National Park

Hottest Summer Destinations for 2014

Posted April 23, 2014 by SmarterTravel.com

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Turn up the heat on your vacation plans this summer in a destination that beckons with new and standout reasons to visit. Even the chilliest spots on this list will be hot this summer with new traveler-friendly events, openings, and airline service. Whether you're looking for some natural splendor, a 24-hour urban scene, or a simple patch of white-sand bliss, you'll be able to find it in these dazzling destinations.

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Brazil

Brazil is set to be the center of the sports universe this summer as host of the FIFA World Cup, which will welcome teams from 32 countries around the world. With more than 2.5 million tickets already in circulation for matches in cities around the country, the world will be cheering in Brazil between June 12 and July 13.

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Jamaica

Domestic low-cost giant Southwest has gotten its passport and is heading to the beach. This summer, it will launch its first international flights, with service to Jamaica from Atlanta, Baltimore, and Orlando starting in July. JetBlue is also expanding its Jamaica service just in time for summer, with new flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Montego Bay.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

Heat rises, and this summer, you can survey already-smoking-hot Las Vegas from on high in the city's latest supersized novelty, the High Roller Ferris wheel. Staking a claim as the world's tallest, the 550-foot-tall observation wheel supports 28 individual pods that can each hold up to 40 people. The views are most spectacular at night, when the Strip sparkles below. And, this being Vegas, you can buy your drinks at the bottom and bring them with you on your journey to the sky and back.

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Belgium

Last December, we named Belgium a destination to watch in 2014. And this August, it will become clear why, as the country—and the world—marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. More than 2 million travelers are expected to pay tribute at Belgium's many battle sites. The new Bastogne War Museum just opened last month and will host a variety of centennial events in the coming years.

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

In these ancient mountains that teem with constant springs of new life, a hundred years seems like both a blip and an eternity. This year, Rocky Mountain National Park turns 100 years old, and visitors can celebrate nature and conservation at its finest by taking part in picnics, night hikes, art exhibits, and more. Centennial events kick off in early September and stretch into 2015, so even if you miss the opening festivities, you'll still have plenty of time to join the celebration.

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Umea, Sweden

Umea brings a new twist to its Capital of Culture designation this summer with hundreds of cultural events and nearly 24-hour daylight around the summer solstice. Highlights of the summer season include U x U, a crowd-funded music festival, as well as an outdoor staging of Strauss' opera Elektra.

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Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is looking to the future by celebrating the past this summer. Its modern reimagining of the classic streetcar will debut in late spring or early summer, with 12 stops connecting Centennial Olympic Park, downtown Atlanta, Georgia State University, and the historic Sweet Auburn District. And in May, downtown Atlanta's new National Center for Civil and Human Rights museum will welcome the public for the first time.

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Aruba

Along with Jamaica, Aruba will be one of Southwest's first international destinations. In July, the domestic-until-now low-cost carrier will kick off service between Aruba and Atlanta, Baltimore, and Orlando. And the timing is perfect—since Aruba sits outside the traditional "hurricane belt," Caribbean summer travel to this island is unlikely to be hampered by challenging weather.

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Glasgow, Scotland

Brazil isn't the only country that's got game this summer. Glasgow is gearing up to host the XX Commonwealth Games, an event that draws participants and spectators from a number of countries around the world. Featuring 17 events, including aquatics, gymnastics, triathlon, and table tennis, the XX Commonwealth Games kicks off on July 23 and runs through August 3.

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Panama

A man, a plan, a canal: Panama! The engineering marvel that inspired the palindrome turns 100 on August 15, and Panama is gearing up to celebrate. Throughout the year, a number of cruise lines are offering special canal crossings or partial crossings, and day tours by providers such as Panama Canal Tours will be offered all summer. The Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, which is visible from the entrance to the canal, will also likely open this summer. And the expansion project continues: By 2015, larger ships may be able to access the canal.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Hottest Summer Destinations for 2014. 

 Follow Christine Sarkis on Google+ or email her at at [email protected].

13 Best National Parks to See in the Fall

Posted October 29, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

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U.S. national parks are beautiful to begin with. But when the deciduous trees that blanket so many national parks become aglow with radiant fall foliage, the spectacle is astounding. You might need to pack a sweater, but you can snap gorgeous photos, partake in special activities, and, of course, enjoy the colors of autumn when you plan a trip this season.

Although fall means fewer crowds (and perhaps the chance to more easily spot wildlife) in popular parks, the weather can be unpredictable, and some facilities even close up after the summer season. Be sure to contact your park for details on what's open and what's not before planning your trip.

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Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia might be the first place that comes to mind when you think of fall colors at national parks—the destination attracts thousands of leaf peepers in autumn, so be prepared for some crowds. But it's totally worth it—traverse the park's more than 125 miles of hiking trails to discover amazing views, take a ranger-led bird-watching walk among the changing leaves, or rent a kayak and take in the scenery from the water.

When to Go: Peak fall colors generally pop up around mid-October. Check the region's leaf status on MaineFoliage.com.

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Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Texas

You might be surprised to learn that the Texas Hill Country is a prime place for leaf peeping down south. Head to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, where you can get a side of American history with your foliage. The park is home to the LBJ Ranch (also known as the Texas White House), which is surrounded by wild brush country. Here, sumacs, oaks, and haw hollies become awash with intense fall hues during autumn.

When to Go: You'll likely find the best foliage from mid-October through November.

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Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

This park's famed cave system—more than 400 square miles of explored underground caverns that make up the world's longest—is the reason most visitors make the trip. But don't overlook the scenery aboveground. Forests of oaks, hickories, gum trees, and dogwoods on rolling Kentucky hills become a mosaic of fall colors this time of year.

When to Go: Check KentuckyTourism.com for updates.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

We love the sweeping views of water and the eyeful of beautiful fall colors that Sleeping Bear's sky-high dunes afford during this time of year. Visitors can get even better views from the air: Board a helicopter or hot-air balloon and view fall foliage on an aerial tour.

When to Go: You'll find peak colors in the region from mid-September through early October. Check Michigan.org's Fall Color Map to see the status of local foliage.

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Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania

Just a short drive from Philadelphia, Valley Forge is the site where General Washington and his Continental Army camped during the Revolutionary War. Here, visitors can learn about life in the 18th century as well as explore an expanse of lush parkland, including more than 3,000 acres of grassland, wetland, and deciduous forest, which become awash with rich colors in autumn.

When to Go: Weekly foliage reports are posted on Pennsylvania's official tourism website.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

There are about 100 native tree species in America's most-visited national park, most of which turn kaleidoscopic come fall. Changing leaves are complemented by autumn wildflowers: delicate asters and other varieties furnish pops of color.

When to Go: Get weekly reports on the state of local foliage on the National Park Service website.

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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Since Shenandoah's more than 300 square miles of parkland are so heavily forested, it's a gorgeous place to be when the seasons change. Look for oak and chestnut trees, which are abundant in the park, as well as splashes of autumn pigment from sassafras, sumac, and poison ivy. (Yes, poison ivy leaves change color in the fall. Just don't get too close.)

When to Go: Take a peek at the park's Mountain View Webcam for a real-time look at the changing leaves. Expect the best colors in mid-October in more elevated parts of the park and late October to early November in more low-lying areas.

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Glacier National Park, Montana

Fall foliage in this enormous, wild expanse of alpine forests and Rocky Mountains in Montana is quite the sight. But fall is a wonderful time to visit if you want to see wildlife, too. The National Park Service website says that there are fewer people in the park and more animals—including grizzlies, wolves, and eagles—out and about during autumn.

When to Go: Peak fall colors generally appear at the end of September and beginning of October.

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Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park's jaw-dropping sky-high cliffs provide the perfect points for seeing miles of mesas and forested land decked out in reds, oranges, and golds. Climb to the top of Zion's massive sandstone cliffs to get sweeping bird's-eye views of the autumn scenery.

When to Go: Zion shows its best colors in late October.

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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia

Peep the leaves in well-tread Harpers Ferry, where 70 percent of the land is covered with forest. Fun fall activities sweeten the deal: Visitors can explore living-history museums on Shenandoah Street or make traditional 19th-century tin housewares using period tools.

When to Go: Follow Harpers Ferry on Facebook for the latest foliage updates. According to the page, the leaves are already beginning to change.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Close to Cleveland and hugging the winding Cuyahoga River, this national park is a Midwestern sanctuary for fall foliage seekers. There's so much to do: Hike along more than 125 miles of trails, take part in an EarthCaching adventure, or go bird-watching (look out for the bald eagles). One of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the fall colors is to hop onboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which rolls through the park past lush woods, meadows, the Cuyahoga River, and historical small towns.

When to Go: The best colors flourish in mid-October. Check the Fall Color Report for real-time updates.

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Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Wyoming

These parks are so close that they almost touch, and they offer amazing autumn colors against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, waterfalls, forests, and lakes that reflect the changing leaves. Hikes, horseback rides, and ranger-led treks are fabulous ways to see the foliage. Or get a bird's-eye view with a hot-air balloon ride or a trip on the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram.

When to Go: Head to Wyoming in September and early October to see the foliage. Read more on the Wyoming Office of Tourism website.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 13 Best National Parks to See in the Fall. 

 Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at at [email protected].

 


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