Now that the snow is melting and COVID restrictions are easing, it’s time to consider the perfect road trip.
Sure, the pandemic has changed the way we enjoy our outdoor parks, but’s it’s also encouraged more of us to get outside and enjoy nature.
We put together a list of some of nature’s best attractions around the country: places where you can stay socially distant but still enjoy the outdoors this spring. So pack a bag and head out to the best playgrounds in the U.S.
We start in San Francisco, which ranks as one of the best places to hike in the country. A study by LawnStarter also ranks it as the best city for spring outdoor activities. You can walk, bike, or hike just about anywhere in the Bay City.
Start by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge for a bird’s eye view of the bay. Head up to Vista Point to get a beautiful view of the greenery surrounding the city. Then head to Golden Gate Park, where you can bike or walk around the gardens and lakes. The kids will enjoy the park’s gigantic carousel. The little ones will also have a great time at Ocean Beach, where they can join in a game of beach volleyball or compete in a sand castle-making contest. The water’s a little too cold for swimming, but you’ll see a lot of surfers braving the waves.
Finish up your visit by renting a mountain bike and heading up Mount Tamalpais. It’s a steep climb, but the ocean view is worth it.
Mesa is a mecca for outdoor lovers. Saguaro Lake Ranch offers everything from kayaking and canoeing to Horseback riding tours. Take a hike along the 4-mile Granite Trail Loop. When it’s time to cool down, rent a paddleboard at Saguaro Lake.
While adults may enjoy an afternoon at one of the city’s numerous golf courses, the waterparks are a surefire hit with the kiddos. Check out Riverview Park, home to the Cubs Spring Training Facility. You’ll find a fishing lake, a spray ground with water features, and a monumental playground with a 50-foot tall climbing tower. Pack a picnic lunch and find a table in the shade.
Manitou Springs, Colorado
You’ll need reservations and plenty of stamina to hike Manitou Springs Incline, the most popular attraction in Manitou Springs. You won’t need money, but bring your camera and plenty of water. If you’re up for climbing up 2,744 steps (about 2,000 vertical feet,) you’ll get some fantastic photos of nearby Pike’s Peak.
Take the kids to explore the nearby Cliff Dwellings, where they’ll learn about the Ancestral Puebloans who once lived in Southwest Colorado. The stones from the dwellings were shipped from Cortez and assembled here in the 1900s to preserve this piece of history.
About a mile and a half north of the Cliff Dwellings, you’ll find the Cave of the Winds. Take the hour tour and explore the geography, or choose the 90-minute lantern tour while listening to ghost stories. Prefer to stay above ground? Take a zipline across Frontier Canyon.
Piedmont Park, in the middle of Atlanta, is an easy stop for both residents and visitors who want to explore the outdoors. You’ll find 190 acres filled with green space, running tracks, playgrounds, lakes, swimming pools, and sports courts. Piedmont Park is a popular spot for festivals throughout the year.
Centennial Olympic Park is another favorite and a must-see attraction. The park (pictured in the cover photo) was built for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. It’s now home to numerous outdoor concerts and festivals throughout the spring and summer. Be sure to stop by the fountain to catch the water show, which runs at 12:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 6:30 pm, and 9 pm daily.
There’s no better time to visit the nation’s capital than in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The city is one of the most walkable and bike-friendly places in the country filled with national treasures and beautiful gardens.
Clemyjontri Park, Glen Echo Park, and Georgetown Waterfront Park offer plenty of playgrounds and kid-friendly activities. The National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation and it’s free. And you won’t want to miss Canal Park, where you’ll see kids cooling off in the dancing fountains. The park is perfect for picnics.
Time to Play
After spending a winter in isolation, we need the outdoors more than ever. Harvard University researchers found that even a short outdoor stroll can improve our mental and physical health.
2020 also saw a huge drop in visits to our national parks. So think of this road trip as a way to improve your health and the health of our nation’s valuable treasures. Happy hiking.