Camping Hot Spots
Find great places to camp and gain insights into activities to make the most of the top camping hot spots. Get the scoop on where to go next. Discover destinations that offer unique opportunities for you to experience the great outdoors through recreation activities, wildlife viewing, and unforgettable vistas.
The beautiful city by the bay is a fabulous place to explore on foot or by public transportation. With just a few stops of the cable car, you can tour San Francisco's Chinatown, see the Golden Gate Bridge, or explore the shops of Haight-Ashbury. From Fisherman's Wharf to the city's many dog-friendly parks, you'll find plenty to enjoy in this gem of a city.
San Francisco experiences unique weather for northern California. On most days, fog wraps the city up in a blanket for the morning hours. In the early afternoon, it consistently clears and warms up, offering blue, sunny skies and pleasant California temperatures. The hilly terrain and limited land-mass of San Francisco explains its trend toward town-house style buildings and tall, narrow homes. And because of its strong Victorian architectural style, a stroll through San Francisco offers up all the colors of the rainbow.
Because of its temperate climate, San Francisco has gorgeous gardens and parks. You'll find palm trees, bottle-brush trees, and flowering plants growing year round, decorating front yards and patios. Many restaurants and shops have pocket gardens in the back where they grow herbs, lemons, or flowers.
The best way to visit San Francisco is without a vehicle. Park your car or RV in a small town outside the city and ride the train (Cal Train) or take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) into town. BART will also help you get around within the city, or you can take the MUNI (city train/bus) and cable cars. It's always smart to travel with a little cash in your pocket, so you can hop on a car when your feet get tired.
You can take a nice walking tour of the city by starting in the downtown area, then heading to the waterfront. Explore the shops in the piers along the water at the Ferry Building Marketplace, then head toward the Maritime National Historic Park (there are plenty of signs directing you to famous landmarks). From Fisherman's Wharf, take a cable car or walk to Chinatown, where you'll find shops, amazing restaurants, and all the international flair of this vibrant neighborhood. In the North Beach part of the city, San Francisco also has a thriving Italian area that's filled with outstanding restaurants.
Here's a tour of San Francisco's famous, and less-well known, attractions:
Visit the wharf to see sea lions basking in the sun, to shop for Ghiradelli chocolate, and stroll down Pier 39, browsing through the shops and souvenir stands. While you're there, visit the Musee Mechanique, set on Pier 45 at the end of Taylor Street. You'll see more than 160 coin-operated automatic musical instruments and an old-fashioned penny arcade.
Golden Gate Bridge.
Take a stroll across the bridge or take a picture from one of the ferries that carry passengers across to the north shore (home of Sausalito). At Golden Gate Park you'll find miles of trails to walk along, beautiful views, and live concerts on weekends and evenings. This is the city's largest park. Be sure to visit the Japanese Tea Garden, the Strybing Arboretum, and the Conservatory of Flowers.
The famous former prison used to be one of the most feared destinations in the criminal justice system. Today, it's one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Take the ferry to Alcatraz and see what it was like to be locked up like a real prisoner.
If you're traveling with the kids, head to the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum at the Palace of Fine Arts. You'll find Rodin sculptures, including the famous Thinker, at the Palace of the Legion of Honor. The Cable Car Museum houses the gigantic motors that spring the cables, hauling the cars up and down San Francisco's steep streets. At Mission San Francisco, you can see the city's oldest building, dedicated to preserving this area's history.
Marin county -- Muir woods
Muir Woods National Monument offers a quiet sanctuary, just 14 miles north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. Known for its giant old growth stand of coast redwood trees, people from all over the world come to visit this special ecosystem. Muir Woods contains 6 miles of trails. There is a 1/2 hour loop, a 1 hour loop, and a 1 1/2 hour loop as well as longer hikes on trails that extend into surrounding parks. All of these walks afford views of thousands of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world. Picnicking, pets, bicycles, smoking, and camping are not permitted within the park. The park opens at 8:00 AM - go early to enjoy the park before the tour buses.
San Francisco is very dog friendly, and it's a great place to travel with children, provided that you take enough cable car breaks. People of all ages get tired hiking up and down those hills! As you explore the city, be sure to set aside a little time for wandering the neighborhoods and going where the people are. You'll find hip and happening coffee shops, restaurants, and local food stands that are filled with local flavor. San Francisco is a city in action, and you can soak up some of that energy while you're there.
Viva Las Vegas!
Las Vegas, the most famous desert city in the United States, is known all over the world as an adult playground. But did you know that Las Vegas has also become a first-rate family destination? Over the last decade, the city has worked hard to expand its offerings, and now it has attractions for visitors of every age. Whether you're looking to stroll the casino floor, catch a show at the Venetian, or see the wild burros at the Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas can fit the bill.
Of course Vegas is most famous for its casinos, nightlife, and shows. And even if you just walk the strip, you'll get a glimpse of what makes these casinos so special. The Las Vegas casinos are far more than just buildings. Each one is a world unto itselLas Vegas Camping and RVingf, playing out its individual theme through every detail, large and small. You'll see the Venetian, a sumptuous palace that's modeled after the Italian city, complete with a canal and gondoliers. Inside, the ceiling is covered with elaborate Italian frescoes.
Caesar's Palace is famous among Vegas casinos for its elegance and tony shopping walks. The sky in Caesar's is painted to look like the sky with lighting that changes throughout the day.
Bellagio is all about beauty. This elegant pale building is filled with glass art by the renowned artist Dale Chihuly and lush plants, trees, and flowers. In front of the Bellagio, you can catch a breathtaking water fountain display.
Paris delivers exactly what it promises, a taste of Paris in the middle of the Nevada desert. Paris has a vibrant, lively casino floor, French-style shopping streets, and a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Children aren't allowed onto the casino gaming floors, so if you're traveling with the family, stick to the shopping arcades and hotel theaters. Even without entering the gaming area, the kids will probably enjoy cruising past the Egyptian-themed Luxor, New York-New York (with its replica Statue of Liberty), and Excalibur.
Other Vegas Attractions
Las Vegas has plenty to offer beyond casinos. You'll find family-friendly attractions like laser tag, Star Trek rides, and the Ripley's Believe It or Not hall. At the Mirage, you can visit the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat to see the white tigers and dolphin pool. At Mandalay Bay, the Shark Reef is an actual aquarium like what you'd find in any coastal city. You'll see all sorts of freshwater and tropical fish and undersea creatures. The MGM Grand has a free Lion Habitat, with lions kept behind glass.
For rides and thrills, head to the top of the Stratosphere, the tallest observation tower in the U.S. This tower juts 1,149 feet above the Vegas skyline. The truly brave can ride the Big Shot, shooting straight up at 45 mph to 1,000 feet above the strip. If that isn't enough of an adrenaline rush, try the X-Scream teeter-totter that sends you 27 feet off the edge of the Tower (866 feet above the ground). And then there's Insanity, the Ride, a mechanical arm that spins riders 64 feet off the edge of the tower at a force of 3Gs.
Cirque de Soleil, Blue Man Group, and other shows (including stand-up comedy and concerts by some of the biggest names in the business) are a classic staple of Las Vegas. If your kids get tired of sitting in their seats, take them to the Adventuredeme, a huge amusement park that's next door to Circus Circus.
The Shasta Mountains and Lake region does everything on a large scale. Snow-capped mountains tower above mile after mile of green forest. In the heart of it all, the coves and bays of Shasta Lake run from robins-egg blue to teal and turquoise. With a number of national forests and parks in the area, you’ll find plenty to explore in this unique wilderness.
The major sights of the Shasta Lake area form a ring around the town of Redding, which is set right on Interstate 5 in Northern California. Once there, you’ll have Whiskeytown Lake and the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area to the west and northwest, Shasta Lake and Mount Shasta to the north; and the famous Lassen Volcanic National Park to the east.
You can take a scenic loop through the area by heading west out of Redding on Highway 299, also known as Eureka Way. You’ll travel first through the two sections of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, set at the juncture of the Klamath Mountains and the Sacramento Valley. The southern section of the recreation area includes Whiskeytown Lake; north of that is Trinity Lake. Boaters will certainly want to stop at Whiskeytown Lake, a 3,200-acre lake that’s perfect for swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, rowing, and fishing. Only rental watercraft are allowed on Whiskeytown Lake (just visit the concession operator at Oak Bottom for boat rentals and slip rentals). If you’d like to put your own craft in the water, you’re welcome to do so on Shasta Lake or Trinity Lake.
Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are also popular pursuits in Whiskeytown. Take a serious hike up Kanaka Peak for spectacular views or tackle the more moderate Brandy Creek Falls trail or the Clear Creek Vista. Even the kids will enjoy tromping to Buck Hollow. You can take a 4-wheeling drive to the top of stunning Shasta Bally, a 6,209-foot peak, or hike through old growth forests and fields of wildflowers to one of the area’s many gorgeous waterfalls.
For history buffs, the displays at the Camden House Historic District explain the role this area played in the great California Gold Rush era. Kids and grown ups can try their hands at panning for gold at the Tower House Historic District (pans and shovels are provided). If you like, take part in a ranger-led kayak trip around the quiet coves of Whiskeytown Lake, or take the kids to join the Junior Ranger program. Temperatures can top 100 degrees in the summer, so be sure to pack plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen and take precautions against heat stroke.
From Highway 299, follow Highway 3 north into the second section of the Whiskeytown NRA, driving along crystal-blue Trinity Lake. Follow the Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway north and then east to I-5, then head south at the small town of Gazelle. You’ll join I-5 near Weed, just north of Mount Shasta. This breathtaking mountain is the second highest peak in the Cascade Range, soaring overhead at 14,179 feet. Because it isn’t part of a mountain range, Mount Shasta seems to bolt up out of nowhere. About this great mountain, Theodore Roosevelt once said, "I consider the evening twilight on Mt. Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed." The poet the poet Joaquin Miller put it this way: "Lonely as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California." You may enjoy a day trip to Horse Camp at elevation 7,900 feet, where the John Muir summit route begins.
South of Mount Shasta, take Highway 89 east toward McCloud. From here, you can take a fun side trip to see the lava floes at Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park. You can also pay a visit to the McArthur-Burney Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. Centered around the incredible 129-foot Burney Falls, this state park is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. Teddy Roosevelt once called the falls "the eighth wonder of the world." Tour this amazing site by hiking the 1.3 mile loop around the falls, then exploring the other 910 acres of forest and stream-land. These gorgeous falls move more than 100 million gallons of water every day from springs and Burney Creek. The park also includes a section of Lake Britton, and boat rentals are available for a day of fishing or boating on the lake.
Continuing south on Highway 89, you’ll pass through Lassen Volcanic National Park, set on the slopes of Mt. Lassen. The land here may look peaceful, but the boiling mud pots and steaming fumaroles of this area tell a different story. This is a place of dynamic change, showing shades of the mountain's even more intense past. Since its eruption in 1915, Mt. Lassen has become an incredible place to explore, whether you come for the hiking, the skiing, the wildlife, or to view the hydrothermal features located in the park. More than 150 miles of hiking trails lead you through this unique and changing landscape. You'll find abundant wildlife, scenic views, and breathtaking wildflowers.
For another interesting side trip, visit the dramatic Medicine Lake shield volcano at Lava Beds National Monument, set northeast of Weed. You can tour a land of cinder cones, lava flows, spatter cones, lava tube caves, and pit craters. More than 500 lava tubes lie underground here, just waiting to be explored! The park hosts guided tours of the caves, plus ranger talks, special events, and historical sites relating to the Modoc War. Aside from cave exploration, the park is also a great place to enjoy a hike, watch for wildflowers, or practice photography on this stunning landscape. Also, be sure to watch for wildlife and unique plants as you tour through the park.
Take Highway 44 back to Interstate 5, then head north to the gleaming blue waters of Shasta Lake. This is a phenomenal place for water sports like fishing, water skiing, sailing, swimming, and canoeing. You can go golfing at the Lake Shastina Golf Resort, take a free tour of the Shasta Dam, or enjoy a picnic lunch at the Vista Point, soaking in views of the lake. For a fun springtime festival, head to Shasta Lake in May for the annual Shasta Damboree, a celebration of the dam’s construction.
Famous for its snow-capped mountains, damp drizzle, and coffee, Seattle offers far more to its visitors. In addition to having some of the most perfect summer weather you’ll find anywhere, Seattle is a modern city with a strong outdoors vibe. This technological center serves as the gateway to mountain trails, forested islands, and the blue waters of the Puget Sound, the ocean inlet that makes Seattle a thriving seaport. With historical ties to Native American potlatches, the Alaskan Gold Rush, and the great fire of 1889, Seattle is a fascinating place to explore.
Seattle is flanked on the east by the dramatic Cascade Mountains, a range that includes the 14,000-plus-foot Mount Rainier and snow-peaked Mount Baker. To the west lies Puget Sound, home to orca whales, seals, and green-and-white ferry boats. Across the water, farther west, are the Olympic Mountains, Washington’s older mountain range. This knot of mountains sits on the Olympic Peninsula and includes the Olympic National Park, where you’ll find the only rain forest in the United States. With the Canadian border to the north and the Columbia River to the south, Seattle is encircled by fun day-trip destinations.
Begin your tour of the city by heading to the major sights: the waterfront and the Space Needle. The waterfront includes a number of popular attractions such as the Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, the ferry dock, and well-known shops and restaurants. Pike Place Market, so-called because it lies at the end of Pike Street, is an open-air market that’s filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, flower vendors, and locally-made crafts. Tour the stalls, examining the glass, honey, jewelry, and knit-wares, then stop off at the seafood stand to see the vendors throwing fish back and forth with fanfare. “The Market,” as it’s locally called, first started in 1907 and now has over 300 booths.
From the Market, take the stairs down to the waterfront, where you can enjoy hot fish and chips at Ivar’s restaurant and quick-serve stand. The waterfront includes Coleman Dock, where public ferries dock from Bainbridge Island and Bremerton, and the cruise ship dock, where ferries head to Alaska and other points farther off. The gem of the waterfront is the Seattle Aquarium, where the kids can see the Giant Octopus, walk through a glass dome into an underwater world, and see the adorable otters at play.
The Space Needle is at the Seattle Center, a complex that includes an opera house, playhouse, major sports center, and amusement park rides. The Space Needle is a 520-foot tall tower that was built for the 1962 World Fair. You can ride up in the glass elevator, then enjoy a meal at the rotating restaurant with 360-degree views of the city. Seattle Center is also where you’ll find the Pacific Science Center. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the fun hands-on exhibits, exploring the Science Center’s dinosaurs, robotic insects, and other seemingly magical displays. While you’re at the Seattle Center, head to the Experience Music Project to view the rock-n-roll memorabilia and try out the hands-on music-making exhibits. You might even catch a rock concert with a famous band!
Kids can enjoy a day of rides and fairy-tale charm at Wild Waves and Enchanted Village, south of Seattle. Right in the city, kids can explore other cultures and geology, or pretend to drive a fire engine, at the Children’s Museum.
For a scenic day trip, catch the ferry from Coleman Dock to Bainbridge Island. You’ll enjoy views of both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges as you ride thirty-five minutes to this pine-forested island. Explore Bainbridge’s charming, artsy downtown by foot, then return on the ferry in time for an Asian-inspired dinner in Seattle. The city is knows for its international cuisine that features fresh seafood like oysters on the half-shell, crab, and steamed clams.
The Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth also makes a great day trip. Just three hours from Seattle, this quaint alpine town has German-style shops and restaurants, a Nutcracker museum, and a lively Oktoberfest. To the south of Seattle, you can visit Mount Rainier, the highest active volcano in the Cascade range. But don’t worry – it last erupted 150 years ago! Take a hike to glaciers and alpine meadows, then visit the 1,000-year-old cedar and fir trees in the Grove of the Patriarchs.
Many visitors to Western Washington head to Snoqualmie Falls, a dramatic 270-foot waterfall. A fully-accessible 200-foot trail leads to a stunning view of the falls. This is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch or to go for a mountain hike. And if mountains strike your fancy, be sure to visit Mount Saint Helens, the mountain that famously erupted in 1980, spewing ash for hundreds of miles. The north face of the mountain collapsed, sending massive mud slides across the steep face. Today, the wilderness of Mount Saint Helens is blooming again. Visitors can tour the observation spots, learn about volcanoes at the visitor’s center, and arrange for a plane or helicopter tour above the mountain.
If you have a little more time to spend in the region, go a little farther with a trip to the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park or to the gorgeous San Juan Islands. You can walk the beaches at the Pacific Coast, watching for whales, or visit Bellingham and the Mount Vernon tulip festival. Wherever you go in Western Washington, you’ll be accompanied by a beautiful skyline of deep blues and greens, from ocean waters to miles of pines.
The rich flavors of Texas and Mexico blend to perfection in San Antiono. This riverside town truly has a taste of everything, from incredible restaurants and historic attractions to water parks and great shopping. Picture yourself walking hand-in-hand along the romantic Paseo del Rio, or Riverwalk, strolling past shops and open-air vendors. Or imagine a day with the kids at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, zooming down the roller coaters and splashing along the log flumes. Whatever you choose to do, don’t miss San Antonio’s mouth-watering food. This is where bright flavors – like lime, cilantro, chile, and avacado – come together in perfect harmony.
History lives in San Antonio. This is the home of the Alamo, the 300-year-old Mission San Antonio de Valero that was the site of one of the most famous battles in Texas history. During the Texas Revolution in 1836, a group of fewer than 200 Texas defenders held off Mexican General Santa Anna’s band of 4,000 soldiers for nearly two weeks. You can tour the Alamo and get a first-hand look at this famous building and the site of this inspirational battle.
San Antonio is also home to four other Spanish missions, and the city is rich with art and artists. Take a tour of the avant-garde McNay Art Museum and see its robust collection of 19th and 20th-century art. The San Antonio Museum of Art has the most complete collection of Latin American art in the country. For history with mummies and dinosaurs, head to the family-focused Witte Museum. You’ll see live animals, fiesta gowns, a hummingbird and butterfly garden, and special hands-on exhibits. You’ll find even more family fun at SeaWorld San Antonio, where you can watch dolphin shows, see orca whales, and learn all about the care and feeding of these stunning sea creatures. Be sure to visit during feeding time! The park includes rides like the Great White, Texas’s first inverted steel roller coaster, the Steel Eel, the Texas Splashtown, and the splashy Rio Loco.
Kids will also love the lions, tigers, and bears at the San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium, another popular family destination. Six Flags Fiesta Texas has a 1950s boardwalk with a 90-foot Ferris Wheel as well as spectacular shows and live entertainment. And you won’t want to miss a trip to the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, a 120-year-old saloon that’s filled with Old West history. See the horn, fin, and feather collection, the trading post, and the unique cowboy memorabilia.
For a birds-eye view of the city, aim for the top of the Tower of the Americas at HemisFair Park Tower. This 750-foot tower was built in 1968 for the World’s Fair. With a glass elevator, rotating restaurant, and brand-new observation deck, this is a phenomenal place to look down over the river and San Antonio. The truly brave can climb aboard the Skies Over Texas 4-D ride and swoop through a tour of the Lone Star state.
San Antonio is famous for its River Walk, a tour through the heart of the city. Tracing along the nation’s oldest Spanish-colonial water system, this route trails through the city’s defining neighborhoods. The River Walk is three miles long and sits a full level below the city streets. You’ll stroll along cobbled walkways, crossing bridges and stopping cafes and restaurants along the way.
In the King William Historic District, you can wander through the oldest historic area in Texas. This collection of mansions, art galleries, B&Bs, and restaurants was built by German settlers in the late 1800s. Explore neighborhoods like the Blue Star and Lavaca, or head to La Villita, San Antonio’s first neighborhood. La Villita, or little village, was the first home of Spanish soldiers who were stationed at the Alamo. Architecture in this district draws on Spanish, German, French, and Mexican influences. You’ll discover a charming historic village with a strong focus on the arts that’s an excellent representative of San Antonio – friendly, warm, and full of flavor.