Most of us are ready for fresh air and a change of scenery after more than a year of staying mostly indoors. If you’re looking at outdoor travel spots for a family vacation (or two) this year, these destinations have something for everyone, whether you want open-air entertainment or the best hiking trails. Consider these five trip ideas that will get you next to nature.
Encompassing both Connecticut and Massachusetts, the Berkshires are a haven for outdoor activities for music, art and hiking. If you’re visiting in the summer, Tanglewood is an open-air music venue that hosts rock, pop and jazz music concerts, with views of the surrounding mountains. The Williamstown Theater Festival offers plays and musicals performed at various outdoor locations, and MASS MoCA has outdoor art exhibits and musical performances across a range of disciplines. And through October 17, 2021, The Clark Art Institute is hosting its outdoor exhibition, Ground/work, which is free to the public.
If you prefer hiking, Mount Greylock State Reservation has a number of trails ranging in difficulty. Other options include the Indian Monument Trail, a gentle 1.5 mile path with lovely views, and Hickey Trail which is shorter but not for the faint of heart. There’s also Basin Pond, which is a 2.5 mile-loop that takes about two hours and features wetlands and a wildlife-viewing deck.
If you have kids who are age seven or older, consider spending the afternoon at Ramblewild aerial obstacle course. (There are hiking trails on the premise for those who are not fond of heights). Cap off the day with a meal at local favorite Cantina 229.
You’ll find biking, beaches and boating of every kind in Burlington, which is situated on the eastern shores of Lake Champlain. The Burlington Greenway boasts eight miles of biking paths, most of which are flat. For affordable bike rentals, the staff at Local Motion Trailside Center can direct you to the Island Line Trail.
Waterfront Park is close to downtown and is an ideal place to have a picnic, enjoy the lake, or rent a kayak or canoe. At North Beach Park you’ll find standup paddleboard rentals and a snack bar, and for families with small children, Oakledge Park offers a playground, walking trails, picnic tables and bathrooms.
Another way to enjoy the lake is aboard a Whistling Man Schooner Co. tour, where you can select from cruise options and bring your own food and drinks. And of course, no visit to Burlington is complete without a stop at Ben & Jerry’s.
GULF SHORES, ALABAMA
Running along the coast of Alabama, Gulf Shores is home to sea turtles, migratory birds and miles of white sandy beaches. With plenty of options for biking, hiking, fishing, birding, kayaking and swimming, the city is perfect for active nature lovers who have a particular fondness for animals.
Beaches, wetlands and maritime forests converge at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. There are four easy walking trails, where visitors may spot sea turtles, red fox, armadillos and over 360 species of birds. Stop by the visitors’ center to see if you can hook up with a ranger-led walk or dune tour. You can also see animals up close at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.
For kayaking, Back Bay Blueway Waterway has four routes to choose from — the Gulf State Park trail offers pretty views of Lake Shelby and Middle Lake. You might also consider a guided pier walk. After a long day of exploring, pop into Picnic Beach for wings, followed by dessert at Hope’s Cheesecake.
Located along the Missouri River, Omaha is a treasure trove for history buffs who also enjoy a metropolitan backdrop. To acclimate yourself with the city, start with a one-hour Old Market District History Tour. For more exploring, cross the Missouri River via the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and pay a visit to the Malcolm X House Site, where Malcom X lived with his family.
For art buffs, the Joslyn Art Museum has both an outdoor sculpture garden and indoor gallery. Take a stroll through Lauritzen Gardens before stopping at the Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness Park — a large-scale installation of 67 bronze and stainless-steel sculptures.
The Chalco Hills Recreation Area along Wehrspann Lake offers hiking, biking, and fishing. Round out your visit with brunch at Beacon Hills.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Despite being a popular summer destination in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, the number of tourists at Glacier National Park is surprisingly low. One highlight in the 1,500-square mile park is Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects the park from east to west. To minimize the number of visitors, the Park is instituting an online reservation system in effect until Sept 6, 2021, with tickets starting at $2. Along this road is Logan Pass, which at 6,646 feet is the highest reachable point by car in the park. Here you’ll find trailheads to Hidden Lake Trail (a moderate 5.3-mile trek) and Highline Trail (a more difficult 14.9 miles), as well as easier routes. If you prefer a more relaxing method, take a tour with Glacier Park Boat Company.
While there are camping sites just outside the park’s entrance, one memorable lodging option inside the park is Granite Park Chalet, which can only be accessed by trail.