This summer, take the kids on a vacation they’ll never forget. Explore the Adirondacks, get citified in Chicago, or head to the other side of the globe to an animal safari in Kenya! Here are some of the cities picked by National Geographic Travel Magazine that I thought were fascinating!
The Adirondack Park covers six million acres in Upstate New York, making it the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River. The park includes 3,000 lakes and ponds, 2,000 miles of hiking trails, and 1,500 miles of rivers and streams. Explore the marsh, hike a trail, play in the playground, and visit the Native Species Butterfy House at the Adirondack Park Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths.
Kenya’s wildlife, along with its variety of landscapes and rich culture, has long been the country’s major draw for tourists. If you base yourself at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, located near the Mount Kenya National Park and Forest Reserve, you can take advantage of wildlife viewing and other recreational activities. Visit the animal orphanage at the neighboring Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, where rare mountain bongo and white zebras are bred. Through the hotel, you can also take part in walking safaris, bird-watching excursions, horseback riding, and other activities. If you’ve scheduled a safari in East Africa, don’t miss a trip to the Giraffe Manor near Nairobi. The manor was built in 1932, and the estate is known for the herd of giraffes that live there. If you happen to be staying overnight, they will likely greet you at the breakfast table the next morning, sticking their necks through the window for a snack. Giraffe Manor offers guided walks through the sanctuary, where you may encounter warthogs, antelopes, birds, and other animals.
Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for Burlington, a town that sits on Lake Champlain’s eastern shore and may just be the quintessential American small town. It only takes 20 minutes to walk from one side of downtown to the other. The famous Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream got its start in a Burlington gas station. For a tour of the factory and a sample, though, you will have to drive 30 minutes southeast to Waterbury. Back in town, take advantage of Lake Champlain’s recreation opportunities, such as biking or kayaking. A more relaxing option is to take the ferry across the lake. Spend the night at one of Burlington’s B&Bs, such as the Lang House or Willard Street Inn. Have dinner at Splash at the Boathouse. The restaurant has a kids’ menu and the view of the sunset over Lake Champlain can’t be beat. Just a ten-minute drive from Burlington in Shelburne is Champlain Lanes.
On Isle au Haut, explore the 18 miles of trails within Arcadia National Park, or bike the 12 miles of roads that go around the island. Visit the lighthouse on Robinson’s Point. Thief Island, managed by the Main Island Trail Association, is a great base for sea kayaking in Muscongus Bay and for exploring the smaller islands in the bay. Head to Markey Beach or walk along Cato Cove. Walk Markey’s Beach at sunset on Matinicus Island. Pack some snacks and bring a blanket with you. Once the sun goes down, lie back and take in the clear night sky.
Sequoia and King Canyon
There’s more to do in California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks than admire the big trees. Take a hike along the North Grove Loop Trail to view the General Grant Tree—the world’s third largest. The trees can be seen from your car along the winding 47-mile Generals Highway. There are over 200 caves in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Explore Crystal Cave with a guide and learn about stalactites, stalagmites, and visit Marble Hall and the Dome Room, where the stalagmite resembles the U.S. Capitol dome. To catch a glimpse of deer and admire the wildflowers of the park, stroll along the trail circling Zumwalt Meadow, situated on the Kings River. To cool off, head to the top of John Muir Rock and jump into the river, a great spot for swimming and relaxing. Even in the winter, the parks are beautiful; some campgrounds and lodges are open, and there are 50 marked cross-country skiing paths for your family to explore.
Occupying an area of land larger than the state of Delaware, the Everglades National Park was dedicated in 1947 to protect the landscape, plants, and animals in the area. The Everglades is home to over a dozen endangered species, including the Florida panther. The park provides visitors with the opportunities to view wildlife, fish, bird watch, canoe, and hike. If you’d like to spend your days and nights out on the water, rent a houseboat from the Flamingo Marina and navigate the Everglades on your own. Rent bikes and take the Shark Valley Loop. This flat, easy trail provides your best chance of seeing alligators; if you prefer to walk, you can view the reptiles from the Anhinga Trail. For a more up-close-and-personal experience with the park’s water wildlife, take a canoeing or kayaking trip along some of the 99 miles of marked waterways between Everglades City and Flamingo. For fish sandwiches and key lime pie, head to the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City. Request a seat on the screened-in patio and watch the boats plying the Barron River.
Four Corners Monument
One of the most iconic experiences on a drive through the United States southwest is a stop at the Four Corners Monument. You can put each of your limbs in a different state; Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Of course, there is plenty to do in the corners of all four states. From Flagstaff, Arizona, take I-40 to the Petrified Forest National Park and get a glimpse of the multi-colored fossilized wood. Then head to Canyon de Chelly National Monument to experience the cliff dwellings, where indigenous peoples lived for nearly 5,000 years. Hike the White House Ruins trail, the only one for which you do not need a guide. To experience another scenic area around the Four Corners, take the San Juan Skyway through Colorado. Climb ladders and shuffle through tunnels of Mesa Verde National Park’s famous Puebloan cliff dwellings in Colorado. The Far View Lodge, located in the park, has rooms with views into four states. A couple hours drive away, Telluride is a great place to stop. Park the vehicle at Carhenge and take the free ski gondola to the mountain peak. At the base of the canyon, access 30 miles of hiking and biking trails near Mountain Village, which provides great vistas but lacks Telluride’s character. At Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail. It’s five miles round-trip with a waterfall along the way.
Charleston, South Carolina
This coastal city is steeped in history and Southern charm. Famous for its colonial houses and antebellum mansions, cobblestone streets, and gardens, it is easy to get lost in another time when visiting Charleston. Take in the historic sites during a carriage ride. Then browse the City Market where vendors sell sweets, paintings, pottery, and Charleston’s famous sweetgrass baskets. Stroll Battery Park, the picturesque promenade known for its views of Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and the Sullivan Island Lighthouse. Located on the Charleston Harbor, the South Carolina Aqarium is a family favorite. You will encounter sharks, moray eels, and river otters. The aquarium even has a turtle hospital to treat injured sea turtles. At the Old Charleston Naval Base in north Charleston, you can see the C.S.S.H.L Hunley Confederate Submarine, the first submarine ever to sink a warship. For a taste of plantation living, head to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Tour the house, take a boat trip on the grounds, or visit the petting zoo. In the winter, you can spot nesting bald eagles at the ACE Basin, a 135,000-acre estuarine nature reserve. In summer, kayak the marshes or take an educational cruise.
Congaree National Park
Push back the ghostly Spanish moss that drips from the bald cypresses, and you enter a lush backcountry inhabited by bobcats, deer, and playful river otters. At night in the fall and spring, rangers lead visitors on an “owl prowl,” so they can hear the eerie calls of barred owls and see the glowing fungi that grow on the cypresses. According to local legends, the cypress tree’s trademark “knees”small, knobby wood growths that rise around the trunk’s base are really wood elves who come to life at night to dance through the forest. Spring and fall are the most pleasant seasons. Boaters find easier paddling after a rain in late winter and early spring.
The capital of the United Kingdom and its most populous city, London is a cultural, political, and financial hub. The city is preparing to host the Summer Olympics in 2012. An extensive public transportation system makes it easy to get around. Visit the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Also be sure to check out the original Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, which opened over 200 years ago. For breathtaking views of the city, take a ride on the London Eye over the River Thames. You can see St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. In Central London next to the Vauxhall Bridge, check out the headquarters of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service. While in central London, take a break and kick back on the lawn at Hyde Park. You can also head to the Royal Air Force Museum where you can see World War I bombers and find out what it feel like to fly in the Eurofighter flight simulator.