Every year millions of tourists flock to popular vacation destinations throughout the United States in search of the perfect getaway. More often than not, these popular destinations are nothing more than trendy tourist attractions catering to vacation starved Americans seeking a little peace and solitude away from home. Even worse, popular destinations tend to be overcrowded, resulting in fewer opportunities for the vacationer to make the most of his or her valuable time. Luckily, there are alternative travel destinations for those seeking more from their vacation experience than just long lines and expensive resorts. Whether its scenic, wild, or just plain weird, the following unique destinations will help you get the most out of your vacation plans.
Unique Travel Destinations in the US
Isle Royal, Michigan
Although this collection of Island located in the northwestern corner of Lake Superior is a National Park, the lack of crowds and noisy automobiles is not reminiscent of more popular national parks in the US. The uniqueness of this vacation destination not only lies in what you will experience when you arrive, but also in the actual means in which you arrive. Adding to its serenity and tranquility, Isle Royal does not allow private automobiles and is only accessible by boat, floatplane, or passenger ferry. Once the vacationer gets there, he or she is open to a wide range of recreational experiences including the occasional wolf sitting. As the temperature remains cool year round, never exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit, Isle Royal is the perfect travel destination for the summer traveler seeking to escape the noise and crowds of more popular tourist destinations.
The Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota and Wyoming
For a truly unique vacation experience, head north to an area rich in both natural as well as human history. Visit an area bursting with breathtaking beauty and stunning land formations that is home to the world’s richest fossil banks from the Oligocene epoch, some dating back as far as 35 million years. Visit a place where wild horses and buffalo herds still roam free and the voices of the nation’s violent past still echo into the future. Home to the Ogallala Sioux, Chiefs’ Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, the 1890’s Ghost Dances, and the merciless massacre at Wounded Knee Creek, this area is rich in history and legend. Perhaps just as tough as the history of the people that inhabit the area is the 109-mile George S. Mickelson Trail for hiking or biking that traverses the area. This trip is recommended for those seeking a truly unique experience that teaches, inspires, and humbles those who choose to enter its timeless sanctuary.
Man’s need to periodically retreat is longstanding, as evidenced in the brochures from travel agencies that clutter office desks and automobile glove boxes. Hawaii, Cancun, a Caribbean cruise, Kall the old standards. We need to get away from it all, refuel and take time for ourselves and our families. I’m a firm believer that there is nothing hedonistic about the need for a break from life’s demands and obligations; it is as essential to our long term wellbeing as a good diet. But since relaxing is always at the top of the list on everyone’s vacation essentials, consider something a little different, something a little less jammed with other tourists and college students on Spring Break. Consider the rewards of a visit to the historic, melodious South.
Very few regions have ever been more wrongly typecast than that of the South. From the days of the Civil War on, the South has been sadly shadowed by preconceived notions of a lack of culture and art. Even Mitchell’s epic, Gone with the Wind, did little to erase the dismal picture so often painted of territory below the Mason-Dixon Line. But for those who have taken a southern adventure, it quickly becomes apparent that these labels couldn’t be further from the truth. The South is unlike any other area, steeped in wonderful customs and culture, with miles and miles of magnificent landscapes and southern hospitality.
For the Bed and Breakfast
Lovers, here are a few more marvelous Southern retreats:
* Southern Heritage Bed and Breakfast, Boynton, Virginia – built in 1880 and sits in the heart of Virginia’s Lake Country.
* 1851 Inn On the Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana – built in 1851 and located on historic St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ beautiful Garden District.
* Owl’s Nest Inn at Engadine, Ashville, North Carolina – built in 1885 and completely restored to maintain its rich Victorian character, this inn is convenient to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
* The Victoria, Anniston, Alabama – circa 1888, this inn is the perfect southern getaway, surrounded in southern charm and elegance and convenient to Logan Martin Lake, museums and shopping.
If you’re looking for outdoors relaxation with camping, fishing and nature’s scenery at her best, the south will be hard to beat. Here are a few choice spots to hide from the hustle and bustle:
* Cheaha State Park, Delta, Alabama – Located atop Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in the State, this 2,799 acre mountain top retreat exhibits breathtaking scenery year-round. Lodging includes a beautiful hotel, cabins, chalets, and a campground for RV’s.
* Stone Mountain State Park, Atlanta, Georgia – Located only 16 miles east of downtown Atlanta and home to the world’s largest relief carving on the world’s largest mass of exposed granite. Lodging includes a 92-room inn, and family campgrounds for tents and RV’s.
* Carter Caves State Resort Park, Olive Hill, Kentucky – Located 30 miles east of Ashland, this resort sports a fieldstone lodge with 28 rooms, cabins and cottages. With more than 20 caverns to explore, sign up for a cavern tour or go hiking or canoeing through the rustic scenery.
The South can also accommodate those visitors that are looking for something a little less rural. Mud Island River Park in Tennessee offers the river walk and scheduled concerts. The south is home to riverboat gambling, gulf beaches, rave golf courses and so much more. The pace may feel a little slower, the days may seem a little longer and everything may seem a little less urgent in the heartland of the south. Sounds like all the perfect elements for a vacation to kick back, reenergize and learn to properly say, “Y’all come back!”
Sea World, an Anheuser-Bush amusement park, has three locations; Orlando, Florida; San Diego, California; and San Antonio, Texas. All locations include a number of activities, rides, learning experiences and special programs aimed for the youngest adventurers while entertaining teenagers and adults that are young at heart.
All three parks include rides, shows, attractions and dining options. Many of the attractions and shows change for each season and holiday so frequent visits are never mundane. A little pre-planning and advance ticket purchases through Sea World’s Internet sites will be helpful. Schedules, including attraction closings, show times, and maps of each park are available both on-line and at the park’s entrance gates
All parks are large and will take an entire day to complete, or at least hit the things you want. A day’s admission, around $45-$55, is well worth the events, rides and fun. If planning to attend for a number of days, admission packages are available. Admission discounts are given to senior citizens, active-duty military, Sea World members and the disabled just ask. Wear comfortable clothing, shoes and bring snacks or drinks. Entrance to the park does require a security screening but a quick wait in line will be worth it. Be certain to bring a camera, or plan on purchasing a disposable on site. In addition, many hotels, and even airlines, have affiliations with Sea World for special rates, shuttle service and ticket discounts. Check the area, newspaper and Internet search engines for money saving opportunities. Many packages including airfares, hotel, and vehicle rental and park admission can be arranged through travel centers.
Most advisable is to call ahead. If there is particular need, show or attraction that is a must see, contact the park the day before attending to be certain it’s available. Rides do shut down for maintenance, attractions and shows can be closed for cleaning, and customer needs are the staff’s priority. Never be afraid to ask it can only lead to more enjoyment.
Now, are you looking for an ocean experience on your next vacation? It doesn’t matter if you will be close to the shore or not. There are many quality aquariums in the United States, many of which also function as outstanding marine research facilities and marine life rescue centers. Modern architecture has made it possible for many of these aquariums to offer stunning insider views of ocean life through the development of very realistic exhibits. Investigate one of these possibilities the next time you travel.
1. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in Los Angeles is located on the shore of the Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, California. A great thing about this aquarium is that it is free and readily accessible to the public, although a donation of five dollars per adult and one dollar per child is requested. This city-owned aquarium is divided into three segments: Rocky Shores, Beaches and Mudflats, and the Open Ocean. Special features include an aquatic nursery, “touch tanks” and whale skeletons. Visitors are also encouraged to continue their marine life tour down at the shore, where natural tide pools can be examined.
2. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is located in New Orleans, Louisiana and features over 350 species in a variety of habitats. It also includes a scavenger hunt, a great view of sharks, and a seahorse-breeding program, which is designed to protect certain species of this unusual creature from extinction. The facility is large, and also features The Audubon Nature Institute, The Audubon Zoo, an IMAX theater and even insectariums. The kids will love this one, and you should bring good walking shoes and plenty of money for various admission fees. Be sure to allow plenty of time for this one. Ticket prices are $16 for adults and $9.50 for kids for entrance to the aquarium only.
3. The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland features a 265,000-gallon ray pool, which allows visitors to see the graceful stingrays in action, as they swim through the water like birds in flight. Exhibits from all over the world are part of this aquarium experience, and one might even catch a glimpse of an Amazonian electric eel. Tickets are about $18 for adults and $11 for youth, and children three and under are admitted for free.
4. In Bloomington, Minnesota, underneath the Mall of America, you will find the world’s largest underwater aquarium. A feature of this aquarium is a moving walkway that travels under the aquarium that is meant to replicate the experience of deep-sea diving. It has a renowned shark exhibit, and if you check in advance, you can see the sharks getting fed. Amazingly, adults are permitted to swim with the sharks on special dive excursions. Admission is a reasonable $10 for adults and $6 for kids.
5. The Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration is located in Mystic, Connecticut, and features marine life such as Beluga whales, penguins, sharks and even blue lobsters. This aquarium is also a center for the study of deep-sea archeology, and can be an especially enriching educational experience. Admission is $16 for adults and $11 for children.
Enjoy your aquarium experience. Prices listed are subject to change, and seniors almost always pay reduced admission fees. Remember, when you go to an aquarium, not only are you educating yourself and your family, but you are also usually contributing to marine life rehabilitation centers and on-going marine research. You get to simultaneously contribute to a worthy cause and have an excellent vacation experience!
The best water park in the United States is the Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels; Texas. This park is open from April through September. Tickets range from $28.16 for patrons 13 and older to $23.32 for children ages 3 to 12 to free for children younger than 3. Season passes are also available. This park is more than 60 acres of water fun and contains more than 40 rides. Riders can zoom down giant sized soda straws from the top of a large Coca-Cola glass. They can also ride the rollercoaster-like Master Blaster which has been rated the best water ride in America repeatedly. This water park also has a total of 6 child-friendly play areas. These areas have smaller water slides, wading pools, fountains, and numerous other attractions for the smaller crowd. There is also a wide variety of different family rides to enjoy.
Water parks are a great way to enjoy some family fun in the warmer weather of summer. There are water parks almost everywhere you go, but these have been named the best 5 in the country. Their locations are quite widespread, so no matter where you are, you are bound to be close to one of these or another of the many great water parks in our country.