Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia and North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is the very scenic highway that con­nects Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in Virginia, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. The whole trip along the Parkway, which traverses Virginia and western North Carolina, encompasses a 469 mile drive that can take up to a leisurely 10 days, including stops to explore along the way.

It’s a highway and a journey surrounded by natural beauty. The majority of the Parkway in Virginia runs through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and into North Carolina along mountain crests. The road itself is a two lane highway with a 45 mph speed limit, but for travelers who enjoy “driving trips,” traveling the Parkway can be a very special experience.

The attractions along the Virginia portion of the Parkway differ slightly from those on the North Carolina side. In Virginia, the recreated mountain farm near Humpback Rocks at the begin­ning of the Parkway and Mabry Mill, further south, give visitors a glimpse of traditional mountain life in the early days of settle­ment. In North Carolina, Linville Falls, the Cradle of Forestry, and other natural wonders, feature the natural environment.

In addition to the stops right along the Parkway itself, the road is next to historic towns from top to bottom, making for fas­cinating exploration of the heritage and culture of the region along the way. The headquarters of the Blue Ridge Parkway is located in Asheville, North Carolina, a city well known to literary figures including Carl Sandburg, Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Exploration of their homes and haunts in the Asheville area presents an interesting side trip and a one or two day break from driving.


North Carolina Arboretum

If you don’t already have an appre­ciation for nature, you will after visiting The North Carolina Arboretum. The 434-acre site includes 65 acres of cultivated gardens, 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, indoor and outdoor exhibits, guided Segway tours, two gift shops, the Savory Thyme Caf6 and one of the finest bonsai collections in the nation.

An affiliate of the University of North Carolina, The North Carolina Arboretum  educates visitors in a fun, hands on way. For example, the arboretum was the first to offer Segway tours in the Asheville area, a concept that is now hugely popular.


South Carolina Vacation Ideas

HIKING: From South Carolina’s nook of the Blue Ridge Mountains to its scenic Atlantic Coast, the state offers hundreds of miles of trails in its parks, historic towns, and seaside villages. In autumn, South Carolina’s fall foliage peaks upstate in October, when hickories, maples, and oaks paint the hillsides in vivid hues of amber, gold, and red. Table Rock State Park in Pickens County has some of the state’s loveliest trails. (SouthCarolinaParks.com)

KIAWAH ISLAND & PAWLEYS ISLAND

With plentiful lush courses stretching from the mountains to the sea, South Carolina has earned its reputation as “The Golf Capital of the South:” Under crisp fall skies, tee off on greens that Golf for Women has deemed some of the country’s best. The luxurious Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KiawahResort.com; 800-576-1570) and meander­ing Willbrook Plantation Golf Club (mbn.com; 843-237-4900) keep jumping up on their list of favorites.

GREENVILLE & BEAUFORT

BIKING: Whether you’re a mountain biker or a beach cruiser, South Carolina has excellent cycling destinations. For thrilling mountain biking, check out the Old Firetower Bicycle Trail in Paris Mountain State Park near Greenville (SouthCarolinaParks.com; 864-244-5565), which passes through wildberry-dotted woodlands populated by deer, squirrels, and colorful birds. If a retro cruiser is more your speed, quiet seaside communities, like Beaufort, provide gorgeous backdrops for relaxing rides on sunny fall days.

MOUNTAIN & BLACKWATER RIVER AREAS

RAFTING, BOATING, AND KAYAKING: In early fall, the warm weather holds out for a few more waterside adventures. For thrill-seek­ers, rafting on the renowned Chattooga River is an absolute must-do in the Upcountry’s Waterfalls and Whitewater region. In the central Lakes and Blackwater Rivers region, scenic rivers provide well-mapped water trails for avid kayakers and cancers. (PaddleSC.com; SCTrails.net)

MYRTLE BEACH

STYLISH SHORES: The Market Common, located on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, (MarketCommonMB.com) is a sleek, modern complex where urban meets ocean. Among the great shops, you’ll find Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and Copper Penny Shooz, which carry the hottest brands in footwear and handbags, including Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Sigerson Morrison.

CHARLESTON

This past March, King Street cinched its reputation as Charleston’s fashion center when top designers and celebrity fashionistas converged in Marion Square Park for the city’s second annual fashion week. Boutiques and big-name shops line this popular promenade, where established brands, such as Brooks Brothers, Nicole Miller, and Ann Taylor, sit next to showcases for emerging designers, such as Hampden Clothing. And the various book shops and music stores will also catch your eye.


Grand Canyon – The North Rim

Grand Canyon – The North Rim – The other rim

While the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is what is identified with the Grand Can­yon, the other rim – that on the north side – has much to be desired: fewer tourists, an elevation higher by 1,300 feet and an abundance of wildlife. Amazingly, it is only 10 or so miles across the canyon, yet to drive between each rim requires more than 200 miles. The names of the viewpoints speak to the great beauty of the place: Point Sub­lime, Cape Royal, Angels Window and even Bright Angel. This is the low-key Grand Canyon and lends itself to quiet contemplation as well as vigorous hikes. The Colo­rado River continues to do its magic – patiently digging the canyon deeper, one foot per thousand years. While only “discovered” in 1540, the Grand Canyon becomes more inspiring the deeper one travels. “The one great sight that every American should see,” as Theodore Roosevelt so aptly put it.


Nepal

NEPAL IS A PLACE WITH A RICH CUL­TURE BEGGING TO BE EXPLORED. WITH A MYRIAD OF ONE-OF-A KIND ACTIVI­TIES AND UNIQUE LANDMARKS, A TRIP TO NEPAL WILL EXCITE THE TRAVELER IN EVERYONE.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Nepal is the history and culture that shaped the present-day South Asian country. History buffs will be delighted with the jewels of knowledge that lie beyond what meets the eye. From the ancient Newar kingdom to the Nepal Sambat Calendar, Nepal has a diverse back­ground. As the birthplace of Buddhism, it’s a renowned spiritual destination. A mixture of mountains, hills, plains and marshy grasslands with intertwining rivers, the country features a diverse terrain. The mountainous region, in the north, is Nepal’s claim to fame. The Great Himalayan Range contains the highest altitudes in the world-including Mount Everest, located on the border of Tibet. For the avid trekker, Nepal is a playground. With arduous trails and high altitudes-plus white water rafting-Nepal has an adventure for everyone. And when you get off the trails, there’s a whole city to explore. Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, promises one-of-a­kind sights and scenes. Live like a local and bathe in the Bagmati River or watch the monkeys do so at Swayambhunath, a religious temple complex atop a hill at the Kathmandu Valley. Here you’ll find the Monkey Temple, where holy monkeys inhabit a temple in the northwest part of the complex. A sacred site that boasts killer views of the capital city, Swayambhunath is a site not to be missed. After checking out a few local gems, shop in the small markets sprinkled across Kathmandu. Pick up treasured gifts such as exquisite jewelry, Newari woodcrafts and exotic spices and teas. After a long, exciting day of shopping, there is only one thing left to do: enjoy a nice dinner, of course. From five-star cuisine to sidewalk cafe fare, finding a scrumptious meal is never an issue. Drop into the neighborhood cafes, where tourists intermingle with locals over highly acclaimed Malaysian cuisine. Stay awhile and you will find yourself chatting with a monk or an eager-eyed world-traveler.


Arizona – Antelope Canyon

ANTELOPE CANYON Soak in awe-inspiring visions of nature

While the Grand Canyon is perhaps Arizona’s most famous canyon, it is surrounded by many smaller, yet equally impressive, canyons such as Antelope Canyon. This deep, narrow canyon, known as a “slot canyon,” was gently carved from the Navajo sandstone over the course of countless millenniums.

Walk along the sandy floor of either the Upper or Lower Antefope canyons as you gaze up into the dream-like landscape of constantly changing colors and moving shafts of sunlight. Some of the canyon slots are so narrow in places you can stretch your arms out and touch the cool walls from side to side. It is a photographer’s wonderland, so don’t forget your camera.

Note: You must have an authorized guide to hike the upper and lower areas of Antelope Canyon.

HOW TO GET THERE

Antelope Canyon is located near Page on Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, just outside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. For a scenic drive, begin your journey a few miles northeast of Cow Spring on U.S. Route 160 and end 66 miles later in Page at U.S. Route 89.


Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Transcend time and discover respite from your hectic life One of the world’s vast and powerfully inspiring wonders, the Grand Canyon is,a must-see when visiting Arizona, whether it’s your first or fifteenth visit. Descending more than a mile to the canyon floor and spanning 277 miles from end to end, the canyon offers a playground where you can backpack, bird watch, river raft, and stargaze. You have several options to reach the bottom, including the 9.3-mile Bright Angel Trail or the 7.3-mile South Kaibab Trail.

Start your morning as the sun slowly peeks up above the canyon walls and the sweet earthy smell of the desert lingers in the air. As you.pick your way slowly down one of the trails’ countless switchbacks, soak in nonstop views of multicolored rock formations in astounding shapes: Along the north and south rims, there are trails for all levels of hikers, which offer dazzling views, opportunities to photograph amazing wildlife, and explore seldom-seen wonders at every step. At the bottom, take in the vivid Colorado River as it gushes past, with an invigorating energy that might inspire a rafting trip. Several river-rafting tours offer chances to explore this majestic river with trips that range from a few hours to a few weeks.


Mexico – Land of Color

An easy flight from many U.S. gateways, Mexico is a land of colorful contrasts and diverse pleasures. Here you can immerse yourself in historic city centers, relax at marvelous beach resorts, travel back in time at ancient ruins, witness the grandeur of whales in their natural habitat, and explore awe-inspiring canyons. Discover Mexico’s magic just south of the border.

SUN AND SEA

Those seeking fun in the sun will find plenty of variety in Mexico. The Yucatan Pen­insula’s Caribbean shoreline features hotspot Cancun, the laid back islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, and the lovely beach resorts of Tulum, Playa del Car­men, and Xpu-Ha. On the Pacific coast, Acapulco beckons with its sublime bay, outstanding hotels, and round-the-clock energy while further north, you’ll find the charming beach village of Zihuatanejo and exceptional lodgings in neighboring Ixtapa.

ARCHEOLOGICAL WONDERS

Numerous archaeological treasures left by centuries of pre-Hispanic civilizations attest to Mexico’s glorious past. Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, is famous for the pyramid-lined Avenue of the Dead featuring the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Monte Alban is a signifi­cant Zapotec ceremonial center on a mountaintop overlooking the valley of Oaxaca. The Mayan ruins at Palenque in the state of Chiapas are dramatically positioned atop a tall ridge at the base of forested mountains. And Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and Ek Balam are impor­tant Mayan sites on the Yucatan Peninsula.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Mexico is blessed with breath­taking natural beauty and wild­life, Head to the Baja California Peninsula (from January through March) to witness the majesty of the gray whale. An estimated 10,000 of these graceful crea­tures travel from the frigid Ber­ing Sea to mate and give birth to their calves in the warm Pacific waters. While there are many great viewing locations, the protected waters of El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve provide ideal conditions for both the whales and whale watchers.

Inland, magnificent Copper Canyon is a 6,487-square-mile network of canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara of Chihuahua. The Chihuahua to Pacific Railway leaves from Los Mochis on the Sea of Cortes and travels inland to Copper Canyon. The railway, an engineering feat with 39 bridges and 86 tunnels, traverses the canyon offering incredible vistas of pine forests, jagged peaks, and valleys before descending into the city of Chi­huahua. You can stay overnight at stops along the way to explore the dramatic terrain while hiking, horseback riding, and camping.


Sedona, Arizona

DESERT ELEGANCE, CENTURIES IN THE MAKING.

Nestled among the dramatic crimson towers of Red Rock Country, Sedona Arizona provide a stunning sanctuary for outdoor activities and secluded retreats. There are so many things to see and do in Sedona.

From amazing hiking and biking on Sedona’s extensive network of trails to world­class art galleries and spiritual meditation-you’ll find hundreds of ways to be enriched and rejuvenated. Welcome the rising sun with a yoga session or a hike amid Sedona’s powerful spiritual vortex sites. Spend the afternoon meandering through the art galleries and downtown shops, as you take in the town’s creative and artistic side.

Evening breezes and the bright glow of the sunset on the red rocks at dusk create an enchanting backdrop for al fresco dining in Sedona. At big-city caliber restaurants, unwind with a cool glass of wine as you await the brilliance of Sedona’s night sky.

HOW TO GET THERE

State Route 179, designated the Red Rock Scenic Road, offers a 15-mile grand welcome to Sedona’s Red Rock Country, amid 500 square miles carved from the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. Enjoy the striking scenery by taking advantage of the numerous pullouts and parking areas that offer access to sites like the Little Horse Trail, Bell Rock, and Courthouse Butte.