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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.

Beautiful St. George, Utah

Beautiful St. George, Utah


The city itself is rich with culture and history and is one of the largest in southern Utah. While on an adventure to St. George, you can visit Zion National Park, partake in many recreational activities, and see the interesting historical sights in the city.

St. George has pleasant weather year round. The weather makes this area a popular destination for snow birds and northerners seeking an escape from winter. If you travel to St. George during your family’s winter vacation, you and your family can enjoy many recreational activities that are unavailable during winter at your home. You will find all sorts of recreational activities around St. George, including camping, hiking, boating, fishing, rock climbing, and golfing.

RVing and camping are popular throughout the St. George area. Within easy distance of St. George, you will find Snow Canyon State Park and Sand Hollow State Park. Snow Canyon State Park is known for its beautiful canyon and its volcanic cones. There are many opportunities to hike and bike within Snow Canyon State Park. Sand Hollow State Park incorporates Sand Mountain and the reservoir called Sand Hollow. At Sand Hollow State Park you can ride your dirt bike or 4-wheeler on the sand dunes, or  boat and fish on the waters of the reservoir.

Nearby lies the area's plum attraction, Zion National Park. Zion's greatest draw is its many canyons and elegant hanging gardens. There are many places to hike and bike in the park, as well as plenty of backcountry adventure opportunities. You can enjoy the park by taking the Zion Shuttle or you can take a car tour through certain parts of the park. From St. George, you can also make side trips to see Bryce Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

In addition to being a gateway to the areas many parks, the city of St. George has its own attractions. St. George is a city full of history. Brigham Young founded it in 1861. The city has many historic buildings, including the St. George Temple. You can view dinosaur footprints on the edge of town or head to one of the town's eleven golf courses.

This fall and winter, when you are looking for a vacation spot with a mild climate and lots of recreation, plan a visit to St. George, Utah. Here you can enjoy a variety of recreational opportunities ranging from hiking to dirt biking. When you need a break from all your recreational fun you can enjoy some of St. George's entertainment. If you want to make your stay in St. George part of a larger road-trip, you will find both the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas within good road-tripping distance.

Point Reyes & Inverness Ridge, CA

Point Reyes & Inverness Ridge, CA


Just north of San Francisco, California, you will find the Point Reyes National Seashore. The national seashore is a great place to find beauty and adventure. If you love to combine outdoor adventure with the chance to learn about history and nature, the Point Reyes and Inverness Ridge Area of California is a place you should visit on your next trip to the west coast.

Point Reyes National Seashore has a few very popular back-country camping spots. The camping sites at the national seashore are hike or boat-in only, so if you are looking for a car or RV campsite you will have to find one outside the national seashore.

The National Seashore also has great opportunities for nature and birdwatching. You can see the gray whales, especially during their migration from January to April. You can see the seals from the Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock. The park also has great birdwatching. Near the Pierce Point Ranch there is a large preserve which is home to over 400 tule elk. These elk are often visible from the parking lot; the best time of year to see the elk is late July through November.

Point Reyes National Park has many trails, historic structures and visitor centers that provide great exhibits on the history, ecology and geology in the area. The Bear Valley Visitor Center at the entrance of the park has many ecological and historical exhibits. If you only have a few hours for your visit Bear Valley Visitor Center, this is a good spot to learn about the park.

The Bear Valley Visitor Center also provides access to a few short, but fascinating trails. You can walk to Kule Loklo, a replica of a Coast Miwok Indian village, by taking  a short path from the visitor center. Woodpecker Trail, also near the visitor center, has interpretive signs about plants and animals that can be found on the trail. Earthquake Trail is a paved trail near the visitor center. This trail explores the San Andreas Fault Zone and has interpretive signs about the local geology.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse is located about 45 minutes into the park. Drive into the park and stop at the Point Reyes Lighthouse visitor center, where you can view the lighthouse from an observation deck. If you would like to walk down the path to the lighthouse, you will have to visit between Thursday and Monday and then descend the 308 stairs. You can learn about the history of dairy ranching with the interpretive signs and historic structures at the Pierce Point Ranch. The Ken Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach has a great marine exhibit.

In addition to camping, nature and history, Point Reyes also has many opportunities for hiking, biking and horse riding. The park has 150 miles of trails. There are also great beaches and tide pools for exploring along the California coast. You can hike to Mt. Wittenberg from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a 1300 ft climb that puts you at the highest point in the park.

The Point Reyes National Seashore has many volunteer opportunities, from habitat restoration and repairing trails to educating visitors about wildlife. Or, if you want to escape from nature for a bit, all of the excitement of San Francisco can be found a little over 30 miles away from the Point Reyes National Seashore. You are also situated near the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to experience the coast of California. You can participate in some back-country camping, hiking and kayaking. After you have had your fill of recreation, wildlife viewing and history you can drive down to San Francisco where you can enjoy all that this fabulous California city has to offer.

Camping Gem | Lassen Peak Area, California

Lassen Peak Area, California

lassen-peak-california
If you are planning visit to California and are looking for something a little bit different, spend some time in the Lassen Peak area of California. The Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Cascade Range offers amazing volcanic formations and thermal areas. The area also includes nearby Redding, which will be your gateway to the Sacramento River, Shasta Lake and Mt. Shasta.

Read more: Camping Gem | Lassen Peak Area, California

Big Bend

Elsa Watson
July 27, 2009

Big Bend


Deep in the heart of southwestern Texas, the massive Rio Grande River takes a dramatic curve that's known as Big Bend.  The million acres surrounding this natural phenomenon is famous for its fabulous hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, jeeping, and river running.  If you're in the mood for breathtaking views and big-time fun, just head to this stunning area along the border with Mexico.

Big Bend National Park
Sometimes considered "three parks in one," Big Bend includes mountain, desert, and river environments. An hour’s drive can take you from the banks of the Rio Grande to a mountain basin nearly a mile high.

Big Bend National Park has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States. The 118 river miles that form the southern park boundary include the spectacular canyons of Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas. The Rio Grande, meandering through this portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, has cut deep canyons with nearly vertical walls through three uplifts comprised primarily of limestone. Throughout the open desert areas, the highly productive Rio Grande riparian zone includes various plant and animal species and significant cultural resources. The vegetative belt extends into the desert along creeks and arroyos.

What to Do?
Hiking, driving, and floating top the list of fun Big Bend activities.  The national park is filled with hiking trails of varying difficulty, from mountain treks to self-guided nature walks.  If a scenic drive is more your speed, then you're in luck.  With more than 300 miles of roads, Big Bend has plenty of choices.  

Floating is one of the most popular activities in the park.  Whether you take a raft or canoe, you'll glide down the Rio Grande, taking in the dramatic cliff faces to either side.  This is a fabulous way to see wildlife and to get to know the river.

Temperature
The park exhibits dramatic contrasts -- its climate may be characterized as one of extremes. Dry, hot late spring and early summer days often exceed 100 degrees in the lower elevations. Winters are normally mild throughout the park, but sub-freezing temperatures occasionally occur. Because of the range in altitude from approximately 1,800 feet along the river to 7,800 feet in the Chisos Mountains, a wide variation in available moisture and in temperature exists throughout the park. These variations contribute to an exceptional diversity in plant and animal habitats.

Proximity to Mexico
Big Bend National Park encompasses more than 800,000 acres in southwest Texas. For more than 1,000 miles, the Rio Grande forms the international boundary between Mexico and the United States, and Big Bend National Park administers one-quarter of that boundary. Within the 118 twisting miles that also define the park’s southern boundary, the river’s southeasterly flow changes abruptly to the northeast and forms the "big bend" of the Rio Grande.

South of the border, people call the Rio Grande by its Spanish name, Rio Bravo del Norte. South of the river lie the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila and the new protected areas for flora and fauna, which are comprised of regions known as the Maderas del Carmen and the Cañon de Santa Elena.

Side Trips
Set up a base camp in Big Bend country and get to know some of the area's unitque attractions.  You can visit the eclectic B&Bs and Main Street shopping area of Marathon or head to the Terlingua Ranch, 200,000 acres of privately owned land with 1,100 miles of natural surface roads. This is a great place to go mountain biking, eat a fine meal, or take a dip in the pool.  

At the Terlingua Ghost Town, you can explore the spooky side of Texas history.  Visit the trading company, tour the art galleries, and learn all about the town's frontier mining past.  Terlingua is also famous for its chili and was the home of the first famous championship chili cook off in 1967.

Beautiful Alpine ,Texas is the home of the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and a number of other fun events.  Be sure to tour the charming shops and restaurants in this chain-free community.


Historic Richmond, Virginia

Historic Richmond, Virginia


Historic Richmond is the perfect place for a romantic weekend, a fun family getaway, or a long-term stay.  With its thrilling Civil War re-enactments, lively sports scene, and many fascinating museums, you'll find plenty to do and see.  Be sure not to miss the NASCAR races, rafting on the James River, and all the animals at the Richmond zoo!

Outdoor Adventures
With the nearby James River offering fishing, hiking, and Class IV rapids for river rafters, Richmond has plenty of outdoor fun.  The city boasts over 20 local golf courses as well as a climbing wall and all kinds of sports. You can go bird watching in one of the city's many parks, paddle down the James, or hit the tennis courts for a quick game.

NASCAR Racing
For heart-pumping fun on the racecourse, just pay a visit to the Richmond International Raceway and take in the Richmond NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. In June, the Indy Racing League heats up the track while the Southside Speedway has great stock-car action. Between March and November, every weekend is a drag racing weekend at the Richmond Dragway, home of the International Hot Rod Association championship. Maybe you're hoping to do your own driving?  Then just head to G-Force Karts and take their Belgian go-karts for a spin on the professionally designed track.

Wildlife Viewing
Richmond offers a number of great places for wildlife viewing, including the Three Lakes Nature Center and the Metro Richmond Zoo. The zoo has over 600 animals in natural settings, so you can see everything from giraffes and kangaroos to chimpanzees and elephants.  Don't miss the goats and other farmyard critters in the petting zoo!

At the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, set along the banks of the James River, you can hike through 810 acres of woods, watching for wildlife.  Head to the freshwater marsh to look for beavers, muskrats, and great blue herons, then visit the river for a view of eagles hunting near the tidal lagoon.  Fishing is also allowed at Dutch Gap.

Family-Friendly Events
You can watch Civil War battles played out by costumed re-enactors, see plays depicting pivotal events in the nation's founding, and much more.  Richmond has a colorful 400-year history and a lively events calendar.

Historical Sites
From a tour of Edgar Allen Poe's childhood home to Henricus Historical Park, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech at St. John's Episcopal Church, Richmond is steeped in history.  You can tour Tuckahoe Plantation, Thomas Jefferson's boyhood home, or take a walk along Monument Avenue, a street that was the site of so many historic events, it's now a National Historic Landmark.

The newly-renovated Hanover Tavern is a historic building that also serves as a restaurant and theater. Across the street at the courthouse, you can watch a historic re-enactment of Parson’s Cause, an important event leading up to the American Revolution. Admire the architecture of 1822 Magnolia Grange or visit the Meadow Farm Museum for a trip back in time to the turbulent 1860s.  

Arts and Entertainment
From world-famous theater to ballet, dance performances, and musicals, Richmond's arts scene is truly on the move.  This city boasts the superb Richmond Ballet, Richmond Symphony, and Virginia Opera, as well as Theater IV's family plays and shows.  Every year Richmond hosts the Richmond Shakespeare Festival with its outdoor performances of the Bard's greatest works, plus a special “Broadway in Richmond” series at the Landmark and Carpenter Theatre.

Museums
It only stands to reason that a city with such a grand past would have a wide range of museums documenting that history.  Richmond's museums include the Confederate War Memorial Chapel, the 15th-century Agecroft Hall, and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. Be sure not to miss the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (with more than 40 acres of spectacular gardens), Hanover Tavern, Chesterfield Museum Complex, and the Library of Virginia (where you can see an original copy of the Bill of Rights).

Oregon Brewpubs

Oregon Brewpubs


If you love settling back with a glass of cold beer, sampling different varieties and enjoying some superb pub food, then you might be ready to design your own brand of pub crawl.  Imagine planning a trip through beautiful Oregon, taking in everything from the dramatic coast to the golden fields of the east, stopping at brewpubs along the way.  You'll get to know the best microbrews in the state, you'll meet some great people, and will expand your knowledge of beer.

A microbrewery is a brewery that only produces a small amount of beer every year.  Unlike large distributors, these smaller outfits offer their beer at specific, local locations, so it can't be found everywhere.  Brewpubs are establishments that have both a microbrewery and a restaurant.  In other words, it's a place where you can enjoy a fine meal and sample the creations of the brewery at the same time.

Microbreweries and craft beer brewers are on the rise in the U.S.  Samuel Adams is the largest craft brewery, but small brewers are popping up all over the country.  The states with the most microbreweries per capita are Oregon, Montana, and Maine.  And because Oregon has a fairly large population, you can be sure to find plenty of terrific Oregon brewpubs!

Below is a list of select brewpubs in some of Oregon's finest towns and cities.  Whether you're heading to Hood River to watch the wind surfers on the Columbia River or are touring the many parks of Portland, Oregon's rose city, you'll find an excellent brewpub to visit. 

ALBANY
Oregon Trader Brewing
140 Hill Street NE
Albany OR 97321
Ph 541.928.1931

Oregon Trader Brewing
140 Hill Street NE
Albany OR 97321
Ph 541.928.1931     

ASHLAND
Caldera Brewing
540 Clover Lane
Ashland OR 97520
Ph 541.482.4677

Standing Stone Brewing
101 Oak Street
Ashland OR 97520
Ph 541.482.2448

BEND
Bend Brewing
1019 NW Brooks St.
Bend OR 97701
Ph 541.383.1599
www.bendbrewingco.com

Deschutes Brewery
1044 NW Bond Street
Bend OR 97701
Ph 541.382.9242
www.deschutesbrewery.com

Deschutes Brewery
901 SW Simpson Avenue
Bend OR 97702
Ph 541.385.8606
www.deschutesbrewery.com

Silver Moon Brewing
2538 NE Division St.
Bend OR 97701
Ph 541.388.8331

CANNON BEACH
Bill's Tavern
188 North Hemlock
Cannon Beach OR 97110
Ph 503.436.2202

HOOD RIVER
Big Horse Brewing
115 State Ave.
Hood River OR 97031
Ph 541.386.4411

Full Sail Brewing
506 Columbia Street
Hood River OR 97031
Ph 541.386.2281
www.fullsailbrewing.com

KLAMATH FALLS
Mia and Pia's Brewhouse
3545 Summers Lane
Klamath Falls OR 97603
Ph 541.884.4880
www.miapia.com

NEWPORT
Bay Front Brewery
748 SW Bay Boulevard
Newport OR 97365
Ph 541.265.3188

Oregon Brewing
2320 SE OSU Drive
Newport OR 97365
Ph 541.867.3664
www.rogueales.com

PACIFIC CITY
Pacific City Brewing
33180 Cape Kiwanda Drive
Pacific City OR 97135
Ph 503.965.7007
www.pelicanbrewery.com

PORTLAND
Alameda Brewhouse
4765 NE Fremont
Portland OR 97213
Ph 503.460.9025

BJ's Pizza, Grill, and Brewery
12105 North Center Avenue
Portland OR 97217
Ph 503.289.5566
www.bjsbrewhouse.com

BJ's Pizza, Grill, and Brewery
825 NE Weidler
Portland OR 97232
Ph 503.288.0111
www.bjsbrewhouse.com

BridgePort Brewing
1313 NW Marshall Street
Portland OR 97209
Ph 503.241.7179
www.bridgeportbrew.com

Concordia Brewery
5736 NE 33rd Avenue
Portland OR 97211
Ph 503.249.3983
www.mcmenaminspubs.com

Crystal Ballroom Brewery
1332 West Burnside
Portland OR 97205
Ph 503.225.0627
www.mcmenaminspubs.com

Full Sail Brewing
0307 SW Montgomery
Portland OR 97201
Ph 503.222.5343
www.fullsailbrewing.com

Fulton Pub and Brewery
0618 SW Nebraska Street
Portland OR 97201
Ph 503.246.9530
www.mcmenaminspubs.com

Hair of the Dog Brewing
4509 SE 23rd Avenue
Portland OR 97202
Ph 503.232.6585
www.hairofthedog.com

Hawthorne Street Ale House
3632 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland OR 97214
Ph 503.241.7179
www.bridgeportbrew.com

Hillsdale Brewery and Public House
1505 SW Sunset Boulevard
Portland OR 97201
Ph 503.246.3938
www.mcmenaminspubs.com

Laurelwood Pub
1728 NE 40 Avenue
Portland OR 97212
Ph 503.282.0622
www.laurelwoodbrewpub.com

Lucky Labrador Brewing
915 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland OR 97214
Ph 503.236.3555
www.luckylab.com

Lucky Labrador Brewing
7675 SW Capitol Highway
Portland OR 97219
Ph 503.244.2537
www.luckylab.com

Oak Hills Brewpub
14740 NW Cornell Road #80
Portland OR 97229
Ph 503.645.0286
www.mcmenaminspubs.com

Old Chicago Brewery
11211 SE 82nd
Portland OR 97266
Ph 503.786.5009

Old Lompoc
1616 NW 23rd Ave.
Portland OR 97210
Ph 503.225.1855

Old Market Pub and Brewery
6969 SW Multnomah Boulevard
Portland OR 97223
Ph 503.244.0450

Philadelphia's Steaks and Hoagies
6410 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Portland OR 97202
Ph 503.239.8544

Portland Brewing
2730 NW 31st Avenue
Portland OR 97210
Ph 503.226.7623
www.portlandbrew.com

Raccoon Lodge and Brewpub
7424 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway
Portland OR 97225
Ph 503.296.0110
www.raclodge.com

Rock Bottom
210 SW Morrison Street
Portland OR 97204
Ph 503.796.2739
www.rockbottom.com

Rogue Public House
1339 NW Flanders
Portland OR 97209
Ph 503.222.5910
www.rogueales.com

Rose City Brewing
8434 NE Glisan Street
Portland OR 97220
Ph 503.257.7912

Tugboat Brewpub and Cafe
711 SW Ankeny Street
Portland OR 97205
Ph 503.226.2508

Widmer Brothers Brewing
929 North Russell Street
Portland OR 97227
Ph 503.281.2437
www.widmer.com

SALEM
Cascade Microbrewery
3529 Fairview Industrial Dr SE
Salem OR 97302
Ph 503.378.0737

Ram Restaurant
515 Twelfth Street SE
Salem OR 97301
Ph 503.363.1904
www.theram.com

Thompson Brewery and Public House
3575 Liberty Road South
Salem OR 97302
Ph 503.363.7286
www.mcmenaminspubs.com
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