travelandleisure.com

Solar Eclipse 2017

On Aug. 21, the United States will experience “The Great American Eclipse” — an event nearly a century in the making. As the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire country since 1918, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime celestial spectacle. Those within the 70-mile-wide line of totality, which starts in Oregon and ends in South Carolina, will get to witness up to 2 minutes, 40 seconds of darkness.

In this series, we’ll spotlight a few of the best viewing locations along the path, including Idaho Falls, ID, Casper, WY, Nashville, TN and Greenville, SC. Whether you travel to your preferred city the weekend before or turn the trip into a weeklong summer vacation, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in each locale.

Nashville solar eclipse viewing

Viewing Location Spotlight: Nashville, TN

One of the best viewing areas along the path is in Nashville, TN. Fly into Nashville International Airport, where you can pick up a vehicle from Advantage Rent A Car and set out for an unforgettable family adventure in Music City.

As the largest U.S. city in the line of totality, Nashville has lots of great locations to observe the nearly 2 minutes of darkness — including city and state parks, as well as outside all of the city’s major attractions.

Nashville solar eclipse viewing

firsttennesseepark.com

Official viewing parties include First Tennessee Park, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, Dave and Buster’s and many other locations throughout the city. In addition, pre-eclipse festivities will be held at the Adventure Science Center, Italian Lights Festival, Grand Ole Opry and more.

Nashville solar eclipse viewing

travelandleisure.com

While you’re in town, board the Music City Hop, a DIY hop-on/hop-off tour by trolley and double-decker bus with 16 stops that let you visit more than 100 attractions and points of interest. One stop includes the Country Music Hall of Fame, where you can see more than 2 million priceless artifacts while the kids can try their hands at new and familiar instruments in the museum’s Musical Petting Zoo. For real animals, visit the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere or head over to Lucky Ladd Farms, home to more than 100 friendly farm critters, plus pony rides, a playground, splash pad and more.

Nashville solar eclipse viewing

visitmusiccity.com

For more active outdoor fun, swing between the trees by zip line at Adventureworks or Treetop Adventure Park, test out your climbing skills at Soar Adventure Tower, or cool off during the dog days of summer at Nashville Shores or Wave Country.

Nashville solar eclipse viewing

nashvillelifestyles.com

Take it easy aboard the Pontoon Saloon, where you can BYOB and food, and enjoy some of the best views of the city’s skyline from the Cumberland River.

Nashville solar eclipse viewing

tennessean.com

Speaking of food, Nashville’s culinary scene alone is more than enough reason to make the trip. With its famous hot chicken, Southern breakfasts and barbecue, and restaurants that are uniquely Nashville, the options are endless — and mouthwatering!

Nashville solar eclipse viewing

foodnetwork.com

No matter how long you get to spend in Nashville, you’re sure to leave Music City on a good note.

Solar Eclipse Fun Facts

  • A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and Earth are in exact alignment.
  • The year the last total solar eclipse was visible in the United States was 1979 — in just five states. The total solar eclipse of 2017 will pass through 12 states from coast to coast.
  • The sun and moon appear to be the same size during a total solar eclipse, but this is an illusion. The sun is 400 times wider than the moon and 400 times farther away, so they only coincidentally appear the same size
  • The faint light that appears around the moon during a total solar eclipse is part of the sun’s outermost atmosphere, called the corona.
  • Wildlife can be confused by totality. As the sky grows dark and resembles twilight, you may hear roosters crowing and grasshoppers chirping.

Written By: Angie Lewis

totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com

Solar Eclipse 2017

On Aug. 21, the United States will experience “The Great American Eclipse” — an event nearly a century in the making. As the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire country since 1918, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime celestial spectacle. Those within the 70-mile-wide line of totality, which starts in Oregon and ends in South Carolina, will get to witness up to 2 minutes, 40 seconds of darkness.

In this series, we’ll spotlight a few of the best viewing locations along the path, including Idaho Falls, ID, Casper, WY, Nashville, TN and Greenville, SC. Whether you travel to your preferred city the weekend before or turn the trip into a weeklong summer vacation, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in each locale.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

Viewing Location Spotlight: Greenville, SC

One of the best viewing areas along the path is in Greenville, SC. Fly into Charlotte, NC, where you can pick up a vehicle from Advantage Rent A Car and set out for an unforgettable family adventure in the Palmetto State.

Two hours southwest of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Greenville will be one of the last cities to see the full eclipse — with 2 minutes of totality — before the path moves out into the Atlantic Ocean.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

furman.edu

Eclipse viewing events are planned for the Greenville Drive minor league baseball game, Furman University, Bob Jones University, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, NoMa Square, Up on the Roof, and Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

greenvillejournal.com

In addition, as an official NASA viewing site, the Roper Mountain Science Center is hosting a weekend-long Eclipse Extravaganza, which includes full-dome eclipse shows in the planetarium, hands-on activities for all ages, NASA ambassadors and educators, and more.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

sciway.net

If you’ll be in town for a few days, head less than an hour northwest to Caesars Head State Park and get your bearings from atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment, which looks out into North Carolina and Georgia. Plus, right in the heart of downtown Greenville, enjoy waterfalls, landscaped gardens, a nature trail, pedestrian suspension bridge, scenic overlooks and more at Falls Park on the Reedy.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

visitgreenvillesc.com

For even more nature, glide through the treetops on America’s steepest, fastest zipline canopy tour at The Gorge, go whitewater rafting or rappelling with Green River Adventures or visit the Greenville Zoo. About an hour and 15 minutes north of Greenville, you can also hike the 499-step Outcroppings trail to Chimney Rock in North Carolina, where you can see 75-mile views of the Carolina Piedmont, Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

greenriveradventures.com

If that’s not enough activity to get your blood pumping, put the pedal to the metal at the BMW Performance Center.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

upcountrysc.com

Prefer a more relaxing afternoon? Take the kids to one of Greenville’s many waterparks, such as Discovery Island, 7th Inning Splash or Otter Creek. If you’d rather stay dry, take a ride on one of the city’s downtown trolleys, then take a stroll on Main Street and let the kids try to find all nine Mice on Main bronze statues.

2017 solar eclipse charlotte, nc

greenvillerec.com

Whether you’re in Greenville for a day or a week, the Palmetto State will surely become a new favorite family vacation destination!

Solar Eclipse Fun Facts

  • A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and Earth are in exact alignment.
  • The year the last total solar eclipse was visible in the United States was 1979 — in just five states. The total solar eclipse of 2017 will pass through 12 states from coast to coast.
  • The sun and moon appear to be the same size during a total solar eclipse, but this is an illusion. The sun is 400 times wider than the moon and 400 times farther away, so they only coincidentally appear the same size
  • The faint light that appears around the moon during a total solar eclipse is part of the sun’s outermost atmosphere, called the corona.
  • Wildlife can be confused by totality. As the sky grows dark and resembles twilight, you may hear roosters crowing and grasshoppers chirping.

Written by: Angie Lewis

visitidaho.org

Solar Eclipse 2017

On Aug. 21, the United States will experience “The Great American Eclipse” — an event nearly a century in the making. As the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire country since 1918, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime celestial spectacle. Those within the 70-mile-wide line of totality, which starts in Oregon and ends in South Carolina, will get to witness up to 2 minutes, 40 seconds of darkness.

In this series, we’ll spotlight a few of the best viewing locations along the path, including Idaho Falls, ID, Casper, WY, Nashville, TN and Greenville, SC. Whether you travel to your preferred city the weekend before or turn the trip into a weeklong summer vacation, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in each locale.

Total Solar Eclipse

Viewing Location Spotlight: Idaho Falls, ID

One of the best viewing areas along the path is in Idaho Falls, ID. Fly into Salt Lake City, UT, where you can pick up a vehicle from Advantage Rent A Car and set out for an unforgettable family adventure in the Gem State.

2017 solar eclipse idaho falls

idahofallsidaho.gov

About three hours north of Salt Lake City International Airport, Idaho Falls offers unobstructed views across crystal-clear skies for about 1 minute, 48 seconds of totality. Designated viewing locations include Old Butte, Tautphaus Park, Freeman Park and Community Park. In addition, the Museum of Idaho is a preferred NASA viewing site.

2017 solar eclipse idaho falls

museumofidaho.org

The museum also features a special interactive touring exhibit from NASA titled Space: A Journey to our Future, where visitors can touch actual meteorites from the moon and Mars, take a spin on a human-powered centrifuge and much more. Plus, representatives from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will be onsite at the exhibit from Aug. 18-21.

Leading up to the big event, Eastern Idaho is hosting a weekend of pre-eclipse festivities, which include the Mutt Strut 5K, auto racing at Noise Park, Cosmic Night swimming at the Wes Deist Aquatic Center, Idaho Falls Farmers’ Market, Duck Race, Brothers Osborne concert, and extended hours at the Idaho Falls Zoo.

2017 solar eclipse idaho falls

yellowstonebearworld.com

Whether you arrive in town a few days beforehand or stay and play after the eclipse, Idaho Falls offers plenty of fun outdoor activities. Get up close with black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bison, moose and more at Yellowstone Bear World drive-through wildlife park, which also includes a petting zoo with free-roaming barnyard animals and amusement rides. For an additional charge, you can bottle-feed bear cubs! For more native wildlife, visit Zoo Idaho.

2017 solar eclipse idaho falls

rexburgrapids.com

Have a splashing good time at Rexburg Rapids or Ross Park Aquatic Complex, or take a relaxing dip in Lava Hot Springs, which also offers a summer water park and indoor aquatic center, or Heise Hot Springs, which features an adrenaline-pumping zipline tour. Picnic in one of Idaho Falls’ many parks, such as McCowin Park, Porter Park, Ross Park or Sportsman Park.

2017 solar eclipse idaho falls

lavahotsprings.com

Ride up to the 9,862-foot summit of Fred’s Mountain on the Dreamcatcher chairlift at Grand Targhee Resort, where you can also explore the Tetons and Caribou-Targhee National Forest by horseback. Experience a Wild West shootout, horse-drawn carriage ride, barbecue and more at the Mountain River Ranch’s Summer Dinner Theatre.

2017 solar eclipse idaho falls

npca.org

Idaho Falls has indoor activities to keep the family entertained, too. Let the kids get creative at the ARTitorium on Broadway, which features a motion wall, creation stations, green-screen studio, stop-motion animation stations, magnet wall and more. Better yet, get your family workout on with indoor rock climbing at The Edge Climbing and Fitness center.

No matter where your Idaho Falls adventure takes you, the Gem State can help create countless family memories that will last a lifetime.

Solar Eclipse Fun Facts

  • A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and Earth are in exact alignment.
  • The year the last total solar eclipse was visible in the United States was 1979 — in just five states. The total solar eclipse of 2017 will pass through 12 states, from coast to coast.
  • While the sun and moon appear to be the same size during a total solar eclipse, this is an illusion. The sun is 400 times wider than the moon and 400 times farther away, so they only coincidentally appear the same size.
  • The faint light that appears around the moon during a total solar eclipse is part of the sun’s outmost atmosphere, called the corona.
  • Wildlife can be confused by totality. As the sky grows dark and resembles twilight, you may hear roosters crowing and grasshoppers chirping.

Written by: Angie Lewis

visitcasper.com

Solar Eclipse 2017

On Aug. 21, the United States will experience “The Great American Eclipse” — an event nearly a century in the making. As the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire country since 1918, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime celestial spectacle. Those within the 70-mile-wide line of totality, which starts in Oregon and ends in South Carolina, will get to witness up to 2 minutes, 40 seconds of darkness.

In this series, we’ll spotlight a few of the best viewing locations along the path, including Idaho Falls, ID, Casper, WY, Nashville, TN and Greenville, SC. Whether you travel to your preferred city the weekend before or turn the trip into a weeklong summer vacation, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in each locale.

2017 solar eclipse casper, wyoming

Viewing Location Spotlight: Casper, WY

One of the best viewing areas along the path is in Casper, WY. Fly into Denver, CO, where you can pick up a vehicle from Advantage Rent A Car and set out for an unforgettable family adventure in the Cowboy State.

2017 solar eclipse casper, wyoming

playcasper.com

Less than four hours north of Denver International Airport, Casper is situated at an altitude of more than 5,000 feet. With a high probability of clear skies and 2 minutes, 26 seconds of totality, the town should be one of the best spots in the nation to view the eclipse. Good spots include the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, Casper Events Center and Hogadon Ski Area. Try not to stop by the side of the road. Too many stopped vehicles could create a hazard for non-eclipse traffic.

2017 solar eclipse casper, wyoming

historictrailswest.com

Leading up to the big event, Casper is hosting the Wyoming Eclipse Festival, a weeklong schedule of special activities and programs that include covered wagon train treks and Pony Express rides, behind-the-scenes distillery tours, Insane Inflatable 5K, Riverfest and the Great Duck Derby, among other activities.

2017 solar eclipse casper, wyoming

visitcasper.com

Whether you choose to explore the area ahead of time or stay and play after the eclipse, Casper offers plenty of fun outdoor activities. Take a scenic drive up Casper Mountain or hike to Garden Creek Falls and the 4.5-mile Bridle Trail in Rotary Park. Take a boat ride, mountain bike or rock climb through Fremont Canyon. Reel in monster brown trout out of the North Platte River, whose “Miracle Mile” — which is actually a 5.5-mile stretch — is swimming with about 4,000 fish per mile. Better yet, toss an inner tube into the river, sit back, relax and just float.

2017 solar eclipse casper, wyoming

visitcasper.com

Since Casper’s wildlife lives among the people, you’re likely to spot pronghorn antelope — which outnumber the town’s human population — or one of the many other natives in the area, such as mule deer and wild turkeys.

2017 solar eclipse casper, wyoming

visitcasper.com

Casper has plenty of indoor activities, too. The kids can interact with dinosaurs at the Tate Museum, check out the exhibits and critters at The Science Zone, explore the night sky at the Casper Planetarium, learn about Wyoming’s indigenous wildlife at the Werner Wildlife Museum or create their own masterpiece at the hands-on art studio in the Nicolaysen Art Museum & Discovery Center. The best part? All of these attractions offer free or low-cost admission!

2017 solar eclipse casper, wyoming

visitcasper.com

No matter how long you’re in Casper, the Cowboy State is sure to wrangle your heart and provide family memories that will last a lifetime.

    Solar Eclipse Fun Facts

  • A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and Earth are in exact alignment.
  • The year the last total solar eclipse was visible in the United States was 1979 — in just five states. The total solar eclipse of 2017 will pass through 12 states, from coast to coast.
  • The sun and moon appear to be the same size during a total solar eclipse, but this is an illusion. The sun is 400 times wider than the moon and 400 times
  • The faint light that appears around the moon during a total solar eclipse is part of the sun’s outermost atmosphere, called the corona.
  • Wildlife can be confused by totality. As the sky grows dark and resembles twilight, you may hear roosters crowing and grasshoppers chirping.

Written By: Angie Lewis

© Photo by visitjacksonville.com

Par For The Course

Bring Your Clubs – And Your Spirit Of Adventure – When You Visit Jacksonville

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by visitjacksonville.com

Love golf, football, surfing, racing, history or great food? If so, then Jacksonville, FL, should hit the spot!

Known as Jax, J-ville, River City and Duuuval, Jacksonville is the largest city in area in the continental United States. Some of its 840 square miles includes top national golf courses, an NFL stadium and beautiful beaches. Plus, the nearby cities of Daytona Beach and St. Augustine offer even more sports-related fun, as well as a bit of history.

Pick up your Kia Sportage, Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Tucson or Nissan Rogue, all of which have plenty of room for golf clubs and other sports gear, from the Advantage Rent A Car counter at the Jacksonville International Airport and get the ball rolling on your North Florida adventure!

Tee Off

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by golfdigest.com

Ranked as the top golf course in Florida by Golfweek magazine, TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, located about 30 minutes southeast of downtown Jacksonville, is the home of The Players Championship and boasts two championship courses. The Stadium Course is the most recognizable because of its intimidating par-3 17th hole that features the famed island green, while the Dye’s Valley Course is a quieter, more unassuming experience.

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by visitflorida.com

At the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, less than a half-hour from Jacksonville, you can play a round at one of the official golf courses of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The King & Bear, which is the only course collaboration between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, has hosted numerous PGA Tour events, as well as the Legends of Golf and the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between Nicklaus and Palmer. On the Slammer & Squire course, you can tee off from under the tower of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by floridagolf.com

Try not to be distracted by the beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean at Hammock Beach Resort’s Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course in Palm Coast, where six of the 18 holes are situated directly on the coastline. This award-winning course, barely more than an hour southeast of downtown Jacksonville, is under renovation and scheduled to re-open in October 2017.

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by ameliaisland.com

Northeast of Jacksonville, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort offers three championship courses. Oak Marsh has 14 holes with water hazards and numerous bulk-headed greens. Ocean Links is a par-70 with five oceanfront holes, as well as 10 holes that feature lagoons and marsh wetlands and the green of the 18th hole that sits in the waters of Red Maple Lake. The Long Point course challenges golfers with natural hazards, tight fairways and elevated greens.

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by golfzoo.com

The Golf Club at North Hampton may just be the best Arnold Palmer-designed golf course in the Sunshine State. This championship course, about 40 minutes northeast of Jacksonville, features a double-ended driving range and practice facility, two practice putting greens and a short-game practice area.

Touchdowns And Tunes

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by jaguars.com

In downtown Jacksonville, EverBank Field is home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1995 and are now part of the AFC South. Pre-season games begin in August.

New in 2017, Daily’s Place, a 5,500-seat amphitheater attached to EverBank Field, hosts some of the world’s biggest artists. The venue’s upcoming calendar includes performances by Journey, Lady Antebellum, Foreigner, Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows, Mary J. Blige, Lifehouse and Switchfoot, Santana and many more.

The city also hosts a couple of the biggest annual college football games, which include the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly known as the Gator Bowl) each January, and the annual Florida-Georgia game in October or November.

A Shore Thing

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by visitjacksonville.com

Jacksonville’s 22 miles of white-sand beaches offer plenty of room to stretch out and relax, in addition to water sports, family fun and nightlife.

Jacksonville Beach is a great spot to have a picnic or ride a boogie board. Its Sea Walk Pavilion features many spring and summer festivals and concerts, as well as the family-friendly Moonlight Movies series. Nightlife also includes oceanfront clubs and intimate pubs.

For the best surfing, head to the locals’ favorite spot, called The Poles, situated along a 1.5-mile stretch of beach in Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, or try the areas near the Jacksonville Beach Pier.

At the intersection of Neptune and Atlantic beaches is Beaches Town Center, which offers a range of dining, shopping and nightlife options.

During the summer, you can hop aboard the Beaches Trolley to explore all of the beach attractions and neighborhoods.

The Need For Speed

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Less than an hour and a half from downtown Jacksonville is one of the nation’s temples to automotive acceleration: Daytona International Speedway. A speedway tour lets you experience the 31-degree high banks, then pose atop the podium in Victory Lane for a photo op.

For a real taste of the action, climb inside an authentic stock car, where you can ride shotgun with a professional driver at speeds of more than 160 mph. Better yet, strap into the driver’s seat and put the pedal to the metal yourself!

Historical Haunts

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by floridashistoriccoast.com

Known as the “Nation’s Oldest City,” St. Augustine sits about 45 minutes southeast of Jacksonville and offers more than four centuries’ worth of Spanish, English, Greek, Native American and African-American history. Must-see landmarks include the Castillo de San Marcos, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth.

The city also features many historical museums, plus a wax museum, lighthouse, winery, aquarium, trolley tours of the city and much more — including several haunted tours.

#NomNom

© Photo by foodnetwork.ca

Northeast Florida is a foodie’s paradise that features everything from upscale bistros to down-home fish camps. Jacksonville has 15 chefs on America’s Best Chefs list, more than 20 locally owned, farm-to-table restaurants, more than 90 licensed food trucks and the oldest farmers market in the state of Florida.

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by matthewsrestaurant.com

For a fine-dining experience, try Matthew’s Restaurant, a recipient of the prestigious AAA Four Diamond award every year since 1999, with Chef Matthew Medure receiving the honor each year since 2005. Located in Jacksonville’s San Marco district, the restaurant’s menu changes often so that Medure can incorporate the freshest local and seasonal ingredients.

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by maineheritagetimber.com

For a restaurant that’s committed to sustainable sourcing, visit two-time James Beard Award nominee Chef Tom Gray at Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails in St. Johns Town Center. Menu items, such as pimento cheese toast, cheddar biscuit tots, meatloaf, chicken and waffles, lemon-thyme French fries with green tomato ketchup, and deep-dish buttermilk pie, showcase Gray’s Southern spin on contemporary American cuisine.

golfing in Jacksonville

© Photo by metrojacksonville.com

While vegans and vegetarians may want to steer clear, meat lovers will appreciate Clark’s Fish Camp in Jacksonville’s Mandarin neighborhood, which serves up typical fare including seafood and prime rib in addition to many exotic meats such as kangaroo sausage, fried camel and bison testicles. Also, beware of the eerie gazes of the restaurant’s largest private taxidermy collection in America — which literally includes lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

Jax Ale Trail

© Photo by visitjacksonville.com

Wash down all that delicious food or cool off on a hot summer day along the Jax Ale Trail. Pick up a brewery passport at any of the eight (and counting) participating craft breweries and hit the trail to collect stamps for cool prizes! Just remember to drink responsibly.

Drive Times From Downtown Jacksonville

TPC Sawgrass: 30 minutes (25 miles)
World Golf Village: 30 minutes (28 miles)
Hammock Beach Resort: 1 hour, 10 minutes (67 miles)
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort: 40 minutes (35 miles)
Golf Club at North Hampton: 35 minutes (30 miles)
EverBank Field/Daily’s Place: 5 minutes (1.5 miles)
Jacksonville Beach: 30 minutes (23 miles)
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park: 25 minutes (17 miles)
Beaches Town Center: 30 minutes (16 miles)
Daytona International Speedway: 1 hour, 20 minutes (91 miles)
St. Augustine: 45 minutes (40 miles)
Matthew’s Restaurant: 5 minutes (2 miles)
Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails: 15 minutes (12 miles)
Clark’s Fish Camp: 25 minutes (19 miles)
Jax Ale Trail: 5-30 minutes (1-23 miles)

Article written by: Angie Lewis

Utah is a state overflowing with natural beauty, and there are plenty of places to experience the great outdoors within its borders. The amazing canyons, peaks and valleys, connected by wide-open highways, make Utah a perfect site for a road trip. Planning a trip to this state means maximizing your time and getting the most out of your experience.

See the Mighty 5

After stepping off a plane in Salt Lake City and starting up your rental car, you have a wealth of potential adventures ahead of you. If you’re interested in seeing a variety of natural wonders, you can’t go wrong with a road trip to the Mighty 5, a group of National Parks all located in southern Utah. The following are a few defining features of each of these unforgettable attractions.

Arches National Park

Massive stone formations give Arches National Park its name and its unique identity. After driving to the trailhead, a trip of 25 minutes from the entrance and visitors center, you can hike among such breathtaking natural sights as the North Window, South Window, Turret Arch and Double Arch. You can view the amazing stones by day or watch the stars at night. The Parks Department recommends the Windows Section for visitors with only a little time to spare, as you can have an amazing experience hiking just this part of the park.

Perhaps the most iconic of the many arches in their eponymous park is the Delicate Arch. This feature stands alone, and isn’t easily visible from the road. There are two dedicated viewpoints to see the arch and a trail that leads close to it, but the parking lots can be busy at peak times, such as sunset.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is a popular spot for hiking and camping. This is a sprawling park with an 18-mile main road, but there are convenient features to see more of it. For instance, from April to October, you can park your rental car at the entrance and take a shuttle bus to various sites within the canyon. The bus is free for anyone who has paid the park’s entry fee.

Once you’re in Bryce Canyon, you can explore the rock formations called hoodoos which dot the landscape in Bryce Amphitheater, a natural bowl formation carved into the hillside. In the summer you can take a horseback ride through the canyons, and when the sun goes down you can sign up for a ranger-led full moon tour.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is hone to several scenic areas where you can drive from one breathtaking observation point to the next, stepping out of your car to take in the grandeur of the landscape. The Parks Service recommends the Island in the Sky mesa as a spot for sightseeing on a relatively tight schedule, and offers the helpful hint to bring a printed map, because GPS systems may give mistaken directions in the park.

If you have more time to spend and are willing to do some hiking or four-wheeling, you can make your way into the backcountry of The Needles. Other points of interest in the park include the remote Maze, a day-use exploration site in Horseshoe Canyon. You can even take two-day boating trips down the Green River and Colorado River.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef offers both historical and geological attractions, along with plenty of beautiful camping sites. You can view glyphs carved or painted on canyon walls to trace thousands of years of history. A farming culture, the Fremont, settled in Capitol Reef around 500 CE, and the area was home to migratory peoples even earlier.

The natural features of Capitol Reef include the Waterpocket Fold, a dip in the earth nearly 100 miles long which formed over 50 million years ago. Capitol Reef itself is one area within the fold, featuring domes and cliffs which make for amazing sightseeing.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park, the oldest such park in Utah, is another massively popular attraction for the state. As with Bryce Canyon, there is a shuttle service through the park, stopping at nine sights worth seeing along the park’s Scenic Drive. There are three campgrounds where you can spend the night in the park, though you should make reservations – otherwise the campgrounds may fill up before you get there.

There are nine trails within Zion, ranging from “easy” to “strenuous.” You can see what makes this park one of Utah’s signature attractions by taking these visually compelling paths.

The Road to Mighty

The Utah Office of Tourism would be quick to point out that there are plenty of attractions on the highways that link the five parks. These make up the so-called Road to Mighty, and they’re sure to catch your eye as you cruise through southern Utah. Cedar Breaks National Monument is one of these on-the-way stops, between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, with astounding views on all sides.

At peak time or off-season, for a few days or a month, you’ll find plenty to see in the Mighty 5.

The journey from Arches to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport takes about seven hours or you can head to Advantage Rent A Car counter in the Salt Lake City International Airport, which is about four hours away.

The Main Attraction

Discovering Orlando’s Exciting Food Scene

Celebrity-run eateries. Local diners. Food trucks. Neighborhood markets.

Orlando, once the home of predictable theme-park fare, has become a true foodie destination where exceptional culinary achievement is an adventure all its own.

Perhaps that’s why WalletHub named the destination the “Top Foodie City in the U.S.” In fact, just this year, two local chefs were named James Beard Awards Semifinalist Nominees for the “Best Chefs in the South” category. Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon and Luma on Park’s Brandon McGlamery are among a growing contingent of young chefs responsible for a food renaissance here in the shadow of the mouse.

Alongside this talented crew are A-list chefs who’ve chosen the destination for their signature restaurants. In the newly opened Disney Springs, visitors can enjoy the typical tourist must-sees as well as star-studded dining experiences at Art Smith’s Homecomin’ or chef Masaharu Morimoto’s famed Morimoto Asia. Not far away are Norman Van Aken’s self-named establishment at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes and Emeril’s by Emeril Lagasse at Universal CityWalk.

 

For something a bit more low-key, Orlando offers as many tasty casual venues as it does high-end establishments. In fact, when Diners, Drive-ins and Dives arrived in town, the popular Food Network program discovered six hidden Orlando restaurants worth a visit:

  • Se7en Bites,a Southern breakfast/lunch eatery and bakery in the Downtown Milk District that dishes up mouthwatering brunch favorites as well as treats such as Salted Caramel Bacon Cinnamon Rolls on Sundays
  • The Meatball Stoppe, which specializes in all types and combinations of the Italian-inspired protein.
  • International dining destinations such as Puerto Rican sandwiches at Willie’s Pinchos, Brazilian spud creations at Mrs. Potato Restaurant, Vietnamese cuisine at Saigon Noodle and Grill and New York City delicatessen fare at The Pastrami Project food truck.

Finally, foodies will want to check out Orlando’s exciting market scene. The fun begins in the Audubon Park neighborhood at the popular East End Market. This trendy food hall is inspired by what local farmers and artisans are producing, an eclectic mixed-use space and some tempting treats that include Gideon’s Bakehouse, TravelPulse’s vote for “Earth’s Best Cookie.” A short drive away you’ll find the Winter Park Farmer’s Market, an Orlando tradition held every Saturday morning at the old train depot, and, west of downtown, the Winter Garden Farmer’s Market, which offers local produce, artisanal foods and specialty crafts in a hometown, historic setting.

So, while you may find yourself headed to Orlando for the heart-pounding theme park rides, picture-perfect poolside afternoons, the thrill of the annual Gay Dayscelebration or Orlando United Day, the new crop of all-star restaurants and impressive chefs will prove to you that dinner in this tourist town may just be the real attraction.

Exploring the destination’s culinary scene is easy with a sporty rental car from Advantage Rent a Car. Pick up a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro at the airport counter and you’ll quickly be on your way to discovering all the secret foodie joints and local hot spots you’re craving.

Top Foodie Spots in Orlando

From a Who’s Who of famous chefs to local favorites that put fresh, local fare front and center, Orlando is a city where you’ll want to eat again and again. Here are Orlando’s Best Restaurants, according to USA Today’s 10 Best:

Orlando Food Scene

1. K Restaurant – This favorite foodie hangout has been a College Park standout for years with locally sourced food in a comfortable and elegant location. Unexpected creations pair with comfort food – try a burger and mac and cheese for one of the best meals you’ll ever enjoy

2. Scratch – Drop by for a drink or a small plate at this Winter Park locale that offers a romantic vibe, a well-informed wait staff and a seasonal rotating menu of great food.

3. Mamak Asian Street Food – China comes to town with dishes inspired by food stalls such as curries, spring rolls and street tacos. Another not-to-be-missed item is the Mamak roti canai.

4. The Ravenous Pig – The city’s favorite gastropub has been generating a buzz since it opened in its former location in Winter Park. Today, the updated digs just down the road serve up a rotating menu of locally based cuisine and craft cocktails.

5. Shish.Co Mezze & Grill – OK, so a drive-up food stand may not be the most posh setting for a restaurant, but the mouthwatering doner bowls and rich Turkish coffee will transport you straight to Istanbul. It’s a great stop off before heading across the street to the area’s independent film house, the Enzian Theater.

6. Kabooki Sushi – Don’t let its location in a strip mall mislead you.Inside you’ll find a sleek interior, creative rolls and Orlando’s best sushi and Asian-fusion dishes.

7. Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa — With origins as a food truck, Pig Floyd’s is a mash-up of Caribbean, Latin and Asian barbecue. Don’t miss the tender brisket, the char-grilled chicken and the butter chicken tacos, which were named one of the must-eat foods in Orlando.

8. Bull & Bear – Just like the New York namesake, Orlando’s Bull and Bear is a premium steakhouse that offers superior quality in a plush, upscale atmosphere.

9. Se7en Bites – From handmade moon pies to just-like-grandma-made chicken pot pies, we can’t say enough about this new Southern comfort classic.

10. Norman’s – Whether you enjoy the spectacular lake views outside the Ritz-Carlton or inside in the magnificent white-tablecloth setting, you’ll swoon at Norman Van Aken’s creamy cracked-conch chowder and other imaginative culinary creations that are not to be missed.

Article written by Christine Van Dyk

The Journey “We” Take

The Pulse Memorial and Orlando’s Gay Days

When 49 people lost their lives in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, something amazing happened in Orlando. Some might say it was a wake-up call or a shift in our collective consciousness, but to folks in the Sunshine State, it seems to have an awful lot to do with grammar – something that begins and ends with a pronoun.

As we approach the June 12 anniversary of the shootings, the City of Orlando is honoring the compassion that was displayed that night when “they” became “us” and the whole world learned the importance of being “we.” That subtle shift in words taught us the importance of rejecting biases and the danger that comes when we distance ourselves from those outside our own circles. Because the truth is, the Pulse tragedy didn’t just happen to “them,” it happened to us all.

To honor the memory of the victims and support the survivors, Orlando United Day, which comes on the heels of the annual Gay Days celebration, is hosting a number of events and memorials. There is the One Orlando Collection and Digital Gallery, which features items gathered from the memorial site, and the unveiling of the Sea-to-Sea Flag that has become a globally recognized symbol of the LGBTQ movement. At the site of the Pulse nightclub, the community will gather to reflect on the events of that evening while in Lake Eola Park, the world will “Remember Our Angels.” For the latest information, visit the Orlando United Day webpage.

Like the sticker on a rearview mirror says, objects behind us are “closer than they appear.” And so while a year has gone by, and many of the rainbow-colored banners have begun to fade, the goodwill that the world found in being “us” is closer than ever, and this city we all love to love continues to be #orlandostrong.

The Show Must Go On

Reminding us all that life is equal parts tragedy and celebration, the 27th annual Gay Days celebration will usher in and lead up to the one-year anniversary of the Pulse shootings. As in years past, this unofficial event by Walt Disney World Resorts is the most popular vacation celebration for the LGBTQ community and one that will surely draw high attendance this year.

Visitors can be the first to experience Pandora—the World of AVATAR at Animal Kingdom or take center stage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Travel around the world at Epcot, Disney’s land of the future, or explore endless enchantment of the Magic Kingdom Park where everyone can be a kid again. It all happens May 30 through June 5 in theme parks and venues throughout Orlando. Other supporting events for this year’s “Gay Days Circus” theme include exposition halls, the Miss Gay Days contest and plenty of pool parties at resorts across the sunny destination.

Enjoying Better (Gay) Days

Come to Orlando for the Gay Days party or extend your stay to attend the commemorative Pulse events. Take a short drive to the coast or make time for some retail therapy at the upscale The Mall at Millenia, cool off in one of the area’s water parks or let off some steam in the heart-pounding I-Drive NASCAR experience.

But before you pack up and end the excitement, take a moment to visit the Orange County Regional History Center and remember the names that are scribbled across the 49 wooden crosses. Get in your car and make the short drive to pay your respects at the small, unassuming bar that sits wedged between downtown Orlando and the Delaney Park neighborhood. The memories are everywhere, even at the new Orlando City Soccer stadium where, amidst a sea of purple chairs, 49 rainbow-colored seats sit front and center – forever reminding the world of all “we” lost and gained that night.

For an updated schedule and additional information on Pulse events, visit Orlando/Orange County’s Orlando United webpage.

For more information and schedules for Gay Days events, go to GayDays.com

Altitude Adjustment

 

© Photo by Explore Asheville

A Family Getaway to the North Carolina Mountains

As the sun crept across the mountaintop, the morning light shone through the low-hanging fog that blanketed the pine trees. The Cherokee call it “shaconage,” the land of the blue smoke. I stood there with my two boys who were quickly becoming young men and watched as the “smoke” slowly settled into the crevices between the peaks. No one said a word. We waited in the eerie quiet, afraid to speak, until the trill of birdsong shattered the silence and the Earth began to wake.

In our world of smart phones and insta-everything, our North Carolina Mountain getaway surprised me. I never expected my pre-teens to be so in love with the Appalachian countryside or the simple outdoor activities that I treasured as a kid. But as it turns out, this was the great adventure my boys had longed for without even knowing. A place where ruffians dueled with sticks and chased each other up mountain paths, dove off cliffs into hidden swimming holes and caught fireflies in mason jars every night before bed. It is a moment that is forever trapped in my memory — when their boyhood was frozen, and I could watch them grow up slowly. Here are some of our favorite experiences from that summer — an easy-to-follow agenda and a few things to do when your own family visits the smoky-blue mountains of North Carolina.

DAY ONE

north carolina mountain getaway

© Photo by Tweetsie Rail Road

Riding the Rails in Boone

After flying into Charlotte, we packed up our Toyota Highlander and drove up to Boone, where I introduced the boys to a favorite from my own childhood: the Tweetsie Railroad. Named for the shrill sound of its whistle, this authentic steam engine is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a classic throw-back to an era when vacations took place in wooden-paneled station wagons with bologna sandwiches packed in Styrofoam coolers. The three-mile, western-themed ride features an old-fashioned conductor who guides good ole’ number 12 over trestles, around the mountain and past a comical band of robbers and American Indians. After disembarking, the boys raced off to explore the Wild West theme park, which featured a carousel, a Tilt-A-Whirl, a free-fall ride and a scenic chairlift up Miner’s Mountain. Sick from too much cotton candy and that last whirl on the Tornado ride, we headed for the hotel where we all collapsed into bed.

DAY TWO

north carolina mountain getaway

Panning For Fun

Scattered around the Boone area and in the small towns throughout this corner of Appalachia are gem mines where your kids can search for hidden treasure. Start by buying a bucket for your little rock hounds and setting them loose in the water flumes to look for precious and semi-precious stones. While we never found more than mica and quartz, watching the boys splash each other and learn about the area’s mining history was well worth the cost of admission.

north carolina mountain getaway

© Photo by Mast General Store

Trinkets from the General Store

Established in 1883, the Mast General Store of Boone is the perfect excuse for your kids to stock up on sugar and unnecessary plastic doodads. With toys, candy, outdoor gear and an apothecary, this shop of yesteryear is chock full of the kinds of treasures their grandparents may have coveted at their age like Little Golden Books, coonskin caps, bone-handled pocket knives and model cars.

Before heading out of Boone, make sure to grab some local-made souvenirs to take home with you like a jar of blackstrap molasses, stoneground southern grits, bottles of Cheerwine soda or a box of paper-thin Moravian spice cookies. Our favorite treats were the Insomnia Cookies we bought downtown. The s’mores and triple chocolate chunks were so delicious they were gone before we hit the onramp to the interstate.

Where the Snow Falls Up

Less than a half hour from Boone, Blowing Rock is a quaint town with art galleries, boutiques and funky restaurants. However, with two squirmy boys, my chances of a girl’s day were just about non-existent. Instead, we headed up to North Carolina’s oldest attraction and the namesake for the town. Blowing Rock is a precipice that juts out some 4,000 feet above the valley. A Native American legend explains the unique updrafts of the crag that caused Ripley’s Believe It Or Not to label it “the only place in the world where snow falls upside down.” In truth, it is the shape of the overhang that directs the strong updrafts from the valley so that if you drop a piece of paper it will be blown right back up to you. Besides the fearful walk to the edge, the park features incredible panoramic views and an extensive network of trails for a great day of hiking.

DAY THREE

north carolina mountain getaway

© Photo by Explore Asheville

Day Trekking Along the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,174-mile footpath along ridges and across valleys in the mountains from Maine to Georgia. If you’re not quite up to a thru-hike on the A.T., why not enjoy a short walk in the woods around Asheville just an hour and 45 minutes from Blowing Rock? Our boys loved chasing each other through the forest and up the rocky cliffs to the summit. Check online or with your hotel for day hikes that fit the abilities of your group. You’ll also want to make sure the trek is a round-trip hike unless you have multiple cars that you can park at both ends of the route

Appalachian Sounds in Downtown Asheville

Every Friday evening in the summer people of all ages beat a path to downtown Asheville for the city’s Drum Circle. In the shade of Pritchard Park an eclectic mix of senior citizens, restless children, hipsters and businesspeople are invited to play along. You can imagine how fun it was to watch the boys pound the primal beats while my husband and I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed a bottle of wine beneath the stars.

Nearby at Pack Square Park another group of locals gathered at sunset to share the musical heritage of the Appalachian Mountains. Asheville’s Shindig on the Green is an impromptu jam session featuring bluegrass music and square dancing. Bring a lawn chair and find a spot on the grass where you can enjoy the music and savor some smoky North Carolina barbecue

DAY FOUR

north carolina mountain getaway

© Photo by Explore Asheville

Whitewater Thrills

Asheville has been called one of “America’s Top 10 Best River Towns” by Fodor’s Travel. With four rivers for rafting, there are plenty of paddling venues with levels that range from easy to extreme. After agreeing on a moderate class-three ride, we headed out with the boys. However, because we were traveling with kids, there are a few things we needed to keep in mind. Here are some of the tips I gathered for North Carolina rafting with children:

  • Remember a change of clothes and dry shoes to wear afterward.
  • Bring water sandals or tennis shoes to wear during the float.
  • Slather yourself in sunscreen and wear a hat since the sun reflects off the water.
  • When rafting with kids, ask for a guide in your boat since some companies only staff every second or third boat.
  • Reservations are necessary, especially on weekends.

If you’re looking for something a bit calmer, tubing excursions can be just as fun.
Ask if your rafting company offers other activities and pursuits like zip lining, fishing or swimming. That way you can enjoy twice the fun in a single outing.

DAY FIVE

north carolina mountain getaway

© Photo by Explore Asheville

“Fall” in Love With North Carolina

Our final day in the high country was spent searching for hidden waterfalls and old-fashioned swimming holes in and around the Pisgah National Forest. We slid on the natural slide at Bust Your Butt Falls and waded into the frigid waters below Looking Glass Falls before we capped off the adventure with a family toboggan run down the 60-foot slip into Sliding Rock. While it was most certainly the highlight of our trip, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Map your route beforehand since most falls and swimming pools are not marked.
  • Be especially careful climbing on the rocks to avoid being swept into the falls and keep small children away from rushing water.
  • Never dive headfirst. It’s hard to see the rocks and limbs that lie beneath the surface.
  • Most falls and pools require a short hike to reach them so wear proper shoes.
  • Bring along drinking water and snacks.

A getaway to the North Carolina Mountains is easy to do with just a rental car, a map program and some old-school car games to occupy the kids. After our five-day vacation, we headed to drop off the car at the Charlotte Airport Advantage Rent A Car just a couple of hours away from Asheville.

During our time in the high country, we skipped rocks across streams, sailed through the air on a rope swing, licked mint chocolate chip ice cream cones that melted down our hands and walked across a gorge on a bridge that swayed with the wind. Then, just as quickly as the fog had lifted from the mountains, our vacation was over. With our bags packed and the boys all tuckered out, we headed for home — grateful for the experience and our time in the “land of blue smoke.”

north carolina mountain getaway

Drive Times:
Charlotte to Boone: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Boone to Blowing Rock: 20 minutes
Blowing Rock to Asheville: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Asheville to Charlotte: 2 hours

Article written by: Christine Van Dyk

Better Business Bites

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling for Work

When my company switched insurance plans, I was reminded how overdue I was for my annual physical. Clothed in nothing more than a paper-towel wrap and my own shame, I stepped onto the scale for my yearly dose of reality. As the numbers crept higher and higher, I was confronted with the consequences of a diet that had consisted mostly of airport burgers and hotel bar food. Leaving the doctor’s office that day with my script for cholesterol medication and the admonition to exercise and eat healthier, I had to face the ugly truth: life on the road had taken its toll.

Determined to get back to my “fighting weight,” I made a plan I hoped would work with my hectic travel schedule. By taking a few minutes to plan my days, I can now make better choices that not only keep my weight down but also give me the energy to power through my crazy life. Here’s what I do to eat healthy while traveling for work:

Snack Smart:You know it’s true – the longer you sit listening to that speaker drone on and on, the better the doughnuts start to look. Instead of diving into the pastry platter, I’ve determined to chose fresh fruit or a protein-rich snack I bring from home instead.

Skip the Bread:Since we’ve already established my preference for burgers, here’s how I feed my cravings without breaking the caloric bank: lettuce wraps. I just order my favorite burger, minus the cheese, and have it wrapped in lettuce instead of the bun. Also, ask if the restaurant offers a choice of fruit or salad in place of fries.

Drink Well: Chose water, coffee and tea during meetings and flights instead of soda. You’ll save hundreds of calories by skipping the high-sugar drinks and you’ll also avoid becoming dehydrated.

Take Advantage of Airline Lounges:As a priority member and frequent flyer, you probably have access to an airline lounge. Instead of filling up on pretzels, pop into the club pre-flight to snack on the crudité platter.

Don’t Skip Meals:You might think that avoiding meals would help you save calories but in the long run, the tactic always backfires. Instead, chose lighter, more frequent meals starting with a breakfast that is chock full of protein.

Healthy Airline Meals: While the thought may seem like an oxymoron, you can, in fact, eat healthy while flying. One of the things those endless miles get you is a seat in first class and a choice of meals. Just ask the flight attendant for the heart-healthy options.

Become a Food Stalker:Some guys can resist temptation wherever they find themselves. That’s not me. Instead of succumbing to the momentary allure of Buffalo wings, I go online to check out the menu before going to dinner and make my decisions ahead of time. This also helps me make suggestions to clients about where to go and provides me more control of my diet.

I have also found that by opting for a rental car, I have more choices in regard to where my next meal is coming from. With a car from Advantage Rent a Car, I can easily drive across town to explore the latest farm-to-table restaurant that everyone is talking about and skip the greasy mozzarella sticks at the hotel bar.