7 Weekend Adventure Trips for Nature Lovers
Many great outdoor adventures are so far off the beaten path, they may seem unattainable in a long weekend. However, given some advance planning, even the wilderness will offer itself up in convenient bite-sized chucks.
San Juan Islands (Washington)Sea kayaking tours off the San Juan Islands in Washington state, like those offered by Sea Quest Expeditions, are designed to visit the favorite feeding, traveling and play areas of resident pods of orcas -- easily among the most awe-inspiring creatures you'll ever likely encounter close up and personal in the wild. 960 1280
Slickrock Bike Trail (Utah)The highly technical 9.6-mile Slickrock Bike Trail is considered by many to be the ultimate mountain-biking experience. However appealing Moab is to the seasoned rider, it also offers a wide assortment of easy to moderate biking trails that expose casual riders to classic high-desert scenery along cacti-lined single-track, primitive jeep roads and patches of slickrock. 960 1280
Youghiogheny River (Maryland)To cap off a long weekend in the wet wilderness of the East, you might want to try the Upper Yough. Pronounced "Yock," it refers to the Youghiogheny River, which springs from the highest ridges of the Allegheny Plateau in western Maryland. For 7 miles, this pristine river is virtually one long rapid cascading through a lush hemlock forest. Not that you're likely to have time to notice the wildflowers and wildlife as you navigate blind chutes and ledges, dropping an average of 116 feet per mile. 960 1280
Green Mountain National Forest (Vermont)The Moosalamoo region of Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest is a New England destination reputed for outstanding local heritage, nature conservation and tourism stewardship. Whether on your own self-guided tour, or through an operator like R.E.I. Adventures, you can wander through more than 20,000 acres of forest, cliffs, vistas, lakes and streams. 960 1280
Superior Hiking Trail (Minnesota)Lodge-to-lodge hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail, which, aptly named, really happens to be one of the continent's finest hiking trails, is always a great adventure. It winds for 200 miles, from Two Harbors, MN, to the Canadian border along the ridgeline of the ancient Sawtooth Mountain Range, high above Lake Superior. 960 1280
Cheat River (West Virginia)The Cheat River Watershed is the largest free-flowing watershed in the Eastern United States. As one of few rivers that flow northward -- its origins are in West Virginia's highest mountains -- the Cheat is a boulder-strewn river big on beauty and personality, ranging from nice and easy riffles to raucous and raging rapids. Rafting the mighty Cheat is one wet and wild way to spend a day. 960 1280
Red River Gorge Geologic Area (Kentucky)There are countless crags for climbing in the gorgeous Red River Gorge Geologic Area of eastern Kentucky, but perhaps none is as easy to get to and varied in difficulty as those at Torrent Falls Resort. With more than 42 acres of majestic cliffs and 3 waterfalls (the highest is 165 feet), this wilderness resort maintains more than 50 different routes, ranging from 5.2 to 5.13. An expert staff caters to both novice and experienced climbers. 960 1280
Where to Stay
Described as encompassing Spanish Colonial warmth, old Hollywood glamour and new California dreaming, the Bacara Resort & Spa is the height of luxury for a weekend in Santa Barbara. Every one of the 311 rooms and 49 specialty suites are intimate and relaxing, featuring their own private patio or balcony.
The resort resembles an intimate Mediterranean village, embracing 78 beachfront acres between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains. The understated elegance is present in every room and at the resort's spa and 3 restaurants.
Another great option is The Simpson House Inn, an 1874 historic landmark decorated to Victorian perfection. French doors open to manicured gardens, and quaint cottages dot the beautiful grounds. While the rooms have everything your heart could possibly desire, the Inn's most impressive features are its extras: the gourmet Mediterranean hors d'oeuvres and Santa Barbara wines served each afternoon, the enormous video library and the full gourmet breakfast (delivered on delicate china).
Take a tour of The Simpson House Inn's gardens, and see why guests fall in love with this unique Santa Barbara bed and breakfast.960 1280
Budget StayIf you're looking to experience Santa Barbara's splendor, but don't want to break the bank, book a room at the Days Inn. The hotel is only a block from Yacht Harbor and walking distance from some great dining options. Walk to Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant and The Brewhouse, but better yet, walk directly across the street to the beach. 960 1280
Where to Eat and Drink
The Brewhouse is a quintessential California hangout: outdoor dining, views of the water, dinner and drink specials, fresh music and a relaxed vibe. And to state the obvious, great beer brewed on the premises is served daily; try the dark Harry Porter or the Condor Pilsner.
Brophy Bros., overlooking the harbor, is a locals' favorite and home to fresh California cuisine. Two things not to be missed at Brophy's are the clam chowder and the opportunity to make new friends at the long communal table. The fresh-fish menu changes daily, the mark of a great seafood restaurant.
One of Santa Barbara's most romantic restaurants is Stella Mare's. The traditional French cuisine is served for brunch, lunch and dinner, complemented by French and American wines. Overlooking the Bird Refuge, a 42-acre saltwater wildlife refuge, the beautiful old house and greenhouse are the perfect place to bring a loved one while staying in Santa Barbara.
For the best authentic tacos in Santa Barbara, head to this humble street-corner shack. Endorsed by Julia Child, you won't mind waiting on line for fresh ingredients that are spiced to perfection. Always check the daily specials first and ask for extra tortillas no matter what you decide to order.960 1280
What to See: Old Mission Santa BarbaraThe Santa Barbara Mission was founded on December 4, 1786, the tenth of 21 California missions founded by the Spanish Franciscans. From its hilltop lookout, you can view Santa Barbara below and the Channel Islands beyond. Tour the beautiful church, historic cemetery and mausoleum, and 10 acres of gorgeously landscaped gardens from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Self-guided tour brochures are also available at the Mission's gift shop in 8 different languages. 960 1280
What to Do: Santa Barbara ZooThe Santa Barbara Zoo is a perfect afternoon activity. All 700 animals can be seen within 30 minutes at this pint-sized park, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Christmas. Enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the Pacific after your visit with the animals.
Ganna Walska LotuslandAnother picturesque setting for a beautiful afternoon in Santa Barbara is the Ganna Walska Lotusland, a lavishly landscaped 37-acre estate brimming with exotic flora and romantic garden paths. Named after its late owner, the eccentric Madame Walska, the garden contains priceless rare and beautiful specimens acquired during the lax import regulations of the 1940s. Wander the ethereal walkways and feel as though you've entered another time, but advanced reservations are required to tour these grounds. 960 1280
After watching a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean, head to any number of places for nighttime fun. The Boathouse at Hendry's Beach is a relaxed atmosphere perfect for watching the sunset and then sipping cocktails around the fire pit.
For a lounge atmosphere with great dancing, head to Eos Lounge located near State Street. Combining the vibes of casual elegance, contemporary cocktail lounge and nightclub, Eos is a great place to experience the culture and style of Santa Barbara.
To combine your dinner with some great theater, head to The Lobero whose calendar of events features performances like the Australian Chamber Orchestra, The Capital Steps, Damn Yankees and an evening with Lily Tomlin. It's conveniently located in downtown Santa Barbara and is the perfect Friday night activity.960 1280
Travel Channel Insider's TipSanta Barbara's wine country is still largely undiscovered, however it's quickly garnering international respect. Travel the vineyards located about 30 minutes from Santa Barbara for sophisticated and spectacular wines. The best part? Chances are you'll have personalized attention at these small vineyards. You can also take a self-guided tour of those wineries featured in the 2004 Academy Award winner, "Sideways." 960 1280
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (Hawaii)The gorgeous landscape of Maui is custom-made for romance. Boasting year-round bikini-friendly temperatures and a diverse lineup of recreation — from posh spas and postcard-worthy beaches to world-class golf courses and waterfall hiking — this Hawaiian island is a tropical respite from the real world. 960 1280
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (Hawaii)Once you set foot in the 5-star Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, you'll be hard-pressed to break free from the poolside foot massages, Japanese Kobe beef at Duo, complimentary activities and endless thoughtful amenities. 960 1280
L'Auberge Carmel (California)With its mix of chic boutiques, art galleries and bistros, the coastal village of Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor, caters to well-heeled travelers. This former artists' colony is now a romantic refuge for those who appreciate a refined and slow-paced getaway. 960 1280
L'Auberge Carmel (California)Built in 1929 and later renovated, L'Auberge is an intentionally intimate boutique hotel. Its 20 rooms have French windows, ocean views, comfy king- or queen-size beds, decadent down bedding, oversize tubs and heated bathroom floors. The hotel's 12-table restaurant, Aubergine, is equally beguiling and features a 4,500-bottle wine cellar. 960 1280
The Setai (Miami)Packed with runway-ready locals, glamorous nightclubs, spectacular warm weather and picture-perfect beaches, there's something inherently sexy about Miami's South Beach. The ultimate getaway for nightlife lovers is its Ocean Drive strip of restaurants and clubs, and there are plenty of swanky places to sleep in late after a night on the town. 960 1280
The Setai (Miami)Among the most luxurious places in Miami is the Asian-inspired Setai. A Zen-like counterbalance to trendier hotels, it features suites that are spacious and serene, 3 pools that are kept at 3 different temperatures, and a hotel spa that offers in-room treatments. When the sun goes down, the hotel's courtyard transforms into a sexy lounge with mood-making ambient music. 960 1280
Wickaninnish Inn (British Columbia)Few places in the world are more romantic than the relatively unspoiled town of Tofino. Tucked away on the western end of British Columbia's Vancouver Island, you'll spend days meandering through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve or kayaking, surfing and whale-watching at Long Beach, which is widely considered to be one of the best oceanfronts in all of Canada. 960 1280
Wickaninnish Inn (British Columbia)After sunset, cuddle up in front of a fireplace to listen to the crashing waves with a glass of local wine. Romantics will love the posh environs of the Wickaninnish Inn, where every room boasts ocean or beach views. Try side-by-side couple's treatments at the resort's elegant Ancient Cedars Spa. 960 1280
Live Aqua Cancun (Mexico)Cancun gets a bad rap for resorts filled with loud party crowds or overrun by energetic children, but this Mexican-owned Grupo Posadas property defies such silly notions. Despite its Zona Hotelera address, calm, privacy and panoramic blue skies prevail at this tony, all-inclusive resort. 960 1280
Viceroy Santa Monica (California)Think SoCal sophistication sans the snobbery of other nearby beachfront locales. A mere 16 miles west of the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica is the quintessential laid-back California beach town. Steal smooches with your honey on the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier, admire the always-stunning sunsets or shop till you drop at the Third Street Promenade, a retail mecca. 960 1280
Viceroy Santa Monica (California)For a romantic rendezvous, indulge yourselves at the Viceroy Santa Monica, from private poolside cabanas to retro-style bikes that guests can borrow to cruise along the beach to top-notch dining at the property's restaurant, Cast. 960 1280
6 Sexy Weekend Getaways 12 Photos