The age-old conundrum when it comes to vacations is how to plan a trip that pleases the whole gang. Unless you fly solo on your travel adventures, most likely there are compromises made for group getaways. Or maybe you’re lucky enough and you can take multiple trips so everyone gets a their turn for the perfect vacation each year. One trip may be to the beach and the other to the mountains. Or one trip is for seeing the attractions of any particular city and the other is for enjoying more active endeavors than just visiting museums, galleries, and historic locales.
Of course, the perfect trip combines both and we’ve got a few places where you can go to enjoy the culture of the city and adventure in the wilder areas of your destination. Because everyone’s winter mindset right now is to have a warm weather getaway, we’ll take a look at a few places where your winter getaway has not only great weather, but the perfect mix of big city and wild wilderness.
Great winter weather? Check. City attractions. Check. Wild wilderness? Check!
Arizona offers fabulous winter weather with daytime highs averaging 66 degrees from December to February. Combine the mountains and desert landscape with the entertainment and cultural attractions found in Phoenix and the surrounding metro area and you just might have the perfect mix of big city and wild wilderness.
In terms of museums, Phoenix offers the Phoenix Art Museum, the Museum of Musical Instruments, and the Shemer Art Center. Fashionistas will appreciate the current exhibition, Generation Paper: Fast Fashions of the 1960s, which explores the experimental trend of paper garments. This exhibit runs through July 2022. The Museum of Musical Instruments is the largest of its type in the world. Here visitors can see more than 8,000 instruments from over 200 countries. The interactive Experience Gallery allows visitors to play some of these different instruments. Shopping in the area can range from antiques and high-end fashion to local made goods and trendy clothing shops. Fun dining experiences can include the Taco Guild – fabulous with tacos enjoyed in the setting of a converted 1800s chapel, pizza and pipe organ music at Organ Stop Pizza, or an Old West experience at Rustler’s Roost for great steaks and ribs and even better views.
On the wilder side, head to Papago Park and tackle the Double Butte Loop and Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. A few of the buttes can be climbed (provided you’ve got the right shoes). Saguaro cacti, mountain views and an up-close-and personal experience with the Sonoran Desert are just a few reasons to visit White Tank Mountain Regional Park and try the Waterfall Trail. For flora and fauna experiences, options include the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale or the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, where you can walk the nature paths and trails among the desert plants. Other ways to explore the wild side of Arizona is via a hot air balloon ride over
the desert or by horseback.
Of course, the wildest place in Florida is Everglades National Park, which is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Covering 2,400 square miles, there is a lot to do here. Paddling, canoeing and kayaking the ponds, lakes, freshwater marshes, and the waters of Florida Bay are just a few of the options. If you prefer wheels to paddles, try any one of the five biking trails that run through the park. There are even ranger-led bike programs like Full Moon Rides and Meteor Shower Rides. To have a learning experience, try one of the guided airboat tours where guides explain the animals, plants, and history of the area. Hiking trails are another option for great birding and wildlife watching while exploring this vast wilderness.
The nice thing about the Everglades National Park being so large is that it is accessible from several large cities. If you plan to explore the Everglades and mix in a bit of city fun, book a stay at the Miami Everglades RV Resort, which is less than 60 miles from the Everglades.
Miami has a thriving art scene, including more than 280 public works on display throughout the area. Don’t miss the Wynwood Walls, an outdoor exhibit of more than 35 hand-sprayed murals and two street art galleries (for details go to museum.thewynwoodwalls.com). Another way to experience the mix of culture in Miami is to attend the Culture Crawl, which is held on the third Thursday of every month and includes experiences like film screening in local parks, exhibit openings and other multi-cultural events. Dining in Miami is truly like no other thanks to the city’s rich mix of cultures. Cuban, Haitian, Pan-Asian, Greek – pick a country and you’ll most likely find that cuisine somewhere nearby. Try a Cubano at Sanguich de Miami, named one of the top restaurants in Miami, or feast on some delicious seafood at Joe’s Stone Crab, which has been serving some of the best when it comes to the fruit of the sea since 1913.
At over 250,000 square miles, Texas has plenty of room for both urban landscapes and off the beaten track wilderness. There are large cities like Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio and wide-open spaces like the sprawling Rio Grande Valley, Texas Hill Country, and the wildlife and birding refuges of south Texas. There are more than 7,000 lakes and reservoirs prime for fishing, 127 million acres dedicated to farming and cattle ranching, two national parks and 80 state parks.
From a city standpoint, Houston has the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Zoo, and Space Center Houston. And, Houston also has the 52-mile waterway known as Buffalo Bayou that is great for outdoor adventure. In fact, the City of Houston was established in 1837 at the confluence of the Buffalo and White Oak bayous. Nowadays, visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and paddling at Buffalo Bayou. Just about an hour outside of Houston, you can find some of the best fishing in the state at Lake Conroe, known for its largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish. A bit further north of Lake Conroe is Sam Houston National Forest, which is great for hiking.
Big City Dallas has the Dallas Museum of Art and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (which is a great history lesson on the life of President John F. Kennedy), and nearby Fort Worth has the Cultural District, featuring multiple museums located within a single park-like setting. Don’t miss the Reunion Tower in Dallas, the 561-foot observation tower where the GeO-Deck offers visitors panoramic views of the city some 400 feet in the air! Of course, when in cattle country, a visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District is a must-do.
The area also has its share of offerings when it comes to the wide-open spaces the Lone Star State is known for. Pick one of the many hiking trails at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge and watch the wildlife roam free – bison also roam here but are not out during the winter months. Or spend the day exploring the mix of woodlands, wetlands, and prairies at the Trinity River Audubon Center which is located in the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban hardwood forest in the U.S.