laser light show and music. The Splashtown portion is the water park Pirate’s Paradise dumping hundreds of gallons of water on visitors every few minutes. The Tornado and Mammoth are two newer water park thrill rides you will want to experience as well as many water slides, and pools. There’s no question, Funtown is an appropriate name whatever your age. The variety of rides, slides, pools and other attractions are a treasure trove of fun and adventure.

Photo by: Martin Lewison via Flickr
Photo by: Martin Lewison via Flickr

2. Fort Knox State Park

Located on the western bank of the Penobscot River in Prospect, Fort Knox State Park was the first fort in Maine built out of granite rather than wood back around 1844 to 1869. Since Maine was constantly in a state of conflict over borders with British Canada during the War of 1812, the fort was built to protect the Penobscot River valley against possible British naval invasion. You can visit this very interesting and important part of Maine’s history and learn about the war between the U.S. and Canada, Maine’s contribution to the effort and explore the well-fortified fort. While you are there, can check out the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge which boasts a 420’ observation tower that can be accessed through the fort and take in the breathtaking view of the Penobscot River Valley. The view is amazing and you won’t see anything like it anywhere else in the western hemisphere.

Fort Knox State Park, Maine

3. Wolfe’s Neck Farm

Located on Burnett Street in Newport, Wolfe’s Neck Farm is a perfect family vacation destination. The farm is the ideal place for kids and adults alike to learn about agriculture, go camping, take a hike, a picturesque bicycle ride, go kayaking, or explore and visit some friendly animals. The greatest thing about it – it’s open every day from dusk til dawn and free-of-charge! However, donations are accepted and appreciated. What more could you ask for? In the Spring, there is an April Vacation Camp for kids, or you can enjoy the Spring Festival in May. Summertime is for camping at their Oceanfront Campground, you can rent a kayak, bike or canoe. Visit the barnyard or go to the Snack Shack for ice cream, it’s tons of fun for the entire family for very little money.

Photo by: Wolfe's Neck Farm
Photo by: Wolfe’s Neck Farm

4. Crescent Beach State Park

Crescent Beach State Park is located about eight miles south of Portland in beautiful Cape Elizabeth. The pristine sand beaches, saltwater coves, woods and rocky terrain is a utopia for any outdoors men. It offers absolutely everything you could possibly look for in a natural setting. The mile-long crescent-shaped beach offers a heavenly setting for sunbathing, strolling along the shore, picnicking or other beach activities. If you love to fish, swim or enjoy other water sports, you can’t ask for a more ideal place. For nature observers and watchers, you won’t be disappointed either. The park offers a picturesque setting for all kinds of wildlife on shore, in the skies overhead and in the crystal clear waters. Not far from the beautiful sandy beach, you can venture onto one of the hiking trails for a relaxing, scenic stroll. It’s a beautiful paradise that everyone in your family can enjoy.

Myrtle Beach State Park

5. Desert of Maine

The Desert of Maine is a 40-acre (160,000m2) tract of exposed glacial silt which resembles sand, but is finer grained. Though the name would imply a hot and dry environment, it is not truly a desert. It is ripe with vegetation which surrounds the area encroaching on the dunes and receives plenty of precipitation annually. Since its discovery, the site has been preserved as a natural curiosity and is home to a sand museum, farm museum and gift shop. While visiting there, you can take a narrated coach tour or walking tour, take a trek on one of the marked nature trails, the gigantic sand dunes, or try your hand at gem mining where every bag guarantees a find! You can create sand art bottles to take home for a souvenir, learn about the Tuttle Farm and more. Stop for some wonderful memories and souvenirs that last a lifetime.

Photo by: Daderot via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

6. Casco Bay

An inlet of the Gulf of Maine, Casco Bay is on the southern coast of Maine with Portland along its southern edge. You will find abandoned military fortifications from the War of 1812 thru World War II. Touted as being one of the best places to sail in the world, Casco Bay offers several marinas such as Chebeague Island Boat Yard on Great Chebeague Island, Diamond Marine Service Inc. on Great Diamond Island and Dolphin Marina and Great Island Boatyard in Harpswell,  just to name a few. There are ferry services available year-round for passengers and freights so you can take a scenic cruise, music cruise or charter a private lobster boat where you can have a lobster bake. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. Take the time to visit or at least view the few hundreds of islands in the area and enjoy the vast beauty all around you.

Casco Bay, Maine

7. Seashore Trolley Museum

Located in Kennebunkport, the Seashore Trolley Museum was founded in 1939 and is the largest electric railway museum in the world. The collection includes streetcars from almost every major American city that had the service. You will see the transition from the omnibus to electric streetcars to buses, light rail vehicles, and rapid transit vehicles of today. Also located on the property, you will find numerous displays exploring transportation’s history, three exhibit carbarns, and an opportunity to view restoration from an observation gallery in the restoration shop. The real star of the show is the chance to ride in an actual streetcar while hearing about life and destinations in the early 1900s. They even have special events where other machinery is brought out. So make sure to check ahead. It’s a great way to spend the day exploring some history while having an enjoyable time. And to top it off, it is suitable for all ages.

Photo by: Rene Schwietzke via Flickr
Photo by: Rene Schwietzke via Flickr

8. Fort Williams Park

Cape Elizabeth’s first military fortification, Fort Williams was a one-time subpost of Fort Preble named after Brevet Major General Seth Williams and grew to be an important asset to World War II. The Fort was deactivated on June 30, 1963 and the 90 acre park was purchased by the Town of Cape Elizabeth when the old buildings became town property as well. It is home to the oldest lighthouse in Maine called Portland Head Light and has become a popular tourist attraction, as well as a place for recreation and leisure time enjoyment. Many people enjoy the playing fields, tennis courts, beach or simply enjoy walking around the park and taking in the scenery. Even the winter offers a wonderful place for cross-country skiing, sledding or pond skating. There are special events throughout the year, so you’ll want to check their calendar before visiting.

Fort Williams Park, Maine

9. Portland Head Light

Standing prominently along the shores of Fort Williams Park, Portland Head Light is a popular landmark and museum. Portland Head was once responsible for the security and safety of Portland and the surrounding area. It would warn residents of impending British attacks. The 92′ tall lighthouse illuminates the rocky and dangerous areas for ships to see to this day…though it is not automated so keepers are no longer required. The museum, called Museum at Portland Head Light, is located in the former Keepers’ Quarters and displays several lighthouse lenses and interpretive displays. The gift shop contains many lighthouse and Maine related souvenirs and gifts. With this wonderful historic landmark being located adjacent to Fort Williams Park, it’s pretty difficult to enjoy one without enjoying the other. The view, the history and the tranquil surroundings are something you won’t want to miss out on.

Portland Head Light, Maine

10. Palace Playland

Located in Old Orchard Beach, Palace Playland is a seasonal amusement park operating since 1902 and is touted to be New England’s only beachfront amusement park. It offers all that you would expect of a quality amusement park…rides, games, food and gift shops. There are rides and amusements suited to all ages and all levels of thrill seekers. Some of the rides offered include a carousel, Convoy and Crop Duster for the kiddies, Cascade Falls, Dodg’em bumper cars and Drop Zone for the entire family and several roller coasters and other Thrill rides for the more daring. Along with the rides, there is a 24,000 square foot arcade featuring more than 200 games and attractions including the ever popular Skeeball & Fortune Tellers. It’s a great place to take the kids for some unmitigated fun or for the adults to unwind, forget work and have some thrills.

Photo by: H. Michael Miley via Flickr
Photo by: H. Michael Miley via Flickr

11. Penobscot Marine Museum

Located in Searsport, Penobscot Marine Museum is Maine’s oldest Maritime museum consisting of eight buildings and containing New England’s best collection of marine art, artifacts and maritime heritage. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Penobscot Marine Museum buildings include a classic New England Town Hall, the First Congregational Church, private residences and a commercial building, all dated circa 1810 to 1845. Walking through the Village grounds is like stepping back in time making it easy to imagine its eclectic past. Visit the Seabag Visible Storage Center, Child-friendly exhibits, Yard in the Yard, Peapod, the Marine Science Lab and the First Congregational Church. All exhibits are interesting, beautiful, educational and family-friendly, so don’t hesitate to visit them all.

Photo by: Penobscot Marine Museum
Photo by: Penobscot Marine Museum

12. Acadia National Park

Originally known as Lafayette National Park, Acadia National Park is the oldest national park located east of the Mississippi River. It is located on the Atlantic coast and includes much of Mount Desert Island and other associated islands. The donated land is home to a diverse selection of plants, animals and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. It’s a picturesque landscape perfect for hiking the granite peaks, taking a bike or carriage ride on one of the old roads or just to simply relax and soak in all the breathtaking scenery that makes up this beautiful park. If you are the adventurous type, you can hike on the challenging trails and camp out at Blackwoods and Seawall Campground. You couldn’t ask for a better place in New England to go enjoy nature.

Acadia National Park, Maine

10 Breathtaking Gardens to Visit in the U.S.

If you are looking to find peace and tranquility there is absolutely no better place than one of America’s beautiful public gardens. Whether you want to spend an hour wandering through the trails, or have a whole day to explore, these gardens will inspire you. Discover a butterfly hatching into a tropical oasis, the largest display of orchids in the US, towering fountains, amazing koi ponds and hundreds of acres of complete bliss. From Arizona to New York City to Florida; here are 10 breathtaking gardens to visit in the US.

10. Longwood Gardens -Kennett Square, PA

In the Brandywine Creek Valley sits 1,077 acres of magnificent gardens, woodlands and meadows known as Longwood Gardens. The longtime home of industrialist Pierre S. du Pont, this public garden boasts century old trees that were the inspiration behind du Pont conserving this land. The historic four acre conservatory is not to be missed, packed full of colorful flowers, ferns and fruits. Du Pont had much of a hand in designing this garden and in fact the Italian water garden was done entirely by him. Visit during the summer to catch one of the concerts in the grand ballroom, complete with a massive organ. If you want to catch the breathtaking colors of the Norway Maples, make sure to come in fall as they surround the 130 foot main fountain which becomes emblazoned in gold. Spring is the best time to see the impressive crocus and trillium carpeting the forest floor.

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

9. Desert Botanical Garden -Phoenix, AZ

Throw away any notion you may have of an ugly desert and experience the magic of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Spanning 145 acres this garden showcases more than 50,000 plants including the ever traditional cacti. This garden has a distinct mission to focus solely on desert plants while thrilling visitors with its colorful wildflower exhibit. The absolute best time to head here is during the spring when the wildflower exhibit explodes with color and the butterflies take flight in the covered pavilion. This garden also hosts a number of events including flashlight tours, music in the garden, kids programs and classes for adults. Discover the Mexican poppies, desert lupine and a large array of agave and other succulents in this awesome desert garden that pops with color.

Images by Dr. Alan Lipkin / Shutterstock.com
Images by Dr. Alan Lipkin / Shutterstock.com

8. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens -Boothbay, ME

This is one the newest gardens on our list and only opened in 2007, quick to become one of Maine’s most popular attractions. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens span 248 acres with a mile of waterfront and took over 16 years to plan, build and plant. The beautiful walking trails, plant life and sculptures can be appreciated by spending the entire day here. Visitors will find everything here, from manicured formal gardens to waterfalls to thousands of species of herbs, plants and flowers. A hands-on children’s garden makes this destination family friendly. The summer is the ultimate time to visit as everything is in bloom and the weather is warm, make sure you pack a picnic to enjoy either in the butterfly gardens or the meditation gardens. Lectures and education talks are offered all year round, as are guided tours throughout the gardens and this is quickly becoming one of the most beautiful gardens in America.

Photo by: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Photo by: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

7. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens -Coral Gables, FL

The southern climate in this state makes for great year round growing and at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens visitors are privy to rare exotic fruit species and an abundance of lush foliage. Located less than 10 miles from downtown Miami, this space showcases more than 3,400 tropical species, many of them gathered by the founder of this garden. David Fairchild actually traveled the globe in search of useful plants and in 1938 opened the 83 acre garden. Today it is home to an impressive number of palms, cycads and fruit species. Also on the property is a magnificent butterfly conservatory that features almost 3,000 butterflies. Visitors can watch them hatch and be released into the conservatory. Visitors will want to head here in winter for cooler temperatures and fewer bugs.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, Coral Gables, FL

6. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park -Grand Rapids, MI

The motto of this garden is always growing, always beautiful and always new. The sculpture program at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park features over 200 works in the permanent collected, both indoors and out, spread over 158 acres. This haven is one of the best when it comes to incorporating horticulture and sculptures throughout its site. Plan on spending an entire day here while you discover the tropical conservatory featuring over 500 species from around the world, complete with waterfalls, bridges and a variety of tropical birds. Or head to the new Japanese gardens which spans over 8 acres complete with serene bridges and ponds. The children’s garden is a hit among the little ones as they are encouraged to dig for fossils, sit in the giants bird nest or look through the viewpoints at the numerous sculptures. Don’t miss the annual exhibition when the butterflies hatch and take flight in the tropical conservatory.

Photo by: Brett McPherson/Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Photo by: Brett McPherson/Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

5. Chicago Botanic Garden -Chicago, IL

The Chicago Botanic Garden draws about a million visitors annually and is considered one of the largest botanical gardens in the U.S, spanning nearly 400 acres. It is actually considered to be a living museum and this garden has a big hand in groundbreaking plant conservation research. Visitors will want to come here between late April and November to see the nearly 200 Bonsai that are on display. These miniature masterpieces are cultivated by bonsai master Susumu Nakamura and it is considered one of the best public displays of bonsai. Visitors here will also find a local-centric fruit and vegetable garden, a classic English walled garden and 100 acre native oak woodland. Spanning across nine islands and six miles of lakeshore, this garden is absolutely one of the most breathtaking in all of America.

Chicago Botanic Garden

4. Portland Japanese Garden -Portland, OR

This 5.5 acre garden is quite small compared to the rest of the beautiful gardens on this list but makes up for its size with what it offers visitors. The late landscape architect Takuma Tono created this magnificent garden true to the traditions of his native Japan with stunning results. The landscape here is split into five distinct gardens- the flat garden, strolling pond garden, tea garden, natural garden and sand and stone garden. If you have never been to a Japanese garden before, prepare yourself for the peace and tranquility that overwhelms you as you enter. These gardens are designed to make visitors feel as part of nature, not overwhelmed by it. One of the best times to visit is in the spring with the famous weeping cheery erupts into the beautiful pink blossoms. It is important to note that this garden has many trails that make it quite difficult for wheelchair guests.

Portland Japanese Garden

3. Missouri Botanical Garden -St. Louis, MO

The breathtaking Missouri Botanical Garden spans over 79 acres and includes an amazing 14 acre Japanese garden, an original 1850’s estate home and one of the world’s largest collections of rare and endangered orchids. The collection of orchids includes over 3,000 species with colors ranging from bright pink to dainty spotted varieties. February and March are the only moths to see the full orchid display and we guarantee it is like nothing you have seen before. But that’s not all this garden offers, there are also more than 700 types of daffodils on display and an amazing collection of daylilies. This garden is also home to the iconic Climatron conservatory, a clime controlled geodesic dome built in the 1960’s that features an impressive tropical paradise. From summer music festivals to train shows to holiday flower shows, there is something happening at this garden every day of the year.

Photo by: Carlos Muela
Photo by: Carlos Muela

2. The New York Botanical Garden -New York City, NY

This national historic landmark spans over 250 acres in the Bronx and gives the ever bustling city a sense of peace and tranquility. These gardens were established way back in 1891 and along with the millions of plants is home to a number of historic buildings. The 1902-era conservatory is a hit among visitors as it includes eleven distinct plant habitats including a tropical rainforest and desert environment of the Americas and Africa. The garden is arranged in fifty distinct areas and includes a century old collection of conifers, a 4,000 plant rose garden and the largest old growth deciduous forest in New York. Helpful guides are always located throughout this garden spouting bits of useful information to visitors, a welcome touch. Visitors flock here for the spring orchid exhibit and in the summer for fields of blooming daffodils.

The New York Botanical Garden

1. Atlanta Botanical Garden -Atlanta, GA

This 30 acre botanical garden boasts the largest collection of orchid species on permanent display in the US, and that is just one of the many reasons that visitors flock to experience this garden. There is fun for the whole family here, including a children’s garden complete with fountains, sculptures and fun exhibits on botany and ecology. The hit among many visitors is the 600 foot long canopy walk that takes you through the branches of oaks, hickories and poplars while overlooking native species of hydrangeas, perennials and camellias. A pond full of aquatic plants, a Japanese garden and rose garden are just a few things you should expect to explore here. Between the concerts they offer, the chef demonstrations and the guided tours; there is truly something for everyone. Check out the garden at night in the summers when unique structures feature hundreds of miles of optic fiber, turning the garden into an enchanting storybook setting.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

The 10 Quirkiest Cities in America

Take a walk around many of America’s major cities and you’re bound to see someone or something that’s just a little odd. Take for example, Manhattan; any New Yorker will happily regale you with tales of the crazy things they’ve seen in the subway. Don’t get us wrong though, a little kookiness is definitely amusing and can even be downright charming. It’s actually something that many locals say they love about their cities. In a recent reader poll by Travel and Leisure magazine, readers voted on their favorite cities in America for a number of different categories from romance, to craft beers and even quirky locals…which we discuss here –because some cities have a lot more kooks than others you know.

10. New York City, New York

If you’ve ever been to New York City, you won’t be surprised to see the Big Apple on this list as it’s brimming with quirky things and quirky people. Of course you have the street performers of Times Square (Naked Cowboy anyone?), the freakishly interesting individuals at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, and let’s not forget about the people watching opportunities right out on the street or in the subway.

In a city where you can find just about everything, you might not be surprised that this city is also home to such kitschy establishments as Earth Room; a gallery in SoHo that’s actually filled with dirt and the Elevator Historical Society Museum, located in Queens; for those who just can’t get enough of lifts.

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

9. Seattle, Washington

Seattle –the west coast gem that inspired grunge music and a certain iconic coffee chain might not be at the top if your mind when it comes to all thinks quirk. The people here might not seem as outwardly odd as those in big cities like New York, but there’s another reason Seattle made the top 10; it seems from recent census numbers that, in this city, the number of dogs actually outweighs the number of children.

Yes, statistics show that Seattle residents really love their 4 legged friends -and it shows. If you make the trek to the Fremont area which is known for a giant stone troll, a statue of Lenin that gets regular decorations and home to summer solstice parades -including nude cyclists, you’ll also find one of the most dog-friendly restaurants around. Norm’s Eatery & Ale House welcomes your furry friends and lets them even dine with you at your table. If your pooch is behaving particularly well, maybe head over to Scraps Dog Bakery where locals flock for gourmet baked dog treats as well as pet-sized Seattle Seahawks swag.

Matt Ragen / Shutterstock.com
Matt Ragen / Shutterstock.com

8. Kansas City, Missouri

In this survey, T&L readers reported Kansas City Midwesterners to be ‘thrifty and no-nonsense’, and while that might not seem like the most flattering of descriptions, it doesn’t mean they’re dull either. The city also ranked highly for its museums and history in the survey and Travel and Leisure reports that some of this history may be just a little ‘outside of the box’. Like the 1950’s All-Electric House for example, which was constructed by the Kansas City Power and Light co. in 1954 as a showcase for futuristic gadgets like the electric curtain opener, hidden television and ‘year-round air conditioner’.

There’s also the Arabia Steamboat Museum which features a wide array of pre-civil war artifacts collected from the sinking of the Steamboat Arabia on the Missouri River. If you get thirsty in KC just visit Oddly Correct, where you’ll find artfully crafted coffees, whose beans are roasted on site as well as a quirky concoction of coffee infused beer.

Sharon Day / Shutterstock.com
Sharon Day / Shutterstock.com

7. Baltimore, Maryland

If you’ve been to the city of Baltimore, you’ve probably heard the quirky dialect known as ‘Bawlmerese’ in action…and you’ve probably been called “hon” more than once or twice. Rather than lurk in the shadows of the big Eastern cities like Boston and New York, this city has long celebrated its outsider status. One city attraction, the American Visionary Art Museum, exemplifies this perfectly with its vast collection of outsider art from around the country.

The quirky factor doesn’t just end there, visit Atomic Books located in the Hampden neighborhood to possibly catch a glimpse of native oddball director John Waters who picks up his fan mail at the bookstore.

Graffiti Ally Baltimore

6. San Francisco, California

You had to know at least one city from the off the wall state of California would make this list…well those surveyed in the T&L poll agreed and say San Fran is just a little left of center. What else do you expect from the city that gave us hippies? You can experience this city’s quirky side yourself with a walking tour from Wild SF Walking Tours. Not your average walking tour, guides take you off-the-beaten path to explore the city’s “history, civil rights and social movements, presented as the residents of these neighborhoods would tell it.”

We can’t mention San Francisco without mentioning The Castro –also known as ‘America’s Gayborhood’. If you’re familiar with the Story of Harvey Milk and the gay rights movement, The Castro was ground zero for this civil rights movement of the 1970’s.

f8grapher / Shutterstock.com
f8grapher / Shutterstock.com

5. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Making it into the top five, the city sometimes referred to as ‘Albuquirky’ has many odd and unusual sights and attractions for those that seek them. The city has definitely embraced its ties to the TV series ‘Breaking Bad’ which is evident in everything from the coffee and faux-meth sprinkled Blue Sky donut at Rebel Donuts to ABQ  Trolly’s Bad Tour, where you can explore the city as seen through the eyes of Walter White.

There are off-kilter accommodations to be had as well, like Hotel Parq Central which is a renovated former psychiatric hospital –not that you would know it from the elegant modern décor. The hotel does feature one of the best rooftop bars in the city so it’s worth a visit even if you’re not staying the night.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

4. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence –the little Rhode Island city that spawned such occult authors as H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy Jr, has no shortage of sights to see in the quirk department. Take a tour through the life of eccentric Providence-born horror author H.P. Lovecraft with a visit to his last place of residence, followed by a visit to his grave which is found in Swan Point Cemetery.  Given the historic significance of this city, it’s no surprise that more than a few notable figures reside in the city’s cemeteries; the graves of both Elizabeth Tilley Howland –one of the passengers of the Mayflower, and Thomas Willet –the first English mayor of New York City, can be found in Little Neck Cemetery.

It’s not all about historical figures though, there’s plenty of oddly entertaining experiences to enjoy as well; such as the Big Nazo Theater –which is an international performance group that includes visual artists, puppet performers and masked musicians. It all combines for a very entertaining and highly unusual performance art piece.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

3. Portland, Oregon

Coming in the #3 spot according to T&L readers, the city of Portland definitely lives up to its reputation of hipsters, wacky food, and things that generally go against the grain. The people of Portland aren’t shy about their demand for all things local; all the way from the food to interesting products like mustache wax and locally crafted six-pack holders for your bicycle –all of which can be found at the MadeHere PDX store.

The love of ‘tasting rooms’ is also apparent in this west-coast city and you can find them for just about anything including coffee -like at Coava, a trendy coffee roaster with 2 locations, beer –which can be found at Coalition Brewing co. among other places, and even salt –like the Oregon pinot noir salt that can be sampled at Jacobsen Salt co.

Portland Timbers Flag

2. Austin, Texas

You may have expected the city that aims to keep it weird to come in first place in this reader poll, but another city stole that spot landing Austin in second place for quirkiest city in America. This runner-up can still firmly hold its place on the strange-scale with all the offerings that can be found here.

How about a drink at one of the many wild and wacky Austin bars like Lala’s –where it’s always Christmas no matter the time of year, or The Little Longhorn Saloon –where you can play Austin’s favorite gambling game: chicken s—t bingo (seriously). And if that’s not enough fun for you, head over to Javelina, where they’ve been known to host the occasional armadillo race.

Alfie Photography / Shutterstock.com
Alfie Photography / Shutterstock.com

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

So what city could top one whose slogan is all about keeping it weird? –The Big Easy of course. If you’ve ever been to the city of New Orleans and experienced its crazy mix of Cajun-French-Voodoo influences (among others), you know why this city was voted #1 in overall quirky-ness by Travel and Leisure readers.

Where else can you find non-stop festivals, funeral processions that feature dancing and big bands, chicory coffee, beignets and of course the infamous Mardi Gras parade? It seems the people of New Orleans will use any excuse to dress up in costume, be it fancy attire like big ball gowns or the more off-the-wall costumes that come out during Mardi Gras festivities. Even the luxury hotel brand Ritz Carlton joins in the quirky fun of this city by offering voodoo massages in their spa; which include ritual chanting and scents of absinthe with your rub down.

Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com
Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com

The Top 10 Cities for Cycling Enthusiasts

Enjoying the world from the perspective of a bicycle is a type of enjoyment shared by millions the world over. Whether a person enjoys cycling amidst the urban areas of a major city, or cycling among the trees and nature of a remote town, there are a number of terrific locations around the world for cycling enthusiasts.

1. Portland, Oregon

The residents of Portland have made great strides in creating a bike-friendly culture and city design for cyclists, and visitors are also treated to amazing views of the Cascades that look beautiful in every season. Bicycling enthusiasts will also experience a particularly green and environmentally friendly city while visiting or living in Portland.

Portland Oregon

2. Mundaring, Western Australia

Offering a trail that runs for over 200 miles through forests and past native Australian animals like kangaroos, the Munda Biddi Trail starts in Mundaring and travels all the way to Collie. Beautiful eucalyptus trees and Aboriginal forests line the special cycling route that the locals created in 2004, and which has become internationally popular in the years since.

Mundaring, Western Australia

3. Burlington, Vermont

An extraordinarily healthy city, Burlington offers residents amazing views of the Green Mountains and the Adirondack Mountains from the perspective of miles and miles of amazing biking trails. Inside and outside of the city there are many areas dedicated to bicycle-friendly travel.

Burlington, Vermont

4. Flagstaff, Arizona

Surrounded by forests and offering a strong view of the historic west, Flagstaff and Sedona (which is directly south of Flagstaff) offer many cycling opportunities within the towns, and it’s also easy to head outside of the urban areas and ride around to enjoy the beautiful ponderosa pines of the region.

Flagstaff, Arizona

5. Luchon, France

For any cyclist who fancies that they are a competitor for the Tour de France, the mountain pass from Luchon to Bayonne represents some of the fiercest bicycling opportunities anywhere in the world with a road that covers four difficult mountain passes. Cyclists in France might want to check out Alpe d’Huez for additional French cycling adventures.

Luchon France
Radu Razvan / Shutterstock.com

6. Boulder, Colorado

Offering many miles of paths dedicated to cycling, Boulder sits in a perfect spot near the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and is one of the best spots in the western United States to head for recreational opportunities and to be around people who love the outdoors.

Boulder, Colorado

7. Jotunheimen, Norway

This national park area offers views of a mountainous area that almost looks as though it was created for a fantasy novel. There is a very popular route within the park that offers some incredible hill work for cyclists, but there are a few different paths that offer different degrees of difficulty for cyclists.

Jotunheimen, Norway

8. Langkawai, Malaysia

This archipelago area of Malaysia encompasses over a hundred islands and is an amazing area that’s popular for cycling around waterfalls and pristine beaches. There aren’t any amazing peaks to ascend, but the scenery is some of the most idyllic in the world and the trails and paths go on for many miles.

Langkawai, Malaysia

9. Hanoi, Vietnam

Cycling culture is extremely strong in Vietnam, and residents are apt to be on their bikes whether they’re commuting to work or riding around for fun. Through Hanoi and along the coast toward Ho Chi Minh City, is an amazing route of over 700 miles that takes riders along perfect sandy beaches and beautiful coastlines.

Hanoi, Vietnam

10. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Although the harsh winters might make riders think otherwise, Minneapolis is second only to Portland with the number of bicycle commuters in the city. There are terrific bicycle-friendly streets all over the city along with many parks and trails across the town.

Traveling with the intent of bicycling one’s way around a vacation is a terrific idea in so many beautiful and amazing trails around the world. From leisurely rides along the beaches in Malaysia to the incredibly difficult peaks in France, the world is a cyclist’s playground of beautiful adventures and classic rides.
Minneapolis, Minnesota