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

Best Winter Adventure Parks in America

While not all of America sees winter in terms of cold, snow and ice; many states do and instead of hibernating inside, they are choosing to embrace when winter. Resorts and parks are creating awesome winter playgrounds that include snow tubing, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, mountain coasters and more. Instead of sitting inside complaining about the cold weather, we are urging you to bundle up and discover the 6 best winter adventure parks in America.

6. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Colorado

This adventure park is open all year round and sure knows how to draw in a winter crowd, offering 500,000 twinkling lights, a giant Christmas tree that plays a musical light show, winter rides and caves, a 4-D winter movie and fire pits! Ride to the park aboard a scenic tram with views of the lights and valley below. Once in the park take a ride on the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride and the Alpine Coaster, both lit for night riding. Tour King’s Row Cave which is lighted with colorful lights throughout. Follow two jolly snowmen on their adventures when you have the winter ride of your life in the $-D theater which plays Winter Wipeout. Warm up around the fire and roast smores or in one of the warming huts that also offer hot cocoa and other warm winter beverages. Experience a different side to this awesome adventure park when the snow falls.

Photo by: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park via Facebook
Photo by: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park via Facebook

5. Keystone Resort, Colorado

Day or night is the time to head to Adventure Point at Keystone Resort in Colorado to get your tube on. A massive tubing hill has been designed to be fun for all ages here. Boasting a unique enclosed state-of-the-art conveyor system, you can ride as many times as you want on this hill. The hill is multi-lane, ensuring that it is never overcrowded and you won’t wait around for your turn. Beside the massive hill is a smaller free children’s tubing area for those under 36 inches tall. The tubing sessions run an hour long and reservations are required. Although there are no multi-rider tubes, you can ensure that this will be one of the most fun hours of your winter life.

Photo by: Keystone Resort via Facebook
Photo by: Keystone Resort via Facebook

4. Avalanche Tubing Park, Ohio

This tubing park is Ohio’s largest and features 10 lanes that stretch 1000 ft. long. This is one of the only tubing parks where there is no minimum height for riders and parents with young children will love it here. Each rider must be able to ride in their own tube though, although linking tubes together is allowed. Getting down is the most fun but getting up the hill is just as easy thanks to the two magic carpet conveyor belts. There is also no time limit here, allowing tubers to slide as long as they want. With a base lodge that includes a snack bar and an outdoor fireplace to warm up, it’s easy to spend the day or night here. Just be aware that this tube hill is only open from Thursdays through Sundays and holidays.

Photo by: Mad River Mountain via Facebook
Photo by: Mad River Mountain via Facebook

3. Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, New York

This winter fun park offers awesome activities for people of all ages and plan on indulging in them all at the Rocking Horse Ranch Resort in New York. With an upgraded snow making machine, winter is here all season long with plenty of the fluffy white stuff. Snow tubers will love the 500 ft long Timber Chutes where single riders will blast down the hill. Luckily you won’t have to walk back up as the magic carpet conveyor lift will give all riders a way back up. If you are after a more relaxing winter activity here, join one of the horse drawn sleigh rides through the magical 500-acre woods. Or take that one step further and hop on the horse yourself for an incredible trail ride. Skaters will love the brand new ice rink available and skates are available at the Sports Shack to rent. And when you are too cold to handle being outdoors anymore, just head inside to the year-round indoor waterpark, where it is summer all year round.

Photo by: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort
Photo by: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

2. Camelback Mountain, Pennsylvania

It is known as boasting some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Pennsylvania, but in addition Camelback Mountain is home some pretty epic winter activities. It is here where you will find Pennsylvania’s only mountain coaster, one that traverses through the trees and down steel slopes of the mountain, running over 4000 ft long. The snow tubing is the favorite winter activity here though, other than skiing or snowboarding of course. Featuring up to 42 lanes of sliding and two surface lifts, it calls itself the biggest snow tubing park in America. Offering both single and double tubes, it is easy to challenge friends to a race to the bottom. Magic carpets carry riders back up time and time again. Depending on when you visit, snow tubing is limited to 3-hour sessions, or visit during the week for unlimited riding. How many times can you race down these exhilarating slopes?

Photo by: Camelback Mountain Resort via Facebook
Photo by: Camelback Mountain Resort via Facebook

1. Wintergreen Resort, Virginia

The Plunge is Virginia’s largest tubing park and is often referred to as the “scream machine.” That is because the hill is 10 storeys high and as long as three football fields. Speeds can reach up to 30 mph and although only single tubes are offered, riders are welcome to hook onto each other for an even faster, twister ride. The resort is also home to a 45X90 rink that can accommodate up to 60 skaters at one time. For the younger kids that are too small to visit The Plunge, this resort has an awesome adventure park for just them. Ridgely’s Fun Park boasts a mini-tubing carousel, bear paw snow shoes, tunnels, visits from the mascot and even a small hill for tubing. Great for ages 3 and up, this is the perfect way to spend an hour before warming up with some much needed hot chocolate.

Photo by: Wintergreen Resort
Photo by: Wintergreen Resort

The 6 Craziest Christmas Displays Around the World

‘Tis that time of the year again when home and business owners go completely over the top with Christmas lights and displays. With the passing of each year it seems there is an unspoken competition with oneself to top last years displays and visitors are constantly delighted with new innovative and interactive Christmas displays. All over the world this tradition takes place, although most notably in the United States where some entire towns transform their houses, buildings and streets. From inflatable characters to dressed up dolls to millions of lights and robots, here are six absolutely crazy over-the-top Christmas displays around the world:

6. Garabedian Family Christmas House -Pelham Gardens, New York

It is known to many as “The Christmas House” and once pulling up to this house, you will understand why. It is one of the craziest Christmas displays in all of America. There is a traditional nativity scene of course but along with that comes nearly 200 animated figures, all dressed up in old-school Hollywood-style gowns. These figures dance to upbeat holiday music all night long. Think Disney princesses, occulted angels, and dolls dolls and more dolls. The Garabedian family is in the fashion business throughout the year but it is the holiday season when they really get to work, having to assemble and take down the dolls each and every single night (weather depending). Although other houses in the neighborhood are decorated, this is a must to anyone looking for a unique, crazy Christmas display.

Photo by: Business Insider
Photo by: Business Insider

5. Richmond, Virginia

The city’s mayor has deemed Richmond as the “tacky lights capital of the world”, whether that makes this city more attractive to future residents or not, they have some of the craziest Christmas displays in the world. The Tacky Light Tour has been created here, a registry that lists houses with more than 40,000 lights that people can visit. A tacky Light Tour is a trip made by family and friends from one insanely decorated home or business to the next in the city of Richmond and here people go all out, even renting a limousine to ride in. Expect timed musical lights, giant inflatable characters, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus and more than 70 million lights in total.

Photo by: Abby Pie Photography
Photo by: Abby Pie Photography

4. Jamaica Estates, New York

This property is so massive it takes up an entire block and owner Anthony Gurino has made it his mission to celebrate Christmas to the extreme. Not only is this property fun to look at but the house is also interactive. Included here is a coffee and hot chocolate station, free cookies for all and holiday music playing. Expect to see carolers, donation boxes and sometimes even Santa and Mrs. Claus show up and pay a visit to unsuspecting visitors. The wires are covered so walking through the property is easy and there are plenty of benches for you to sit on for the incredible photo opportunities. Make sure to get close to the windows to see the incredible displays inside as well. From flashing lights to reindeer on the roof to more colors than you can imagine, this is one light display you wont want to miss.

Photo by: Christmas In Jamaica Estates
Photo by: Christmas In Jamaica Estates

3. Policarpio Street -Mandaluyong, Philippines

This street screams Christmas, despite the obvious lack of snow as a collection of neighbors have made it their collective goal to decorate their houses to the extreme to celebrate the holiday season. Millions of sparkling lights seem to cover every inch of the houses while rooftops and gardens are adorning with figures, toys, holiday décor and nativity scenes. The House of Santa Claus is worth checking out as it boasts the largest Santa Claus collection in Metro Manila. From twinkling lights to neon strands to food stalls that line the street to fill your belly with goodness, Policarpio turns into a whimsical Christmas village for the entire month of December.

Photo by: PhotoBento
Photo by: PhotoBento

2. Hyatt Extreme Christmas -Plantation, Florida

The Hyatt family has taken things to the extreme when it comes to Christmas displays and although the city of Plantation does not support this cause and has even threatened fines of up to $7,000, for now this house is completely decked out and the tradition continues. Think snow-blowing machines, a whopping 200,000 lights, visits from Santa and his live reindeer, a movie screen showing holiday films, a Ferris Wheel of stuffed animals and endless moving characters. Starting preparations in August, this family and its team adds new excitement every year including a complete Santa’s workshop, M&M candy disco and 24-foot sign celebrating the magic of Christmas.

Photo by: Hyatt Extreme Christmas
Photo by: Hyatt Extreme Christmas

 

 

1. Robolights -Palm Springs, California

This sci-fi holiday spectacle has been tradition since 1986, when Kenny Irwin Jr. decided to do something a little different for the holidays. This year-round event can be viewed from the street but Christmas time is when Robolights really comes alive. Free to the public, with donations accepted there are millions of lights that twinkle in some pretty epic sci-fi ways. This landscape of art includes Nuclear Elves in the tennis court while Santa’s sleigh (or battle wagon as it’s referred to) is pulled by 12 robotic reindeer. Think wise men laden with microwaves, robots standing over 50 feet tall, animal heads on toilet seats, solid colored rooms and more alien like art. The property is over 4 acres and provides more unusual and crazy looking things than you have ever imagined, and all lit up in Christmas lights.

Photo by: Robolights
Photo by: Robolights

America’s 12 Most Beautiful College Campuses

America is loaded with beautiful college and university campuses that not only drive students to attend these schools but visitors from all over the world. From a University that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to campuses that look more like resorts than schools to breathtaking surrounding landscapes, it’s hard to believe the students here can actually concentrate on their studies. Between the stunning architecture, elaborate fountains, mountain landscapes and amazing students; here are our choices for the 12 most beautiful campuses across America.

12. Kenyon College -Gambier, Ohio

Whether you are a student here, visitor to the campus or happen to be a resident in the tiny town of Gambier; you have one thing in common, you are surrounded by the stunning Kenyon College campus. Placed on the hilltop in the tiny town, the campus features one of the most incredible walkways in America, the famous 10 foot wide Middle Path. The Middle Path spans the entire length of the campus and right into town, surrounded by humungous overhanging trees on both sides. Fall is absolutely the most beautiful time as the leave change to brilliant shades of red and orange, and it is truly like something out of a painting. The rest of the campus isn’t so shabby either, think castle-like halls, stunning columns, surrounding rock walls and beautiful churches. This campus is so pretty and serene; you will have a hard time leaving once you are here.

Photo by: PHS Grads at College
Photo by: PHS Grads at College

11. University of Virginia -Charlottesville, Virginia

This university is the only university in the USA to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was designed by the one and only Thomas Jefferson. Since that time the university’s layout has been copied but none have come close to this incredible campus. Jefferson not only planned the layout of the property but also hired the initial faculty and created the curriculum, a feat he was so proud of it ended up as one of his three proudest moments on his gravestone. The shining star of this campus is the neoclassical domed Rotunda which was created to replicate the Pantheon in Rome. An interesting fact about this building is that it actually burnt down in 1895 so what you see today is a replica. The Small Special Collections Library hosts early printing of the Declaration of Independence and for any history buff, this campus is truly breathtaking.

Photo by: Neighborhood Nomads
Photo by: Neighborhood Nomads

10. Stanford University -Palo Alto, California

Sunny blue skies and warm temperatures help push this campus onto the list of the most beautiful campuses across America, but there are many other factors to consider as well. Even though this university continually goes through expansive growth, they have managed to maintain their cohesiveness and safeguard their beauty. Entering the university through its dramatic entrance via Palm Drive is a one of a kind experience, with its romantic Spanish red-tile roofs and myriad patches of green. Throughout the campus students and visitors will find timeless buildings from the early California Mission Revival architecture combined with tasteful and modern new additions such as the Science and Engineering Quad. While the academics may be rigorous, the campus sends out a feeling of tranquility and with students and staff interacting all over the grounds, you certainly will feel welcome here.

Martin Valigursky / Shutterstock.com
Martin Valigursky / Shutterstock.com

9. Furman University -Greenville, South Carolina

The lush South Carolina landscape at this campus includes Asia-inspired gardens, a sparkling blue lake and a collection of diverse buildings. The campus is spread over 750 acres of wooded grounds and circles the beautiful lake and the landmark Bell Tower, offering miles of walking trails and even an 18-hole golf course. From a former Buddhist Temple to an environmentally sustainable show home to the beautiful Georgian architecture; the landscape here certainly isn’t mediocre. The Bell Tower that stretches out into the lake looks best during fall when the trees leading up to it turns into splashes of red and orange as the leave change with the season. The fountains strategically placed throughout, the rose gardens and the breathtaking sunsets help make this one of the most beautiful campuses across the country.

Furman University

8. University of Washington -Seattle, Washington

If you are looking for a campus with a view, go no further than the University of Washington, which boasts views of both the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Rainer and the shimmering waters of Lake Washington. Spring time is the best time of year here though as the Quad features 31 Yoshino Cherry trees that bloom beautiful, delicate pink pedals, which enthrall visitors in both March and April. One of the favorite buildings on campus here is the Suzzallo Library, featuring 35-foot high stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings that soar up to 65 feet in the air. The glass fronted Paccar Hall puts a modern twist on the campus with its unique levels and abundance of light it lets in and out. Students can be found here at the newly renovated Neptune Theatre taking in some musical acts or hanging out by the Drumheller Fountain.

cpaulfell / Shutterstock.com
cpaulfell / Shutterstock.com

7. Lewis & Clark College -Portland, Oregon

First things first, although the spelling is different, who wouldn’t want to attend a school that is called “Lewis and Clark”? Secondly this college campus is downright breathtaking, partly because of the surrounding scenery and partly because of its pristine location. Located on top of Palatine Hill in the Collins View neighborhood of Portland, Oregon this campus offers students towering trees and trillium lined creeks. The architecture here has won numerous awards for its environmentally sustainable buildings while others buildings have significant history attached to them. 600 acres of wooded trails, an outdoor swimming pool and a reflection pool with views of Mt. Hood only add to the prettiness of this campus. This college is also known for having really attractive students, just adding to the prettiness of the campus.

"L&C Flanagan Chapel" by M.O. Stevens - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
L&C Flanagan Chapel” by M.O. StevensOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

6. Dartmouth College -Hanover, New Hampshire

Not only is the campus here beautiful but the people as well, as this university boasts some of the happiest students across the country. This could be due to the magnificent surroundings that they live in, the fresh mountain air and the sense of community that is felt here. It also happens to be the ninth oldest college in the country. There are huge elms trees here that provide the perfect shady study spots for students as well as beautiful red brick buildings that tower high into the sky. The surrounding pastel mountains and picturesque Connecticut River on the west side of the campus only makes this University even more inviting. Placid forests, the smell of fresh air and students who are always smiling; it doesn’t get much better than this.

Edward Fielding / Shutterstock.com
Edward Fielding / Shutterstock.com

5. Elon University -Elon, North Carolina

It is often described as the campus with the best grass, and as strange as it may sound it truly looks like each blade of grass has been individually cut with a sharp pair of scissors. In fact everywhere you look on this campus is a picture perfect moment. From the classic collegiate architecture of the South to the wide variety of trees to the picture perfect blue skies that always seem to hang overhead, this campus is the epitome of beauty. The fountains throughout the campus must not be forgotten though, the famous KOBC fountain sparkles and sprays in the sunlight, the fountains in the lake shine and everywhere you turn, keep an eye out for these awesome features. The new admissions building stands strong and proud, a beautiful architectural piece of work that provides the perfect entrance to the perfect campus.

Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com
Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com

4. Berry College -Mount Berry, Georgia

It holds the title of being one of the largest campuses in the world, spread out over 27,000 acres. Each acre is teeming with fields, forests, mountains and/or lakes that provide an absolutely breathtaking setting. This school was founded in 1902, specifically for enterprising rural boys and it wasn’t long before a girls school was added in 1909. Some of the best features about this campus include the numerous fountains and reflection pools located around the buildings which offer a serene and relaxing environment. Breathtaking gardens can be found throughout the entire campus, as are trails for bikers, hikers and even horseback riders. The English Gothic inspired buildings only add more beauty and character to this campus. Make sure to check out the Ford Dining Hall and Ford Auditorium to see some of the prettiest buildings here.

Berry College Georgia

3. University of Hawai’i at Mānoa -Honolulu, Hawaii

It is unsure how any students can possibly concentrate on studying at this beautiful campus located in Honolulu Hawaii. Surrounded by lush green tropical foliage, bright beautiful flowers and wide walking paths throughout the campus, it is easy to understand why most students study outdoors. Dramatic hills and cliffs frame the background as this campus is located in the Manoa Valley. Graduate students especially enjoy it here as they are encouraged to study coral reef at the marine biology lab, built on a coral reef. This campus combines natural beauty with world class research facilities along with a highly competitive sports program, which draws students from all over the world. In addition, and one of the favorite natural occurrences here are the abundance of rainbows that are always filling the skies.

Photo by: University of Hawai’i
Photo by: University of Hawai’i 

2. Cornell University -Ithaca, New York

Set in the Finger Lakes region, the planners that built this campus were both ambitious and geniuses. With beauty in mind they placed the campus on twenty three hundred acres of land which includes lakes, gardens, waterfalls and more. The main quad was placed over the dramatic Cayuga Lake, the longest in the region and was done so to invoke the thoughts of putting education on a high platform and the views are simply stunning. The mix of buildings from historic to modern and dramatic creates the perfect landscape of learning. One of the most impressive features of this campus though is Cascadilla Gorge, where eight waterfalls drop 400 feet from the campus into downtown, along with an array of beautiful gardens and 150-acre arboretum. Students here love to head off the campus as well to the vibrant city of Ithaca, recently voted as one of the top 100 places to live in the world.

Cornell University Ithaca

1. Rollins College -Winter Park, Florida

It is Florida’s oldest post-secondary institution and the most beautiful campus in America, as ranked by the Princeton Review for 2015. The location itself is enough to warrant some attention as it is directly located on Lake Virginia, which leads to some pretty incredible views. Add in lush gardens, the greenhouse oasis, overhanging trees, rose gardens and pedestrian pathways that run through the scenery and you have a pretty incredible place to study. Students love the outdoor classroom spaces, the three-story atrium in the Bush Science Center and Olin Library that offers view of both the lake and the campus. The green grass, the palm trees and the modern buildings make this campus look more like a resort you want to spend a week at rather than a campus. At night when the moon rises and shimmers off the lake it turns the colors into deep blues and combined with the twinkling lights of the buildings, it is a perfect setting.

Photo by: Rollins College
Photo by: Rollins College

9 Significant Historical Sites of the American Civil War

From 1861 to 1865 this iconic battle of North versus South waged on to determine the fate of slavery in the United States of America. This battle for civil rights and freedom was a defining moment in our nation’s history and marked the abolition of slavery and the preservation of the United States as one indivisible nation. The Civil War remains today as the deadliest war in American history, with approximately 620,000 military , not to mention the undetermined civilian casualties as a result of the relentless battles. From Gettysburg to Andersonville to Richmond, many of the historic sites are preserved and can still be visited today. Here are a few we recommend any history buff check out:

9. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park -Appomattox, Virginia

Among the preserved and reconstructed buildings at this national historic park is the McLean House. This important building is where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederacy to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant on April 9th, 1865, effectively ending the Civil War. Today the park is home to many original artifacts tied to the events which occurred here, including the pencil used by General Lee to make corrections to the terms of surrender. The park’s visitor center is open daily from 8:30am – 5:00pm and admission is $10 per vehicle.

Mclean House

8. Shiloh National Military Park -Shiloh, Tennessee

Shiloh National Military Park preserves the battlefields of Shiloh and Corinth in southern Tennessee and Mississippi. The Battle of Shiloah was one of the first major Civil War battles in the south and resulted in nearly 24,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing. After this battle the Union troops took the railroad junction at Corinth which is why the sights of both battlefields are preserved within this National Park designation. Among the attractions of these historic sites are the Shiloah National Cemetery, the Confederate Memorial in Shiloah Park, Siloah Indian Mounds and the Sunken Road.

Shiloh National Military Park

7. Richmond National Battlefield Park -Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia played an integral part of the Civil War, having served as the capital of the Confederate States of America during this time. As a result, there are numerous sites of historical significance to be found throughout the city and surrounding counties. Richmond National Battlefield Park includes 13 distinct sites or units, each commemorating an important event or location of the American Civil War. Among these sites are Fort Harrison, Cold Harbor, the defensive battery of Drewry’s Bluff and the famous Tredegar Iron Works, now home to the park’s main visitor center.

"Pattern building, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia" by Morgan Riley - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Pattern building, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia” by Morgan RileyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

6. Antietam National Battlefield -Sharpsburg, Maryland

On September 17, 1862 the Battle of Antietam was fought at the foothills of the Appalachians along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This was a significant battle as it marked the end of General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North during the Civil War. Today, the area and its historic sites have been preserved as a National Park and included on the National Register of Historic Places. Each year over 330,00 people visit the park which includes such attractions as a visitor center, National Cemetery, Maryland Monument and the Pry House Field Hospital Museum.

Antietam National Battlefield

5. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park -Fredericksburg, Virginia

This Civil War site in Virginia gives you a 4 in 1 experience as this National Military Park covers 4 important battle sites of the Civil War; the Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The park includes 5 preserved structures open to the public (one of which is the location where Stonewall Jackson died of injuries sustained during the Battle of Chancellorsville) and at over 8374 acres, Fredericksburg is the second largest military park in the world.

Confederate Cemetery, Fredericksburg VA

4. Andersonville National Historic Site -Andersonville, Georgia

When we think of POW camps, our minds tend to lean more to Europe and the camps of WWII, long before this however there were POW camps right here in America. Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia preserves the site of Camp Sumter, also known as Andersonville Prison which was a Confederate POW camp during the Civil War. The site is open to the public and includes a National Cemetery, prisoner-of-war museum, and remains of the camp itself. Visit this site to pay your respects to the over 13,000 men that died here as a result of the unlivable conditions; a somber reminder of the horrors of war camps.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

3. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park -Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia/Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

This military park encompasses two distinct locations which were the sites of two significant Civil War battles;  the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia and the Chattanooga Campaign at Lookout Mountain, eastern Tennessee. The park consists of four main areas: Chickamauga Battlefield, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain Battlefield and Point Park and Moccasin Bend. These parks preserve and recount the long and hard-fought battle of the Chattanooga Campaign; the power struggle of North vs South for domination and control of this “Gateway to the Deep South”.

Lookout Mountain  Chattanooga

2. Fort Sumter National Monument -Charleston, South Carolina

Fort Sumter is credited as being the location where the American Civil War really began, when on April 12, 1861 Confederate artillery opened fire on this Charleston Harbor fort. While there are several sites associated with Fort Sumter that are accessible by land, including the visitor center, visiting the fort itself will require transportation by boat as the fort sits in Charleston Harbor. Visitors can either take the public boat tours operated by Fort Sumter Tours at a cost of $19 for adults and $12 for children, or if you have your own boat, there is no admission to visit Fort Sumter on your own.

Fort Sumter National Monument -Charleston

1. Gettysburg National Military Park -Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It’s no accident that the site of the most notorious battle of the American Civil War comes in as the number one historical Civil War site to visit in America. The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 was the bloodiest of the entire Civil War with an estimated 46,000-51,000 casualties from both sides. The result of this battle was a Union win, which ended Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North. The significance of this battle was such that it spawned President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address which honored the fallen soldiers of this bloody clash. Today, the public can appreciate the significance of Gettysburg with a visit to the visitors center, the Soldier’s National Cemetery or David Wills House.

Gettysburg National Military Park

8 Best North American Destinations to See the Colors of Autumn

Summer is drawing to a close; kids are back to school and there’s a frosty feel in the air at night. This year’s fall equinox is September 23, marking the official start of the autumn season in the northern hemisphere. One of the most exciting things about fall is the fantastic display in the forests and countryside, as plants turn a myriad of brilliant colors—reds, golds, browns and oranges speckle the vibrant landscape. The following 8 destinations are good viewing points for nature’s radiance; pick a clear and crisp autumn day to get out and enjoy nature’s beautiful hues.

8. Lake Placid, New York

Nestled away in the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is part of the Tri-Lakes area in Essex County, New York. The village is well-known to outdoor enthusiasts; its renowned for its winter sports scene, including skiing and bobsledding. In fact, it hosted 2 Winter Olympics (1932 and 1980). The area is also great for mountain climbing and hiking. The area, much of it now parkland, is the southernmost part of the Eastern forest-boreal transition ecozones, and includes pine, spruce and deciduous trees. Almost 60% of the Adirondacks park is covered in northern hardwood forest. Tree species include sugar maple, white ash, American beech and yellow birch, which make for a spectacular mix of colors, from the showy maple trees to the reliable colors of the ash trees. Take a hike through some of the mountainous trails and enjoy the scenery rolling across the hills.

Lake Placid, New York

7. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton, part of the province of Nova Scotia, is Canada’s 18th largest island. Its geography is widely varied, including plateaus, headlands and glacial valleys, along with mountains and, yes, forests. The northern part of the island, known as the Cape Breton Highlands, is home to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The forests here are mixed between the Acadian forest and Boreal forest, which is found at higher elevations. You can hike the Cabot Trail or the Skyline Trail, which wrap around the park’s coast line. The forests of the area are home to many species of pine and spruce, but their deciduous inhabitants include birches, beeches, maples and oaks. Cottonwood and poplar species turn brilliant yellow in autumn, adding sunny colors to the canvas alongside the deep reds and oranges of maples and oaks. Visit the Beulach Ban Falls in the Aspy Valley for some spectacular fall colors.

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Cabot trail fall

6. Aspen, Colorado

The west usually isn’t the first stop on people’s list when they think of fall foliage, but the forests of the Rockies put on a good show, giving the eastern Appalachians a run for their money. Aspen, Colorado, is named after a tree and there are plenty of aspens around. Their foliage turns a beautiful golden-yellow hue in the fall and even seems to shimmer in the breeze. They provide a perfect contrast to the background of the evergreens on the craggy mountains. The biggest problem, however, is that viewing season is short: onset happens mid-September and by the first week of October, most of the trees will have shed their leaves. That means you have about 3 weeks to get out and see the colors. If you happen to be in the area anyway, be sure to take the time to appreciate the splendor of Mother Nature’s palette.

Fall Landscape of Maroon Bells Aspen Colorado

5. Ludlow, Vermont

Vermont is renowned for its forests—they give the state’s iconic Green Mountains their name, after all—so it should be little surprise that there’s a number of great places to view fall foliage in Vermont. Ludlow, in the Okemo Valley, is one of those places. Although it’s often passed over for the Green Mountain Byway, Okemo Mountain provides a 360-degree view of the Green Mountains and the valley. Ludlow is surrounded by prime viewing spots: the Scenic Route 100 Byway will take you to Coolidge State Park and the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site with their mountaintop views. The area shares similarities with the Adirondacks and Cape Breton forests, which means the autumn colors are a splendid mix of reds, oranges and yellows, thanks to the mix of trees like maples, birches and poplars.

Ludlow, Vermont

4. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

It’s hard to go wrong picking a fall foliage destination almost anywhere in New England, but Portsmouth, New Hampshire, might be a good selection. Although it is somewhat famed as a historic seaport (and the end of Paul Revere’s infamous 1774 ride), Portsmouth is like many New England towns—awash in early American colonial history and endowed with ample tracts of northern hardwood forests that offer up the colors of maple, oak, ash, beech and birch in the fall. The town has restored 17th-century buildings along its waterfront district and the 10-acre Strawberry Banke Museum, where you can wander as you take in the fall foliage. By car, you can enjoy the fall colors by cruising down the 18-mile Coastal Byway. You could also hop on an inland river cruise; there are a few dedicated to highlighting the fall foliage.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

3. Lenox, Massachusetts

Lenox is an affluent town nestled away in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. The town was once part of nearby Richmond, but because the mountains pass between the 2, they were eventually divided into 2 towns. The Housatonic River flows through the east side of Lenox, and parts of the Housatonic Valley Wildlife Management Area and the October Mountain State Forest line the east banks of the river. October Mountain rises further east and in the west, Yokun Seat is the highest peak at 2,146 feet. The Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is also in the area, to the south of Yokun Seat. What all of this means is that there are a lot of wilderness spaces around Lenox and a lot of trees. Leaf-viewing season usually starts October 1; the Jacob’s Ladder section of U.S. Route 20, a 35-mile stretch near Lenox, is popular for taking in fall foliage.

Fall colors trees

2. Mont-Tremblant, Quebec

Mont-Tremblant, approximately 80 miles northwest of Montreal, is perhaps most famous for its skiing. Long a winter destination for snow bunnies, the area actually hosts a number of sporting events throughout the year and presents great opportunities for activities like hiking, ziplining and cycling. Mont Tremblant, at just under 3,000 feet, is one of the tallest peaks in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. Dense boreal forest in the area promises a mix of evergreens splashed with color from aspens, birches, willows and rowan. Larches, one of the most common trees in the boreal biome, also turn color in the fall, adding a distinctive yellow hue to the forests. Take a tour along the Via ferrata du Diable, which offers a hybrid hiking-climbing experience, in nearby Mont-Tremblant National Park. The path is open until October, making it a unique way to view the autumn colors.

Mont-Tremblant fall

1. Skyline Drive, Virginia

This 105-mile stretch of highway in northern Virginia winds through Shenandoah National Park. It features almost 75 mountain overlooks and forests chockful of colorful sumac, locust, sassafras, scarlet oak, red maple and sweet gum trees—a combination that makes for a brilliant blending of reds and yellows that stretches on for miles. October is prime viewing month for the colors in the park. If you have time, pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway and continue through the southern part of the state, into the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. If you prefer to go on foot, Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park is about 75 miles from Washington, D.C., making it a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capitol and get back to nature.

Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive

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

Virginia’s Top 10 Historic Sites to Visit

Steeped in history and blessed with natural beauty, Virginia oozes tradition and charm. Located in a remarkably compact area are dozens of carefully preserved sites that tell the stories behind America’s birth and fight for independence as well as its bloody Civil War. From the Revolutionary War to the War Between the States, Virginia has seen more battles on its soil than any other state. With majestic estates of America’s first presidents with the hallowed grounds of its national cemetery to the most significant fields of battle, Virginia is a fascinating place to explore for anyone with an appreciation of history.

10. University of Virginia

photohoo / Getty Images

Many other universities can claim a long and prestigious history, but what school other than the University of Virginia can boast it was designed by Thomas Jefferson? The third U.S. president, who lived just outside Charlottesville on his Monticello estate, spent the last years of his life designing the university as a model academic institution. Today, the thriving, picturesque campus that opened in 1825 remains a remarkable architectural showcase, dotted with large trees and stately historic brick buildings. Jefferson’s crowning achievement is the domed Rotunda library. Designed to resemble Rome’s Pantheon, the Rotunda serves as the center of a majestic pavilion lined with student dorms that are still in use. A vibrant college town, Charlottesville bustles with energy. Its pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown has dozens of shops and restaurants complemented by street musicians. The mall’s Paramount Theater opened in 1931, hosts concerts, plays, and other special events.

9. Appomattox Court House

James P. Blair / Getty Images

The horrific violence of the Civil War came to a most civil end on April 9, 1865, when Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant sat down in the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House and worked out the details of the Army of Northern Virginia’s peaceful surrender. Today, the quaint, quiet village is a National Historic Park with over a dozen buildings including the restored courthouse and McLean House, a theater showing a film on the monumental significance of the surrender, and a museum filled with documents and military artifacts related to the milestone event. A gentle, four-mile walking trail allows visitors to relive the history up close at several landmarks such as the site where the Confederate flag of truce was received by Union General George Custer and the road where the defeated Southern army laid down their arms.

8. James Madison’s Montpelier

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

A leisurely drive northeast of Charlottesville past well-manicured horse farms is one of Virginia’s most impressive historic estates—James Madison’s Montpelier. The fourth U.S. president and father of the U.S. constitution lived at Montpelier throughout his momentous life. He is buried there along with his equally famous wife, Dolley Madison. Archaeological digs continue today at the sprawling, 2,650-acre complex that includes a two-acre, formal botanical garden and over 200 acres of old-growth forest behind the home that was built in 1723. A hike in the quiet forest, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1987, is worth the visit alone, with interpretative signage marking trails where workers took grain through the woods to be ground at nearby mills. The visitors center presents a film and exhibits life at Montpelier. The mansion includes Madison’s presidential library along with other authentic books, furnishings, and art from Madison’s years living there.

7. Museum and White House of the Confederacy in Richmond

Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

As the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Richmond is chock full of history. The city’s Museum of the Confederacy has the largest collection of Confederate artifacts found anywhere, including personal items from Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other legendary leaders. Founded in 1890, the museum also includes impressive art depicting the South’s war experience. Next door, the White House of the Confederacy was the residence of Davis and his family during the war. The circa 1818 mansion has been restored to its stately antebellum condition. Also nearby is the Virginia State Capitol that served as the site of both the Virginia and Confederate legislatures. Capitol Square surrounding the state capitol complex includes the governor’s historic Executive Mansion. The Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center provides a fascinating overview of the bitter fighting that took place in and around the capital city.

6. Old Town Alexandria

Grace Cary / Getty Images

Much of the Washington, D.C. suburb of Alexandria doesn’t feel historic with high-rise apartments adjacent to commuter train stations and trendy shops. Old Town Alexandria is a delightful exception that extends westward from the Potomac River for several blocks. Once part of the original Washington, D.C., Alexandria was a busy seaport during the Colonial period and became a hospital center for the Union army during the Civil War. Gadsby’s Tavern in the heart of Old Town is one of America’s most famous watering holes. Now a museum, the circa 1785 tavern and adjoining City Hotel (ca. 1795) was visited by the nation’s first six presidents including hosting Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural party. The free King Street Trolley runs through the heart of Old Town, the home of Christ Church where George and Martha Washington worshiped, and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, now a museum where the Washington’s shopped.

5. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Ian Spanier / Getty Images

Located between the capitals of Richmond and Washington, D.C., Fredericksburg and nearby towns endured some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park captures the intense battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania that saw 100,000 casualties. The four battlefields are within a short drive from each other and collectively comprise the world’s second-largest military park. Each battlefield has self-guided driving tours and walking trails, but a stop at the visitor centers of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville is a smart way to begin your tour. They present a short overview film along with maps and exhibits, plus rangers can help determine the best options with the time you’ve allotted. A comprehensive exploration could easily take two days, but a half-day can be rewarding. Special events and guided tours are offered in the warmer months to the numerous historic buildings and landmarks of this hallowed ground.

4. Arlington National Cemetery

Marc Perrella / Getty Images

Perhaps no single site is more steeped in American history than Arlington National Cemetery. Perched on a picturesque hill overlooking the Potomac River and the nation’s capital, the former estate of Robert E. Lee became a national cemetery at the height of the Civil War in 1864. Originally owned by the grandson of Martha Washington, Arlington is the final resting place for a Who’s Who of American dignitaries including generals, admirals, chief justices, secretaries of state, Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, as well as Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline and brothers Ted and Robert. The hallowed ground is highlighted by the Tomb of the Unknowns that is guarded by soldiers 24 hours a day and the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s grave. Another not-to-be-missed site is the Arlington House where Lee resigned his U.S. Army commission to lead the Army of Northern Virginia as the Civil War began in 1861.

3. Monticello

Bruce Ellis / Shutterstock

Thomas Jefferson made Monticello his permanent residence just outside Charlottesville in northwestern Virginia beginning in 1770, and today the domed estate offers a revealing glimpse into the genius of Jefferson. Mementos of the Lewis & Clark expedition and Jefferson’s world travels grace the estate, as do many of the third U.S. president’s mind-boggling inventions. A stroll along the grounds of the heavily wooded estate takes visitors to the family cemetery where Jefferson was buried upon his death in 1826, as well as to the lovely orchard, garden, and vineyard areas. In fact, Jefferson was a noted wine lover who unsuccessfully attempted to recreate the delicious wines he savored during his trips to France. Today, Jefferson Vineyards has been much more successful in producing vintage-quality wines on the same soil as its namesake. It’s among dozens of wineries around Charlottesville offering tastings of wines made from Virginia grapes.

2. George Washington’s Mount Vernon

JacobH / Getty Images

Virginia lays claim to many famous people but none more so than George Washington. America’s first president moved into George Washington’s Mt. Vernon in 1752. He expanded and transformed the circa 1735 home his father built into a 21-room mansion with a sweeping, two-story porch facing the Potomac River that he designed. The mansion and grounds have been meticulously restored to their 18th-century condition. Over a dozen outbuildings are open for visitors on the sprawling estate including a working blacksmith shop, distillery, and gristmill. Serpentine paths wind through impressive groves of trees, beautiful walled gardens, and to the family cemetery where George, Martha, and other members of the Washington family are buried. Visitors can even opt to arrive at the site of Washington’s original wharf on the Potomac. Operators run a regular schedule of shuttle boats from nearby Alexandria and Washington, D.C.

1. Jamestown, Williamsburg & Yorktown

Regine Poirier / Shutterstock

Driving along the 23-mile Colonial Parkway in southeastern Virginia that connects Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown is akin to stepping into a time machine that takes you back to the beginnings of a nation. Start at Historic Jamestown where English settlers arrived in 1607, some 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, and then onto Jamestown Settlement to see replicas of the ships that brought the settlers. There’s also a reconstruction of their original fort and a recreated Powhatan Indian village where Pocahontas lived. Nearby Colonial Williamsburg is a truly immersive experience of colonial life complete with costumed characters, horse-drawn carriages, and seemingly countless historic buildings on the 301-acre complex including the Governor’s Palace and taverns frequented by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Yorktown is where America finally won its independence from Britain when the surrender of General Cornwallis signified the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1781.

8 Thrilling White Water Rafting Destinations in North America

Adrenaline rushes, your heart pounds and as you look up, the last thing you see is white water rushing at your boat; this is the ultimate white water rafting experience. North America is home to some of the biggest and most thrilling rivers for the adrenaline seeker. Rafting any rapids over a Class 3 is sure to get your heart pumping but these 8 destinations all feature exhilarating Class 5 rapids. From glacier rafting in the mountains of British Columbia to multi-day trips through the Salmon River; these 8 thrilling white water rafting destinations are the best in North America.

8. Kipawa River, Quebec

The Kipawa River is a thrilling 16 km run, from Lake Kipawa down to Lake Temiscaming with 18 big rapids and a 90 foot waterfall that is sure to keep your heart pumping. It has been rated as one of Eastern Canada’s best intermediate whitewater rivers and once you feel the power of this river, you will understand why. Currently it is an endangered waterway and thus by rafting this river you are actually helping to preserve it. If you want to raft this river with a guide you need to attend the Kipawa River Festival where Esprit Whitewater will take you down this epic portion of the river, feed you snacks and get you mighty wet. It is sadly only a matter of time before this river is dammed and the time is now to explore the incredible rapids in Quebec.

Photo by: All About Whitewater
Photo by: All About Whitewater

7. Nahatlatch River, British Columbia

This river boasts the most continuous Class 3 plus rapids in all of Canada, with over 37 of them.  This demanding river promises non-stop action, especially in the early spring when water levels are at their highest. The trade-off in the late summer is the chance to try and run the narrow Nahatlatch Canyon, a Class 4-5 mind-altering experience. This river happens to be located in the middle of nowhere, which explains the varied terrain as rafters move from the mountains into rugged canyon walls. Most companies like to run this river twice for the thrill seekers and guests will enjoy amazing accommodations, food and fun when they sign up with one of the guided companies. Although other rivers in the region get talked about more, it is the non-stop action and challenges that make this river stand out as one of the most thrilling in North America.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

6. Gauley River, West Virginia

Although you can raft this river almost anytime of the year, it is at its finest for 6 weeks during September and October when the water is released from the Dam and floods the river bed. It makes for the best single day rafting trip in all of America. Rafters can expect Class 4 and 5 rapids as they wind their way down this wild river. The scenery is just as epic as the rapids, with autumn descending on the surrounding forests, changing their leaves into brightly colored works of art. The towering canyon walls, the waterfalls and the scenic bridges make it hard to look away. The complete Gauley River is 26 miles and 100 rapids of intense whitewater rafting excitement that can be experienced in just one day or over two days; an epic adventure that you will never forget.

Photo by: River Expeditions - West Virginia
Photo by: River Expeditions – West Virginia

5. Arkansas River, Colorado

Whether you want to raft for just ½ a day or over multiple days, the Arkansas River is the perfect place to experience some serious thrills. It is the most popular spot to raft in the Rockies due to its varied nature of rapids. For thrill seekers there are plenty of Class 4 and 5 rapids in the Royal Gorge Canyon, a canyon that is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas.”. This narrow canyon features rapids such as ‘sledgehammer’, ‘wallslammer’ and ‘boateater’. Rafters here may be so concentrated on these awesome rapids they may miss the amazing scenery that surrounds them, including the world famous Royal Gorge Bridge that sits 1,053 feet above the river. This actual Royal Gorge section is only 10 miles so most companies choose to run it twice for a full day of rafting, or combine it with many of the other sections of river that are nearly as exciting.

Arkansas River, Colorado

4. Kicking Horse River, British Columbia

The Kicking Horse River is renowned for being an exciting river packed with mighty rapids and plenty of thrills and offers a single raft day unlike any other in Canada. This is alpine glacier rafting at its best with over 35km of upper, middle and lower canyon rafting. Experience breathtaking scenery as you start off in the calm waters learning how to work as a team and perfect your paddling skills, but as soon the canyon walls become deep, the rapids become mighty. This river also happens to be glacial fed and snow melt fed, which means it has great water levels all summer long. If you want extremely high water levels though it is best to go in early spring. An array of companies offer exciting trips down this river and it’s guaranteed to be packed full of thrills no matter what time of year you visit.

Kicking Horse River, British Columbia

3. Salmon River, Idaho

Although Idaho is known for its potatoes, any adventurer knows that Idaho is actually known for its mighty and wild Salmon River. This river boasts more options for trip length and more pristine and unbroken wilderness than any other river in America. It also happens to be the home of The Middle Fork, a section of river that boasts enough Class 5 rapids to keep your heart pumping over the five-to-six day adventure that awaits you. Starting off on a rushing alpine river and ending in a majestic desert canyon, this section of the river runs over 105 miles and drops a total of 3,000 feet in elevation along the way. The other two sections of the river feature Class 3 rapids and offer a bigger variety of day trips, multi-day trips and ½ day trips. If you want thrills and unprecedented scenery, the Salmon River in Idaho is a good place to start.

Salmon River, Idaho

2. Colorado River, Arizona

When the Colorado River passes through the Grand Canyon in Arizona, rafters can expect 226 miles of excitement and thrills. The geological beauty of the Grand Canyon surrounds rafters as they fight rapids anywhere from Class I to Class 5. Millions of years ago the river carved its path and it’s full of twists and turns, ever changing from dramatic walls to towering waterfalls. Rafting this river means also exploring the land; full of sparkling streams, waterfalls, luscious green forests and ancient ruins. A multi-day trip is the best choice to truly get the most out of your white water rafting trip down the Colorado and there are endless companies offering a number of different options. This remains one of the most popular rafting trips in North America and therefore spots fill up fast, therefore it is best to book your trip at least one year in advance.

Colorado River, Arizona

1. Chattooga River, South Carolina

Thankfully this amazing river was protected back in 1974 by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, forever preserving its rugged river gorge from development. In turn, the Chattooga River now delivers breathtaking scenery and prized whitewater in an unmatched wilderness setting. Section IV of this river is where thrill seekers will want to head as it features the steepest section of river, dropping more than 75 feet through the Seven-foot Falls and then onto the infamous Five Falls, appropriately named Entrance, Corkscrew, Crack-In-the-Rock, Jawbone, and Sock’em Dog. Although this section of the river only runs about 7 miles, it is the quick succession of so many Class 5 rapids that makes it such an intense experience. Rafting this river is something not only every Southerner should do, but something everyone in North America should try at least once.

Chattooga River, South Carolina

America’s Most Scenic Road trips

A road trip can be defined as a journey by car, with no restrictions on how long you must travel for or how many stops you must make. Therefore exploring America’s most scenic road trips has led us anywhere from day trips to week-long adventures. In terms of scenery, America is full of crashing coastlines, rain forests, historical architectures and rolling fields of wildflowers. From the lava flows of Hawaii to the quirky roadside signs on Route 66 to the quaint villages of New Mexico; these 15 scenic road trips will have you headed to the car in no time.

15. Route 6, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

When you hear the words Cape Cod, one immediately thinks of quaint villages, historic lighthouses, miles of beaches and picturesque harbors. Route 6 offers over 117 miles throughout the Cape Cod area and road trippers will want to give themselves a few days to complete this trip, in order to truly get the most out of the scenery. Sand dunes, tidal pools, beaches and marshes will all entice you to stop the car and explore the surrounding areas. In the midst of the forests along the side of the road, keep your eyes peeled for wild blueberry and huckleberry bushes.The perfect treat to compliment any trip. Route 6 takes you into Provincetown, where music festivals and art work await. Make sure you rise early to catch the epic sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean while on your trip.

Route 6

14. The High Road, Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico

This winding scenic road takes travelers along a 52 mile route through an authentic remainder of Old Spain, which is evident in the religion, architecture, topography, history, and people here. This day trip can take anywhere from four to seven hours depending on how many times you stop to admire the breathtaking churches, scenic byways and unique villages. This twisty road takes you up into the mountains, with views of snow-capped peaks, evergreen trees and wildlife. In the autumn this road turns into the “High Road Art Tour” where artists open their studios and galleries to the public. Visitors can meet with the artists and purchase directly from them while taking an incredible road trip through the historic villages, in a season where the trees turn color and the sky is an incredible shade of blue.

High Road

13. Historic Route 66, Chicago to Los Angeles

For three decades Route 66 was known as the “Main Street of America” as it wound its way through small towns across the Midwest and Southwest. This legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States and continues to captivate people from all over the world. To drive the entire route, it is over 2,000 miles and takes you past some of the most outrageous road signs, giant statues and quirky roadside attractions. The scenery along Route 66 is not to be forgotten though. Giant cornfields of Illinois, the streets of St. Louis and the golden sands of California pave the path for an unforgettable road trip through the history of America. Step back in time and discover what was the start of the American love affair with road trips on this iconic route.

Historic Route

12. Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

It provides one of the closest ways to experience the Wild West, as if it were still wild today and the Million Dollar Highway through Colorado takes travelers past old mines, deep gorges, waterfalls and breathtaking views. The actual Million Dollar Highway is only a 24 mile stretch of road but many road trippers choose to extend their trip down to Durango. Along the way travelers are privy to the peaks of Red Mountain, a set of three peaks that get their name from the red iron ore rocks covering their surface. The region’s old mines are here and can be explored by hiking or biking. The spectacular overlook at Molas Pass is not to be missed and it is said that the air here is the cleanest in the USA. In the spring, wildflowers are in full bloom and elk, mountain goats, black bears, and mule deer are often visible from the road.

Million Dollar Highway

11. The 1 Week Grand Circle Road Trip, Southwest Canyons

The dramatic red-rock scenery will absolutely blow your mind as you travel through Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. In Zion visitors will be privy to emerald pools, the Narrows of the Zion Rivers and dramatic orange-red sandstone. Bryce Canyon is known for its colorful hoodoo formations that will awe and inspire you. The drive from here to Capitol Reef will be full of scenic overlooks and breathtaking views. Make sure to get out of your car and explore the Grand Canyon by foot or bicycle as every viewpoint offers something different. This amazing one week popular road trip offers jaw-dropping scenery both on the road and off, and is a must do for every American.

Bryce Canyon

10. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

It is one of America’s most scenic road trips; no matter what time of year you travel it, but many travelers head here in the fall to see the unbelievable display of changing colors on the leaves. This scenic highway connects Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in Virginia, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. This highway runs 468 miles with cliff-hugging turns, sweeping views, diverse flora and fauna and over 200 overlooks to take advantage of. Expect lakes, gorges, waterfalls, red oak trees, wildflowers and incredible rock formations. Begin in Virginia and snake your way down this colorful road all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hiking and biking trails lead right off the parkway and the small town’s quirky roadside attractions and great restaurants along the way make for the perfect scenic road trip.

Blue Ridge Highway

9. Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, Oregon

This was the first scenic highway in the United States, a marvel of engineering for its time, a National Historic Landmark and is still considered one of the most scenic drives in all of America. The highway treats travelers to ever-shifting views of the Columbia River Gorge, along with numerous hiking and biking trails that lead to hidden waterfalls. Historic monuments and buildings, fish hatcheries, stunning overlooks and of course the majestic waterfalls await you on this 70 mile journey. The most highly anticipated part of this drive is the five miles of figure eight loops that lead travelers down the river, loaded with waterfalls at every turn. The 620-foot Multnomah Falls, the fourth largest waterfall in the US is the highlight for many on this trip. After the waterfalls comes the impressive geological formations of the gorge and makes way for the dry, eastern Columbia River plateau where native plants and wildflowers make up the view.

Historic Columbia River

8. Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii

The Road to Hana is at least a day, if not two day adventure through the beautiful island of Maui. This legendary road winds its way 50 miles through lush rain forests, past waterfalls, plunging pools and by dramatic seaside. The road is full of hairpin turns, one-way bridges and state parks. Taking your time on this road is highly recommended. The best way to see what the Road to Hana really has to offer is to do your research ahead of time. Many of the beaches, waterfalls and dramatic lookout points are hidden just off the road and require you to know which mile marker to pull off at. Black sand beaches, turquoise sea waters, bamboo forests, old wharfs, lava tubes, churches built of lava rocks and so much more await you on this epic drive through a breathtaking island.

Road to Hana

7. Beartooth Highway, Montana

This almost 70 mile stretch of highway from Montana to Wyoming is only open from May until late September and takes travelers throughout some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States. This zigzag highway is complete with switchbacks, steep climbs and endless views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, alpine plateaus, lush forests and sparkling lakes. This drive can take you anywhere from two hours to two days, depending on how many times you want to stop and explore. Most choose to start their drive in the town of Red Lodge and head east to Yellowstone National Park, as this route reduces glare and gives you the best views of the twenty plus peaks you pass. Wildlife sightings, countless overlooks and jaw-dropping views await you on one of the most scenic drives in all of America.

Beartooth Highway

6. The Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington

This scenic loop takes travelers 329 miles, from the Olympic Mountains to the rain forests and to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. What makes this drive so unique is the diversity of terrain it covers as it circles the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest. It is recommended to take at least two to three days to make this scenic road trip because many of its best kept secrets are located off the beaten path. It is therefore important to mention that not all the ‘scenery’ can be seen from the road. Venture off at Sequim and head to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge and Dungeness Spit where you can visit the world’s longest natural sand spit. Don’t miss Rialto Beach where towering rock formations and sea life provide ample photography opportunity. Other hot spots are Lake Quinault and the Quinault rain forest, Ruby Beach and Hurricane Ridge.

Olympic Park

5. Seward Highway, Alaska

Starting in Anchorage, this 127 mile highway runs from sea to mountains and back to sea, all the way south to the harbor town of Seward. If you are planning on doing this route as a round trip, it is recommend you give yourself at least three to four days because the sights you see will literally be a visual overload. This drive is where you will find majestic waterfalls, blue glaciers, whales, jagged mountains, ponds and ocean fjords. Numerous hiking and biking trails can be caught right off the highway, as well as many overlook points and picnic areas. What makes this drive so special is that it is truly interesting the entire way, with mountains, glaciers, wildlife, trails, lakes and rivers to see throughout the entire 127 miles. Combine that with a wide and easy driving road and you have yourself one of the best road trips in all of America.

Seward Highway

4. Pacific Coast Highway, California

It comes as no surprise that this is one of the best loved drives in all of America with its mind-blowing scenery, quirky stop-offs and exhilarating driving experience. This highway runs a whopping 550 miles along California’s coastline and is the most scenic part of the highway, although most travelers tend to drive the Central Coast which runs about 240 miles. Driving north to south is recommended to have unobstructed ocean views the entire way. Highlights of this trip include upscale villages, state parks which feature hundreds of species of birds and mammals, remote forests and towering sand dunes. Big Sur is often the highlight of the trip, as this coastline is made up of redwood groves stretching high into the sky, jagged cliffs stretching out into the sea and waves crashing onto rigid rocks.

California Highway

3. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

It is the only road that crosses Glacier National Park in Montana and is only open from early spring until late fall. This two-lane paved 50 mile highway gives visitors a look at all terrains within the park including large glacial lakes, alpine tundra’s, cedar forests and dozens of animals. The road twists and turns throughout the park and offers plenty of places to pull over, admire the views and snap photos. Visitors should expect to take at least a few hours to drive this road. This highway was created with the notion of making it barely visible in the landscape, thus creating a minimal impact in the park and leaving visitors with the feeling of driving on the edge of a cliff. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for waterfalls, the Jackson Glacier and the array of beautifully colored lakes.

Going to the Sun Highway

2. Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, Highway 101, Oregon

This 363 mile Byway traces the entire coast of Oregon, one of the most photographed regions in the nation. To do the entire coast, you will start in Astoria and head south, all the way to Brookings. The road takes travelers to the sea and away again, as it winds past marshes, seaside cliffs, lush agricultural valleys and wind-sculpted dunes. Expect to see majestic temperate rain forests, a rugged, rocky coastline and resort towns scattered throughout the state. All of the beaches along the coast are open to the public and travelers will want to spend some time exploring them, beachcombing for shells and splashing in the waves. In the winter months it is possible to see the migrating gray whales and colonies of seals and sea lions appear all year round. Make sure to allocate an extra day or two as most travelers find themselves stopping more than expected due to the striking landscapes, beaches and towns to explore.

Highway 101

1. The Hawaii Belt, Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island was the first Hawaii, the biggest of all the islands and is home to one of the most scenic road trips in all of America. Taking a road trip around this island is perhaps the best way to experience everything the island has to offer, from its lava desert flows to its soaring mountains to the farmlands and sandy beaches. The Hawaii Belt Road is made up of three sections and it fully circles the island, giving travelers a full picture of what Hawaii truly is. Expect to see coffee farms, Eden-like forests, active lava flows, lush rain forests, long stretches of beaches and welcoming villages. It is easy to take this road trip on a whim with plenty of places to stay and eat along the way. Experience the finest of the Big Island and all its beauty it has to offer.

Big Island