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.

Interesting Facts About The United States

The United States of America, the land of the free consists of 50 states. Over 327 million people reside in America making it the third most populous country in the world. The US is also the fourth largest country in the world by total area. This vast country is well known across the world and has a cultural imprint that is driven by technological innovation, popular movies, television, and music. Discover all the amazing and interesting things America has to offer with these 20 interesting facts.

1. America Is Home To Many Natural Wonders

America is home to many natural wonders of the world. In fact, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized many heritage sites in America. According to UNESCO, a world heritage site is a place of special cultural or physical significance.

Some examples of the UNESCO world heritage sites in America are the Grand Canyon National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and a few others. Check out the full list of Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the USA.

Source: Shutterstock

 

2. The US Has The 4th Longest River System In The World

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America. The river derives from Montana, located at the base of the Rocky Mountains and flows for approximately 2, 341 miles (3, 767 kilometers) before it empties into the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis, Missouri. The Missouri River and the Mississippi River combine to create the 4th longest river system in the world.

For thousands of years, many people have depended on the Missouri River. From drinking water to transportation, irrigation, flood control and now even for the generation of hydroelectric power. As you can see this long body of water has played an important role over the years.

Source: Shutterstock

 

3. The US Has The Largest Economy In The World

The United States has maintained its position of being the world’s largest economy since 1871. The economy is so large that the US is often noted as an economic superpower and this is due to the fact that it makes up almost a quarter of the global economy.

The US economy is connected to the country’s enormous population, technological innovation, high consumer spending, high average incomes, as well as a moderate unemployment rate.

Source: Shutterstock

 

4. The American Flag Has Had 27 Versions

The first American flag only displayed 13 stripes as well as 13 stars that were arranged in a circle. The stars and stripes represented the 13 colonies that declared independence from Great Britain. While the origins of the first American Flag are unknown, some do believe that is was designed by a New Jersy Congressman, Francis Hopkinson and sewn by a Philadelphia seamstress, Betsy Ross.

Since the founding of the United State, there have been 27 versions of the American flag. Each new flag represented the addition of new states. Today, the American flag displays 50 stars that represent the 50 states that make up the US.

Source: Shutterstock

 

5. Home To Some of The Best Musical Artist Of All Time

Not only is America a huge country, but their musical impression has made a big impact on the world too. America dominates the music industry as there are so many talented musicians that call America home.

Some of the best musical artists include Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Hendrix, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, and many many more.

Source: Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock.com

 

6. Center of Entertainment

America has a huge impact on global culture and a portion of that stems from entertainment. Many romance and action movies we enjoy are filmed and produced in the United States.

Hollywood is globally well-known as the center of entertainment and some would consider that it is one of the most famous places on earth. Hollywood attracts tourists from all over the world with landmarks such as the brass star embedded Walk of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Source: Shutterstock

 

7. Washington, DC Wasn’t Always The Capital Of America

Many recognize Washington, DC as the capital of the United States but that wasn’t always the case. Washington didn’t become the capital until 1790.

Believe it or not, from 1785 until 1790, New York City served as the countries capital. While it may not be the capital today, over 8 million people reside in New York City, making it the most populous city in America.

Source: Shutterstock

8. Las Vegas Is The Gambling Capital Of The World

Las Vegas, Nevada is the 28th-most populated city in the United States and is the most populous city in Nevada. This famous city is renowned for its nightlife, entertainment, gambling, shopping, and fine dining. Las Vegas has the largest strip of casinos which has earned this city the Gambling Capital of the World title.

The city is also famous for its mega casino-hotels which has also earned Las Vegas the title of Entertainment Capital of the World. Further, Las Vegas is one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations as well as one of the top destinations for business conventions in the United States.

Source: Shutterstock

9. There Is More Bourbon Than People In Kentucky

The bourbon industry is growing at a fast pace. This is great news for Kentucky, as they produce 96 percent of the world’s bourbon. Due to the high demand, Kentucky stores about 4.7 million barrels filled with bourbon. Surprisingly the number of barrels outweighs the population of Kentucky as there are 4.3 million residents.

Some speculate that this booming industry has the American drama series, Mad Men, to thank for making bourbon cocktails cool again. Nonetheless, whether you like bourbon because it’s trendy or because you simply enjoy the flavor, we all have the State of Kentucky to thank for this delicious beverage.

Source: Shutterstock

 

10. There Is a City Named Boring And It’s In Oregon

When you hear the word boring, nothing exciting comes to mind. So you might be asking yourself who would ever want to reside in a city name Boring. Believe it or not, tucked away in the state of Oregon about 20 miles from Portland, is a city named Boring with a population of over 7 thousand people.

While this may sound like an obscure name for a city, the name was chosen for a reason. The city was named after its founder, William H Boring, who farmed the land in the 1870s. To make things more exciting, Boring, Oregan partnered with Dull, Scotland and have even declared August 9 as the annual Dull, Boring Day. This newfound partnership has sparked tourist’s interest and is putting Boring, Oregan back on the map.

11. The US Doesn’t Have An Official Language

While English is predominantly spoken across the United States, on a federal level there are no laws stating that English is the official language. However, even though there are no federal laws, 31 states have declared English the official language.

Further, there are only a few states that are officially bilingual. For example, in New Mexico, the official language is English and Spanish, whereas, in Louisiana, the official language is English and French, and finally, in Hawaii, the official language is English and Hawaiin.

 

12. Alaska Has The Longest Coastline In The US

In comparison to other states, Alaska has the longest coastline. By definition, the coastline is the length of land bordering the ocean and Alaska borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean.

To explain further, if you only measure the coastline, it is 6, 640 miles long whereas if you measure all the bays, and inlets, you’ll discover that Alaska stretches across 47, 000 miles, which is longer than all the states combined.

Source: Shutterstock

13. The US Is Called Many Names

The United States is by far the most famous country in the world. It’s famous for its attractions, such as the Grand Canyon, tech innovation, sports, and it has a large imprint on the global culture thanks to famous movies, television shows, and music.

However, did you know that the United States of America is referred to several different names? Some of these recognizable names are the United States, the U.S., the US, and America. Thankfully, all of these names are considered appropriate.

14. The US Has Many Hotels Featured In Famous Movies

Have you ever wondered what it would be like walking the halls of hotels that are featured in famous films? Well in America you can experience it! Many films use real hotels and resorts to shoot their scenes and this means we can visit and even stay overnight in them too.

Swim in the pool at The Fontainebleau, in Miami, Florida and relive the scenes of Scarface. Or perhaps you’d enjoy walking the halls of The Plaza hotel, in New York, NY where scenes from The Great Gatsby were shot. The Plaza is also featured in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Sleepless in Seattle as well as several other films too. Check out these other famous movie hotels where you can live like a star!

Source: MISHELLA / Shutterstock.com

15. There Are Many Free Museums In The Country’s Capital

Washington, D.C., America’s capital is the heart of American history and culture. There are many things to see and do in Washington DC including many free museums. The Smithsonian Institute museums are a must-visit and many of them are located on the National Mall.

In fact, 11 of the 20 Smithsonian Institute Museums are located in Washington, including the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as several others.

Source: Kamira / Shutterstock.com

16. Full Of Beautiful Landscapes

While America is famous for the hustle and bustle of its major cities, this beautiful country also offers stunning picturesque landscapes. As mentioned previously, the Grand Canyons is one of the most popular tourist destinations when it comes to picturesque views but there are many others too.

Consider checking out America’s highest mountain, Mount Mckinley located in Alaska. Or perhaps you’d like to head to Utah and take in the view of Zion Canyon at the Zion National Park. For more beautiful landscapes be sure to check out the most picturesque views in the United States.

Source: Shutterstock

17. Iconic Food In America

Like other countries, America is famous for a few dishes. To begin, the iconic Twinkies were invented in Illinois in the 1930s by a baker named James Alexander Dewar. Legend has it that the name for this sugary snack was inspired by a billboard that was advertising for “Twinkle Toe Shoes”.

The inventor of corn dogs is uncertain, but it was definitely invented by someone in America in the later 1930s. Since then this popular State Fair food has made its way into the many freezers across North America and beyond. A few other iconic American foods include cheeseburgers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, s’mores, BBQ ribs, and more.

Source: calimedia / Shutterstock.com

18. The Statue Of Liberty Was A Gift

The Statue of Liberty, formally known as “Liberty Enlightening the World”, was a gift from France. This gift was sent to celebrate 100 years of Franco-American friendship. The statue was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi while the framework was designed by a French engineer, Gustave Eiffel, who also designed the Eiffel Tower.

The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island in New York, NY. The torch is a symbol of enlightenment and lights the way to freedom by showing us the path to liberty.

Source: Shutterstock

19. The Gateway Arch Is The Tallest Monument In The US

The Gateway Arch, also known as the “Gateway to the West” is a monument in St. Louis, Missouri and sits along the west bank of the Mississippi River. At 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch claims the title of the tallest man-made monument in the US.

The monument commemorates the westward expansion of the United States and is officially dedicated to “the American People”. The Arch is internationally recognized as a symbol of St. Louis and because of this, it is a popular tourist destination.

Source: Shutterstock

20. The Most Visited Museum Is In Washington

Have you ever been curious about the space shuttle, astronomy, or the Wright Brothers? Well, you can learn about these popular aviation and space topics at the most visited museum in America, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Located in Washington, D.C., this museum sees about 9 million visitors annually.

The admission to this museum is FREE and is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. The only day the Museum is closed, is on December 25.

Source: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

America’s 10 Coolest Scenic Caves

Cave’s are truly among Mother Nature’s most fascinating creations. They are worlds of their own, shaped by geological processes over thousands of years. Spectacular formations, underground lakes and waterfalls, cool temperatures and some of the most stunning landscapes known to man lure many people underground. From the largest cave system in the world to one of only three marble caves in the US, these are 10 of America’s coolest scenic caves.

10. Marengo Cave -Marengo, Indiana

This large cave is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, divided into two different sections, the Crystal Palace and the Dripstone Trail. In the Crystal Palace is where visitors will wind their way through formation filled rooms and past huge flowstone deposits. The Dripstone Trail on the other hand will introduce you to delicate soda straws, totem pole stalagmites, and the unique penny ceiling. This cool upside-down wishing well lets visitors add pennies to the ceiling by throwing them up, where they stick in the thick silt. With eight different kinds of formations throughout, there will be shortage of things to look at. Choose from either tour or experience both and save on admissions.

Marengo Cave

9. Caverns of Sonora -Sonora, Texas

It is known around the world that these show caves are among the most beautiful and visitors can get up close to their beauty on intimate guided tours. The Caverns are famous for their exquisite calcite crystal formations as well as the rare helictites that can be found in abundance. One cavern is even so densely packed with these helictites that it earned the name “Snake Pit”. What is even more marvelous is that the crystals found in the caverns are still actively growing. An extremely rare formation of helictites called “The Butterfly” is one of the main attractions of the Caverns and made the place world-famous, even after in 2006 it was vandalized by a visitor. Choose from the Crystal Palace Tour where you descend 155 feet below the surface for a guided walking tour or get adventurous and sign up for the discovery challenge tour which will have you repelling into the caves.

Caverns of Sonora

8. Jewel Cave, Custer -South Dakota

It is known to be the world’s third longest cave, and with over 177 miles mapped and surveyed, it is thought there is much more to discover. Visitors are required to take one of four guided tours in order to explore this cave and the highlight for many and how it got its name are the sparkling calcite formations adorning its walls. The Scenic Tour takes visitors to various chambers and passages decorated with calcite crystals and other speleothems, up and down 723 steps and not recommended for children under 5. The Historic Lantern Tour is one of the more popular tours as the only light that will guide you is the lantern and visitors have the chance to visit passages to the Dungeon Room or the Heavenly Room. If you want to do some real caving make sure to sign up for the Wild Caving tour where participants experience the cave in its natural state.

Jewel Cave

7. Craighead Caverns -Sweetwater, Tennessee

This extensive cave system is best known for its underground lake, the largest of its kind found in the U.S. It isn’t actually known just how big this lake is but so far it is measured at 800 feet long and 220 feet wide. The lake is just one of the incredible things to see in these caverns as they are known for their remarkable collection of cave flowers which are delicate and spiky crystal formations. The history of this cavern system is fascinating, and nearly a mile from the entrance, in a room now known as “The Council Room,” a wide range of Indian artifacts including pottery, arrowheads, weapons, and jewelry have been found, testifying to the use of the cave by the Cherokees. Open year round, this guided tour takes visitors on a 1-mile journey through the caverns on a wide sloping pathway and then into a glass bottom boat to explore the lake. The temperature remains a pleasant 58 degrees in this cave year round.

By Oydman (talk) - self-made, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
By Oydman (talk) – self-made, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

6. Oregon Caves -Cave Junction, Oregon

Although many people have tried to replicate marble halls, there is nothing more magical than seeing these actual Marble Halls of Oregon. They are nestled deep inside the Siskiyou Mountains, formed as rainwater from the ancient forest above dissolved the surrounding marble and created a special marble cave system. The highly complex geology found here contributes to the unusual and rare plants and animals found. The cave system features rooms such as Paradise Lost, the Ghost Room and Banana Grove; an underground stream called the River Styx; and hunger-inducing formations named for popcorn, bacon and soda straws. It’s one of only three caves in the United States to be made out of marble. The park runs multiple campgrounds and a chalet in which you can stay if you’d like to spend more than a day exploring.

Photo by: National Parks System
Photo by: National Parks System

5. Mammoth Cave -Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park is the largest cave system in the entire world, thus justifying its name and despite how much has already been discovered; new cave connections and discoveries are still being made. There is over 400 miles of cave to explore here and visitors can choose from a variety of guided tours which range in difficulty, price and length. This is definitely a place where you will want to spend a couple of days exploring and two of the favorite tours are the Historical Tour and the Great Onyx lamp tour. Although cameras are allowed, you will truly get the most out of your experience just by walking through them, feeling the temperatures change, viewing the different geology and learning about the history of this amazing underground system.

Mammoth Cave National Park kentucky

4. Niagara Cave -Harmony, Minnesota

If you have ever wanted to get married underground, now is your chance while visiting this cool cave. Niagara Cave actually houses an underground wedding chapel that has seen over 400 weddings take place. If you aren’t ready to get hitched though, you can still visit this cool cave with a guided tour. On the one-hour guided tour visitors will be taken a mile underground among fossils that date over 450 million years old, along with an abundance of delicate and massive cave formations. One of the highlights of this tour is the underground 60-foot waterfall. The cave is long, with large rooms and thin high ceiling passageways rather than most which are made up of many rooms, making it feel as though you are in a slot canyon rather than a cave. Along with exploring the cave, little ones can pan for gemstones and fossils and families can indulge in a game of mini-golf. Great staff, great gift shop and an incredibly scenic cave made this place a must visit.

Niagara Cave

3. Carlsbad Caverns -Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

It is the most famous of America’s underground cave systems and deserves to be visited, as proven by the 400,000 or so tourists that flock here every year. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 known caves – all formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Explore the undersea world that used to be New Mexico and the Big Room that is filled with classic stalactite and stalagmite formations so interesting you can spend a day exploring it by yourself. Visitors of Carlsbad Caverns National Park can take a self-guided tour of the main rooms, or a ranger-led foray into creepily named niches such as the Hall of the White Giant, the Rookery and Spider Cave. If you really want to get spooky head here in the summertime when swarms of bats are seen leaving the cave each evening.

Carlsbad Caverns

2. Glenwood Caverns -Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Glenwood Caverns is the largest show cave open to the public in Colorado and not only includes a few epic cave tours but also numerous rides and activities. But if its scenic caves you are after fear not, there are many here. Visitors that choose to go through the Historic Fairy Caves will have access to some caves that were only recently excavated. Back in 1897 these caves actually became the first in the US to have electric lighting installed, although you would have to belly crawl to reach them. Today through years of extensive work visitors can walk through them. Highly-decorated rooms and a section of underground canyon with fifty foot ceilings await visitors here. For the more adventurous cave explorer, try the two hour tour which takes you into caves rarely seen by the public, and that you will have to get down and dirty on your belly to discover.

Glenwood Caverns

1. Luray Caverns -Luray, Virginia

It is here where over a million people come every year to experience this amazing cave formation, loaded with a variety of water features and unique formations. It can be called a subterranean wonderland and has paths throughout so people can stroll through the multiple caves. Visitors will be immediately stunned when they enter and see the almost white calcite formations that look more like bridal veil, or the creature’s mouth from Aliens. Towering stone columns stretch the entire length of the massive chambers. The prettiest part of these incredible caves may be the 2 feet deep lake in the middle that reflects all the formations. These formations are often referred to looking like giant church organs and in the 1950’s a contraption was made with mallets that hit the stalactites and makes an incredible sound, a sound that still plays during every tour.

Luray Caverns

12 American College Sports Venues to See Before You Die

It is a curious, almost inexplicable sociological phenomenon, uniquely American. The fanatical devotion and big business of college and university sport is unmatched elsewhere in the world. College teams often outdraw professional NFL franchises, minus the huge payroll. College sports fanatics (in the true sense of the word) exhibit behavior usually associated with religious fervor or membership in a cult. One Stadium features a Touchdown Jesus and nobody complained about blasphemy. A British sociologist named Desmond Morris has a theory that loyalty to a team is the modern incarnation of our Paleolithic tribal origins. The player/heroes touchdowns, baskets or goals are perceived by our caveman neurons the same way as the hunter’s, whose ‘kills’ ensured the survival of the ‘tribe’ (even if today’s version of the tribe looks like 100,000 plus screaming, slightly inebriated fans). It is rare that technically amateur sport arouses such passion. The venues in which these athletic ceremonies occur have become sports temples where fans gather to worship the brave and noble warriors who ensure not only the tribe survives, but becomes the number one ranked tribe in the nation with the divine status, glory and TV contracts that ensue. Here are the 12 college sport venues who provide the most unforgettable of sports experiences:

12. Cameron Indoor Stadium -Duke University

Home team: Blue Devils
Opened: 1940
Capacity: 9,314

The Duke University Blue Devils is one of the elite programs in all of college sport whose supporters’ fanaticism is up there too. How 9,314 people can make that much noise is a scientific mystery, but much of it comes from the legendary student section, affectionately known as the Cameron Crazies. The program dates all the way back to 1906 but the Cameron’s 75 year history is rich enough with the team’s five national championships.

Photo by: James DiBianco
Photo by: James DiBianco

11. Notre Dame Stadium -Notre Dame University

Home team: The Fighting Irish
Capacity: 80,795

Any place that has a Touchdown Jesus beneficently looking down on the stadium calls for a visit. The brand might have faded in recent years but the illustrious Fighting Irish remains one of the most legendary athletic institutions in the world. It was they who won one for the Gipper, where Knute Rockne reigned and where the great Grantland Rice (after whom the renowned website is named) wrote the most famous lead in sports writing history of the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Unconvinced? Find a copy of the 1993 movie “Rudy” and get back to us.

Notre Dame Stadium

10. Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall -University of Indiana

Home team: Indiana University Hoosiers
Opened: 1972
Capacity: 17,456

Home of the Hoosiers, Assembly Hall has been called the Carnegie Hall of Basketball. Three of the teams five national titles were won here. For 30 years it was home to basketball’s most famous tyrant Bobby Knight ruled with the proverbial iron fist running up an incredible record of 902 wins against just 371 losses. The intensity remains. The Hoosiers do occasionally lose but they never disappoint.

Photo by: Scout.com
Photo by: Scout.com

9. Bryant-Denny Stadium -University of Alabama

Home team: Alabama Crimson Tide
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 101,821

AKA Tuscaloosa’s Treasure. Home to the iconic perennial powerhouse Crimson Tide who spend most autumn Sundays grinding out-matched teams into dust. Originally with just 12,000 seats, its capacity is up to 101,000 and counting. The stadium is co-named after a former University President and one of the game’s great legends Paul (Bear) Bryant who strolled the sidelines for 25 years racking up 323 wins and found a young quarterback named Joe Namath. As the Bleacher Report says “In Alabama, football is life.” The 2015 Homecoming theme was Forever Crimson: Faithful, Loyal, Firm and True.”

Bryant-Denny Stadium

8. Rose Bowl -University of California Los Angeles

Home team: UCLA Bruins
Opened: 1922
Capacity: 92,542

The venerable American institution is home to the UCLA Bruins and has seen an Olympics and World Cup. But its fame stems from traditional bowl game that bears its name. First played in 1902, it was college football’s premier event on New Year’s Day for decades. Too many legends have trod the sod to count, but included are: 17 Heisman Trophy Winners, 29 national champions, 199 consensus All-Americans and 107 college football legends inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. It remains a mecca of college football and an afternoon watching elite teams play as the sun sets on the San Gabriel Mountains is not a memory that will soon fade.

Rose Bowl

7. Mariucci Arena -University of Minnesota

Team: Golden Gophers
Opened: 1993
Capacity: 10,000

Named for John Mariucci, the Hall of Fame coach from the 1950’s and 60’s, this is hallowed ground for American hockey. It is a hockey factory for U.S. born players whose alumni include Miracle on Ice coach Herb Brooks. The Golden Gophers 21 Frozen Four appearances are third in the nation. It is considered the premier arena to watch top-tier college hockey for two reasons. Fifteen of the team’s 2015 players were drafted by the NHL. The arena bears a striking quotation from Coach Mariucci: “Through these gates walk the greatest fans in college hockey”.

By Shipguy9 - I took the picture on my phone., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
By Shipguy9 – CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

6. Tiger Stadium -Louisiana State University

Home team: LSU Tigers
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 102,321

It stands to reason that, starting with the tailgating, the atmosphere of Saturday night football in Cajun Country is like no other. Just the thought of more than 100,000 Ragin’ Cajuns is unsettling. The rabidly hostile AND LOUD fans that religiously pack the stadium for home games has earned the Stadium the charming nickname of Death Valley. A sea of energy in the royal colors of purple and gold makes for a long night on the field for opponents and a memorable experience for the connoisseur of college sport.

Tiger Stadium

5. Rupp Arena -University of Kentucky

Home team: Wildcats
Opened: 1976
Capacity: 23,000

Kentucky is another perennial powerhouse and the Rupp (named after one of the greatest coaches ever) packs an unusually large crowd of 24,000 up into its rafters. It is the winningest college team in history since it came into being in 1903. Some of the all-time greats have played here but as testament to its continuing success, the current crop of Wildcats in the NBA number 4 potential future Hall of Famers; John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With its size and noise level and consistently elite teams, Rupp Arena is easily one of the most intimidating venues in sport anywhere.

Rupp Arena

4. Michie Stadium -United States Military Academy

Home Team: Army Black Knights
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 38,128

The football isn’t what it used to be. They have lost 13 straight in the iconic Army Navy series, but there are things that make this worth considering. The legions of cadets in the stands is a truly unique setting. The 1912 team featured a young player named Dwight D Eisenhower. The team mascot remains a live mule which was a tribute to a valuable military mode of transport when the football program began in 1890. From 1944 to 1950, their record was 57-3 with 3 national championships behind football legend Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, memorably nicknamed respectively Mr. Inside and outside. With three national championships. Vince Lombardy and Bill Parcells got their start here. It is like a true Field of Dreams, with ghosts of greatness still gracing the field on the banks of the Hudson.

Michie Stadium

3. The Palestra -University of Pennsylvania

Opened: 1927
Home Teams: UPenn, Villanova, La Salle, Temple, St. Joseph’s
Capacity: 8,772

AKA the Cathedral of College Basketball. Unique in college sport, The Palestra as a kind of sport co-op has played host to more games than any other college arena in history. It is the home of the Big Five Philly based college teams. Named at the suggestion of a Classics professor for its Ancient Greek counterpart, it is a classic venue.

Palestra

2. Allen Fieldhouse -University of Kansas

Opened: 1955
Capacity: 16,300

Since the Allen opened in 1955, the home team Jayhawks have had a record of 666-107. Since the program began in 1898 their record is 2153-831.tradition. The court is named after basketball’s Canadian-born inventor James Naismith, who was the first coach of the Jayhawks. Going to any Big 12 game is worth the drive/flight to Lawrence Kansas to see the blue and crimson at The Phog as it’s also known, the nickname of F.C. Allen the hugely successful early 20th century coach who was also a seminal figure in the development of basketball in the United States. But to take in the atmosphere of over a century of athletic excellence from Naismith to Wilt Chamberlain to NBA Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, is more than just a game.

By Original uploader - Originally uploaded by Jonnybsay to Wikimedia Commons., Public Domain, Link
By Original uploader – Originally uploaded by Jonnybsay to Wikimedia Commons., Public Domain, Link

1. Michigan Stadium -Michigan State University

Home Team: The Wolverines
Opened: 1927
Capacity: 109,901

It isn’t called The Big House for nothing. It is among the top five largest stadiums in the world. Maybe the only one who can claim to be home to more people on game day than Ann Arbor the town in which it sits. The National Hockey League staged a regular season game there between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings that drew over 105,000 people on a wintry day. A great venue with one of the most powerful tribes in college sport.

Michigan Stadium

The 12 Strangest Sayings in America

If you’ve had a chance to travel, you’ve noticed differences in the way people talk in other places. This is something that anyone who has traveled the U.S. is keenly aware that people in Seattle talk differently than New Yorkers, and Texans are a whole other kettle of fish again. Even then, we can usually figure out what people mean when they break out a colloquialism or a local version of an idiom. Sometimes, though, we’re left scratching our heads. Here are 12 of those strange sayings that will have you wondering if everyone’s still speaking English.

12. “Bang a U-ey” – Rhode Island

For most of us, “banging” something either means you’re making a big noise, like construction workers hammering nails into a wall or … well, you get the idea. We do use “bang” colloquially, but nowhere is the verb more colloquial than in Rhode Island where locals might tell you to “bang a U-ey” if you make a wrong turn. “U-ey” is pretty common slang for a U-turn. When Rhode Islanders tell you this, they just want you to make a U-turn, and there’s no need to make a lot of noise about it. The term might be related to the phrase “bang one out,” which essentially means to do something, but it sure sounds strange nonetheless. If you happen to be told to do this, your Rhode Island tour guide will likely be impressed if you just wheel it around, no questions asked.

Rhode Island

11. “Your wig’s a little loose” – Kentucky

The Bluegrass State is known for some of its quirky Southern slang, although it shares much of this lingo with other Southern states. One interesting phrase you might hear only in Kentucky is, “your wig’s a little loose” or “I think your wig’s a little loose.” This is essentially telling someone you think they’re crazy—not exactly a compliment. The phrase is comparable to idioms like “doesn’t have his head on straight” and “I think you have a few screws loose.” You needn’t be actually wearing a wig, in this case, your wig is more a metaphor than anything, so don’t worry about telling your Kentucky friends that you’re not even wearing a wig. Bets that this phrase got its start in the early days of the Union, when everyone was still wearing powdered wigs? We really hope so.

Kentucky 1

10. “Get a wiggle on” – South Dakota

The Dakotas get a bad rap: the weather isn’t all that great, there’s not much to see or do and the locals are friendly, but perhaps a little strange. One thing you’ll quickly notice is that South Dakotans, much like Minnesotans and North Dakotans, have some pretty odd turns of phrase. One of the most intriguing is “get a wiggle on,” which essentially means “hurry up.” Others might be familiar with the phrase “get a move on,” which uses the same construct and means the same thing. We’re not entirely sure why South Dakotans want everyone to wiggle to their destination, though maybe it has something to do with keeping warm during the harsh winter weather. Nonetheless, if a South Dakotan acquaintance happens to suggest you should get your wiggle on, you needn’t bust a move like you’re on the dance floor—a bit more spring in your step will do.

South Dakota

9. “Gotta get flat” – California

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Golden State has some pretty slangy terminology. While a lot of California colloquialisms have arisen from surf culture and then spread to a wider demographic through the magic of Hollywood, there are still a few turns of phrase that are uniquely Californian. One of those phrases might be “gotta get flat,” which, at first glance, seems pretty obtuse. Why do we need to get flattened out? Is this something to do with earthquakes? Or maybe it’s some new twist on “getting down.” It actually just means “I need to lie down”—and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense: we often talk about being “laid flat out” or “flat on our backs,” so “getting flat” would be lying down.

California

8. “Geez-o-Pete!” – Michigan

Michigan’s strangest idiom might seem relatively tame or even understandable from some points of view. It’s a sort of mild swear, certainly not as rude as some of the phrases you can find around the world. In some ways, it’s almost cute and it’s definitely Michigan. “Geez-o-Pete!” is an exclamation that’s sort of like “Jesus Mary Mother of God!” with much the same meaning and a kind of parallel structure in that it calls on Jesus and St. Peter. If you hear your Michiganian friends shouting this, you know something’s caught them off-guard and not in a way that’s made them happy. It’s just that polite company is likely forcing them to keep it G-rated—otherwise you might hear some other choice words instead of this phrase.

Michigan

7. “Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits” – Vermont

Local pride is something you’ll run into in any number of states (and countries, for that matter), but Vermont seems to take the cake with their own colloquialism about what makes a local a local. Specifically, they might tell you that “just because a cat has her kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits.” What they’re really saying is that even if you were born in Vermont, you’re not necessarily a Vermonter, just like putting those kittens in the oven doesn’t make them biscuits. Once an outsider, always an outsider in Vermont, it seems. It will apparently take a couple generations to be considered a real Vermonter. In the meantime, nobody’s said we can’t all enjoy maple syrup, fantastic fall colors and great skiing in the Green Mountains in the wintertime.

Vermont

6. “That dog won’t hunt” – Georgia

Georgia’s another Southern state with that peculiarly Southern way of speaking. Of course, the Peach State has its own lingo, and one of the native phrases is “that dog won’t hunt” or “that dog don’t hunt.” While outsiders might think nothing of this idiom, it’s actually a way of saying something won’t work—much like a dog that won’t hunt, something’s a little off. Other versions of the phrase include “that horse isn’t a runner” and the historical predecessor “that cock won’t fight,” which was used as a natural metaphor for an idea that was bound to fail during the heydays of cockfighting in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, if someone from the Peach State tells you the dog won’t hunt, you’d better go back to the drawing board.

Georgia

5. “Looks like 10 miles of dirt road” – Wyoming

Wyoming is a relatively “young” state and this Western state has been decidedly pastoral and rural throughout most of its history, even before statehood. With a large interest in ranching, the smallest population in the U.S. and a huge swath of land dotted by mountains and valleys, it’s little wonder that Wyoming’s slang would take on a distinctly rural flavor. The phrase “looks like 10 miles of dirt road” is an example of that. This phrase is pretty easy to figure out: it means someone looks disheveled or unwell. Dirt roads are often unkempt and bumpy, washed out by storms and rutted especially after use or the winter—so saying someone looks like 10 miles of that is not a compliment! If your hosts in Wyoming suggest you look like this, you might want to nip off and “freshen up.”

Wyoming

4. “I’m going by your house later” – Louisiana

At first glance, the phrase “I’m going by your house later” may not seem all that strange. In fact, some of us may have offered someone a ride home from a party or offered to drop something off because we were “going by later.” But in Louisiana, “going by your house later” doesn’t mean someone is just going to drive by like a bitter ex. It means they’re actually going to stop in and visit. Whereas people from other places might say, “I’m going to stop in later,” Louisianans like to keep you in suspense by suggesting that they’ll be in the neighborhood, at some point. Chances are that the phrase started off much like it’s used in other regions—to mean somebody’s place is on your way—but eventually just became another way of saying they were going to drop by.

Louisiana

3. “Red it up” – Pennsylvania

Have you made a bit of a mess of things? If you’re in Pennsylvania, chances are you won’t be told to “clean up.” No, Pennsylvanians are more apt to tell you to “red it up,” an odd turn of phrase that could catch most of us off-guard. It seems, at first glance, tangentially related to phrases like “paint the town red,” but the actual meaning of the phrase is a lot more buckled down and serious than we might imagine. It’s actually descended from the verb “to ready [up],” which means to make a room ready for a guest or to set the table for a meal. It might be related to other archaic uses like “ready the cannons.” The Pennsylvania Dutch introduced that particular idiom to English in the Keystone state. In the modern day, “ready” has been changed to “red,” even though the phrase still means the same.

Pennsylvania

2. “Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” – Alabama

Alabama is probably best known for its Southern drawl, that oft-mimicked and mocked accent that is supposed to characterize people who hail from Alabama and the other states that make up the Deep South. Alabamans have a few expressions that set them apart from other Southern states. One of the best (and most mystifying) is “butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” This is an exclamation expressing delight at discovering something surprising yet pleasant. Other variants exist around the English-speaking world, such as “pin my tail and call me a donkey.” A close synonym is “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” Just don’t take the suggestion too literally if you’re visiting the Heart of Dixie—nobody actually wants to be buttered and called a biscuit, although they’d surely be surprised if you did!

Alabama

1. “Slap you naked and hide your clothes” – Missouri

This phrase comes to us from Missouri, although there might be variants on it around other parts of the South and the West. In other areas, we might have heard our parents threaten to “tan your hide” or “slap you silly” when we did something they didn’t like. In Missouri, the threat is to “slap you naked,” and then “hide your clothes” so you can’t go out again in public—at least, not unless you want to go out in the buff. Really, this seems like a pretty good threat. If your parents were to “tan your hide,” nobody would really know. If you get slapped naked and have your clothes hidden though, everybody’s going to know what happened—you get a bruised ego in addition. Best to mind your manners when you visit Missouri!

TommyBrison / Shutterstock.com
TommyBrison / Shutterstock.com

12 Equestrian Places in the US

While Americans have always had a close relationship with our gentle giants, the United States hasn’t always been internationally known for its equestrian culture. After all, the rest of the world had a head start. Once the nation had time to settle down and breed, however, breeders began producing some of the best thoroughbred champions in the world. Whether travelers want to feel the adrenaline of betting on a live race, learn about the history of horse racing, or mount up and go for a ride themselves, they’ll want to check out these 12 equestrian places in the U. S.

12. Rancho Santa Fe, California

In an area just outside of San Diego, America’s Air Conditioned City, Rancho Santa Fe provides an incredible nine or more months of comfortable riding. Daytime temperatures rarely drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and stay in the high 80s or low 90s in the summer, when evenings are still cool. Rancho Santa Fe is the perfect place for a sandy beach ride among other enthusiastic horsemen and women, just a few miles from the bustle of San Diego.

Photo by: Rancho Santa Fe Association
Photo by: Rancho Santa Fe Association

11. Woodstock, Vermont

Not to be confused with the site of one of the nation’s grooviest music festivals in New York, Woodstock, Vermont is a center for equestrian activity. For a beautiful ride among charming settings, horsemen and women can’t go wrong in “The Prettiest Town in America”. Plus, a flurry of horsing events for jumping, driving, and endurance riding provide a platform for showcasing excellence, including Ride for the Cure, the Fall Dressage Show, and a winter sleigh rally.

Photo by: Green Mountain Horse Association
Photo by: Green Mountain Horse Association

10. Nashville, Tennessee

While Nashville is more known for its music culture – it is, after all, nicknamed “Music City, USA”—there’s plenty of horse culture here as well. In fact, its equestrian culture includes being the place where United States first asserted itself as a contender for championship horse racing. Here, for the first time, an American born-and-bred horse (an Iroquois) won the English Derby. The breeder was Belle Meade, whose plantation and stables are open for tours today. The city also hosts the annual Iroquois Steeplechase race and attracts more than 25,000 attendees each year.

Nashville Tennessee 1

9. North Salem, New York

North Salem has a long timeline of equestrian history, full of farming and the preservation of a”country” way of life. The perfect distance from New York City, North Salem is close enough to be a quick weekend escape from the city, and far enough to provide a peaceful and charming ride. The area has an incredible 100 miles of protected trails, which is good because nine months of comfortable riding gives horsemen and women plenty of time to explore them with their favorite gentle giant. North Salem also offers world-class equestrian facilities, a high density of horse farms, and equestrian hunts.

Photo by: Chris Burke via Flickr
Photo by: Chris Burke via Flickr

8. Middleburg, Virginia

The small town of Middleburg has only 700 residents, but some of them have some pretty big names. For example, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Onassis, and the DuPonts have all enjoyed horsing in Middleburg over the years. Anyone who has ridden along the English countryside will recognize that country’s twin in the lush fields and stonewalls that wind around Middleburg. Plus, the town hosts the oldest horse show in America – the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. The show was first held in 1853, and was one of the first horse shows in the United States. If attending a horse show isn’t your style, however, then enjoy the mild temperatures in Middleburg, which provide an incredible nine months of comfortable riding.

Photo by: Schuyler Knapp via Upperville Colt & Horse Show
Photo by: Schuyler Knapp via Upperville Colt & Horse Show

7 . Ocala, Florida

There are only five cities in the globe – and only two within the U.S.—permitted to use the term “horse capitol of the world”, to describe themselves, and Ocala is one of them. What makes Ocala so special? To start with, the area has over 1,200 horse farms and counting. It’s also a great place to enjoy comfortable riding, especially in winter months, when the average daytime temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While nearby Wellington has incredible equestrian events, Ocala has a thriving riding culture that can be experienced in a more casual way.

Photo by: City of Ocala Municipal Government
Photo by: City of Ocala Municipal Government

6. Aspen, Colorado

If you’re looking for some rocky, mountainous riding, there’s no place quite like Aspen. As a second home for many international jetsetters, the town is a great place to enjoy spectacular scenery from horseback year round. Temperatures in the winter reach down below freezing, but summer days are often a perfect 77 degrees Fahrenheit. All-in-all, riders have eight comfortable months to enjoy riding, while skiing, snowmobiling, and hiking can entertain them when it’s just a bit too cold to take a horse out. Located between the Colorado cities of Denver and Grand Junction, Aspen itself only has around 6,600 residents, but equestrian enthusiasts who want to buy a horse farm here better start saving. The average ranch price is around $18.9 million!

Aspen, Colorado

5. Southern Pines, North Carolina

For riders looking for a great experience year-round, Southern Pines  might be just the place. With a minimum of nine months of comfortable riding (and often 12 months), there’s great riding to be had no matter what time of year. Plus, the terrain is about as ideal as it could be for sandy footing and a smooth ride. The area has been given the name Horse Country for many reasons, a few of them being The Carolina Horse Park, with is steeplechase harness track, and the Sandhills Preserve, which boasts 900 acres and numerous trails.

Photo by: Carolina Horse Park
Photo by: Carolina Horse Park

4. Woodside, California

How long does it take to develop a thriving equestrian culture? Well, the affluent San Francisco community of Woodside, California has been working on it since the 1800’s. Horseback riding can be quite an expensive recreational activity, and Woodside happens to be one of the wealthiest small towns in the nation. The community has worked hard to preserve equine-friendly policies, and horse farms and equestrian facilities are connected to each other by an elaborate riding trail system that weaves throughout the area. Plus, the bay area’s mild climate allows for comfortable riding during all 12 months of the year.

Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr
Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr

3. Wellington, Florida

Coming in at number three on the list is Wellington, Florida. This city is world famous for its equestrian and polo events, such as the U.S. Open, the Gold Cup, and the Whitney Cup. It also hosts both the National Horse Show and the Winter Equestrian Festival which draws more than 250,000 equestrian enthusiasts to the city each year. Visitors who are horsemen and women themselves love the climate which provides more than seven months of comfortable riding, especially in the winter – no surprise since Wellington is the southernmost city on our list.

Photo by: Andy via Flickr
Photo by: Andy via Flickr

2. Lexington, Kentucky

While several cities in the nation claim to be “The Horse Capitol of the World”, Lexington comes closest to earning that title. Just 80 miles from Louisville and the lure of a championship win, Lexington is home to some of the best breeders in the world. Many swear the heart of the Bluegrass Region is the perfect environment for raising and training the world’s best horses. Lexington is also the best place to learn about horsing from a “behind-the-scenes” perspective with the Kentucky Horse Park museum and tours of actual running horse breeding farms – many of which have produced champion thoroughbreds.

Photo by: Anthony via Flickr
Photo by: Anthony via Flickr

1. Louisville, Kentucky

The number one place for equestrian culture in the United States is Louisville, Kentucky. It’s home to the world-famous Kentucky Derby which the Queen of England has attended. The Derby takes place at the Churchill Downs track and is the first event in the Triple Crown (the other two are the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes). The track’s famous town spire grandstand has also hosted the Breeder’s Cup eight times. After watching a race and enjoying one of the track’s signature mint juleps (served since 1875), horse enthusiasts can learn more equestrian history by visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum. For visitors who can’t make it to Louisville during derby season, Churchill Downs also features simulcast racing, where you can watch and bet on live races around the globe.

Photo by: Ken Lund via Flickr
Photo by: Ken Lund via Flickr

5 of the South’s Best Finger-Licking-Good Barbecue Joints

Whether you douse your meat in a tangy vinegar concoction or a sweet molasses-based sauce, nothing beats good old-fashioned smoked barbecue. And where do you find the best barbecue? Down South, of course! If you’re planning a trip south of the Mason-Dixon sometime soon, make sure you mark an “x” on the map for the following locations — they’re serving up some of the South’s best barbecue (and many of these joints have been doing so for decades). Just don’t forget extra napkins; we have a feeling you’re going to need them.

5. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q -Decatur, Alabama

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama is famous for its tangy, peppery, and oh-so-good white barbecue sauce. Drench some of Big Bob’s tender barbecued chicken in it and you’ll soon be claiming that a new sauce is boss. This famed southern barbecue joint has been around since 1925, started by 300-pound, 6’4” Gibson himself — now you know how he got the nickname “Big Bob”. The barbecue joint has been a family operation for four generations, and winning is in the family blood; Big Bob’s Bar-B-Q has won 10 world championship barbecue competitions. If you can’t make it down to Alabama for a taste of Big Bob’s incredible smoked chicken or pork, you might be able to try some of the restaurant’s famous white sauce at home — the sauce is sold in bottles at over 2,000 grocery stores across nine states in the U.S.

Photo by: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que
Photo by: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que

4. Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn -Owensboro, Kentucky

The folks at this Kentucky institution take great pride in serving up only the tastiest eats; after all, their slogan is “When Only the Best Will Do … Moonlite Bar-B-Q”. The Barbecue at Moonlite is full of smoky hickory flavor, since the BBQ pros here stick to the Kentucky tradition of slowly smoking their meats in custom-built hickory fired pits, the results are all-off-the-bone good barbecue. Moonlite Bar-B-Q has a pretty unique menu, and a lot of focus is given to its mutton and beef brisket. Catherine and Pappy Bosley purchased the Moonlite Inn way back in 1963, when it was just a 30-seat restaurant. Today, the Moonlite is a 350-seat hoppin’ barbecue joint, with over 120 employees, its own processing plant, and an always-busy catering department. Still, it’s still the perfect place to slow down and enjoy some slow-smoked, scrumptious barbecue.

Photo by: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
Photo by: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn

3. The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint -Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Who knew that a big shed made out of a bunch of junk found during dumpster-diving adventures would be serving up some of the best barbecue and blues music this side of the Mason-Dixon? As improbable as it sounds, that’s exactly what you’ll find at The Shed, whose original location is in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Started by Ole Miss grad Brad and his family, The Shed has morphed from a 300-square-foot building constructed out of Brad’s thrifted findings to a full-fledged barbecue joint and music space with indoor and outdoor seating for more than 500 people (and two other locations to boot). The ambience here is one of a kind, and so is the barbecue. The Shed’s pit masters douse their baby back ribs in a special rub and then slather them with a BBQ sauce made from top-secret, time-tested recipe.

Photo by: The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint
Photo by: The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint

2. Skylight Inn BBQ -Ayden, North Carolina

You won’t be left searching for good barbecue in North Carolina, but if you want the best of the best, then you need to head to Skylight Inn. Pete Jones opened his barbecue joint in Ayden, North Carolina in 1947, when he was just 17 years old. Dedicated to roasting whole hogs the old-fashioned way over wood, word soon got out that some of the best barbecue around was being served up at the Skylight. Soon word reached all the way to National Geographic, which cited Skylight Inn as one of the best places to grab barbecue in the country. Before Pete passed away, he got the chance to serve barbecue to presidents and see his joint written about in magazines like People, GQ, and Southern Living. The barbecue served at Skylight Inn today still lives up to the hype; just sink your teeth into one of their overflowing barbecue sandwiches and we think you’ll agree.

Photo by: kowarski via Flickr
Photo by: kowarski via Flickr

1. Fresh Air Bar-B-Que -Macon, Georgia

Fresh Air Bar-B-Que has been around since 1929, and Georgia’s the better for it. The pit masters at Fresh Air smoke their hams whole over indirect heat overnight, then slather the meat in a savory tomato-and-vinegar barbecue sauce that is the definition of “finger-licking good”. Make sure you try a side of Brunswick Stew too, a Georgia specialty that’s a savory blend of vegetables, roast beef, and fragrant southern spices. Fresh Air still uses a family recipe first developed in the 1890’s, so you know it’s time-tested! And with locations in both Macon and Jackson, Georgia, hopefully you’ll get a chance to stop by for some slow-smoked goodness soon.

Photo by: Fresh Air Bar-B-Que
Photo by: Fresh Air Bar-B-Que

10 Awesome Aquariums Where You Can Spend the Night With Sharks

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.

Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com
Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com

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.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

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.

Photo by: Joe Boyd via Flickr
Photo by: Joe Boyd via Flickr

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.

InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com
InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com

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.

Photo by: Tracie Hall via Flickr
Photo by: Tracie Hall via Flickr

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.

Photo by: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Roka / Shutterstock.com
Roka / Shutterstock.com

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.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

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.

mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com
mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com

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.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

11 State Fairs Worth Visiting This Year

Since the first State Fair was held in Syracuse New York in 1841, State Fairs have been a place for recreation, cooking, music and more. As depicted in movies, conjuring up visions of “the good ‘ol days”, State Fairs today offer some of the same events, but alongside modern exhibitions touting new technologies and of course, new twists on traditional State Fair food. If you can fry it or put it on a stick, chances are someone at the Fair is selling it. From fried ice cream to alligator on a stick, the food booths at the State Fair are always a big attraction. Along with the exhibitions, games and rides, the fair is always a great place to catch a concert. Many entertainers regularly go on the Fair circuit. All in all, the Fair is a great place for families and couples alike, here are our top picks for some of the best State Fairs worth visiting.

11. Oklahoma

The Fair is held in late September at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City. Fairgrounds are open year round and provide an RV park. Because the Fair is only up and running for a short time, when it isn’t going on various other events take place in this space. Attracting people of all ages, the Fair isn’t just for little kids, it has special days when certain discounts are applied to senior citizens and military. With food as a main attraction, this State Fair is host to The Great Taste of Fair competition, an annual competition between food vendors that offers cash prizes for different categories of Fair food. Livestock competitions and shows, along with carnival rides and a unique interactive frontier experience, the Oklahoma State Fair has it all.

shutterstock_61294903

10. Illinois

Each year in mid August, people around the state flock to Springfield, Illinois for the annual State Fair. The Fair has horse shows and races, judged livestock shows and of course, carnival rides and midway games. Besides these classic State Fair gimmes, there’s also popular events like nightly concerts featuring artists such as Rascal Flatts, Sammy Hagar and Hank Williams Jr. Various companies sponsor tents where guests can sample their products while enjoying some entertainment. There’s food like Cajun Gumbo, Cuban sandwiches, Brazilian beef wraps or for the more hearty meal, people can sample a deep fried turkey sandwich. After enjoying some grub, head over to the several vendors selling jewelry, crafts and other items to buy a great souvenir.

Ohio State Fair

9. Indiana

The Indiana State Fair is held each August and located in Indianapolis. This State Fair features fun events like a car show and competition, rodeo and Wild West show, medieval jousting tournament, a tractor pull and even a beauty queen pageant, just to name a few. Concerts and livestock shows are also popular events, along with the classic carnival and midway rides. Here you can find food like ribeye sandwiches, deep fried bubble gum, roasted sweet corn, pork burgers and saltwater taffy. This year, the Indiana Brewers Cup will enter its 17th year which showcases homebrewers and professional beer brewers in a craft beer brewing competition.Cheers!

Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com
Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com

8. Iowa State Fair

Located at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, the Iowa State Fair is held every August. The Fair offers a little something for everyone. Contests like the children’s Mom Calling contest, joke telling, singing, cow chip throwing and beard growing contests are all some of this Fair’s annual events. Baby pageants, beauty pageants, cribbage and chess tournaments, along with the one of a kind outhouse races, all give everyone the opportunity to participate or sit back and enjoy. Musical entertainment this year includes Def Leppard, Carrie Underwood, the bands Yes, Toto and Alabama, plus the Rock-A Thon starring Dee Snider.

CREATISTA / Shutterstock.com
CREATISTA / Shutterstock.com

7. Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Fair is located in West Allis, Wisconsin, a part of the Milwaukee Metropolitan area. The Fair runs for 10 days in August each year. Some of this year’s entertainment will include the band Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, the classic rock band Boston, Kenny Rogers and the famed aerialist Nik Wallenda. Spin City, the Fair’s ride and entertainment section is always a crowd pleaser. There is even a day dedicated to sampling all the fair food, it’s called Crazy Grazin’ Day where the foods are all discounted, so you can try as much as your stomach will hold! For a real fan favorite, try the Fish and Chips On-a-Stick or Fish breaded in Fries and deep fried, served on a stick.

Photo by: Wisconsin State Fair
Photo by: Wisconsin State Fair

6. Minnesota

The Fair runs from late August to early September at the fairgrounds located in St Paul. This year Keith Urban, Alan Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Def Leppard, Styx, Carrie Underwood, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard will be entertaining all the fair goers. Various livestock shows and competitions like a 5K run, alongside carnival rides, the midway, shopping venues and food stalls all make the Minnesota State Fair a popular destination for families. Deep fried ribs, Italian dessert nachos, stuffed Italian meatloaf (on a stick, of course) and roasted pig tails are some of the more, shall we say, “exotic” Fair food.

miker / Shutterstock.com
miker / Shutterstock.com

5. New York

Home of the very first State Fair, the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York runs for 12 days in late August to early September. This year, Syracuse will be hosting its 174th State fair and to celebrate will showcase entertainers like Hank Williams Jr, Patti LaBelle and Comedian Jim Gaffigan. The New York demolition derby and All Star Monster Truck Tour will also take place, along with competitions in cooking, agriculture and creative arts and crafts. Melissa Etheridge, The Steve Miller Band, Rick Springfield, the group Everclear and others will be playing at the Chevy Court, which offers free admission, what a treat!

debra millet / Shutterstock.com
debra millet / Shutterstock.com

4. Oregon

This year celebrates the 150th State Fair in Salem Oregon. Held from late August to early September, attractions include Discover the Dinosaurs which features museum quality pieces, along with animatronic dinosaurs that can educate and entertain. There’s also Dog World where you can see working dogs, Frisbee catching dogs and stop in for a lesson to learn from experts about your pet’s nutrition. Brad’s World of Reptiles features all types of crawly things from rattlesnakes to bizarre glowing scorpions.   Home brewing, amateur winemaking, cooking, livestock competitions and even a talent show are some of the activities fair-goers can find here. A $50 ticket will allow you to experience all the rides on any given day, along with three free games, including a drink or snack. Some of the entertainers this year include Comedian Gabriel Iglesias, Vince Gill, Pat Benatar along with Eric Burdon and the Animals.

Oregon State Fair

3. Nebraska

Located in Grand Island, the Nebraska State Fair has been an annual event since 1868. Held from late August to early September the fair offers daily parades, agricultural exhibitions and judging, free concerts and carnival and Midway games. This years featured entertainers will include Keith Urban, Tony Orlando, Terry Fator from season two of America’s got Talent, and Huey Lewis and The News. The Midway will feature over 40 different rides along with a wide array of games and of course, food vendors. One favorite is the “Around the World” petting zoo featuring camels, llamas, kangaroos, zebras and more.

Photo by: Nebraska State Fair
Photo by: Nebraska State Fair

2. Kentucky

Held for 10 days in late August, the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville is always an anticipated event. The Fair will have cooking contests such as the Evan Williams Bourbon competition (where all dishes must include Bourbon in the recipe), to the Great American Spam competition. The Fair offers exhibitions highlighting the cultural heritage and diversity of Kentucky. This year entertainers will include, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, The Oak Ridge Boys, Aretha Franklin and the Barrels and Boots Music Festival which includes such acts like Montgomery Gentry and John Michael Montgomery. Livestock exhibitions and auctions, with daily shows and Midway games and rides are all available here.

Photo by: Kentucky State Fair
Photo by: Kentucky State Fair

1. Texas

The Texas State Fair runs from late September to mid October each year. The fair entrance is highlighted by the mascot known as ‘Big Tex’, a 55 foot cowboy who welcomes all visitors. Located within the State Fair park is the historic Cotton Bowl Football Stadium, this year is unique because there will be two College football games played during the State Fair. The Fair features a car show where manufacturers can display their models, there will also be a livestock exhibition and auction, and of course, carnival rides and Midway games. A Beer and Wine Garden are both located on the grounds, along with numerous food vendors. Take a bite from a Fletcher’s Corn Dog, the original inventors of the corn dog, or if that doesn’t interest you, try any of the other fair food classics. There are also celebrity chefs giving demonstrations and a contest judging the best Fair Food from all the vendors.

Leena Robinson / Shutterstock.com
Leena Robinson / Shutterstock.com

Kentucky’s Top 5 Natural Wonders

Kentucky is legendary for thoroughbred racehorses and bourbon, but anyone who has visited the Bluegrass State knows that its natural wonders are not to be missed.  Mother Nature has truly blessed Kentucky with a dazzling array of outdoor attractions, many of which are world renowned for their unique features.  From a truly mammoth cave and a 600-foot gorge where the world’s best rock climbers test their skills, to a majestic waterfall that puts on a lunar light show seen nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere, Kentucky’s natural wonders are, in a word, wonderful.

5. Lake Cumberland

With the majority of U.S.-made houseboats manufactured in counties surrounding Lake Cumberland, the majestic lake naturally is a great place to spend the night on the water. The 50,000-acre, deep-water lake offers seemingly countless secluded coves and fingers to anchor a houseboat away from the main channel, where skiing and tubing are popular. Much of the lake’s meandering, 100-mile-long shoreline is heavily wooded and undeveloped, including soaring cliffs which create privacy that’s hard to find on many recreational lakes. The clean, deep water teems with game fish to challenge anglers. Striped bass are especially popular, and guides know the hot spots that can yield stripers of over 50 pounds. A 22-pound walleye and 208-pound catfish also have been brought out of Lake Cumberland’s waters, and trout fishing is productive near the mighty Wolf Creek Dam.  Historic Burnside Island is surrounded by the lake and features a golf course.

Cumberland Lake Kentucky

4. Big South Fork National Recreation Area

Situated on the Cumberland Plateau straddling the Kentucky and Tennessee border, Big South Fork National Recreation Area is where the folks who take their outdoor sports seriously go to get away from the crowds.  Its 125,000 acres of sandstone arches and high bluffs overlook the rollicking Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and several tributaries, where some of the best canoe and kayak whitewater east of the Mississippi River beckons. The river can be accessed at several spots, which yield runs of widely varying difficulty including a stretch of several Class III-IV drops in quick succession. Over 150 miles of maintained hiking trails lead to many spectacular views including the Grand Gap Loop that takes hearty hikers to a huge boulder some 500 feet above the rapids. Designated horse and mountain bike trails make those sports popular in this rugged and beautiful region.

ehrlif / Shutterstock.com
ehrlif / Shutterstock.com

3. Red River Gorge Geological Area

Only an hour southeast of Lexington, the Red River Gorge Geological Area and adjacent Natural Bridge State Resort Park offer a world of outdoor adventures in an easily accessible wilderness setting.  They showcase the largest concentration of sandstone arches (over 100) east of Colorado including Natural Bridge, a 78-foot-long, mountaintop span overlooking the 600-foot-deep gorge and other unique rock formations nearby.  The area is a hiker’s paradise with 80 miles of trails winding through the gorge and along the Red River, Kentucky’s only designated Wild and Scenic River, where guides offer canoe and kayak excursions below the towering cliffs.  The gorge’s pockmarked sandstone cliffs feature many natural handholds and overhangs that attract the world’s top rock climbers.  It’s possible to watch expert climbers in action or even take climbing lessons yourself.  Zip line tours, cycling, horseback riding and ATV excursions also are popular at the gorge.

Red River Gorge kentucky

2. Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls is one of those amazing places that truly lives up to its ‘world famous’ billing.  Cascading 65 feet into the roaring Cumberland River in Southcentral Kentucky, the ‘Niagara of the South’ is one of only two waterfalls in the world (Africa’s Victoria Falls is the other) where colorful moonbows can be seen on clear, moonlit nights.  Full moons are festive events at Cumberland Falls, where people from around the world can be seen perched in various vantage points, trying to capture the perfect photo of the exceedingly-rare moonbow.  Spectacular views are easily reached on both sides of the falls, where a network of hiking trails makes daytime adventures equally enjoyable.  Outfitters offer canoe, kayak and rafting trips on the scenic Cumberland both above and below the falls.  The state park surrounding Cumberland Falls features rustic cabins, camping, horseback riding and a historic lodge perched high above the river.

Cumberland Falls Kentucky

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

The world’s longest known cave system with 400 miles explored, Mammoth Cave National Park is the granddaddy of underground attractions in the U.S. and among the most spectacular sites on the continent. Native Americans gathered minerals inside the cave up to 4,000 years ago, and tours have been conducted since 1816. The sheer size of the massive cavern is mind boggling, with narrow passages opening up to huge rooms and amazing stalagmite and stalactite formations.  Natural works of art like the aptly-named Cathedral Dome and Frozen Niagara are simply stunning, as are the total darkness and silence when your tour guide turns off the lights and asks everyone to be quiet. The national park in Southcentral Kentucky offers much more than cave tours, including over 80 miles of hiking, horseback and mountain biking trails, great fishing and canoe adventures on the gentle Green River that contains some 100 species of fish.

Mammoth Cave National Park kentucky