Consider it The People’s Choice awards for architecture. The American Institute of Architects commissioned a public poll on the most popular architectural works in the country. There are a number of well-known superstars including The Empire State Building and Faneuil Hall in Boston, but there is also the obscure and surprising; Seattle’s Safeco Field at #135, Denver International Airport at #57. The top of the list is decidedly skewed towards the northeast, especially New York and Washington D.C. who claim between them 16 of the top 20. Overall New York has 32 entries, while D.C. claims 17 and Chicago a respectable 16. Three of the favorites no longer exist #143 Pennsylvania Station, the original Yankee Stadium of 1923 at #84, and the World Trade Center at #19. Among the architects making more than one appearance are Frank Lloyd Wright with 7 works; Eero Saarinen with 3 and one Thomas Jefferson with 2. Here are the Top 20 American structures that still stand and attract millions of sightseers and pilgrims from around the world:
20. Philadelphia City Hall (Philadelphia, PA)
A truly magnificent building, it’s widely considered to be the best piece of French Second Empire architecture in the country. It is a massive exercise in granite, sandstone, and marble with muscular columns, some 250 pieces of sculpture including a massive 27 ton bronze of William Penn (as in Pennsylvania) on the clock tower. The 24 foot thick walls hold 4 acres of space with 700 rooms. It took 30 years to build, as only a government building can. Money was no object in a futile attempt to regain the city’s pre-eminence over the upstarts in New York and Washington, it was for a brief time, the tallest building in the world. Demolition was considered in the 1950s and thank goodness rescinded.
19. Brooklyn Bridge (New York City, NY)
It was a huge deal when it opened in 1883. A sitting President, Charles Arthur, and a future one; New York Governor Grover Cleveland attended. The towers are built of limestone, cement, and Maine granite delivered by schooner. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world for 20 years and like other New York landmarks, it captured the artistic and popular culture’s imagination from Georgia O’Keefe through Jack Kerouac to Wycliffe Jean. Poet Marianne Moore wrote, “way out; way in; romantic passageway first seen by the eye of the mind, then by the eye. O steel! O stone! Climactic ornament, a double rainbow.” Beginning life on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War, the Bridge captures the enormous optimism of the economic boom of the Second Industrial Revolution. On ArchDaily, Cristopher Henry says the Bridge transformed not only bridge-building but the city of New York itself. The Gothic Revival style span lit up at night framed by the Manhattan skyline, does seem like a road to a promised land.
18. Hotel Del Coronado (San Diego, CA)
What could be more striking, or make less sense, than a perfect example of 19th-century British architecture on the California Pacific coast? A California beach house in downtown London perhaps? Though it may seem to an architectural fish out of the water, it has been a magnet for celebrities, royalty, and U.S. Presidents since it opened in 1888 at the peak influence of the Queen Anne building style. But such was its renown that its guest list includes from the Prince of Wales to Charlie Chaplin to Barack Obama. Queen Anne’s design is ornate and precious and violates every law of the American School which holds that buildings should be organic as if the art of the site on which it’s built. But then architect James Reid apparently never studied law. The jumble of turrets and excess celebrates the Golden Age of decadence. Jay Gatsby would have been a frequent visitor had he actually existed. Gilded Age exuberance.
17. Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, NY)
The Met, as it’s affectionately known, has been evolving as an idea and entity since 1866. It has added and subtracted whole sections over the decades and has become imposing if the not terribly harmonious mix of International, Modern, and Contemporary architecture, yet it somehow fits in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Its vast interior holds collections among the best in the world, with a net worth of approximately the Gross National Product of Iceland. Of course, everyone would think of fit fondly. It’s a list of the Faves, not the Bests.
16. St. Regis Hotel (New York City, NY)
It was meant to be the lap of luxury, by and for New York’s insanely wealthy aristocracy. A monument to conspicuous consumption built by the Astor family. In his book ‘Built to Last’ the renowned hotel historian Stanley Turkel described the interior like this: “marble floors and hallways from the quarries of Caen, Louis XV furniture from France, Waterford crystal chandeliers, antique tapestries, and oriental rugs, a library full of 3,000 leather-bound, gold-tooled books… beautiful burnished bronze entrance doors, rare wood paneling, great marble fireplaces, ornamental ceilings and a telephone in every room”, a rare luxury at the time. In fact the New York Times reported that St. Regis offered luxury “on a scale of sumptuosity quite without precedent.” The great Russian writer Maxim Gorky visited and remarked, “Neither the Grand Dukes nor even the Czar, have anything like this.” It remains a Beaux-Arts gem in limestone.
15. Supreme Court of the United States (Washington, DC)
The Supreme Court was 146 years old before it got its own building that opened in 1935. Its austere steel-framed marble-faced exterior on classic Roma temple lines with its thick Corinthian columns gives way to a more ornate interior with brass friezes, extensive statuary of mythical figures, and oak carvings that suggest a place of worship rather than one of sober deliberation. It’s a surprise that makes it is perhaps the last D.C. project to come in UNDER budget. The website says it combines classical grandeur and quiet dignity. The courtroom alone contains 24 columns of Italian marble from the same area Michelangelo sourced him; the walls and friezes of Spanish Ivory Vein marble floor borders incorporate African marble.
14. The Gateway Arch (St. Louis, MO)
2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the date the final piece was put into place completing the majestic span across the Mississippi and putting the iconic Arch up there with other quintessential American sites like Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty. It is a memorial to the settlers who passed through the Gateway City of St. Louis. It also is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson who as President “championed the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition westward. Technically it is a weighted catenary curve of over 17,000 tons of perfectly symmetrical concrete and steel. It is 630 feet high and 630 wide. The Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture and furniture design. He won the design competition for the Arch in 1948 but sadly didn’t live to see construction begin in 1963 let alone to see it finished.
13. Grand Central Station (New York City, NY)
A grand European palace masquerading as a New York train station. It looks like a transit point exclusively for the well-to-do but in fact shepherds 750,000 people on their way, merrier for having passed through a great work of art on their way to work and home. On the outside are 50 foot high statues of Roman gods; Minerva Goddess of Wisdom, Mercury; God of financial gain, travelers, luck, trickery, and thieves, eminently qualified to be the patron site of Manhattan not to mention Hercules. Within the classic Beaux-Arts exterior lies a vast interior, larger than Notre Dame in Paris featuring too many masterpieces to list, bronze and stone carvings, Tennessee marble floors, frescoes of zodiac constellations. All illuminated by ten lavish chandeliers of nickel and gold, now containing energy-efficient bulbs. The New York Tribune wrote, “Here is a space like the nave of an Old World cathedral. It compels to silence.”
12. Washington Monument (Washington, DC)
It’s interesting that plans for a monument to George Washington were first discussed in 1783, construction began in 1848, and completion came in 1884 and the public got in in 1888. His followers wanted to build one as huge as their respect and devotion and many were rejected for being too grandiose for the new Republic. The elevator that was added in 1889 is still what visitors ride to the observation decks and their tremendous views of the capital. Technically, it is a classic Greek-inspired obelisk of 555 ft. in marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss. It also contains some 193 memorial stones donated for inclusion. The donors ranged from the Sae of Utah, the Welsh people of New York to the Ottoman Empire.
11. St. Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City, NY)
The neo-Gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick is the largest Catholic Church in the United States and certainly among the most beautiful. Its marble-clad brick facade must be a powerful, imposing site when it opened in 1879. Its 330ft twin neo-Gothic towers soared above the neighborhood and were said to be visible for twenty miles since dwarfed by sprouting skyscrapers.
Inside it has the traditional shape of the Latin cross. Its altars were designed by a Borgia, a Medici, and Tiffany &co. Its renowned stained glass was crafted in England but the rose window, in the Gothic tradition was crafted by Charles Connick, a master of stained glass who the New York Times described as “the world’s greatest contemporary craftsman in stained glass.” A Pieta, three times larger than Michelangelo’s in the Vatican was added in 1906. Five million people go every year to worship and just experience this architectural wonder.
10. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (Washington, DC)
No doubt full of intangible meaning for Americans, the memorial is a profoundly moving experience wherever you’re from. Simplicity can engender an eloquence the grandest design may not. The façade of the 600-foot straight black wall of Indian granite lists the names of the 58,175 names Americans who died in the war. Its effect is intensified by the decision to build down rather than up, as if to mirror the descent into the depths of the carnage on the descent into the and eventually, after the last name to emerge a touched and changed person, back into the land of the living. Maya Lin, a Chinese American from Ohio was just 21 years old when she won the commission. There are 57,939 names on the original. At last count, that has grown to 58,286. In a
1983 interview published in the AIA Journal, Lin explained her inspiration, “I thought about what death is, what a loss is. A sharp pain that lessens with time, but can never quite heal over. A scar. The idea occurred to me there on the site. Take a knife and cut open the earth, and with time the grass would heal it.”
9. Chrysler Building (New York City, NY)
Like many masterpieces, the Chrysler Building opened to bad reviews. It was dismissed as a publicity stunt by Chrysler to beat the Manhattan Bank to completion and dethrone the Eiffel Tower as the world’s tallest building at the time. Its architect William van Alen was also dismissed as a “Dr. of Altitude.” But its Art Deco style has grown in stature since its heyday in the 1920s and ’30s. It came to be regarded as over the top kitsch but went to become its own school of furniture, poster art, and telephones. The Chrysler is one of the last of its kind, the Art Deco skyscraper. A counterpoint to the somber Vietnam memorial the Chrysler emits the brash, confident futuristic exuberance of Art Deco at its best. If it had an observation deck, it may well have eclipsed the Empire State building in popularity. Its interior is yet more stunning. Lonely Planet guides suggest the best views are from the corner of 3rd and 44th. Or ironically from the observation deck of the Empire State. Where else could you see gargoyles in the image of Chrysler car parts?
8. Biltmore Estate (Asheville, NC)
The British writer and Oscar Wilde once said that “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” He might have had George W. Vanderbilt, one member of the wealthiest and influential American families in history, whose contemporary descendants include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. George W. fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains and bought 125,000 acres of it to build his summer estate. Only the best for a Vanderbilt, he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer, and architect-in-chief of Central Park. The French Renaissance ‘summer home’ has a copper roof monogrammed with the owner’s initials. Just the interior floor covers 4 acres. There are 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces and at a time when indoor plumbing was rare, 43 bathrooms. Despite its excess, it is a beautiful piece of work, intended to rival the old estate manors of Europe. The largest private home in America is a Historic Site and open to the public for tours.
7. Lincoln Memorial (Washington, DC)
It is by no means a late Italian Renaissance piece or the ages but the Lincoln Memorial is a fascinating and compelling structure. Its grand exterior is a stunning Greek temple with 36 sturdy Doric columns, one for each state in the Union in 1865. The expectation that something of this classic magnitude would be a memorial or tomb of a great champion or god even. And there is inside a sculpture of the Great Emancipator himself but if you didn’t know his history you’d wonder if he won or lost the battle. The great American sculptor Daniel Chester French presents not a triumphant demi-God but a man, seated rumpled and not just tired but so weary from having seen too much grief. This was partly aesthetic genius partly astute politics. Construction of the Monument began in 1914, less than 50 years after the Civil War ended and any celebratory construct would have been deeply offensive to the South. The Southern Wall contains an elegant rendition of the Gettysburg Address while the north wall holds his second Inaugural Address which ends with the famous words… “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
6. U.S. Capitol (Washington, DC)
The U.S. Capitol’s design was selected by President Washington in 1793. Construction quickly began but they had to start over after the British burned it in the War of 1812. Like so many buildings in DC, it is classic Greek and Roman, the neoclassical style favored by Thomas Jefferson as befitting a modern empire. In fact, he wanted the Capitol to be patterned after the Roman Pantheon. It has what might be called an intimidating charm of imposing size, symbolism, and history. Expanded many times to its present 4 acres and 600 rooms, its most famous addition was the cast-iron dome in 1858 weighing almost 9,000,000 pounds. Inside is of course the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the home of the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government. Lesser known is the impressive collection of art accumulated and donated over the years. The Hall of Statuary is breathtaking as is the fresco in the Rotunda painted by Italian Constantino Brumidi in the Di sotto in sù (seen from below) style depicting the Apotheosis of Washington entering heaven with an escort of Roman gods representing among others War, Science and Agriculture.
5. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, CA)
One of the greatest engineering and design accomplishments of the 20th century, a rarely surpassed combination of strength and beauty. They said it would be impossible to build a bridge across the Golden Gate Strait. It took four years and the equivalent of $600 million but at its completion in 1937, it was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world at almost 2 miles long. The two famous towers are 820 feet tall. The distinctive red Art Deco profile framed by the Pacific Ocean has made it known around the world a masterpiece in steel and concrete.
4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Washington, DC)
Jefferson didn’t get his wish for The Capitol to be built after the Pantheon in Rome but his memorial in Washington D.C. certainly is. It was inaugurated by President Franklin Roosevelt on the bicentenary of Jefferson’s birth in 1743. FDR proclaimed “Today in the midst of a great war for freedom, we dedicate a shrine to freedom.” Jefferson’s intellect and influence towered above any of the founders, save for Washington himself. So it is more than fitting that the grand bronze statue of him inside the classic Roman architecture that he loved should tower over the interior showing him at the peak of his powers, with what is believed to be the Declaration of Independence in his hand.
3. Washington National Cathedral (Washington, DC)
A majestic Gothic Revival work in Indiana limestone, its construction was launched with a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 and was completed only in 1990. A hallowed place of ecumenical worship the church is also deeply reflective of American history. It was the last pulpit from which the Reverend Martin Luther King preached before his assassination in 1968. The funerals of Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower were held there. Woodrow Wilson is buried there. There is stained glass devoted to the Apollo moon landing with a piece of moon rock. Recently, the church stewards decided to remove two stained glass panels honoring Confederate Generals Robert TE Lee and Stonewall Jackson containing the Confederate flag. The top of the lofty Gloria in Excelsis vault is the highest point in the capital. It tries to be user-friendly, incorporating a young person’s design of a Darth Vader gargoyle on the roof. Still, really more popular than the Golden Gate?
2. The White House (Washington, DC)
Construction of the original Presidential residence began in 1702. It was nothing like the current version, especially being not white but a grayish Georgia mansion. Its first tenants were the second President, John Adams, and wife Abigail. The British torched it in 1812 and Hoban rebuilt it but it wasn’t until a major renovation in 1824 that the portico and pillars turned the modest Georgian home into a neoclassical white building. The West Wing burned in 1929 and with its rebuilding, it became what we know today. The whitewashed sandstone walls are the originals. Inside it contains 132 rooms, 28 fireplaces, and 32 bathrooms, Interesting trivia: running water was not installed until 1835.
1. Empire State Building (New York City, NY)
Honestly, if you were making King Kong in 1933 and deciding on which building in the entire world on which the huge protagonist to meet his dramatic demise, what other choices could you make but the Empire State, the tallest most glamorous building in the world? It has appeared in 250 movies from the sublime (An Affair to Remember) to the ridiculous (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas). The 86th-floor observation deck has had over 100 million visitors, among the most popular in the world. While there are superstar architects with multiple entries in the list (Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen), the New York firm that built the Empire State has just one. At the very top. It’s not just the view or the gorgeous Art Deco façade. It is the architectural version of swagger, the iconic image that says you are in the home of the Leader of the Free World. When Canadian Far Wray, the actress who played King Kong’s love interest, died in 2004, the Empire State went dark for 15 minutes in silent, eloquent tribute.
California is a delightfully diverse destination with a colorful history. Long a magnet for visitors with its warm weather, spectacular scenery, and reputation where fortunes can be made if you’re willing to take a chance, California is understandably chock full of hotels with histories as interesting as the state in which they reside. From seaside resorts and legendary cruise ships to Hollywood playgrounds for the rich and famous and desert oases, California’s historic hotels are fantastic and fascinating.
10. Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island
The Hotel Del Coronado, aka, Del, has been a legendary resort from the moment it opened on Coronado Island in 1888. It attracted a wealthy clientele, with elegant amenities like electricity, telephones, elevators, and even private bathrooms. In fact, it was one of the largest buildings in the U.S.to have electric lights when it opened. A sunny playground for the rich, it offered billiards, bowling, croquet, boating, cycling, archery, golf, swimming, and fine dining. Meticulously maintained to the present day, the 28-acre, 757-room resort has been a haven for Hollywood’s elite and a backdrop for many films and TV shows. In 1918, Rudolph Valentino starred in “The Married Virgin” there, while Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis filmed “Some Like It Hot” on Del’s beach. The ghost of Kate Morgan is among Del’s most famous celebrities. She has been a ‘guest’ since she died there in 1892.
9. The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Some hotels are merely old while others are truly historic, as is the case of The Fairmont Hotel, the landmark hotel that graces the pinnacle of Nob Hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. The Fairmont’s original planned opening in 1906 was ill-timed, as fires resulting from the infamous earthquake that struck the city on April 18 that year substantially damaged the hotel. It opened a year later and quickly assumed its place as San Francisco’s social hub and one of the nation’s most revered hotels. Memorable moments in the Fairmont’s history include when delegates met there in 1945 to draft the United Nations Charter. Every U.S. president since Harry Truman has stayed there, and Tony Bennett first sang his iconic song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” in the hotel’s Venetian Room. A recent $85 million renovation to the 592-room hotel has the San Francisco treat shining like new.
8. The Mission Inn & Spa, Riverside
The spectacular Mission Inn & Spa that now occupies an entire city block in downtown Riverside had a most modest beginning as a two-story, 12-room adobe boarding house in 1876. Looking to capitalize on the influx of wealthy people flocking to Riverside’s warm climate and booming citrus industry, owner Frank Miller opened the first wing of the Inn in 1903 in a Mission-Revival style. He eventually added three more wings, with the final Rotunda wing opening in 1931. The 238-room resort incorporates an amazing mix of architectural styles including flying buttresses, grand archways, interior courtyards, fountains, bell and clock towers, and an open-air, five-story rotunda with a wrought-iron, circular staircase. The Inn closed for seven years to undergo a $55 million renovation but reopened in 1997. Docent-led tours of the resort highlight its 6,000-piece art collection and rich history that includes visits by 10 U.S. presidents and countless celebrities.
7. Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles
Throughout its 92-year history, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel has been one of Tinseltown’s most treasured downtown assets. The Beaux-Arts-inspired hotel has been used in the filming of dozens of movies and TV shows over the years including “Ghostbusters,” “Chinatown,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Mad Men” and “CSI.” High tea is still served on weekends at the opulent Rendezvous Court, and the Gallery Bar remains one of L.A.’s top bars with its signature martinis and classic look with rich wood paneling and leather couches. The 683-room hotel, which is currently undergoing a renovation slated for completion in 2016, has hosted everyone from Rudolph Valentino and the Prince of Wales to Howard Hughes, Herbert Hoover, and Eleanor Roosevelt. John F. Kennedy even used the Biltmore as his headquarters during the 1960 Democratic National Convention.
6. U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego
Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. built the 11-story U.S. Grant Hotel now situated in San Diego’s Gaslamp District in honor of his father, Civil War hero and 18th U.S. president. The 437-room luxury hotel opened to great fanfare in 1910 with an Italian marble grand staircase with carved alabaster handrail, a ninth-floor ballroom that could host 1,200 people, and two rooftop terraces. During U.S. Prohibition, the Bivouac Grill became the city’s most popular speakeasy, the Plata Real Club. During that time, the Italianate Ballroom was built with travertine floors and a hand-painted ceiling. In the 1930s, a radio tower was installed on the roof and Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast one of his first “fireside chats” from the hotel. FDR is among 14 U.S. presidents to visit the hotel. Over $130 million in renovations in recent decades saved the grand dame of San Diego from the wrecking ball and restored its original splendor.
5. Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco
The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel opened in 1926 on Nob Hill, adjacent to the iconic Fairmont Hotel that opened in 1907. The hotel’s namesake, among the founders of the Southern Pacific Railroad, built a 40-room mansion at the site that was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In 1939, owner George Smith created quite a stir around town when he converted the 19th floor’s 11-room penthouse into a glass-walled cocktail lounge that came to be known as the Top of the Mark. It was an instant hit with its sweeping views of the city and bay. The opulent, 391-room hotel has hosted five U.S. presidents and world statesmen like Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and French General Charles de Gaulle. Celebrities from Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson and Liz Taylor also have stayed at the landmark hotel, which received a multi-million-dollar restoration in 2002.
4. The Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles
The Beverly Hilton is as much Hollywood royalty as the countless movie stars that have passed through its doors since hotelier Conrad Hilton opened the landmark in 1955. The 569-room hotel’s International Ballroom has hosted the Golden Globes for over 50 years. It also hosts the Oscar Nominee Luncheon and the Pre-Grammy Gala. Its famed Aqua Star Pool is Beverly Hills’ largest heated hotel pool and the site of numerous film shoots. Actress Angelina Jolie celebrated winning her second Golden Globe by jumping into the iconic pool, and the hotel has 36 poolside Cabana Rooms with a tropical theme. Trader Vic’s Lounge is equally famous as a legendary Hollywood watering hole for generations. Located at the iconic corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, the Hilton has 101 suites including nine luxurious private suites that comprise its Penthouse Collection.
3. Queen Mary, Long Beach
Hotels come in all shapes and sizes these days, including ocean liners. Cunard spared no expense when it built the Queen Mary luxury liner in 1936. Now considered one of the world’s best examples of Art Deco design, the lovely lady sailed the high seas in style until 1967. During her time at sea, she hosted celebrities like Bob Hope and Clark Gable and even royalty like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. During World War II, the Queen Mary was transformed into a military transport vessel that was capable of shipping up to 16,000 troops. Today, she is permanently docked in Long Beach as a floating hotel and events center. Guests can stay in one of 346 original staterooms and suites, and its restaurants are open to the general public. Notorious for its paranormal activity, the Queen Mary hosts twilight tours that celebrate the ship’s ghostly guests.
2. Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles
Affectionately known as the pink palace, the Beverly Hills Hotel has been an L.A. institution since opening over 100 years ago. Located on iconic Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills, the circa 1912 hotel supposedly inspired the Eagles’ smash hit song, “Hotel California.” Its Polo Lounge has been the scene of breakfasts, lunches, and cocktails among Hollywood power brokers for generations. Its Sunday brunch remains one of the top places to see and be seen in Hollywood. The hotel’s 208 guestrooms include 23 bungalows located in its 12 acres of lush tropical gardens. Some of the bungalows have up to four bedrooms, fireplaces, and private garden patios. Liz Taylor honeymooned with six of her eight husbands in these bungalows, which also have hosted Marilyn Monroe and other top stars. The Fountain Coffee Room first opened in the 1940s and still features a vintage soda fountain.
1. The Inn at Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park
The remote Inn at Furnace Creek is located in Death Valley National Park, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. Opened in 1927, the Inn is a spectacular architectural masterpiece of stonework that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open from mid-October to mid-May, the Inn features spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking, tennis, spa treatments, and golf at the world’s lowest course (214 feet below sea level) that first opened in 1931. The Pool Bungalow rooms are located adjacent to the two pools and feature great views of the Death Valley desert and surrounding Funeral Mountains. The Inn’s fine-dining restaurant adheres to a resort attire dress code and serves a classic Sunday brunch and high tea. The scant fall rains bring an explosion of wildflowers to the desert floor, making it an especially good time to visit. The resort’s website posts updates on wildflowers during the season.
When you hear ‘urban park’ and ‘America’ in the same sentence, one immediately thinks of Central Park in NYC, but it may surprise you to learn that all over America there are incredible urban parks. Parks play a key role in making a city desirable for both visitors and locals and it explains why cities are investing more and more money into them. From trapeze lessons on Governor’s Island to the impressive San Diego Zoo located in Balboa Park to parks that host awesome parties and festivals, here are seven urban parks that make these cities even more attractive to both live and visit.
7. Grant Park, Chicago
It is refereed to as Chicago’s “Front Yard”, a 319-acre public park that includes many notable features including Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and Buckingham Fountain. As well this park happens to be the site of three world-class museums, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, performance venues, gardens and sculptures. The beautiful lakefront recreation center, Maggie Daley Park opened in 2014 as well as the ice skating ribbon, a skating experience unlike any other that winds its way through a rolling landscape with a city skyline as a backdrop. It is also home to the famous shiny reflective bean shaped sculpture that has become both a city icon and popular photo-op.
6. Schenley Park, Pittsburgh
This beautiful park is worth a visit anytime of the year, but especially in the summertime where free movies play on Flagstaff Hill, or during the fall where the leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red. There are enough sports for everyone here, from the 13 tennis courts to the soccer field to the running track, high-jump area to the 18-hole Frisbee golf course. Visitors can also choose to take it slow, wander through the Phipps Conservatory and gaze at the rare miniature orchids or the primitive tree ferns. The free Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix also takes place here during July and 150 sports cars navigate 23 turns around the parks Paddock Drive, while some 200,000 visitors cheer them on.
5. Balboa Park, San Diego
Sitting at just over 1,200 acres, this stunning park packs in more attractions than you could possibly visit in just one day, including the Tony Award-winning Old Glove theatre. It is here where visitors will find the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Museum of Art, numerous hiking and biking trails, a handful of playgrounds and more. There are a ton of restaurants to choose from here including tea pavilions, cafes, grills and pubs. Overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean and including buildings so stunning they have been used in movies and television shows, consider yourself lucky if you happen to have this incredible urban park as your backyard.
4. Encanto Park, Phoenix
This 222-acre oasis lies just a few blocks from the busy central corridor and features awesome picnic areas, a lagoon, boat house, swimming pool and more. Rent a paddle boat or canoe and enjoy the lagoon along with the opportunity for fishing and observing ducks. One of the best attractions here is the Enchanted Island Amusement Park, a park that features a ton of rides and activities for the whole family. There are a ton of free things to do as well here such as rollerblading along the paved trails, getting in a good workout at the exercise field, check out Art in Park or toss a Frisbee around in one of many green spaces.
3. Discovery Green Park, Houston
This downtown paradise was made when the city decided to tear up numerous concrete parking lots and turn this otherwise unattractive part of the city into Discovery Green Park. This 12-acre park features awesome amenities such as a man-made lawn, 12-foot high arcing water jets, rolling green lawns and fine dining restaurants. Throughout the year numerous wacky competitions take place here, along with the dog jumping competitions and free classes. During the winter an amazing ice skating rink is open to the public as well as a field of lights, an awe-inspiring art installation that shines against the dark sky. Playgrounds, stages, trails, art installations, gardens, reading rooms and other awesome surprises await visitors at this awesome urban park.
2. Governors Island, New York City
This former military base off the tip of lower Manhattan has been turned into an amazing urban park, offering visitors and locals of NYC a second choice in awesome parks. It is here where you will find electric arts, food events and even a sandy beach to hang out at. Get here by taking the free ferry ride from Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building or take the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, which offers stunning views of the skyline and State of Liberty. Circus nerds will go nuts over the trapeze lessons that are offered on the weekends and music fans unite to rock out to some incredible waterfront concerts. The island is car-free so many choose to rent bikes and cycle around, go on Fridays between May and October and even get your bike for free!
1. City Park, New Orleans
This park is as magical and historical as the city of New Orleans itself, boasting the largest collection of mature live oaks in the world. These sculptural-looking marvels include some that have their branches spread out twice as wide as their height (up to 75ft)! There are way too many things in this park to mention, but some of the most notable include the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Big Lake, Art and Sculpture Garden, City Splash and numerous playgrounds and sports fields. Summertime brings genteel parties complete with mint juleps and performances at the Botanical Gardens and live bands at the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon. Enjoy the 18-hole golf course, the famous antique carousel and the beautiful Couturier Forest.
Surfing is truly a year round sport, especially with the advances in wetsuit technology, making it easier than ever to stay warm and surf any temperature of water. Surfing is challenging enough on its own, but throw in huge winter swells and this sport becomes even more exciting. From the warm waters of Hawaii to the especially cold waters of Canada, these 7 places are the ultimate for winter surfing. Some of these beaches have waves meant for the experts while others are good for all levels, but they all have one thing in common, they are absolutely awesome in the wintertime.
7. Black’s Beach, California
Black Beach is a two-mile long beach that is perfect for winter surfing. On the southern edge of this beach is where you will find the best waves. The reason this beach puts out such good waves is that it sucks in north swells and manages to spit out A-frames and shimmering walls. Local surfers flock to this beach but it is well worth the walk down the trail to catch a few of these epic waves. Make sure you bundle up in that wetsuit as the water in the wintertime is quite chilly. If you look high above on the cliff tops you can be sure to spot some resident peregrine falcons.
6. Hanalei Beach, Hawaii
This two-mile long beach in Hawaii boasts white sands and an incredible background of mountains and lush green vegetation. It is known not just as a romantic beach but also a surfer’s paradise. From September to May is the best time to head to this beach as the current is sturdy and the waves break right on the beach. A sand bottom makes this beach is even more appealing to surfers. Make sure you are an experienced surfer as the strong current and huge waves in the wintertime can be dangerous for beginners. The nice thing about surfing in Hawaii is the year round warm water temperatures and weather.
5. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
The north shore has been called Europe’s answer to Hawaii and surfing in the winter has been happening here for years and years. Locals call Fuerteventura “the Rock” but unlike the sand on most of the other Canary Islands which is black, the sand here is a charming pale yellow. The sun often shines all day in the wintertime here and the water is a sparkling royal blue. Surfers head to Playa Morro to ride long gentle waves into shore in the bath-warm water. For a bigger wave head to Playa Cotillo where the waves descend onto the shores with a deafening crash, or head to the famous Acid Drop or the Bubble, two north shore breaks that make this island famous. There are plenty of accommodations, delicious places to eat and more than enough helpful locals to point you in the right direction of the best winter waves.
4. Morocco, Africa
The best time for surfing, hands down, in Morocco is the wintertime. From September to April you will find bigger swells and mild weather, the perfect combination. The waves here generally break over flat rock and sand with great point breaks and surfers come from all over the world to experience these waters. Boilers is Morocco’s most challenging surf spot, named after the boiler of a shipwreck that can be seen as the waves form. This awe-inspiring surf spot is meant for experienced surfers only, especially in the winter with those big swells. Anchor Point on the other hand is known for its consistent waves at all tide and waves normally start at 3 feet and can reach up to 15 feet. There is no better time to experience the famous right hands than the wintertime in Northern Africa.
3. Tofino, British Columbia, Canada
It is here where you will find 35 km’s of surf-able beach breaks, perfect for beginners or experts, although big winter storms will have beginners watching from shore. Prepare to bundle up when you hit these cold Canadian waters, as you will need a warm wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. Although this is a year round surfing destination with thousands flocking in the summertime to try their hand at this sport, its winter that offers the strongest and most consistent swell. The surfing town of Tofino has an array of shops, places to eat and off-the-wall accommodations. Most surfers head to Long Beach where 16 km’s of sand await any level of surfer. Chesterman Beach is also a popular hot spot, located just 8 minutes from Central Tofino and offers one of the best beginner breaks in North America. As for the cold, you hardly notice it when you are zipping along some of the best winter waves in the world.
2. Baja, Mexico
Baja can be divided into two major surf regions; Northern Baja and Southern Baja with both offering excellent winter surfing. If you want the really big swell though, you will head to Northern Baja, but be prepared to bundle up. It’s much colder up here and its not uncommon to need a full wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. The Northern area is also where you will find great breaks without big crowds, although some of the areas have become more developed with vacation homes and rentals. Head to San Miguel for some of the best winter waves, although surfers need to be aware of sea urchins and sharp rock bottom. For some of the biggest waves in the Pacific during the winter head to Todos Santos (The Killers), an island accessible by boat or Jet Ski. There are a variety of breaks around the island including Killers, one of the original big break surfing spots. You won’t find many beginners here, just great waves and great surfers.
1. Maine, USA
The water is never particularly warm in this state but that doesn’t stop surfers from flocking here in the winter months. You won’t get the towering swells of Pacific hot spots but you will get unspoiled landscapes, desolate waters, a tight community of local surfers and consistent surf-able waves. Beginners and vets often head to Long Sands Beach, which offers a clean beach with waves breaking over a sandbar. Some of the biggest waves in the state are located at the exposed beach called Higgins Beach. It here where fifteen-foot swells are not unheard of and there are a few rocks to watch out for, so beginners should be very cautious. In the summer this beach is actually closed during the day to surfers so this remains a popular winter surfing destination.
The world’s population is rapidly aging and this is having an impact on global business and tourism as companies are slowly starting to realize that accessibility is not just an issue that must be addressed for those with a disability. It’s a real issue that many grey nomads are putting some extra thought into before booking their next vacation. Lonely Planet agrees that with an aging baby boomer population that isn’t willing to slow down when it comes to travel, accessibility is becoming paramount. With this in mind they’ve put together this list of the most accessible vacation destinations for 2016:
10. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Snowbirds love to head south in the winter, and mexico is a popular winter destination for many including those over the age of 65. Playa del Carmen is only an hour away from Cancun airport but it’s a far cry from the lively Spring Break destination city. Accessible hotels are available and the beach is also easy to navigate with the help of special beach wheelchairs and even special equipment to help you snorkel, even if you can’t swim.
9. Barcelona, Spain
The tourism agencies of Spain and especially the Catalonia region have been pushing the importance of accessible tourism for quite some time now. As a result, 80 per cent of metro stations and 100 per cent of public buses are wheelchair accessible. And unlike many old historic cities, the old town of Barcelona is cobblestone free reducing the risks of trip and falls and making it easier for those with walkers and wheelchairs.
8. Galápagos and Amazonia, Ecuador
After watching these nature-centric destinations on programs like Planet Earth, they may not seem like an option for those with mobility issues, however they’re a lot closer in reach thanks to Lenín Moreno, a paraplegic who was the vice president of Ecuador from 2006-2013. Moreno’s work is responsible for the inroads in accessibility in this largely inaccessible continent.
7. Sicily, Italy
When one thinks of Italy, images of cobblestone streets and elevated countryside usually come to mind -not exactly the picture of accessibility. But Lonely Planet says Sicily is breaking new ground on this front and is home to a tactile museum and Europe’s only sensorial botanic garden. Two Guinness world records have also been set here by people with disabilities; the first paraplegic to dive to 59m and first blind woman to dive to 41m.
6. Manchester, England
Although Manchester is indeed an old city, much of the central business district was rebuilt in the late 1900s. The result is a city with wide, smooth pavements and many shopfronts, bars and restaurants that are completely step free. Perfect for those with reduced mobility. The city’s public transit is also wheelchair friendly and offers service to just about anywhere you’d want to get to in the city.
5. Melbourne, Australia
The city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia has been called the ‘best in the world’ for a lot of things, but it can now add ‘most accessible’ to that list as well. The city’s highly accessible public transit has received global praise and the compact central city core helps earn the city’s status as one of the most accessible cities in the world. Lonely Planet even has a guidebook dedicated to the subject titled ‘Accessible Melbourne.’
4. Ljubljana, Slovenia
The capital city of Slovenia is relatively flat, a fact that many aging travelers will appreciate. It’s also equipped with highly accessible public transit which features audio and video stop announcements on buses (because there’s nothing worse than missing your stop!) The main attraction of the city is the 16th century Ljubljana Castle, and while you wouldn’t expect anything built in the 16th century to be accessible, the castle is actually wheelchair accessible.
Singapore is arguably the most accessible city in Asia and one of the most overall accessible in the whole world. You’ll find stepless access to most buildings and an endless supply of curb cuts to make sure there are no barriers for those in wheelchairs. The city’s mass rail transit (MRT) and buses are also designed for the visually and motor impaired, making this city one were there are essentially no limitations.
2. San Diego, USA
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (which just celebrated its 25th anniversary) most of the United States is very accessible, but Lonely Planet picked San Diego, California as a standout in its class. The city is easy to get around with a fairly flat grid system and public transit is easy with a fully accessible tram system. The most notable feature is the miles long beachfront promenade which offers beach wheelchairs to those who need them.
1. Vienna, Austria
Like Manchester but perhaps even richer in history, Vienna is a historic city that’s been refurbished to meet modern day demands. Unlike many old European cities, its cobblestones have been removed as have many curbs and central shops, cafes and restaurants are wheelchair friendly. One of the city’s most notable attractions, the Schloss Schönbrunn is fully accessible making it a must-see for everyone, no matter your age.
San Diego is one of the best places in the United States to experience outdoor activities any time of the year. With so much scenic variety, the hiking trails in this city offer ocean, desert, meadow, canyon, and mountain views. While some hiking trails are more internationally known than others, locals who hike in the area have some clear favorites. Take it from a group of people who know a good hike when they finish one, and check out these 12 hikes that local San Diegans frequent. Your rock-hard quadriceps and nature-loving spirit will thank you.
12. Lake Miramar
Near the Marine Corps base in Miramar there’s a great 4.9-mile path around Lake Miramar. The trail is a paved loop that follows the lake pretty closely, crossing a reservoir dam. The path also offers distance markers every quarter-mile, but many hikers pay them no mind and instead enjoy picturesque views of the lake and the flora and fauna in the area. The path provides a leisurely hike or run, and is also pretty popular for bikes, dogs, and strollers, too. Start at the parking lot off Scripps Lake Drive, and enjoy this gem of a loop for a few hours.
11. Grasslands Loop
Hundreds of years ago, Father Junipero Serra blazed a holy trail along the California coastline, building missions as he went. His path is now traversed by modern trail-blazing adventurers who are looking for a leisurely San Diego hike. The 1.75 miles of the trail are perfect for a stroll or even for a beginner’s trail run. The path is wide with a smooth dirt running surface. Enjoy scenery to the tune of abundant wildflowers in the spring and green rolling hills. The trailhead is located just off Mission Gorge Road on the Father Junipero Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park.
10. Coast to Crest Trails
Located along Interstate 15 between Escondido and Rancho Bernardo in North San Diego County, Lake Hodges is the centerpiece of the West Bernardo Bike Path and San Dieguito River Park trails. All-in-all, there are over 55 miles of hiking trails that can be accessed from the lake, connected by one bridge that spans 990 feet over Lake Hodges. All together, this intricate web of trails is called the Coast to Crest system, and runs from the Pacific Crest Trail to the ocean. Some of San Diegans favorites are the Piedras Pintadas, Highland Valley, Crest Canyon, and North Shore trails. Most trails are unpaved and range from narrow to wide, providing a variety of difficulty levels for hikers of all types.
9. Torrey Pines
There are only a handful of trails that offer incredible ocean and cliff views like Torey Pines with several route options to take, including the Razor Point Trail and the Guy Fleming Trail. The scenery includes coastal badland bluffs, coastal chaparral, and mesa top, and all trails bring you just feet from sweeping cliffs that allow nature-lovers to watch the crashing surf below. Plus, hikers who finish up in the evening will be treated to heavenly sunsets among the rarest tree species in North America: the Torrey Pine. To access the trail, hikers can park at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserving parking lot on North Torrey Pines Road for $10 and walk to several trailheads.
8. Los Penasquitos Waterfall Trail
This versatile trail is located on the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, which includes 4,000 acres of canyons, more than 500 plant species, and at least 175 types of birds. While the trail is mostly flat, the heat in East San Diego makes the route challenging, especially for hikers or runners who accomplish the entire trail, a hefty 10 mile loop. Luckily, the trail is well-shaded and circles a small creek, making it the perfect location for deer and other critter sightings. Plus, there are five opportunities to cross the creek to cut the route short, and the Los Penasquitos Waterfall is the perfect place to simply turn around and head back for a six mile total loop.
7. Palomar Observatory
Palomar Mountain is one of the highest points in San Diego, and it’s well away from the lights and bustle of the city. That’s why it’s perfect for an observatory. As it happens, that’s also what makes it a great place to hike. Palomar Mountain is where many young San Diegans went to Girl Scout camp, but it’s had a makeover in more recent years. The trailhead is located off of Canfield Road and access is granted to those who pony up $5 for a Forest Service Adventure Pass. The trail is well-maintained and the reward for mounting the summit is two-fold: spectacular views of surrounding San Diego County and a chance to check out the observatory between 9 am and 3 pm.
6. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
With over 100 miles of mostly moderate trails, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park can’t be fully explored in one visit. There’s so much to see here, like mountains that climb to over 6,000 feet above sea level, hidden waterfalls, and peaceful meadows. Many outdoorsmen and women begin their adventure with the 3.5-mile climb up to Cuyamaca peak via Lookout Fire Road. At the top, satisfied hikers can enjoy views stretching from the Salton Sea all the way south to Mexico. Another popular trail is Harvey Moore, a nine mile trail that begins at Sweetwater River Bridge. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is located just off State Route 79 north of Interstate 8.
5. Iron Mountain
When San Diegans want a challenging day hike that builds quadriceps of iron, they look to Iron Mountain. The trailhead is located at the intersection of Poway Road and Highway 67. This is a very popular trail, but there’s with plenty of parking. The hike begins at a wooden gate and leads hikers under shady trees before climbing slowly and steadily to a height of 2696 feet. On the way, hikers enjoy exotic-looking rock outcroppings, meadows, and spectacular views of Ramona. Once at the summit, hikers can choose to return to the trailhead by turning around and backtracking for a total of 6.6 miles, or they can continue on a longer loop back to their cars for a total of 9.5 miles.
4. Mount Woodson
There’s a fun phenomenon floating around the Facebook pages of outdoorsy-types in San Diego. The phenomenon is a photo of a person standing on a treacherous-looking rock formation called Potato Chip Rock. This incredible example of geology is the satisfying reward for climbing Mount Woodson, along with scenic, far-reaching views of Poway, the lake, and surrounding mountains. This hike is definitely all about the journey and not the destination, because the summit is a bit anti-climactic after all that. Instead, many hikers take the turnoff to the left just before the summit to celebrate their achievement in serenity. This trail is 6.4 miles round-trip, and just one of many that surround Lake Poway.
3. El Capitan
One of the most challenging hikes in all of San Diego, El Capitan winds dedicated adventurers through 11.2 miles of steep, dusty trails, often in the baking hot California sun. The trailhead is located off of Wildcat Canyon Road and winds through the El Capitan Preserve. It is closed in August due to extreme heat conditions that make hiking dangerous. While the length contributes to this trail’s difficulty, it’s the constant up and down that makes this trail truly “uphill both ways.” There’s even a false summit that fools many first-timers into thinking they’ve made it. Adventurers who truly go the distance, however, will be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of San Diego County.
2. Pacific Crest Trail
The entire Pacific Crest Trail stretches a whopping 2,650 miles from near the California/Mexico Border, across the Mojave desert, along the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and on up into Canada. Along with its sibling, the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern U.S., The Pacific Crest Trail is on the bucket list of many serious hikers, but only a select few make it the whole way all at once. San Diegans training for the full, month’s-long backpacking trip or who just want a taste of this epic trail can jump on the two mile section between Penny Pines Monument and Garnet Park for just a half day of adventure. Moon-like landscapes and 1,000-foot drops are abundant here, as are wind and snowstorms in winter months, so adventurers should plan accordingly.
1. Balboa Park
Built in 1915 for the world’s fair, Balboa Park has stood the test of time and now most of the buildings house some of San Diego’s best museums. The park also has plenty of open spaces to enjoy nature, as well as a host of hiking and running trails that crisscross the park and weave in and out between shady, wooded areas and downtown sidewalks. For an easy, family-friendly path, try Trail #4 starting at 6th Avenue and Upas Street. At this same starting point, you can also pick up Trail #5, which is considerably more difficult with steep inclines and dirt paths that wind through Florida Canyon. Or, for beginning hikers, Trail #1 is a little less traveled and feels like the great outdoors right in Downtown San Diego’s backyard.
Imagine drifting off to sleep while a shark silently stalks above you, or a school of colorful fish dart in and out of coral, all while you are safely tucked into your warm sleeping bag, next to your kids, or a loved one. Aquariums around the world are taking experiences to a new level by offering a variety of overnight experiences. These sleepovers allow guests to explore the aquarium after dark, learn more about the marine life that live there and have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and participate in feedings and cleanings. From Toronto to California to South Africa, here are 10 awesome overnight aquarium experiences.
10. Vancouver Aquarium -Vancouver, BC
Spending a night at the Vancouver Aquarium is like no other in Canada, and offers visitors an exciting opportunity to go behind the scenes in their marine lab. Visitors on one of these sleepovers will have the opportunity to touch local invertebrates including live sea stars, anemones, sea urchins and more. Visitors can choose from different sleepovers including a family night where participants embark in a variety of activities, presentations and tours. They also offer an incredible Valentine’s night sleepover for the romantic couple that wants to create unique memories. A three course plated dinner, a presentation on the sex lives of sea animals and a behind the scenes tour is included with this sleepover. Fall asleep in the Arctic Canada underwater gallery to sights of the majestic beluga whales swimming right in front of your eyes in this awesome Canadian aquarium sleepover experience.
9. Georgia Aquarium -Atlanta, GA
Sleeping at the aquarium doesn’t have to be just for kids as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta offers adults-only nights, along with a variety of family themed nights. The family nights are recommended for ages seven and up and include a variety of activities and behind-the-scenes tours, specifically focusing on whales and sharks. The adults-only sleepovers here are hugely popular and for good reason. The behind-the-scenes tours, gallery tours, activities and events that the aquarium plans for adults gives you a once in a lifetime chance to get up close and personal with the marine animals. Dinner, snacks, a 4-D movie and more are all included here. Make sure to spend the next day talking in the dolphin show and exploring the aquarium during daytime hours.
8. Maui Ocean Center -Wailuku, HI
The aquarium here is an exciting place to be after dark as the creatures that normally hide during daylight hours make their debut, while others seem to disappear right before your eyes. The sleep with the shark sleepover at the Maui Ocean Center offers a total hands-on experience complete with fun activities, education, crafts and a movie. Watch as the sharks behavior changes from day to night, learn more about the marine animals and even have the chance to help an ocean naturalist feed the turtles and rays. This sleepover program is offered to anyone ages six to 13, accompanied by an adult. When you are all tuckered out from a fun-filled night, curl up in your sleeping bag and watch the Open Ocean show of the mesmerizing Sea Jelly exhibit. This program is one of the most hands-on sleepovers and promises to delight visitors of all ages.
7. Two Oceans Aquarium -Cape Town, South Africa
Not anyone can spend the night at this aquarium, but if you happen to be a member, part of an educational group or want to hold your child’s birthday party here; you will have access to a pretty awesome sleepover aquarium experience. The aquarium closes to the public at 6 pm, which allows sleepover guests plenty of time to explore the aquarium after dark. A kid-friendly dinner, a ton of planned activities, movies and more await guests here. Exhibits include the penguin exhibit, Indian Ocean gallery, touch pools, Atlantic Ocean gallery, predator exhibit and more. Birthday parties are perhaps the most popular sleepovers here, an experience your child will never forget. They happen to be best for children aged eight to 12.
6. Aquarium of the Pacific -Long Beach, CA
Grab your sleeping bag and prepare for the ultimate family adventure at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California. This is one of the best sleepovers if you are looking for the most hands-on activities. Sleepover guests will embark on an awesome scavenger hunt with the whole family as well as have a pizza dinner, guaranteed to make every kid happy. Next up guests are encouraged to pet marine animals such as sharks, sea stars and sea jellies. You can even help participate in a fish feeding. A light snack before bed and the chance to paint your own souvenir t-shirt is also included with this experience. These themed overnights do fill up quickly and are normally offered in the summer, winter and Halloween; all complete with a different theme. These sleepovers also happen to be one of the most budget friendly on our list.
5. Newport Aquarium -Newport, KY
This awesome overnight experience is something not to miss if you are in the Newport Area. First up, children and adults of all ages are welcome although they do recommend children be at least 6 years old. Each group of children must be accompanied by an adult and there will be no shortage of fun activities to keep everyone entertained all night long. Along with backstage animal experiences and encounters, sleepover guests will get guided tours, help with tank feedings and enjoy either a shark or penguin presentation. The sleeping areas include Shark Tunnel (our personal favorite), Jellyfish Gallery or Coral Tunnel. An evening snack and breakfast is included, as is admission to the aquarium the next day. At just $49 per person, this is an amazing price to check out what happens after dark at this ultra cool aquarium.
4. SeaWorld -San Diego, CA and San Antonio, TX
For any animal lover ages four to 14, with an adult chaperone, a family sleepover at SeaWorld might just be the most unforgettable and exciting night of your life. Your event begins at 5:45 pm where guests will be invited to check in and eat a delicious pasta dinner. Following that are a multitude of animal encounters and fun and educational activities. Bedtime ranges between 10 pm to midnight and sleepover guests are encouraged to explore SeaWorld the entire next day, as admission is included. Kids also love the fact that they get a souvenir SeaWorld sleepover t-shirt to take home. If you happen to take the kids to SeaWorld San Antonio, try to visit during the Christmas season and stay overnight at the South Pole with the penguin encounter. Nothing says Merry Christmas than waking up to these cheerful creatures. Whichever experience you decide to try, you won’t be disappointed at SeaWorld.
3. Monterey Bay Aquarium -Monterey Bay, CA
Seashore sleepovers at this aquarium offer animal loves the chance to experience the aquarium after hours, even choosing to sleep next to your favorite exhibit. Check in begins at 6 pm and sleeping areas are first come first serve, which means you best come early to get the sleeping area you want. The doors close at 8 pm to the general public and that is truly when the adventure begins. Special programming throughout the night means you won’t ever be bored and participants can choose to explore the aquarium on their own or participate in one of the many activities. A light evening snack is offered and bedtime is between 10:30 pm and 11 pm. In the morning have a continental breakfast in the café and spend the rest of the day exploring the aquarium by daylight.
2. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada -Toronto, ON
Let’s talk facts; this aquarium features over 16,000 animals, North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel and more than 100 interactive exhibits, including three touch exhibits featuring horseshoe crabs, sharks and rays. What makes this aquarium even better, which we didn’t think was possible, is there shark sleepovers. Yes we said shark sleepovers. Visitors are invited throughout the year to curl up under the famous shark tank and sleep under the watchful eyes of the scary sharks that swim overhead. Included in this experience is admission to the aquarium in the evening and the next day, a take home activity in the classroom and a late night snack plus breakfast. The aquarium does remain open to the general public until 11 pm on the night of the sleepover but rest assured you will be the only ones that get to experience the overnight in the dangerous lagoon tunnel, packed full of sand tiger sharks, roughtail stingrays and green sea turtles.
1. National Aquarium in Baltimore -Baltimore, MD
It is no surprise that this impressive aquarium boasts two awesome sleepovers for anyone over the age of eight. Visitors here can choose to sleepover with the dolphins or the sharks, each offering unique programming. For dolphin lovers the evening begins with a talk from the marine mammal team where you will get to know the dolphins and discover how they learn and play. From there, a kid-friendly dinner is served and you are off to experience the 4-D immersion films, explore the aquarium after dark and discover the behind-the-scenes area with expert guides. Fall asleep in one of the underwater viewing areas and in the morning help wake the dolphins up with an exclusive enrichment session. If you choose to sleep with the sharks, expect much of the same experiences; only substitute the dolphin with the shark. A once in a lifetime opportunity awaits you here at this awesome aquarium.
We all know that kids love spending time at the zoo but did you know you can take things one step further and actually spend the night there? And hey, this experience isn’t just for kids. Many zoos all over the world are opening their doors after dark and are giving visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals. From bring your own tent events to luxury lodges to sleeping beside the sea lions; here are 10 awesome zoos where you can spend the night.
10. Zoo Miami -Miami, FL
Zoo Miami, formerly known as Miami MetroZoo has a tragic past. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy dumped over three feet of water onto the zoo and killed 25 animals. Then in 1992 Hurricane Andrew came in and destroyed 5,000 trees, the 1.5 acre aviary and all of its inhabitants. The zoo has worked hard over the past decade to restore it and one of the ways they have made themselves unforgettable is their sleepovers they offer. The best they offer is perhaps their Annual Big Cat-Nap Campout. This special once a year sleepover invites families to pitch their own tents in the grasslands for a real camping experience, complete with sounds effects provided by the very real zoo animals nearby. A favorite for kids and adults, make sure your kids are at least 6 years old and pre-register as this event is known to sell out fast!
9. Zoo Atlanta -Atlanta, GA
Zoo Atlanta is one of the best in terms of offering an abundance of overnight programs. Whether you want to bring 10 kids for a birthday party or want to have a family sleepover; this is the zoo for you. For families there are two options for overnights. The first is to pick one of their theme nights, pack up your sleeping bag and join the fun as you have awesome animal encounters, themed games, a scavenger hunt, breakfast and private guided tour of the zoo. The second option is to join one of the deluxe family nights where you will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and actually feed the zoo residents. If you want to leave the kids at home, Zoo Atlanta offers an adult-only group experience where you and 10 of your friends get together for an epic after hours scavenger hunt that lasts throughout the night.
8. Zoofari Slumber, Nashville Zoo -Nashville, TN
The Zoofari Slumber at Nashville Zoo allows anyone over the age of 4 to camp out overnight, specifically recommended for families with children aged 4-12. This is a bring your own tent experience that requires families to pack everything they would normally take camping, including camp food, chairs and musical instruments. A variety of activities awaits families here including hayrides, inflatable castles, animal shows and crafts. The evening hot dog and marshmallow roast is always a hit for the kids, as is the campfire songs. A full breakfast is served in the mornings. Sleeping under the start just a short ways from the snoozing animals, content in your own tent is something every Nashville family should experience.
7. Overnight Safari at the Bronx Zoo -The Bronx, NY
The overnight safari series at The Bronx Zoo sells out year after year so if you are planning on snoozing with the snow leopards, we suggest you register early. Children 5 and older are welcome at these fun nights where you will bring your own tents, sleeping bags and picnic dinners. It is more like a summer camp experience packed all into one night here as the experience starts at 4pm and the zoo fills your night with never ending activities. From the classroom where animals are brought in to the scavenger hunts and activities that are planned, there is never a dull moment until the 10pm bedtime. The campsite is located between the Monkey House and the Sea Lion Tank, promising that the barking sea lions will wake you up in the morning. Plenty of snacks are provided, admission to the zoo the next day and a whole bunch of surprises await you at this overnight safari.
6. Snore and Roar, Smithsonian National Zoological Park -Washington, DC
It is the best way to see the animals of the Smithsonian Zoological Park after hours and have the entire park to yourself, as well as falling asleep to the sounds of wolves howling. Your tent will be perched on Lion/Tiger Hill and the overnight experience begins with a keeper-led tour of the exhibits. There is a maximum of 12 participants on each of these sleepovers so it’s suggested you book early. Both of the family options and the adults-only nights offer games, activities and breakfast. Each overnight experience is catered to a different area of the zoo, from reptiles to cheetahs to small mammals. Expect wine and cheese on the adults only nights and more family geared activities on the family nights, perfect for ages 6 to teen. Whatever experience you choose, this is one zoo that lets you get up close and personal with the animals of your choice at one of the best zoos in the world.
5. Adult Overnights at the Philadelphia Zoo -Philadelphia, PA
Leave the kiddos at home on one of these adults-only overnights at the Philadelphia Zoo. You have to 21 and over to attend this event and prepare to indulge in some happy hour drinks starting at 6:30pm. What you will get on these overnights is a behind the scenes experience, up-close encounters with the animals, an after-dark tour of the zoo, meet and greats with the zoo experts and a light dinner. There are a couple different options for adults overnights, including a throwback to summer camp bring your own tent option and a haunted overnight where you will sleep in the historic treehouse. The next morning breakfast is served and you will experience the opening of the zoo alongside the workers, while visiting some adorable baby animals. An awesome night complete with beer, animals and ghost stories; you couldn’t ask for a better zoo experience.
4. Serengeti Bush Camp, Toronto Zoo -Toronto, Canada
You won’t have to bring your own tent to sleep here, nor will you be stuck inside a building. The Toronto Zoo offers something really unique at its overnights. Spend the night in an authentic African Tent, complete with cots as you experience the African Savanna. Activities are in abundance during the experience and include a walking tour of the African Savanna and interactive adventure at the African Rainforest Pavilion. Dinner is served at the Simba Safari Restaurant which overlooks the white rhino and zebra exhibits, as the sun sets in the background. There are a number of programs here including an adults-only night and a night for families with kids younger than 5; all planned with age appropriate activities. This VIP experience is once in a lifetime and you will truly feel as you sleeping in the middle of Africa, amongst the animals.
3. Roar and Snore Safari, San Diego Zoo Safari Park -San Diego, CA
It is quite possible you will fall asleep to lions roaring and elephants trumping at this overnight safari experience at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. From February to November, you can combine the thrill of camping with the excitement of up-close animal encounters at one of the many themed overnights here. The campground, complete with your choice of canvas tent overlooks the 65 acre East Africa enclosure which features such animals as rhinos, giraffes, wildebeest and antelope. As with many of the zoo, this one offers a number of different programs for families with young children, school aged children or adults only. Dinner, snacks, breakfast, crafts, activities and of course animals encounters are all included in the price. If you do feel like splurging try one of the adults-only experiences where you can get up close and personal with more animals than ever, and stay in the premium tents where wood floors, a queen sized bed and electricity await you.
2. Roar and Snore, Taronga Zoo -Sydney, Australia
The unique accommodation site sets this overnight experience apart from the rest. Nestled on the cliff top overlooking the stunning Sydney Harbor on one side, and lions, leopards and meerkats on the other side; Roar and Snore at Taronga Zoo is an extra special overnight experience. In the evening guests are privy to some of the amazing native Australian reptiles as well as the big cats who are most impressive at night. In the mornings are when the cute and furry animals come out to play. The full education experience include close up animal encounters, guided tours of the zoo after dark and behind the scenes experiences. The VIP treatment continues with refreshments, a feast with drinks and beautiful tent accommodations. Think beds, showers and electricity here. The Tarongo Zoo has created an incredible overnight program that should be the envy of many others around the world.
1. Jamala Wildlife Lodge, National Zoo and Aquarium -Canberra, Australia
Australia is at the forefront of delivering exceptional overnight zoo experiences and Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo and Aquarium is a prime example of this. This all-inclusive luxury lodge experience includes overnight accommodation, all beverages and food and a number of animal encounters. Accommodations range from lodge rooms, bungalows and tree houses, each with their own unique animal encounter. How would you like to stay in a bungalow where you can take a bath and look into the lion’s den, or how about being able to feed the giraffe from your balcony? From an amazing dinner party to personal tours to pre-dinner drinks and an afternoon safari; this feels more like a vacation than just a simple overnight experience at a zoo.
There are few things more American than baseball, and there’s little more enjoyable than staking out a spot in the bleachers to bask in the sun while the players get put through their paces. The key, though, is knowing which ballparks are the best for catching a game. It’s not just about which teams are leading their division. Consider which stadiums have the best sightlines to catch all the action, which offer up spectacular views of their surroundings, and which have unique amenities. We’ve considered all these points and come up with a list of the top 10 Major League Baseball stadiums to visit around the country:
10. Kauffman Stadium -Home of the Kansas City Royals
Kauffman Stadium, just outside Kansas City, Missouri is actually one of the oldest in the major leagues, but you’d never guess it was built in 1973 just by looking. Extensive renovations completed in 2009 make this one of the best places to watch a game. Gaze into the outfield to watch the stadium’s signature feature, the magnificent fountains, and enjoy the feeling of being among some of the friendliest fans in the country. And while you’re in Kansas City, take a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which charts the progress of the Negro Leagues and hosts a large collection of artifacts from the period.
9. Safeco Field -Home of the Seattle Mariners
Safeco might have a chance to pull itself higher up the list if the Mariners ever manage to become relevant. But even without any hope of the team challenging in the American League west, Safeco Field remains a beautiful spot to catch a game, particularly on a summer’s evening. Grab a craft beer and a box of sushi, then angle your view toward the Puget Sound for one of Seattle’s gorgeous sunsets. If Seattle’s frequent rain makes this an impossibility, worry not: Safeco Field is one of just two stadiums in the world with a retractable roof, meaning you’ll stay dry no matter the weather.
8. Target Field -Home of the Minnesota Twins
The Twins’ new home, located in downtown Minneapolis, is the newest ballpark in the United States. Even lovers of history won’t miss the crumbling concrete Metrodome, especially once they snuggle up to the fire pits in left field and gaze out over the city skyline. The sightlines are clean and the stadium feels cozy, and because of Target Field’s location, fans can easily walk or take the light rail to the nearby station – especially important after the stadium installed the major leagues’ first self-serve beer stations.
7. Petco Park -Home of the San Diego Padres
Take a stroll through San Diego’s Gaslamp District and you’ll be sure to stumble upon Petco Park. The Padres’ humble home suits the team – a quietly lovely stadium that doesn’t seek to overshadow its neighbors, instead using its stucco façade to blend in. The sightlines are nearly perfect and it’s practically impossible to get stuck with a bad seat. Even sitting in the “Park in the Park” above the outfield isn’t a hardship, especially for just five dollars. Choose to sit in the bleachers instead, and you’ll have a beautiful view out over San Diego Bay and Balboa Park.
6. Fenway Park -Home of the Boston Red Sox
If you’re a fan of any baseball team not named the Red Sox, you’re likely sick of fans in your hometown who’ve hopped on the Boston bandwagon after the team finally won another World Series title in 2004, but hanging out with the diehards at Fenway will give you a whole new appreciation for the team. The fans that routinely sellout the stadium are knowledgeable and devoted to their boys, and thanks to the closeness of the seats, you’ll quickly feel like one of them. The packed-together atmosphere is just part of the stadium’s charm, along with the hand-operated scoreboard and the Green Monster.
5. Busch Stadium -Home of the St. Louis Cardinals
There are few things more quintessentially American than taking in a baseball game at Busch Stadium on a summer’s day. Named after Anheuser-Busch, headquartered in the city, you’ll certainly have a chance to down a few cold lagers. Even better though, is that you might get invited to a tailgate party happening before the game even starts. Then you’ll move into a packed stadium, filled with fans all proudly wearing red, and take in the view of the St. Louis Arch rising above the city skyline. Or you can even stay outside, watching the game from the sidewalk with other like-minded souls.
4. Camden Yards -Home of the Baltimore Orioles
In 1992, Camden Yards forever changed the course of history. The Orioles moved out of Memorial Stadium, a multipurpose arena like so many others used by baseball teams at the time, and into their new retro-chic home. From the brick outside to the incorporation of the old B&O Warehouse in right field to the regional food served on the concourses, Camden Yards was meant to glorify its locale. Other baseball teams followed suit, and almost every stadium built or renovated since the opening of Camden Yards gives a nod to this game changing stadium.
3. PNC Park -Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates
You want to be close to the baseball action? PNC Park is your best bet. This intimate stadium, opened in 2001, boasts that its highest seats are a mere 88 feet from the field, and it certainly has the best sightlines of any major league park. You’ll also get tremendous views of the Pittsburgh skyline’s distinctive architecture, and on game days the Roberto Clemente Bridge is closed to traffic so fans can walk along the Allegheny River to the game. Locals bring their boats and kayaks alongside the stadium, hoping a foul ball will splash into the water nearby.
2. Wrigley Field -Home of the Chicago Cubs
For fans wanting the best old-school atmosphere, nothing beats a day game with the bleacher bums at Wrigley. The park opened in 1914, meaning it’s never seen a Cubs championship, but that doesn’t mean the fans have given up on their home team. Groups congregate on nearby rooftops to watch the games, while kids hope to catch a home run ball out on the sidewalk. The ivy on the outfield walls grows so thick that sometimes players lose a ball they’re chasing, while the enormous scoreboard remains hand-operated. Bypass the seats and put your own bum in the bleachers, where the wonder of Wrigley is best experienced.
1. AT&T Park -Home of the San Francisco Giants
Was it this stadium opened in 2000, that led to the Giants capturing three World Series titles since moving in? Considering they didn’t manage even one championship in the 40 years spent at the drafty dungeon of Candlestick Park, this theory might not be too much of a stretch. Their new home is a gorgeous tribute to their city, from the kayaks waiting to fish balls out of McCovey Cove to the delicious local eats. The giant Coca-Cola bottle, complete with slides, and the enormous glove behind left field add whimsical touches, as does the foghorn that blares each time the Giants hit a home run.