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.
Southern Utah is arguably the most incredible natural spot in the United States. This area is absolutely unique and stunningly beautiful. Filled with crazy-cut terrain, dramatic slot canyons, and sandstone cliffs that range in color from chocolate to a warm dove gray, this is an ideal place to explore. You’ll find incredible vistas, brilliant orange and topaz hills, ancient ruins, and solitary wildflowers that pop up in the most unexpected places. Southern Utah is so incredible, it’s home to five national parks—more than you’ll find in any other state—and countless National Monuments, refuges, and preserved Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
For an unforgettable driving tour, start on Highway 191 south of Interstate 70 (the junction near Green River) and head to Moab, home of Arches National Park. From there you’ll progress to the south and west, passing through three national parks and the startlingly beautiful Lake Powell. If you enjoy hikes, gorgeous views, winery tours, and mountain biking, you can easily spend a week or a month covering this route.
Arches National Park is the most accessible of Utah’s great parks. With just short day hikes, you’ll see a variety of arches, narrow arcs of stone that have been created by centuries of wind erosion. Don’t miss the hike to the famous Delicate Arch, the formation that’s featured on Utah’s license plates and tourist materials. The naturalist Edward Abbey wrote his famous book Desert Solitaire about his time in Arches, and reading this book during your stay will add depth to your understanding of this unusual ecosystem.
The nearby town of Moab, set on Highway 191, is known as the “slick rock capital” of the U.S. Slick rock is the term for Utah’s sheets of sandstone. Mountain bike tires and rubber-soled shoes grip this rock remarkably well, letting bikes and people walk up surprisingly steep slopes. Whether you’re on foot or on your bike, it’s well worth checking out some slick rock. Ask if there are any mountain biking demonstrations going on, so you can see the serious bikers do their thing on the rock! Moab is also filled with delightful restaurants, a winery, craft shops, and amazing views of the surrounding canyon walls.
Southwest of Arches lies Canyonlands National Park, a broader park that’s divided into four sections: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the Colorado River district. You can reach the park by taking Highway 191 south to Highway 95 NE (or ask locally about smaller access roads). The best way to explore Canyonlands is by heading into the backcountry, either on foot, on a mountain bike, or a four-wheel drive vehicle. The park also has areas for fishing, photography, visitor’s stations, and breathtaking scenery. With a high-altitude view, you can see how – over time – the Colorado River has created this network of canyons, some of which are a hundred feet deep.
Driving south from Canyonlands, take Highway 95 and Highway 261 S to Highway 163 S and enter the beautiful and bizarre Monument Valley, a land of hoodoos, plinths, towering mesas, and natural stone structures that look like they were placed by giants. Years of erosion created these formations, as the wind and water whittled away all but the hardest columns of sandstone. Brilliant stripes of color make each colossal plinth unique, towering above the desert floor. You won’t want to miss the chance to photograph Monument Valley!
Highway 160 will take you on a jaunt through Arizona, winding northwest on Highway 98 to Page, Arizona, the town that sits on the high banks of the Colorado River. Page was created during the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, when dam workers needed a place to live. Today, the thriving community of Page features terrific restaurants, craft shops, churches, and plenty of rental facilities for visitors heading to Lake Powell, which lies just across the Colorado River in the southernmost part of Utah.
Lake Powell, a man-made lake that was created by the Glen Canyon Dam, is a shocking robins-egg-blue pool in the middle of umber and orange hills. The color combination is almost as striking as the idea of finding a mammoth lake in the middle of a desert. Lake Powell is a popular spot for boating, water skiing, swimming, and house-boating. There are a number of boat ramps, picnic areas, and campgrounds around the lake. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers terrific activities like boating and fishing, hiking the Spencer Trail, and kayaking around the lake. This is a popular spot for mountain biking and for scenic drives to the Burr Trail or along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
From here, follow Highway 89 north of Kanab to Highway 9 west and into Zion National Park. Zion is filled with variety. This one park contains desert landscapes, snow-capped peaks, moist cliff gardens, and bountiful wildlife. You’ll find towering cliffs, deep valleys, and sheer canyon walls. This is a phenomenal place to go bird-watching, biking, hiking, or to settle back with your camera. Be sure to visit the Emerald Pools and the Grotto, and to catch a ranger talk to learn more about Zion’s one-of-a-kind ecosystem.
If you’d like to extend your Utah visit a little longer, consider a side trip to Bryce Canyon National Park or Capitol Reef National Park. Set at 8,000 feet, Bryce Canyon offers brilliant red-orange cliffs, high-elevation pine forests, and a cool respite from hot summer days. Capitol Reef is a stunning geological wonder, a place where you can actually see the way the earth works with your naked eye. Capitol Reef, like all the Utah National Parks, has miles of trails for horseback riding, biking, and hiking, as well as outstanding scenic drives.
With its dazzling history as a Victorian-era getaway for the rich and famous, beautiful Newport, Rhode Island is more than just a seaside resort. Known as the Queen of Summer Resorts, this coastal town oozes history, luxury, and New England charm. Whether your interest is in touring opulent houses, sailing along the Atlantic seaboard, or exploring quaint towns and funky museums, you'll find just what you're looking for in Newport.
Newport has a storied Revolutionary war history, but its true claim to fame came in the mid-nineteenth century when wealthy southern planters built vacation cottages here, looking for a cool place to spend the summer months. These early homes-such as Kingscote (1839) on Bellevue Avenue-were soon joined by larger mansions, built by well-off Yankee families. The Wetmore family came in 1852, building the incredible Chateau-sur-Mer, followed by the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and a number of other dynastic families.Today, the Preservation Society of Newport County maintains eleven of these amazing homes, keeping them open for public tours. You can stroll the halls of The Breakers (1895), Marble House, the Edward King House, and Griswold House, noting the fabulous antiques, rich curtains and wall hangings, and expensive furniture. Beyond these rich mansions, Newport is full of other historic buildings to visit from the Newport Colony House to the White Horse Tavern, Old Stone Mill, and Gray's Store.
To jump into the great outdoors, take a jaunt out of town for a cliff walk with dramatic views, a day of crabbing and fishing, or an afternoon on the beach. You can hike to the local lighthouse, carrying a picnic lunch and your camera, or visit the Norman Bird Sanctuary for the nature walks, peaceful atmosphere, and the chance to view marine life. And of course the ocean offers a wide range of activities from sea kayaking and scuba diving to deep sea fishing, pier fishing, and windsurfing.
You can rent a bike and head to the 5.5 mile loop in the Hope Valley area or visit the local golf courses for a day of long drives and short putts. Block Island is a popular sailing destination for those who charter day-sailors, and it's also a terrific place to go for horseback riding along the beach. Set just twelve miles off the Rhode Island coast, this island offers seventeen miles of sandy beaches, 356 fresh-water ponds, and miles of trails for hiking, biking, and bird watching. The island also has two lighthouses and a delightful town with boutique shops, cafes, and unique restaurants.
The nearby town of Mystic, Connecticut was made famous by the film "Mystic Pizza," but it has always been well known for its tall ships, seaside cottages, and stunning views. The kids will love the Mystic Marinelife Aquarium with its sea lions, penguins, and beluga whales.
Newport is home to the Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport Jazz, and Battleship Cove, the world's largest collection of retired navy ships. Families can plan a day trip to the Roger Williams Park and Zoo, while adults will have a fun evening out at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino or the Mohegan Sun Casino.
Rhode Island-the nation's smallest state-is a great place to explore by car. In one day it's easy to reach any great Rhode Island destination from Brown University to the world-famous Rhode Island School of Design. This is also a great sailing and maritime center, with outstanding museums and sailing schools. Whether you're new to sailing or are an old salt, you'll enjoy exploring Newport's maritime sites. If you're interested in learning to sail during your vacation, contact the international Yacht Restoration School, the Newport Sailing School, or Newport Learning Adventures to find out about their day trips and daytime adventures. For the land-lubbers in your group, consider a brewery tour, a seal-watching tour, or a walking tour of the town's historic homes and buildings.
Just imagine it-350 miles of golden beaches, washed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Stretching from South Padre Island and the Rio Grande Valley in the south to Beaumont and the Louisiana border in the north, this area encompasses more than just gorgeous beaches. You'll find amazing wildlife with some of the best bird watching in the country, outstanding theme parks and family attractions, and lively, vibrant cities just waiting to be explored.
The Gulf Coast is well known as a terrific fishing hotspot. Whether you're interested in beach fishing, pier fishing, or deep sea fishing, you'll find the perfect opportunity. Many of the coastal towns offer public, lighted piers for daytime and nighttime fishing for trout and redfish, and there are plenty of charter fishing companies waiting to take you into deeper waters for red snapper, kingfish, tuna, sharks, and enormous grouper. If you're new to angling, this is an ideal place to get started.
Water sports enthusiasts will find everything their hearts desire on the Texas Gulf Coast. Every water activity imaginable is available here, from sailing and canoeing to wind surfing and sea kayaking. Try your hand at parasailing or take an afternoon jet skiing adventure. You'll find water skiing, runabout boats to rent, and plenty of swimming in these turquoise blue waters.
Beginning at the northern end of this coastal region, Houston truly has something for everyone. In a short trip, you'll be on the Space Coast, ready for a visit to the NASA Space Center. Sports fans will love a visit to Reliant Park to see the MLB Houston Astros, the Houston Texans football team, or the championship Houston Rockets basketball team. You'll also find museums and historic attractions like the Battleship TEXAS State Historic Site, the San Jacinto Monument and Museum, and the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.
Houston offers incredible shopping at The Galleria, a popular mall and dining area. Kids will enjoy a trip to the Houston Zoo or the lively Kemah Boardwalk, and you'll find plenty of fast cars at the Houston Raceway Park. For wildlife and an escape into nature, pay a visit to the Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge or the renowned Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens.
Farther south is the city of Corpus Christi and its stunning barrier islands. Spend a day exploring the 56,000-acre wilderness of Matagorda Island and Mustang Island State Park, a land of pristine beaches and clear, blue waters. This area is known for its bird watching, particularly at the world-famous Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Watch for Texas whooping cranes, egrets, herons, ibises, armadillos, and roseate spoonbills.
Explore the gorgeous coastal towns of Port Aransas and Port O'Connor, checking out the shops and restaurants, or visit the Victorian enclave of Victoria, a lovely place to take a walking tour. In Corpus Christi, the sparkling city by the bay, you can make day trips to the Texas State Aquarium, the Dolphin Connection, or the popular Heritage Park and Multicultural Center. You won't want to miss a chance to go fishing from Bob Hall pier or bird watching at Bird Island Basin.
To the south of Corpus Christi lies the birding and fun center of South Padre Island, Brownsville, and Port Isabel. This is a great place to play in the surf, enjoying the boat rentals and family centers of South Padre Island and the Padre Island National Seashore. You can take a picnic lunch to the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historical Park, explore the Rio Grande river town of Mission, or hop across the boarder into Progreso, Mexico. Birders will love the five centers of the World Birding Center and the many species to see at the Los Ebanos Preserve.
The Texas Gulf Coast offers food and music festivals throughout the year, from the Great Texas Mosquito Festival in Clute to the Pasadena Strawberry Festival and Houston Traders Village Marketplace. Take in the Texas Butterfly Festival at the North American Butterfly Association International Butterfly Park, Charro Days in Brownsville, or the springtime Rockport Festival celebrating wine and vineyards. From the June Texas Shrimp Festival to the three-day September music festival of Bayfest, you'll find plenty of fun on this glorious coast.
Sunny Los Angeles is a world-famous tourist destination. A person could easily spend a month touring the city sights. But if you visit with limited time, how can you budget your days to fit in all the attractions you want to see? Start by picking a few key sights and setting aside a day for each one. Donít pack too much into your visit or you could wind up feeling stressed and irritated by that other great Los Angeles phenomenon - traffic. Taking things one at a time will leave some extra hours for quiet exploration, popping into coffee shops and wandering down streets lined with flowering trees. That way, youíll get more pleasure out of your visit and youíll take away a richer impression of Californiaís City of Angels.
L.A. is most famous for its theme parks, Hollywood, and Rodeo Drive shopping. But consider these other fascinating opportunities: you could visit the remarkable J. Paul Getty Museum, take in an L.A. Lakers basketball game, dine on the pier in Santa Monica, visit Griffith Park, or watch the Tournament of Roses Parade. If youíre coming from a cooler climate, you may enjoy just strolling through the neighborhoods, taking in the Spanish architecture and elegant flowering trees. Many L.A. gardens are gorgeous examples of dry planting, using cacti, palms, and succulents to create a desert wonderland. Los Angeles also offers surprising natural escapes such as hiking from Malibu Creek to Antelope Valley, whale watching around Santa Cruz Island, and wildflower viewing in Malibu Creek State Park.
Los Angeles is almost synonymous with Disneyland and the areaís other famous theme parks: Knottís Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Magic Mountain, and LegoLand California, just to name a few. You can make a splash at Raging Waters, see hundreds of animals at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, or ride the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at Belmont Park. Whether you come with the kids or just with a youthful spirit, youíll find just the right theme park for you. Theme parks are small cities in themselves, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to know yours. If youíre staying in the city, ask about shuttles to and from your park of choice - you may prefer that to driving yourself, especially since most theme parks are well outside the city.
If a trip to Hollywood is your dream come true, your best bet is a narrated bus tour of the area. Tours vary, but yours may take you past the Hollywood Sign, along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, past the 1927 Graumanís Chinese Theatre, the Kodak Theater, and the Hollywood Bowl. Keep your eyes open for stars as you go - you just might get lucky!
Shopping enthusiasts gravitate toward L.A.ís ritzy shops and boutiques, but the city holds plenty of bargains, too. Check out the Citadel Factory Outlet, The Block at Orange, The Dock Downtown, and Designersí Bloopers. Youíll find relaxed outdoor shopping at one of the cityís dozens of farmersí markets or at Grand Central Market, the oldest and biggest open-air market in the city. The Grove is an outdoor shopping district with theater and live performances, and the L.A. Flower District is worth a visit just to see the beautiful blooms and to smell their sweet fragrance. If upscale shopping is what youíre after, you wonít want to miss the L.A. Fashion District, the Beverly Center Shopping Mall, Montana Avenue, and Rodeo Drive.
Los Angeles has a number of great walking tours that let you see the city at your own pace, on foot. You can explore Wiltshire Boulevard, one of the cityís most famous streets, or explore the 127-acre city arboretum. Step back into L.A. history on the Bunker Hill/Historic Core Angels Walk or visit the gorgeous Descanso Gardens, a 160-acre public garden set just twenty minutes from downtown.
History buffs wonít want to miss a visit to the kid-friendly LaBrea Tar Pits, where youíll see the skeletons, fossils, and replicas of extinct animals. Thereís also the Movieland Wax Museum, the historic Queen Mary, and Ports Oí Call Village, a living history museum that brings old New England to life.
From golfing and sailing to biking and beach-jogging, L.A. offers plenty of sporting opportunities. Youíll find courses, trails, and miles of coastline with boat, jet-ski, and surf board rentals. For spectator sports, take in one of L.A.ís pro teams - the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Galaxy, and Sparks are just some of the cityís teams - or head to UCLA for collegiate sporting action. In the nearby area, youíll also find NASCAR racing and teams like the Anaheim Angels and Anaheim Ducks.
There are also a number of free activities to enjoy in Los Angeles. If you get your seats in advance, you could attend a live taping of a T.V. show, sitting in the studio audience. Take strolls along the Santa Monica pier, go celebrity watching, or hike in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. You might also enjoy a dip in the ocean at Venice Beach or a tour of the observatory at Griffith Park.
Rolling hills, live music, and bright fields of Texas Bluebonnets -- this is what Texas Hill Country is all about! This gorgeous area is filled with sparkling lakes and rivers, a thriving arts culture, and cities that boast some of the most unique offerings you'll find anywhere. Take this tour from the capital city of Austin, west to Johnson City and Fredericksburg, then south to the toe-tapping metropolis of San Antonio and get a taste for life "deep in the heart of Texas."
Start your visit in beautiful Austin, home to the capitol dome, the University of Texas at Austin, and the sumptuous Texas Governor's Mansion. Austin is known as the "live music capital of the world," and it features music that ranges from country and western to jazz, rock, blues, and classical. You can catch a jazz or rock show on Sixth Street, head to the Warehouse District for dinner or drinks at a trendy restaurant, then visit the dance halls of South Austin to really kick up your heels.
You'll find something for every member of the family in Texas's capital, from the Austin Children's Museum to golf courses and shopping centers. Take a walking tour along Congress Avenue, seeing the Opera house and Old Bakery buildings that date back to the 1800s. You can find fresh flowers and tasty treats at the Austin Farmers Market, fun exhibits at the Austin History Center, and thrilling waterslides at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Wonderworld Park. Climb aboard the Hill Country Flyer Steam Train or take in the April Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival. And be sure not to miss the animals at the Austin Zoo and the bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge!
From Austin, take Highway 290 west toward Johnson City. For a fun day trip and some excellent fishing and boating, you can take a detour to lovely Lake LBJ. It's a terrific place for waterskiing, jet skiing, swimming, and a picnic lunch. In Johnson City you'll find art galleries, waterfalls, shopping centers, and the unforgettable native plants and flowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. You can see zebras, giraffes, and kangaroos at the Exotic Resort Zoo, just four miles north of Johnson City. Then head to Pedrnales Falls State Park for a day of hiking, tubing, bird watching, mountain biking, and horseback riding in the great outdoors.
Heading west along Highway 290, you'll encounter the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, where you can learn about the life and times of our 36th president. You can hike the trail to the Johnson Settlement, take a ranger-guided bus tour of the LBJ Ranch, view the timeline exhibit of the President's life, and watch the two 30-minute videos: Ladybird Johnson and LBJ the President. Ladybird Johnson passed away in July 2007 -- ask the park ranger if you can take part in any special events related to her life.
Continue west on Highway 290 until you reach the town of Fredericksburg. This Texas Hill Country town celebrates its German heritage in a big way. You'll find historic churches, fresh-grown peaches, locally crafted wine, and plenty of great food with a German flare. You can tour one of the many lavender farms, take a picnic lunch to Enchanted Rock park, or spend an afternoon on the golf course. Frederickburg is the home of the Pioneer Museum (and Vereins Kirche), the Hill Country Children's Theater, and a number of idyllic vineyards and orchards.
From Fredericksburg, take Highway 16 southwest to Kerrville, a charming community in the Guadalupe River Valley. With a mild climate and plenty of waterways, Kerrville is a natural spot for outdoors people. Whether its fishing at Louise Hays Park, golfing on the Scott Schreiner Golf Course, or canoeing and swimming at Kerrville-Schreiner Park, you'll find just what you're after in Kerrville. Be sure not to miss the Lost Maples State Natural Area, the only maple forest in Texas. This 2,174-acre park has rugged limestone canyons, plateau grasslands, wooded slopes and clear streams for you to explore. Kerrville is also home to the Museum of Western Art, the Kerrville Folk Festival, and the Kerrville Wine & Music Festival, an annual labor day weekend event.
After your visit to Kerrville, take Interstate 10 southeast to San Antonio, the land of the Alamo. San Antonio has plenty of attractions for visitors of all ages, from SeaWorld San Antonio to the historic River Walk. You can take the family to Splashtown, Schlitterbahn Waterpark, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, or to the famous San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium.
Spend a day exploring the Natural Bridge Caverns or tour through the historic Alamo building. You can go shopping at Market Square (El Mercado), see the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, or visit in April for the amazing Fiesta San Antonio event. With its superb Tex-Mex food, live music, and south-of-the-border hospitality, San Antonio is an incredible place to visit.