Fun Features for Family-Friendly Smoky Mountain Vacation Rentals

The Smoky Mountains are located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, making this scenic destination a terrific place for families from across the southeast to visit. Whether your family is after outdoor adventure or some quiet time in a cozy cabin, there are some features to look for that will make the trip more comfortable for everyone, from kids to parents. Most Smoky Mountain Cabins have at least a few amenities to make adults happy, but when you’ve got kids in tow, looking out for these particular features may help make the trip a success.

Bunk Beds

There’s something about bunk beds that gets kids all excited, and the matter of who gets top or bottom bunk is a superb way for siblings to collaborate and compromise. Although kids love them, vacation rentals often feature this furniture style more as a matter of convenience than anything else. Bunk beds are a good sign that the vacation home is set up to make the most out of the space it has available, and it also signals that the homeowners have kids in mind at least to some degree. That may mean that other kid-friendly amenities like board games or picture books may also be available in the rental. There’s no guarantee that this will be the case but, at the very least, a rental cabin with bunk beds will provide enough space for kids to have their beds. Sometimes, privacy is the key to success for a family vacation.

Fireplace or Fire Pit

Although summers around the Smokies can get hot, especially if you’re staying at a lower elevation, evenings are generally cool in the mountains year round. Winters are downright chilly, with snowfall being a frequent occurrence. This means that evenings offer the ideal opportunity for family togetherness around a fire, with the bonus of s’mores and other campfire foods for kids. Whether an indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, this is one amenity that can make the vacation more exciting for kids.

Parents should be sure to check whether the rental property provides firewood, and it’s also a good idea to check and see if there are any safety notes to follow before building a fire. This is a terrific opportunity to teach younger kids about fire safety and explain the responsibility they share in helping to prevent wildfires in wilderness areas. For older kids, a fireplace or fire pit can be a fun chance to show off fire building skills learned in scout groups or on family camping trips.

Outdoor Activity Area

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the major attraction in the area, and the park does offer plenty of activity to keep families with kids of all ages busy and engaged. Younger children can become junior rangers through the park’s official program, and older kids can cultivate their love for the outdoors with hiking, fishing or swimming. There will likely be some time, however, when your family finds themselves hanging out around the cabin. When the weather is nice, it may be a good idea to get the kids outside and playing. Cabins that offer outdoor amenities like a horseshoe pit, hammock or swing set may be ideal in these cases.

Hot Tub

While they aren’t exactly as kid-friendly as swimming pools, hot tubs can still be a fun resource for families in Smoky Mountains vacation rentals. This is especially true in the winter months when the experience of being in bubbling warm water surrounded by snow is a unique and memorable experience for kids who generally live in warmer climes in the southeast.

One important thing to keep in mind is that hot tubs aren’t universally kid-friendly. Infants and toddlers may overheat in a hot tub and, for safety reasons, it’s generally best to only allow children who are tall enough to stand up with their head above water in the hot tub. So, if your family includes only very young children, this is probably an amenity that’s best to skip unless adults plan on using it while someone else watches the kids.

Great Views

The Smoky Mountains are beautiful year-round, but if you’re traveling in fall, you may want to make sure to get a cabin that offers views of the beautiful seasonal foliage on the rolling hills. Cabins that feature particularly beautiful views will likely feature prominent photos of the view and a description of this as a major attraction in the rental listing, so be on the lookout for this feature if your kids love photography or otherwise are enamored with the beauty of the natural world.

Cabins with nice views generally offer a great view of the night sky as well. Kids who’ve spent most of their lives in cities and suburbs with a fair amount of light pollution will likely get their socks knocked off by how many stars are in the night sky at your Smoky Mountain cabin. This is especially true if you choose a cabin that’s at a higher elevation and off the beaten track of bigger cities like Gatlinburg. You may even want to schedule your trip to coincide with meteor showers, supermoons and other astronomical occurrences. A pair of binoculars or a telescope can further enhance the kids’ viewing experience and make the trip extra memorable.

Helpful Tips for Planning a Trip to Yosemite National Park

Planning a trip to Yosemite National Park? The park is about 1,200 square miles in size, so there’s plenty of exploring to do. Yosemite cabins provide lodging with the comforts of home while you’re on vacation.

  1. Start Planning Early – Yosemite is a popular tourist destination and with good reason. The park offers wilderness, outdoor adventures and a wide open natural wonderland. Start planning your trip early to ensure you find the ideal lodging arrangements and secure any necessary permits. Permits are required to hike and backpack many areas and can be purchased on site. Half Dome hike permits need to be purchased at least a week ahead of time. 


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  2. Be Aware of the Weather – Spring months at Yosemite are cool and comfortable, making this season a perfect time to hike, camp and check out the Yosemite West rentals. Summer brings tons of tourists to the park and makes getting a Yosemite cabin rental a little harder. Stick to the early fall if the spring and summer aren’t convenient for your family trip. Check the weather a day or two prior to arriving at the park because it changes quickly and can even become dangerous. Some Yosemite cabin rentals close during certain portions of the year to skip that winter weather.


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  3. When To Go – Vacationing in Yosemite in the winter allows you to experience winter activities like skiing and ice skating. Note that Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road close due to snow conditions. The waterfalls freeze but that can make for an interesting photo op. Spring, summer and fall are suited to outdoor activities, so bring your hiking boots. Snow remnants may still be around in early spring.



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  4. Choosing the Type of Cabin – Cabin choices include log cabins, ranch-style homes, quaint cottages and apartments. Figure out the size you need with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, plus living areas. Do you prefer a rustic feel or a more luxurious cabin? A little research can go a long way in securing the ideal vacation home.



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  5. Cabin Locations – The expansive park offers many locations for cabin rentals. Consider staying in Yosemite Valley with picturesque rock formations and vista views. Tuolumne Meadows is a higher elevation (at 8,600 feet) and has a river that runs right through the middle.



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  6. Amenities – Cabins may include linen and towel service or you may have to order the service. Some allow pets but may have a pet-cleaning fee. Gas or charcoal grills are available at some cabins, but you may need to provide your own charcoal or propane tanks.



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  7. Outfitting the Cabin – A couple of grocery stores are in the area, so stock up on food and beverages to have at the cabin. Don’t forget paper products like toilet paper, tissues and paper towels. You’ll want extra water as your body adjusts to the higher elevation. Several restaurants are within a quick drive, so dining out is always an option.


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  8. Bear Proofing – There is abundant wildlife in the area, including bears that forage for food. The park has bear-proof containers to rent for storing food items and locking up trash containers. Follow the rules and regulations for safety.



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  9. Get Help from Friends – Picking the perfect Yosemite cabin rental is a breeze when you have a little help from your friends. Talk to relatives or friends who’ve already spent some time in the park, and get ideas about which type of lodging they prefer. If you’re not a fan of “roughing it,” you might pick out a hotel or even a Yosemite house rental for part or all of your vacation.


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  10. Venture Out on Foot – If you’re staying within the park, simply walk out the front door to start your day. Get lost in the grandeur of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Hike the trails. Observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Listen to the sounds of nature and take lots of photos. Trek back to the cabin and relax after a day in the fresh, mountain air.



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  11. Day Tripping to San Francisco – San Francisco is a little over three hours away depending on where you are staying. Start out early and you can make a day of sightseeing. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Alcatraz, stroll through Haight-Ashbury and hang out in Fisherman’s Wharf. Head back home late afternoon to recharge your internal batteries at the cabin.


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  12. Things to Do – Pack as much in as you can. Go to the Yosemite Falls, pan for gold and visit the Mariposa Museum. See the sequoias in Mariposa Grove and drive the scenic Tioga Road. When it’s time to leave, you’ll carry the memories with you.

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Mountain Cabins Near Denver: Finding the Best Rental

For a weekend getaway or longer vacation surrounded by natural scenery and a host of outdoor activities, opt for staying in cabin rentals near Denver, Colorado. Near Denver, things to do in the mountainous areas range from skiing and snowboarding to hiking, watching outdoor concerts, seeing waterfalls and soaking in hot mineral springs.

Breckenridge

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For a historic touch to your vacation, visit the gold mining town of Breckenridge. Take a tour of what was previously one of its largest locations for gold mining and wander along Main Street, which is filled with Victorian buildings that are now used as restaurants, galleries and shops. Take part in various alpine activities, including skiing, dog sledding and a tour on a snowmobile. Quench your thirst at the world’s highest distillery, and enjoy a tour, tasting session or meal in the restaurant while you’re there.

Evergreen

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Evergreen offers you forests, alpine meadows and wildflowers as a peaceful vacation location away from the hustle and bustle of city life in Denver, Colorado. Cabin rentals in or near Bear Creek are a good choice to be near numerous biking and hiking trails as well as its local winery. Enjoy a picnic or ice skating at Evergreen Lake, depending on the season. See the cascading Maxwell Falls and admire the views from Mount Evans. Wander around the shops, museums and galleries in downtown Evergreen before enjoying a fine dining experience in one of the many restaurants.

Idaho Springs

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Idaho Springs was where Colorado’s first discovery of gold occurred so it’s apt to take a tour of a working gold mine and what was once a working mill. You can even try gold panning while you’re there. Take a drive up North America’s highest paved road to reach the peak of Mount Evans and spot the mountain goats and sheep along the way. A popular place to relax is in the healing mineral waters of the Indian Hot Springs as well as the geothermal cave baths nearby.

Estes Park

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For those who love hiking, spotting wildlife and being surrounded by natural scenery, Rocky Mountain National Park has it all. A cabin rental in its gateway, Estes Park, is the ideal place to stay. The resort town of Estes Park has plenty of shops and restaurants to offer you after a day of hiking the winding trails or boating on one of the lakes. Take the aerial tramway to Prospect Mountain’s summit for a view of the scenery below or have a frightfully good time during a ghost tour at the historic Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining.”

Colorado Springs

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At the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs is home to the Cheyenne Canyon, where you can go on a guided walking tour to see its waterfalls and go birdwatching. Take a train to the summit of Pikes Peak, or ride in a paddleboat at nearby Crystal Creek Reservoir. History lovers shouldn’t miss the National Museum of WWII Aviation, the Dragon Man’s Military Museum and the May Natural History Museum. For kids, a trip to the Space Foundation Discovery Center is a must, while animal lovers can interact with wolves at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center not far away.

Four Incredible U.S. National Parks You Need to Explore

If you’re in search of inspiration, adventure, or simply want a break from modern day society, the best thing you can do for yourself is escape to one of America’s 58 national parks. On August 25th in the year 1916, the U.S. National Park Service was brought to life, in efforts to preserve the majestic regions of our country. Fast forward 100 years later, these parks still remain as beautiful as ever.

No matter who you are and what you do, it’s important to get outside, appreciate our gorgeous planet, and make a conscious effort to take care of it, so people all over the world can experience its glory for generations to come. You’ll be pleased to find tremendous landscapes that will fill you with awe around every single corner — more than any city skyline ever could.

In the words of John Muir from his book The Yosemite, “Everybody needs their beauty, as well as bread — places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal, and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” We honestly couldn’t have said it better ourselves, so to help you obtain this uplifting outdoor experience, we’ve rounded up four of the most phenomenal national parks in the country, based on the opinions of 1,000 fellow Americans. Check out our findings below!

#4: Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park resides in the state of Montana, and if you were to pay a visit, the best places to stay would be West Glacier and Whitefish. In 1850, this 1,000,000 acre land was home to over 100 glaciers, hence its official name.

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Due to gradual climate change, there are roughly 25 glaciers left today, and scientists predict that by the year 2030, that number will likely reduce to zero. Although the park will still maintain its everlasting allure if the glaciers no longer tower its landscapes, this decade-long forecast should inspire you to see it for yourself ASAP and also encourage you to take care of our planet, in hopes that those remaining glaciers will outlive scientists’ predictions.

One staple activity that should definitely fall first on your to-do list is to drive along “Going-To-The-Sun Road,” starting at Lake McDonald and leading you to Lake St. Mary. Along this drive, you’ll pass incredible sites such as Avalanche Creek, Weeping Wall and the Jackson Glacier. If you’d prefer to sit back and relax while admiring the extraordinary sights all around, you can even opt for a Red Bus Tour that will take you to all the hottest spots in the park.

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For an easy hike with panoramic scenery, try the Hidden Lake Overlook route found at the halfway point of Going-To-The-Sun Road. Its trailhead is located right behind the Logan Pass Visitor Center and is less than three miles round-trip. This hike leads you to stunning views of Hidden Lake with Bearhat Mountain right behind it. 

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For our friends who are up for a challenge, one can’t-miss seven mile hike is the Grinnell Glacier Trail, leading to the most frequently visited glacier in the park. Just be sure to brace yourself for the 1,800 feet elevation gain. Other outdoor activities include kayaking, canoeing and paddle boating on Lake McDonald, or camping by Kinta Lake or Bowman Lake.

#3: Rocky Mountains National Park

Another astonishing natural beauty is the Rocky Mountain National Park, about an hour and a half north of Denver International Airport. This park is filled with an abundance of wildlife and nature everywhere you look, and you don’t need to exert very much energy in order to find breathtaking views.

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One of the most remarkable aspects of the Rockies is its reflective visions of mountains against various bodies of water throughout the park, achieving a symmetrical perspective of the world right before your eyes. Fun fact: there are over 150 lakes scattered around the entire park!

If you’re willing to experience a unique hike that takes you to a ghost town, have a go at the Lulu City Trail. This seven mile loop traverses along the Colorado River, and passes through an abandoned city, which was once a thriving mining settlement. There, you’ll find remnants of a saloon, post office, butcher shop, and other buildings that served a civilization for only less than five years. This family-friendly hike attracts many visitors because of its mysteriously fascinating history.

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Your best bet to spend the night would be in either Grand Lake or Estes Park. While Grand Lake is perfect for a lakefront vacation home less than five minutes away from the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park is also a great alternative just outside of the entrance. To add on to your list of activities in the area, Estes Park is filled with breweries, distilleries and wineries that can quench your thirst at the end of your Rocky Mountains adventure. Or, if you’re not over the gorgeous landscapes of the Rockies, you can also ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway to the summit of Prospect Mountain for an incredible viewpoint of Colorado’s treasured terrain.

#2: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Now we make our way to the Great Smoky Mountains, a land once inhabited by people of the indigenous Cherokee tribe. Its official name was derived from Cherokee natives calling their home “Shaconage” (pronounced sha-kon-a-hey) translating to “land of the blue smoke.” Within the Great Smoky Mountains lies several Cherokee myths and legends that have been passed down for generations. The mystery behind them may be enough to draw you to this protected land bordering North Carolina and Tennessee.

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There is entry access into the park from both states, but your ideal location for a cozy cabin rental would be somewhere in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. For any visitors seeking serene sights that require minimal strenuous activity, you’ll love Newfound Gap Road’s 31 mile route. Be sure to pack some snacks for the trip so you can spend the whole morning taking full advantage of this joyride.

Along the first mile of this drive, you can take a small detour to the Clingmans Dome Observation Trail, a short uphill walk leading to the highest point in Tennessee, and overlooking the silhouetted ridges of the Smokies. Our advice is to head to Clingmans Dome first thing in the morning, to avoid the rush of tourists and also score a shotgun parking spot.

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For more scenic drives, venture through the Cades Cove Loop, taking you to various backdrops perfect for photo-ops, hiking trails for a range of skill levels, and campgrounds for those who want an overnight experience. If you were to choose from any of the hiking trails in Cades Cove, our top recommendation is to make your way to Abrams Falls.

abrams-falls-in-cades-cove

The trailhead to Abrams Falls is on stop #10 along the Cades Cove Loop Road. At the 2.5 mile mark, you’ll be greeted by a lively waterfall and a 100 foot wide swimming hole. Visitors are more than welcome to swim in the calm waters of the swimming hole, but keep in mind that the National Park Service warns about the dangers of wandering too close to the base of the falls. The undertow of Abrams Falls is incredibly strong and if you’re not careful, it’s highly possible to drown. It goes without saying that on any outdoor adventure, safety should always be your first priority!

#1: Yosemite National Park

Out of the 58 national parks that we are so fortunate to have throughout the country, Mother Nature has blessed us with one body of work that doesn’t compare to anywhere else on this planet. If you have not witnessed its mind-blowing magnificence yet, allow us to inspire you to take a trip to Yosemite National Park.

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John Muir, known as the Father of National Parks, was so moved by this beautiful Californian preservation that he even wrote a book about it, hence the powerful quote mentioned in the introduction of this article. From the iconic rock formations of Half Dome and El Capitan, to the rare sighting of a firefall at Horsetail Falls, this place is proof that being surrounded by nature can truly refresh your soul.

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When you get to Yosemite, first thing’s first head to Tunnel View at sunrise and take a moment to say hello to Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall on the horizon. This viewpoint is literally something straight out of a postcard and is not to be missed.

Hiking in Yosemite is absolutely mandatory for the full immersive experience. For an easy hike with a breathtaking reward, drive up to Taft Point. This two mile round-trip hike will make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Our adventurous travelers can also put their endurance to the test by hiking Upper Yosemite Falls, which takes you to the mouth of a 2,425 foot waterfall. It’s quite the trek, but a hike up this major attraction will earn you legitimate bragging rights.

Rock climbers from all over the world also aspire to climb the famous El Capitan, and if you’re lucky enough to obtain a permit, you can conquer a hike up Half Dome. Other great sites inside the park are the Panorama Trail, which stops by Vernal and Nevada Falls, and Mirror Lake.

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Aside from reserving a camping permit to stay inside the park, some of the best places to stay are by the lake, less than an hour from Yosemite’s entrance. Two wonderful cities for a lakeside escape are Mammoth Lakes and Bass Lake. Plan your stay for at least a weekend, so you can spend one day hiking one of Yosemite’s picturesque trails, and another to spend an afternoon hanging out by the water. There’s so much to say about this stunning place, but nothing will compare to seeing it in person.

Ready for a national park adventure? Find a beautiful rental near your favorite park with VacationRenter!

 

Plan a Trendy Vacation With a Baltimore Tourist Guide

A vacation in Baltimore can be a delightful combination of entertainment and education thanks to the many historic things to do in Baltimore. Even with its proximity to Washington, D.C., Baltimore is a sizable metropolitan area. Use this helpful Baltimore tourist guide as you plan your vacation itinerary in this eclectic city of neighborhoods.

See the Museums

The museums in Baltimore would be enough to keep you busy for days, so it’s wise to check out at least a few during your stay. The Walters Art Museum offers free admission to explore the many art exhibits on display. The B&O Railroad Museum is a must-see excursion for any train buffs in your group. This museum has one of the largest exhibits of trains and other railroad items on display. The Port Discovery Children’s Museum is an ideal place to take the kids for a day of interactive exploration. The exhibits and programs are always changing at the museum, so it will always be a new and fresh experience.

A Day at the Zoo

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The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore would be an unforgettable way to spend the day. A wide assortment of animals call the Maryland Zoo home, including the white rhinoceros, African elephant and lion, arctic fox, cheetah, brown bear, plains zebra, polar bear and pygmy goat. The zoo hosts a number of event series on a regular basis, such as breakfast with the animals, where the wild things art, penguin feeding and insider guided tours.

Fell’s Point

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Fell’s Point is a waterfront neighborhood that’s full of historic buildings, quaint shops and delicious restaurants. A farmers’ market sets up at Fell’s Point during the summer months, and live musical performances are also common during this season. An adventure cruise on a pirate ship is also something the family might like to try. This interactive cruise teaches guests how to talk, sing and dance like pirates while cruising around the harbor.

Baltimore Monuments

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The Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore earned recognition for the role it played for the United States during the War of 1812. This fort served to protect the Baltimore Harbor from invasion by the British Royal Navy. This battle served as the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics to what became the U.S.’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Baltimore is also home to several other monuments that are worth a visit, including the Washington Monument to honor George Washington, the Pride of Baltimore memorial erected to honor this ship and four crew members who were lost at sea in 1986 and the Francis Scott Key Monument.

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These and other Baltimore tourist attractions virtually guarantee that your vacation will be full of exciting and memorable activities. Pack as much as you can into your visit to Baltimore by staying at a local vacation rental.

7 Amazing Places to Visit in Salt Lake City During Your Vacation

Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, is bordered by the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. The four-season city offers outdoor activities that range from sunny water park fun to snowy tubing thrills. Salt Lake City, founded in 1847, also has an abundance of historical and cultural attractions. Places to visit in Salt Lake City include Hogle Zoo, Eccles Theater, The Wairhouse Trampoline Park, Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, Chase Home Museum, Clark Planetarium, Fort Douglas Military Museum and the following attractions.

  1. Natural History Museum of Utah

    The Natural History Museum of Utah, located on the campus of the University of Utah, contains over one million objects. The museum is housed in the Rio Tinto Center, notable for the standing seam copper that wraps the exterior of the building. The three-story high Canyon, the main lobby area, features a collections wall that displays more than 500 objects. From the Canyon, you can view the Salt Lake Valley or find ways to explore the museum with its mobile guide, Trailhead to Utah.

  2. Great Salt Lake State Park

    Great Salt Lake State Park provides boat slips and interpretive exhibits in addition to panoramic public viewpoints of the Great Salt Lake. Gonzo Boat Rentals and Tours, located adjacent to the Visitors Center, rents stand up paddle boards, peddle boats and kayaks. The venue offers Sunset Dinner Cruises and Jet Boat Tours. Bird watching is a popular pastime in the park since the lake is a stop for millions of migratory birds. A park restaurant offers a breakfast and lunch menu.

  3. Utah Museum of Fine Arts

    The Utah Museum of Fine Arts displays culture and visual arts on a rotating basis. The museum’s permanent collection includes about 20,000 objects. Figurines, oil paintings, woodblocks, tapestries, jewelry, amulets and etchings are some of the objects in the collection. Things like “Power Couples: The Pendant Format in Art” and “Spencer Finch” are temporary exhibitions. Docent-guided tours are offered, and talks and lectures are presented on a regular basis. The Museum Café offers a lunch and beverage menu.

  4. Big Cottonwood Canyon

    Big Cottonwood Canyon is a must see when you visit Salt Lake City, regardless of the season. Steep canyon walls open up to reveal magnificent views. The 15-mile-long ancient canyon, located in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains, is a great place to picnic, rock-climb, hike, bike, camp and fish.

    Two ski resorts are popular destinations in the winter. Hiking to Donut Falls, with its easy, wide trail and little elevation gain, is fun for all family members. Choose from four picture-perfect picnic areas.

  5. Downtown Salt Lake City

    Temple Square, including the castle-like Salt Lake Temple, is the focal point of Downtown Salt Lake City. There are other attractions in the area. The Gateway is an open-air destination for entertainment, dining, shopping and work.

    The Leonardo is a science and art museum, and the Capitol Theatre stages ballet, opera and Broadway shows. Gallivan Center hosts events and festivals all season while the City Library often provides festival space in its landmark building. Shopping and dining spots are numerous.

  6. Red Butte Garden

    Red Butte Garden includes a botanical garden, arboretum and amphitheater. The Daffodil Display, located in the Four Seasons Garden, blooms each spring while the Rose Collection features 150 distinct species of roses. The Ornamental Grass Collection, Conifer Collection and Penstemon Collection are interesting habitats. Three Terrace Gardens, the Medicinal Garden, Fragrance Garden and Herb Garden are popular spots. Red Butte Garden Natural Area features a trail, stream, ponds and a waterfall.

  7. Capitol Hill

    There’s lots to do on Salt Lake City’s Capitol Hill. You can tour the Capitol, which houses the chambers of Utah’s three branches of government, and learn about its history and view the magnificent artwork. The Capitol grounds are a great place to have a picnic or take a hike on the trails. You can also walk through Memory Grove Park, where you’ll find a river, monuments and picnic tables as well as trails. Check out the artifacts at Pioneer Memorial Museum, then head to historic Council Hall.

Your Best Travel Guide to Visit Philadelphia in 1 Day

It’s important to use every precious minute wisely when you plan to visit Philadelphia in one day. This historic Pennsylvania city is virtually bursting at the seams with enthralling museums and exhibits that detail United States history — not to mention waterfront districts and beautiful green spaces that deserve to be explored. Plan your time carefully, choosing the best things to do in Philadelphia on your upcoming day trip.

Tips for Visiting Philadelphia

Of course, you might want to see the most iconic historic landmarks when you’re in Philadelphia. However, make sure your itinerary contains more than just the Liberty Bell or the statue of Rocky Balboa. The good news is that many of the must-see attractions in Philadelphia are free, including both the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

If you want to get a feel for the city, try a double-decker bus tour that includes all of the high points. Many of these tours feature hop-on/hop-off stops where you can get off to explore the city at your leisure. Knowledgeable guides also provide running commentary throughout the bus tours to help you learn as much as possible about Philadelphia. The Philly Phlash is an iconic purple bus running between May and September, and it takes you to the big attractions throughout the city at an affordable price. When you’re not on a bus, prepare to do some walking. Many people consider Philadelphia to be primarily a walking city, and it’s possible to walk from one attraction to another. Wear comfortable shoes that help take you where you want to go.

List of Historical Philadelphia Places to Visit

The Liberty Bell might be at the top of your list of things to see in Philadelphia. If you’re lucky and miss a line, you can probably get in and out of the Liberty Bell Center in about 30 minutes, leaving you plenty of time for other sights. You can explore the exhibits, watch a film and see the cracked bell while you’re there.

Independence Hall is another must-see attraction, and it’s open daily. A ranger leads you on a tour through Independence Hall so that you can see the first floor, including the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. During winter months, some tours venture up to the second floor, too.

Put the Christ Church Burial Grounds on your one-day itinerary too. This cemetery has 1,400 markers, including Benjamin Franklin’s grave. Other notable Americans buried here besides Franklin include Francis Hopkinson, George Ross, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Major William Jackson. The oldest marker in the cemetery belongs to Sarah Knowles, dated 1721. In all, five signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried on the grounds. Guided tours are available most days of the week except major holidays between March and November.

Additional Spots You Won’t Want to Miss

Philadelphia is known for lots of things, including food. You can hardly spend the day in Philadelphia without having a cheesesteak for lunch or dinner, and you’ll find plenty of pubs and restaurants serving their own versions of this iconic meal. Take some time to explore Philadelphia while you’re searching for food to get a feel for the city.

Rittenhouse Square is situated in Center City and covers six acres of green space over 1.5 city blocks. You’ll love the chance to meander through the park, enjoying the extensive gardens, lawns and pathways. Penn’s Landing is another can’t-miss spot in Philadelphia. Situated on the Delaware River Waterfront, Penn’s Landing boasts much to see and do. The Race Street Pier could be the spot where you enjoy a picnic lunch. The pier has two levels, each offering distinctive views. Don’t miss sight of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge while you’re there.

From Penn’s Landing, you can also hop on the RiverLink Ferry for a quick jaunt out onto the Delaware River. If you haven’t gotten enough history yet, stop in at the Independence Seaport Museum to learn more about the city’s maritime history. During the summer, Penn’s Landing is the venue for many festivals, outdoor concerts and annual events. The Blue Cross RiverRink offers roller skating and outdoor entertainment during the summer too. You might even be lucky enough to catch outdoor movie screenings along the shore of the Delaware River. If you’re there in the winter, you can enjoy outdoor ice-skating and fire pits.

With so much to see and do in Philadelphia, one day may not seem like enough once you start planning your itinerary. Get up early and prepare to keep going on into the evening to see everything on your list of attractions. Visiting Philadelphia promises to be so enthralling that you may decide you’ll have to return when you have more time to see and experience this iconic and historic city as it was meant to be seen.

Top 7 Family-Fun Places to Visit in Baltimore

There are some amazing places to visit in Baltimore for your next family vacation. It’s hard to narrow down so many great choices of things to do and see in this diverse city, but here are the seven of the best family-fun places for you to include in your itinerary.

  1. National Aquarium

    Located in the popular Inner Harbor, be astounded when you see more than 20,000 creatures in this incredible Baltimore aquarium. Wander through the Amazon River Forest, find Dolphin Discovery, visit the Living Seashore and hurry through Shark Alley. Take the behind-the-scenes Immersion Tour to learn how the animals are cared for. While your kids watch, take the plunge and become a guest diver.

  2. Maryland Science Center

    Not far away from the National Aquarium, let your imagination run wild at the Maryland Science Center. Interactive exhibits fill three floors covering an incredibly vast range of topics from kinetic energy to outer space.

    Watch your kids be paleontologists as they search for fossils underneath a massive dinosaur fossil and see one of the hourly shows in the planetarium at no extra cost. Ever wanted to test what a bed of nails really feels like? Go on, lie down on one and find out.

  3. Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

    Having survived the bed of nails, close encounters with crocodiles and cheetahs at Maryland Zoo in Baltimore will seem like a piece of cake. Kids squeal with delight when they help groom the goats and feed the giraffes. Ride on a camel, and join in with the scavenger hunt. Check the zoo’s event calendar before you visit to take advantage of special themes, such as Brew at the Zoo throughout the Memorial Day weekend and ZooBOOO! for Halloween.

  4. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

    You don’t need to be a family of history buffs to enjoy Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Start your trip to this historical monument in the visitor center where you can watch the 10-minute orientation video. Take a self-guided tour around the home of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and be mesmerized as you watch military enactments carried out by costumed soldiers. Don’t miss the morning or evening flag change, listen to a talk by a park ranger, enjoy a picnic by the waterfront, and wander along the seawall trail when visiting Baltimore’s national monument and historic shrine.

  5. Oriole Park at Camden Yards

    Baseball fans love watching a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Feel the excitement in the atmosphere at this critically acclaimed stadium, and appreciate the great view of the action from your seat.

    In the courtyard outside the stadium, take a photo of the Babe Ruth statue. As you wander down Eutaw Street to find a great restaurant for your family meal, see if you can spot all of the plaques where balls have landed that were hit out of the park.

  6. Urban Pirates

    Hoist the mainsail aboard the ship called Fearless as you take part in a pirate adventure around the harbor. Dress up as a pirate with menacing tattoos, and search for lost treasure with your pirate crew as you fire water cannons at the approaching enemy. Learn pirate songs and slang on this fun trip.

  7. Historic Ships

    From a pirate ship to real ships, you’ll love exploring the four historic ships in the harbor. Built in 1854, the all-sail USS Constellation is still afloat despite not serving in active duty since the Civil War. During World War II, the submarine USS Torsk made more than 10,000 dives in combat. The warship USCGC Taney is still afloat after serving during the Pearl Harbor attack. Finally, wander around the U.S. lightship Chesapeake, which was used to service lighthouses.

Try the Best BBQ in Austin & 4 Other U.S. Cities This Summer

Now that summer is here, warmer weather means smoked meats and happy eats. And while your local BBQ restaurants might be right around the corner, the best nationwide fare is just a week or weekend trip away. To help you decide where to go, we’ve compiled the top five finger-lickin’ best cities in the U.S. for BBQ. Here are this summer’s top BBQ destinations:

1. Austin, TX

It’s hard to plan a trip to Austin without thinking about BBQ – and in Austin, smoked meats and sultry sauces are synonymous with Franklin Barbeque. Franklin is famous for its juicy BBQ’d meats and a long line known to be packed out the door as early as 6 a.m. But as anyone in line will tell you, it’s worth the wait.

While Franklin may steal the headlines, you can save a few hours by heading to one of Austin’s other iconic barbeque joints like La Barbeque, which serves juicy brisket and house-made chipotle sausage, or LeRoy & Lewis, whose fatty pork belly and honey-mashed sweet potatoes are a must-taste. Once you’ve filled up your plate and chowed down, check out C-Boy’s Heart & Soul for some live blues, soul, and country music or The Continental Club with a history of showcasing some of the top names in music for over 60 years. Then head downtown to South Congress Bridge to watch the sunset and witness the largest urban colony of bats (1.5 million) emerge from under the bridge. For nightlife, wander down to Dirty Sixth for one-of-a-kind bars like Midnight Cowboy and Casino El Camino.

2. St. Louis, MO

Nestled along the Mississippi River, St. Louis is known for its 630-foot Gateway Arch, the start of the early 19th century explorations of Lewis and Clark, blues music, and, of course, it’s hard to beat, destination-worthy take on BBQ. For a taste of modern St. Louis ‘cue, head to A Fine Swine, where Pitmaster David Stidham has been creating a buzz and lining a trophy shelf with awards for years. Their Championship Pulled Pork and Competition Ribs will make your mouth water before you eat.

For a taste of traditional St. Louis, try Pappy’s Smokehouse for simmering, slow-cooked ribs that have become a staple for locals and travelers alike. To view the sights, you can hop on a riverboat to see the world-famous arch from a unique angle or wander through the Missouri Botanical Garden, which has been open for over 150 years. For beers and cocktails, head downtown and check out The Crack Fox for a colorful atmosphere or Tin Roof, coined “Margaritaville meets Cheers” by its general manager.

3. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta’s sizzling BBQ scene has been around from the beginning, pulling together different traditions and techniques to help define what melt-in-your-mouth BBQ really means. It’s hard to go wrong, but for a truly exceptional BBQ experience, order the brisket and the “Redneck Lasagna” (a generous serving of macaroni and cheese topped with a homemade Brunswick stew) from Dave Poe’s BBQ. Over the past few decades, Atlanta’s BBQ has integrated diversity into its cuisine by adding new flavors to old classics. Visit Heirloom Market BBQ to try inspired ‘cue, which brings together the Korean and Texan backgrounds of husband-and-wife owners Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor. For the perfect spicy blend, try their gochujang-rubbed ribs paired with seasonal sides.

After, check out the Georgia Aquarium, home to over 120,000 marine animals, or take a tour in the World of Coca-Cola Museum to see where one of America’s favorite beverages began. If you’re looking for some after-dinner drinks, try the Red Phone Booth for an Atlanta Prohibition experience or the Skylounge for a spectacular view of the downtown skyline.

4. Raleigh, NC

North Carolina’s capital city is an ideal summer getaway, with live music, artisan craft beers, bumping bluegrass festivals, and passionate minds hard at work in and around North Carolina State University, which rounds out North Carolina’s research triangle. Raleigh is colloquially known as the heart of barbecue country, with slow-cooked pulled pork as good smothered in sauce as it is plain out of the oven.

Allen & Son cooks up pork traditionally, over seasoned hickory and oak, and serves it with a generous side of hushpuppies, which are worth the trip alone. Clyde Cooper’s Barbeque has been around since 1938, exclusively cooking up BBQ with wood and slathering it in their homemade sauce. Or track down Daddy Bob’s Barbeque, a food truck on the move that slow-smokes its pork shoulders with hickory, apple, and pecan for 12 hours. To see a different side of the city, visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, which carries over 25 regional exhibits, or try to walk off the food coma with a scenic stroll through the campus of North Carolina State University. For nightlife, try the C. Grace speakeasy or FOUNDATION for the best local spins on classic cocktails and craft brews.

5. New York City, NY

The Big Apple offers so much in the areas of culture and cuisine, and its BBQ is no exception. Beginning in the 90s and hitting its stride over the past two decades, New York City now offers both traditional BBQ classics and innovative takes that push the boundaries of what it means to eat slow-cooked, sauce-covered meat. Virgil’s, which opened in 1994, helped lead the charge and continues to deliver delicious house-smoked classics like Carolina pulled chicken and Texas BBQ beef brisket. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, known for its char-grilled chicken wings, and Mighty Quinn’s, famous for its authentic smoky flavor, both followed Virgil’s and helped earn New York City a place in the national BBQ conversation. For a modern, edgier take on BBQ, try Fette Sau (literally translating to “fat pig” in German), which serves up chili and espresso rubbed meats by the pound, or Ducks Eatery, which offers a whole curry-seasoned goat neck and a fatty brisket sandwich with a mountain of ricotta cheese on top.

After you eat, you can see some scenic views of this iconic city from the Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building, and the One World Observatory. NYC is full of nightlife, but bars like Please Don’t Tell and McSorley’s Old Ale House will give you some street cred and a story to take home with you.

Wherever you decide to go, make sure your trip is an experience you won’t forget. VacationRenter can help you book a stay and plan the best trip possible.

Top Tips to Find Inexpensive Yet Exciting Portland Vacation Rentals

No vacation in the Pacific Northwest should omit Portland from the itinerary. This Oregon port city is bustling with excitement and culture, making it an ideal destination for those looking to get out and explore. If your vacation dollar needs to stretch, you’re in luck. Many Portland vacation rentals are accompanied with discounts and specials, so it’s possible to tour within your budget.

Portland’s Seasons and Peak Tourist Times

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Spring showers will definitely be around, but it’s possible to dodge the raindrops and enjoy the spring blossoms that seem to be everywhere. Temperatures will range from the 40s in early spring up to the 60s by the end of spring. Summer is the peak tourist season in Portland, largely due to the comfortable temperatures and dry weather. Plenty of festivals are scheduled every year, giving vacationers plenty to do. As temperatures drop in the autumn, so do the tourist numbers. Although the weather can get iffy, visitors can still stay busy in museums and shops during the fall. Winter is cold in Portland — no doubt about it. Visiting during the holiday season promises much to do with festivals and celebrations. Lodging rates tend to match the peak tourist times, so expect to pay top dollar for vacation rentals from late spring through early fall. If you want to grab a deal, visit Portland during the winter.

Ideas for Getting the Best Price on Vacation Rentals

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You can try a number of strategies to save money on vacation rentals in Portland. Aside from visiting in the off-season, you might be able to snag a discount if you book a stay that spans seven or more days during the winter. Perusing websites and social media feeds will often enable you to discover online discount codes, which you can enter if you book online. You might also try waiting to book at the last minute. If your schedule permits, you can often get a decent discount if you book only days or hours before your stay begins.

Don’t Forget Vacation Packages

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Some property management companies offer exciting vacation packages that can help you stretch your vacation budget a little farther. With a house or condo reservation, you’ll receive a package that can include special discounts or even free passes to area attractions. You might get in free to one of the many museums in downtown Portland, or perhaps you’ll have a nice discount at one of the many local restaurants.

Finding the Best Rental Location 

Read on below for a breakdown of Portland by neighborhood. The city is divided into four quadrants, with Burnside Street splitting the north from the south and the river splitting the west from the east.

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#1: The Southwest: Downtown

When choosing Portland vacation rentals, downtown is the best place to be for many tourists; it’s the most centralized location and is close to numerous major attractions. This is handy if you don’t have a car. In this commercial area, shop for international brands at tax-free prices and dine out in the many restaurants or at the food trucks. Downtown is just below Burnside Street, which is home to the city’s legendary bookstore called Powell’s City of Books. You actually need a map to find your way around the world’s largest independent bookstore.

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Alongside the river, wander in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park admiring its fountains and sculptures. A trip to the Portland Saturday Market, located at the top of the park, is a must. This arts and crafts market is an ideal place to find souvenirs and try ethnic foods.

#2: The Northwest: the Pearl District, Nob Hill and St. John’s

The Pearl District is a walkable area in a central location to the north of downtown. Wander around art galleries, shop in boutiques and admire the architecture during the day, including the historic Steel Bridge that crosses the Willamette River. At night, the area comes alive with eateries, brewpubs and wine bars. The Pearl District borders Chinatown and, when you’ve entered through the Chinatown Gate, you’ll find a number of restaurants and grocery stores. A visit to the tranquil Portland Classical Chinese Garden is a must.

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Trendy Nob Hill has the ambience of a small village and is filled with boutique shops, wine bars and cafés. Known as the “alphabet district,” its tree-lined streets showcase Victorian buildings from the 19th century. The charming neighborhood of St. John’s is a quieter place to stay. When looking for vacation rentals in Portland, Oregon, Nob Hill is only recommended if you have a car, as the area is further afield than the other neighborhoods. Visit the historical Cathedral Park while you’re there.

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#3: The Southeast: Central Eastside, Hawthorne and Division

The coffee culture of Portland is definitely set in Central Eastside. Enjoy your coffee in waterfront establishments or those that feature artistic surroundings. The numerous bars and restaurants make Central Eastside a lively place to go at night. Vintage is the theme in Hawthorne, with its vintage theaters and shops. This laid-back area has inexpensive eateries, music stores and boutiques. Search through the antiques at Sellwood Antiques Mall.

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Foodies will love Division, which is filled with food cart pods and some of the most popular restaurants in Portland. Quench your thirst in the coffee and tea shops or with beer at some of the popular bars.

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#4: The Northeast: Alberta Arts District and Mississippi Avenue

Culture vultures can get their fix in Alberta Arts District. It’s filled with galleries, boutiques, bars and eateries. If part of your vacation falls on the last Thursday of the month, don’t miss the free art walk that’s aptly named Last Thursday and covers 15 blocks.

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The hip neighborhood of Mississippi Avenue is unconventional compared with Portland’s other neighborhoods. It has quirky shops, such as the ethical taxidermy shop called Paxton Gate and an emporium for Portland’s alternative media called Reading Frenzy. Listen to live music at Mississippi Studios, which you’ll find in a renovated church.

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Your Portland vacation will be that much more enjoyable when you can do it while saving money. You might even be surprised at how much you can see and do without excessive spending.