Camping Gems

Camping Gems

Find those fun and funky “special” places across the country. Hit the road and discover all the odd roadside attractions that make getting there more than half the fun. Road tripping gives you an excuse to search out hidden gems along your route. Look inside for suggested trips and inspiration to plan your own camping gem journey.

Discovering Kauai

Discovering Kauai

Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle is an absolutely amazing destination. The island is filled with the lush greenery that it gets its name from. Visitors will find sandy beaches, rainforests, beautiful aquatic life and much more. Kauai also has fun cities, culture and history. Visitors can enjoy shopping, dining, playing golf and much more.

Throughout the island there are many beaches, which visitors can enjoy a wide range of different activities. Some beaches are great for walking, sunbathing, picnicking. For visitors looking for something more on the recreational side Kauai also has great beaches for surfing, sailing, snorkeling, diving and of course swimming. Throughout the time that you enjoy these activities including the beautiful blue waters, the reefs, the tropical plants and much more.

One way to really enjoy all of the sights that the island has to offer is to take a helicopter tour of the island. From the air you can really see all of the natural wonder that Kauai has to offer. All of the places that are hard to access or you may not have time to reach by car or foot can be seen during a helicopter tour of the island. From the windows of a helicopter visitors to Kauai can see Mt. Waialeale, Waimea Canyon, the Napali Coast and much more.

Kauai is also a great place to enjoy some biking. In general the island isn't very hilly, its mostly flat, making it a great island to tour on bike. If  you are looking for something a bit more difficult take a ride up to Kokee State Park. Visitors to Kauai can really enjoy some of the sights up close during a ride around the island. Some of the landmarks you might see during a bike ride around the island includes Wailua Fall, Mahaulepu Beach, Moloaa Beach and much more.

Another fun adventure that visitors to Kauai can try is mountain tubing. On Kauai, in the interior of the island visitors can explore the Hanama'ulu ditch system by going for a tubing tour. The ditch system was built by the Lihue Sugar Plantation in order to bring water from Mt. Waileale to irrigate the sugar cane fields. Visitors to Kauai can ride down the ditches, through the flumes and tunnels, right through some of the more remote interior parts of Kauai's rainforests.

Kauai is also filled with amazing scuba diving spots. The blue waters around Kauai are filled with brightly colored tropical fish, fascinating reefs and you may even catch a glimpse of sea turtles, dolphins and whales. Beginners to experienced divers will find places to explore. There are options for boat dives, night dives, and other diving tours. Experienced divers can also explore the caves and lava tubes.

The Garden Isle also has a great selection of beautiful botanical gardens for visitors to enjoy. Many of these gardens have amazing collections of native Hawaiiian plants. Visitors can see palm trees, orchids, and much more. One of these gardens is McBryde Garden in the Lawa'i Valley, which is a Conservation and Horticulture Center and is also part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Another garden on Kauai is the Na 'Aina Kai Botanical Gardens has a particularly rare botanical garden, located on the north shore of Kauai. The garden covers 240 acres and has 13 amazing gardens, including a canyon with moss and fern, a beautiful beach and even a hardwood plantation.

San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands, Washington

The delightful San Juan Islands are an ideal spot for a Northwest summer vacation. These islands are one of Washington state's true treasures. Each island is a fabulous destination on its own, but together the islands make an amazing summer vacation destination. Northwest Washington has a particularly beautiful summer - not too hot, but warm and sunny with lush vegetation and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Visitors to the San Juan Islands will find that the fresh ocean air and isolated island experience makes for a perfect getaway.

The San Juan Islands are located in the Salish Sea, between the Canadian city of Vancouver and Seattle. They are a part of the San Juan Archipelago, which includes the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, the archipelago is comprised of over 700 islands and reefs. Most of these islands are tiny, less than 200 of the islands are large enough to have names. The four main islands are San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island

Access to the San Juan Islands is limited to ferry, private boat and plane. Only four of the islands have public ferry service, the Washington State Ferry System serves, Shaw Island, Lopez Island, Orcas Island and San Juan. The ferry departs from Anacortes Washington, however these ferries do not run as often as the run is quite long and sometimes inter-island vehicle traffic. In addition, these ferries can get quite crowded during the summer, so planning ahead is a good idea.

Between the islands there are 408 miles of mixed rocky and sand waterfront. In fact, San Juan County has more shoreline than any other county in the nation. All these miles of shoreline make the San Juan Islands the ideal location to enjoy a variety of water activities. Throughout the islands visitors can enjoy sea kayaking, whale watching tours and boating. If you are worried about rain disrupting your water sports, as the San Juan Islands are located in northwest Washington, which is of course know for its rain, you are in luck, the San Juan Islands are located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and get less rain than many other parts of the northwest.

Beyond the water activities that can be enjoyed on each of the islands, visitors will find much more to do. Visitors can take a day trip to one of the islands, or expand their trip and spend multiple days exploring each island. Each of the islands has its own unique character and is worth spending some time getting to know. The islands are different geographically and the atmosphere on each island is different.

Shaw Island, the smallest of the islands with ferry service has a relatively small full-time population. Visitors to Shaw Island should know that there is very little overnight lodging on the island. However, it is a great island to explore on bicycle and be sure to keep your eyes open for some of the beautiful Washington nature and wildlife.

Lopez Island is the next largest island with ferry service. The main town on Lopez is Lopez Village. Visitors to Lopez Island can enjoy the nice little town, which has shops, museums and more. Lopez also has Lopez Island Vineyards, which is a delightful spot to visit. This island also has a few parks worth visiting, including Odlin County Park and Spencer Spit State Park. Lopez is also a particularly good island for bicycling. Bicyclists on the island have the unique opportunity to observe some of the islands wildlife and nature. Lopez Island is dotted with farmlands and views of the water.

San Juan Island has rocky shores mixed with sandy beaches, and the land of the island is a mix of prairie, pastures, lakes and forests. This interesting mix land makes San Juan a great spot to explore. San Juan Islands main town is Friday Harbor, where the ferry docks. Friday Harbor has great dining options as well as live entertainment and specialty shops. Visitors can take some time to explore American Camp and English Camp National Historic Parks. The San Juan Island Vineyards and Wescott Bay Orchards provide visitors to San Juan with delightful dining options. Lime Klin State Park is one of San Juan Islands great spots to enjoy whale watching.

Orcas Island, the largest of the islands is also an amazing destination. This island has a thriving art culture, as well as lots of local agriculture. In addition, Orcas has summer camps for children to enjoy. The land on Orcas Island is a blend of farms, forests, valleys, mountains and lakes. Visitors to Orcas can explore Mount Constitution, the tallest mountain on the islands, with a half mile elevation. The main village on Orcas is Eastsound, where visitors can enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment. Visitors to Orcas should also explore Orcas's Moran State Park and Eastsound Waterfront Park.

Visitors to the San Juan Islands will find delightful accommodations on all of the islands. Throughout the islands there are a variety of outdoor activity options, including boating, bicycling, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, camping and even golfing. Each main island has unique shopping, dining and entertainment, and throughout the islands there is a thriving local agricultural culture and visitors can enjoy the Farmers Markets with their fresh fruits and vegetables. The islands remain fairly wild and provide visitors with the chance to observe and enjoy some of the unique northwestern nature and wildlife. Visitors should keep an eye out for bald eagles, river otters and even orca whales.

San Marcos, Texas

San Marcos, Texas

San Marcos, Texas is a beautiful little city located between Austin and San Antonio on Interstate 35. This city has all sorts of attractions for all visitors throughout the year. Within the city you will find a fabulous array of history and fun, and it is also a great place to enjoy camping and outdoor recreation. San Marcos is home to Texas State University as well as home to the amazing Aquarena Center.

Whatever your reason for going on vacation, San Marcos has something fabulous to offer. You can camp, RV, partake in water sports, visit museums, learn about the history of the city, and have lots of fun during your vacation. One of the greatest attractions San Marcos has to offer is the access to the San Marcos River.

The beautiful San Marcos River offers visitors natural beauty throughout the year. This river is spring-fed and widely known for its amazing clear water. The weather in San Marcos is perfect for enjoying the delights of the river.  The area averages 275 days of sun, and during the summer temperatures are in the 80s most of the time, while in the winter they are in the 50s. In the waters of the San Marcos River, visitors can enjoy the usual water sports including swimming, kayaking, and canoeing. If you are a little more adventurous, you can try tubing on the river. Even better than tubing, this river offers great snorkeling and scuba diving.

Should you want to enjoy the beauty of the river without getting wet, you can visit the Aquarena, located at the headwaters of the San Marcos River. The Aquarena Center is an aquatic observatory that has a wetlands boardwalk, nature exhibits, tours, and a gift shop. You can also ride the glass-bottom boats, which offer amazing views of the underwater environment of the river. You can view the fish and turtles, and the bubbling springs that feed the river. The Aquarena Center is located on the spot where archeologists found evidence of the Clovis culture, so head there to this amazing archeological site.

Another example of the natural wonders of San Marcos can be found at Wonder World Park. At this park you can take a tour of the Wonder Cave, an earthquake-formed park that's open to the public. This amazing park emphasizes the raw power of nature and on one of the guided tours you can learn about some of earth's geological eras and see prehistoric fossils.

San Marcos also has the Calaboose African American Museum, which has many artifacts that showcase African American life in early Texas. Visitors can head to the museums at Texas State University, including the Center for Texas Music History and Texas State Fine Arts.

Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival

Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival

The beginning of spring heralds the opening of many bird festivals. Northern California is home to a particularly spectacular bird festival, known as the Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival. Based in Arcata, California, this celebration runs from mid to late April. This is one bird festival that bird lovers won't want to miss.

The first Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival was held in 1995 and it has been a fabulous option for spring bird watching ever since. It is an especially good festival to visit if you are interested in seeing the Marbled Godwit, for which the festival is named. This bird is a long legged, brown shorebird, with a long bill.

During the winter, Marbled Godwits comes to Humboldt Bay by the thousands. When you come to the Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival you will have the opportunity to see these magnificent birds, as they are still living at Humboldt Bay in April. During the winter they live in the estuaries, salt marches, and other coastal habitats.

This is the ideal area to hold a large bird festival such as this.  There are varied habitats which hundreds of unique species of birds call home. Nearby you will find the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Redwood National Park, Redwood State Parks, the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as many other amazing natural parks and reserves. Many of the festival's excursions visit these parks and refuges.

In 2010, the 15th year of the festival, the core days will be Friday April 16 through Sunday April 18. However, if you would like to spend more than three days in this beautiful region of northern California, you are in luck because there are pre and post-festival events begin on Thursday April 15 continue on till Wednesday April 21.

When you register for the Godwit Day Spring Migration Bird Festival, you will have your choice of hundreds of interesting and informative events, activities, and tours. Experienced guides and wildlife experts lead each of these programs. You will learn about the hundreds of different species that call the region home during the spring. The festival also has plenty of kid-friendly activities.

The pre and post-festival events are mostly bird watching and other types of wildlife viewing excursions and tours. There are boat tours, kayak tours, whale-watching tours, rafting trips, and many more fabulous adventure options throughout the seven days of the festival. Many of these excursions do have added costs above the regular registration fee, but they are well worth it. When you register for the festival you can choose which activities you are most interested in and sign up for them individually, but you will want to register early because many of the field trips fill up quickly.

During the core days of the festival, you can enjoy the art exhibition at the Arcata Community Center, which features the work of many amazing wildlife artists. You also have the opportunity to meet the trip leaders and lecturers. Each day of the festival has seminars and you have the opportunity to see live birds of prey. The children will love the Bird Art Contest, as well as the variety of other fun arts and crafts activities.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Visitors travel to Sedona to enjoy the recreation,  relaxation, and the beautiful red rock formations that surround the town.

This town is situated just two hours away from the Grand Canyon and much closer to the ski destination of Flagstaff. Aside from the many opportunities to enjoy the relaxation of the city, there are many recreational activities to enjoy here. The climate is perfect - Sedona has mild winters and the spring and fall are very beautiful.

Hikers will find plenty of trails around the area. These trails will introduce visitors to the beauty of the region as well as the very interesting flora and fauna. If you are uncomfortable with taking hikes in unfamiliar environs, you will find many guides and services that can show you some of the area's most beautiful destinations. No matter what your experience level, you are sure to find a trail that can introduce you to Sedona's beautiful red rocks.

Oak Creek Canyon is one beautiful spot near Sedona, Arizona. Summer travelers can go for a swim during the hot weather. Fishing enthusiasts can dip their lines at Oak Creek. The creek provides some first rate fishing for trout, large and smallmouth bass, and catfish.

Sedona is also a great destination for rock climbing. Many people come to this region of Arizona just for the rock climbing. If you're an inexperienced or first-time climber, be sure to find a more experienced partner or guide you can trust in this rocky landscape.

Another of Sedona's marvels is the stunning night sky. City dwellers seeking the peace and beauty of a town like Sedona will be amazed by the night sky in Sedona. Away from the city, surrounded by nature, the stars really come out and twinkle.

Of course, there are plenty of other attractions in Sedona. Perhaps you would like to spend a day at one of the spas, or maybe you would prefer to spend some time enjoying the galleries, art, and shopping. Sedona has music and theater performances, as well as festivals and events throughout the year. Wine lovers will also find plenty to enjoy at the wineries in Sedona.

Lovely Litchfield, Connecticut

Lovely Litchfield, Connecticut

Litchfield is located in the northwestern region of Connecticut. Litchfield has a reputation for its pastoral beauty and, even in the dead of winter, you will be delighted with images straight out of a painting. The pastoral beauty, abundant recreation, and delightful atmosphere come together to make Litchfield, Connecticut a fabulous destination for any traveler throughout the year.

This region is filled with a rich history. As you drive around the region, be sure to visit some of the covered bridges -- there are even two which you can still drive across. Bull's Bridge, which crosses the Housatonic River and dates all the way back to the Revolutionary War, has a delightful bit of lore associated with George Washington. The story goes that George Washington's own horse fell into the river near Bull's Bridge. There is even some documentation that confirms that there was an expensive rescue of a horse at Bull's Bridge Falls.

You can also enjoy the beauty of Connecticut's wildlife at amazing nature centers in the region. These nature centers don't just celebrate the beauty of the region's nature, they also preserve some of the area's great history. The Roxbury Land Trust preserves the site of a 19th-century iron ore mining operation.

Many of these nature centers have large trail systems, which allows visitors to get close to the nature of Connecticut while enjoying top-notch recreation. The White Memorial Foundation and Conservation Center has 4000 acres with 35 miles of trails which can be enjoyed throughout the year.  You can even cross-country ski in the winter. The Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center has 70 acres in its sanctuary with many trails through diverse habitats.

Visitors who love recreation will find plenty of delights in this region. One great option, which is not to be missed, is the Appalachian Trail, which crosses this region of Connecticut. In winter, the Appalachian Trail offers many options for cross-country skiing. Spring is an amazing time to go rafting and kayaking. Fishers will absolutely love the summer in Litchfield where you can enjoy some great fly fishing options.

The Litchfield region is filled with terrific vineyards and farms. Springtime is when the farmers collect sap from the sugar maples to turn into maple syrup, candies, and other delicious maple confections. At Sweet Wind Farm Sugarhouse and Farm House, you can learn about how maple syrup is made and take tours of the farm, then purchase some of their delicious candies. The region also has orchards and varieties of farms with farm stands where you can enjoy fresh produce.

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