Missouri Hiking: Photo Tour of the Castlewood Loop Trail

Missouri is a hiker’s paradise. The state offers miles and miles of wooded trails over all types of terrain. And if you time it right, the foliage is dense enough that you hardly notice the random deer peering at you from within the trees. Even more compelling, you’ll generally find yourself alone on the trail — so you can enjoy nature on your own terms, without the background noise of children screaming.

Here’s a photo tour of a trail less traveled, the Castlewood Loop near St. Louis, Missouri. The Castlewood Loop is accessed from the Chubb Trail, on the Lone Elk side. To get there, head to Lone Elk Park, but stay right of the park entrance. Park in the lot and walk back across the street to the trail entrance. Follow it down the hill and turn left at the bottom. You’ll walk along the train tracks for a bit before crossing over the tracks. Just over the tracks, the Castlewood Loop veers off to the right and the Chubb Trail continues to the left. For more information, see the GORC Trails map.


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Weekend Trip Idea: San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, Texas is a warm weather destination that offers enough sites and sounds to fill up a nice weekend getaway. If you like to drink, you’ll find yourself sipping prickly pear margaritas on the River Walk. If you like architecture and history, you’ll spend at least an afternoon walking the King William Historic district and visiting the Guenther House.

Flip through this San Antonio photo tour to get a taste of what this historic city has to offer.


Try a Rafting Vacation for Thrills, Scenery

Rafting adventures can last for a few hours or as long as a few days, depending on the level of difficulty and challenge you are after. Trips that last for more than a day typically involve nights out by the river banks, usually in tents or camps. The level of comfort and luxury differ greatly from operator to operator – you can find many tours that involve sleeping under the stars in sleeping bags and a few that include full-service meals and comfortable beds.

Where you can raft

There are hundreds of commercially rafted rivers throughout mid-America: in the Western US, the premium commercially rafted rivers are found in California, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. In the Northeastern U.S., they are typically found in New York and Maine. Depending on your experience, raft operators offer a range of rapids, from Class I to Class V. Typically, raft operators hold a license to carry out commercial rafting activities, in particular regions or rivers.

Rafting operators

Family-owned Far and Away Adventures’ offers high-end backwater river trips on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River. While the highlight is rafting down Salmon River’s rapids, pools and riffles, Far and Away offer visitors an overall refined experience they describe as “wilderness luxury”. This is because despite being in rugged terrain, Far and Away guests are not subjected to the traditional “rough-handling” one would expect having to live out in the wild. Instead, guests are pampered with personal concierge service, top-quality meals and comfortable accommodation. Meals are polished off linen tables: think organic foods and locally-sourced ingredients. With more than 28 years of experience, Far and Away Adventures has been featured widely in a number of prestigious magazines, including Conde Nast, Travel+Leisure, AAA Motoring, and the New York Times.

Holiday River Expeditions offers whitewater rafting holidays down the Yampa River – the last undammed river in the Colorado River system. A typical whitewater rafting adventure on the Yampa stretches over four to five days, offering plenty of full-bodied waves and rapids (from Class I to Class V), side-canyon waterfalls, gorges, and pre-Columbian ruins such as Tiger Wall and petroglyphs. On average, about 4-7 hours are spent in the water per day. The nights are spent in camps along the river bank. Holiday River Expeditions can cater to children from age 5 and above.

Tributary Whitewater Tours specializes in whitewater rafting adventure holidays in California catered for families; children as young as age 4 can go on a whitewater adventure. There are special discounts for youths and families. Their recommendations for whitewater rafting adventures with children include the Class 2-3 rapids on the East Fork Carlson River or the Truckee River, both near Lake Tahoe. In North California, Tributary Whitewater Tours recommends the Trinity River and the Lower Klamath River, nwhere guests get to ride on inflatable kayaks and enjoy wildlife sightings and riverside camping. For teenagers, there is the Class 4 Middle Fork American River or the North Fork Yuba River.




Tips for Renting North Carolina Beach Houses

Before you rent a North Carolina Beach house, ask yourself these five questions.

Where do you want to be?

One good way to narrow down your search for a beach house in North Carolina is to decide where you want to explore around North Carolina. The Wrightsville beach area, close to Wilmington, is popular for its restaurants and shops, but the beaches can get very congested in summer. About 200 miles away, beach houses on the Outer Banks are usually scattered in between small towns. Kill Devil Hills, Manteo, and Hatteras are popular destinations for their selection of dining options, wildlife, history, and lighthouses.

With whom are you traveling?

This can help you narrow down the type of beach accommodation you are after. For instance, if you are traveling in a large group, you can narrow your focus to beach houses with plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms – four, six, eight, or more. Couples on a romantic retreat may prefer chic condominiums  that come sports and spa facilities. If you are planning a special vacation, such as a honeymoon or a golf vacation, ask if there are special rates.  Continue reading →

Vacation Ideas for Girls

Guys appear to have plenty of reasons to get away with the rest of their friends. There’s always a golfing vacation coming up or a weekend away for a football game. There is also the endless supply of bachelor parties that used to take up an evening and now stretch out for a week or more. In comparison, the girls get to look forward to an occasional night out or the ever rarer bachelorette party. Times, though, are changing.

Over a coffee – skinny of course – girls discuss spending time with their girlfriends on a white coated beach, relaxing in the sun and talking girl-only subjects. Forget about football and the golf for a few hours; isn’t it about time you organized a vacation just for you and your girlfriends? Your guy may need some convincing, but if you are going with close friends he knows, he may relax a little. Where will you go? Will you stay close to home or consider a Med cruise deal? Continue reading →

9 Facts about the Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port

Port Everglades

The official name for the Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port is Port Everglades. It is located in greater Fort Lauderdale. A taxi from the cruise terminal to downtown Fort Lauderdale costs about $18. Miami is about 25 miles away and it can take up to two hours to get to Key Largo by car.

Cruise Port Activity

The Port Everglades cruise port is a hive of activity. More than 3 million passengers passed through the Fort Lauderdale cruise port in 2009. There are 55 cruise ships from 15 cruise lines that arrive and depart daily from the port’s 11 terminals. Tip: Make a note of the terminal where your ship is docked before you head to the port.

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Highest Rated Resorts in Scottsdale, Arizona

If you want luxury, let the AAA Arizona rating system guide you. Here’s a taste of the current AAA-5 Diamond rated properties in Scottsdale:

JW Marriot Camelback Inn Scottsdale Resort and Spa

The Camelback Inn is one of the three luxury resorts that has maintained its AAA-5 Diamond rating since it was established in 1976. In another show of commitment to service and luxurious quality for its guests, the Inn recently underwent an $50 million uplift — a definite plus in our books. Located with the picturesque Sonoran Desert as its backdrop, the Inn is jaw-dropping both inside and outside. Thoughtful gestures are scattered through the 453 pueblo-style casitas: think private patios, mini kitchenettes, and the works. There are private swimming pools for some of the 18 suites. The Asian-themed Sanctuary and Spa ignites senses, while the award-winning French chef Laurent Tourondel runs one of the best-rated steakhouses in the resort.

The Fairmont Princess Scottsdale

This resort received its AAA-5 Diamond rating in 1991, and is the second longest-holding AAA-5 Diamond Continue reading →

Long Beach, California: The Ugly, Middle Child of SoCal

It’s not easy being stuck between Hollywood and Anaheim. And yet, that’s where Long Beach sits, trying to become a valued tourist destination. Considering the competition, Long Beach is chasing a lofty goal — akin to Daniel Baldwin trying to outshine his older brother Alec.

“Not just another pretty beach”

Long Beach, like Daniel Baldwin, has been plagued with bad Long Beach, Californiapress. The city’s history of violence and poverty has been documented in rap songs by Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Bad Azz, Warren G, and Nate Dogg. There are two separate ghettos: The Eastside, anchored by Polytechnic High School, and North Long Beach, near Jordan High School. Worse than that, Downtown Long Beach, the doll of the visitors bureau, is gritty. The city keeps the bums off two blocks of Pine Avenue, but they roam freely throughout the rest of Downtown. Continue reading →

McCall Vacation Planning: Check the Forecast

McCall, a mountain resort town in Idaho, is known for its mild summers and cold-wet winters.

  • In January, the heart of winter, the average daily temperatures hover between 13-31 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Come spring (April), the average daily temperatures rise to 27-51 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • By July, the average daily temperatures rise to between 43-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and falls to between 27-57 degrees Fahrenheit in October.
  • The warmest months in McCall are the summer months of July and August, with the highest average temperature ranging between a high of 70-81 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • McCall summers are dry. The lowest rainfall usually occurs in the months of July and August, where less than 1 inch of rainfall is recorded.
  • Lake Payette comes alive in summer, perfect for all-day outdoor activities for summer vacationers. Summer days are typically sunny with blue skies, while the nights are cool, with temperatures hovering in the 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Come fall, you can still enjoy sunny days, and the landscape is a burst of reds, golds, browns and greens conifers.
  • Snowfall and cloudy weather are the hallmarks of McCall’s winters, together with winds from the Pacific Ocean.
  • The total annual snowfall for McCall is 134 inches, which is Idaho’s best snow. The first snow can come as early as September and last until June. You can expect plenty of fresh snow, but the best months for winter sports start in November, when the average snow depth accumulates to 3 inches, as the annual maximum temperature of McCall falls to a maximum of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Come December through February, the temperature hovers between 10-40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average snow depth is between 27-33 inches. Unlike summer, precipitation is plentiful in winter  and snow showers are frequent.

Tips for Finding Cheap Las Vegas Vacation Packages

How can you find wallet-friendly deals to fund your decadent travel experience in Las Vegas without having to break your bank? Here’re our top tips:

Lock in cheap travel.

Vegas is a popular tourist destination, so there are many websites you can look scout around for airfare and accommodation package deals, no matter where you are coming from. Try the big names like expedia.com, priceline.com, southwestvacations.com, wotif.com. The plus side about starting with big brands is that it gives you a sense of the costs. (See Tip # 2)

Know what you are paying for.

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