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Hot Spots

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.

Lake Champlain Birding Trail

The picturesque Lake Champlain area is a magical world to explore, whether you’re looking through a pair of binoculars or exploring in a kayak or canoe. Nestled on the border of Vermont and upstate New York, the Lake Champlain region was dubbed “glimmerglass country” by James Fenimore Cooper, author of Last of the Mohicans. This gorgeous waterway is home to thousands of migrating birds that travel the eastern corridor to and from Canada each year. This year, you can travel the 300 mile route of the Lake Champlain Birding Trail, exploring the walkways and natural vistas along the way—and taking in a charming part of New England..

The Lake Champlain Birding Trail is a highway-based trail that links together 88 bird-watching sites along the shores of the lake and upland areas. Every stop along the trail is marked with interpretive signs, and some stops include boardwalks, bird-viewing blinds, and viewing platforms. A network of volunteers keeps an eye on the species that visit the various sites around the lake, publishing up-to-date information on bird sightings and migrations.

You can explore the southern stretches of the trail by starting in Burlington, Vermont, a charming farm and college town on Interstate 89. With its old-fashioned clapboard houses, fresh fruit and vegetable markets, and specialty shops, Burlington is a great place to stroll around. Be sure to sample some Vermont delicacies like locally-made cheddar cheese or ice cream. You can arrange to take a boating cruise on the lake, where the kids can look for Champ, the Lake Champlain monster. Fishing tours are also popular.

At the southern end of the lake lies historic Fort Ticonderoga, a fort that played a pivotal role in the American Revolution and in the French and Indian War. This strategic site has been occupied for thousands of year. There is evidence that Native Americans have lived in this area since 8000 BC, more than 6,000 years before Samuel de Champlain explored and charted the region. You can take a tour of the fort, stroll through the King’s Garden, and watch a re-enactment of one of the fort’s great battles. The fort offers special children’s activities and events in July and August, and family programs all year long.

West of the lake, the charming town of Lake Placid has a great history in sports. Lake Placid was the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. With its amazing natural beauty and sporting facilities, this is a great place to play in any season. The nearby Adirondack Park offers more than 200 miles of trails, rushing rivers for white-water rafting, and coves and bays for canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing. Winter sports abound at nearby Whiteface, Algonquin, and Marcy Mountains. Take your pick from downhill skiing and ski jumping to luge, bobsledding, and ice skating. The town also has terrific dining, shopping, and family entertainment.

Farther north along the lake, you’ll find the yawning natural cavern of Ausable Chasm, a geologic wonder in the heart of a primeval forest. With natural stone walkways leading visitors down into the chasm, it’s no wonder that more than 10 million visitors have flocked here. You can hike to Rainbow Falls, view the Elephant’s head, see Column Rock, or explore Hyde’s Cave and Mystic Gorge. Guests enjoy rafting and inner tubing down the Ausable River, admiring views of the canyon up above. Don’t miss the chance to do the Rim Walk, taking in the views, or to pan for gemstones. This is a great way to get to know the Adirondack Mountains, an area known as the “Home of the High Peaks.”

Nacogdoches, TX - Blueberries in the Bluebonnet State

The oldest city in Texas is known for far more than its colorful history. This is also the place to get the colorful berries that are ideal for blueberry pie, pancakes, cobbler, and ice cream..

With all the recent reports touting the healthful qualities of blueberries, the Nacogdoches’ Texas Blueberry Festival is more popular than ever. The June festival offers tons of fresh blueberries, plus old-fashioned fun with pie-eating contests, blueberry treats and art vendors, ice-cream making contests, and tours of local blueberry farms. There are also plenty of fun activities for the kids, from the bounce house to the petting zoo.

After you’ve done the festival, head into Nacogdoches for a fun day of antiquing or nature hikes. You can stroll down the red-brick streets, admiring the historic downtown, or stop in the 100-year-old hardware store. Historic sites include the Stone Fort Museum, the 1830 Sterne-Hoya House Museum, and the 1835 Durst-Taylor Historic House. At the Oak Grove Cemetery you can see the graves of a number of famous Texans, including four signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Be sure not to miss the Old University Building, an 1845 university hall that was chartered by the Republic of Texas.

Nature lovers will find plenty to do in Nacogdoches, from hikes along the Lanana Creek Trail to bird watching for woodpeckers, nuthatches, and sparrows. You can tour the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, admiring the colorful blooms at this largest azalea garden in Texas, or head to the SFA Interpretive Trail and Arboretum. More than 150 species of birds and 80 species of butterflies live in this section of the Angelina National Forest. The Arboretum spreads over nineteen beautiful acres on the University of Texas campus.

Portland, Oregon - America’s “best big city”

Recently dubbed America’s “best big city,” Portland is known for its lively city scene, unique farm-fresh cuisine, and focus on the great outdoors. Oregon’s biggest city is a great place for a family visit, with plenty of kid-friendly attractions. And with all of its microbreweries, fine restaurants, and local wines, it’s also a great adult destination..

Set in northwestern Oregon about three hours south of Seattle, Portland enjoys the moderate temperatures of the coastal zone. It spans the surging Willamette River (pronounced will-AM-et). Some might say Portland is a city of bridges on account of the variety of bridge-types that stretch across the waterway. With its eclectic style and historic town center, Portland is a city built for artistic and cultural expression.

Open spaces abound in Portland, a city that’s famous for its parks. In fact, Portland has more than 37,000 acres of park space in the city limits. Be sure to take in Forest Park, a 5,000-acre haven that’s the largest urban wilderness zone in the United States. You can find space for almost any kind of outdoor recreation in the surrounding area, whether you’re looking for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, or steelhead fishing.

Kids will enjoy a trip to Washington Park and the Portland Children’s Museum where they can play in the clay studio, don costumes in the theater, or take a dinosaur’s journey through history. You’ll see plenty of furry faces at the Portland Zoo, and kids can dive right into the world of the forest canopy at the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum. You won’t want to miss the raft ride or “Take me to the top!,” an interactive ride that soars you to the treetops.

One of Portland’s nicknames is “The Rose City.” The city earned its name in 1917 when it established twenty miles of rose-lined streets in honor of the Lewis and Clark Centennial. The name has special resonance for visitors to the International Rose Test Garden, the nation’s oldest garden for testing rose varieties. Today, the garden includes six walks, each dedicated to a rose type, from miniatures to Gold Medal winners. Each year in June, visitors can take in the 10-day Rose Festival, a tribute to this sweet-smelling blossom.

Portland boasts a number of other ornamental gardens, from the Classical Chinese Garden to the Japanese Garden. If shopping and dining are more to your taste, visit the unique shops and galleries of the Pearl District. For a livelier shopping experience, head to the Portland Saturday Market, a collection of more than 300 northwestern craftspeople and artists. The market includes kids activities, artisan demonstrations, live dancing, and a spicy collection of treats at the food court.

Whatever your age, you can’t help but pick up the youthful vibe of Portland’s downtown scene. This is a city that thrives on live music. Each summer, the town hosts three Indie Music Festivals that tout independent artists from around the country. Kick things off with late July’s PDXPOPNOW!, then visit in August for the Pickathon Roost Music Festival. In early September, you can take in the three-day MusicFestNW Festival. Portland is also home to a colorful Jazz Festival, held each February, and the July Waterfront Blues Festival.

Freshness is the top focus of Portland cuisine, whether it’s seafood or micro-brews. With a number of neighborhood specialties, cooking schools, and local wineries, Portland has something to suit any palate. Local ingredients like hazelnuts, berries, pears, seafood, and cherries play a key role in most Portland eateries. Let your taste buds be your guide on your next visit to Portland, and see where the chefs of this lovely city will lead you.

Once you’ve explored Portland to your heart’s content, take a day trip into beautiful Oregon and explore its native treasures. You’ll have plenty to choose from—from the Pacific coast to the west to the pine forests of Sun River, Sisters, and Mount Hood (with its terrific winter skiing) to the east. North of the city lies the Columbia River, home to the windsurfing races at Hood River. You can visit Astoria, the charming riverside town where Lewis and Clark spent the winter after their arrival at the coast, or head south to Ashland, home of Oregon’s amazing summer-long Shakespeare Festival. Oregon is blessed with warm summers, a dramatic coastline, and plenty of idyllic, graceful farm country. It’s a gorgeous place to explore!

Legends of the Old West - The Alamo

Beautiful San Antonio – the second largest city in Texas – was founded by Native Americans and Spanish explorers in 1691. In the 1700s, the Spanish built a fort, or presidio, on the river, establishing this space as a strategic holding that was worth fighting for. Over this century, a number of missions were also built in San Antonio, including some you can visit today. One of those buildings is the Alamo, the 300-year-old Mission San Antonio de Valero, the site of one of the most famous battles in Texas history.

Long before trouble brewed at the Alamo, Davy Crockett’s legend was building across the United States. This Tennessee native ran away from home at an early age and became adept at hunting, trapping, and living in the back woods. These skills served him well later when he joined the Tennessee Militia, a group of volunteer mounted riflemen. As part of the militia, Davy took part in the 1813 Creek War in Alabama, serving under Andrew Jackson. Davy – who preferred to go by the name David – rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and served until 1818.

At the age of 35, Davy Crockett was elected to a local position and five years later he joined the U.S. House of Representatives. After serving two terms, he opposed President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act and subsequently lost his seat in 1831—but he regained it in 1833. In 1834 he wrote his memoir, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett. Written by Himself, and when he lost his seat again in 1835, he resolved to go to Texas.

In Texas, Davy signed on as a volunteer of Sam Houston’s army and joined a group of soldiers headed south to relieve besieged Alamo. Among other notable personalities, Davy’s band was joined by James Bowie.

The Texans at the Alamo faced an near impossible task. A Mexican army led by General Santa Anna had the place surrounded by more than 4,000 soldiers. Trapped in the Alamo was a band of about 200 Texans. And yet this tiny force held off the Mexican Army for nearly two weeks. Davy Crockett died there, as did all the volunteers except for one man, one woman, and one child.

What makes the story of the Alamo so lasting and dramatic is the bravery and determination that was displayed by the Texas volunteers. The odds against them were staggering, and yet they fought tooth and nail, holding out day after day. By some accounts, the Mexican force was cut down by a third—a pretty impressive feat for just 200 people. It’s this bravery that sparked the rallying cry “Remember the Alamo!” which inspired soldiers at the Battle of San Jacinto, held a month and a half later. At this battle, the Texas army was victorious and General Santa Anna was captured. He had to lead his troops out of Texas, handing the territory over to the newly-born Republic of Texas.

Today, you can tour the Alamo and get a first-hand look at this famous building and the site of this inspirational battle.

Legends of the Old West - Glenwood Springs, Colorado

John Henry "Doc" Holliday earned his nickname because he was a dentist as well as being one of the quickest draws in the west. Born in Georgia and classically educated, Doc studied dentistry in Philadelphia, then returned to Atlanta to set up his dental practice. When he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and only given a few months to live, he left dentistry behind and set out for the Southwest, hoping that the dry climate would extend his life.

With death constantly looking over his shoulder, Doc Holliday threw caution to the wind. He took up gambling, drank heavily, and fired off gunshots at anyone who argued with him. From 1875 to 1876, he traveled from Dallas to Denver, Cheyenne, and Deadwood, possibly the place where he first met Wyatt Earp.

The two reconnected the following year in Texas and traveled together, gambling and working odd jobs (Doc practiced dentistry in his hotel rooms and regularly dealt a card game called Faro). Wyatt Earp sometimes worked as a deputy sheriff or marshal. In 1880, Doc joined Wyatt and the other Earp brothers in Tombstone, Arizona, where they’d become embroiled in an argument with a local band of cowboys.

The fight came to a head in 1881 in the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Shot guns and pistols blazed in the dusty streets of Tombstone, knocking down cowboys one after the other. The Earps and Doc Holliday all survived the shootout, but in the following months the Cowboy faction managed to ambush and severely injure two of the Earp brothers. One of the brothers died as a result. Wyatt Earp and Doc (and others) decided to make a vendetta ride against the murderers, and this resulted in the deaths of three men. To avoid capture, the group split up. Doc Holliday went to Colorado, where he lived out the rest of his short life.

In 1887, with his health spiraling rapidly down, Doc Holliday checked into the Hotel Glenwood in Glenwood Springs, hoping to take advantage of the healing hot spring there. Sadly, no cure was powerful enough to save him. He reportedly asked for a glass of whiskey on his deathbed. Doc was buried at the Linwood Cemetery, which overlooks the town.

Today, visitors to Glenwood Springs can see plays depicting Doc’s life and the shootout at the O.K. Corral. You can see his gravesite, visit the monument to him, and tour the Frontier Historical Museum to learn more. Glenwood Springs attracted a number of other famous visitors as well, from President Theodore Roosevelt to Buffalo Bill Cody.

Plus no trip to Glenwood Spring would be complete without a soak in the thermal pools and a good long visit to the steam in the Yampah Vapor Caves. So whether you come for the history and to relive legends of the old west or a just a little pampering Glenwood Spring is a "must do" when visitng Colorado.
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