12 Best Museums to Walk Among Dinosaurs

If you ever had the inkling to come face to face with a dinosaur, now is your chance. Although there are not any Jurassic Park theme parks as of yet; there are plenty of museums where you can get a more realistic idea of where dinosaurs came from and how they evolved. From China to New York to the land down under these 12 awesome museums give you the chance to walk among the dinosaurs, each offering their own unique spin on exhibits and displays.

12. Jurassic Land, Istanbul, Turkey

Part education and part entertainment, this is the closest you will come to living out your Jurassic World fantasies. Your journey here starts at the museum which features bones and eggs from millions of years ago and takes visitors through the history of dinosaurs with incredible exhibits. The science center is among the favorites and informative guides take visitors through, talking about the incubation units and introducing them to the moving realistic looking dinosaurs.

There is a great digging workshop for kids and after excavating they will receive a certificate. The 4-D theatre is suitable for all ages, although if you have really young kids it may be scary. This interactive film takes visitors a ride to Dinosaur Island and be prepared as you may just want to watch it again and again. Part museum, part amusement park, this is best suited for families with kids.

Via istanbulkesfi.com

11. Iziko Museum, Cape Town, South Africa

You won’t be heading here to see dinosaurs such as the famous T-Rex or Stegosaurus; instead, you will find prehistoric beats from the Karoo Region. This museum caters to visitors who want to learn more about the less known dinosaurs and their cousins that inhabited the continent. The dinosaur hall is where you’ll find a permanent exhibition called Stone Bones of the Ancient Karoo.

Here visitors will find ancient lizards, huge crocodiles and a cast of the most complete skeleton of Heterodontosaurus found to date. Make sure to check out Kirky the dinosaur, arguably the cutest dinosaur in the history of South Africa. The Museum houses more than one and a half million specimens of scientific importance and you will want to explore more than just the dinosaur hall here.

Via fireflyafrica.blogspot.com

10. Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, Colorado

Although this museum is quite small, it delivers an awesome experience for those looking to learn more about dinosaurs. The center features an awe-inspiring display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs, and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. Graphics and life-restoration sculptures are used to help visitors imagine these animals in real life.

What is so cool about this museum is the fact that you can see right inside the working fossil laboratory through the glass windows. This is a great museum for kids as it is not so big they will get tired and there are plenty of activities for them such as a fossil dig box, activity stations, and two short movies. Visitors will definitely want to take advantage of the tour that is included with admission as they run about an hour long and are highly informative.

Via The Dinosaur Stop

9. Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

Besides housing an extremely large collection of bones excavated from Tanzania, 250 tones to be exact, this museum is also home to the tallest dinosaur on display in the world. The Brachiosaurus dominates the first gallery, standing at 41 feet, 5 inches tall. Also on display at this museum visitors will find the impressive Kentrosaurus, a spiky lizard that lived in the Upper Jurassic period.

What might be the most impressive here though is the Archaeopteryx fossil, thought to be the best-known fossil in the world and provides the link between birds and dinosaurs. One of the most interesting things this museum has done is install Jurascopes that allow visitors to bring the dinosaurs to life.

Via YouTube

8. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta

This museum is home to the permanent exhibition “Giants of the Mesozoic”, where a battle between giants is taking place. The world’s largest dinosaurs are shown here in a predator vs. prey situation and replicate the badlands of Patagonia, Argentina, where the largest dinosaurs in the world were unearthed. This exhibit features the Giganotosaurus, a dinosaur that is comparable in size to the T-Rex, as well as the Argentinosaurus, who scientists claim is the largest dinosaur ever classified.

Visitors will want to look up as more than 20 pterosaurs are shown overhead. Other notable features in this museum are the pterosaur and dinosaur tracks, remnants from an Araucaria tree, a fossilized crocodile, and additional fossil casts. It should be noted that all the fossils are cast replicas of the original specimens as the actual fossilized bones remain in Argentina, where they are considered a national treasure.

Via Expedia

7. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science, Brussels, Belgium

The most important pieces in the museum are definitely the 30 fossilized Iguanodon skeletons, discovered in 1878 and helping to make the dinosaur hall Europe’s largest museum hall completely dedicated to dinosaurs. This museum is not just fascinating to walk through though, it actually offers an incredible amount of education through the interactive exhibits including the details of the fossilization process and dinosaur digs.

Parents will love watching the eight interviews with paleontology experts around the world while kids will have a blast in the paleo lab where they can touch and explore real fossils, along with putting together a life-sized stegosaurus and walking in dinosaur footprints. This museum does an excellent job linking dinosaurs to modern-day animals, making it even easier to understand how evolution works. A win-win in our books.

Via Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

6. Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Alberta, Canada

This museum holds more than 130,000 fossils and is the only one of its kind dedicated to the science of paleontology. This museum focuses on education, creativity, and fun while opening visitor’s eyes to the fascinating world of dinosaurs. Visitors will want to make sure to head over to the Albertosaurus exhibit where this close relative of the T-Rex is displayed moving across a dry river channel.

This exhibit was the result of scientific evidence collected from a mass grave. The Dinosaur Hall features one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains that have been reconstructed and a favorite of many visitors. A rotating fossil display will enthuse visitors who are looking to see more of the tens of thousands of fossils this museum has. Make sure to make your way over to the Cretaceous Garden and experience what that environment was like and see Canada’s largest collection of prehistoric plant relatives.

Via fortwoplz.com

5. Zigong Dinosaur Museum, Zigong, China

This museum attracts over seven million visitors a year, in part because of its awesome location atop a fossil site. The excellent reputation it holds comes from the life-like exhibits, unique architecture, magnificent burial sites and incredible environment. Visitors here will experience two floors of displays and exhibits. The first floor features the favorite of many, Dinosaur world where 18 dinosaurs of different species and size are displayed.

The first floor is also home to the burial site, the largest burial site for watching spot-on protected dinosaur fossils so far known in the world. The second floor features a treasure hall, a display of all the flora and fauna from that period and displays on the evolution of dinosaurs and species. This huge roc cave-like museum was the first museum in Asia dedicated to dinosaurs and will surely not disappoint visitors.

Via CNN.com

4. American Museum of Natural History, New York

This museum has one of the greatest dinosaur fossil collections in the world and houses two famed dinosaur halls in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. The Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs is where visitors will find one of the major groups of dinosaurs, the ones with grasping hands. It is here where you will find the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex and the Apatosaurus. Along with the fossils, there is a slew of video footage and photography exploring the history of paleontology at the museum.

The Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs features the group of dinosaurs defined by a backward-pointing extension of the pubis bone and include such dinosaurs as the Stegosaurus and Triceratops. The museum has actually developed a dinosaur map to go along with the exhibit and visitors can use the app to help plan their way through the exhibits. For kids ages 6-13 there is a special overnight experience that takes place in the dinosaur hall where they can explore the exhibits by flashlight.

Via Citi Bike

3. National Dinosaur Museum, Canberra, Australia

Home to the largest permanent display of dinosaur and prehistoric fossils in Australia, this is where you should head if you want to know anything about dinosaurs down under. The museum actually follows the evolution of life and just happens to put the emphasis on dinosaurs. The favorite part of this museum has to be the dinosaur garden, with its imposing dinosaur sculptures made out of fiberglass and animatronics.

The museum has only been in operation since 1993 and with 23 complete skeletons, and over 300 displays of individual fossils, it is growing and expanding its collection as each year passes. Special experiences here include guided tours, children’s learning events, and fossil digs.

Via ABC

2. Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Thermopolis, Wyoming

It is one of the few dinosaur museums that have its own excavation site within driving distance and the standout attraction is the 106 foot Supersaurus on display, although their claim to fame here is the Archaeopteryx.  Only 12 specimens exist in the world and “The Thermopolis Specimen” is second only to the “Berlin” specimen in terms of completeness, including a well-preserved skull.

Also, there are over 30 mounted dinosaurs including two Velociraptors and a 41 foot T-Rex that is attacking a Triceratops horridus. Walking through the museums means following the time displays which go from earliest life forms to dinosaurs and finally mammals. The dig site can be toured in nice weather and it’s a rare opportunity for visitors to see dinosaur bones in the ground and the actual excavation of them. The real draw here is the chance to speak with actual paleontologists or to join one of the “dig days”.

Via Pitchengine

1. The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

It has the most famous of all museum dinosaurs, Sue, the largest, most complete, and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the world. The original skull weighs over 600 lbs and flashes 58 teeth and she is over 42 feet long and 67 million years old. That is just the beginning of this awesome dinosaur experience here at the Field Museum of Natural History.

The permanent Evolving Planet exhibition takes visitors on a journey through an expanded dinosaur hall where you learn about every major group of dinosaurs, where they lived, and what scientists have learned from Sue. Kids will love the fossil play lab located in the dinosaur hall. Don’t miss the 3-D movie where visitors are taken on a ride through Sue’s life, from hatchling to a 7-ton ferocious beast.

Via Chicago Tribune

The Top 10 Artsy Towns in America

For those with the slightest creative bent, there is something inherently romantic about ‘artsy’ places, places where great artists congregated, often out of poverty, a sense of adventure, a disdain for convention. Present day fans still make the pilgrimage to commune with the spirits of their artistic heroes. This list is about living and breathing art colonies in the U.S. that no longer occur in urban slums but thrive in small towns, all the more notable for being the raison d’etre of the town’s very existence. All of the below are in beautiful natural settings. A few have artistic tradition a century old. Some have revived places on the verge of ghost town status and what could be more romantic than that? What follows is a list of intriguing places in which art is the core of a modern sustainable economy. Off the beaten track, these places offer tremendous travel value. The list comes from, of all places the World Property Journal, with artistic elaborations only your Escape Here correspondents can share.

10. Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Had they all lived at the same time, four of the greatest American artists of all time would have been neighbors here, just a few miles from each other in the historic Berkshire mountains on the Massachusetts-Upstate New York border whose homes have now become museums. Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, authors Edith Wharton (The Age of innocence) and Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and the picture postcard perfect village of Stockbridge; the home of painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s legendary works achieved great fame and following in the Saturday Evening Post. He captured the spirit of small town America before its demise and his illustrations remain much admired for their nostalgic depiction of a world that is largely extinct. Some of his greatest works are on display. The Arts are the soul of Stockbridge with gardens, theater and a short drive away, the fabulous Tanglewood Music Festival.

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

9. Sag Harbor, New York

Yoga studios and spas have crept into the 200-year-old whaling port in the tiny Hamptons on Long Island. Its literary credentials are impeccable and it is mentioned several times in Moby Dick. Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck lived and wrote Travels with Charley here. It remains a writer’s colony though reminders of its whaling past are prominent. Art shows are everywhere and year round. The Sag harbor Fine Arts Center, quite an accomplishment for a village of 2,100, features quality musical performance and dance recitals. The scenery is spectacular in a quiet place that, like Rockwell’s art, is a window on another time.

Sag Harbor, New York

8. Manitou Springs, Colorado

The charming town at the foot of Pike’s Peak (Elevation 14,110) is on the Register of Historic Places. The Ute Indians knew they had a good thing long ago, but the town with its 11 springs was founded only in 1872 as a spa destination and has been a tourist attraction ever since. Still the native presence remains strong with amazing ancient cliff dwellings. The frontier settlement layout and vibe remains but there are some two dozen working art studios and an artists’ co-op now as well as chamber music and frequent art walks. Among the better known local artists is Michael Baum whose Disneyish yet charming southwestern landscapes are done in the unusual medium of oil on linen.

Photo by: Manitou Springs
Photo by: Manitou Springs

7. Madrid, New Mexico

After the gold and coal ran out so did the inhabitants in the 1950’s. The Wall Street Journal carried a for sale ad offering the whole place for $250,000. No one bit so Madrid became a ghost town. Somehow the old buildings survived until artists move in and turned it into a colony of galleries and studios. Folk art and crafts range from handmade cowboy boots to exquisite Cerillos turquoise from the nearby Turquoise Trail to native artifacts. There are spas and restaurants even though the last census records a population of 210, most of whom came from somewhere away and never went back. And it’s MA-drid by the way. Not to be confused with that pretender in Spain.

Madrid, New Mexico

6. Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

Many would say the greatest work of art in the area is the Pebble Beach Golf Course, opened in 1919 and considered the greatest, most beautiful course in the country. A town of 4,000 has four exceptional venues for the performing arts. It is a wealthy enclave now but in the early 20th century it was a sanctuary for impoverished bohemian artists left homeless by the Great San Francisco earthquake. It’s memorably captured by Jack London in Valley of the Moon. Writers, painters, photographers and poets found inspiration in the beautiful stretch of Pacific shore. A Shakespearean tradition dates from 1911 and is still going strong. Far from bohemian now but visual artists still share the same inspiration.

Carmel, California

5. Delray Beach, Florida

As the 20th century wound down, Delray Beach was a dying town with shuttered storefronts and apparently no future. It is now a burgeoning arts center  as The Delray Art League promotes the art scene and has over 200 members. Pineapple grove is a happening art ‘hood’ with galleries, cafes and cool buzz. The Arts Garage is a unique venue serving up all types of experimental musical forms. The old industrial warehouses have been transformed to Artists’ Alley and house dozens of working spaces, and there are more at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts. Performing artists can find venues at Delray Square Arts, plus the average temperature in January is 71. Makes you feel like getting artsy don’t it?

Delray Beach, Florida

4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is Cherokee country while European settlement began in 1806. It lays claim to being home to the largest independent arts community on the continent that has its roots in the Great Depression in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. The Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail features over 100 artisans along an 8-mile loop that produce exquisite Americana artifacts; ceramics, pottery, jewelry and wood carvings.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

3. Cody, Wyoming

The town takes its name from William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill. It’s known especially for the renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a clutch of five museums celebrating different aspects of Cody’s life and legacy as well as the American Frontier experience, including the Whitney Western Art Museum. The New York Times calls the Smithsonian-related complex “among the nation’s most remarkable museums” A thriving local art scene culminates in the annual Rendezvous Royale community festival topped off by the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale.

milosk50 / Shutterstock.com
milosk50 / Shutterstock.com

2. Fredericksburg, Texas

A fascinating place settled by German immigrants in the 1850’s, named after a Prussian price with a unique Texas German dialect spoken. The age of political correctness has not precluded the use of the nickname Fritztown. Known as the peach capital of Texas, the town’s artistic bent came with the settlers, among them accomplished artists from Dresden. Galleries abound and local sculptors have national reputations. The town can also claim an Art School and Guild.

Fredericksburg, Texas

1. Taos, New Mexico

As the light of Provence once lured the eye of Vincent van Gogh, the magical light and dramatic landscape of the southwest town of Taos has lured a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful visual artists over the last century. High end inns and hotels in Santa Fe feature the iconic paintings of Inger Jerby, a Scandinavian native who found her way to Taos and stayed, part of a new interpretation of Old West painting. The art colony, the beautiful setting and the a significant Native presence have drawn artistic legends like Georgia O’Keefe, photographer Ansel Adams and the great British novelist D.H. Lawrence.

Gimas / Shutterstock.com
Gimas / Shutterstock.com

The Best Places to Live in America

From sea to shining sea, America is a beautiful country filled with varied landscapes, eye-popping attractions and friendly people everywhere you go. Imagine being a new-comer to America and trying to decide where you’re going to call home, a tough task considering there are so many great options. Thankfully the readers of Outside magazine have done the tough work for us, Outside surveyed American’s from all walks of life to find out exactly what makes their hometown so special in order to come up with this list of the 16 best adventure places to live in America this year:

16. Seattle, Washington

Seattle natives aren’t shy to tell you why their city is so special, but spend some time there and you’ll figure it out for yourself pretty quickly. A world-class city in a location that’s abundant with trees, mountains and water, that’s something pretty special. Seattle, known as the Emerald City, has 465 city parks along with Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Park, plus six ski resorts within a three-hour drive. Seattle is truly an outdoor-lovers paradise.

Seattle washington

15. Durango, Colorado

Three-time Olympic mountain biker and Durango resident Todd Wells says that people don’t move to Durango for a job. They move here for the world-class biking, kayaking or other outdoor activities and they figure out a way to make it all work. Considering that the average home cost is around $360,000, it will take a bit of work, but Durango is certainly more affordable than many other Rocky Mountain meccas. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, rafting or just appreciate being in the great outdoors, Durango has it all.

Hiker Colorado Trail Durango, Colorado

14. Grand Marais, Minnesota

With a population of only 1,327, Grand Marais doesn’t seem like much at first, but once you understand its location it all starts to make sense. The tiny one-stoplight town sits between Superior National Forest and Lake Superior and is the only municipality in all of Cook County. This makes it the gateway to the 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which lies in the forest to the North. Name pretty much any outdoor activity and you’ll find it going on somewhere, but Grand Marais also has plenty of shops, restaurants and microbreweries for those days when all you really want to do is relax.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

13. Ketchum, Idaho

If you’re a skier, you’ve likely heard of Sun Valley, America’s first ski resort and site of the world’s very first ski lift. Well, Sun Valley is right next door to the town of Ketchum, so naturally it’s a snow-bunny’s paradise. The local’s don’t just stick to the tourist-packed ski areas either; the Pioneers, the Boulders, the White Clouds and the Sawtooth mountain ranges all surround Ketchum providing endless opportunities for world-class skiing of all varieties.

Ketchum, Idaho

12. Bend, Oregon

Imagine a small-scale version of Portland, except with less hipsters and more outdoor adventurers, this is the kind of vibe you’ll get from Bend, Oregon. The city has grown to a population of almost 90,000 and now has 16 microbreweries, a whitewater park and an $11.4 million dollar recreational center, not to mention the resident volcanoes in the Cascades Range. In-town, a hike up Pilot Butte is always a popular activity, while a short drive outside of town will bring you to Mount Bachelor, South Sister and a little further north, Mount Washington. Skiing, mountain biking, hiking and more, Bend provides small city amenities in a picture-perfect outdoor setting.

Bend, Oregon

11. Gunnison, Colorado

When a town’s elevation is higher than its population, you know there’s going to be some great adventures to be had here. Gunnison is located 30 miles north of the famous Crested Butte Mountain Resort, so naturally skiing is a big draw for this town, but it’s not the only activity to be found. the nearby Hartman Rocks is located only a few minutes from town and offers over 8,000 acres of prime hiking, biking and climbing land while Gunnison Whitewater Park is a mecca for paddlers. Recover from all those activities with a beer at High Alpine Brewing Company in town.

Gunnison, Colorado

10. Hanalei, Hawaii

If alpine skiing and snow isn’t really your thing, perhaps the tropical paradise of Hanalei, Hawaii will sound a little more appealing. This town of only 450 people doesn’t have a lot of amenities; you’ll find a grocery store, some cafes, a few board shops and not much else, but what it does have is a lifestyle centered around the ocean. Surfing is a way of life so it’s not uncommon to see locals getting a session in before and after work, but there’s also plenty of other vacation-esq activities like SUP, horseback riding, hiking to waterfalls and of course there are plenty of beaches where you can just sit back and relax.

Hanalei, Hawaii

9. Bellingham, Washington

This small, west-coast city’s nickname doesn’t do it much justice; Bellingham, aka the ‘City of Subdued Excitement’ is actually surrounded by amazing things to see and do for adventurers of all varieties. A short ferry ride away you’ll find the San Juan Islands which provide excellent whale-watching and sea kayaking opportunities, while a 90 minute drive East will get you to the peaks of North Cascades National Park. Combine that with the city’s proximity to other outdoor meccas like Seattle and Vancouver and you can see why this small city has big appeal.

Bellingham, Washington

8. Boise, Idaho

Idaho isn’t all about the spuds, in the city of Boise you’ll find a population over 200,000 and many residents live there strictly for the amazing outdoor options. With a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the Boise Foothills provide residents ample opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and the Ridge to Rivers system makes it easy. This interconnected network of trails and roads courses through the Foothills linking neighborhoods and public lands. with over 190 miles of trails there’s a perfect route and degree of difficulty for everyone.

Playboat Boise, Idaho

7. Ludington, Michigan

This small city of just over 8,000 occupies some of the best waterfront real estate on Lake Michigan and the idyllic lighthouses and sandy beaches are only the beginning. Ludington State Park and the adjoining Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area have a combined ten miles of lakefront property perfect for exploring sandy dunes, camping, hiking, biking, swimming and paddling. In town, the 64-mile Pere Marquette River is a blue-ribbon fishery that flows through Manistee National Forest before reaching the Great Lakes.

Ludington, Michigan

6. Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Colorado has some pretty notable ski and adventure spots, so while you might not have expected a smaller city like Steamboat Springs to appear in this list, residents say it’s the city’s laid-back approach to adventure and the outdoors that has the biggest draw. Of course there is skiing, though Steamboat’s hills are a bit mellower than places like Jackson Hole or Telluride, and the city is also adding to it’s increasing network of bike trails and singletrack. Outdoor companies like Big Agnes, Smartwool and Moots all call Steamboat Springs their home, which should be proof enough that this is someplace worthwhile.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

5. Taos, New Mexico

Residents of this Norther New Mexico town say “It’s all about the landscape” and when you’re bounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains how could it not be? Located were the high desert meets the Rockies, Taos has outdoor fun happening no matter the season. In winter it’s the bone-dry powder at Taos Ski Valley that draws locals and visitors alike, while summer provides it’s own kind of adventure in the form of class IV boating on the Rio Grande or mountain biking on the famous South Boundary Trail.

Taos, New Mexico

4. Yachats, Oregon

Yachats is a significant step down the population ladder from the previously mentioned city of Bend, but don’t let this town of just over 700 fool you, there’s still plenty of action to be found here. If living along one of the most amazing stretches of Pacific Northwest coastline sounds like your kind of thing, or you enjoy fat biking on the beach or strolling the shores at low tide, Yachats is definitely the place for you. After a hike with ocean views along Cape Perpetua, you can head back to enjoy a pint at the newly formed Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.

Yachats, Oregon

3. Denver, Colorado

The capital city of Colorado happens to be one of the fastest growing cities in the country with transplants being drawn to the big city appeal and eye-popping natural setting. There are few places where you can find the amenities of big city life within easy reach of the Rocky Mountains and their world-class skiing, biking and hiking.

Denver, Colorado

2. Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson, Wyoming admittedly has a few negative things stacked against it; the winters are long and cold, it’s a bad area for farming and ranching and the average housing price is north of a cool million. Negatives aside, it’s a small price to pay for living in a place that acts as the gateway to two of the greatest national parks in America. Grand Teton National Park is a mere 7 minute drive from town and the famed Yellowstone National Park is under a 2 hour drive away. With skiing, hiking, mountaineering, fishing, hunting and whitewater all easily accessible, it’s no wonder Jackson lands at number two on the list.

Jackson, Wyoming

1. Billings, Montana

The scrappy city of Billings, Montana comes out on top defeating prime adventure meccas like Denver, Jackson and Bend to be ranked as the Best Adventure Place to Live in America. There’s good reason for this of course, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area is only a short drive away as is the legendary skiing at Granite Peak. the Bighorn and Stillwater Rivers provide plenty of opportunity for fishing, boating and kayaking and Yellowstone Park is less than a three hour drive away. Locals say the charm of Billings comes from that fact that it’s still really a small town dressed up like a big city. Average housing prices here are still under the $200,000 mark, but don’t expect them to stay there for too much longer. Sorry Billings, your secret is out.

Billings, Montana

EscapeHere’s Top 12 ‘Parkitecture’ Masterpieces

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

12. Chateau Lake Louise -Banff National Park, Alberta

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

Chateau Lake Louise

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

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

Prince of Wales Hotel

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

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

Chisos Mountains Lodge

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

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

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

8. Paradise Inn -Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

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

Paradise Inn Mount Rainier National Park

7. Old Faithful Inn -Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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

Old Faithful Inn

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

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

Wollertz / Shutterstock.com
Wollertz / Shutterstock.com

5. Lake Crescent Lodge -Olympic National Park, Washington

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

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

4. El Tovar -Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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

OLOS / Shutterstock.com
OLOS / Shutterstock.com

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

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

Photo by: Tripadvisor
Photo by: Tripadvisor

2. Many Glacier Hotel -Glacier National Park, Montana

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

OLOS / Shutterstock.com
OLOS / Shutterstock.com

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

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

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

Top 10 Badlands Around the World

When you imagine badlands, the mind goes to alien looking formations, minimal vegetations, fascinating colors and other geological forms. Badlands are actually a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. These badlands can be found all over the world, from Canada to the United States and all the way to New Zealand. What fascinates people most about these landscapes are the incredible formations that look as they have come from another planet. They may be designated as parks, hidden along deserted roads or turned into tourist destinations but one thing remains the same; these badlands are “badass.”

10. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

When Theodore Roosevelt came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883, he was just a young guy from New York. The rugged landscape and strenuous life that he experienced here would help shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today. During his administration his conservation efforts led to the founding of the National Park Service, established to protect and preserve unspoiled places, just like his beloved North Dakota Badlands. Visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park can be done year round and visitors have their choice of seeing the North and/or South Unit of the park. In the north visitors will be treated to an abundance of wildlife, along with deep gorges, and colorful badlands; making this sweeping vista absolutely incredible. The South Unit offers the chance for visitors to see the badlands that have been shaped from millions of years of wind, rain, erosion and fire. The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is also a stop along the way, giving you a first glimpse of the badlands from above.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

9. Hell’s Half-Acre – Natrona County, Wyoming

Years ago this badland was a tourist stop, famous for its place in the 1997 Starship Troopers movie. At one point the canyon rim held a restaurant, campground and small motel but for years the landscape has been deserted. Although not as big as other badlands on this list, the sheer remoteness and desolation of Hell’s Half-Acre makes it unique. The history behind this canyon can be found on an interpretative sign stating that Native American tribes used the ravines to drive bison to their death during their hunts. Today it stands as a geological wonder, deep ravines and caves, colorful rock formations and alien looking columns that rise above the clay. Bands of yellow, pink, white and orange stripe the canyon walls. For now, this abandoned badland sits deserted, in the middle of nowhere but perhaps that’s just what makes it so intriguing.

Hell's Half-Acre, Wyoming

8. Caoshan, Taiwan

Taiwan’s badlands are unique, and unlike any other in the world, seeing as they are the only badland formation on the face of this earth in a tropical area with good rainfall. The Taiwanese refer to these badlands as “moon world” and although these areas are slowly being turned into tourist destinations, complete with walkways and buildings, there are still a few places to go that remain untouched. Head to Caoshan, where some the of largest and most expansive of badlands are found. Start at 308 Viewpoint where you can get birds eye views of the surrounding landscape and then head to the “Grand Canyon”. As you walk photogenic pinnacles of earth start to loom above the road on either side like miniature mountain ranges. A little further along the ground suddenly falls away and the ‘Grand Canyon’ is revealed, the countless formations of the rain- and wind-carved ravine walls. It is impressive, exquisite, delicate, and appears to defy gravity.

Caoshan, Taiwan

7. Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario

It is one of the most striking geological features in the province of Ontario and these badlands are a brilliant red in color. At one point this area was actually occupied by a river and the hills at this site signify the riverbed. Thousands of years ago the lake dried out and the badlands were created. The red color is due to iron oxide deposits and features faint green streaks. Visitors come from all over the province to walk among the badlands here but unfortunately all the visiting is causing accelerated soil erosion. In 2015 the site was closed to visitors, although they can still be seen from the viewpoint at the top of the badlands slope. Conservationists will be spending the next few years trying to come up with a plan for these colorful and unique badlands.

Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario

6. Putangirua Pinnacles, New Zealand

This geological formation is best known for its appearances in the Lord of the Rings movies and is one of New Zealand’s best examples of badland erosion. These amazing rock formations, called Hoodoos are essentially hundreds of eroded pillars that form a quiet and eerie atmosphere, transforming you into what feels like a different world. Here you will find a total of two walking trails to choose from and allow yourself 2-4 hours for a round trip. The Walking tracks into the Putangirua Pinnacles generally follow the river bed into the valley and do change with river flows. This makes the tracks rough but easy enough to get deep into the rock formations. Pack plenty of water, snacks and don’t forget your camera as you travel into this incredible landscape.

Putangirua Pinnacles, New Zealand

5. Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

It’s a known fact that the badlands in South Dakota are incredible but what about the ones that start in the northwestern corner of Nebraska. This geological park provides excellent sneak previews of what you may be in for if you are traveling onwards to South Dakota. Park in the lot at the entrance of the park and make sure to pick up a guide pamphlet at the start of the trail. A one-mile loop will take you around the park and past all the incredible formations. The trail starts off slow at first taking you past a few eroded hills, quite beautiful and striking. The flat part of the trail takes you through angled rocks of varying height and size but the real adventure begins when the trail starts to climb. This is where you will get to see many of the formations that resemble toadstools; hence the name of the park. You get an impressive view over the site at the top of the loop and it’s easy to imagine why large prehistoric animals used to wander these grounds.

Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

4. Makoshika State Park, Montana

At over 11,000 acres this state park is the largest in Montana and protects 20% of Montana’s continuous badlands topography. Not only will you get to experience some incredible badland formations but also found here are the fossil remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and more. There are several trails throughout the park, introducing visitors to different kinds of topography as well as a campground if you plan on staying for a few nights. Cap Rock Trail is a one-mile loop that allows hikers to get up close and personal with the smaller, delicate features such as pinnacles and caprocks. The Diane Gabriel Trail on the other hand shows visitors the bigger features such as sinkhole caves and sod tabletops. The highlight of the trail is a climb up to a series of Hadrosaur vertebrae left partially exposed in the hillside so visitors can see what it is like to find and excavate fossils.

Makoshika State Park, Montana

3. Red Deer River, Alberta

The badlands here cut a swatch through southeastern Alberta, and is a fossil hotbed since the 19th century with no signs of slowing down. There are multiple ways to experience these badlands, whether you want to join one of many guided tours or take a self-guided road trip. Start in the town of Drumheller smack in the middle of the Badlands, and well known for its rich fossil beds and mining industry. Want to see the town from a different vantage point? Climb into the mouth of the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex. Other stops along the way include Horsethief Canyon and Midland Provincial Park. Cross the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry and reach the Hoodoo Trail which takes you to the Hoodoos site and the Rosedale Suspension Bridge. Make sure to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Red Deer River, Alberta

2. Big Muddy Badlands, Saskatchewan

The Big Muddy Badlands have one of the best names in our opinion and offer up amazing architecture that transports your mind back to the times of the “Wild West.” These remote badlands have a fascinating history and once were a hideout for famed bandits such as Sam Kelly, Dutch Henry, and the Sundance Kid. The valley also is dotted with strange ancient aboriginal stone effigies with names such as Minton Turtle and the Big Beaver Buffalo, which add to the mystery and magic of the landscape. From early May to September is the best time to head here as guided tours operate on a daily basis. Because much of these badlands are on private property, it is imperative you use a guide.  Tours range from four hours to eight hours and cover sites such as Castle Butte, the Sam Kelly Caves and the Ceremonials Circles. Come play where the bandits played and you will understand why they were drawn to this particular landscape.

Big Muddy Badlands, Saskatchewan

1. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

This unique region has been ravaged by water and wind, resulting in a scenic wonderland, begging to be explored. The badlands region sprawls over thousands of square miles and includes vast prairies, grasslands with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires. Visitors here can expect some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world, along with viewing millions of stars at night. In order to get the best views of the badlands head to Badlands Loop Road where you can hike along scenic nature trails among spectacular formations. Badlands National Park has two campgrounds for overnight stays and we highly suggest spending at least a few days in the park as the opportunities for exploration are endless.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

9 Landscapes That Inspired Great Works of Art

The world we live in is gorgeous and often awe-inspiring. Given that fact, it’s little wonder that many artists throughout the years, in many different places and cultures, have tried to capture just a little bit of that beauty on their canvases. From the natural to the man-made, there is no shortage of vantage points that have inspired—and continued to inspire—us to create memorable works of art. Here are 9 masterpieces that are almost as breathtaking as the real thing.

9. San Giorgio Maggiore (Monet)

San Giorgio Maggiore is one of Venice’s islands, so it should come as little surprise that it’s been the subject of a painting or two. Venice is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, thanks to a combination of architecture and natural endowments. The island’s most recognizable feature is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th-century church. The building’s silhouette certainly dominates Claude Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight, an Impressionist work completed between 1908 and 1912. The painting was started during Monet’s only trip to Venice. Even more than a century later, you can visit Venice and experience this precise view for yourself, with the sun setting over the water and the buildings of San Giorgio Maggiore silhouetted against the darkening sky.

monet

8. Lander’s Peak (Bierstadt)

Albert Bierstadt was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, but immigrated to the United States at an early age. Soon determining to become a painter, Bierstadt returned to Europe to study art. In 1859, he joined an expedition led by Frederick W. Lander, a land surveyor. They traveled west from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, Bierstadt sketched and painted many majestic scenes of the American west. His 1863 piece The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak is based on one of the sketches he made during this expedition. The painting depicts Lander Peak, a summit of more than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) located in the Wyoming Range; the peak is one of the highest in the area. Although Bierstadt’s painting isn’t true to nature, Rocky Mountain landscapes like Lander’s Peak are breathtakingly beautiful and popular with photographers and tourists alike.

Photo by: Albert Bierstadt via Wikimedia Commons

7. Lake McArthur (MacDonald)

J.E.H. MacDonald was part of the Group of Seven, a famed group of Canadian artists working in the early part of the 20th century. The Group of Seven tended to have a nationalistic bent and painted many iconic scenes of the Canadian wilderness; at least 2 members were also war artists capturing Canadian soldiers during the First World War. Beginning in 1924, MacDonald traveled west annually and produced many works featuring the Rocky Mountains, which dominated his later works. Lake McArthur, Yoho Park was painted in 1924, the year of MacDonald’s inaugural trek west. Yoho National Park was the second national park in Canada and forms part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site with several other parks. The Lake McArthur Trail, an 8-kilometer circuit, will take you to the north shore of the lake—which looks much the same today as it did in 1924.

group of seven Lake McArthur

6. Cotopaxi (Church)

Frederic Edwin Church, like Albert Bierstadt, was a member of the Hudson River School of landscape painting in the 19th century. Like Bierstadt, Church painted grandiose landscapes. Whereas Bierstadt painted the American West, Church was lured in by South America; many of his works feature Andean landscapes, inspired by 2 trips to Quito, Ecuador. While his most famous work is The Heart of the Andes, his 1855 painting Cotopaxi is perhaps a truer depiction of a South American landscape. The work shows the volcano Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest volcanoes and the second-highest summit in Ecuador. As of 2015, Church’s 1862 painting depicting Cotopaxi smoldering away might be more accurate—the volcano, one of the most active in Ecuador with 87 recorded eruptions since 1534, has entered a new phase of activity and is under constant monitoring since an eruption of ash on August 14 and 15, 2015.

Cotopaxi church

5. Autumn Mountain Shadow (Guan Tong)

Guan Tong lived more than 1,000 years ago, during China’s Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. A painter of the Northern Landscape style, he lived in Chang’an (Xi’an) and was no doubt inspired by the mountainous terrain that surrounded him. Autumn Mountain Shadow is perhaps the most famous painting attributed to Guan Tong and while it’s difficult to discern the precise place that he was painting, there are hundreds of similar views of the rugged northern mountains in and around Xi’an. A barely visible path in the painting is reminiscent of many of the winding trails near Xi’an, especially those about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of the city, near Mount Hua. Mount Hua itself is similar to the landscape Guan Tong depicts in Autumn Mountain Shadow, and many tourists today visit Mount Hua for its ancient, sacred sites and temples, as well as its breathtaking views.

Mount Hua

4. Staubbach Falls (Bierstadt)

Albert Bierstadt painted much of the American West, but he also painted plenty of European landscapes as well; one of his first exhibits featured a large canvas of a Swiss landscape. Bierstadt studied in Europe and later traveled widely there, making many sketches and paintings in his signature grandiose style. Among his Swiss landscapes is this 1865 piece, entitled Staubbach Falls, Near Lauterbrunnen. The waterfall is one of Europe’s highest unbroken falls, descending about 1,000 feet into the valley below. Located in the Bernese Oberland, the Falls are a popular site in Switzerland, along with the iconic peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau in the east. The Falls are about 1 kilometer from the village of Lauterbrunnen, which lies at the bottom of one of the deepest valleys in the Alps.

Staubbach Falls

3. Grand Canal, Venice (Canaletto)

Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, was born in Venice in 1697. He spent most of his life there and took up his father’s line of work: painting. Much of his early artwork was painted “from nature,” rather than in the studio, a technique he returned to in his later years. In his later works, he painted grand scenes of Venice’s iconic canals, including the Doge’s Palace. His 1738 painting The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola depicts the Grand Canal as it was—and, perhaps surprisingly, this is a scene that remains remarkably similar even today. The buildings still bear a likeness to those depicted in Canaletto’s work, a testament to Venice’s enduring local flavor. And, of course, gondoliers are still a common sight on the waterways of this iconic city.

Grand Canal, Venice

2. Futamigaura at Dawn (Kunisada)

During the 19th century, Utagawa Kunisada was one of the most prolific masters of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. His works were incredibly popular, although they have been overshadowed since by artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. Today, Kunisada’s work is becoming more recognized. Although he was more known for prints of popular actors and pretty girls, he also produced landscapes and seascapes like Futamigaura at Dawn. Completed around 1830, the print depicts Sakurai Futamigaura, a scenic place north of Itoshima. Known as the “Married Couple Rock,” the feature is two large rocks about 150 meters from the beach. The rocks have been joined together by a shimenawa, a sacred Shinto rope used to ward off evil. The shimenawa at Sakurai Futamigaura is 30 meters long and weighs approximately one ton. Although Kunisada painted the area at dawn, Sakurai Futamigaura has become renowned for its sunsets.

Futamigaura at Dawn (Kunisada)

1. Roman Campagna

The Roman Campagna is a low-lying area that surrounds Rome. In ancient times, it was important in agriculture, but was abandoned during the Middle Ages. Many Roman ruins dotted the landscape. The Campagna became one of the most painted landscapes during the 18th and 19th centuries, when a trip to the Roman countryside to paint was considered part of the European Grand Tour. Today, however, much of the Campagna has been built over; the spaces that remain are clustered along the Appian Way. Today you might see the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella or the Circus of Maxentius as part of your own Grand Tour. Another popular subject is the Ponte Nomentano, which is now in a pedestrian-only park within the city. The bridge’s medieval tower was popular for painters and a visit to this scenic spot may want to make you paint—or at least take a photo.

Appian Way

The Top 12 Hiking Trails of the US National Parks

No disrespect intended to state and provincial parks, but the designation of National Park means the crème de la crème of the USA’s natural real estate. The resourceful experts at Backpacker.com have cleverly compiled a list of the Best Hikes in the country’s venerable National Park Service. Clever in the sense that they have isolated stretches of much longer trails that are accessible and achievable for those who are not Ironman alumni. Consider them as a hiking espresso to the Grande cup at Starbucks. There are logistic challenges to getting to the abbreviated versions but the best thing about this list is that it inspires a desire to experience these wonderful venues in some way, shape, or form. A few are Park superstars, like Yosemite and The Grand Canyon, but most are not that well known yet and could very well become the most unforgettable sight of a lifetime. Just touring them online is a breathtaking experience that will have you shopping for new hiking gear.

12. Goat Trail to Skolai Pass (Wrangell-St. Elias NP, Alaska)

As for the degree of difficulty, just consider the name and how hikers need to impersonate one to progress comfortably along this trail which is often more of a track worn by Dall sheep. It is the epitome of Northern Exotic. All one needs to get there is take a bush plane, hike for miles through the wilderness, forge a river or two, and voila! You’re ready. Piece of cake.  It follows along the Chitistone River across the pass, where the view erupts in brilliantly colored flowers, redundantly including forget- me- not because this sight will certainly not ever be. The huge Russell Glacier, snaking for 20 miles down from a towering peak of 16, 421-foot Mt. Bona.  Timing and luck may produce sightings of caribou, wolf, and bear as you navigate Skolai Pass down to the lake where you have arranged for your bush plane ride to pick you up. Like we said, piece of cake.

11. Teton Crest Trail (Grand Teton NP, Wyoming)

Backpacker calls it “9 miles of mountain madness”, but honestly could there be anything more Wild West-erly perfect than to say it runs from Paintbrush Divide to Hurricane Pass? The full hiking Monty runs 40 miles. The Divide comes at almost 11,000 feet and still leaves hikers looking up at the 13,700 Grand Teton Mountain. Be assured a place is not called Paintbrush Canyon because it’s homely’ but prepare, if you can, to be blown away by in-your-face views of the Fantastic Four; Grand Teton, the Grand, Teewinot, and Mount Owen, the latter three all pushing 13,000 feet. Lake Solitude shows up eventually ensconced in summer wildflowers. Despite the altitude, there is little mention of altitude sickness. Astonishingly the park retains the name given by 18th-century French explorers and that such little mention is made of the translation which is essentially “Large Breasts”. 

10. Shi Shi Beach to Cape Alava, North Coast Route (Olympic NP, Washington)

It’s not a household name but this stretch of northwestern coastline that’s part of Olympic National Park can hold its own with any piece of scenery you can imagine. It could almost be another planet with its isolation and rocks sculpted into other-worldly shapes by time and the relentless power of the Pacific Ocean. After a couple of miles of dense Pacific forest, a controlled 50-foot rock slide releases you onto the magical beach at Shi Shi (as in ‘shy), pristine white sand littered with cold water crustaceans washed ashore when the mighty Pacific swallows up the whole beach at high tide. The point of return at Point of the Arches, like prehistoric rock, has been shaped to mimic the architectural sites of the ruins of ancient Rome. For this trail the old cliché is apt: it must be seen to be believed.

9. Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles via Clouds Rest (Yosemite NP, California)

Whoever said “the journey is the destination” never saw the 360-degree panorama of Yosemite at Clouds Rest, 9926 feet up in the legendary Sierra Nevada. As one review at yosemitehikes.com put it, “This hike is all about the destination”. There is no shortage of spectacular views in the National Park System. Maybe it’s the thundering waterfalls, maybe the majestic stands of sequoia or perhaps the other iconic peaks but there’s something about an unobstructed view of the Grande Dame of Parks that leaves one feeling, if not on top of the world, then at least on top of America’s National Parks.

8. Cardenas Camp to Hance Rapid, Escalante Route (Grand Canyon NP, Arizona)

Well, the Grand Canyon had to be in here somewhere. The Backpacker says these nine miles convey the essence of the Canyon, an intense experience of the first order. Above and beyond getting up close with the canyon’s signature sunset-colored stone and the Colorado River, this nine-mile hike has many lesser-known but astonishing scenes. The Vishnu Complex named appropriately after the Hindu God also known as The Preserver, visible along the Canyon’s 277-mile length, formed by the massive collision of tectonic plates 1.7 billion years ago. Seventy-five Mile Creek is a towering, wafer-thin slot canyon. At the endpoint, Hance Rapids is one of the park’s premier stretches of white water. Along the way, some real hiking, climbing up on hand and toe grips, and a 30-foot descent by rope.

7. Andrews Bald to Jonas Creek Junction (Great Smoky Mountains NP, North Carolina)

Perhaps the most thoughtful of the hikes on the list is located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the most popular parks in the system, it is designated an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you know you’re going to see a show. Its hiking claim to fame is how it transcends climate zones. It has long been said that Smoky Park hikers can begin in the southern climate of North Carolina and end up in a northeastern climate like Maine, with similar changes in flora. This boiled-down version serves up the same experience in 8 miles with a 4,000-foot elevation change from Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the state with boreal forests of fir trees to Appalachian hardwoods and finally to lush creek valleys and humid forest with a 40-foot waterfall at the bottom. Fabulous views of the old Smokies are especially frequent at upper levels. The entire trip is 16 to 18 miles return. Oh, and by the way, a ‘Bald’ is an elevated field of native grasses and thick shrubs.

6. “Wall Street,” Zion Narrows (Zion NP, Utah)

This sliver of a hike in Zion National Park is really part of a much more strenuous 16-mile trek much of it waist-deep in water. One of the classic slot canyons (as in coin or mail slot) in the world, narrow gaps formed by the erosion of rushing water on rock, they are always significantly higher than they are wide. “Wall Street” as the Zion Narrows is affectionately called has the sheer cliffs rising straight up along a narrow stream and has been likened to being in an Indiana Jones movie, the various layers the stream has cut through the rock face over the last 18 million years, a staggering sight and more staggering thought. There are warnings of flash flooding if you do go, but it’s worth it as they come any more magical or memorable than this one.

5. Boulder Pass Trail (Glacier NP, Montana)

Google Boulder Pass Trail.  Hit enter. Sit back. Say “Wow!” That’s how the hike begins. The 6.3-mile trail tracks the north shore of beautiful Kintla Lake with its crystal blue-green water with stands of timber standing sentinel.  It’s a lot of flats punctuated with a few hills to make you feel like you’ve worked. The trailhead is at the Kintla Lake Campground in Glacier National Park, where overnight is optional in warmer weather.  The grand finale is Kinnerly Peak, a majestic matterhorn of snow-capped rock that appears to rise straight out of the lake shallows to its 9,940-foot peak just three miles from the Canadian border.

4. Scoville Point Loop (Isle Royale NP, Michigan)

It’s four miles in and four miles out along the rugged breathtaking Great Lakes coastline. Isle Royale National Park, designated as National since 1931 is a little-known archipelago jutting out into Lake Michigan. This loop is ideal hiking terrain, flat, remote, starkly beautiful in granite, pine, and imposing views of the vast inland sea that is Lake Superior. Backpacker describes the sublime add-ons as “serene forests, rocky bluffs, the soundtrack of howling wolves and lilting loons.” Not the most physically challenging, it can be done with little more than worn-in tennis shoes and water. But certainly among the most aesthetically pleasing.

3. Wonderland Trail (Mt. Rainier NP, Washington)

With the distant snowy peaks and wild alpine flowers, it looks like the sequel of The Sound of Music could be filmed here. The entire Wonderland Trail is 93 miles long and reveals every facet of Mount Rainier National Park’s considerable beauty. Backpacker compares this nine-mile stretch to going straight for dessert. Four miles in puts you at a meadow called Summerland memorably decked out in summer blooms. Panhandle Gap is the high point in elevation at 6,800 feet and in the scenery of the huge Fryingpan Glacier. A dozen waterfalls lie between there and the trail’s flowery end at Indian Bar.

2. South Rim Trail (Big Bend NP, Texas)

The views along the South Rim are famous. On a clear day, you can see Mexico from a hundred miles off from the heights of the Chisos Mountains. This trail in Big Bend National Park gains 2,000 feet in elevation over 14 miles thereby offering birds’ eye views of the Chihuahuan Desert floor as well as the classic rock formations of the American southwest, mesas, and  arroyos, (also known as small plateaus and dried gulches,  for you Northerners.)  Native Texan flora is plentiful and picturesque and there is abundant wildlife including, mountain lions, Mexican black bears, and javelin, which sound like graceful gazelle but are in fact ungainly wild pigs. Parts of the trail are closed during the nesting season of the peregrine falcon.

1. The Emerald Mile (Redwood NP, California)

It’s just a mile technically, but what a mile. Dense stands of giant redwoods soaring 300 feet up, the tallest trees, and in fact largest living things on Earth, an indelible lifelong memory gazing up at the natural majesty. But venture a little further and find a wonderland of thick old-growth redwoods and Douglas Fir, a pristine primeval forest like the kind that overwhelmed European explorers centuries ago. Three hundred and twenty-five miles north of San Francisco but millennia back in time, Redwood National Park is worth the visit.

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

7 Ski Resorts Worth Visiting in the Off-Season

Many people would scoff at the idea of visiting a ski resort during any time of the year other than winter. What could there possibly be to do then? Well, the answer is tons! From shopping, to dining, to entertainment and even summer sports, there are countless ski resorts that deserve your time and attention before the snow even falls. Many will even offer special deals during their ‘off peak’ season meaning you can score a great deal for less. Here are 7 of our favorites to visit in Canada and the United States:

7. Whiteface Mountain, New York

The site of the 1980 Winter Olympics is undoubtedly a hot ski destination, but by no means shuts down outside of ski season. In fact, Whiteface is a veritable outdoor playground all year round. In addition to touring the Winter Olympic Museum, visitors can take in and experience a number of winter Olympic sports firsthand- even in the heat of July. Careen down the bobsled track (from the midpoint of the track, complete with driver and brakeman). Become a biathlete (minus skiing on the snow, of course). Instructors simulate the experience of biathlon racing by substituting other cardio-intensive, more seasonally appropriate activities. Take a glass elevator to the top of the ski jump. You can take a ride up the Gondola ski lift to get a panoramic view of the surrounding areas. There is, of course mountain biking (27 different trails) and hiking as well.

Photo by: Whiteface
Photo by: Whiteface

6. Mont Tremblant, Quebec

Towering Mt. Tremblant is the geographical anchor of the Laurentians, and transitions seamlessly through the seasons as a multi-sport, multi-season destination. There is nothing quite as refreshing as a spring-fed mountain lake, and Mt. Tremblant’s beach and tennis club take good advantage of this. Families can thrill together, riding down the luge run on three-wheeled cars. Mt. Tremblant is a major golf destination in Quebec, with private clubs and two of the best-designed public courses in the entire province. Pint-sized golfers (and their parents) will enjoy the challenging mini-golf course. This mountain too offers rides up the gondola ski lift, which provides a unique view overlooking the Laurentian mountain chain below.

Photo by: Mont Tremblant
Photo by: Mont Tremblant

5. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Adventure seekers need not limit themselves to the winter season at this adrenaline pumping all-season destination. The Grand Adventure Park is full of fun activities. The Ropes course will test your balance (and not just work-life balance) with bridges, zip lines, balance beams and cargo nets, all while being suspended 25 ft. off of the ground.  A well-designed bike park has ramps, jumps and challenges that meet a variety of skill and fitness. Always wanted to try bungee jumping, but weren’t quite ready to jump off of a bridge? You can try a slightly more tame experience with trampoline bungee jumping, where you’ll still experience some great height, but not as extreme. Jackson Hole is located right on the edge of the famous Grand Teton National Park, where picnicking and hiking are popular.

Photo by: Jackson Hole
Photo by: Jackson Hole

4. Calabogie Peaks, Ontario

Calabogie is one of those best-kept destination secrets. With a clean, crisp mountain lake, a lovely sandy beach, a beach club and a 9-hole golf course that is great for families (or those learning to play) together, this small (761 ft. vertical drop) mountain offers nice, easy skiing in the winter, but lots of vacation opportunity in the summer months. The mountain has a challenging Adventure Bike course, and offers good hiking trails. The small inn located at the base of the mountain has an excellent restaurant with a small menu that changes frequently to reflect the season. Calabogie is a great festival destination, with a well-known Rib and Bluesfest that rocks the mountain every August.

Photo by: Calabogie Peaks
Photo by: Calabogie Peaks

3. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

While the village of Whistler is bustling year-round, the mountain doesn’t sleep in the off-season either. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy biking and hiking, along with a gondola ride that offers unparalleled views of the village below, and of the surrounding mountainsides. There are other, unique experiences at the mountain during the off-season, like bear watching tours and local craft beer brewery tours. And at the base of Blackcomb- for the family that plays together- the family adventure zone. Visitors get to ride a 315 m luge track at top speed and then slow it down with a little mini golf. There is a bevy of other family fun activities, like mazes, trampolines, bouncy castles, bungee trampoline and ropes courses.

Photo by: Whistler Blackcomb
Photo by: Whistler Blackcomb

2. Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont

This family friendly ski resort kept up its niche marketing through the off-season, tailoring a number of packages and promotions that cater to family summer vacations. Smugglers’ Notch is a one-stop activity shop, with a full outdoor water playground with eight pools, four waterslides and an inflatable water playground on Morse Mountain, where kids can jump to their hearts content on aqua trampolines. There is also zip lining, hiking, biking, tennis, geocaching, kayaking and canoeing just to name a few. A unique activity offered at Smugglers’ Notch: llama trekking, where you hike around the neighboring mountain trails with a cuddly llama.

Photo by: Smugglers' Notch Resort/a>
Photo by: Smugglers’ Notch Resort/a>

1. Aspen Snowmass, Colorado

After doing your sun salutations at 11,212 ft., returning to your local studio for yoga class is going to seem rather pedestrian after taking in the views at yoga classes on this mountaintop. This area is also home to a group of mountains called the Maroon Bells, which are reportedly some of the most photographed peaks in North America. They tower up 14,000 ft. and are framed by river streams and unusual sedimentary formations, which make for prime photo ops. The best spot to take in this vista? At Maroon Lake, which sits below the group of mountains. You can drive yourself, or there are shuttle buses from nearby Aspen Highlands Village. Is there a more scenic place to float in a hot air balloon? Probably not- which is why they run hot air balloon rides and paragliders frequently. If you’re feeling more active, there is paddle boarding, kayaking, horseback riding and even a rock climbing wall.

Photo by: Aspen Snowmass
Photo by: Aspen Snowmass

15 Underrated Destinations in North America & Caribbean

Let’s face it, some famous places are so famous, it’s impossible to enjoy them anymore. They have become time consuming forced marches through hordes of tourists that kill the charm or grace of even the greatest destinations. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of the most underrated destinations where travelers don’t have to worry about getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of tourist traffic and can take a moment to enjoy the scene. We’ve even likely named a few you’ve never heard of! Although, you better act quick because there are warnings to heed as some of these places are beginning to grow. The New York Times recently noted that the lovely, uncluttered island country of St. Vincent built a $250 million dollar airport with non-stop flights to cities on both sides of the Atlantic. And the largely untouched Yellowstone National Park is even breaking ground and building hotels! On the reverse end of all this construction, a positive trend is emerging, especially among young travelers, it involves an interest in sustainable tourism, away from the destructive environmental footprints of tourist culprits like huge cruise ships. So here is the list of places that deserve more lovin’, respect and interest than they’re getting.

15. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Beautifully set on the banks of the Arkansas River in the foothills of the Ozarks, Tulsa was the Oil Capital of the World after they hit the first gusher in 1901. The subject of many country songs, the old oil capital has now diversified into technology sectors. It has two highly regarded art museums, plus professional opera and ballet companies. Whether by luck or design, Tulsa’s impressive enclave of Art Deco buildings remained intact and oil money went to renovations and additions. They’re building a whole new waterfront with more museums to come including the Route 66 Experience in honor of the city’s legendary status of the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous highways.

Ffooter / Shutterstock.com
Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

14. Saint Kitts Island, Caribbean

­With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is looking to go up market from its usual cruise ship fare, as well at the price of some of its informality and unspoiled assets. Entrepreneurs with big plans for huge marinas, big name hotel chains and golf course builders are all passing through the new private jet terminal. A development called Kittitian Hill calls itself an innovative exercise in sustainable living with menus ‘foraged’ from land and sea. They claim Irie Fields is the world’s first edible golf course. ‘Instead of the usual shrubs and trees, you’ll find organic crops and trees bursting with fresh fruit. Smart water management and an abundance of crops will all serve to reduce the course’s environmental impact’. Built on a former marijuana farm, Irie is also an island word for being at peace. Obviously named by someone who has never golfed. But intriguing nonetheless.

St. Kitts

13. Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Taos hasn’t rated in the big time ski resort list, but it’s staking its claim. Its underdevelopment has been one of its many charms, but now previously inaccessible expert runs are being opened up, the most notable being Kachina Peak with an elevation of 12,500 feet. Snowmaking capacity has been enhanced. The base village is in the process of upgrades, though cranky traditionalists might call them downgrades. The town itself has maybe 7,000 permanent residents. It is a completely charming place with an artists’ colony and a strong native presence. The simple southwestern food is propelled to great heights by local green chili sauce and access to fresh Pacific seafood not far away. In between skiing seasons, it is a wonderful place for strenuous hiking and sightseeing. The great British author D.H. Lawrence spent some time here in the 1920’s, a testament to the presence of sights and sensibilities that stir the soul. The Times advises ‘visit while it’s still manageable’. Julia Roberts bought a spread here. Consider yourself warned.

Photo by: Kevin Muncie via Flickr
Photo by: Kevin Muncie via Flickr

12. Quebec City, Quebec

They have a brand spanking new arena and a down payment on a National Hockey League franchise to renew their bitter rivalry with Montreal which goes far beyond the ice. So visitors will just have to make do with the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s impeccably preserved 17th century Old Town, gourmet French and Quebecois cooking, alongside some fabulous skiing at Mont Ste Anne and kite-flying on the Plains of Abraham. The Marche de Vieux Port is a foodie flash mob every weekend. Visit Notre Dame de la Victoire, a church built to celebrate an audacious victory over the British in 1642. Have a drink at the bar in the old Chateau Frontenac and enjoy the sumptuous views of the lower St. Lawrence and the Ile d’Orleans. The Winter Carnival is the best and biggest on the continent and the summer music festival is worth a detour as well. The list goes on and on with more enchantment at every turn.

Quebec City

11. The Catskills, New York

As recently as 2012, travel media were writing the Catskill’s obituary. For half of the 20th century, the Catskills were called The Jewish Alps. The Borscht Belt referred to the food, the clientele and a whole genre of comedy. Superstars like Woody Allen, Joan Rivers and Mel Brooks honed their skills at the legendary Grossinger’s Hotel, entertaining the Jewish clientele who flocked to the resort when many others denied them entry. Now the resurrection is underway with chic boutique hotels, snappy restaurants with uber-style—it has decider Vogue Magazine’s blessing of the Phoenicia Diner and Woodstock Way’s luxurious cabins.

The CatSkills, NY

10. San José del Cabo, Mexico

San José is the more mature, refined sibling of Cabo (Cape) San Lucas. The beaches and ocean is the same, just the people on them are perhaps a bit older and a good deal less hung over. It is joining the ever-growing trend to having more environmentally responsible tourism with Flora Farms, a resort with an organic garden in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains. Try the Farm Julep made with fresh watermelon juice. There is also a level of sophistication to engage the mind as well as the liver. Smart boutique hotels, good restaurants and art galleries showcasing Mexico’s best. This place offers a satisfying all-round vacation with a different far more satisfying version of the all inclusive.

San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

9. San Antonio, Texas

There is so much to see and do in America’s seventh-largest city, San Antonio. With over 20 million people visiting every year the tourist economy is booming. People flock to this city not only to remember Battle of the Alamo­, though they do that too, this famed battle site completely overshadows the city’s other UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park with the ruins of four Spanish mission churches dating from the early to mid-nineteenth century. The River Walk is a must and recently grew 500% in length to a full 15 miles. It is celebrated in the country’s musical heart. The legendary blues player Robert Johnson recorded here. It is the “Guitar Town”, home of the great singer-songwriter Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett who sings of his love for his ‘San Antonio Girl”.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

8. New Orleans, Louisiana

The year of 2015 is a somber milestone for New Orleans. A decade has passed since the devastation of Katrina. There will be memorials in honor of the victims, but also much pride to show how far the city and its people have bounced back. There are extra helpings of gumbo and jazz at the beautiful brand new venue of the People’s Health New Orleans Jazz Market which was built in dedication to the city’s greatest achievement: the creation of jazz. The South Market has got the resto/condo/boutique treatment, but the city’s unmistakable personality endures. In this time of reflection, go a little more native, beyond the cuisine clichés, a little couche-couche for breakfast, or try some comfort food like rice and beans and the aperitif called the official Cocktail of New Orleans, the Sazerac, named for the cognac that is its base.

Photo by: Bill Staney via Flickr
Photo by: Bill Staney via Flickr

7. Squamish, British Columbia

The city calls itself “where the oceans meet the mountains”. There is no outdoor adventure activity that can’t be found here – mountain biking, kayaking, white water rafting, wind and kite surfing. It is an acclaimed destination for rock-climbing on the 2000 foot Stawamus Chief mountain which towers 600m (almost 2000 ft) above Squamish, as the 2nd tallest hunk of freestanding granite in the world, after the Rock of Gibraltar. But the most recent addition to attract some of the millions who flock to nearby Whistler is the Sea to Sky Gondola that takes visitors up 3000 feet in 10 minutes to a separate network of high alpine trails to hike and snowshoe. The Gondolas website promises “breathtaking views of the mountains and ocean below”. That is a gross understatement. Each year Squamish plays host to one of North America’s largest convocations of bald eagles who hang out in Squamish during the winter.

Stawamus Chief Mountain

6. Campeche, México

Campeche has everything. It’s a UNESCO World heritage Site. Nearby Mayan ruins perhaps 3000 years old and jungle biosphere that is also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Well preserved Spanish colonial architectures from the 17th century on, some of which have been turned into charming hotels. Not to mention the great seafood! Yet it remains relatively well-know bypassed perhaps for Yucatan’s hyper-popular beaches. The ruins of Calakmul, including the imposing five pyramids lie under the forest canopy teeming with monkeys and toucans. The Times seductively promises visitors “can experience a solitude unthinkable at tourist-clogged Maya sites like Chichén Itzá”.

Campeche Mexico

5. Cleveland, Ohio

Wait let me get my glasses. I thought it said Cleveland. It’s actually true! It’s no longer the ‘Mistake by the Lake’. The city has reconnected to the waterfront with the renovation of the warehouse district, The Gordon Square Arts district has a gaggle of spiffed up theaters – the stage kind. Waterfront warehouses are being transformed and the glassy geometric new home to the Museum of Contemporary Art is the height of sophistication. One wouldn’t expect the iconic symbol of Rust Belt decline to have miles of hiking and biking trails, but it does. And don’t forget the Hall of Fame. Go Cavs.

Cleveland Flats

4. Miami, Florida

South Beach has become the ultimate in North American chic. Loads of celebs, designer hotels and elegant restaurants. It is now larger and if at all possible, becoming more chic. They have hired Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas, two of the world’s greatest living architects, both winners of the Pritzker Prize, the Nobel Prize of architecture, so this will be something to see. Designer giant Tommy Hilfiger bought the historic Art Deco gem, the Raleigh Hotel which has been famous since it opened in 1940. Did you hear that? It was the sound of a lot of coin being dropped. When future archaeologists find the ruins, they will think it the Versailles of Florida Panhandle, the center of a society dedicated to above all, conspicuous over consumption.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

3. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

It is everything you could want in a Caribbean getaway. Superlatives like ‘idyllic’ and ‘unspoiled’ are often used. Divers love the coral reefs and Saint Margaret beach is one of the nicest on the planet. There’s not that much to actually do on the tiny country’s 32 islands, unless you’re one of the one per cent who have private islands and hidden mansions. There’s not that much riveting history, architecture of culture really, except for the one that preaches of blissful relaxation in an impossibly beautiful setting. However, they did shell out a quarter of a billion dollars for a new airport with nonstop flights to and from North America and Europe. Might be good to see it before everyone else does.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is the oldest National Park in the United States dating back to 1872. A 500 room lodge is being modernized. A few ‘sustainable’ lodges are opening making the home of Old Faithful a more welcome destination to spend more time in. It is staggering to know that most of the world’s geysers are here. Within the confines of the duty to protect and preserve this treasure, the Park Service is partnering with local nonprofits to responsibly open up the venerable park for both accommodation and exploration. There are new hiking and biking trails. You can take your own snowmobile tour for the first time in over a decade. And veteran visitors swear it is even more spectacular in winter.

Yellowstone National Park

1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

No seriously. It’s a different way to build a city into a popular destination. Sure, there are famous things to see. The Liberty Bell, the Rocky statue on the Library steps.  But there’s not much of the ‘biggest this-’ or ‘oldest that-’. It’s more about creating a very engaging urban space. It’s a very livable, people-friendly functional urban space with European overtones. Which is saying a lot for a city whose previous contributions to American culture were cheese steaks and the most notorious sports fans in the country. There are free yoga classes on the Race Street Pier in the home of hockey’s Broad Street Bullies. Fairmount Park is the largest city park in the United States, bigger even than Central Park, and very runner/rollerblader/cycler friendly. It must be said pockets of shameful poverty remain. But cities in the world without a regrettable blemish are rare. A civilized city to savor.

Philadelphia Pennsylvania