Aptly known as the ‘City of Seven Wonders’, Flagstaff has been a popular tourist destination ever since the early 1900s when people first flocked to Northern Arizona to see its many tourist attractions. As well as including Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites, these also encompass everything from craggy canyons and crumbling craters to vast forests and majestic mountain peaks.
As great riches also poured into the city around this time along both Route 66 and its railroad, the charming city now has lots of attractive architecture and interesting historic sites for you to check out. While history and culture are never far away, it also has a lively yet laidback feel thanks to its large university population. With lots of things to do in Flagstaff as well as plenty of outdoor activities in its surroundings there is something for everyone.
Set just to the southwest of the city center is the remarkable Riordan Mansion which exhibits lots of exquisite American arts and crafts. Protected as part of a State Historic Park since 1978, it can be found right next to the expansive campus of Northern Arizona University.
Built all the way back in 1904, the massive mansion is actually made up of two almost identical wings that are joined together by a large common room. It was in this huge historic house that the lumber baron brothers Timothy and Michael Riordan lived with their wives, who were also sisters.
While taking a tour around the property you can learn all about the prominent family and the unique and unusual architecture on display. In addition, its forty or so rooms have lots of impressive period pieces and fabulous furnishings for you to peruse.
Located in a lava stone building is the magnificent Museum of Northern Arizona which lies just under a ten minute drive to the northwest of Flagstaff. An interesting and educational place to visit, its collection offers up an invaluable insight into the history, nature, and culture of the Colorado Plateau.
Since being founded way back in 1928, the museum’s captivating collection has continued to grow, now housing a scarcely believable five million items. Its engaging and extensive exhibits encompass everything from displays on dinosaurs and galleries on geology to astonishing artworks and artifacts from Northern Arizona’s Native American peoples.
On top of all this, it also has a gorgeous garden which is home to plants and flowers from the region with dancing, music, and storytelling events held in the summer months.
10. Flagstaff Extreme
If you’re looking for an exhilarating outdoor adventure activity than look no further than Flagstaff Extreme. Situated just south of the city center, it has five exciting elevated obstacle courses for you to navigate as well as over thirty zip lines to shoot along.
The largest suspended challenge course in the state, it has over eighty swaying bridges, swings and nets for you to navigate; all strung up between towering Ponderosa Pines. Besides climbing, swinging and zipping your way through the canopy, you also have to outwit all of the obstacles that you come across on the way.
If you have a head for heights and want to set your heart racing, then Flagstaff Extreme’s aerial challenges make for a fun and family-friendly day out.
Lying in a rugged and remote part of the picturesque Painted Desert is the awe-inspiring sight that is Grand Falls. Nestled away around an hour’s drive to the northeast of Flagstaff, it is set in a scenic spot along the Little Colorado River on Navajo Nation land.
While it only spans 21 meters, the waterfall towers to an impressive 56 meters in height, making it taller than Niagara Falls. Due to the water’s muddy color, it is often called ‘Chocolate Falls’ with its size, scale and shade making for some fantastic photos.
Although it is renowned for the remarkable rainbows created by its sparkling spray, the falls only flow during certain times of the year. As such, the best times to visit are between March and April when the falls are fed by the snowmelt of the far-off White Mountains.
One of the best places to go skiing and snowboarding in the state is at the Arizona Snowbowl which lies just half-an-hour to the north of Flagstaff. Its snow-coated slopes can be found on the western flank of the mighty Mount Humphreys, hidden away among the San Francisco Peaks.
First founded in 1938, the alpine resort now has 55 runs for visitors to shoot down which are serviced by eight chairlifts. From atop of the 3,852 meter high Mount Humphreys, the most prominent peak in the state, there is a total vertical drop of over 700 meters to ski down with three terrific terrain parks to try out.
In addition it also has lots of cosy cabins and spacious suites for you to stay in with some excellent hiking and mountain biking to be had in the sunny summer months.
Sprawling over a humongous area that almost completely surrounds the city is the Coconino National Forest which boasts lots of stupendous scenery and nature. As well as the San Francisco Peaks, it is home to diverse landscapes that are sure to delight nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Established all the way back in 1898, the picturesque park protects everything from desert and ponderosa pines to massive mesas, verdant forests and volcanic fields. As such, it really is a treat to explore with craggy canyons and ruddy red rock formations to be found alongside twinkling lakes and shimmering streams.
Due to its scenic splendor, Coconino National Forest is a very popular place to visit, with lots of people enjoying hiking, mountain biking and camping there.
6. Lava River Cave
flickr/Coconino National Forest
Another incredible natural wonder close to Flagstaff is the Lava River Cave which is also located within Coconino National Forest. Situated just half an hour’s drive to the northwest of the city, it is well worth visiting for its rock formations that look much like flowing water.
Remarkably enough, the cavern was formed roughly 700,000 years when a volcanic vent erupted nearby. As well as leaving behind wave and ripple-like remains in the rock, the molten lava also created stone icicles that hang suspended in time from the cave roof.
As the site is undeveloped, exploring the cold cave is an unforgettable experience as you venture into its confines which stretch for more than a kilometer underground.
Located right in the center of the city is its handsome Historic Downtown which is home to lots of attractive architecture and interesting attractions. Centered around both the historic Route 66 and the old railway tracks that used to run through town, the vibrant area sprawls across several blocks and has lots for you to see and do.
Most of its beautiful brick buildings date back to the early 1900s when both the railroad and Route 66 brought great riches to the town. Wonderfully well-preserved, these exhibit everything from Art Deco and Italianate style architecture to Neoclassical and Romanesque Revival features. Highlights include the Weatherford Hotel and the Babbitt Brothers Building with its train station now serving at the city’s visitor center.
Flagstaff’s historic buildings now house lots of great restaurants and shops with the city also being known for its thriving cafe culture. On top of all this, Downtown hosts a regular farmers’ market, while its large student population means there is a lively and youthful atmosphere about the area.
One of Arizona’s most astonishing archaeological sites, the Wupatki National Monument can be found around an hour’s drive to the northeast of the city. Set in a scenic and secluded part of the Colorado Plateau are lots of remarkable ruins and centuries-old settlements for you to explore that were left behind by the Ancient Pueblo People.
Meaning ‘Tall House’ in the Hopi Language, Wupatki is named after the site’s largest settlement which is undoubtedly its standout sight. Within the remains of the red rock building are over a hundred rooms to wander around while a court for ball games can be found outside near to two crumbling kiva-like structures.
While it was abandoned in 1225, Ancestral Puebloans had already been living in the wild and remote region since the fifth century AD. In total the sun-scorched site has over 2,700 structures with visitors also being able to visit other smaller pueblos such as Citadel, Lomaki and Nalakihu.
Situated just a stone’s throw away from the Wupatki National Monument is the spectacular Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Named after the crumbling cinder cone that lies at its center, it has lots of dramatic and desolate landscapes for you to explore with fantastic photos to be snapped of all its features.
Protected as part of a park since 1930, the crater is the youngest of the San Francisco Peaks, having only been formed around a thousand years ago in a volcanic eruption. Its bleak slopes lie amidst rolling foothills, forests and lava fields; all of which now make for great hiking.
At the site’s visitor center guests can learn all about the history, geology and nature of the rugged region as well as seeing some astounding aerial photos of Sunset Crater. While hiking to its summit is no longer permitted, visitors can explore the beautiful Bonito Lava Flow that lies nearby.
Perched atop a hill just west of the city center is the Lowell Observatory which is famed for being where the dwarf planet Pluto was discovered in 1930. As well as exciting artifacts and exhibits on astronomy, its on-site telescopes allow visitors to gaze up in awe at the star-studded night sky.
One of the oldest observatories in the States, it was established way back in 1894 and is named after the astronomer Percival Lowell who set up the site. Over the years, the research center has made a number of important discoveries with numerous astronauts having visited the facility in preparation for the Apollo Program.
As well as perusing models and interactive displays on the solar system, visitors can also attend talks on everything from black holes and Pluto to the history of the observatory and its scientific discoveries. The undoubted highlight however is looking through a telescope yourself and seeing all the planets and stars before you.
Located just fifteen minutes to the east of Flagstaff is one of the area and Arizona’s most interesting and impressive ancient archaeological sites: the Walnut Canyon National Monument. Within the narrow, craggy canyon of the same name visitors can find twenty-five captivating cliff dwellings to explore as well as some lovely scenery and nature.
Built between 1100 and 1250 AD by the Sinagua people, these ruins lie beneath rugged ridges and limestone ledges, protected from the elements by the steep cliff sides. To visit these incredible cliff dwellings visitors can wander along a path that meanders its way down the side of the canyon.
In addition to basking in the beauty of the site and seeing the settlement up close and personal, you can also learn more about the Sinagua at the national monument’s marvelous museum.
When car rental goes smoothly, it’s convenient, cost-effective and enjoyable. There are many different rental companies on the market, ranging from country to country with big international brands, medium regional operators, and small local businesses too, that may operate in only one city. But car rental can also result in unexpected charges, so watch out for common car rental rip-offs.
Steve Dennis, managing director of EnjoyTravel.com, an international car rental broker, explains the biggest rip-offs in his 15 years of experience in the industry. From sneaky fuel charges to unnecessary upgrades, these are the rental rip-offs to be aware of.
A combination of brand reputation and price are often the main attractions when comparing rentals. The cheapest may often be the most appealing, and in many cases is going to offer good value for money. But amongst these cheap offers on the market, there can sometimes be hidden costs that aren’t particularly clear on the face of it. Additional unknown costs and policies can be well hidden in the terms and conditions, so take note!
Here are 7 of the main rip-offs to watch out for when selecting your rental car:
1) Fuel policies
Some sneaky rental companies offer pricing tiers based on the fuel policy given, while the industry standard is that companies will offer FULL/FULL or “Return same as collected” on the fuel there are still a few that will offer a crazy low price for a FULL-to-EMPTY policy, whereby you pay for a full tank of fuel (often at a premium) and whatever level of fuel you return will not be refunded back to you. Other variations of this include an offer of a full tank and offer a refund of the difference but with an admin fee making it just as expensive. Opting for a FULL/FULL or “Return same as collected” policy will save you money as you are in control.
Action: Check that you understand the fuel policy of the rental, the most cost effective is generally full to full.
Are you offered an upgrade when you arrive? It could well be that the rental provider is genuinely providing you with a better choice at an extra cost. Sometimes this is welcome and you can decide to accept the additional cost in return for a better car, model or specification. However, some rental providers will offer an upgrade at a higher cost because they do not have the car you booked. If you do not need to upgrade you would naturally say no. In the case that your chosen car is not available you will be given the upgrade anyway as it is the only car available, it’s just a case of avoiding the hard sell.
Action:Only agree to pay for an upgrade if you really want it, and ask whether the reason for the upgrade is because they don’t have the car you ordered in stock, in which case it’s fair to argue the upgrade should be complimentary.
3) Unlimited mileage/kilometrage
Reducing the price that the customer first checks is the best way to get the consumer to part with their cash and make a booking. As with the fuel policy, removing certain benefits means the rental providers are relying on the customer not checking and reading the terms and conditions.
You might expect unlimited miles/kms as standard, but that’s not always the case. Often you can find yourself renting a car with a very small limit on the distance that you can drive before being charged an extra amount per mile/km. The price of the original rental will be cheaper but once you add on the excess miles/kilometres it can work out much more expensive overall.
Action:Always check whether the rental includes “unlimited mileage / kilometrage”
4) Toll management fees
One thing well worth a check when renting a car is whether the routes you intend to drive involve any toll roads and if so, how much they will cost. It is common practice to offer a toll transponder. For example “vignette” or “sunpass” to allow you to skip the line and go through without stopping and paying. However, these can be expensive and often based on the number of days you are renting for. If you only plan on using them occasionally you may be better to decline the offer of a pass and pay as you go.
Action:If you know the route you are going to drive, research in advance what the costs of the toll roads will be. Then you will be prepared to know how the rental company’s solution stacks up on cost, compared to paying as you go.
This is the amongst the most important and amongst the most confusing topics when it comes to car rental. But a little bit of research in advance can help to avoid taking additional insurances when arriving at the desk to collect the car and complete the documentation.
In the USA and Canada it is common to have cover via your credit card which will protect against any 3rd party damages, however this does not stop the pushy sales representative from trying to convince you to purchase their own insurance on top, when you arrive at the desk.
In Europe and Australia it is normal for customers to be required to leave a deposit on their credit card equal to the maximum excess which can be deducted in the event of damage. How to save you paying over double on the insurance for your rental? Reading what is and what isn’t included and checking against your own cover via credit card or any other external policy can help.
Action:Check in advance what cover you may already have and be prepared to say no on arrival at the desk.
6) Onsite – Offsite
When you come to reserve your car, you will find numerous options and companies offering different products and prices. If traveling abroad, you are likely to collect the vehicle from the airport where you land. The bigger brands may have a dedicated desk in the terminal, or close to the terminal in the rental area. Others might be a shuttle bus journey away.
There can be some significant savings if you take an off-site supplier; most will be based on or very close to the perimeter of the airport so it can make sense to use them. However, some will only allow the driver to take the shuttle bus and charge an additional fee for any additional passengers. While this is not that common it is worth checking… Your off-site saving becomes much less if you have to pay to use the shuttle or leave you family in the terminal whilst you take the journey to collect your car.
Action:If your rental company advertises that they are a short shuttle bus journey away from the terminal, check whether there are additional fees for additional passengers to use the shuttle bus.
Damages are closely linked to insurance options but can be very easily avoided by taking a little bit of extra time when collecting the car. If you take a walk around the car to inspect it then why not take pictures too? Focus on the common parts that are damaged: wheel rims/alloys, the bumpers and where the luggage is entered and removed from. If you have these photos then you can compare them on drop off and show the pre-existing damages on your pictures. This avoids the risk of being charged for damage which may have already existed.
Action:Always thoroughly inspect your vehicle before driving away, and take quality photos on your mobile device of any damage no matter how small.
The National Tourism Policy Committee has permitted the proposed guidelines for collecting a 300-baht tourism fee from each international visitor for managing local tourist destinations.
The money will also be utilized to provide insurance benefits to international tourists visiting Thailand.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said that each foreign visitor will be charged US$10 (300 baht) per visit.
Mr. Phiphat said that Thailand expects to receive around 10 million visitors this year.
He said that the 300-baht tourism fee would ensure that foreign tourists who fall sick or are injured are taken care of and given adequate medical attention.
The ministry will have to discuss the details with the Finance Ministry and the Office of Insurance Commission.
Of the 300-baht fee, 34 baht is expected to be utilized for the insurance coverage, said Mr. Phiphat.
Tourism permanent secretary Chote Trachu said that the fee collection was expected to start last year, but it was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that the National Tourism Policy Committee has evaluated the situation and agreed that the tourism fee collection should start this year.
With a second wave of outbreaks worrying many countries around the world, particularly during the winter months, triggering fresh new lockdowns, Thailand is expected to wait longer – until the second half of this year – to see more visitors fly back into the kingdom and revitalize the already suffering industry.
Travel looks very different right now depending on where you’re from and where you’re going. Be sure to check local restrictions and be willing to adhere to any and all safety regulations before planning a trip to any of the places you may read about on this site. Also, some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Read the full disclosure policy here.
Let me share a little fun fact with you guys about myself: I LOVE Christmas, and especially love picking out the perfect gifts for all the people in my life. I shop year-round for the people I love, and usually have a stash of “oh, this would be perfect for [insert family member name here]” gifts come Christmas time. (Tell me I’m not alone here?)
This year has been a weird one in so many ways, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that I’m still looking forward to the holidays and giving thoughtful gifts to the people I love (even if the gift-giving has to be done in a driveway gift swap this year to keep everyone safe!).
While I usually fill my annual gift guide with my favorite travel gear and gadgets, this year it just didn’t feel like the best use of this list. Instead, this year I’m curating all sorts of gifts that any travel-lover will love, no matter when they can get back out on the road.
So, without further ado, I give you the 2020 edition of Amanda’s Holiday Gift Guide for Travel-Lovers!
(And, in case it needs to be said, nobody has paid me anything to include items on this list; they’re all things that I’m personally recommending!)
What you’ll find in this post
USEFUL TRAVEL GIFTS
Here are some things that you can use at home now, but that will also be useful for travel once we can get back out on the road.
1. Speakeasy hidden pocket travel scarf
It’s true: I’m a liiiiiittle bit obsessed with these hidden pocket infinity scarves from Speakeasy Travel Supply. Not only do they come in soft fabrics and cute patterns, but they also come complete with a hidden zippered pocket that’s the perfect size for a passport, credit card(s), and some cash.
These are perfect for travel days – just put everything important in your scarf, wear it like normal, and skip the part where you worry about your essentials getting stolen in-transit.
And when you’re not traveling? Well, these scarves are still incredibly cute and comfy! I have 4 or 5 in different patterns, and wear them from fall into early spring.
**And save 10% when you use the promo code DANGEROUSBUSINESS.
2. Comfortable face masks
Even with good vaccine news on the horizon, the reality is that we’re still going to be living with COVID-19 for the next 6-8 months at least. It will take that long (or longer!) to get the majority of people vaccinated. So don’t think you’ll be able to get rid of your face masks as soon as we hit 2021!
Since we’re going to need to keeping wearing them for a while, I have a feeling face masks are going to be a popular stocking stuffer this year.
Speakeasy Travel Supply (yes, the scarf company!) also makes my favorite cloth face masks. They have a few different styles, including double-sided cloth masks for adults and kids; masks with filter pockets and nose wires; and even an adjustable mask without ear loops that won a grant from the state of Massachusetts! Check out all of their masks here.
These masks are machine washable, made from 100% cotton, and very comfortable. Elliot likes the ones with filter pockets as they’re a little bigger, while I like the regular masks. I have so many of these now, and like to match the patterns to my outfits.
I never thought the topic of sanitizing would be such a popular one, but welcome to 2020! I actually bought a pair of PhoneSoaps last year for Christmas gifts, not knowing then just how useful and in-demand they would become!
Your phone is generally regarded to be one of the dirtiest things in your house, and it’s harder to clean than other things that you can throw in the wash. Enter the PhoneSoap. This device sanitizes things like smartphones using strong UV-C light that can kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.
I use my PhoneSoap to sanitize everything from my phone to credit cards to my car keys. I can even fit most of my masks in here for a quick sanitize between washes! The PhoneSoap cleaning cycle only takes 10 minutes, so it’s easy to pop my phone inside whenever I come home from being out.
We even took our PhoneSoap with us while traveling this summer and fall, and it’s small enough that I may continue to travel with it next year. It’s way better for your phone than alcohol wipes.
I have the PhoneSoap Go, but there are several other models available now, too. They even have a “HomeSoap,” which is large enough to sanitize things like iPads and TV remotes.
**They’re having a Black Friday sale where you can save 20% and get free shipping by using the code HOLIDAY20.
4. Personalized passport cover
A little personal touch can go a long way. And an easy gift to get a travel-lover that is guaranteed to be the right fit is a personalized passport cover. These hand-made leather passport covers can be stamped with a travel quote, and your loved one’s name or initials. They come in regular or wallet versions, and can be paired with matching luggage tags.
This certainly isn’t something every traveler would purchase for themselves, but that’s why it would make a great gift! (For the record, I love my own passport holder; it holds my passport, Yellow Fever vaccination certificate, extra passport photos, and my travel insurance info for every trip!)
A few things I’m loving to lounge around in, but that would also be nice as gifts this year.
1. Wanderbabe leggings
Real clothes have become sort of obsolete this year; I’m living these days in leggings, t-shirts, and comfy sweaters, and would guess many of you are, too. But there’s no rule that says our lounge-around-the-house clothes can’t also be cute!
I got a pair of leggings from Wanderbabe Clothing this summer, and am in LOVE with how soft and buttery they are. They are designed by a fellow travel blogger, made in the USA, and a portion of proceeds is donated to organizations that support women.
I’m wearing the Many Purple Moons High-Waisted Leggings in the photo above, and find myself reaching for them more and more often. These will likely get rotated into my travel wardrobe next year.
**Sales for Black Friday! Save 20% with code FRIYAY.
2. Cozy slipper socks
I’m a big fan of cozy socks and slippers – and not just at home! I often pack slipper socks when I travel, too. They’re great on planes and in hotel rooms, and generally don’t take up a whole lot of space in a suitcase or carry-on.
I like my slipper socks to have a semi-solid bottom, and discovered these knit slipper socks from Azerbaijani Socks and fell in love! They’re called jorab, and have been a part of Azerbaijani culture for centuries. These are knitted with Azerbaijani patterns by women in rural Azerbaijan, meaning your purchase is helping keep a unique tradition alive.
Jewelry is always a great gift idea, and why not make it custom? You can order a pretty bracelet or set of rings with custom map coordinates on them; perfect for a travel-lover, or anyone who has moved around a lot.
I have a set of coordinate rings with the coordinates of where I grew up, and of Wellington, New Zealand, where I lived for a while during college. They’re great for stacking!
Here are some Etsy listings that I love:
**And note that these are all from Etsy shops, many of which are running Black Friday sales!
Looking for ways to use less plastic at home AND while you travel? Here are my favorite eco-friendly items that also make great gifts.
1. Camelbak MultiBev bottle
I’m a big fan of CamelBak, and own several different styles of their water bottles that I use for everything from traveling to working out. They released a new bottle this year that I’ll be adding to my arsenal very soon: the MultiBev, which can serve as both a to-go coffee cup AND a water bottle.
This insulated bottle/mug combo comes in two different sizes and a few different color combos. This would make a great gift this year.
Buy a MultiBev from CamelBak.
**Save 25% off all bottles through Dec. 1 using the code HOLIDAY25.
2. Reusable straws
While many restaurants around the world are switching over to biodegradable straw options, you still find a LOT of plastic straws out there. I find plastic straws to be one of the most unnecessary kinds of single-use plastic, simply because there are plenty of better options out there!
But this fold-up drinking straw would make an even better gift! It comes with a little carrying case and a brush for cleaning. Great for a stocking stuffer.
3. Solid shampoo/conditioner
For various reasons (including wanting to waste less plastic and keep my luggage lighter), I’ve started traveling with solid shampoo and conditioner on some of my longer trips. Shampoo/conditioner bars take up far less space in a suitcase, and aren’t subject to the liquid rules that regular bottles of the stuff are.
I don’t go ANYwhere without my Kindle these days. And the Kindle Paperwhite, in my opinion, is the very best Kindle out there. It has a built-in backlight perfect for reading on planes, won’t hurt your eyes with screen glare, and has a battery that lasts for weeks. The newest version of the Paperwhite is waterproof, too, making reading on the beach, by the pool, or in a fancy hotel tub even better.
And of course my Kindle gets a lot of use at home, too! I read most nights before bed, and have breezed through dozens of books during the lockdowns.
**Kindles are up to 35% off for Black Friday on Amazon!
2. Anker Soundcore Mini
You don’t need to spend $100+ on a fancy bluetooth speaker. This SoundCore mini by Anker produces great sound at a really affordable price. AND it’s small enough to easily throw in your bag on your next trip.
This speaker has become a must-have for me on road trips, for listening to everything from music to podcasts when you inevitably lose radio signal.
While batteries are lasting longer these days, I still find that my phone often runs out of juice after a long travel day of using maps and posting to Instagram Stories. For this reason, I always travel with a small power bank for backup battery power.
I like the Anker PowerCore 15000 because it’s fairly small (meaning easy to throw into my purse or day pack), but mighty – it will charge my phone 3-4 times before needing to be charged itself.
This has saved me on more than one occasion, like that one time I was in Istanbul trying to make sure my dad and I could find our way back to our hotel, and my phone inconveniently decided to die when we were still about a 20-minute walk away. Luckily I had my power bank and charging cord in my bag, and simply plugged in and kept walking.
I like finding creative ways to bring my travels into my everyday life – and that includes in my home decorating! I love these scratch-off travel maps not only because it’s fun to reveal all the places you’ve been, but also because they make for a great conversation piece up on the wall!
I especially like this one from Landmass Goods because it includes all the flags of the world for you to scratch off, too.
Looking for something small but cute and very travel-centric? This “Adventure Fund” jar makes a great gift. Elliot and I have had a coin jar on the table in our entryway since we first moved in together, and you’d be surprised how quickly all that loose change can add up!
This one doesn’t have to be just about travel, but would be a good way to share and display your favorite travel photos!
I actually used to have a digital photo frame about a decade ago, back when they were clunky and you had to load photos onto an SD card. These days, digital photo frames look a lot better, AND are much higher-tech. Now, you can send new images to a frame over wifi or via email, and you can also organize them through apps and websites.
We thought of getting my grandma (who lives in a nursing home) one of these for Christmas so we can send her photos and videos since we can’t go see her.
**This frame is also currently 20% off for Black Friday! A good deal!
5. Custom View Master
Speaking of unique ways to display travel photos, this one is a fun one! You can gift a Viewmaster with a custom reel of memorable photos (yes, a Viewmaster like the ones you used to play with as a kid!).
I love this as a gift idea, since it’s not something a person is likely to buy for themselves. Plus, the ability to choose which photos go on the real makes it a great personalized gift. I gave Elliot one of these several years ago for our anniversary, and he loved it!
This is one of the pricier gifts on this list, but I like them so much that I’m still going to include them. What better way to bring travel into your everyday life than with a blanket that celebrates America’s great national parks?
Pendelton is known for its high-quality wool blankets, and they now have a line inspired by national parks. Whether its Yellowstone, Crater Lake, or the Grand Canyon that you like best, these blankets would make the perfect statement piece in any room. My favorite? The Glacier blanket, for sure.
FOR THE OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST
1. GRAYL purifier bottle
Have an outdoor adventure enthusiast in your life? Then a GRAYL Geopress would make a great gift. These water bottles are also purifiers, great for backpacking and hiking since they allow you safely drink water from any water source, be it a stream or waterfall.
I have often traveled with a bottle like this, which also works to make tap water safe to drink all around the world by filtering out viruses, bacteria, pesticides, heavy metals, and microplastics.
They have an “ultralight” version of this bottle, too, but I prefer the larger Geopress one, as it’s easier to use.
**Save 20% on GRAYL products for Black Friday, too!
2. Hiking poles
Have you or your loved one picked up hiking as a hobby during 2020? Lots of people have! In that case, a set of nice hiking poles would be a great gift for Christmas.
(And, before you tell me that they’re dorky, hiking poles are an *excellent* piece of gear to own. They can help improve your balance, protect your knees, and even encourage you to pick up the pace on a hike.)
I bought my dad a pair of hiking poles a couple years ago for his long walks with his dogs, and he’s brought them on all our trips since! (And yes, you can travel with these; buy the collapsible kind, and pack them in your checked luggage.)
Sun protection is no joke, people. I’ve been on a quest for the past couple of years to find a packable sun hat that I love. And I’ve finally found some! I really love the hats made by the Wallaroo Hat Company, which are not only cute sun hats, but also effective – many of them have UPF protection built right in.
I so far have the Victoria Fedora and the Naples Fedora, and love them both. The Victoria can be folded up and packed (though you’ll want to unfold it as much as you can).
These hats aren’t cheap, but are good quality and last a long time – making them a great gift.
Looking for something fun to gift the game-loving traveler in your life? Here are some fun and interactive gift ideas.
1. Lonely Planet Everyday Adventures
Lonely Planet is usually known for its travel guidebooks, but recently they released a new “guide” called Everyday Adventures, which aims to give people new ideas of ways to explore places closer to home. I’m a big fan of hometown travel, and think this would make a fun gift, especially this year.
Jigsaw puzzles are SO last lockdown. If you want to amp it up a bit and buy something the whole family can work on together over the holiday break, why not a travel-inspired LEGO set?
Elliot and I got a very tiny LEGO version of Big Ben for Christmas last year, and worked on it during the first round of lockdowns. It was super fun, and I had no idea LEGO’s architecture line was so extensive! They have everything from mini city skylines (like Paris and San Francisco and Tokyo) to intricate sets to recreate famous sites like the Statue of Liberty and Trafalgar Square.
LEGO has a lot of things on sale for Black Friday, too, so have a look if you’re in the market to build something at home this holiday season!
3. Travel-themed board games
In our house, we are big fans of board games. (Any fellow Betrayal at House on the Hill fans out there? It’s a current favorite of ours.) But don’t assume that board games only mean Monopoly and Clue. There are SO many great games out there.
For those who want to weave a bit of travel into their board games, check these out:
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T WANT “STUFF”
I personally enjoy buying people physical gifts to open on Christmas Day, but it can be really tough to find things that are both thoughtful AND useful. Sometimes, more “stuff” just isn’t the answer.
If you’re looking for some non-material things to buy the traveler in your life this year, here a few things to consider:
1. A virtual tour
I know, I know, a lot of us are “Zoom-ed out” right now, but in a couple months a virtual tour of a museum or famous site might be the perfect weekend break at home. Several companies are still offering excellent virtual tours.
Virtual cooking classes, cocktail classes, and even wine tastings are available out there, and make a great group activity you can do with friends or extended family from the safety of your respective homes. Virtual cooking classes were really popular in the early days of the pandemic, and I have a feeling they may make a comeback this winter, too.
It’s looking like we might finally, finally be in the home stretch of COVID-19. Vaccines won’t make the pandemic go away overnight, but many people in the travel industry are at least starting to be optimistic about travel in the second half of 2021.
If that’s the case, then you might want to take advantage of holiday deals on things like tours and hotel bookings (with good free cancelation policies, of course!) now, in hopes that we can do at least a bit of travel next year.
Some companies offering great sales AND solid cancelation/no-change-fee policies include:
Intrepid Travel – My favorite tour company is once again doing a Cyber Sale, offering 20% off most tours for 2021 (valid through Dec. 1). They have a flexible booking policy with no change fees up to 21 days before departure.
Booking.com – The hotel booking site (that I personally use most of the time) is offering 30% or more off on stays completed before Dec. 31, 2021. Many hotels on Booking offer free cancelation.
Quark Expeditions – Not sure when even small-ship expedition cruises will be back, but Quark is offering a truly tempting deal: 2 for 1 on many of their Arctic and Antarctic voyages! They also have a risk-free cancelation policy and flexible re-booking in case you can’t go when you originally book.
So there you have it – another year, another gift guide! Which of these items would you like Santa to bring YOU this year?
Despite its small size, Panguitch in the southwest of Utah is a popular place to visit due to the spectacular scenery and natural attractions nearby. Its main draw is the beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park, but the tiny town is also located a short drive from Cedar Breaks National Monument and the remarkable Red Canyon.
Initially settled in 1864, the former lumber and ranching community now caters to tourists with plenty of motels and shops found in its downtown district. Here you’ll find attractive architecture and well-preserved buildings that showcase its rural roots and pioneer past.
As it lies within the Grand Circle, however – a loop of some of the southwest’s most incredible national parks – most people use Panguitch in Utah as a base for exploring all the area’s natural wonders.
The historic heart of Panguitch is its delightful downtown, packed with beautiful old brick buildings that highlight Panguitch’s pioneer past. As well as exhibiting attractive architecture, these historic houses host local shops and cosy motels.
Centered around its wide Main Street are excellent eateries and restaurants, as well as some splendid small town stores. Here you’ll find snacks and souvenirs, interesting antiques, cowboy collectibles, and Native American artworks.
Typically a quiet and quaint place for most of the year, in summer, Downtown Panguitch is often full of tourists using it as a base for the surrounding sights. With fun festivals, such as the Annual Quilt Walk and the Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally taking place, its charming center is well worth checking out if you have the chance.
Located an hour and a half’s drive to the southwest of Panguitch is one of the area’s standout sights: Zion National Park.
Established in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson, the picturesque park lies at the point where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert regions meet. As such, it boasts delightfully different and dramatic landscapes, with the colorful canyons of both Zion and Kolob counting among its most staggering sights.
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike will enjoy exploring here, with hiking, rock climbing, camping and canyoneering being a few of its most popular pastimes.
Set just 20 minutes drive to the southwest of town is pretty Panguitch Lake, a very popular recreation and vacation destination. People camp here in the summer months and use it as a base for visiting nearby Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Surrounded by low-lying hills, the lake is lined by cosy campsites and guests can go fishing, boating and kayaking out on its twinkling, tranquil waters. Visitors can also go hiking or horseback riding along its scenic shores or wildlife watching among the Colorado Plateau’s ponderosa pines.
Near Panguitch Lake is the astonishing natural amphitheater of Cedar Breaks. Protected since 1933, its colorful, crumbling cliffs can be found near the west end of the Colorado Plateau, plunging 600 meters to the valley floor below.
From its rugged rim, visitors can take in the breathtaking views over its endless craggy confines. Punctuating the park are many sandstone spires and handsome hoodoos. These make for some fantastic photos, thanks to their spellbinding silhouettes.
As well as enjoying the sublime scenery, visitors can also go hiking or camp at one of the park’s cosy campgrounds.
Sprawled across the southwest of the state is the delightful Dixie National Forest, which straddles the Grand Basin and Colorado River regions. It boasts diverse and dramatic landscapes with colossal canyons and cliffs, vast valleys, plateaus and hundreds of little lakes.
Founded in 1905, its verdant forests cover rolling hills and rearing mountain ranges, cut through by gorges and roaring rivers. The picturesque park encompasses four wilderness areas which offer many outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking, horseback riding, and camping.
Utah’s only national forest also has a rich history to delve into, with petroglyphs, pictographs and pueblo dwellings dotted here and there. Many of its prettiest parts lie just a short drive from the center of Panguitch.
One of Dixie National Forest’s most spectacular sights, the remarkable Red Canyon is just 10 minutes’ drive to the southeast of Panguitch. So named due to its ruddy red rock formations, the colorful canyon has stunning scenery, as well as countless outdoor activities to enjoy.
As it winds its way along Scenic Byway 12, the canyon is very easy to access. Fantastic photos can be had even from your car window. Stop off to explore trails that take you past towering ponderosa pine, humongous hoodoos, striking sculptures, and soaring sandstone cliffs.
Besides basking in its beauty, visitors can also go mountain biking and horseback riding among its rugged reaches, or even camp overnight to make the most of their visit to the canyon.
Boasting some of the most beautiful scenery, not only in Utah but the whole of the States, Bryce Canyon National Park is a treat to visit. Situated half an hour to the southeast of Panguitch, it has incredible eroded amphitheaters to explore, and unbelievable views wherever you look.
President Warren G.Harding first moved to protect its phenomenal features in 1923. Since then, millions of people have come to gaze in awe at its unique sandstone peaks, pinnacles and spires that line the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.
Most visitors come to explore its otherworldly-looking landscapes through hiking and camping. Wildlife such as elk and black bears can also be spied in its more remote realms. If you prefer to explore by car, there’s a scenic drive with viewpoints to check out. With so much to offer, Bryce Canyon National Park is certainly not to be missed when in Panguitch.
Whether flying in from abroad or planning a staycation, here’s a guide on some things to know.
England is the largest country in the United Kingdom and Great Britain. With a population over 55 million in a relatively small mass of land comparable with Greece or Nicaragua and (being 130,279 sq km or 50,301 sq miles to be precise), the roads in the cities and motorways alike tend to be crowded and busy with a lot of speed cameras.
Here’s what to know about renting a car in England
Smart motorways in England
Throughout the last decade, the English motorway system has been subject to major upgrades causing significant traffic jams from road works, for the national implementation of the “Smart Motorway” system. This has involved widening the lanes, strengthening the road surface and in many cases, increasing the motorways from a 3 lane system to a 4 lane system. Motorways now have state of the art traffic flow controls, over-head displays, flexible speed limits and 24 hour monitored management via cameras.
England is amongst the safest in the world when it comes to accidents
The roads are safer than other similar sized countries in Europe and around the world with a lower proportion of accidents and fatalities per car on the road.
The accident rate in the UK in 2018 was only 27.7 per million which is lower than almost every other major country, beaten by only Norway and Switzerland.
In England, like the rest of the UK, driving is on the left hand side
Renting a car in England as a foreigner for the first time? It’s worth having a few minutes practise in the car park (parking lot) where you have collected you car. In particular, get used to looking left first then right when at a junction or roundabout.
Here’s a few inside tips when renting a car and driving in England…
Which are the best car rental operators in England?
In almost all major cities and airports you will find the well-known brands like Avis, Hertz, Sixt, Alamo, Enterprise and Europcar. They are reliable and likely to have a dedicated desk in the terminal when collecting from an airport, and consistent in what you can expect to find. Looking for the bargains? Whilst still hoping for a base level of quality but happy to perhaps take a short shuttle journey and save money, it’s worth comparing all the options on a comparison website such as EnjoyTravel.com. You’ll find most of the big brands as well as some of the perhaps lesser known but still reliable brands like Green Motion, Easirent or SurPrice. Quite substantial savings can be made in this way.
Contactless collection and return system
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in March 2020, EnjoyTravel.com, in partnership with Easirent launched the first “contactless” and Covid-friendly rental system in England, initially offering car rental from London Kings Cross and Marble Arch, and following its success it was rolled out to more London locations.
The system is designed to eliminate all contact between the renter and the rental company. It involves no desk, no physical check-in and handily no queues too! You simply submit all of the paperwork online prior to travel, then collect your keys from a convenient onsite locker system in the collection area.
London congestion zone
The capital city of London is extremely busy and traffic is consistently heavy from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. If driving into central London and certain other parts, be aware of the congestion charge. If you drive into the London congestion charge zone, a £15 daily charge is applicable. It can be paid in advance online; if you don’t pay it you can be sure your car will be picked up by one of the many congestion charge enforcement cameras on the majority of routes into the city. The charge applies between 7am to 10pm daily except Christmas day the 25th December each year.
The majority or roads and motorways in England are free to drive on. In fact, there are only a limited number of roads and motorways which involve a specific toll which are listed below and include the M6 toll road north of Birmingham. Whilst this charge may seem unreasonable, it can be well worth it to avoid the highly congested M6.
Toll roads in the United Kingdom:
The M6 toll road
M4 – Second Severn Crossing
M25 – Dartford River Crossing
M48 – Severn Bridge
A4 – Batheaston Bridge
A15 – Humber Bridge
A19 – Tyne Tunnel
A38 – Tamar Bridge
A41 – Mersey Tunnels – Queensway
A59 – Mersey Tunnels – Kingsway
A57 – Dunham Bridge
A477 – Cleddau Bridge
A3025 – Itchen Bridge
A533 – Mersey Gateway Bridge
A533 – Silver Jubilee Bridge
Keep left unless over-taking!
In England and the rest of the United Kingdom, the motorways are generally 3 or 4 lanes wide in each direction. The 3 and 4 lane system is based on a premise of staying left except when over-taking. So if the left hand lane is empty and you’re not in it, then you should pull across.
A top tip, English drivers can be known to get particularly frustrated by fellow drivers not using this system correctly. You may experience other drivers flashing their lights to prompt you to move left. If this happens, and the lane to the left of you is empty, you are probably in the wrong lane! You should indicate, check your mirror and pull across a lane to the left when safe to do so.
Single and double yellow lines and parking fines
On most roads in an around the English cities, towns and villages you will see single and double yellow lines running along the payment or border edge of the road. These have particular meanings in terms of parking and waiting.
Single yellow lines – these mean there is no waiting or parking during specific times or days and night, as well as specific days such as bank holidays may be excluded. You should find a sign post nearby detailing the specific restrictions.
Double yellow lines – mean no parking at any time.
Zig zags – mean no parking or stopping at any time. These are normally used for places where there is a particular danger such as on approach to a crossing, near a school, or by a dangerous bend.
In all of the major cities and towns, parking and enforcement is a major source of revenue for the city. So don’t be surprised if you break the rules and park where you shouldn’t to quickly see a parking warden lurking, or have a ticket stuck to your windscreen when you return to your car. The amount of the fine will differ from place to place.
The English roads (like many other aspects of being in England!) are generally courteous, well-mannered and the following unwritten rules are broadly in place.
If someone pulls over to allow you through, or slows down to allow you to pull in, give them a friendly little wave. Or if it’s night time, a short snappy little flash of the flood light. This signifies a polite “thank you” from driver to driver.
On the motorways, stay in the left hand lane and allow drivers to over-take.
If you are over-taking yourself, once you have passed the car which you are over-taking, pull back into the left lane until the next time you need to over-take.
English drivers generally and habitually give other drivers plenty of space. So, when pulling in, pulling out, they allow plenty of space and don’t “cut up” other drivers. Pulling in too closely “cutting up” / “cutting in front of” other drivers is rude!
Of course, not all drivers follow this, but are generally considered as uncourteous and unfriendly when not doing so. Take note of these tips and you’ll be driving like a local in England in no time…
Harsil valley, which has around eight villages, is located in Uttarkashi district near the Indo-China border. The district administration is charting a detailed plan which would be submitted shortly to the state tourism department.
In order to reduce migration from areas along the Indo-China border, the Uttarakhand government is working towards putting Harsil valley on the global tourism map. The valley has good prospective for wildlife and adventure tourism.
To quote Mayur Dixit, the district magistrate of Uttarkashi, “Harsil valley has a lot of potential for tourism, but due to poor connectivity not many tourists are able to reach there. Being a border area, tourism will help reduce migration and we are working to develop roads using local stones which will work throughout the year compared to blacktop roads. We have also planned to set up public toilets along with strictly ensuring that tourists do not litter in the area.”
He added that officials are also setting up a waste management plan for the area, and to handle the waste generated when tourists visit during the peak season. The district administration has also planned to set up homestays in higher reaches like Nelong Valley for paths leading to Gartang Gali, which opens during summer months.
“With tourism, employment opportunities develop naturally. We have nature and adventure guides in the valley who are knowledgeable. We will be installing lights like Nainital and Mussoorie to beautify the area. We have also planned to set up telescopes at different places for astrophiles as stars are visible clearly from the valley,” added the district magistrate.
Road development will start from the summer months as the entire area is snow-covered at the moment.
The Uttarakhand government is also working to develop the country’s first Snow Leopard Conservation Centre in the region, by engaging the local Himalayan community in conservation along with employment generation.
Locals from the bordering villages like Sukki, Mukhba, Harsil, Bagori, Dharali, Jhala, Jaspur and Purali will get trained as conservation guides for trekking and bird-watching, since they have good knowledge about flora and fauna of the region.
Travel looks very different right now depending on where you’re from and where you’re going. Be sure to check local restrictions and be willing to adhere to any and all safety regulations before planning a trip to any of the places you may read about on this site. Also, some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Read the full disclosure policy here.
The first sign that you’ve left the 21st century behind and entered some sort of delightful time warp comes as soon as you step off the ferry dock on Mackinac Island.
Instead of being met with taxis and the sound of traffic on the busiest street on the island like you might expect in other locations, here you’re met with the sight of luggage being loaded on to the back of horse-drawn carts, lines of bicycles, and “taxis” in the form horse-drawn carriages.
The “city sounds” here are one of ferry horns, bicycle bells, and the clippity-clop of big draft horse hooves.
Yes, visiting Mackinac Island in Michigan is like stepping back in time.
Mackinac Island history
Long before Europeans “discovered” the northern part of Michigan, Mackinac Island was an important spot for the Anishinaabe people. They came to Mackinac Island during the summer months to fish, and also used the island as a meeting place and burial ground.
The name of the island even comes from these Indigenous peoples; the name “Mackinac” comes from the Ojibwe word Mishimikinaak or Mitchimakinack, which means “Big Turtle.” No one is sure if this comes from the shape of the island, or because the Anishinaabek believed that the island was home to a great turtle spirit.
Regardless, the name more or less stuck. (And, for the record, it’s pronounced “Mack-ih-naw,” in case you were curious.)
Mackinac Island was eventually colonized by Europeans in the mid-1600s, and by the early 1700s the nearby Straits of Mackinac which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron were an important part of the local the fur trade routes.
The British built a fort on the island (Fort Mackinac) in 1780 during the American Revolution, and this fort still stands today. It was used by US forces during the War of 1812 (when it was re-captured by the British during a battle), and was loosely used again during the Civil War years.
Throughout the 1800s, Mackinac Island became an important outpost for the fur trade (at one point being the headquarters for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Trade Company), and then the commercial fishing trade.
After the Civil War ended, the island turned to tourism. Americans were desperate to escape congested cities in the summer, and were eager to put the war years behind them. Mackinac Island became a popular resort island, and remains so today.
Except that, while the rest of the world evolved, Mackinac Island has basically remained in the Victorian era.
Victorian hotels and grand homes still abound on Mackinac Island. Fudge shops started in the 1880s still operate today. And “horseless carriages” (AKA cars) have been banned since 1898.
So when I say that visiting Mackinac Island is like stepping back in time, I’m not exaggerating!
When to visit Mackinac Island
There are a few hundred permanent residents on Mackinac Island, so the island is technically “open” year-round. However, it does have a distinct tourist season, which runs from mid-May to mid-October.
The season is in full-swing by Memorial Day, and begins to wind down once the winds start to turn cold in October. While you can technically visit outside of these months, not all the hotels, restaurants, and shops stay open once the tourists leave. (For example, the hotel where we stayed closed up shop on October 11 in 2020, and several other places were already closed by that time.)
You’ll find the nicest weather on Mackinac Island during these months, too. To avoid the worst of the summer crowds, I would avoid holiday weekends (and, actually, weekends period if you can). And if you can visit before school lets out or after it’s back in session, you’re also likely to find a quieter island.
My husband Elliot and I visited in early October, and while the weather was a bit chilly during our stay, we loved the added pop of fall colors around the island.
How to get to Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island sits in the Straits of Mackinac, technically in Lake Huron. It’s not far from mainland Michigan, however, and can be reached by boat, small aircraft, and even snowmobile in the winter months (snowmobiles are one of the few exception to the “no cars” rule on the island).
My recommendation for getting to Mackinac Island is to go by ferry. During the tourist season, ferries are run by both Star Line Ferry and Shepler’s, and both have docks in Mackinaw City (Lower Peninsula) and St. Ignace (Upper Peninsula).
The ferry crossing only takes 15-20 minutes (Shepler’s quotes exactly 16 minutes), and there are multiple sailings every day from morning until well into the evening.
Elliot and I went over with Shepler’s, which cost us $27 per person round-trip, plus $10 to park for 2 nights in Shepler’s surface lot at the dock in St. Ignace. (Star Line’s prices and parking options are different, though.)
Pro tip: The majority of people seem to sail to/from Mackinaw City. So if you want easier parking and less-crowded ferries, I’d recommend making your way to St. Ignace to catch the ferry. Bonus: this includes a drive over the famous Mackinac Bridge!
Things to do on Mackinac Island in 2 days
And now that you know a bit about Mackinac Island’s history, when to go, and how to get there, let’s talk about what to do once you’re there!
Mackinac Island only covers about 4.35 square miles total, so you might erroneously believe that you can see everything worth seeing in just a couple of hours. Obviously, this is not the case!
While you *can* technically visit Mackinac Island for just a day from the mainland, I recommend spending at least 2 nights on the island in order to truly get the full experience. (I totally realize that this makes for an expensive trip, but if you can afford it I promise you won’t regret it!)
Here’s my 2-day itinerary for Mackinac Island, which you can feel free to steal!
Pro tip: On your way over on the ferry, if you’re offered a visitor’s guide booklet for purchase, get it! This $2 book is FULL of good tips and historical tidbits for the island, and helped a lot on our own first visit.
Day 1 on Mackinac Island
1. Arrival and check-in
I recommend catching a morning ferry over to Mackinac Island if possible so you can have most of the day today to explore. Once disembarking the ferry, you’ll probably want to make your way to your accommodation to drop off your things.
Some of the bigger and more luxurious hotels on the island (like The Grand, the Island House, and Mission Point Resort), include luggage service with your stay, meaning your luggage will be automatically loaded onto a carriage and transported to your hotel. (Check with your hotel to see if they offer this service.)
If your luggage is being transported for you, then you can either catch a horse-drawn taxi, or simply walk to your hotel. Most of the hotels on the island are within walking distance from the ferry docks. It took us 10-15 minutes to walk from the Shepler’s dock to the Island House Hotel.
If your luggage isn’t being transported, then you’ll probably want to grab a carriage taxi unless you’re staying at one of the hotels right on Main Street downtown.
You’ll probably be too early to check-in to your room, but you can drop your bags off at reception and head back out to start exploring!
2. Visit Fort Mackinac
No matter where you’re staying on the island, chances are you’re just a short walk from Fort Mackinac. You can’t miss this historic fort, perched on top of a cliff-like hill above Marquette Park.
There are two entrances to the fort, one that can be reached from the bottom of the hill, and another at the top, around the back of the fort. The fort is open from 9 a.m. until either 5 or 7 p.m. depending on the month, and admission is $13.50 for adults and $8 for kids.
Elliot and I entered from the “front” entrance, which does include a relatively steep walk up the hill. But the views out over the town are just incredible!
Once inside the fort, there’s a lot to look at. As I mentioned before, Fort Mackinac was built in 1780 by the British, and was used as a military fort until the end of the 19th century.
In 1875, Fort Mackinac became the headquarters for Mackinac National Park – the second US national park after Yellowstone! It only remained a national park for 20 years, though, being handed over to the Mighigan State Park service in 1895.
Fort Mackinac is still managed as part of the larger Mackinac Island State Park, and has some excellent exhibits on everything from military training to family life within the fort. There’s a small museum about the history of Mackinac Island here, too.
The kiddos will probably want to stick around for the rifle demonstrations and the firing of cannons; check the daily schedule to see when these are happening.
Fort Mackinac is home to The Tea Room, which is an informal cafe operated by The Grand Hotel. They serve lunch here from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., and snacks, beverages, and desserts all day. The patio here has an amazing view out over Mackinac Island, so you may want to grab lunch here before heading back down the hill.
Otherwise, all the restaurants along Main Street are just a short walk away.
4. Art Museum and/or Biddle House
After lunch, you may want to visit another museum or two. Most of them on the island are also part of the larger Mackinac Island State Park, which covers 80% of the island.
The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum near Marquette Park houses a collection of Mackinac-related art and photography, and a visit is included with your Fort Mackinac ticket (otherwise it’s $8.50 for adults).
If you’re more interested in history than art (or maybe if you have time to do both!), then I would also recommend a visit to Biddle House. There are several historic homes you can explore on Mackinac Island (and they’re all included with your Fort Mackinac admission ticket!), but Biddle House stands out because it attempts to tell the story of the local Anishnaabek people on Mackinac Island.
Biddle House was the home of Edward Biddle and his Odawa wife Agatha, who lived in the house in the 1830s. Costumed interpreters tell the Biddles’ story, and there are also exhibits and galleries that explore Anishnaabek culture and history on the island.
Indigenous history is often glossed over in American tourism, so I really appreciate that this is available to visitors on Mackinac Island. The island could do more to highlight its Indigenous history, sure, but at least they aren’t completely ignoring it.
5. Downtown walk / drinks
It’s already been a long and busy day, so you may want to wind down your evening with a stroll through downtown for some shopping. Fudge is still the must-buy souvenir from Mackinac Island, and Murdick’s Fudge was the first to open on the island back in 1887.
After a stroll, why not a drink? Mackinac Island has no shortage of bars and restaurants to choose from. And while Elliot and I didn’t partake since we were visiting Mackinac Island in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, some popular places to grab a drink in other years include:
Pink Pony – This is THE place everyone will tell you to go for a drink. (They have food, too, but are most well-known for their drinks and patio.) Try the Famous Island Rum Runner (with optional pink souvenir tumbler), or maybe a Pink Pony Punch.
Draught House – Next to Mary’s Bistro, the Draught House is a good option if you like beer, since they regularly have up to 50 craft beers on tap.
Great Turtle Brewery & Distillery – While there’s not a brewery or distillery ON Mackinac Island, Great Turtle is a good alternative. They get their signature craft beer from Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City, and their private label spirits from Les Cheneaux Distillery on the Upper Peninsula.
Almost everywhere on Mackinac Island serves both drinks AND food, so you could certainly just stick around for dinner wherever you end up for drinks. But if you want other recommendations in town, here are a few:
Horn’s Gaslight Bar & Restaurant – This saloon-style bar/restaurant is known for its live music, along with its American and Southwestern food. We had really good Mexican take-away from Horn’s, and would definitely recommend it for the food.
Mary’s Bistro – We got food from Mary’s, too, which does tasty American-style fare.
Seabiscuit Cafe – This horse racing-themed spot offers up a mixture of seafood and BBQ, along with good cocktails.
Millie’s on Main – This family-owned spot calls itself a “homestyle pub,” and does mostly burgers and sandwiches. You can get a pasty here, which is a famous Upper Peninsula dish.
1852 Grill Room – Looking for something a bit more upscale? This restaurant at the Island House Hotel is a good option. Reservations are recommended here.
7. Evening walk
If you’re visiting Mackinac Island during the summer months, then you can expect very long days; the sun won’t set until about 9:30 p.m. in June and July. So take advantage of the quieter downtown area after all the daytrippers have left and go for a walk.
The boardwalk past the ferry docks is a lovely spot for a stroll, and to catch a sunset from. Also, keep your eye out for the Mackinac Bridge to illuminate at dusk in the distance!
Day 2 on Mackinac Island
1. Coffee and breakfast
There IS a Starbucks on Mackinac Island (because of course there is), but supporting local is always a better option. For coffee and good pastries, head to Lucky Bean Coffee House on Market Street.
If you want a more substantial breakfast, The Chuckwagon on Main Street is a small-but-mighty local favorite for breakfast or brunch.
2. Take a carriage tour
The most popular activity on Mackinac Island is to go on a horse-drawn carriage tour. I’m usually one to balk at activities that involve animals, but horse-drawn carriages aren’t just an attraction here; they’re literally a way of life.
Draft horses and carriages/carts are used for everything from taxis to bar delivery to even garbage collection on Mackinac Island. All the horses I saw during our stay looked healthy and well-cared-for, so I think if you want to take a carriage tour you can feel okay about the animals.
Carriage tours are offered by Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, and their public tours start at 9:30 a.m. each day. You can’t buy tickets in advance, however; tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. Your best bet of getting on the tour you want is to go early on a weekday, so I’d head to their carriage stand as early as possible.
These tours last about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and include live commentary by your carriage driver, along with a couple sightseeing stops. In normal years, you’ll get the tour and admission to the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum.
Carriage tours cost $38 per person for adults, and $14 for kids.
3. Visit The Grand
If you’re not staying at this opulent hotel (and, honestly, I don’t think you *need* to), don’t worry! You can visit all the best parts by paying $10 for a guest pass.
The Grand was one of the first hotels built on Mackinac Island, dating back to 1887. The palatial hotel is iconic, and is home to the longest front porch in the world at 660 feet. The hotel also still feels very Victorian in its decor, and is a delight to wander around.
If you take a carriage tour, you can opt to be dropped off at The Grand at the end of your tour.
The top must-do on a visit to The Grand is to head out to that massive front porch and pull up a rocking chair to enjoy the view. There’s a bar just off the porch that you can order drinks from, or you can do what Elliot and I did and grab a coffee from the little coffee shop inside The Grand’s lobby.
We also wandered through the Parlor, poked our heads into the Audubon Wine Bar, and went up to the fourth floor to see the Cupola Bar. The latter of which is a popular spot to enjoy sunset drinks.
We ended our visit with a walk through the hotel’s beautiful gardens.
The gardens at The Grand are filled with perennials and annuals, and are at their peak during the late spring and summer; but even in fall, there were things in bloom. Look out for the “Secret Garden,” and the little walking labyrinth too.
Pro tip: The Grand Hotel technically has a dress code, especially in the evenings. If you’re visiting for a meal or just to look around after 6 p.m., note that men are supposed to be in a jacket and tie, and ladies should wear skirts or dresses. (Yes, this is real, and it’s posted at various points before you enter the hotel.) During the day, though, the dress code is casual.
In more “normal” times, I would have insisted we book Afternoon Tea at The Grand. Tea is served from 3:30-5 p.m. in the red and green Parlor looking out at the porch, and costs $59 per person. (I have a thing about unique afternoon teas, what can I say?)
But since we were visiting while COVID-19 restrictions were still in place, we opted to eat outdoors just across the street at The Jockey Club at the Grand Stand.
This casual restaurant is situated at the first tee of The Jewel, The Grand’s own golf course. You’ll find mostly soups, salads, and sandwiches here, which is perfect for a lunch break.
3a. Bike around the island
My favorite thing we did on Mackinac Island was renting bikes for an afternoon to bike the 8-mile “highway” that runs the circumference of the island. This is actually an official highway – the M-185 – but of course you won’t encounter any cars on it; only bikes!
There are many bike rental places all over the place, which isn’t surprising since bicycles are the most popular way to get around here.
A few people will bring their own bikes over to Mackinac Island, but most likely you’ll be renting yours. Rental prices are pretty standard all over the island, and have one thing in common: they aren’t cheap! Expect to pay around $10 per hour for a bike rental. This is why we decided to only get bikes for one afternoon.
The highway that circles the island is nice and flat, so don’t worry about this ride being too strenuous. (On the other hand, if you have extra time and want to head up into the center of the island, then you DO need to expect to encounter some hills!)
There are plenty of places along this circular route that you might want to stop, so I’d allow at least 2 hours total for this ride.
Some stops worth making include:
Arch Rock – This iconic rock arch has been drawing tourists on Mackinac Island for more than 150 years. From the bike trail, you’ll have to climb 207 steps to reach the best views of the arch, but it’s worth it if you stop to make the climb.
Lake Shore Nature Trail – Park your bike and go on a short walk around a pond, with interpretive displays about the island’s flora.
Native American Cultural History Trail – There are six different pull-outs along the trail that feature interpretive signs about the island’s Indigenous history.
British Landing – There’s a nature center here, as well as a half-mile nature trail, restrooms, and a bike repair station.
Devil’s Kitchen – A cave-like formation in the breccia rock that’s good for a quick photo stop.
Mission Point – Ride back through town, and head out to Mission Point Resort where you can congratulate yourself on a successful ride with a drink while you lounge on the resort’s lovely front lawn.
Note that you don’t need any special kind of license to rent or ride a bike on Mackinac Island (and helmets are not mandated, either), but you DO still have to follow traffic rules and speed limits – yes, you can get a speeding ticket on a bike here!
3b. Play a round of golf
If cycling isn’t really your thing, another popular outdoor activity on Mackinac Island is golfing. Even though the island covers less than 5 square miles and is mostly state park land, it nevertheless has three different golf courses!
The courses you can play include:
Wawashkamo Golf Course – The oldest course on Mackinac Island, this historic golf course tucked away in the center of the island was built in 1898. Its 9 holes are built in the traditional links style, just like the great golf courses of Scotland, and the course was named as one of America’s Historic Golf Landmarks by Golf Digest in 1996. Summer rates start at $55 for 9 holes.
The Jewel at The Grand Hotel – This award-winning golf course comprises The Grand nine (originally built in 1901), and the Woods nine. 18 holes costs around $150.
Greens of Mackinac at Mission Point Resort – This is an 18-hole putting course on the edge of Lake Huron, suitable for the whole family.
And, while cars are banned on Mackinac Island, golf carts ARE permitted on both Wawashkamo and The Jewel.
Head back into the downtown area for dinner – or perhaps have a meal at Mission Point Resort if you’ve ended up there after your bike ride and you still have some time left on your rental.
5. Take a walking ghost tour
This one is optional, of course, but it’s a fun last-night activity if you’re into legends and the paranormal. Haunts of Mackinac offers several different ghost tours on the island, with their most popular being their Downtown Haunted History Tour, which lasts for 90 minutes and runs most summer nights.
They also offer haunted tours of the Mission Point Resort, and even ghost-hunting tours if you’re into that.
If you have more time…
While you can certainly see all the highlights of Mackinac Island in two days, you may be tempted to stay a big longer in this Victorian time warp. And I wouldn’t blame you!
If you’re staying 3 or 4 nights, you could spread out some of the above activities, and maybe add one or two more. Like:
1. Explore the island’s center
Most people stick to the outside edge of Mackinac Island, but there ARE roads that lead up through its center, too. Rent a bike or simply set out on foot, and you can walk from downtown to British Landing, cutting through the center of the island.
Points of interest along the route include Fort Holmes, Skull Cave, and a couple old cemeteries. This is also the road you need to take if you want to visit the battlefield where the British and American forces fought a battle in 1814.
2. Go kayaking
Summer is the perfect season for kayaking in Michigan, and there are options to do so on Mackinac Island. Great Turtle Kayak Tours offers guided tours around Mackinac Island, as well as kayak and paddleboard rentals.
Kayaking was already done for the season when Elliot and I visited in October, otherwise we probably would have tried to squeeze it in!
Where to stay on Mackinac Island
There are actually a LOT of hotel and B&B options on Mackinac Island. You’d think this would mean there would be some budget options, too… but, I’ll be honest with you: you’re not going to have a “cheap” overnight stay on Mackinac Island. You’re just not.
Staying overnight on Mackinac Island is going to be a splurge, and you should plan accordingly for that.
Here are some of the most popular places to stay on Mackinac Island:
1. The Grand Hotel
The Grand is an iconic hotel that is equal parts jaw-dropping and kind of kitschy in a Dirty Dancing kind of way. Be prepared for loud prints and patterns on just about every surface, and to pay a premium if you want to stay here. (In high season, rooms frequently cost $800+ per night.)
The Grand is a true resort hotel, with a big swimming pool, a golf course, and several restaurants and shops inside.
But because you can visit most parts of The Grand as a guest, I don’t think you really need to stay here unless it’s a bucket list item for you.
This is where Elliot and I stayed on Mackinac Island. The Island House Hotel is even more historic than The Grand, having been built in 1852. The hotel oozes historic charm, has a nice front porch and front lawn to enjoy, and is within walking distance of almost everything.
We paid about $500 per night for a Premium View King room, which included luggage transfers and breakfast at the 1852 Grill Room. This was a high price for October, but the island was basically full on the weekend we visited, so know that prices do absolutely reflect demand.
Mission Point Resort – Located a little beyond the downtown area, this historic resort offers some slightly more budget-friendly room options.
One thing I want to make sure you’re aware of at ANY hotel on Mackinac Island: most of the hotels and B&Bs here are in historic (i.e. OLD) buildings. Expect to find creaky floors, plumbing quirks, and other things that go along with hotels and houses that are 100+ years old.
The thing people complain about the most on Mackinac Island is the lack of soundproofing; no matter where you stay, you may end up being able to hear your neighbors through the walls or ceilings. If you are a light sleeper, definitely pack your ear plugs!
Even though 2 days on Mackinac Island can definitely be a bit of a travel investment, I think it’s worth it. The island reflects an interesting part of Michigan history, and is still a really unique place to visit.
I would definitely plan and book ahead for any trip to Mackinac Island, and then relax as much as possible once you get there!
Have I convinced you to want to plan a trip to Mackinac Island?
One of the oldest cities in the United States, New Mexico’s state capital Santa Fe has a rich history and heritage for you to delve into. Home to a mesmerizing mix of cultures, its age-old streets are a treat to explore with attractive Native American adobe buildings and charming Spanish colonial churches alongside magnificent Mexican missions.
Besides being renowned for its cultural diversity and interesting historic tourist attractions, the city is also famed for its extraordinary arts scene. While plenty of galleries dot its streets, Santa Fe is also an important center for the performing arts and hosts lots of great cultural events and festivals. Other things to do in Santa Fe include visiting marvelous museums and exploring it’s scenic setting at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Set just twenty minutes’ drive to the south of the city center is El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a huge, historic ranch that is now a living history museum. Home to lots of beautiful old buildings, orchards and vineyards, the sprawling site offers up an invaluable look at the history, heritage, culture and traditions of eighteenth and nineteenth century New Mexico.
Once a rest stop on the Royal Road that ran from New Mexico to Santa Fe, the fortified residence that is the ‘Ranch of the Swallows’ now instead welcomes tourists and school groups to its scenic site. A very educational and interactive place, it has lots of delightful displays and demonstrations that highlight how farmers, blacksmiths and millers used to live and work during Spanish colonial times.
Since being founded way back in 1968 by a small group of farmers, the Santa Fe Farmers Market has grown to include over 150 local growers and vendors. A lovely lively yet laidback place to visit, it is located just a stone’s throw away from the city center in the Santa Fe Railyard.
Besides perusing its endless stands and stalls that are laden with fresh produce and colorful foods, visitors can also shop for souvenirs, sample some local treats and stop off for a coffee or a snack. While its Saturday morning market is the most popular and has live music and bands playing, there are also smaller markets to stop by on both Tuesdays and Sundays.
15. Ski Santa Fe
Nestled away just to the northeast of the city are the sensational, snow-coated slopes of Ski Santa Fe which is one of the most accessible and attractive resorts in the area. In total, it has 88 terrific trails and a tantalizing terrain park for you to try out with lots of spellbinding scenery and views to be enjoyed from up high.
Suitable for beginners, intermediates and experts alike, its snowy slopes have a total vertical drop of some 500 or so meters and are serviced by seven ski lifts. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, guests can also enjoy some great shopping and dining on the mountain with some epic hiking trails and mountain bike paths to be found nearby.
14. Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
A very interesting and impressive place to visit, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture offers up a fascinating look at the origins, history and traditions of the Southwest’s Native American people. Set just to the south of the center on Museum Hill, its captivating collection includes an astounding array of incredible artworks, artifacts and archaeological findings.
Founded all the way back in 1909, the magnificent museum protects, preserves and promotes the various peoples and pueblos’ history, culture and heritage. As well as perusing all its phenomenal pottery, photographs and permanent exhibitions, visitors can also attend delightful dance, music and storytelling events.
While it appears to be quite a simple structure at first sight, the San Miguel Chapel is remarkably thought to be the oldest surviving church in the whole of the United States. Although the current chapel dates back to 1710, an earlier version stood in the same spot for almost a century before being burned and destroyed during a revolt.
Originally built by Franciscan friars and Tlaxcalan Indians, the charming chapel now exhibits lots of attractive adobe architecture and is adorned with a small and simple bell tower. In contrast to its earth-colored outside, its interior is painted white with unique artworks and an impressive altar on its walls. Well worth visiting for its historic and religious importance, San Miguel Chapel lies in the historic heart of Santa Fe.
Lining one side of Santa Fe’s pretty and pleasant plaza is the Palace of the Governors which was impressively built way back in 1610. As the oldest public building in the country, it served as the state’s seat of government for centuries. Today, it is protected as part of the marvelous New Mexico History Museum.
As it is full of fabulous furnishings and period pieces, the palace is a treat to explore with its ancient artifacts offering up an interesting look at the history of the building, city and state. Exhibiting some excellent adobe architecture, the simple, single-story structure is now a National Historic Landmark.
Every year in August thousands upon thousands of artists, vendors, tourists and collectors pack into the city for the superb Santa Fe Indian Market. Featuring over a 1,200 of the best Native American artists from more than 220 tribes and pueblos, the colorful and chaotic cultural celebration is the largest such show and market of its kind in the world.
Set up in the city’s central plaza and surrounding streets are a myriad of stands and stalls that sell everything from beautiful beadwork and basketry to glimmering jewellery, textiles and sculptures. In addition to this, you can also visit open studios and galleries and watch Native music, film and cultural events with the most exquisite artworks receiving prizes in juried competitions.
Home to an astounding array of interesting artifacts and exhibits, the New Mexico History Museum can be found just behind the Palace of the Governors in the center of the city. Well worth visiting if you have the chance, it offers up a fascinating look into the people, cultures and communities of both the state and the Southwest.
Only opened in 2009, the magnificent museum has three floors of photos, prints and archaeological findings for you to peruse. These look into everything from indigenous life in the state, to Spanish colonization and important events from the twentieth century. In addition to this, you can also buy some great souvenirs from the fantastic facility’s daily Native American arts market.
Just a short stroll from Santa Fe Plaza is the New Mexico State Capitol which is the state’s seat of government. A unique and unusual building, it is informally known as the ‘Roundhouse’, as its arresting architecture is designed to look like the circular emblem of the Zia Pueblo which is also the state’s symbol.
Built in 1966, it exhibits a delightful mix of Territorial Revival and Neoclassical architectural styles with its remarkable Rotunda and its stained-glass ceiling undoubtedly being the highlight. As well as seeing the House and Senate chambers from above, visitors can also check out all the excellent art that is dotted about which represents the history and culture of the peoples of New Mexico.
8. Museum of International Folk Art
An incredible place to visit, the Museum of International Folk Art boasts a captivating collection of some 135,000 objects that come from more than a hundred countries. The biggest and best folk art museum in the world, its exhilarating artifacts and exhibitions lie just a short drive to the south of the city center.
Since opening in 1953, its colossal collection has continued to grow with terrific toys and textiles now on show alongside colorful carvings, ceramics and costumes from all around the globe. As well as showcasing lots of splendid local Hispanic art, the marvelous museum also has some lovely scenes and displays that depict daily life in different societies.
Situated right in the city center is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum which is dedicated to the life and legacy of the world-renowned artist. In total, its gorgeous galleries house over a thousand of her fabulous paintings, drawings and sculptures with countless other artworks by contemporaries also being on display.
As well as perusing the largest O’Keeffe collection in the world, visitors can watch a film on her life and artistic achievements and see some of her personal items and memorabilia. Located in what was once an adobe Baptist church, the museum certainly warrants a visit for its wonderful watercolor works and pretty pastel pieces that depict the life and landscapes of New Mexico.
While it is most famed for its ‘miraculous’ spiral staircase, the lovely little Loretto Chapel has lots of other fine features for visitors to enjoy. Built way back in 1878, it exhibits lots of attractive architecture with beautiful buttresses, superb spires and stunning stained glass windows also on show.
Inside the glorious Gothic Revival church, however, is its standout sight – the striking spiral staircase around which so many myths and legends swirl. Appearing as if it is unsupported, the unique and unusual staircase stands out delightfully against the white walls of the charming chapel. Now both a museum and wedding venue, Loretto Chapel can be found in the historic heart of Santa Fe.
An extraordinary interactive and immersive art installation, the mesmerizing Meow Wolf certainly promises to be unlike anything you’ve seen or experienced before. Located in what was once an old bowling alley, its surreal scenes and settings are lots of fun to explore and appear decidedly otherworldly and unique.
As you search for clues and crack codes relating to the disappearance of a Californian family, you wander mysterious hallways, find hidden doorways and pass through portals to other worlds and dimensions. Along the way, you come across lots of breathtaking artworks with magical music ringing in the air. Opened in 2016, the House of Eternal Return, as it is known, lies just fifteen minutes’ drive to the southwest of the city center.
One of the city’s most important and impressive historic sights is the lovely Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi which lies right in the center of town. Built between 1869 and 1886 in a ravishing Romanesque Revival style, its fantastic facade is flanked by two towers and sports a wonderful rose window above a pretty portico.
Despite being quite austere inside, its nave is lined by colossal Corinthian columns with charming little chapels to be found to either side. One of its standout sights is a small statue of the Virgin Mary which is known as La Conquistadora and is the oldest such sculpture of its kind in the country.
The historic heart of the city, Santa Fe Plaza has been at the center of life in town for more than four hundred years. Lying right in the center of the city, the scenic square is surrounded by lots of age-old adobe buildings and historic houses with magnificent monuments and museums dotted about.
A lovely, lively yet laidback place, the ‘Plaza’ as it is simply known to locals has lots of excellent art galleries and boutiques with many vendors selling Native American art and crafts. As it regularly hosts markets and music events, parades and festivals, there is always something to see or do. With many souvenir shops on offer, restaurants to try and museums to explore, it is impossible to visit Santa Fe without passing through the plaza at least once or twice.
Nestled away just to the north of the city is the state-of-the-art Santa Fe Opera House which puts on world-class opera performances each and every summer. As it is partially open-air, the phenomenal venue also offers up spellbinding views out over the Jemez Mountains which act as a breath-taking backdrop to its sweeping stage.
Established as recently as 1998, the opera house exhibits some incredible architecture with its sail-like ceiling reflecting sounds from the stage to the audience. Every season it hosts a myriad of spectacular shows and spectacles with up-and-coming opera singers performing alongside firmly established stars. One of the best and most memorable places to catch a performance in the Southwest, the Santa Fe Opera House is definitely worth checking out if you have the chance.
A popular and picturesque place to visit and explore, Canyon Road is remarkably home to over a hundred art galleries, studios and workshops. Set just to the southeast of Santa Fe’s center, the artistic area really is an art lover’s dream with everything from contemporary crafts and quirky clothing to glittering jewels, sparkling silverware and stunning sculptures on show.
Exhibiting stunning and evocative Native American arts, crafts and artifacts, its galleries are a treat to peruse with many being located in attractive buildings. While some of the artists are renowned internationally, others are famed locally for their fantastic folk art which highlights the history and heritage of the region. With lots of great restaurants and cafes also to be found along the route, Canyon Road is not to be missed for its appealing arts, architecture and ambience.
Tired of the cold weather? We don’t blame you. Thousands of travellers plan winter vacations each year just to get away from the winter gloom and replenish their levels of Vitamin D.
In fact, nearly a quarter of all Americans actually prefer winter vacations, citing the lack of tourists, lower costs, and desire to get away from the bad weather as reasons why. And, they’ve certainly got their eye on Europe’s hottest tourist destinations.
Whether you’re American, European, or from any other far-reaching corner of the world, we thought we’d check out the best winter sun destinations to visit in Europe. After all, it’s one of the most visited spots on Earth, and it’s also home to some of the world’s best beaches.
Pack your bags, set your away messages, and prepare to treat yourself to your first vacation of the year. Head to any one of the seven best winter sun destinations in Europe for a warm-weather holiday. You deserve it.
The cheapest time to fly to Lanzarote, one of the most popular islands in Spain’s Canary Islands, is March. And, while it’s not quite winter still, it’s definitely still cold in most parts of the world. So, book your tickets now and plan a trip to the Canary Islands to warm your bones after a long, cold, dreary winter.
Average winter temperature:13°C to 20°C/55°F to 68°F
Madeira is, without a doubt, one of the most popular winter sun destinations in Europe for Europeans. Numerous people from the UK, Spain, and other nearby countries head here every year. Rent a villa or invest in some beachfront timeshare properties, it doesn’t matter. Just get your butt to Madeira and bask in some of that Portuguese sun.
Average winter temperature:5.5°C to 12°C/42°F to 53°F
Home to numerous fortresses and megalithic temples, Malta is an enchanting spot to spend any holiday. However, it’s easily one of the best winter sun destinations in Europe, especially for those interested in lots of warm weather. Explore Mdina before hopping on a speed boat and jetting off to Comino, Malta’s tiniest island, for some secluded rest and relaxation.
Average winter temperature:10°C to 15.5°C/50°F to 60°F
Ancient Romans reportedly believed that there were four gods of the wind. And, one of those gods carries with it a Sirocco wind that brings hot air from Africa year-round. The result? A nice and warm Palermo for visitors to enjoy, especially during the wintertime. Explore charming plazas and indulge in delicious Italian food, all without having to wear your winter coat.
Average winter temperature:10°C to 15.5°C/50°F to 60°F
During peak travel season, you’ll encounter literal boatloads of people island-hopping throughout Greece. And, while they usually stop off at well-known spots such as Mykonos and Santorini, Corfu is a treasure, too. Personified by rugged mountains and a resort-studded shoreline, the views here are as stunning as anywhere else in the Ionian Sea.
Average winter temperature:6°C to 14°C/43°F to 58°F
Valencia’s beautiful any time of the year, but when it comes to the best winter sun destinations in Europe, you’ll find tourists from all over the world flocking to this hotbed of warm weather and fantastic sites. Check out the L’Umbracle, which is a beautifully scenic sculpture garden and landscaped walk that’ll make friends back home super jealous of your vacay.
Average winter temperature:5.5°C to 17°C/42°F to 63°F
Located on Spain’s southern coast, Gibraltar is a unique spot to spend a holiday. And, with temperatures pretty balmy in January and February, it’s actually the perfect time to hike the famous Rock of Gibraltar. Not a fan of hiking? Take the cable car or see the rock from below at St. Michael’s Cave.
Average winter temperature:11°C to 17°C/52°F to 62°F