The 10 Wackiest Hotels in The US

Do you ever get tired of checking in to the same old cookie cutter hotels? You know the kind, you can’t tell the difference unless you walk outside and look at the sign. Next time you travel try something a little more fun, in some cases just plain strange and wacky. There are wacky hotels all over the world like the Kumbuk Hotel in Sri Lanka made of grass in the shape of an elephant. If you live in the US you don’t necessarily have to travel across the world to find wacky hotels. We have listed a few a little closer to home.

10. Winvian Farm, Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

Winvian Farm is a 113 acre resort consisting of a major dating to 1775, 18 cottages, a suite and some unusual accommodations. The Hadley Suite is 950 sq. ft. with a wood burning fireplace, Jacuzzi and steam shower while the cottages vary in size and decoration. The room that catches everyone’s eye is the Helicopter Suite. A 1968 Sikorsky Sea King Pelican HH3F helicopter has been fully restored and awaits those eager to spend the night aboard. Your suite comes with pilot and copilot seats along with a few modern updates such as sofa and flat screen TV. Housed in a “hanger” you can sip cocktails while dreaming of flying through the skies. The king size bed site in the hanger next to the helicopter so if you get the urge to play pilot during the night it is only a few steps away.

9. The Shady Dell, Bisbee, Arizona

Step back in time to when things moved a little slower, families took long vacations and if you were lucky you had a sleek trailer in tow so you could set up and enjoy the outdoors with all the comforts. The Shady Dell originally began in 1927 when people traveling needed a place to stop and relax. Today you will find nine vintage travel trailers and a 1947 Chris Craft Yacht restored and available for rent. Trailers come complete with bedding, dishes and coffee maker but cooking is not allowed and no open campfires on the grounds. The park is only open part of the year so check in advance. Oh, one more thing. Unlike when the family cruised down the road with the dog in the back and dad puffing on a Lucky Strike cigarette The Shady Dell has a policy of No Smoking, No Pets and No Children under 15 years of age.

8. Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho

Until 1997 the small town of Cottonwood Idaho had one big thing in town, which was the Monastery of Saint Gertrude. But then Dennis and wife Francis began carving dogs using chainsaws. One thing led to another and Dog Bark Park and Inn opened. It was only natural that the carving got bigger and pretty soon the Inn was built. The Inn is complete with queen size bed, two folding beds in the loft, full bath and continental breakfast featuring home baked pastries and the family’ secret recipe for fruited granola. Pets are allowed, of course, and a shop where you buy the artwork that Dennis and Francis make is on the premises. There is no phone or television so plan on spending the day outside with your pet or take a drive and check out the monastery. No word on whether the monastery allows pets.

7. The Quarters at Presidio La Bahia, Goliad, Texas

Located one mile south of the town of Goliad Texas the Presidio La Bahia was established in 1749 and since 1853 has been owned by the Catholic Church. In the mid 1960’s a major restoration took place and in 1967 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. After the restoration the quarters was used as the residence of the priests and today is rented out to the general public for nightly stays. Located on the west wall of the old presidio the quarters is a two bedroom apartment with three beds. Included are living and dining areas with a fireplace, master bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and shower. Guests can come and go as pleased and take time to explore the mission grounds during their stay. With access via a back door to the mission you can relax in the courtyard, admire the chapel and contemplate history.

6. Kokopelli’s Cave B&B, Farmington, New Mexico

Located in northern New Mexico just outside Farmington you are greeted by the beautiful La Plata River Valley and Kokopelli’s Cave B&B. Carved into the sandstone cliff is a 1700 sq. ft. manmade cave. The cave comes with master bedroom, living area, dining area, kitchen and a bathroom with a waterfall shower and Jacuzzi tub. Being in a cave the temperature stays between 68- 73 degrees year round. The cave also has two porches with sliding glass doors so you can enjoy the views. Since there is an abundance of wildlife no pets are allowed. The cave is 70 feet below the surface and the only way to get there is to embark on a hike then take the trail down to the cave utilizing steps carved into the sandstone. It is probably best not to try and bring lots of luggage, instead pack a backpack.

5. Wigwam Motel, San Bernardino, California

Built in 1949 on historic Route 66 in San Bernardino, The Wigwam Motel saw it’s heyday during the golden age of roadside Americana when gas stations, motels and restaurants were built in shapes to attract the motorists enjoying the newly created highways. Gone are the Barbasol Shaving Cream road side signs and not too many restaurants in the shape of tea kettles still exist but the Wigwam is still standing. Originally there were seven Wigwam Motels spanning Route 66 from Kentucky to California due to an innovative entrepreneur named Frank Redford. Today only three are still intact. One in Kentucky, one in Arizona and Wigwam number 7 in California. The rooms are fairly small but come with free Wi-Fi, a pool and all the atmosphere of days gone by.

4. Cedar Creek Treehouse, Ashford, Washington

If you want to get off the grid and take a break with no crowds then head to the Cedar Creek Treehouse. Located near Mount Rainier National Park the treehouse sits 50 feet up a 200 year old redwood tree. There is also a 100 foot treehouse observatory so you can get an unimpeded view of the surrounding forest and a floating treehouse that are seen by tour which is included in the rental rates. The Treehouse uses solar power, has plenty of windows and comes with a small kitchen, a sleeping loft with futons, dining area and while it has a bathroom there is no shower. With five flights of stairs you don’t need a fitness center but you can go swimming in the nearby creek. There is no restaurant but you are invited to fish for native trout and can cook it up on the campfire. A two night stay is required and the rates are almost as high as the treehouse at $650 for a couple.

3. Liberty Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts

What once was the Charles Street Jail and temporary home of Malcom X, and Sacco & Vanzetti, underwent a $150 million renovation and reopened as the Liberty Hotel in 2007. Architects took extra care to preserve as much of the original features and history of the old prison. The Clink restaurant still has the original jail cells which create cozy nooks for dining while the Alibi Bar is located in what was once the jails drunk tank. The yard, now turned into outdoor dining can accommodate up to 250 people while the catwalk dining area is reserved for hotel guests only. Where you could once spend the night for free, by being picked up for drunk in public or some other crime, a stay now will cost a little more. Rates run from $465 to $6000 for the penthouse suite.

2. Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo Florida

Unless you are a certified scuba diver you will need to take a discover scuba course to stay at the Jules’s Undersea Lodge. The world’s first underwater hotel started off as an underwater research lab. Named after Jules Verne the author of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, the hotel sits 21 feet underwater in a lagoon. The hotel has a list of requirements in order to take the scuba course and be able to stay at the hotel. The hotel has two private bedrooms and a common room where you can dine or look out the 42-inch round window and view the marine life and a chef is available to dive down and prepare a meal. You can book a 3-hour visit and enjoy a pizza lunch for $150 or spend the night which will run $800 per couple. The hotel has attracted a few celebrities over the years including Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

1. The Shack up Inn

If you are a Blues lover then you probably know that the Mississippi Delta is the home of the Blues. Located on what was once a plantation the Shack up Inn serves up cold beer, blues music and the opportunity to spend the night in an authentic sharecroppers shack. The two-room shacks have been renovated from the original just enough to give you a few comforts but keep the experience as authentic as possible. As stated on their web site “The Ritz we ain’t”, no discounts, no room service, no phone and the only wakeup call you will get is if you don’t check out on time. Guests can enjoy live music, head to the nearby Blues Museum in Clarksville or just relax in the rocker on the front porch of your shack with a bottle of beer in hand and imagine the music of Muddy Waters, Charlie Patton, John Lee Hooker, and others.

Horseback Riding in the U.S: 10 Best Trails

Grab your lasso because it’s time to head out on the trail, American cowboy style. From the giant canyons of Arizona and Utah to the rolling hills and meadows of Vermont and Northern California, witness the diverse countryside and mountain ranges of the US on 10 of the most popular horseback riding trails. As day turns to evening on the horizon, saddle up and ride out into the sunset like an old-fashioned cowboy from the Wild West.

10. Arizona

Like John Wayne and Burt Lancaster, the heroes of your favorite Westerns, saddle up and head out into the sunset on a sturdy, reliable quarter horse for a gallop into the Wild West. With expert horse handlers as your guide, get ready for an unforgettable ride into the Canyon de Chelly of Arizona, the largest sandstone canyon in the US. Crossing over bubbling streams and past small forests and olive trees along the trail, you’ll reach Spider Rock, an 800-foot sandstone spire that will make you feel like a dwarf. Riders of all levels can gear up at Totsonii Ranch, a Navajo-themed horseback-riding outfit headed by top Western-style horse experts. With decades of experience in horse handling and knowledge of the canyon trails, you’ll be in good hands while you explore the dramatic canyons of Arizona.

9. Vermont

At the Icelandic Horse Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont, you’ll get the chance to ride an Icelandic Horse, a breed known for its sturdiness, stable footing, and pleasant temperament. That way, even the novice rider can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Mad River Valley, an ideal spot for countryside gallops. A popular spot for winter sports and mountain trekking, the valley is as peaceful or thrilling as you want it. On horseback, you can gallop through the grassy meadow or walk through the picturesque landscape of the Green Mountains. The horse farm is open year-round, so you have the option of experiencing the fresh greenery of springtime, the warm lazy days of summer, or the brilliant foliage and crisp air of autumn. After a day of trail riding, head to their Mad River Inn, an 1860s era Victorian estate situated at the horse farm.

8. Utah

Head to Utah for an exploration of the jagged rock spires and otherworldly rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park, a favorite spot for cross-country horseback riding adventures. Follow expert cowboy guides as they take you through canyons that have evolved over thousands of years. In this rugged terrain, let the sure-footed, hardworking quarter horse do all the work while you discover the fascinating natural wonders of Utah. Using Bryce Canyon Lodge as your base, the trail starts at Sunrise Point and leads into the vast canyon on a 2-hour ride. While a cowboy leads the way, you’ll get the lowdown on the history and geology of this magnificent canyon. Once you reach the floor of the canyon, the trail loops around to take you back up the rim for unforgettable views of Bristle Cone Pines Trees and the haunting Wall of Windows.

7. Alaska

For even more rugged and exotic trail rides, head to Seward, Alaska, where local guides from Bardy’s Trail Rides will take you on treks through forests and rivers surrounded by snow-capped peaks that fill the horizon. You’ll even get the chance to gallop along a rocky deserted Alaskan beach. Considered to be one of Alaska’s wild frontiers, get lost in a world of pristine fresh air, the cleanest water in the country, and a variety of wildlife like nesting bald eagles and migrating whale sightings. You’ll also discover the old town of Seward that took quite a beating in the great earthquake of 1964. Then, the trail leads to the shore of the bay lined with wildflowers, a lovely setting for a seaside stroll on horseback. Because of the rough terrain, this region of Alaska is only accessible by horseback, making Seward a perfect spot for an afternoon trail ride.

6. North Carolina

With 80 miles of equestrian trails that wind through ancient woodlands of the Appalachians, Asheville, North Carolina is a horseback-riding wonderland filled with afternoon trail rides through some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes. Along the way, trail guides will take you on a tour of the Biltmore’s magnificent 250-room French Renaissance-style chateau, a rare architectural marvel situated in the heart of the Appalachian countryside. Even better, splurge on one of their luxury suites at the Biltmore Estate, a grand, swanky base camp for rest and relaxation in between glorious days of cross-country mountain trail rides. For the more serious equestrian, head to the nearby Equestrian Center for a special riding excursion to the West Range, a section of the Appalachians known for its mountain vistas, waterfalls, and beautiful rivers.

5. Colorado

Saddle up on a reliable, smooth-gaited horse and head out into the mountains of the San Juan National Forest just outside of the Old West town of Durango, Colorado. A favorite trail ride in the region gives riders a chance to explore the sub-alpine forest that winds through mountain paths carpeted with wildflowers. Then, the trail leads to a spot high above the timberline where you can witness the vast horizon all the way to New Mexico. For the more experienced rider, a five-hour trek to the Hermosa Cliffs is a spectacular trail that leads to elevated parks, old-growth Alpine forests, and incredible vistas of nearby Needles, La Plata mountain range, and Electra Lake. The ride starts at Elbert Creek and ascends 1,000 feet in elevation, making you feel on top of the world.

4. California

Follow in the tradition of 19th century Native Americans and pioneering ranchers who lived in the fertile countryside of Napa Valley, California. Saddle up at Triple Creek Horse Outfit and let experienced trail guides take you through the lovely golden meadows and past lush vineyards of Northern California wine country. One of the most thrilling trails is the one leading to the summit of Bald Mountain where on a clear day, you can see San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in a breathtaking panorama. The area also has horse riding trails throughout Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma’s famed Valley of the Moon. With some of the finest riding trails in the world, brace yourself for an incredible ride through massive redwoods, oak woodlands, and the rolling hills of vast vineyards.

3. Kentucky

With its world-famous Kentucky Derby and long tradition of horse breeding and training, Kentucky is a great place to discover the Bluegrass Region near Lexington. At Big Red Stables in Harrodsburg, Derby fans and serious equestrians can saddle up on a revered Tennessee walking horse, a breed known for its unique four-beat running walk, one of the smoothest gaits, as well as its calm disposition and elegant appearance. At this family farm, a one hour drive from Lexington, get ready to explore the trails passing through verdant, expansive grasslands, surrounding forests, and fertile horse country dotted with old-fashioned red barns and stables. There are also excellent riding trails in Kentucky’s Appalachians, including the Mary Ingle Trail system in Yatesville Lake State Park, which surrounds a 2,300-acre mountain reservoir and contains 20 miles of scenic trails.

2. Arkansas

Surrounded by three lakes, two rivers, and old-growth pine forests, Buffalo River National Park in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is full of scenic trails perfect for an afternoon ride through the countryside. Before heading out on the trail, saddle up with horse ranchers at Rockin Z Ranch, a horse stable and inn nestled in the heart of the Northwest Ozark Mountains. The ranch offers visitors comfortable accommodations and warm hospitality at their large log cabins plus guided trail rides through 780-acres of wooded hills. They also have ranch-raised horses, which are ideal for beginners because of their obedient and calm demeanor. Also close by is Withrow Springs State Park, also in the Ozarks, an incredible place to explore the great natural wonders of Arkansas on horseback. And if you really want to up the ante on childhood fantasies, sleep in a tree house floating atop tree canopies at Treehouse Cottages.

1. Hawaii

From the Big Island of Hawaii, head to Na’alapa Stables for a horseback riding adventure through the lush, verdant landscape of Kahua Ranch, a working cattle and sheep ranch with 12,000 acres perfect for open-range riding against the breathtaking backdrop of North Kohala. The nearby Waipi’o Valley also has excellent trails through lush tropical rainforests, pristine freshwater streams, and magnificent waterfalls. The stables also provide riders with well-trained and sturdy-footed Waipi’o breed Hawaiin horses, so riders of any level can enjoy the spectacular scenery with ease and comfort. Meaning “land of curving water,” Waipi’o Valley is an enchanting emerald landscape that rivals the paradise of Eden. In Hawaii, horse lovers have the chance of a lifetime to combine their love of riding with amazing natural wonders of the Big Island.

The World’s Most Spectacular and Unique Picnic Spots

There are few more idyllic, memorable, budget-friendly activities than enjoying an outdoor picnic. Whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic spot to nosh wine and cheese, a family looking for a day outing, or a big group planning an event or reunion, there are loads of spots that will enhance the overall features with scenery, amenities and unique features built right into the setting. And there are many who agree that food just taste better outside.

1. Irvine Regional Park, CA

Located in Orange, CA, Irvine Regional Park is a mecca for family fun that includes a picnic. In addition to numerous picnic tables and outdoor grills, there is a host of activities to partake in after you’ve finished your potato salad. There are bike trails (bike rentals available), equestrian trails, pony rides, paddleboats and fishing. There is even a train that the family can hop on for a ride across the park, as well as a zoo.

2. Huayna Picchu, Peru

Looking for a picnic perch with a view? You can’t get much better than spreading your blanket out atop Huayna Picchu in Peru, breaking your bread and taking into the vistas out and below. At an elevation of 9,000 ft., stopping atop this mountain after a reportedly grueling hike- not only gives you a chance to rest and refuel your body after the hike, but a chance to refresh your soul as well, with a stunning panorama of the 15th century ruins of Machu Piccu, including the Urubamba River Valley and the iconic city of Inca.

3. Gatineau Park, QC

Gatineau Park, located just outside of Ottawa, ON has 5 different picnic areas within their network of parks. The park is very popular with mountain bikers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Charcoal BBQs are available at various locations throughout the parks, as well as lots of picnic tables. The Etienne Brule Lookout is a popular picnic spot and offers fantastic views of the Ottawa River and connects to hiking and biking trails.

4. Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

You’ve heard of dinner and a show? How about lunch and a view? And as views go, you can’t replicate the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim has over 300 miles of trails to wander, take in this wonder of the world. Desert View Drive, which winds along the south rim of the Canyon leads to the Desert View Watchtower. Along this road are several lookout points and picnic areas. If you’re looking to extend your stay and camp, reservations are highly recommended. There are three campgrounds at the South Rim, including tent sites that can accommodate up to 50 people and three vehicles- so if your picnic plans are for a large group or reunion- this is a good spot for you.

5. Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park, Bristol UK

This fun park expands over 50 acres along the River Avon and has loads of family activities, including a petting zoo, mazes, a toddler village, and indoor and outdoor play areas. The park offers a “Riverside Experience” with miles of trails to follow along the river, providing idyllic picnic spots along the way.

6. Shannon Falls Provincial Park, B.C.

In Squamish B.C., Shannon Falls cascade down over Howe Sound, and are the third tallest falls in British Columbia. A meandering trail through the forest will get you down to the base of the falls- which is where you’ll want to head for photo ops and great views. If you feel like a longer hike, this trail hooks into the Stawamus Trail, which spreads its way out to three different summits. Shannon Falls Provincial Park is well-equipped for picnickers with a concession stand and picnic area located next to the parking lot. This area is for day-use only, making it ideal for a daytime hike and picnic to take in the views.

7. Villa Borghese Park, Rome

Villa Borghese is Rome’s answer to New York’s Central Park, with vast amounts of green space, walking trails and ponds. This park spreads out over 226 acres, and is populated with statues, museums, fountains, theatres and a zoo. There is a wide patchwork of lush, idyllic gardens in which to stop and smell the roses- literally. There are lots of grassy patches under trees to spread out your blanket and feast on your Italian picnic basket. Afterwards you can wander to one of the many man-made lakes and feed the ducks.

The World’s Absolute Best Tennis Hotels

Tennis lovers unite! All over the world, there is a multitude of amazing hotels and resorts that are catering to the player in all of us. Whether you are a serious tennis player, looking to watch the pros in action or just getting started; there is a tennis hotel for you. From the south coast of Antigua to the Swiss Alps to the charming state of South Carolina, these hotels are loaded with amenities, fabulous dining choices, luxury rooms and of course, the best in tennis instruction. Discover the World’s Top Tennis Hotels where we promise you will improve your play.

12. Carlisle Bay, Antigua

On the south coast of Antigua overlooking the sparkling blue waters and rain, forested hills sit a family-friendly hotel that is perfect for the tennis lovers. The bedroom suites are enough to visit this hotel alone, with their chic furniture and split-level designs. As for dining here, guests have their choice of four different restaurants, all serving locally sourced ingredients.

But it is tennis for the whole family that really stands out at Carlisle Bay. With nine well-maintained tennis courts, including four that are floodlit for night play; you won’t have any problems working on your skills. Rackets and balls are provided on a complimentary basis, as well as the hotel runs complimentary clinics throughout the week. If you are looking for more professional instruction there are instructors on hand for group or private lessons. It’s hard to beat the setting as you practice amongst tropical flowers and the bright shining sun.

Via Carlisle Bay

11. The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa, Arizona

This 1,300 acre Arizona resort is surrounded by an outcrop of 12-million-year-old granite and is set just north of Phoenix. It has been ranked as one of the top tennis resorts in all of America by TENNIS magazine and it certainly does not disappoint. The Boulders features exceptional service and first-class facilities including four premier hard courts, three cushioned courts, and one classic clay court. Private lessons and clinics are offered on a daily basis and expect to dramatically improve your skill here.

While off the court guests will enjoy the four crystal blue pools, two world-class golf courses and a 33,000 square foot spa. Guests here have their choice of casitas, executive suites, villas or haciendas; all decked out with luxury furnishings and the feel of home. The resort is truly an oasis full of willows, cactus and flowering shrubs, flowers and a dramatic landscape.

Via Boulders Resort & Spa

10. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Big Island, Hawaii

This beautiful beach hotel features 11 tennis courts alongside the ocean, making this one of the best views players will get. The hotel was built in 1965 by legendary hotelier Laurance S. Rockefeller and was completely updated after an earthquake in 2006. As well as enlarged and enhanced rooms, a spa and new restaurants, the courts also got a facelift. The setting of the tennis complex is perhaps what makes it so special, located so close to the sea that players often call timeouts to watch the whales and bottlenose dolphins that pass just off-shore.

The tennis direction Craig Pautler has set up amazing lessons, clinics, social activities, games and programs for kids. Children as young as 4 years old can start in the tiny tot’s tennis program whereas adults can enjoy the round robin tournaments or private lessons.

Via Big Island Now

9. Sani Resort, Greece

This resort sprawls over 1,000 acres and is made up of four hotels, ranging from family friendly to grown-up suites. It also happens to feature its own marina, an ecological reserve, an 8km stretch of beach and six tennis courts. The courts are clay and floodlit, housed in the state of the art sports complex near the Sani Beach Hotel. The Sani Tennis Academy focuses on providing an ideal environment to motivate young beginners while at the same time giving advanced players the opportunity to continue training at a higher level.

Experienced full-time coaches are on hand to lead you through group sessions or one-on-one instruction. Kids are welcome here and specialty camps are offered for kids aged 4-12. Besides tennis there are plenty of other activities such as scuba diving, walking trails and lounging by the pool. Three restaurants, a spa, and miles of beach await visitors to this awesome tennis resort.

Via Booking.com

8. Wild Dunes, Isle of Palms, South Carolina

It has been ranked in the top 10 of best Tennis Resorts in America, nine years in a row by Tennis Magazine so it is no surprise it is amongst the best in the world. Tennis isn’t just an option at this beautiful resort but a true passion. Wild Dunes offers 17 courts, including a stadium court and five of them floodlit for night play. As a guest here you will receive complimentary court time.

Guests are also privy to top-ranked instruction with professional instructors and activities range from clinics, lessons, and drills. Accommodations here range from condos to cottages to hotels and guests can choose from pool-side to beach-side and even court-side. Other activities here include golf, fishing, water sports, and fitness. Let’s not forget about the abundance of spa services that are offered here as well.

Via Destination Hotels

7. TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort, Destin, Florida.

Visitors here only need to spend moments in the Pro Shop and around the courts to appreciate the love for tennis at this resort. Located on the soft white sand beaches, this private resort combines a 12-court tennis complex with a gorgeous stretch of beach, for the ultimate tennis vacation. Several tall towers and numerous one and two-story condos make up the resort, along with an expansive pool, restaurants, whirlpools and an on-site shuttle service.

Players here should expect the ultimate tennis experience as the staff is focused on delivering lessons, clinics, round robin plays and weekends devoted to team competitions. The 12 courts are all clay courts and ten of them are lighted for night use, with guests having complimentary access to all of them. There is no reason why you can’t enjoy the beach and improve your game at the TOPS’L Beach and Racquet Resort in Florida.

Via 30A.com

6. Gstaad Palace, Switzerland

This beautiful hotel is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Swiss Alps and dates back to 1913. Featuring 104 rooms, a spa, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, numerous restaurants and four tennis courts; this Palace is truly spectacular. During the summer seasons is when tennis lovers will want to head here, specifically during one of the specialty tennis weeks when tennis legend Roy Emerson offers personal instruction to guests.

If you are more interested in watching the pros perform, plan on staying at this hotel during the Allianz Swiss Tennis Open Gstaad where the world’s best tennis players compete for one of the most important tennis trophies. There also happens to be three indoor courts located next door in case of bad weather. Whether you want to relax with a full body massage after a long day of practicing, soak in the steam baths of hit the nightclub; this hotel truly offers it all.

Via TrailblazerGirl

5. Topnotch Resort and Spa, Stowe, Vermont

This resort and spa is a haven for both tennis lovers and those looking to get introduced to the sport. With a recent renovation to its 76 rooms, this resort also enlarged the amazing swimming pool, enhanced the 40,000 square foot European Spa and installed a new casual restaurant. It’s the tennis academy that sits above all though with its extensive menu of both indoor and outdoor programs. Players can count on playing up t 5 hours a day if they choose to do so while junior programs divert kids and encourage the whole family to play. Staff will arrange opponents for games or group and private lessons. There is your choice of rooms, suites, and homes to rent; all packed with luxury amenities. If you get sick of tennis why not head over to the equestrian center, golf courses or shops that are all located nearby.

Via Topnotch Resort

4. Forte Village Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy

If you happen to love tennis and want to visit the wonderful country of Italy, there is only one place you need to visit and that is the Forte Village. This resort in Sardinia features a total of 12 tennis courts- 10 clay, 1 natural grass and 1 synthetic- all floodlit for nighttime use. Guests flock here for the head coach of the tennis program here, a man by the name of Rocco Loccisano, a former top Australian player and once trainer to Wimbledon champion Pat Cash.

Private or group lessons are available from a plethora of tennis professionals but that isn’t all these amazing resort offer. Choose from a spacious seafront suite, bungalow, villa or 5-star hotels to spend your nights in. An array of restaurants and bars await you, as well as shopping and nightlife. If you happen to have the kids with you, make sure to check out the awesome children’s wonderland that features pools, a theatre, and other fun activities.

Via Forte Village

3. Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

With two complete tennis complexes located on this 10-mile island, it is easy to be close to a championship court. This elegant oceanfront hotel comes complete with an elegant spa, dedicated children’s park, five designer golf courses, 10 miles of pristine beach and numerous shops and restaurants. What makes this resort pretty special is the fact that they have put their tennis clubs under the direction of former touring pro, Roy Barth.

For 35 years Barth has been operating a broad-based program that features a lengthy roster of weekly activities including instructional clinics, mini-camps, round robins and private lessons. The resort features 90 holes of championship golf, fishing tours, special activities for kids and teens and a plethora of dining options including a signature steakhouse. Choose to stay in the Sanctuary Hotel, a private villa or luxury private homes.

Via charlestoncvb.com

2. Rancho Valencia, California

This elegant Relais and Chateau and retreat in Santa Fe California has a huge focus on tennis, offering 17 courts for just 49 suites. This family-friendly resort also has a way with customer service and guests here should expect that every need they have will be catered to, one and off the court. Along with the amazing courts, this retreat offers an incredible 10,000 square foot spa, a delicious restaurant that is focused on California coastal ranch cuisine and amenity-rich suites.

The suites here are simply to die for, with their gas-log fireplaces, outdoor Jacuzzis, private patio gardens and jetted tubs. Guests here will enjoy the superior coaches and instructors that offer private lessons and programs that are tailored to each individual. Complimentary match play, daily tennis clinics, video lessons and family lessons are just a slice of what is offered here.

Via Jetsetter

1. Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire

The setting is picture perfect, an English mansion that is set in the Buckinghamshire countryside that dates back to 1908.  The grounds are over 300 acres and include 49 exquisite rooms, three restaurants, indoor swimming pool, a 27 hole championship golf course, and a whopping 13 tennis courts. Tennis is the draw here and every year this hotel hosts the pre-Wimbledon tennis tournament where tennis stars from around the world gather to warm up for the season.

Many guests choose to come during this week to watch the stars in action. If you are more interested in working on your own tennis skills though, this hotel offers lessons to guests on both the indoor and outdoor courts and provides junior camps to young players. Luxury amenities, incredible dining options and the opportunity to not only work on your skills but see the stars in action make this one awesome tennis hotel.

Via Stoke Park

Top 12 Mountain Biking Trails in North America

If you have ever thought about taking up the sport of mountain biking, there is no better time like the present, as thousands of incredible trails are awaiting you across the country. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced rider, these trails are packed with incredible scenery, technical descents, and grueling uphills. From narrow trails along the edge of cliff tops to trails winding through 300 year old forests, we have gathered our favorite 12 mountain biking trails in America. So what are you waiting for, grab your gear and hit the trails!

12. Bangtail Divide Trail, Bozeman, Montana

The Bangtail Divide Trail is regarded as Bozeman’s most notorious mountain biking trail, and not because it is difficult in nature. No, the Bangtail Divide Trail is known for its breathtaking scenery and smooth single-track trails. The views here will include several mountain ranges and endless fields of wildflowers. Riders can do the whole loop, which runs about 31 miles and starts off with a big climb, utilizing twenty some off switchbacks.

It’s around 18 miles that you will reach the best part of the trail, a five-mile ride downhill through a pine forest that is nice and smooth. It’s so good, it’s almost enough that you want to go up and do the whole thing over again.  Rounding out the trail is a final downhill that features some tricky switchbacks. All in all, the ride is smooth, moderately easy and full of epic scenery.

Via southwestmontanamba.org

11. Poison Spider Messa down Portal Trail, Moab, Utah

You will either love or hate this trail and it will definitely make you cry, however old and in shape, you may think you are. Technically, physically and mentally this trail will rip you to shreds and that is what makes it all worth it. Words that have been used to describe it are deadly, dangerous, scenic and stunning. Riders can choose to ride the loop which is about 13 miles or as an out-and-back trail, but it starts off the same way, a relentless climb over deep sand, technical bedrock and slippery stones.

After you reach the viewpoint looking over Moab, you will join the Portal Trail that edges closer to the cliff walls than you have ever imagined. It is imperative to know your abilities before attempting this trail and in some places, you must dismount and walk your bike as you are literally on the edge. After riders have cleared the cliffs the trail gets even gnarlier with ledge drops, loose rocks, narrow squeezes and crazy turns.

Via Moab Utah

10.  Top of the World Trail, Whistler, British Columbia

This trail is only a few years old and is already a favorite among riders. To start, head up to the very top of Whistler Mountain via the lift, and make sure you get your ticket early as they only sell 150 of them a day. The trail starts at a whopping 7160 feet with incredible views of the shimmering lakes, Black Tusk, and the coastal mountains. There are two ways to go, as indicated by signs stating “this way is hard” and “this way is harder”.

It’s a 5km descent to the bottom, through creeks, around tight corners, and through rocky sections. The trail itself is a mix of alpine single-track and double-wide ski-runs with views of alpine trees, brilliant blue lakes and the backcountry of Whistler. With no uphill pedaling required, riders should be sure to have the proper gear including bike to ensure they make it the way down on this jumpy, fun, awesome new trail.

9. Mountainside Loop, Kingdom Trails, Vermont

This is the perfect trail to hop on if you are staying at the Burke Mountain Campground as it starts and ends here, but even if you aren’t camping, we suggest trying this trail out. Riders will start off pedaling the 15.5 mile trail by making their way up some switchbacks in this wooded incline but prepared to immediately switch gears as you break into a quick descent.

The downhill is loaded with roots, bumps, a few jumps and some narrow bridges sans railings to navigate. Another ascent/descent awaits riders, although less challenging than the first. The final leg of this trail is an uphill climb to end at the campground where you will surely be ready for a cold beer. This route is technical and for riders that have experience with true dirt trails loaded with bumps, objects to navigate and other riders to contend with.

8. Deep Steep Trail, South Carolina

This single-track 4.6 mile track certainly doesn’t sound that daunting but locals that ride here have a love/hate relationship with Deep Steep Trail. This trail actually has more climbing than any other in the Forks Area Trails and as much fun as it is to go down, one must go back up. It has also been described as one of the most fun trails in the area and riders can choose to ride it either way, with both offering tons of uphill’s and downhills.

The ride is perfect for beginners and advanced riders as beginners can practice their stability and control on the descents whereas advanced riders can let loose. The trail is non-technical and littered with whoops, berms and gentle turns and promises that you won’t want to ride it just once.

Via The Mountain Hiker

7. Downieville Downhill, Downieville, California

What awaits riders coming to this trail is a whopping 17 miles of the sheer vertical downhill drop and is recommended for the intermediate or advanced riders only. The town of Downieville is located a couple hours into the mountain and is a true mountain biker’s destination. To get to the top of this trail, either take a shuttle up or have someone drop you off. From there it is all downhill, taking over an hour to reach the bottom.

Riders have the privilege of having this single-track trail to themselves for 85% of the way down and expect a steep technical ride on top as you battle your way through rock gardens, creeks, and long suspension bridges. Don’t be fooled thinking you won’t have any uphill battles though, as although this trail descends 17 miles, you will still have to pedal a few uphills.

Via vitalmtb.com

6. Munds Wagon Trail, Sedona, Arizona

The most difficult part of this trail is actually staying focused on riding, rather than admiring the beautiful scenery, although many will argue that this trail is both physically and mentally demanding as well. The trail is a tough 21.55 miles, single-track and is in excellent condition. Riders will be faced with a literal uphill battle though as they climb through stunning scenery.

The views only get better the higher you go and the reward at the top is simply surreal. Riders should prepare to contend with a few hikers that are often on the trail as well as a 5-6 hour ride, make sure to pack plenty of fluids and sunscreen. Think lots of speed, lots of technical spots and lots of pictures to be taken.

Via singletracks.com

5. Rock Lake Epic, CAMBA Trails, Cable, Wisconsin

The Rock Lake Epic is, just like the name says, an epic 27 mile trail that is located in the hilly woods of Cable, Wisconsin. It is part of the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) Trails, which host a seemingly endless network of single tracks in the summer. The Epic loop takes riders through a web of tracks that winds its way through maple and oak forest through four of the best trails in the network: Rock Lake, Glacier, Patsy Lake, and Namakagon.

This dense terrain features plenty of rock ledges, plank bridges, step-ups and beautiful wilderness lakes.  This trail is not for beginners even though no climb is more than 100 feet, what gets riders through it’s the constant rollers, downed logs, rock features and plenty of mud.

Via McKinney Realty

4. Paradise Royale Trail, California

Although much of California’s land is off-limits due to preservation efforts, the Paradise Royale Trail was built specifically for mountain biking. Located deep in the King Range Mountains off the northern coast, this 14 mile loop thrills riders with its brief descend and then steady climb. Riders are advised to ride clockwise to take advantage of the long flowy descent on the east side.

Expect 19 gritty switchbacks which have been nicknamed “The Prince of Pain” along with steep side slopes, a skinny trail, and exciting flowy descents. Riders will take in incredible views of the Pacific Ocean as well as having the choice of optional jumps and drops on the way down. Once you get through that tough climb on the get go, it’s nothing but laughs and fun on the way down, as long as you know what you are doing.

Via MTB Project

3. 401 Trail Crested Butte, Colorado

It is one of the best rides in the area as voted by riders and is a mix of road and single-track trail, which has you climbing and dropping for miles. This loop begins with a long but easy climb up Gothic Rd to Schofield Pass where you will catch the single-track trail and this is where the scenery begins to get epic with an incredible view of Emerald Lake.

Around 6.5 miles in is where the climb pays off as riders can take in unparalleled views of the Elk mountains and as you descend expect to see fields of colorful flowers. The downhill is generally fast and flowy with a few skinny sections to watch out for. Expect two more climbs after the downhill which are a little more technical than the first, or take the exit at Rustler’s Gulch back to Gothic Road to end of one awesome ride.

Via Mountain Bike Bill

2. McKenzie River Trail, Oregon

This trail on the west side of the Cascade Mountains will take riders through lush green forests and lava fields on a single-track that is meant for both beginners and advanced riders. It is recommended that riders shuttle to the top and then ride down to the bottom, zipping past crystal blue pools, towering waterfalls, and hot springs. The total distance of the trail is 26 miles and riders will do plenty of bobbing, ducking and weaving as they make their way through one of America’s top trails.

Riders won’t find any painful climbs here but will find challenging lava rock sections along with an abundance of logs, roots, and rocks. Don’t expect to be going downhill the whole ride though, this trail drop 1800ft and goes back up 1000ft with lots of pedaling. Prepare to want to stop every few minutes to gaze at the waterfalls, 300 year old forest, mountain river and other spectacular scenery.

Via Greg Vaughn Photography

1. Porcupine Rim Trail, Moab, Utah

This world-famous ride should definitely be on your bucket list of trails, only if you are an advanced rider though. It can either be one-way with a shuttle car or a grueling 34 mile loop, for those truly hardcore riders. An incredible climb at the beginning takes riders up to the rim for breathtaking views of Castle Valley. From the top, the trail descends quickly through slick rock sections and some long smooth bits.

It is when you reach the single-track where the downhill gets extremely technical. The trail gets fast, the rocks start sloping sideways and the trail stays narrow. The views start to get incredible and riders should make sure to stay focused as the trail twists and turns. Expect to reach the bottom brimming with relief and excitement, knowing you just completed one of the best mountain biking trails in the country.

Via Doug in Idaho

EscapeHere’s Top 12 ‘Parkitecture’ Masterpieces

The accomplished American documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has called the U.S. National Parks system “America’s Best Idea.” Some of the most divine natural real estate in the world has been protected by statute from the onslaught of development. American icons like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone remain as pristine as can be in the modern world. But less celebrated and equally less well-known are the hotels, inns and lodges that have, over the last century, been built to allow nature lovers to not just visit the parks but actually stay in them. The most historic and traditional have earned the nomenclature of “Parkitecture” -notable architectural buildings within the confines of the National Park Service. None are lavish but they present a stark contrast to the contemporary tourist love affair with all-inclusive destinations in hot-spots like the Caribbean. They are largely exercises in “Rustic Chic” and echo an era of travel at the speed of trains when simply escaping the heat and grime of the city was bliss for those who could afford to. They remain a remarkable bargain in the vacation marketplace. Several media publications have published their favorites in the past few years so we thought it was high time that we weighed in on the subject as well. Here is Escape Here’s 12 best National Park-architectural wonders.

12. Chateau Lake Louise -Banff National Park, Alberta

What better way to begin a list than with a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Banff National Park boasts the Victoria Glacier and the famous emerald green waters of the lake named after Queen Victoria’s daughter who married a Canadian Governor General. It is 350 miles due north of Spokane or 110 west of Calgary depending on your national point of view. It began as a simple wood chalet in 1890, expanded and burned to the ground. Much of the current structure dates from 1925. The activities are year-round but the skiing is truly world-class. The train station might look familiar if you’ve seen the movie Dr. Zhivago, but for a more current reference, The Bachelor also shot an episode at the hotel. The luxury extra 7th floor is called a hotel within a hotel with furnishings like you’ve never seen before.

Chateau Lake Louise

11. Prince of Wales Hotel -Waterton National Park, Alberta

One of Canada’s iconic railway hotels right on the Montana border, the Prince of Wales Hotel was actually built not by Canadian Pacific but by an American railroad company for well-heeled visitors traveling to Glacier National Park (see below) by horseback. The trip cost $1000 then, over $13,000 today. A gorgeous design like an over-sized alpine chalet jutting out into the lake, it has unfettered views of some of the best scenery in the history of scenery. Built in 1927 in the teeth of a hurricane-force blizzard, it is now a Canadian National Historic Site.
Mingle with wild elk herds that also like to stroll on the town’s streets. At current exchange rates this hotel will run about US $162 per night.

Prince of Wales Hotel

10. Chisos Mountains Lodge -Big Bend National Park, Texas

Situated remotely on the Texas-Mexico border, 300 miles southeast of El Paso and 5,000 feet in elevation, Big Bend National Park is named in honor of the meander of the Rio Grande. The natural beauty is gob smacking and the Lodge is ultra-convenient for hiking trails and prime bird-watching points. It’s also nicely isolated and at least until the publication of this article, away from the maddening crowds of the National Park superstars. The Lodge itself is no architectural gem but there are more handsome stone and adobe cottages that can be booked up as much as four months in advance.

Chisos Mountains Lodge

9. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel -Yosemite National Park, California

Likely the finest work of art in the system, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel is a uniquely imaginative amalgam of Art Deco, Native American and even a dash of Middle Eastern and it has been welcoming park lovers since 1927. It also has the virtue of being in the middle of nowhere in the Sierra Nevada; 93 miles east of Fresno, which is the very definition of the middle of nowhere. Luxuriously appointed rooms have ridiculous views of Yosemite legends like Glacier Point, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Inside, a dining room with a soaring ceiling and the Great Lounge are memorable sights to call home even for eyes spoiled by the Park’s natural beauty.

EarthScape ImageGraphy / Shutterstock.com
EarthScape ImageGraphy / Shutterstock.com

8. Paradise Inn -Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Completed in 1916, this classically rustic Inn built in Mount Rainier National Park is both on the National Register of Historic Places and even better, on the small side with 117 guest rooms. Interestingly the interior was built with timber from Alaskan cedars that died from a fire and roasted to a silver color. The handiwork including furniture, giant clock and piano (which Harry Truman liked to play) is all original from a German artisan in 1919. The lodge provides spectacular views of majestic Mount Rainier, though it might be asked if there are any views of Mt. Rainier which are not. Massive beams and fireplaces adorn the lobby. The Inn’s website calls it a mountain paradise with “spectacular views of massive glaciers, meadows lush with wildflowers and breathtaking waterfalls.” Perhaps best of all, there are rooms from $117, the same price as breakfast at a luxury hotel in the city.

Paradise Inn Mount Rainier National Park

7. Old Faithful Inn -Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Imagine looking out your hotel room window in Yellowstone National Park and seeing Old Faithful the geyser spouting about a 3-iron shot away. It seems almost impossible to top that but the lobby takes a decent shot. A lovely composition in handcrafted stone and wooden beams that support the fantastic vaulted ceiling which is almost 80 feet high. The first part was finished in 1903 and the survey results note it has hosted “six Presidents and all Three Stooges.” One review says rooms are straightforward and furniture ordinary, as if a sane person would go to Yellowstone for the décor. The Inn’s website also repeats over and over “Televisions, radios, and air conditioning are not available in park lodging.” Now that is the 21st century version of Paradise. Or for millennials, Hell on Earth.

Old Faithful Inn

6. Crater Lake Lodge -Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Locals claim that Crater Lake to be the most beautiful lake in America. While that may be debatable, two things are not; it is certified as the deepest and it’s ungodly beautiful, the thought occurs that when that vastly superior intelligence from another solar system decides to drop by it will most definitely be here. More seriously and importantly, it is an important part of Native creation belief systems and it radiates an intensely spiritual feeling. Dating from 1915, the Lodge itself actually underwhelms from the outside but a 1995 renovation marries Northwest rustic with the Jazz Age opulence, though the Lodge is adopting a modern mantra of sustainability and the dining room stresses locavore values and dishes. Oregon Valley grass fed beef, Oregon mussels and of course in a state that worships the University of Oregon football team, they dare not print a menu without duck.

Wollertz / Shutterstock.com
Wollertz / Shutterstock.com

5. Lake Crescent Lodge -Olympic National Park, Washington

This historic main lodge in Olympic National Park (built in 1916) is not lavish by any stretch but it fits the surroundings as rustically handsome with stands of evergreen and second floor views of the lake. Speaking of which, if you go to the website and see the view of moon-rise on the lake with peaks in the distance you will truly understand how it got to be our number five choice. There are adorable little cottages and even an excellent impersonation of a motel. If it weren’t in jaw dropping countryside, sitting in the Adirondack chairs by the lodge reading or doing Sudoku would be idyllic. Better used as a base camp for sightseeing or something more strenuous, it still retains the charm of the resort of long ago.

Photo by: Olympic National Park
Photo by: Olympic National Park

4. El Tovar -Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Perfectly perched on the rim of the Grand Canyon, El Tovar opened for business in 1905 before the Canyon was a National Park. At the time it was so remote, drinking water had to be brought in by train. It was designed by Charles Whittlesey, then the Chief Architect for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad so some may say El Tovar has an architectural pedigree. Whittlesey was from the then design capital of the U.S. -Chicago, and despite location, he wanted to cater to the Europhile taste of the American masses at the time. For the longest time it was considered the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi and has been a Historic Landmark since 1987. Morning coffee or evening cocktails overlooking the South Rim after a day taking in the natural wonders is a sublime experience. Eminent guests include Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney and Teddy Roosevelt. Winter rates start from US$89?? This must be a typo on the website.

OLOS / Shutterstock.com
OLOS / Shutterstock.com

3. Jackson Lake Lodge -Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

This large lodge is more resort-like than most of the others in our list with and things like a heated outdoor swimming pool, golf and boat rentals. There are excellent hikes of varying degrees of difficulty to be found that can bring you face to face with the 4 massive peaks in the Grand Teton range. Only some of the 400 rooms have prime views but the huge lobby with floor to ceiling windows lets everyone get the postcard-worthy view of the mountains and nearby lake as the elk, bison and even moose wander not far off.
At only 22 miles away from Yellowstone, whichever place you stay, there’s an unequaled double-your-National-Park-fun option.

Photo by: Tripadvisor
Photo by: Tripadvisor

2. Many Glacier Hotel -Glacier National Park, Montana

Built by the Great Northern Railway at the onset of the First World War, Many Glacier Hotel is set on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake surrounded by the Rockies in Glacier National Park. It is like a giant Swiss chalet and like others has a lobby that is the centerpiece of the building, three stories high with wooden beams, interior balconies and a cone shaped fireplace actually suspended from the ceiling. The website says rooms are rustic yet comfortable and are “old-world style in keeping with the era in which the hotel was built,” which primarily means no TV or AC. Take an evening glacier tour, try some fly-fishing (it’s renowned) hey, it’s the Rockies after-all; there is lots to do and see. It isn’t our number two pick for nothing.

OLOS / Shutterstock.com
OLOS / Shutterstock.com

1. Pisgah Inn -Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville North Carolina

Bible experts know the name Pisgah from the Book of Deuteronomy as the mountain from which Moses first saw the Promised Land, and honestly no other spot in all the New World is more aptly named. Words cannot express the beauty on view from The Inn on this 5,000 foot high peak that looks out over the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Highlands. The National Park Service says “The Parkway was the most visited unit of the National Park Service every year from 1946-2012.” The 51 rooms are comfy but plain, though they come with everything from Adirondack rocking chairs to LED lighting, solar panels, satellite TV and WiFi. The area is rich with natural, cultural and historic sites to visit. For the more active, the hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a hundred miles to the west is ranked in the Top Ten in the entire National Park Service. then at the end of the day, the renowned kitchen’s specialty, walnut-crusted fresh mountain trout with blueberry butter attracts many out-of-staters. Spring to fall rooms start from US $138. Seriously.

Photo by: National Park Planner
Photo by: National Park Planner

Extreme Sports Guide: 10 Best Spots in the World for Insane Stunts

From base-jumping and snowboarding to canyoning and bouldering, check out these beautiful natural spots where adrenaline junkies get their daily fix of death-defying stunts. Ranging from extreme to family friendly, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime at the 10 best spots around the world.

10. Underground Tubing

Also called blackwater rafting, get ready for the underground adventure of a lifetime at the Waitomo caves in New Zealand, a major tourist attraction in the North Island. Cave tubing is a great way to see up close the glowworms and ancient rock formations in a series of caves found in the northern King Country region. Formed on Oligocene limestone, the caves are an exciting family friendly activity that will make unforgettable memories. For the more adventurous, specialized tourism companies can take you on an extreme cave crawl that leads to spots rarely seen by the crowds.

Waitomo caves NZ

9. Zip Lining

With the popularity of eco-tourism in Costa Rica, zip lining is often included as part of the tour. Traversing a treetop incline by a pulley is also a great way to see the lush rainforest. Feel like a bird gliding along the horizon as you make your way across Selvatura Park. The zip tour is full of lush, breathtaking scenery, but adrenaline junkies should head to Sun City, South Africa for the world’s longest, fasted zip-line. The Zip 2000 is an intoxicating thrill ride blasting across the safari at 100 mph. It might seem dangerous but Zip 2000 (www.zip2000.co.za) has boasted a 100% safety record since it opened in 2004. It’s also open to kids 12 and up, making it a thrilling family adventure. Zip-lining enthusiasts claim that it feels just like flying, not freefalling like on bungees and parachutes.  

zip line

8. Coasteering

With coasteering, thrill seekers can get their fix of adrenaline on the edge of the world, literally. Head to Pembrokeshire, Wales, the rocky and precarious coastal cliff that is a top spot for extreme outdoor adventures. In a series of swimming, diving, and climbing trails, coasteering involves traversing the rocky coastline on foot and without the aid of watercraft. There are several coasteering outfits that offer guided tours across the windswept coastline, so get ready for a day full of cliff jumping, rock climbing, and swimming in the waves. Coasteering may seem like a sport for daredevils, but with the proper safety equipment and expert guides leading the way, even kids can do it, making it ideal for an outdoor family adventure against a backdrop of breathtaking coastal cliffs.

Coasteering

7. Canyoning

Also called river trekking, this rugged outdoor sport encourages the use of climbing techniques and equipment to rappel and climb rugged canyon terrain. The best places for canyoning are mountains with flowing water like The Grand Canyon in Arizona, which contains breathtaking scenery and some of the steepest canyons in the world. A good place to start is on a mountain with flowing water where you can follow a local expert through a tour of cascading waterfalls, windswept boulders, and trickling streams. Another popular spot for canyoning is in Norway and its Scandinavian fjord country. Armed with a wetsuit, helmet, and climbing gear, get an up close look at the Jostedal glacier as you swim, climb, and rappel your way across the Sognefjord, one of nature’s best obstacle courses.

Jostedal glacier

6. Bouldering

Bouldering, also known as climbing without safety equipment, can be as daring or dangerous as you want it. For thrill-seekers, it’s just you and thousands of feet below, so one wrong move and game over. Even so, that hasn’t stopped this popular sport from becoming a possible competition in the 2020 Olympics. Ranging from 10 to 25 feet, the boulders are quite a challenge, especially without any ropes or safety nets. Instead, climbers must rely on their skills and fearlessness to conquer the boulders one precarious step at a time. Popular spots for extreme bouldering is the lower Sierra Nevada Mountain range in Bishop, California, the giant Rocklands of South Africa, and the forests of Fontainebleau in France.

bouldering

5. Ice-climbing

If you have nerves of steel, get ready for the ultimate thrill as you ascend ice formations with nothing more than an ice pick and a will to live. Adrenaline junkies use Colorado’s Ouray Ice Park (www.ourayicepark.com), the world’s only park devoted to this extreme winter sport. Situated within walking distance of the town of Ouray, the ice park is a man-made climbing area in a natural gorge. Free and open to the public, the park also offers a range of climbs from easy and moderate to high-level. Depending on experience and skill level, there are many climbs to choose from, including the Kids Climbing Park and the Scottish Gullies for the more advanced ice-climber. So, get your axe in gear and head to the San Juan mountain range and the spectacular, rugged terrain of the Rockies. 

Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com
Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com

4. Bungee Jumping

Bungee jumping is a classic adrenaline rush go-to because if it’s a bridge and it’s high up, why not jump off it? Plus, even the craziest daredevils feel somewhat protected by the bungee cord, the only thing between a stunt of a lifetime and certain death. One of the most popular jumps is at Macau Tower, the highest commercial jump established by Kiwi entrepreneur and professional daredevil AJ Hackett. Since the 90s, adventure seekers have traveled to this adrenaline-making mecca for the thrill of their lives. Located on the mainland of China in Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia, the 765-ft jump is in the Guinness World Records as the Highest Commercial Bungee Jump in the world.

nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com
nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

3. Cave Diving

If you can handle the real dangers of freshwater cave diving, get ready to dive deep into an underwater hole in the earth for an up close look at ancient stalactites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, an area known for containing the world’s largest concentration of sinkholes. Surrounded by a lush tropical rainforest, plunge into the dark inner depths of crystal-clear turquoise waters. Another popular spot for thrill-seekers is Ginny Springs State Park in High Springs, Florida, one of the most dangerous cave dives in the world. On the way to the network of caves, some as big as two football fields, there are signs covered in skull and crossbones and with the ominous warning, “People have died here.” Even so, it’s one of the top cave diving destinations in the world for its extensive system of caves and caverns.

cave diving

2. Sky Jumping

Popularized by Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, sky jumping is the ultimate thrill. Instead of jumping out of a plane, adrenaline junkies head to the nearest giant cliff and jump off, gliding into the air with the help of a winged bird-like suit. A favorite spot for this extreme sport is the mountains of New Zealand, a region known for its large population of extreme sports enthusiasts. The sport involves a wing suit, which is designed to help you glide through the air in a death-defying free fall and then finally the deployment of a parachute. This activity is perfect for sky divers who want to take the next step in their daily adrenaline fix. Only the most experience skydivers should attempt this. In fact, it is recommended that participants have at least 200 free fall sky dives under their belt before they take the plunge.

sky jumping

1. Heli-skiing

Heli-skiing is so dangerous it’s outlawed throughout Europe, but for the extreme adrenaline junkie, Alaska and the wild frontier of the Chugach Mountains is a popular spot for one of the most daring stunts. Considered to have the world’s deepest, softest powder, the Chugach peaks are an ideal spot to reach treacherous skiing slopes, ones that are so high and rugged that they can only be reached by helicopter. Only advanced skiers and snowboarders should try it, but for those looking for the ultimate thrill, there are several local outfits that can get you to the colossal vertical gorges and inspiring snow-capped peaks. Now is the time to channel your inner Bodhi from Point Break because “If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.” No pressure.

heli ski

The 7 Best Urban Parks in America

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.

grant park

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.

Joshua Haviv / Shutterstock.com
Joshua Haviv / Shutterstock.com

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.

Balboa Park, San Diego

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.

Encanto Park, Phoenix

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.

goodcat / Shutterstock.com
goodcat / Shutterstock.com

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!

Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com
Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com

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.

City Park, New Orleans

7 Pieces of US Topography Worth Checking Out

There’s no denying that the U S of A is an incredibly large country. It’s not the largest (falling behind Russia and Canada, then slightly ahead of China), but it’s still pretty darn huge. Ranging an entire section of a continent, and even reaching into boarders that aren’t connected to its majority. (Shout out to Hawaii and Alaska, as well as the Virgin Islands.) It’s not necessarily the space that makes it so impressive, however, but the ability to inhabit virtually every portion of the land. Countries like Australia, Canada, and Russia host citizens only in specific areas, while others are too harsh for sustainable living. Leaving them with areas that are thickly populated, and others that are completely free of life. Within the US, however, there are houses and cities in virtually every corner. Of course, there are areas left free for farming and wildlife, but a house is never too far away. The land simply allows for it. Throughout each burst of mountains, desert, intense forests, etc., there are those who call the space home. What that means for travelers, however, is great news. Rather than land that’s untraveled and unsafe, virtually everywhere is up for exploration.

7. The Coast

No matter which direction you head, The states are sure to offer up some beautiful ocean views. The West Coast is more calm and comes with warmer weather, South is ideal for fishing and taking in tropical views, while the East will show you just how incredible Mother Nature’s force can be. Not to mention the natural sight of cut rocks and Oceanside cliffs. In order to get the full effect, make plans to visit all over throughout a lifetime. Not only is it a good excuse for travel, it will provide you with a more cultured idea as to what the US coasts have to offer. In both experience and views.

west coast california

6. Northwestern Rivers

Often thought of as chilly or hosting inclement weather throughout much of the year, the Northwest is actually home to some incredible topography. Raging rivers cut through colorful rocks – which run straight through towns and city centers. Visitors can walk bridges, or check out power plants that are entirely run by moving water. With steep hills, there’s plenty of gravity to keep everything moving, and all the different types of rocks, it’s a sight that’s worth driving hours upon hours to see in person. Photos and posters simply can’t do it justice.

Multnomah Falls Columbia River Gorge Oregon

5. The Mountains

Whether you head to Colorado or Tennessee, even California, you’re in for a beautiful, mountainous sight. Better yet, each range has is own set of sights. They might be rocky, forest-filled, or full of steam from an incoming rain. Whatever its unique features, you’re sure to be in for breathtaking photo opps. Sure be sure to check your brakes when driving through – these roads are rough on vehicles and call for frequent stops and slow driving. But considering all you get to see for less-than-ideal driving conditions, virtually all who stop by see it as more than a welcome trade.

Smokey Mountains Tennessee

4. Niagara Falls

Located in New York (and in Canada), this jaw-dropping landmark is a must-see for anyone in the area. It’s force is so loud, so tremendous, that it can be heard and seen for miles around. Each second, the falls drop more than 750,000 gallons of water. Which drop for an incredible 167 feet before hitting its watery bottom. (An incredible stat that lands it as the country’s biggest waterfall.) Visitors can admire this giant from afar, or take a boat tour that encompasses both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls. Just don’t forget to wear a poncho – with a drop that forceful, visitors are sure to get soaked even without venturing too close.

Massimiliano Pieraccini / Shutterstock.com
Massimiliano Pieraccini / Shutterstock.com

3. The Great Lakes

Just how great are the Great Lakes? They’re, individually, the four largest lakes in the entire United States. Yet they’re packed in right next to one another. In fact, three make it into the list of top-five biggest lakes in the entire world. Accompanied by lake Victoria in Africa, and the Caspian Sea in Europe. (The latter is controversial, as it hosts a large salt water section, leaving some to classify it as more ocean than lake.) Superior is also the largest lake in the world, aside from Caspian, and holds more water than all other three great lakes combined. And then some. Still not convinced these lakes will make for a great view? Come winter they’ll be coated in a beautiful layer of icy frost, while summer leaves them blue and watering plenty of green plants. It’s a combination that simply can’t be beat, no matter what time of year you visit.

Lake Superior Michigan

2. The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is huge, vast, and deep. And unlike most landmarks, you can explore it right to the very depths – that is, if you dare. When proper planning is done, visitors can hike straight into the canyon’s center. Though it’s dangerous, those who’ve traveled say there’s nothing quite like walking that deep into the earth. (Or that hot.) However, for the rest of the population, there are also plenty of walking paths that provide a great view, but without the dangers of hiking treacherous terrain. Besides, up high provide the best views and layout of the land.

Grand Canyon National Park

1. The Giant Forest

In many cases, if you’ve seen one forest, you pretty much have an idea as to what the rest will look like. But that simply isn’t true of the Sequoia forest inrn in California. These are some of the largest trees in the entire world – in height and width, and there’s an entire forest of them to be explored. In fact, the General Sherman Tree is listed as the biggest in existence, and its neighbors are no slackers. Most are about 26 stories tall, and are wider than two streets. Impressive? Yes. It turns out trees can grow pretty huge when they’re more than 1,000-2,000 years old. Visitors can hike through to get up-close views, check out the trees from afar, or even stand right next to some of the biggest among them. Just to see how small they are in comparison. Either path will offer some seriously unforgettable views.

 

General Sherman Tree

5 American National Landmarks That Deserve a Trip All Their Own

It’s the red, white, and blue, the old tried and true. A country that’s so happy about its patriotism, that it took more than a flag to tell you about it. It took thousands of flags, tons of poems and songs, landmarks, countless t-shirts and other paraphernalia, and they’re still not done telling you about it. At the bottom of all that pride, however, rests several perks to the American way. One of which is the ability to travel and see some seriously amazing sights. Ones that were put into place to honor the very country they reside in. From former presidents’ faces that were carved into a mountain, to a statue made to welcome traveling immigrants, to national parks that were put into place just to preserve the area’s incredible nature, here are five top American landmarks that without a doubt, deserve a visit of their own.

5. The Statue of Liberty

For decades, this green lady welcomed all who sailed in to the United States. Located off the coast of New York City, she faces just outside of Ellis Island, where immigrants were funneled through once traveling to America. Her tall torch represents a land of freedom, while her book shows a freedom of religion and speech. Once colored copper (as it’s made from that very metal), she’s since turned green with years of weather and sea exposure. A change that has since helped further her iconic state. Visitors can travel up inside this massive monument, check out the museum, or even head over to the Ellis Island welcoming center and look up relatives’ information. As a strange bonus fact, the statue is actually French; it was a gift from the country to America handed off in 1886.

statue of liberty

4. The National Mall

Like its name might suggest, this collection of landmarks has nothing to do with shopping. Instead, it’s a compilation of national monuments in the country’s capitol, Washington, D.C. Some of the most memorable sights include the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial (with reflecting pool), and the Vietnam Memorial. The mall is free to visit, and is accompanied by a number of educational buildings, such as museums. Many of which are also free to attend. Many tourists take several days in order to take in each stop. But no matter how many you choose to view up close, the collection can be seen from miles away. It’s even a favorite among air travelers, who get an aerial view when flying in to the nearby Ronald Reagan airport.

National Mall and Washington Monument

3. Mount Rushmore

It’s massive, it’s bold, and it hosts the faces of some of America’s greatest presidents. Including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln … in that order. And though they face slightly different directions, there’s no denying the impressive carving that spans 60 feet in height across a South Dakota mountain. A project that was accomplished by a father and son sculpting pair in the 1930s – one which took roughly seven years to create. Put into action as a way to draw tourists (which totally worked, by the way), Mount Rushmore draws in thousands each year. There’s also a museum and gift shop duo, and a series of lights that fall upon its side at night to create an even more epic view of this longtime national favorite.

Mount Rushmore

2. Hoover Dam

Talk about a huge piece of construction, the Hoover Dam is something you won’t soon forget. Located just outside of Vegas on the Nevada and Arizona border, it’s a landmark that’s as impressive as it is functional. Since the 1930s, it’s a structure that has held back the Colorado River and Lake Mead, allowing water and natural powered electricity for multiple states. The dam hosts some unique archeticural traits, some of which had never been tested at the time of building, including an arch-gravity design, which allows the force behind the water to be placed back into the canyon. It also includes a cement wall that ranges from 45-feet deep at the top, to 660-feet at its base. And if you think that sounds like an incredible amount of concrete, you’re right. Many visitors claim sheer awe even after having seen the structure in person.

Hoover Dam

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

Getting its name from its unique design and its waters below, a bridge that hosts ladder-like posts and a bridge that is entirely golden in color, it’s become a go-to San Francisco staple. A design that was put into effect to mirror the Golden Gate strait. In laymen terms, it’s a sight of pure beauty. And in technical terms, it’s a suspension bridge that spans an entire mile of water (a gap where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay). The passage has been open since 1937 and is one of the most recognizable symbols in the entire country. As well as the world. Visit and gaze from afar, or actually drive across the golden beauty. Fun fact: it’s painted “international orange” to provide better visibility to boats in intense fog, which takes place frequently in the city of San Fra.

Golden Gate Bridge