Swimming Holes To Visit in the American South

Are you tired of spending the summer months soaking in salty oceans or over-chlorinated pools? If so, you may want to consider this list of the best swimming holes to be found in the south from Southern Living Magazine.

Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy some cooling water in the summer months that doesn’t involve sand, beach parking, or pool chemicals. If that sounds ideal to you, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to travel too far to enjoy it, because there is an easy-to-reach beauty in your own backyard that you should check out: a natural swimming hole. After a day of hiking, biking, and climbing at nearby state parks like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Roan Mountain State Park, you’ll find these places are more than just great for outdoor recreation – they’re also located close to a refreshingly beautiful swimming hole in their own right.

Mississippi’s Black Creek in DeSoto National Forest

A great way to get out of the Mississippi summer heat and cool off is by visiting the swimming hole in DeSoto National Forest known as Black Creek. The Black Creek is a National Scenic River, meaning that this river is so remarkable in terms of scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, or historic value that the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has designated it and given it our nation’s strongest form of protection for free-flowing rivers and streams. In addition to this designation, the Black Creek also features multiple sandbars along its expanse that create several natural swimming holes that are perfect for cooling off and relaxing after a day hiking the Black Creek Wilderness found within the DeSoto National Forest.

Tennessee’s North Chick Blue Hole

The North Chick Blue Hole is a beautiful, secluded collection of swimming holes located in the woods along Walden’s Ridge and the Cumberland Plateau near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The river gorge found here has several large boulders along the waters, disrupting the flow and thus creating several swimming holes all along the creek. Better yet, these boulders serve as excellent ledges that are perfect to jump off of into the waters below, making this the perfect spot for any outdoor adventurer seeking to keep cool this summer.

Texas’s Barton Springs Pool

One of the outstanding crown jewels of Austin, Texas is the Barton Springs Pool, a 3-acre, water-filled area nestled within the beautiful Zilker Park. This mineral-fed swimming hole is within the channel of Barton Creek and utilizes water from Main Barton Spring, the fourth largest spring in Texas. Open year-round and featuring gorgeous limestone formations that reflect its natural spring waters, this natural swimming hole has been a favorite of locals and visitors alike since its opening  in 1837 shortly after the city of Austin was incorporated. The Barton Springs Pool is incredibly popular due to it being open to the public for year-round swimming and consistently hovering between 68 °F and 74 °F throughout the entire year.

North Carolina’s Cashiers Sliding Rock

If you’re looking for a fun and quirky way to spend a day or weekend in the North Carolina mountains, you have to visit Cashiers Sliding Rock. Located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of Jackson County, not far from Highlands,Cashiers Sliding Rock is just one of many spectacular natural attractions that draw millions of visitors every year. At the bottom of this 10-foot slide you’ll find yourself in a uniquely beautiful setting. The water is crystal clear and cool, and while you’re sliding down you can enjoy the view of hundreds of babbling brooks that feed into the larger pool of water at the bottom.

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Stops to Make When Visiting Cape Cod

For many Americans, Cape Cod is the single-best destination to visit during the summer months, as it is a vibrant treasure-trove of activity and adventure. With this article of the best towns to visit whenever you’re on Cape Cod from Travel + Leisure, you’ll be making the most of your vacation the next time you’re in New England. From whale watching to lighthouse exploring, you’re sure to find a new experience on this unforgettable peninsula that stretches some 500 miles along the coast of Massachusetts and 65 miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

Sandwich, MA

Located along the shore of Cape Cod Bay is the quaint coastal town of Sandwich, Massachusetts, and it’s a perfect destination to visit to get the ideal Cape Cod experience. If you’re looking to add some scenic, picturesque landscapes to your summer beach vacation, then look no further than the quaint and memorable town of Sandwich. Specifically if you want to explore 15 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, be sure to check out and visit the Shawme-Crowell State Forest and its 700-acre expanse of oak trees, rolling hills, mountain vistas, and picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Alternatively, if you can check out the Heritage Museums and Gardens, as it offers a diverse array of unique and exciting exhibits sure to amaze visitors of all ages and interests. One exhibit of the Heritage Museum that is much sought-after is the J.K. Lilly III Automobile Gallery, which features 21 classic American automobiles and teaches visitors about the origin and rise in popularity of the American automobile across the 21st Century. The Heritage Gardens is also where you’ll find over 100 acres of precisely manicured gardens, including the recently expanded North American Hydrangea Test Garden, which showcases some of the newest hydrangea cultivars on the market.

Truro, MA

If you’re looking for a destination in Cape Cod that you could swear you’ve seen captured on a postcard before, then look no farther than the town of Truro. A visit to Truro is advisable for those who prefer the quieter side of Cape Cod, and it’s only located one hour away from Boston by car or train on the Outer Cape. Not only is the Turro community scattered with a typical, rugged shoreline that’s beside expanding forests, it’s also home to the famous Highland Lighthouse and Ballston Beach in North Truro. This is an active lighthouse that’s located on the Cape Cod National Seashore, and it stands proudly as the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod.

Truro is also an excellent town to peruse while in motion as you traverse the Pamet Cranberry Bog Trail, which extends down the Cape Cod National Seashore in an easy, 1.9-mile out-and-back-loop. Pamer Cranberry is just one of 11 trails that is operated by the Cape Cod National Seashore, but if you’re looking to be engaged by more of a challenge, then be sure to consider the Ryder Beach Loop. This loop is a 3.2-mile trail that offers a moderate hikealongside unforgettable beach views and inland trails.

Brewster, MA

Located in the Lower Cape and famous for its stunning views and unforgettable sunsets, the town of Brewster is the ultimate vacation destination for anyone seeking a friendly community and a relaxed atmosphere. This town is well-known for stunning views and memorable sunsets that you’ll be able to appreciate while spending an afternoon or entire day at one of Brewster’s many beaches such as Breakwater Beach, Crosby Landing Beach, or Robbins Hill Beach. Alternatively, you can stroll through historic downtown’s offering of history by visiting the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History or The Captain Freeman Inn, a charming former sea captain’s home.

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The Best Summer Vacations

While many travelers find comfort in revisiting their old favorites during the summer months, many others find that a lot can be gained from trying out an experience that is unfamiliar, exciting, and classically summer. That’s why this article from Travel + Leisure that’s gathered 20 classic summer vacations from its readership is truly the perfect solution to those wondering how they can best add a little something new to their Summer 2022 plans.

If you’re like most people, your vacations are probably pretty routine. You go to the same place every year and do the same things. There’s comfort to be found in the summer vacation routine, but for all of the solace that predictability brings, you’re missing out on experiences that could be the answer to a question that you never thought to ask. Surveying Travel + Leisure’s suggested list of nearly two dozen “classic” summer vacation ideas” might spark your imagination to venture out of your comfort zone and into your new niche for future vacations to come.

Taking a Road Trip along the Pacific Coast Highway

This first suggestion may seem to be the most obvious, but if you’ve never hit the open road on a multi-state road tripbefore, you are sure to be surprised by how much of an eye-opening experience it can be. For the purpose of venturing out of your comfort zone, it’s suggested that you plan a road trip around locaitions new, enticing, and close-in-proximity to you, and for most, that means heading along the United States’s West or East coast during your travels.

One perfect pathway for your road trip is to venture down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The PCH is one of the most scenic drives in the world; running from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it’s a winding road that takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of California. As you travel along the PCH, you’ll pass through several beach towns, national parks and other beautiful places, but some of the stand-outs are: San Francisco, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara.

Taking in the Sights of Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia

Alternatively, if you’re more interested in visiting fewer separate sights and seeking out enriching experiences in two classic American cities, then you should consider road tripping on the Eastern coast of the United States from Charleston, a beautiful city on the coast of South Carolina that’s full of history and culture, to Savannah, another southern pinnacle that is supplied with an old world charm and a modern flair. If you’re traveling from Charleston to Savannah via Interstate 26, then be sure to check out Historic Downtown Summerville before heading out, as it offers plenty of shops and restaurants along with historic sites like Old Towne Hall as well as several parks throughout the town where you can relax and take in the scenery. Elsewhere, plan to visit the over 35,000 artifacts on display at the Charleston Museum or simply visit the Market, located in downtown Charleston. The Market is home to different shops and restaurants, including local favorites like The Grove, Sticky Fingers Bakery & Café and more.

Once in Savannah, you’ll be able to inundate yourself with the first place you should stop is Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens. This plantation is home to a beautiful 18th century mansion and an authentic working rice plantation. You can take a tour of the plantation or just walk around and enjoy the beauty for free. Secondly, you should consider taking a tour of Bonaventure Cemetery. Understandably, a cemetery might not be the most fun sight to see, but Bonaventure Cemetery contains many interesting sculptures, mausoleums, and gravestones and is also known as “America’s Most Haunted Cemetery.” Lastly, for a little more culture, be sure to check out the Telfair Museum of Art and Jepson Center, as these two art museums showcase works by famous artists such as Picasso and Monet and also host different events throughout the year such as Jazz Concerts.

Ride the Rails in Europe

Outside of an enticing road trip, Travel + Leisure also suggests that you inject some wonder and excitement into your summer vacations by traveling by train in Europe. While there are many reasons to travel by train in Europe such as cost effectiveness or environmental efficiency, the most obvious and alluring is that it’s a great way to see the beautiful countryside of this area of the world. While it’s possible to drive through Europe, there are many beautiful spots where you’re not allowed to stop and walk around, or even pull over and snap a picture.

Hop Aboard a Cruise Line

Another suggestion for summer vacations from the article is to hop aboard a cruise, as they offer a variety of activities and entertainment that will make your trip memorable, whether it’s with family or friends. Once on a cruise, every element from food to entertainment is elevated. The cuisine that’s found on board cruises is delicious and plentiful, allowing you to choose from fine dining at a restaurant with white linen tablecloths and waiters in tuxedos or casual dining at an open-air deck buffet– depending on the mood you find yourself in. Similarly, cruises have many entertainment options available including live shows performed by professional entertainers, dance performances, piano bars and discos. Outside of performances, you can also find plenty of things to do during your down time such as golfing or shuffleboard tournaments, proving that there’s something for everyone.

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The Greatest Florida Islands for Your Vacation

There’s a simple reason as to why images of palm leaves, clear blue waters, and white sandy beaches enter the mind when one attempts to picture the perfect island vacation. It’s because the iconography of the over 4,500 Florida islands located in Florida’s archipelago is akin to the idyllic summertime retreat, and thanks to this useful article detailing the best islands that the Sunshine State has to offer from Southern Living Magazine, you’re one step closer to making that unforgettable island vacation yours in the near future.

The Sunshine State doesn’t necessarily need an overabundant amount of help when it comes to attracting tourists to make their way down to Florida in the summer months for some rest and relaxation. Not only is Florida the country’s fourth most populous state, but it also has a long-standing history of alluring an enormous amount of visitors in the summer months to its wide selection of vacation spots, welcoming beaches, and amusement parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. 

In fact, in 2021 the state’s tourism industry was responsible for welcoming 122.4 million visitors, which was a decrease from the record 131.4 million visitors in  2019, and with early recent statistics indicating that “Florida had 30.8 million tourist visits between last October and December, a slight increase over the fourth quarter in 2019,” this upcoming summer is looking to be just as promising for the domestic tourism magnet.

Because there’s such a proclivity for vacationers to automatically have palm trees and destinations like Orlando or Pensacola enter their minds when they’re beginning to plan out a summer retreat, it’s all the more alluring to escape to an isle off the coast of Florida so that you can enjoy the scenery, personality, and natural majesty of the state without all of the crowds. Luckily, Southern Living’s Betsy Cribb has compiled this list of the seven best Florida islands in the state for your next trip. These locations range from barrier islands such as Amelia Island, which is located only a less-than-an-hour drive away from Jacksonville, Florida, while still toting a State Park that invites you to peruse its “over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of Amelia Island.” Seriously, if you’re looking for a destination that is straight out of an idyllic beach read or cathartic third act in a romantic drama, make it a point to book a trip to Amelia Island, as it’s “the only Florida State Park that offers horseback riding on its beaches” thanks to Kelly Seahorse Ranch.

Another stand-out island from the list is one that prides itself on offering its visitors “all of the modern conveniences that most vacationers have come to expect, but [also] has tempered its growth by clearly placing quality offerings above quantity.” Such is life on the barrier islands that blends both a relaxing and family-friendly atmosphere, Sanibel Island. Located only two and a half hours from Tampa, this fish hook-shaped island treasure is indicative of a bygone era when it comes to American vacation spots. This is because it’s filled with 17,000 acres of lush, picturesque landscape that’s framed by the San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico while also having no stoplights, high-rise buildings, nightclubs, or big-chain grocery stores.

Because of these carefully-implemented regulations when it comes to city planning, Sanibel Island offers its guests a comfortable, memorable experience where they feel transported to another world entirely. In fact, this attention to detail in the experience is most present in the fact that Sanibel Island is most known for its outrageous abundance of pastel-colored seashells that are quite literally calling out for tourists to bring home with them to remember the times they had on the island.

Additionally, the island features the world-famous J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and its approximately  “6,000 acres of mangrove jungles and wetlands [that] encompass a large portion of the island.”  Nearly 70% of the island’s total 17,000 acres are protected, ensuring that the magic of Sanibel Island will be preserved for your next trip to its sandy shores and many years afterward.

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Trends Expected in This Year’s Summer Travel

With a lot of the world getting back to pre-pandemic vacation habits, the travel industry is expecting summer travel to explode in popularity in just a few short weeks, and thanks to this article compiling the top 2022 travel trends from Travel Pulse, you’ll be set to be at the forefront of what’s popular and in fashion in the world of travel.

Two strong indicators that the travel industry is set to return in excellent fashion this summer are that both international (specifically European) travel and domestic travel are expected to be incredibly strong and popular this year. Travel Pulse synthesized data from the vacation rental platform Vacasa and found that 63 percent of Americans are planning some form of travel this summer. Of those expected domestic trips, those vacation destinations are located near the water. Additionally, 75 percent of travelers are planning on only traveling domestically this year.

On the opposite side of the coin, international travel hints toward large returns as some of the initial data provided by travel insurance organization and Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Insurance Partner Allianz detail that the expected travel from the United States to Europe in 2022 may soar to as much as 600 percent from 2021.

Additionally, it’s expected that about three-quarters of Americans heading to Europe will be spending seven days traveling while an additional 11 percent are expected to stay for eight days. While this initial data is encouraging in that it indicates that the public and travel industry are smoothly recovering, these projected surges are still below pre-pandemic levels.

Besides where vacationers are planning on spending their vacation time this summer, the question of when and how long was also at the forefront of research analysts seeking the 2022 travel trends. For instance, twenty percent of travelers surveyed expect to travel for longer than a week this upcoming summer, while the majority of 52 percent of respondents plan a long weekend vacation, and 38 percent plan a summer trip between five and seven days total.

A nationally representative United States survey from Wakefield Research that was conducted for Hilton Hotels indicated that more than half of the 1000 American adults who were interviewed are pet owners planning on traveling with their pets this upcoming summer. This statistic came out to 55 percent of respondents, while 98 percent said that, besides pets, their vacation travel plans are centered around wellness-centric travel.

Expanding on this trend and detailed further in the survey: “today, travelers are focusing on their overall well-being and will be looking for experiences beyond access to the spa and gym that focus on connecting the mind, body, and spirit – and wellness priorities vary from traveler to traveler. For example, Americans feel mentally refreshed on vacation when they get a feel for the local culture (41%) or turn their phone off and unplug (33%). Women, in particular, are likely to prioritize reconnecting with family and friends (46%), while men are likely to prioritize healthy eating (34%).”

The results of the Hilton-commissioned survey indicated that many Americans are planning to counteract career and industry-related burnout by engaging in relaxing vacations this summer. One key piece of data obtained through the survey indicated that of those interviewed, “Americans disclosed that, since 2019, they have failed to use all their paid vacation days, with 51% of those respondents admitting it’s because they feel guilty about taking time off.

In summation, the result of two years in and out of social distancing and isolation is that Americans are planning to venture back out into the world by way of traveling farther, staying for longer, and prioritizing relaxation, outdoor experiences, and generalized wellness above all else.

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Pet Friendly Beaches for the Summer Ahead

When you have some time off and you want to hit the road with your family on that vacation you’ve been thinking about for months, you want to take the entire family, dog included. Oftentimes, finding a beach that allows your dog to run freely can be hard to find, but that’s just where Southern Living’s rundown of the best pet-friendly beaches in the south will save you stress allowing you to enjoy your beach trip with the whole family.

While the point of a vacation is to relax care-free, no one wants to feel that sudden pang of guilt when you imagine your pet in a boarding facility or doggy daycare while you’re out having the time of your life in crystal blue waters beneath a radiant sun. So, if you intend to bring our four-footed best friend along with you on your next beach trip, it’s proactive to do your part and research which beaches allow dogs on their sandy shores ahead of time.

Brunswick Islands, North Carolina

Standing proudly as an absolute stunning jewel of the south, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are often heralded for the sheer amount of experiences and pristine beaches that are located off-the-beaten path meaning that they’re less crowded and more enjoyable. The Brunswick Islands region is located in the southern corner of North Carolina, and it’s the last of the Tar Heel State’s coastal treasures before you get to South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach.

The total region of the Brunswick Islands is made up of five barrier islands that encompass richly lush maritime forests, freshly-caught local seafood, expanding saltwater marshlands, and the federally-protectedIntracoastal Waterway that connects them all.

A well-known resource for all vacationers who travel with pets is Tripswithpets.com, and this reliable authority on which destinations are the best for pet-lovers has named North Carolina’s Oak Island and Caswell Beachesspecifically among the “Top Five Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina.”

Many of the coastal beaches throughout the Brunswick Islands allow (and even encourage) dogs to run across their sandy shores; this includes the popular, well-reviewed beaches of Oak Island, Freeman Park, Emerald Isle, Kitty Hawk, and Bald Head Island. Check out which of your preferred beaches in North Carolina allow for dogs at this well-researched resource and ensure that you and your family pet can enjoy the natural beauty of the Brunswick Islands on your next adventure!

Ocean City Beach, Maryland

This location has not only been named one of TripAdvisor’s top ten beaches in the country, but its three-mile boardwalk featuring amusement activities, arcades, and waterside shopping looks well-placed when you take in the jaw-dropping sights of the Atlantic Ocean behind it. At the right time of day, it becomes no wonder why this fantastically versatile beach is located alongside the appropriately named Ocean City, Maryland, especially with its offerings of surfing, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing along its shores and waters. Though, one of the highlights of this beach is that throughout the months of October-April, you’re allowed to bring your leashed companion along the boardwalk and throughout Ocean City.

The finer details indicate that all dogs must be leashed when walking in Ocean City at all times, and while leashed pets are allowed onto the Assateague National Park Beach year-round, they are not allowed on the Assateague State Park Beaches, which is an important distinction.

So, begin planning your trip out to Ocean City and the greater Assateague Island today to enjoy its unforgettable offerings of sandy, picturesque beaches, coastal bays, maritime forests, and salt marshes that will surely make you think you’re seeing the inspiration of many postcards you’ve been sent over the years.

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