With its myriad hills and spectacular bay, San Francisco beguiles with natural beauty, vibrant neighborhoods, and contagious energy. Whether or not you’ve already visited the City by the Bay, it can overwhelm visitors with its offerings. Of course there are the well-trodden spots including Alamo Square, with its Painted Ladies; Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39; and twisting Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world.” But there’s much more to see and do, so we’ve selected the 25 top things every visitor should experience in San Francisco. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the fifth, these recommendations ensure that you’ll have a great trip.
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s signature International Orange entryway is the city’s majestic background, and about 10 million people a year head to the bridge for an up-close look. Walking the 1.7 miles to Marin County—inches from roaring traffic, steel shaking beneath your feet, and only a railing between you and the water 200 feet below—is much more than a superlative photo op (though it’s that, too). Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge under your own power is exhilarating—a little scary, and definitely chilly. From the bridge’s eastern-side walkway, the only side pedestrians are allowed on, you can take in the San Francisco skyline and the bay islands; look west for the wild hills of the Marin Headlands, the curving coast south to Lands End, and the Pacific Ocean.
Foodies, rejoice! The historic Ferry Building is stuffed to the brim with all things tasty, including cafés, restaurants, a farmers‘ market, and merchants peddling everything from wine and olive oil to oysters and mushrooms. The building backs up to the bay, so the views are great—but they’re even better from the decks of the departing ferries. San Franciscans flock to the street-level marketplace, stocking up on supplies from local favorites such as Acme Bread, Scharffen Berger Chocolate, Cowgirl Creamery, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Humphry Slocombe ice cream. Slanted Door, the city’s beloved high-end Vietnamese restaurant, is here, along with highly regarded Bouli Bar. The seafood bar at Hog Island Oyster Company has fantastic bay view panoramas. On the plaza side, the outdoor tables at Gott’s Roadside offer great people-watching with their famous burgers. On Saturday morning the plazas outside the building buzz with an upscale farmers‘ market where you can buy exotic sandwiches and other munchables.
If there’s one place in San Francisco that feels like a city unto itself, it’s Chinatown. Here, people dash between small neighborhood stores, their arms draped with plastic totes filled with groceries or souvenirs. Breathe in the scented air as you watch the nimble hands at Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, then kick back with a cocktail at Li Po around the corner, rumored to be haunted by the ghost of an opium junkie still looking to score. At Tin How Temple, climb the narrow stairway to this space with hundreds of red lanterns, then step onto the tiny balcony and take in the alley scene below. And, of course, don’t skip a chance to have dim sum at Yank Sing.
Yerba Buena Gardens
There’s not much south of Market Street that encourages lingering outdoors—or indeed walking at all—with this notable exception. These two blocks encompass the Center for the Arts, the Metreon, Moscone Convention Center, and the convention center’s rooftop Children’s Creativity Museum, but the gardens themselves are the everyday draw.Office workers escape to the green swath of the East Garden, the focal point of which is the memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. Powerful streams of water surge over large, jagged stone columns, mirroring the enduring force of King’s words that are carved on the stone walls and on glass blocks behind the waterfall. Atop the Moscone Convention Center perch a few lures for kids. The historic Looff carousel twirls daily 10–5. South of the carousel is the Children’s Creativity Museum, a high-tech, interactive arts-and-technology center geared to children ages 3–12. Kids can make Claymation videos, work in a computer lab, check out new games and apps, and perform and record music videos. Just outside, kids adore the excellent slides, including a 25-foot tube slide, at the play circle. Also part of the rooftop complex are gardens, an ice-skating rink, and a bowling alley.
Palace of Fine Arts
Perched on a swan-filled lagoon near the Marina’s yacht harbor, this stirringly beautiful terra-cotta-color domed structure has an otherworldly quality about it. Built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and restored in 2008, the palace is a San Francisco architect’s version of a Roman ruin, and it’s been eliciting gasps for almost a century. The massive columns (each topped with four “weeping maidens”), great rotunda, and swan-filled lagoon have been used in countless fashion layouts, films, and wedding photo shoots. After admiring the lagoon, look across the street to the house at 3460 Baker St. If the maidens out front look familiar, they should—they’re original casts of the “garland ladies” you can see in the Palace’s colonnade.
Golden Gate Park
It may be world-famous, but first and foremost the park is the city’s backyard. Come here any day of the week and you’ll find a microcosm of San Francisco, from the Russian senior citizens feeding the pigeons at Stow Lake and the moms pushing strollers through the botanical gardens to school kids exploring the fabulous California Academy of Sciences and arts boosters checking out the latest at the de Young Museum. Be sure to visit the park’s iconic treasures, including the serene Japanese Tea Garden and the beautiful Victorian Conservatory of Flowers. If you have the time to venture farther into this urban oasis, you’ll discover less-accessible gems like the Beach Chalet and the wild western shores of Ocean Beach.
San Francisco has no shortage of impressive, grand homes, but it’s the tiny fairy-tale lanes that make most want to move here, and Macondray Lane is the quintessential hidden garden. Enter under a lovely wooden trellis and proceed down a quiet, cobbled pedestrian lane lined with Edwardian cottages and flowering plants and trees. Watch your step—the cobblestones are quite uneven in spots. A flight of steep wooden stairs at the end of the lane leads to Taylor Street—on the way down you can’t miss the bay views. If you’ve read any of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books, you may find the lane vaguely familiar. It’s the thinly disguised setting for part of the series‘ action.
City Lights Bookstore
Take a look at the exterior of the store: the replica of a revolutionary mural destroyed in Chiapas, Mexico by military forces; the art banners hanging above the windows; and the sign that says “Turn your sell [sic] phone off. Be here now.” This place isn’t just doling out best sellers. Designated a city landmark, the hangout of Beat-era writers—Allen Ginsberg and store founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti among them—and independent publisher remains a vital part of San Francisco’s literary scene. Browse the three levels of poetry, philosophy, politics, fiction, history, and local zines, to the tune of creaking wood floors. Be sure to check the calendar of literary events.
Most people assume that this stubby white tower atop Telegraph Hill is supposed to look like a fire-hose nozzle. And considering that a fire truck–chasing, cross-dressing 19th-century socialite donated the funds to build it, maybe it is. The tower itself is of vague interest—it does house the history of San Francisco in murals—but the parking lot at its base and tiny park out back have fantastic views of the city and the bay. The tower sits at the top of Telegraph Hill’s Filbert Steps, a steep stairway through glorious gardens with vistas of transcendent beauty, an only-in-San Francisco spot locals cherish.
Hyde Street Pier
Cotton candy and souvenirs are all well and good, but if you want to get to the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf—boats—there’s no better place to do it than at this pier, one of the area’s best bargains. Depending on the time of day, you might see boat builders at work or children pretending to man an early-1900s ship. Don’t pass up the centerpiece collection of historic vessels, part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, almost all of which can be boarded. The Balclutha, an 1886 full-rigged three-masted sailing vessel that’s more than 250 feet long, sailed around Cape Horn 17 times. Kids especially love the Eureka, a side-wheel passenger and car ferry, for her onboard collection of vintage cars. The Hercules is a steam-powered tugboat, and the C.A. Thayer is a beautifully restored three-masted schooner.
Originally founded in 1888 under the name of Sidney, Buckeye is the westernmost suburb in the Phoenix metropolitan area, with an old west charm.
Located in Arizona’s Maricopa County, it was renamed in 1910 Buckeye due to the importance of the nearby Buckeye Canal.
With a population of almost 60,000 people, Buckeye is considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.
A heaven for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages, Buckeye offers hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and campers the chance of exploring dozen of miles of trails around the city.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Buckeye:
1. Historic Gillespie Dam Bridge
Constructed over the Gila River in 1927 and restored in 2012, the Gillespie Dam Bridge is a unique reminder of Arizona’s rich past and America’s transportation history.
This 1,662 foot long bridge was one of the longest bridges and the largest steel structure in Arizona.
While the bridge no longer serves as a segment of the Old U.S. 80 highway, it is continually used by locals and tourists.
By driving just a quarter of a mile west of the bridge, on the west side of the river, an impressive display of petroglyphs can be found at the base of the cliffs.
2. Skyline Regional Park
With more than 16 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, Skyline Regional Park is a very popular park among the people of Buckeye.
Located in the southern White Tank Mountains, Skyline Regional Park is 8,700 acres and features 5 ramadas and 7 camping sites, offering amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
Opened in January, 2016, this brand new park is dog friendly and offers fresh and new amenities.
Each campsite includes a parking stall, two graded tent pads, a picnic table, cooking grill and a fire ring.
Due to minimal light pollution it is also an excellent spot for stargazing.
3. Desert Botanical Garden
Established in 1939, the Desert Botanical Garden has more than 50,000 plants, with one third of them native to the area.
Located 40 miles away from Buckeye, the garden can be found in Papago Park.
As volunteers were essential in the creation and development of the Garden, they are still considered an important asset.
Working closely with the staff, they share their time, talents and professional expertise in the working and care of the garden and with guests.
4. White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Located in west-central Maricopa County, Arizona, the White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a mix of desert and mountain landscapes.
With nearly 26 miles of hiking trails and an extension of 29,271 acres, this is the largest regional park in the county.
The majority of the park is undeveloped and prohibited to motorised vehicles but in the developed portion of the park picnic areas and campground can be found.
Perfect for stargazing due to regular clear weather and dark skies, the park hosts various stargazing events through the year.
5. Verrado Golf Club
Designed by the Ryder Cup Captain, Tom Lehman, the Verrado Golf Club lies 36 holes of championship golf in two different layouts.
Located in the shadows of the White Tank Mountains, golfers can delight in its amazing views and wildlife while playing an enjoyable round.
Following golf, players can enjoy an unforgettable meal at the Verrado Grille Restaurant, which combines impeccable service, a lively atmosphere, and incredible views.
Weddings and other events can be celebrated in this high-quality golf club.
6. Robbins Butte Wildlife Area
From the top of Robbins Butte hill, located south of the Gila River, visitors can get a broad overview of the river corridor.
Featuring diverse habitats that draw large populations of resident and migratory wildlife, Robins Butte is a popular area to watch the mule deer, bighorn sheep and many other small animals like cottontails.
Although overnight camping is prohibited, the area is also popular for hiking, hunting and birdwatching.
Caution is advised while hiking as several species of rattlesnakes can be found in the area.
7. Buckeye’s Air Fair
Celebrated annually at the Buckeye’s Municipal Airport, Buckeye’s Air Fair features aviation exhibits, aircraft displays and air demonstrations.
Part of the Arizona SciTech Festival where children of all ages can learn about the science of aviation, the Buckeye’s Air Fair is a day of fun for the whole family.
From the latest in space exploration to remote control demonstrations, Top Gun lovers can even book a ride on an authentic World War II aircraft at one of Buckeye’s largest and most exciting events.
Scroll through Instagram and get a load of all the traveling couples: mugging for selfies, star-jumping on piers, and cheers-ing over sickeningly romantic sunsets. If you’ve ever taken a trip with a significant other, you know this is, at best, far more rose-colored than real life on the road with bae, and not just because of the Amaro filter. Truth is, traveling together is hard, and comes with as many pitfalls as it does perks.
These are the mistakes to avoid when you go abroad with a partner, so you can travel the world together and not only live to tell the tale, but do so without bickering too much between sentences.
Doing the deed all wrong
Sex is usually pretty high up the to-do list on a couples getaway, so make sure you’ve got everything you need to start your trip with a (*ahem*) bang. In many countries, you won’t have as easy access to birth control as you do back home — and even if you can find a pharmacy, good luck trying to mime out “prophylactic” in the local dialect.
So now you’ve got the kit, but don’t drop trou just anywhere simply because you’re on an exotic vacation. Make sure you’re on top of the local laws, as well as each other — in some countries, the authorities don’t look kindly on PDA. Get a little too affectionate on a Dubai beach for example, and you might get handcuffed and locked up in jail for the night (and not in the fun way).
Skimping on privacy
A dirty weekend in a tiny hotel room sounds romantic, but it’s actually a pretty intense breakdown of boundaries — especially for a new couple. For the first time, you’re basically obliged to spend 24 hours a day in each other’s company, and you’re finally going to find out if your partner does, indeed, poop like everyone else.
It’s tempting to book the cheapest room, but it’s worth shelling out for a bigger option just to ease yourself into sharing personal space. Go ahead and book a suite or a room with a balcony so you’ve got somewhere to get some fresh air, when the time comes.
Falling prey to scams and ripoffs
Walking around with your hands in each other’s pockets sure looks cute, but it screams “easy target” to people who make a living out of ripping off tourists. Before you can say “Nah, Nah, Nah thanks, NAH,” you’ll be propositioned for average-at-best caricatures, $20 single roses, and upgrades to fancier cars at the rental place. You might feel awkward like you’re obliged to stump up cash or look like a cheapskate in front of your beau. But that’s how these people want you to feel. The truth is, if your partner is halfway worth holding onto, they’ll be a lot more impressed if you politely tell the scammers to move along, sharpish. And have a conversation ahead of time about how you plan to handle any sudden big-ticket expenses.
Taking crazy risks sans travel insurance
There’s nothing quite like a $50,000 hospital bill to sour a romantic trip. If you do get hurt abroad, it’s nice to have a spot of travel insurance, so your partner doesn’t have to play an absolute hero. Juliette Sivertsen, who writes the Snorkels to Snow blog, went exploring ancient burial caves in Fiji with her partner, John. “His first mistake was disturbing the hornets’ nest,” she recalls, “but then he tried to run away, and fell down a cliff, breaking his wrist and smashing the front of his leg on a rock. You could see the bone coming out — I’ve never heard a grown man howl and scream so loudly in my life.” Juliette’s top tip is “if in pain, get on a plane” — in their case, New Zealand was the best option.
Extra tip: Before you go, commit to memory all your other half’s vital statistics — birth date, medications, allergies, blood type, health insurer and so on. And make sure you’ve got a contact number for their family too, in case of hornet nest incidents.
Spending every single waking moment together
No matter how much you wuv your partner, don’t spend 24 hours in their face — you’ll get sick of it eventually, probably about 23 hours after your partner does. Jarryd and Alesha, who have been traveling together for nine years under the joint pen name Nomadasaurus, suggest that couples schedule that time apart. “Go for a solo hike, head to the shops on your own, hit up different bars one night,” they say. “Not only will you get a break from each other, you’ll also have something new to talk about.”
Sucking at sharing
Sharing is one of the best and worst bits of a relationship. There’s nothing more infuriating than ordering a prime steak and then having your partner ask for half of it in exchange for some of their soggy mushroom frittata. But there are bonuses, too. Don’t stuff two sets of boring essentials (sunscreen, toothpaste, shower gel, etc.) in your already-too-heavy backpacks. Pack together, do a pre-trip shop together, or even agree to share some clothes to cut down on luggage.
Oversharing with the rest of us
By all means, post the heck out of that couples selfie at the Eiffel Tower — just be conscientious of your partner, who might start feeling like they’re on a trip with your followers instead of you. There’s a vast difference between being an obnoxiously happy couple and just playing one on Instagram. Lest you spend the better half of your trip staring at your screens instead of each other, make an effort to stow your phones and, I don’t know, talk or something.
Freaking out over the little things
All you need is love. And passports. And money. But everything else is pretty much non-essential, so don’t throw a hissy fit if you forget to pack your fourth-favorite sweater or leave your sister’s headphones on the plane. Frank and Cathy from Roarloud say “We’ve forgotten loads of stuff on our travels, but there’s always a way to figure it out. In fact, it has become a running gag for us to say, ‘Did we forget anything?’ when we set out on a trip. The answer always is ‘Of course.’” Cue chuckles all around, until it turns out Frank’s forgotten Cathy’s birthday.
Cathy offers their surest rule: “Whenever you go off to do different things, arrange a time and place to meet back up — and stick to it.” It’s no use having phones if you hit a signal dead zone, and nothing will melt down a trip like it becoming a missed connection. Of course, if your partner is driving you nuts, this is also an excellent way of making sure they’re elsewhere while you scroll through Tinder.
Florida does a lot of things wrong. We’re terrible at voting. We beat people with lizards. We have alligators in our swimming pools, politicians in our public bathrooms, and an entire Twitter account devoted to stupid things our male citizens do. Also, women dressed as turkeys might just try and rob you. And yet, we’re the third most populated state in the US (behind Texas and California). Why?
Look out the window… if it’s anything other than sunny and 80 degrees, you probably wish you were in Florida right now. Alligators and all. But what is there to do in Florida when you’re not being beaten with reptiles? Go to the beach, of course. And in planning your next Florida fling, here are the 20 best beaches in the Sunshine State.
P.S. We also have a separate handy guide to Florida’s nude beaches right here. Happy tanning.
Daytona BeachNo hecks left to give? Daytona is the beach for you. Yes, it’s cleaned itself up a bit from its biker-and-breaker heyday, but if you want a wide stretch of sand with absolutely zero pretension, Daytona’s it. Here you can drive right up on the shoreline near Ormond and cruise the big beach up to the spot where the famous 500 started racing cars on the sand. You’ll pass by plenty of T-shirt shops full of stuff that’ll make you say, “You can still say that?” and not find a soul who objects.
Where you’re staying: The Delta Hotels Marriott, a newly renovated hotel right on the water configured so every room has some sort of view of the ocean. And it’s actually quiet… if you go to Daytona Beach for that sort of thing.
Hollywood BeachYou ever read those hilarious Florida Man stories and wonder, “Just where the HELL do these people come from?” The answer is Hollywood Beach. All of them. If you’re jonesing to see a baby alligator get pedaled up the boardwalk in a bicycle basket, post up at Taco Spot and just wait. Wanna see two geriatric men the color of footballs get in a fight over a spot under a palm tree? It’ll happen in Hollywood. It isn’t just as close to a SoCal beach town as exists in the Sunshine State, it’s also the best people-watching of any beach in Florida. Which considering the stuff our state gets into, is pretty impressive.
Where you’re staying: Diplomat Resort and Spa. Hollywood’s king of luxury high rises just completely redid itself, adding a solid burger joint and wine spot across the street at Diplomat Landing, and one of 2017’s best new restaurants in South Florida at Monkitail.
Paname City BeachSince it banned drinking on the beach and effectively killed Spring Break faster than an ’80s movie villain, Panama City is now probably best known as the home to Ironman Florida, which involves a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon. If you’re into doing things other than inhuman endurance sports on vacation, the beach itself is beautiful, with pristine white sand leading out to lake-like turquoise water. And the town is full of kitschy cultural beach staples like the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and the epic Shipwreck Island Waterpark.
Where you’re staying: Legacy by the Sea. It’s a little removed from the “main drag” in PCB, but this beach-adjacent spot has upscale rooms — by Panama City standards anyway — and vastly cheaper rates.
Fort Lauderdale BeachIf you were rating beaches solely on spring break, and it was 1987, Lauderdale Beach might be the best in the land. But you’d also be reading this on a Commodore 64. As the city ushered out SB, it also ushered out most of the fun that came along with it, and now what’s left is a narrow strand of beach backed by bars full of people who came here for spring break 1987 and still can’t figure out where the rest of their group went. Need proof? That bar where Richie Incognito went all Richie Incognito on a pool table is one of them. Another is owned by an infamous male pornstar who has a proclivity to hunt.
Where you’re staying: The Atlantic Hotel and Spa. No shortage of first-rate mega-resorts along Lauderdale Beach, but this one still feels like a charming boutique and offers the best new restaurant in the city at Coastal. If you’re into fresh seafood and Italian food, there’s not a better place to be in South Florida.
Miami BeachNot long ago we named South Beach the sexiest neighborhood in America, and for good reason. While the natural scenery is nothing to sneer at, with coarse grain sand and light turquoise waters fronting miles of art deco hotels, the human scenery is really what makes this one of the most popular beaches in the world. Do most of those bodies occur in nature? Of course not, but neither do beaches on marsh barrier islands. Don’t think too much, you’re in Florida.
Where you’re staying: Stanton South Beach. Located right on the water in the much-quieter South of Fifth section of South Beach, this is one of the few beachfront hotels that’s a quiet escape from the insanity of South Beach. The first floor is also home to the new Miami outpost of the Michelin-starred sushi joint Azabu.
Kansas City sits at the center of an identity crisis. It’s a liberal oasis in the middle of two red states, and the state line divides the city itself between Kansas and Missouri. That’s good news for you though. Each day is a chance to explore cultures, worlds, and time periods the average visitor probably wouldn’t expect from a flyover state. Give yourself a weekend and you’ll be hooked.
Eat BBQ, obviously$-$$$
You can’t come to Kansas City and not indulge in the primal joy of eating meat right off the bone. This is a BBQ city and your BBQ choices will get you judged. Q39 is the newest contender (39th Street), where you can get whiskey with an ice cube made of meat juice. Gates is an all-time classic (found all over town) and The Peanut (the original is downtown but newer locations abound throughout the city) is a city secret for killer wings, dating back to 1933 when it was a speakeasy. Joe’s, located inside a functioning gas station, was featured in the final season of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, so you know it’s worth a stop. And Arthur Bryant’s (also multiple locations) is the move if you’re looking for the most meat for your buck.
Geat real in the Jazz DistrictFree – $$$
Kansas City has an incredible history steeped in blues and jazz. Around 18th and Vine you’ll find the city’s jazz district, which is also home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum, which are both excellent. But if you’re ready to get genuinely funky, head to the Blue Room for till-dawn drinking and music, or treat yourself to an equally late-night adventure (365 days a year) at the Green Lady Lounge.
Check out the flyover states’ best music sceneFree – $$
One of the biggest draws of Kansas City is the music scene. In addition to the city’s blues and jazz roots, there’s always killer acts hitting up the city to break up the empty drive between tour stops in St. Louis and Denver. Riot Room, Uptown Theater, Knuckleheads, and Arvest Bank Theater are all fantastic venues that always seem to have a show worth checking out. recordBar is one of KC’s best, just-big-enough venues, where you can catch all your favorite medium sized acts as they travel through town (recordBar also has a flying-under-the-radar brunch that is to die for, should you find yourself hungover in the area the next day.) And tiny record shop Records With Merritt has gained a sudden prominence in the local music scene, hosting almost nightly multi-act lineups in an intimate space where just 30 people will pack the room and me it feel like a special show.
Gaze at the lights on a stroll through The Plaza…Free – $$$$
As a kid I came here to gaze at the millions of dollars in Christmas lights. As an adult I’m still impressed, but I’m equally interested in cruising the bars. This 15-block area just north of the river is filled with nice shops and high-end restaurants.The yearly Plaza Art Fair in the fall brings in international artists of all mediums and draws a crowd of over 250,000.
… then mainline a museumFree – $$
Just off the Plaza, the nearby Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is the go-to stop in KC for high brow arts and culture. The exhibits range from the great masters to the new renegades, with a mile of gorgeous architecture that would be worth the trip even if there weren’t painting on the walls. There’s also a gigantic shuttlecock on the back lawn that has become an odd landmark in the city (it’s a must grab selfie while you’re here).
Not an art fan? Union Station is a historic train station built in 1914 with touring exhibits from around the world. It also sits across the street from the World War I Museum and Memorial, making it an excellent two-for-one destination.
Have a boozy game night$
KC loves to get loose. Pawn & Pints is a bar and restaurant with a six-layered wall of board games that are available to you and your party. Take your pick from literally dozens of games, including Cards Against Humanity and Scattergories.
Tapcade and Up/Down are arcade-bar experiences with wildly different line-ins: the former being a combination movie theater and old-timey cabinet set-up, and the later being a balls-to-the-wall neon blowout. Both will reignite your inner child.
Take a selfie in front of the Western Auto signFree
Arthur Bryant’s (see the BBQ entry) is where most people love to stop for a quick photo, but if you want a selfie that the locals will respect you for, try to pose in front of the Western Auto sign. A gigantic glowing mainstay of the KC skyline, the sign has been unlit at night for decades, until now. Grab a shot of you and a friend outside one of the many local distilleries, with the huge glow of KC spirit behind you.
Vancouver is dazzling. It’s generously endowed with natural splendor — snow capped mountains! Temperate rainforests! The ocean! — but it’s also a vibrant city with a glassy downtown and dozens of unique neighborhoods to explore.
OK, so it rains. A lot. The winter is notoriously wet, but honestly, so is spring and fall. The summer, however: *Italian chef kiss.* From June to September, life moves outside, to al fresco restaurants and breweries, and to the beaches and hiking trails nearby. And even on miserable February days, the dankness brings a certain moody charm (see: Twilight).
Get the heck outside
Vancouver might be Canada’s third biggest city, but you’ve got to get out of the urban center and into nature. It’s on the ocean, is replete with parks and beaches, and there are mountains nearby for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. All in all, there’s an overwhelming number of outdoor activities to enjoy, including but not limited to sailing, whale watching, salmon fishing, ziplining, kayaking, swimming, paddle boarding, and biking.
Hiking is everyone’s favorite pastime
Vancouver summers, when the sun is shining but the lack of humidity means you can still cool off in the shade, are perfect for hiking. That said, winter hikes can be just as beautiful, when the forests become lush with rain. Drizzle is typical, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking long winding walks through any of Vancouver’s 230 parks, including the stately VanDusen Botanical Garden and the cedar-scented Pacific Spirit Park.
Or you can get out of the city altogether. Grouse Mountain, a 20-minute drive from downtown, is a favorite local hiking spot. The 1.75 mile climb to the top, which ascends some 2,800 feet, is known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” — you can find out why the hard way, or take the aerial tramway. You’ll find an observatory at the peak and, on a clear day, Vancouver glistening below.
The beaches rock
There are tons of beach options, including Kitsilano (excellent people watching), Jericho (more chill), Second Beach (on Stanley Park) and Wreck Beach (where clothing is optional). Sunning, swimming, picnicking, and barbecuing are (rightfully) the most popular beach activities, but for the more culturally minded, Shakespeare is also on the table. From June through September, English Bay hosts Bard on the Beach, Vancouver’s long-running Shakespeare Festival.
Finally, if you’re looking for a wide-open scenic walk, head to Spanish Banks; at low tide, the waters recedes more than half a mile and you can walk right out onto the wet, rippled sand.
Definitely check out the Seawall
No trip to Vancouver is complete without a visit to Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre wooded expanse that juts into the Burrard Inlet. Rent a bike and do a lap around the 5.5 mile, beach-studded perimeter, known as the Seawall, which features views of the glassy downtown district to the south and blue-purple mountains to the west. The loop also makes for an excellent run — the air is bracing and sea-salted, and the scenery is distractingly pretty.
To dig a little deeper, head inside on one of the park’s many winding paths. Cathedral Trail, for example, will take you under canopies of massive, moss-covered pines, while Beaver Lake Trail has a lovely lunch spot by the lily-covered pond (you might recognise it from the Fifty Shades movies, if you were one of the suckers who actually paid to go see them).
The museums aren’t bad either!
The Metropolitan Museum it isn’t, but the Vancouver Art Gallery is worth a visit for the works by Emily Carr, the Group Seven, and Marc Chagall. But if you can only go to one museum in Vancouver, make it the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. It’s one of the top anthropology museums in the world and the home to thousands of First Nations artifacts, including totem poles, textiles, and canoes.
Visit UBC’s campus while you’re at it
The museum is the main draw, but the UBC campus is beautiful in itself. After the museum, check out the Japanese Tea Garden or the Botanical Garden, where a suspended bridge leads over a canopy of Douglas firs, cedars, and grand firs.
Save room for noodles
In a city that averages 161 rainy days annually, a noodle obsession just makes sense. Vancouver has enough options for an extensive noodle crawl, but start with Kintaro Ramen or its sister Motomachi Shokudo, which serves up health-conscious takes on Kintaro’s rich pork broths, including bamboo charcoal miso ramen. Jinya Ramen, which has multiple locations, is also a consistently satisfying.
For variety, try Harvest, a grocery store/restaurant that serves up udon, ramen, and rice noodles in homemade broths. And pho fans shouldn’t leave without a trip to Pho Goodness or Chau Veggie Express, which has an outpost on Granville Island (get the candle-lit lantern pho soup).
Living in the city can often feel oppressive with traffic around every corner and tall buildings blocking most of the sun. Luckily, salvation isn’t far away. Get out of the concrete jungle and enjoy the open road for the first time in weeks. Here are nine of the best quick drives you can easily hit from some of America’s great cities. Get moving.
Chuckanut Drive is a road along the coast that’s maybe greener than any drive you’ve taken in your life. You’ll be surrounded by overhanging trees and it’ll often feel like you’re driving through a tunnel of foliage. There’s a faster way to get to and from Seattle, but why would you skip a beautiful, twisting, cliff-bound drive full of farmland and mountains? You can even make make it a foodie trip by stopping along the way at places like Breadfarm or Taylor Shellfish Farms.
Los Angeles Route
West coast drivers have the ultimate asphalt blessing: Highway 1, an idyllic, 655-mile stretch of Pacific coastline driving. Blast some music and take the trip up to the perfectly unfancy and delicious Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market. Open your window for the ocean breeze. Get some fish, grab a picnic table across the parking lot, and stare at the water. Now, drive to Point Dume, and sit on the beach for as long as you possibly can.
You can see the mountains from the city and they’re calling your name. Drop everything (except your keys) and drive straight to Gem Lake Trail. Cruise up the mountains and keep the windows open for that fresh air, even if it’s cold. Lean into the curves and accelerate at the apexes. You’re in the Rocky Mountains, for God’s sake: Not having your windows down should be criminal.
Even though Asheville isn’t known for hustle and bustle, everyone needs to get out of town once in a while — and you’re so close to an amazing drive, especially in the fall. Meet up with the Blue Ridge Parkway wherever it’s closest to you and take it to Mount Mitchell State Park. The overlook is spectacular. Keep driving on the parkway and, pro tip, throw on some driving music you can turn up.
San Francisco Route
A drive in the City by the Bay is now more stop than go, so take the Golden Gate Bridge out of the city, head to Muir Woods National Monument, and drive among trees that were around when Charlemagne was crowned emperor of Rome. Then go directly to Hog Island Oyster Co in Marshall. You’ll take the famous Highway 1 and enjoy stunning views of the ocean and Point Reyes National Seashore. You might not want to stop.
You’ve heard of Minnesota’s many, many lakes, but there are also many, many rivers that make for great weekend cruising. Take I-94 E out of Minneapolis and connect with MN-95 N/St. Croix Trail North. You’ll follow the St. Croix River, which you can take all the way up to the National Scenic Riverway Visitor Center. The whole trip feels like you’re canoeing along the St. Croix, but in a much better (and faster) vehicle. You can easily take this route back to the city if you’d like, but you can also head back by starting on US-8 E if you want a change of pace and enjoy views of some of the state’s 11,842 lakes.
Iceland has its famous Ring Road that circles the entire country but America has the Maui Loop in Hawaii. You’ll drive from Kahului, taking the Hana highway to Ho’okipa Lookout for a spectacular view of the ocean. When you’re not on the ocean, you might be climbing mountains with stunning overlooks and steep curves. Drive to Halfway to Hana for their famous banana bread, and then stop at the Hana Lava Tube, Waianapanapa State Park, or Koki Beach — or just keep going to the Laulima Farm Fruit Stand or Grandma’s Coffeehouse on your way through the trees.
The Columbia River Scenic Highway was the first scenic highway in this country and you’ve probably never heard of it, even though it’s beautiful and filled with moss, waterfalls, flowers, and, of course, the river. Take it to Vista House for a panoramic view, or keep driving to Latourell Falls or Bridal Veil Falls or Multnomah Falls or Horsetail Falls (there are a lot of waterfalls). Keep your window open and listen to the falls thunder as you speed by on your way to Cascade Marine Park where you can overlook the Bridge of the Gods. Yes, that’s what it’s really called.
New York Route
What New York has in traffic and congestion it makes up for upstate. To make the most of it, head north along the Hudson River and take the road to Bear Mountain, which is known for its hiking (the Appalachian Trail runs through it) and stunning view from Perkins Memorial Drive. Then drive to the giant sculpture park that is Storm King Arts Center or see farm animals at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. Or, you can cross that bridge you saw, Bear Mountain Bridge, and get lost in the windy roads of the mountains. Hopefully you have a car that can handle turns and hills. If not, take it easy, enjoy the view, and head back down to the city along the river.
Cincinnati might seem like one of those “not-a-major-tourist-destination cities,“ but it actually has a quite a lot going on. From the rapidly-revitalizing Over-the-Rhine (OTR) to the suburbs and even all the way across the river into Kentucky neighborhoods like Newport and Covington, the city really feels like it’s on the up-and-up. Inventive new restaurants and experiences opening almost weekly combine with a rich history and a strong sense of Cincy pride to make The Queen City a really fascinating place to explore, as an out-of-towner or as a local.
If you’ve got visitors coming to Cincinnati, there’s a simple, totally foolproof plan for guaranteeing that they have an unforgettable time: just take them along to the fun stuff you normally do. But whether you’re doing the visiting or are the one being visited, we made things easy for you. Here the best things to do Cincinnati has to offer:
Take a brewery tour$$-$$$
Any attempt to put into words just how strong the bond is between Cincinnati and its beer would probably fall short. It’s always been this way for the city, which boasts a very strong German heritage (In fact, in 1880, the Cincinnati Reds were kicked out of the National League for about a year because they refused to stop selling beer). These days, it’s all about craft beer. There are more than 30 craft breweries in the area. Book a brewery bus tour to hit as many as possible, as quickly (and safely!) as possible.
Watch an FCC game from The Bailey$$
Cincinnati has a reputation for being a baseball town (Reds, I’ll always love you, even if you keep “rebuilding” the team forever), but that’s quickly shifting. The city’s minor league soccer team, FC Cincinnati, was an instant hit with locals, and in 2018, the city got an upgrade when it was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise. Don your best orange and blue, grab a Moerlein Blood Orange IPA, and (if you’re feeling brave) buy some tickets to sit in The Bailey, the superfan seating section where you’ll experience all of the flags, colored smoke, and cheers first-hand. While the team is waiting on a new stadium as part of their major league deal, games are played at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, so save some time to explore campus before or after the game.
Get a drink at a speakeasy hidden in a video rental store$$
Welcome to Cincinnati’s premiere Quentin Tarantino-themed video store speakeasy! It’s also Cincinnati’s only Quentin Tarantino-themed video store speakeasy, but that’s neither here nor there. The front half of The Video Archive looks just like a classic video rental store, complete with shelves of VHS tapes. The clerk will give you a hint as to which tape to pull to open the secret door into the bar, cleverly hidden in a sliding shelf. The drinks menu rotates, but the delicious, bourbon-infused, Pulp Fiction-referencing $5 Milkshake is always available (and yes, it’s actually $5). They frequently host movie screenings on their patio on Saturday nights and even host evenings dedicated to favorite TV shows, as well as holiday themed pop-ups. Gorilla Cinema, the company behind the Video Archive, also runs The Overlook Lodge, a Shining-themed neighborhood bar, and Tokyo Kitty, a Lost in Translation-inspired karaoke bar that slings Japanese tiki drinks.
Fall in love with blue ice cream$
You’ll only find this in the summer, and if you’re able to snag a cone, be warned: you’ll be dreaming about the day when you can roll up to an ice cream stand in shorts and flip flops and order a blue cone topped with rainbow sprinkles all winter long. The trend of serving blueberry-flavored soft serve started at Kings Island, a theme park just north of the city, in the 1980s, when it was created as a promotional special to go along with a Smurfs-themed ride. When the Smurfs ride closed in 1992, the blue ice cream was replaced with a cherry-red soft serve… and the people revolted. K.I. brought it back, and it’s been on menus across the park ever since. It’s also now offered at various ice cream stands and creamy whips like Putz’s and Norwood Delite. It’s especially great in a blueberry-vanilla twist cone.
Breakfast at Findlay Market$$
There’s no better place to be on a weekend morning than Findlay Market. Cincinnati’s oldest covered public market offers inventive food at various stalls, fresh and local goods and produce, and occasional live music at the beer garden. Grab a pastry from Blue Oven, a Honey Bear latte from Deeper Roots, and enjoy people-watching and browsing through the various shops and stalls. And don’t forget to pick up some goetta from Eckerline (Seriously, you can’t leave Cincinnati without trying goetta, our beloved mystery meat made from sausage and pinhead oats. It tastes better than it sounds, and makes great hangover food… I promise).
Take a picture with Shark Girl at the Contemporary Arts CenterFree
Right downtown, in a distinctive building designed by Zaha Hadid, is the Contemporary Arts Center. The non-collecting museum’s exhibits are constantly rotating, and has brought in works from famous artists like Andy Warhol and Shepard Fairey, as well as countless up-and-comers. It has also attracted its fair share of controversy (it and its director at the time were acquitted for obscenity charges related to an exhibition of seven photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe in 1990). Start at the top (which houses a children’s museum that even adults will enjoy; make sure to pose for a picture sitting next to Shark Girl, Casey Millard’s beloved statue) and work your way down to the lobby, which houses a killer gift shop and cafe that comes complete with a full bar. Bonus points if you attend one of the awesome events they put on: yoga, art labs, and the always popular Drink and Draw nights.
Try some Cincinnati chili$
It feels like Cincinnati chili is one of the most hated regional cuisines on the internet. Sure, not everyone will like it, but some of the names it gets called are.. extreme. Love it or hate it, you have to at least try it. Skyline is the most popular chain serving up coneys (chili and cheese on a hot dog, optionally topped with mustard and onion) and ways (a three-way is chili and cheese on spaghetti, a four way adds either beans or onions, and a five-way adds both). For a more authentic experience, hit up a local chili parlor like Camp Washington Chili, Price Hill Chili, Dixie Chili, or Empress. If you’re still unsure about whether or not you’ll like Cincinnati chili, think of it as spaghetti or a hot dog topped with a Greek meat sauce instead of a traditional chili. Or just try it so you can at least tell everyone that you had a three-way on your trip. And don’t forget to grab a peppermint patty on the way out!
Get lost in Jungle Jim’s$-$$$$
Jungle Jim’s is part theme park, part grocery store, and 100% incredible. You’ll find singing animatronic statues tucked away among the maze of aisles in the 200,00 square foot megastore. Besides their normal grocery, there’s plenty of beer and wine and a huge international section, with aisles upon aisles dedicated to various countries. The original location also has a kombucha bar, a cigar shop, an enormous natural foods section, and one of the largest displays of hot sauce you’ll ever see… it’s even topped with a vintage fire truck.
Are you game enough to embark on a family road trip with kids and their grandparents?The road ahead is fraught with possible danger, possible tears and head slapping moments.
But, it’s also filled with treasured bonding experiences between your children and their grandparents (and of course between you and your parents.) Having a plan is key to making it heaven rather than hell (so is daily meditation in the months leading up to you it so you can practice letting IT go.) You define what that IT is when it comes to the grandparents!
We checked off many lifetime bucket list experiences, grew closer, and didn’t have one bad moment. You can read more tips for planning a multi-generational family road trip in this post.
Our tips for surviving a road trip with kids and grandparents will help you reach that divine experience.
1. Do you have a big enough car?
First and foremost, this is the greatest challenge for you to solve. If your vehicle is not big enough, you may have to look at renting a bigger car, or two cars. Perhaps your parents can drive their own vehicle, or you can rent two smaller cars if separation is needed.
Although, I do think time spent together while driving between destinations can often be the most rewarding! Don’t forget to consider luggage space.
If this is an issue, you can buy skyboxes for the top of your car which helps. We have a Yakima Skybox which is excellent and came in handy for our multi-generational road trip.
2. Assign everyone a role
It’s great to give everyone a role to play in the car, and exploring a city. If you have multiple drivers, you’ll want to switch up the roles as well. Give the children something they can easily manage and will enjoy doing. I’m pretty sure Savannah was Chief Entertainer and Kalyra, simply The Boss.
You decide what makes sense for your family style but here are a few suggestions:
- Chief Navigator
- Time Keeper
3. Service, clean and organize the car
A car can quickly turn into a messy toddlers bedroom when road tripping with multiple people. So it’s essential you start with a clean and organized car and do your best to keep it that way!
- Where will you put the luggage?
- What about storing entertainment inside the car?
- What about food and water?
- Do you have a garbage bag?
Have a place for everything and instruct all passengers of where things belong and their roles in keeping a tidy car. Every time you stop the car, instruct everyone to collect any trash and dispose of it. These good habits will keep a tidy car.
Make sure you service the car before your trip. The last thing you want is car troubles on your dream family vacation.
4. Have Ample Entertainment in the car
There are multiple ways you can entertain kids in the car:board games – we like the miniature magnetic versions you can get of games like snakes and ladders, checkers, and clue. They’re easy to store and use in a car.
interactive games – you know those common ones like, Eye Spy.
coloring and reading books
iPad games and movies We currently homeschool our kids, so we use driving times to do some school work.
If this is not you, your children can research the next place to visit and discover some fun facts or interesting things to do and see while there. This helps them to connect to and feel ownership of the experience.
You could have them map out the journey or keep you updated on driving times and how much longer there is to go.
5. Limit devices and encourage interaction
I know how challenging this one is!
Road tripping with kids is exhausting and you’re tempted to let them get lost in movies and games. But you’re traveling with the grandparents and kids for quality time together, and hours in the car makes for good bonding opportunities. Allow your child to use their device but restrict their time on it. An hour on the device will give the grownups a bit of quiet time and Nan and Pop some time to snooze.
Encourage talking and interactive games in the spaces between and during rest breaks.
6. Plan your stops before you depart for the day
It’s a good idea to map out the day’s driving journey before you leave, noting possible places to stop for food or a stretch break.
This saves you the headache of researching while you are driving, only to find what sounds like an awesome place for coffee just as you drive on past the exit for it.
You may even want to research any quirky or historic roadside attractions you can stop off at to bring in those unexpected and memorable travel experiences.
We decided to stop at Gettysburg for a couple of nights as it was on the way from Asheville to New York City and we couldn’t drive the entire way in one stint.
7. Pack plenty of food and water for the car
We usually move so quickly after breakfast, and are on the road for such long stints, that we can be very disorganized with this road trip tip.
It does mean we waste a lot of time and money finding places to eat along the journey.
We also love to stop for coffee, which can chew up your time finding a good one! But, there’s just nothing like a hot coffee while you’re driving!