What to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Located on the eastern border of Tennessee is the delightful mountain town of Gatlinburg. Supplied with its 5,000 residents and thousands of tourists who cannot resist the Appalachian charm of this must-visit treasure of the south, Gatlinburg is the perfect summer spot for anyone seeking remarkable experiences in nature, culture, and more. So check out this handy travel guide from Southern Living before hitting the road so that you can get the most out of “the Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains,” Gatlinburg, TN.

Due to the fact that this mountain resort city is so besieged by ever-changing fall foliage, vibrantly-blossoming springtime flowers, and mythical morning fog in the summer, it’s no wonder why tourists and locals alike attribute a sort of magic quality to this destination’s ever-growing list of attributes. So, if you’re interested in experiencing Gatlinburg first-hand in order to see what wonders are in store for you, then look no further than this list of attractions, experiences, and opportunities that will showcase the best of the mountain town just for you.

Peaking at the top of nearly every visitor’s guide to Gatlinburg is arguably the best chance to see literally everything going on in the town and the surrounding area. Of course, this is in reference to the 680-foot SkyPark, otherwise known as the longest pedestrian suspension bridge on the continent of North America. Honestly, if you want to take in a survey of the mountainous areas, trails, and bodies of water to explore during your stay, there’s really no better vantage point than SkyBridge or the Gatlinburg Space Needle, which stands at a height of 400 feet in the air and accessible via a glass elevator.

If you’re allured by the miles-long legend of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys, then you might want to seek out a trip to Pigeon Forge and take in a Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show so that you can be entertained by a dramatized version of the conflict. While it’s not the most historically accurate representation of this iconic feud, the performers are enthusiastic in their retelling, the country cuisine is enticing, and the atmosphere in the rustic barn-style theater is guaranteed to add some family-fun entertainment to your trip.

Alternatively, if you want more of a nature-fueled adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then consider embarking on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 5.4 round trip hike leading you to winding pathways, each to their own waterfall. Make an effort to embark on a hike that’s practically mythical: the Rainbow Falls hike, which leads you to a massive 80-foot tall waterfall that is the highest single drop of cascading water to be found in the entire park. If one waterfall isn’t enough for you, then you can venture out to the Place of A Thousand Drips to see dozens upon dozens of tiny cascading waterfalls. Otherwise, if you’re seeing more of an experience, you can take another pathway, the Trillium Gap Trail, that takes you to the impressive, 25-foot high Grotto Falls, a breathtakingly beautiful spot that lets you walk in the quiet secrecy that is the backside of a waterfall. This is the only spot in the entire National Park where you can experience the behind-the-waterfall perspective.

On the more commercial side of things, Gatlinburg is flush with opportunities to be entertained in all things spectacular, curious, and imaginative. Namely, Gatlinburg is home to several event centers that are an essential part of the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” franchise. For instance, if you need a high-quality, family-fun arcade to pass the time in, there’s Ripley’s Super Fun Zone, Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Penguin Playhouse, and (perhaps most-notably) Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium.

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American Attractions That You Shouldn’t Pass Up

Whenever you’re traveling across the United States of America, you might have the proclivity to visit the notable and famous landmarks that make this country iconic, outstanding, and special such as Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, Nevada’s Hoover Dam, or South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore National Monument. The only problem is that because these are some of the most notable tourist attractions in the country, countless other travelers will have already beaten you to the destination, which can lessen the experience. Thankfully, TravelPulse has compiled a list of the most underrated American attractions to be found in each state in the country, allowing you to explore unforgettable hidden gems like peculiar rock formations, often-forgotten national parks, and one-of-a-kind museums without a crowd of tourists at your heels.

While the total list features one American attraction per each of our fifty states, below is only a snippet of a few locations that each stands out from the pack in terms of iconography, natural majesty, and peculiarity. Be sure to independently look into any attraction before setting off to visit, as many have specific visiting guidelines and operations hours.

Downtown Oklahoma’s “Center of the Universe”

Located on the street north of Tulsa’s Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is an attraction that is said to be the “Center of the Universe.” In reality, this is a quirky acoustic anomaly that looks pretty unremarkable; it’s a small concrete circle located within a larger circle of bricks, but it’s the auditory sounds of this attraction that make it a must-visit for whenever you’re in Tulsa. When someone stands in the center of the circle and makes a noise, the sound is then echoed back several times louder than it was initially made, remarkably creating one’s own private echo chamber.

Pennsylvania’s Magic Gardens

The Magic Gardens of Pennsylvania aren’t just cutely-named; they are the features of truly transcendent ecosystems of beauty, wonder, and life that you’re able to visit and feel as though you’re in another point in time entirely. The Magic Gardens is a triple-threat: a non-profit organization, folk art environment, and gallery space that’s located on Philadelphia’s South Street. Spanning three city lots, the Magic Gardens is an expansive collection of works created by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, encompassed in the form of indoor art galleries, a large outdoor labyrinth, and bounding collections of botanical gardens. Outside of the city, you can step foot into iconic centers of flora and fauna spectacle by visiting the 50-acre public garden and National Historic Landmark at Bartram’s Garden; over 1,077 acres of woodlands, gardens, and meadows at the Longwood (botanical) Gardens; or the other-worldly grounds surrounding the 17th Century-style home and nationally-ranked garden at West Fairmount Park’s Shofuso Japanese House and Garden.

Clear Lake, Iowa’s Surf Ballroom

Supplied with Ames, Des Moines, and the actual Field of Dreams which is located in Dubuque County, the state of Iowa has a lot of attractions worthy of a pitstop or full-intentioned visit. Despite this, there’s only a singular location in Iowa, specifically the town of Clear Lake, that is in and of itself a Historic Rock and Roll Landmark that could honestly be considered the setting of “The Day the Music Died,” otherwise known as the final performances of Rock and Roll titans Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. These three greats all performed for the last time on February 2, 1959, in Clear Lake’s The Surf Ballroom, which is a destination that you can step foot in to see just what Don Mclean was singing about in the ubiquitous ballad “American Pie.” Inundate yourself in Rock and Roll history by touring the Surf Ballroom, a venue that has monumental importance to an entire genre indebted to it the next time you’re considering a trip to Clear Lake’s waterfront.


All of these American attractions are definitely worth the trip.  For more travel-related news and information, click here.


State Parks to Visit in Texas this Summer

If you were to attempt to drive across the width of the state of Texas, it would take you approximately 14 to 16 total hours, thus allowing you many opportunities to survey one of the 88 total State Parks in the area. Luckily, Southern Living has compiled a trusted list to help parse down that directory to just nine “Best State Parks in Texas To Visit for a Lone Star Adventure,” an article by Kaitlyn Yarborough.

The state of Texas is so large that it is not only twice as large as Japan or Germany, but it’s also 10% larger than France. Because it is the second-largest state in America, averaging a length of approximately 790 miles and a width of 773 miles, there’s plenty of area for a variety of landscapes and a diversity of natural features across its total landmass. One of the most surprising facts about the state of Texas is that the Lone Star State “is so large that El Paso, Texas is closer to San Diego, California than it is to Houston, Texas. Similarly, Orange, Texas is closer to Jacksonville, Florida than it is to El Paso, Texas.” Because of this massive size, there are dozens of state parks ready to be explored throughout the state that occupies approximately 7% of the total land and water area of our country.

State Park attendance in the United States has reportedly “skyrocketed across the South in recent years,” according to Southern Living Magazine, so there’s never been quite a time like this upcoming summer season to survey what the great state of Texas has to offer, whether it be deserts found in Western Texas or the bayou-adjacent areas of Eastern Texas.

One of the featured State Parks on the list that had near-immediate name recognition among the trendy and well-traveled is Pedernales Falls State Park. As the entry notes, Texan singer-songwriter Willie Nelson once penned a ballad to the Pedernales River, a water feature to which this State Park owes its cascading waters. Located just 30 miles west of the “weird capital of the country,” Austin, this park is quite popular among visitors to the vibrant city with many of them driving over for an extended afternoon or weekend trip, and it’s for good reason!

What makes Pedernales Falls State Park is its collection of off-beat landscape features, namely its impressive system of massive cascading slabs of limestone that are leftover from prehistoric eras. What results is some of the most beautiful and unique scenery in all of the Texas Hill Country. The area is lush with several miles of trails that allow visitors many different pathways to survey the terrain and its various nooks and crannies that can be found among the boulders in the riverbeds and along the sandy shoreline of the Pedernales River.

As mentioned above, the landscape of Eastern Texas can sometimes resemble the more water-centric State Parks of Florida or Louisiana, especially when one visits a terrain that is wholly different from the other State Parks in the area. Caddo Lake State Park is just one of those parks that you have to actually visit in order to truly understand that it’s located in Texas. The collection of Texan bayous, sloughs, ponds, and bald-cypress trees that are draped with the iconically-southern Spanish moss all attribute to a bizarre experience to any visitors who have driven in from the Western perimeter of the state. Check out one of the campsites in the area to truly take in the variety of wildlife and water activities that can be experienced in one of the most unique parks in Texas.

Lastly, one stand-out among the State Parks featured on Southern Living’s list is indicative of the out-of-this-world scenery that is often attributed to the West Texas area. Located near the New Mexico border, Texas’s Monahans Sandhills State Park features acres upon acres of rolling sandhills that resemble an ocean- especially with the locals who like to surf along the top of the dunes on rentable sand discs. Similarly, the extraterrestrial-adjacent area also offers visitors an 800-acre equestrian area for some of the most desert-theme horseback riding that you can experience in the Lone Star State.

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Where to Camp in Big Sur

Located along the Pacific Coast Highway in the sunny, effervescent state of California is a scenic paradise in the form of a rugged and mountainous section of the country called Big Sur, and when you’re supplied with this useful guide for the eight best locations to go camping in Big Sur from the writers over at Travel + Leisure, you’ll be able to see the most unforgettable parts of the area.

If you’re interested in seeing the magnificently jagged cliffs, breathtaking coastline, towering redwood trees, and meandering hiking trails that allow you to “take it all in,” then you’ll likely want to check out the several state parks, national forest campsites, and privately owned campgrounds located within Big Sur. The different offerings of the types of camping experiences that you can find at Big Sur all depend on what type of camping you are most interested or comfortable in. No matter which option you select, once you turn off the unforgettable Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll find yourself nestled in the majesty of nature, complete with the ambiance and atmosphere of fresh, pure relaxation.

Appropriately named, the Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins is an option for those looking for a camping or lodging experience that is all about “back to basics.” A destination that is preferred by families, the Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins prides itself on providing its guests a spotlessly clean, peacefully quiet, and invitingly friendly environment for all. In order to accomplish this heavenly atmosphere, they mandate a quiet time from 10 pm to 8 am every day, and if you’ve ever spent a weekend hiking in the mountains before, you know that you could be very likely to fill those hours with sleep.

The campgrounds also feature areas for RVs to be parked or tents to be pitched along the forest floor against the towering California Redwood trees. Each tent site is supplied with hot showers, which is certain to help alleviate you after a long day exploring the area, and the RV camping sites offer access to electricity, water, and a dump station. Additionally, they offer rentable inner tubes to help you enjoy the cool river water and several styles of cabins ranging from classically rustic to glamorously modern, and they can be booked here.

One Big Sur campground that is guaranteed to give you one of the best views imaginable is the Kirk Creek Campground located within the ever-sprawling Los Padres National Forest. What sets these campgrounds apart from the test is that each campsite is located on an open bluff that’s 100 feet above the Pacific Ocean. That means there is quite literally nothing standing in your way when you’re trying to take in the scenic views that Big Sur is famous for. Due to the remoteness of the campgrounds, be sure to fill up your water jugs, canteens, and other containers so that you can stay hydrated throughout the day or night.

No matter where you choose to stay in Big Sur, certain rules of common courtesy are expected to be followed by all guests in order to preserve the magnificence, cleanliness, and sanctimony of the area. Among these rules is the golden rule of park visiting that is “leave no trace left behind.” In order to follow this, it is expected that you properly dispose of all trash and plastics throughout your journey. Another guideline is to not feed any wildlife, be that intentionally or unintentionally, so as to keep a safe environment for all. Lastly, it’s important to be knowledgeable of the latest travel alerts for the area that you’re planning to travel to, so be sure to check out the latest CDC guidance.

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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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