The Best Holiday Lights in the US

Regardless of your location in the States, watching the twinkle of the Christmas lights is sure to spark joy and get you in the holiday mood. With a long and dated history, Christmas lights have become a symbol for an exciting and giving season.

Finding the best Christmas lights display within driving distance is a fun activity for the whole family, where you can watch the flickering of green and red dance to the best Christmas music. A few weeks ago, Travel + Leisure shared an updated list of the best Christmas lights in every state. Here are a few of our favorites!

Arkansas

Originally, the best Christmas Lights display belonged to the Osbourne Family Spectacle. Now that Disney laid their claim and moved it to Florida, you can get your Christmas fix at the Arkansas State Capitol Building.

Connecticut

Head to Hartford for the Holiday Light Fantasia, a drive-through animated Christmas display with larger-than-life scenes for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve. Make sure to look out for Flurry, a puppy wearing a Santa hat, hidden amongst all the lights.

Georgia

Whether you want a self-guided walking tour or a Christmas-themed getaway, Barnsley Resort in Adairsville is the place to go. Here, you’ll find millions of bulbs illuminating the manor house ruins.

Hawaii

Are you ready for a multi-house, synchronized holiday experience? Then head to the Waikele neighborhoodto see the grand Christmas lights show lead by the Yoshida family. There are shows daily from 7pm to 9:30pm, and the lights are usually up till early January.

Iowa

Make sure to swing by the Jolly Holiday Lights, a 2.5 mile ride through over 100 light displays. All proceeds from the Jolly Holiday Lights are donated to Make-A-Wish Iowa.

Louisiana

Head to New Orlean’s to see the lights at Celebration in the Oaks. With over 165,000 visitors each year, there are hundreds of thousands of lights dancing throughout the oak groves in City Park. You’ll also have the opportunity to ride on the antique wooden carousel, so make sure you get a great look at “The Cajun Night Before Christmas” display.

Maryland

Prefer your Christmas celebrations to be on the extreme side? Check out Baltimore’s 34th Street. Each house on the block dresses up in light displays ranging from candy canes and Christmas trees to Mr. Boh, Poe the Raven, and Chesapeake crabs.

New York

Nope, we aren’t talking Rockefeller Center. The hidden Christmas lights gem is actually in Dyker Heights, where homeowners in this Brooklyn neighborhood have an unspoken competition to see who has the best over-the-top lights, professionally crafted displays, and inflatable lawn ornaments.

Ohio

For a unique experience, head to Ohio’s famousClifton Mill, where 3.5 million lights decorate  the building, the gorge, and nearby trees. Make sure to take in the 100-foot “waterfall” of lights, and be good, because there’s a good chance Santa is checking his list in Santa’s Workshop.

Tennessee

The Opryland Hotel in Nashville morphs into a literal winter wonderland over the holidays. You’ll see over 2 million twinkling lights, acres of holiday decor, and indoor winter wonderland (made with over 2 million pounds of ice), and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical.

For more travel related news and information, click here.

National Parks Without the Crowds

The U.S. National Park Service was founded on August 25th, 1916 and 61 areas hold the title of “national park”. Imagine visiting all 61 of them, that would mean you would have to travel to two U.S. territories and 29 states. Over 300 million people visited national parks last year. The National Park Service can sometimes struggle with providing educational and recreational opportunities while also trying to conserve the cultural and natural heritage of the park.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most visited national park in 2018, over 10 million people visited this park alone. But sometimes it’s nice to get away and see a not so crowded park. National Geographic released an article listing the 10 Least-Visited U.S. National Parks and we are here to tell you about one of them, the Virgin Islands .

Virgin Islands National Park

The Virgin Islands National Park is made up of over 7,000 acres. From the reefs to the ridge tops, the park owns over 5,000 acres of the submerged land surrounding the island. This means that the coral, fish, migrating birds, and other marine life are protected by the park.

There are different Ranger- Guided tours that are available. The Reef Bay Trail gives its visitors the opportunity to learn about those who called the area home. Ancient rock carving, stone walls, and eve sugar plantation ruins still linger on the island. This helps demonstrate the change that the island has continuously gone through over the many years of inhabitants. The trails can get a little tricky. It is advised to bring the appropriate shoes and plenty of water. Snacks and bug spray are both good things to bring along as well.

The Discover Bird Watching Hike, goes on every Friday. Francis Bay Trail and salt pound gives bird lovers the opportunity to view the migratory birds and the birds that live on the islands. The Friends of Virgin Islands National Park even offers a winter seminar series. The option to hike with local and park scientist is offered along with snorkeling or kayaking as well. For more information on the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, click here.

Safaris bus drivers also offer guided tours of the island. They usually last two to three hours and they give amazing views of the beaches and remnants sugar plantations. The tour will begin at Cruz Bay on the public ferry dock and it will also end there.

Here are some safety tips the park includes on their website.

Valuables should not be left unattended, just because it is a national park doesn’t mean things won’t get stolen. All you will need for this trip is some snacks and water, there is no need to bring any valuables with you.

When swimming, use reef-safe sunscreen. The whole point of a national park is to help save the wildlife inhabiting the area. If you do decide to swim, remember there is marine life which means there is a possibility of getting stung/bitten. Be prepared

Mosquitoes. Those tiny bugs can do a lot of damage. The Virgin Islands National Park warns visitors of mosquitoes. Most diseases are spread after a lot of rain and especially during the rainy season. Make sure to bring bug spray and if you are bitten, make sure to watch out for symptoms of diseases that are carried by mosquitoes. Click here for more information.

For more travel related news and information, click here.

 

 

 

Camping Through the US

Looking for another adventure? What about one that explores the Best Place to Camp in Each of the 50 States. You do not need to leave the country to have places to explore. Travel + Leisure expands on the 50 places and we are here to give you the first 16 of them!

Alabama

Outpost at Gulf State Park

This is the perfect spot if you are looking for some privacy. Each outpost has a fire pit, port-a-potty, and even an outdoor sink.

Alaska

Bartlett Cove Campground at Glacier Bay National Park

This campground is a free walk-in campground, which means you should always call before arriving to make sure there is space available.

Arizona

Havasupai Campground at Havasupai Reservation

This is not the easiest place to camp, permits are often picked up quickly so it can be hard to visit, however, waterfalls and natural pools make it all worth it.

Arkansas

Buffalo National River

This is America’s first national river; over 130 miles flows through the Ozark Mountains. Take hikes or even plan a float trip.

California

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Getting multiple views from one campsite is the perfect way to go. McWay Falls will take your breath away.

Colorado

Piñon Flats Campground at the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sand mountains in Colorado, what an ironic thought. This campground gives its visitors options with multiple different camping sights. Explore the 700ft tall sand dunes and sleep under the stars.

Connecticut

White Memorial Conservation Center

A non-profit wildlife refuge that has 10 ponds and an onsite museum, sounds too good to be true. White Memorial Conservation Center has 40 miles for its visitors to explore.

Delaware

Cape Henlopen State Park

This state park was one of the first “public lands” and has been that way since the late 1600s. There are campsites, however, there are also cabins available if the tent is getting a little tight.

Florida

Cayo Costa State Park

Only accessible by boat, this barrier island is exactly what some people need. There are 30 primitive campsites that you can use to possibly see dolphins and manatees.

Georgia

Cloudland State Park

Mountain biking is only one activity that is available at Cloudland State Park. If hiking and biking is not your thing, check out the 18-hole disc golf course.There are multiple overnight options, click here for more information.

Hawaii

Malaekahana Beach Campground

Looking for an option with a beach? Malaekahana Beach Campground’s cabins and tent spaces could possibly be better than that beachfront house that cost way too much. You will not need a noise machine when falling asleep next to the water.

Idaho

Point Campground

The perfect “typical” campground. Point Campground has miles of trails waiting to be explored. The  lake is the best backdrop for pitching a tent right along the shore.

Illinois

Starved Rock State Park Campground

Spring is the best time to visit Starved Rock State Park Campground. This lush park will pull you away into another world. This campground even offers electric hookups! Not even two hours away from Chicago, this is the perfect escape from the city.

Indiana

 Brown County State Park

The singletrack for mountain biking is 30 miles long and is sometimes named the best within the state of Indiana. There are over 400 posts for camping, so need to worry about not finding a spot.

Iowa

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Looking for more than just a campsite? Maquoketa Caves State Park gives its visitors a completely different experience. Underground enclosures that need headlamps to explore and a small campground, this is the perfect getaway for those looking for a bigger adventure.

Kansas

Wilson State Park

A reservoir that is 9,000 acres means there is a lot of room to kayak. Not only does Wilson State Park have water activities but its visitors can check out the 25-mile bike trail.

For more travel related news and information, click here.

 

How to Spend a Day in Detroit

Detroit, Michigan has known many kinds of notoriety, from its illustrious heyday as “Motor City” and birthplace of Motown, the music label that popularized soul. Detroit’s streets were the first to see an affordable motorized vehicle with Henry Ford’s Model T, released in 1908. Half a century later in 1959, after years of working on the Ford Motor Company assembly line that dubbed it “Motor City”, Berry Gordy created Motown Records, the record label that popularized such renowned musical artists as Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and more. The Motown sound bridged the racial gap in popular music as it propelled soul music to the greater American audience.

Detroit has been discredited over the years as the motor industry market has become saturated, leading to less jobs and funding to the city overall, but the city is no lost cause. For the last decade, the city has undergone a rebirth through restoration efforts. The following are must-visit locales:

Must Stay in Detroit:

THE ALOFT DETROIT AT THE DAVID WHITNEY BUILDING

The Aloft hotel is located in the over one hundred year old David Whitney Building. In 1915, the iconic David Whitney Building was built in the iconic Neo-Renaissance style with terracotta and glazed brick facade. Recently, the building went through a major facelift — a $92 million facelift to be precise. The nearly billion dollar renovations resulted in 136 contemporary-styled rooms spanning 19 stories. The spacious lobby houses a four storey atrium and skylight, streaming daylight over marble and gold-leafing.

Must Stay in Detroit:

THE FORD ROUGE FACTORY

Motor City has over a century of history with the Fords. The city witnessed the manufacture of General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford in the Henry Ford factory. This created enough jobs to employ 10,000 of the two million citizens of Detroit. This workforce was reduced with the introduction of robotic automation on the assembly line. Today, about 3,000 people still work the production line, overseeing the smooth running of the machinery.

Although it may seem an odd tourist suggestion, watching a car created through the assembly line with the precision of human intervention is captivating. A new vehicle leaves the line every 53 seconds, averaging 1,500 trucks every day of production. The factory has an innovative 5D multisensory film as well as a display of the innovative V-8, the classic Thunderbird, and the Mustang.

THE FISHER BUILDING

Be sure to see the splendor of the Art Deco style Fisher Building. Created by architect Albert Kahn in 1928, this masterpiece of a building resides on West Grand Boulevard in midtown. It’s an ornate 30-story skyscraper that doubles as Detroit’s Largest Art Object. The exterior limestone, granite, and multiple types of marble dazzle in the sunlight. The interior houses an arcade, a theatre, intricate and distinct mosaics, hand-painted ceilings,  Art Deco chandeliers, incredible views of the city below, and the finest craftsmanship in stone, brass, and bronze. Walk-in tours are free, but it’s best to reserve a time by registering first.

HENRY FORD MUSEUM OF AMERICAN INNOVATION

Henry Ford amassed a grandiose collection of Americana since 1929. The displays include the Quadricycle, a four-wheeled motorized vehicle with bicycle tires, presidential cars, airplanes, furniture, and tractors. There is also a museum of mathematics housed within the larger Museum itself. The notorious bus in which Rosa Parks made a stand against segregation by refusing to give up her seat to a white person, leading to her arrest and consequently, the bus boycott of Montgomery, AL in 1955. These events led to a wave of protest and paved the way for the civil rights movement in the next decade. Another notable display is the very rocking chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. A Model T, the first affordable Ford car, is taken apart and reassembled daily for the public’s viewing.

DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS (DIA)

The second largest art museum in the US is the Detroit Institute of Arts. Here, you may witness Peter Brugel’s The Wedding Dance(1566), which was, in its time, controversial for depicting mixed race dancing and kissing. Diego Rivera, husband to fellow Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, was a Mexican communist who was commissioned by Cecil Ford during the Great Depression to create a body of works in tribute to the industry and its workforce. The resulting works depicted the progression of the Ford Motor Company, highlighting the human plight in 27 panels known as the “Detroit Industry Murals.” The following famous artists’ works are included in the museum’s collection: Cezanne, Dega, Matisse, Picasso, and Van Gogh.

THE MOTOWN MUSEUM

Motown music was birthed in Hitsville USA, the nickname of the home that housed founder Berry Gordy and Berry’s recording studio, where the magic happened. Previous to his own business ventures, Gordy worked a job at the Ford Factory, which he proclaimed to be “the worst job in the world.” The clanging sounds of metal being soldered, hammered, and drilled on the assembly line would inspire the Motown sound. These sounds were repetitive and became the backbone of Motown rhythm.

Gordy began to write and produce music. He took the flow of the production line to create a music industry parallel to the factory floor: finding young, raw teenage talent, teaching them social etiquette, grooming, and dance, and releasing them into the world, turning them into stars.

2019 marks the 60th anniversary of Motown Records. On May 19th, there was a spring block party on the museum grounds with live music, food trucks, and free museum tours.

RIVERTOWN

The city lights reflect beautifully at night along the city’s five-mile riverfront walkway called the Detroit International Riverwalk. The path connects Chene Park Amphitheatre and William G Miliken State Park and Harbor. It leads visitors to the Outdoor Adventure Center. Across the water, you can see a whole other country–Canada.

Must Stay In Detroit

American cuisine is the casual but delicious food of choice in Detroit. Two must eateries are Wright & Company and Lumen Restaurant, both located in the Downtown area.

Wright & Company specializes in modern Amercan small plates, craft cocktails, wines, and craft beers. The gastro-bistro can be found on the second floor of the Wright-Kay building. Try the potato chips, scallops, crab cakes, chicken, roasted cauliflower, and beef tenderloin. Be sure to save room for a butterscotch dessert or an orange date cake.

Lumen Restaurant is a new restaurant/bar found in a building with tall windows overlooking Beacon Park. There is indoor and outdoor seating, depending on the weather. The menu is small but packed with great choices, such as the hot pretzel sticks, Wagyu beef, mac and cheese, crab chowder, charcuterie, salmon, and pasta with shrimp.

If you’re not in the Downtown area, another option is The Jolly Pumpkin in Midtown. It’s a nice lunchtime venue as well as a pizzeria. Be sure to also try the curried chips, hummus flatbreads, and a wide selection of beer.

For more travel related news and information, click here.