Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
When I visit any of the Hawaiian islands, I rarely spend much time on palm-fringed beaches. Instead, I either lace up my hiking boots and hit the trails or I escape to any of dozens of parks and gardens. These are some of my favorite walks and hikes on Maui. In addition, because I gravitate to accommodations that have an aura of low-key authenticity, one of my fave accommodations is the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. It’s right on the beach, and has some authentic cultural performances as well.
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Valley of Fire State Park
There are plenty of light shows in and around Las Vegas but the ones I prefer have nothing to do with the Strip. Surprisingly, this overdeveloped city has some pristine patches of wilderness just a short drive from the erupting volcanoes and Egyptian pyramids that capture tourist attention along the Strip. Sure, when I’m in town I hit the craps table for one to two hours, making sure I quit while I’m ahead. But I prefer to stay off the Strip — at the lower-key boutique Rumor Las Vegas, that is thankfully free of a casino.
These are three venues where I spend a lot of my time when I’m in Vegas:
1. Just 45 minutes from the spinning roulette wheels is a wilderness area with almost blinding colors, so intense you may wonder if you’ve stepped on the surface of the sun. At Valley of Fire State Park, light explodes off the red, mauve, vermilion and white-colored sandstone in Nevada’s oldest park in stark contrast to the surrounding drab brown foothills. With names like the Beehives, Elephant Rock, Balancing Rock and the Limestone Hoodoos, these otherworldly formations, resembling their names, are arranged almost like a unique sculpture garden. And scattered about are petroglyphs, Indian drawings and geometric symbols, probably from 225 million years ago. Hiking this park is almost like a treasure hunt. On a short trail to Petrified Logs, you’ll find wood from ancient forests that had washed down and transformed to glassy stone millions of years ago.
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C&O Canal is a great place to enjoy the outdoors in D.C.
When I’m in Washington, D.C. and the lines are building around the all too familiar sights, including the monuments around the National Mall, I head to two of my two favorite museums, which see fewer crowds: the International Spy Museum — probably because, as a kid, I always wanted to be a spook — and the National Museum of the American Indian — because I studied Native American religions in college. At this latter museum, the landscaping is a vital part of the museum, which completely reflects Native American culture and beliefs.
But you may be aware that I prefer to spend most of my time outdoors, exploring the serene side of cities. So below are the highlights of green spaces in and around Washington, D.C. that I recommend to visitors.
1. Just minutes from the Metro, Theodore Roosevelt Island provides the opportunity to walk trails deep into a forest lush with hickory, oak and sycamore. Many hikers comment how this island feels like a vast wilderness, though it’s just stretches barely 90 acres.
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Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Miamians are certainly not ones to sit still. How could they, when year-round warm weather and miles of sand and sea seduce them to play? But vacationing in Miami also often seems synonymous with navigating the club scene that’s still colorful at 5 a.m. When I visit, I try to stay at a low-key hotel, the Angler’s Boutique Resort, and spend my time at these nature spots that are plenty vibrant:
1. In 415-acre Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, four miles of trails course past a subtropical forest of gumbo limbo and pigeon plum trees and mangrove wetlands that once flourished in Florida. You’re bound to spy numerous butterfly species and maybe even a rare peregrine falcon.
2. The two-mile Fossilized Reef Trail winds to a unique geological feature — visible at low tide — at Crandon Park’s Bear Cut Preserve. On the way, you’ll likely encounter a variety of birds, from white ibis to cormorants.
3. Just 20 minutes from downtown, Oleta River State Park is a perfect venue for kayaking along the mangrove-lined Oleta River. This is also one of the state’s best spots for mountain biking with some 14 miles of interconnecting single track beside waterways where you may spot dolphins or manatee.
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