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A Whale of a Time in the Canadian Subarctic

Paddling out into the river, it was hard to grasp just quite how far north I was. But sitting in a little yellow kayak, mere yards behind me swirled the Hudson Bay. And each stroke of an oar pushed me farther through subarctic waters toward the afternoon’s highlight: Beluga whales.

Churchill, Manitoba is known as the "polar bear capital" in October and November during bear season, but the tourism anarchist in me couldn't resist going in August. And while I desperately did want to see wild polar bears too, an off-peak visit in summertime also meant kayaking with whales on the Churchill River.

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Report: Man-made Threats to Grand Canyon National Park

CNN News |   The majestic views overlooking the Grand Canyon make it one of America's favorite destinations, but a new report finds several man-made threats are contributing to the deterioration of Grand Canyon National Park.

Scientists and park staff working on the "State of the Parks" Grand Canyon report highlight areas and resources in the park that are threatened, the history of those threats and what can be done to correct them.

What they found is a national park that continues to decline from factors ranging from climate change to mining to aircraft flyovers as well as management of the Colorado River upstream from the canyon.

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National Parks To Waive Fees in Mid-August

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Good news for nature lovers (and those looking for some free summer fun): the National Park Service will waive entrance fees at a whopping 146 parks and historic sites across the country (some of which charge as much as $25 admission) on Aug. 14-15. Look for additional freebies (boating, horseback riding) at some parks.

In other park news, Yellowstone, the country's very first national park, saw a record number of visitors this July—957,000 in total, some 60,000 more than last July (its previous record-setting month).

City Tour: Running the Streets of Paris

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As both an active runner and someone who enjoys travel, I speak from experience when I say: it can be really hard to stay true to my routine when I'm away from home. (To date, I have only successfully maintained a semi-normal running schedule once while traveling. Don't judge me.) Between late nights, full days, and the desire to take in as much as possible in a short period of time, sometimes it's just not possible. (And fine, I admit: sometime I'd just rather sleep a little later than get up for a run. There, I said it.)

That being said, I was intrigued when a colleague passed along information about a different type of tour now being offered in the great City of Light: a running tour.

That's right. A running tour. This is some serious travel time management, and I love it. (Not to mention, anyone who knows me knows that when I travel, I'm very much a "do as the locals do" type. So what better way to tour a city than as a resident jogger would?)

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Back to the Land: Farm Stays (in Luxury Tents)

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As a young child, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Rereading them as a parent, I’m charmed anew (but kind of stunned by what a single-minded nut job Pa seems to be).  However homespun my reading material, though, I’m closer in temperament to Woody Allen than to Ma Ingalls.  My family’s method of getting down to earth will have to come with an escape hatch. Like a farm vacation.

Feather Down Farms, a farm stay company from Europe that has set up housekeeping on three American farms in the past two years, offers curious city-dwellers a chance to experience a rarified and charming rural experience without any of the hardships that plagued pioneer families like the Ingalls and the Wilders (No locusts! No prairie fires! No wolves!), or even those that faced by modern small farmers today.

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Virginia is for (Flower) Lovers

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As a Maine girl through and through, I’ve been a bit confounded lately by my new blossoming obsession with the South—plotting long weekends in Charleston, pouring over my new subscription to Garden & Gun magazine (for the record, it’s more lifestyle than weed-whacking and ammo), and daydreaming about the rolling green hills, gracious historic pockets of Virginia—and the serious bloomage happening there right now. But, I'm rolling with it.

While the Northeast (and probably other parts of the country) has just a few new-season daffodils, cherry blossoms, and electric-yellow forsythia bushes right now, the Commonwealth is ablaze with heart-stopping flora—everything from Osage orange trees and wisteria-laden trellises to rare rose breeds and Elizabethan herb gardens. And this coming week marks its apex: Virginia’s Historic Garden Week (Apr. 17-25), now in its 77th year.

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Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah: 3 New Ziplines Offer Extreme Thrills

Remember that time I said I would never go bungee jumping or even entertain the notion of ever going on any of these extreme rides? But then I went ahead and threw a curve ball by saying I wouldn't even hesitate to swim at the edge of Victoria Falls? Well, here's another one of those kinda sorta crazy things I'd love to try: Ziplining.

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Ultimate Challenge: Paddleboarding

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I gave up all hope of being a decent surfer long ago, but think I might regain some “Endless Summer”-cred on the paddleboard: apparently, if you can stand up, you can do it (even three-year-olds give it a go). But for professionals Jenny Kalmbach and Morgan Hoesterey, it’s not just fun and games—it's a mission.

Starting this month, Kalmbach and Hoesterey are boarding-their-way across Hawaii’s nine legendary open-ocean channels (some 250 miles) to raise funds for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a Long Beach–based nonprofit. They’ll be trailed by two boats as a safety measure, but the journey won’t be easy: Kalmbach and Hoesterey will pass through the Alalakeiki Channel (a.k.a. the “Screaming Child”) and even end their trip with a moonlit crossing of the 85-mile-wide Kaieiewaho Channel (a leg that could take up to 20 grueling hours to finish).

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First Luxury Hotel Opens in Peru's Sacred Valley

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Tambo del Inka
, the first luxury hotel to break ground in Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas (and Luxury Collection's second property in Peru), opened its doors today. Its location, smack in between the historic ruins of Machu Picchu and the modern city of Cusco, seems to be echoed in the hotel’s ethos—its 128 floor-to-ceiling-windowed rooms are decorated in keeping with ancient Peruvian tradition, while its bright, contemporary architecture (from Miami-based firm Arquitectonica) leaves no modern luxury to be desired.

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Go West…for Ski Deals

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Winter’s back may be broken, but that doesn’t mean ski season’s over. In fact, this may be the perfect time to hit the slopes, while the snow’s still good and the deals are enticing. The keys to spring skiing: book quickly—and don’t forget your sunscreen. 

Park City, Utah
Over a dozen Park City properties are offering Ski Free and Stay Free packages that offer travelers a free night of lodging and a lift ticket at one of the area’s three resorts (the Canyons, Park City Mountain, and Deer Valley) when you book a four-night package. Valid for reservations between March 28 and April 11, 2010; see parkcityinfo.com for more.

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