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2010

49 Inspirational Travel Secrets From the Top Travel Bloggers on the Internet Today

www.tripbase.com

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Foreword Congratulations on downloading your Best Kept Travel Secrets eBook. You're now part of a unique collaborative charity project, the first of its kind to take place on the Internet! The Best Kept Travel Secrets project was initiated with just one blog post back in November 2009. Since then, over 200 of the most talented travel bloggers and writers across the globe have contributed more than 500 inspirational travel secrets. These phenomenal travel gems have now been compiled into a series of travel eBooks. Awe-inspiring places, insider info and expert tips... you'll find 49 amazing travel secrets within this eBook. The best part about this is that you've helped contribute to a great cause.

About Tripbase Founded in May 2007, Tripbase pioneered the Internet's first "destination discovery engine". Tripbase saves you from the time-consuming and frustrating online travel search by matching you up with your ideal vacation destination. Tripbase was named Top Travel Website for Destination Ideas by Travel and Leisure magazine in November 2008. www.tripbase.com

Copyright / Terms of Use: US eBook - 49 secrets - Release 1.02 (May 24th, 2010) | Use of this ebook subject to these terms and conditions. Tripbase Travel Secrets E-books are free to be shared and distributed according to this creative commons copyright . All text and images within the e-books, however, are subject to the copyright of their respective owners.

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These Secrets Make Dirty Water Clean Right now, almost one billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water. That's one in eight of us. For every person that downloads an eBook Tripbase will make a $1 donation to the fantastic cause, clean drinking water for people in developing nations. 100% of these donations will be used to directly fund clean water solutions. Our mission: to help bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Our campaign target: to build 4 freshwater wells, providing clean water for an entire school for the next 20 years.

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Join the Campaign Use these travel secrets to make dirty water clean and forward a link to our eBook Homepage to help us reach our goals. Publicize your support of this fantastic cause and become a Campaign Ambassador. Make your own personal donation. Just $20 can give one person clean drinking water for 20 years. Give one person clean water. Got your own blog/site? Join our community of Travel Secrets Authors. Photo by:khym54

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Front Cover

Main Index

Main Index Alaska

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27

Minnesota

Arizona

6

28

Montana

Arkansas

8

31

Nevada

California

9

34

New York

Colorado

17

35

North Carolina

Florida

18

36

Oregon

Hawaii

20

39

South Dakota

Illinois

23

40

Washington

41

Contributing Authors

Louisiana

24

Massachusetts

26

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What impressed me so much about the Arctic tundra was the very fact that it challenged so many facts I've always revolved my life around

Photo by: Trodel

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Alaska The Arctic Tundra, Alaska I've tried to put my finger on exactly what I liked so much about the tundra, but that's hard to do. Was it the herds of caribou grazing in the swampy fields filled with arctic grasses swaying in the wind? Or the mile upon mile of unbroken tundra stretching as far as the eye can see? Or the sun shining relentlessly upon our tent at 2:00 in the morning? Or the musk ox wandering slowly? Or the spectacular Brooks Range rising dramatically before us? I think what impressed me so much about the Arctic tundra was the very fact that it challenged so many facts I've always revolved my life around. Every single day of my life, I knew the sun would come up in the morning and set at night. But in the arctic, that's not necessarily true. In the summer (when we were there) the sun never leaves the sky. In the winter, the sun never rises. That's a whole new set of facts thrown at me, and one that left my brain all topsy-turvy and spun around. In the tundra trees never grow. The four of us have grown so accustomed to camping hidden amongst a grove of trees that the tundra took us by surprise. There was not a single one - seriously! Not even one tree! When we were tired and ready to set up our tent, we simply pulled off the side of the road and camped. We made no effort to hide. We couldn't have even if we had wanted to. And then of course there were the caribou. Or reindeer as I preferred to call them. This is Santa's playground, and I kept an eye out for Rudolf. Unfortunately, I never saw him. I think Santa may have had him hidden away. Photo by: Nancy

Nancy, Family on Bikes

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In lieu of fresh water and a seat to "do your business," you're rewarded with an open beach of sand to pitch your tent wherever you'd like

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Arizona Hermit Rapids, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Photo by: Melissa

Along with the corridor trails, the most popular set of campsites in the Grand Canyon are known as the "corridor" campsites. Teeming with people, these are the sites with clearly-marked campsites, actual toilets (though not flushable) and water. The ones that are hard to get backcountry permits for. The next level of Grand Canyon-hiking glory are the threshold campsites. I assume this means it's on the threshold of flat-out insanity. Ha! The Hermit Rapids campsite is one of these sites -- no water (gotta filter it yourself from the river), no toilet (trowel anyone?) and no numbered campsites. In lieu of fresh water and a seat to "do your business," you're rewarded with an open beach of sand to pitch your tent wherever you'd like. Three Tips if You Plan to Go Here:

1. Don't underestimate the Grand Canyon. I've seen marathon runners struggle in the Canyon because they had no idea what a soul-stealer the climate can be. It's dry so you get dehydrated WAY before you ever would in any place with normal levels of humidity. Carry lots of sunscreen and wear a hat. And pace yourself (especially on the way back up) with frequent breaks, water and salty snacks, even when you don't think you're hungry. This hike is for the experienced. Bonus points? Bring hiking poles. 2. Cool off in Hermit Creek. On the way down, you'll hike alongside Hermit Creek, a wee strip of water that leads to the Colorado. Since we had no plans to be swept away by the raging waters of Hermit Rapids, we opted for cooling off in the calmer, shallow creek. 3. Beware of Cliff-bar stealing crows. Call me bitter, but we lost four Clif bars AT ONCE to those flying beasties. And our food was in a sealed baggie inside our tent. Persistent little buggers. Melissa, Adventuroo

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We even have city and county ordinances about night lighting to protect our starry view

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Arizona Exceptional Night Sky Viewing, Tuscon, Arizona Did you know that Tucson offers exceptional night sky viewing? We even have city and county ordinances about night lighting to protect our starry view. That's because several mountaintop observatories are located in the area, like the National Optical Astronomy Observatory on Kitt Peak or the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on Mount Hopkins. Come here, lean in a little closer. Let me tell you about Mt Lemmon SkyCenter, operated by the University of Arizona. Situated on Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains, it's the closest observatory to Tucson. On a visit, not only do you get to look through a telescope at the night sky, you also view Adam Block's (Program Coordinator) extraordinary astrophotography. Sky night programs ($48) include an expansive night view from a mountaintop, a light Photo by: Donna Hull dinner and the enthusiasm of Adam Block as he shares his love of observing the universe with you - it's a secret worth knowing. Donna, My Itchy Travel Feet

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Amerind Museum, Tscon, Arizona About an hour southeast of Tucson there is a great museum filled with Native American history and culture. Located among the boulders of Texas Canyon, Amerind Museum houses the largest private collection of Native American artifacts and art in the country. Travel from Alaska to South America as you wander through the exhibits of archaeological finds. When it's time for lunch, enjoy a picnic on the grounds before exploring Cochise Stronghold. Now that's a real journey to the Old West!

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Photo by: SearchNetMedia

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Donna, My Itchy Travel Feet

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Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only place where you can search for diamonds and other gems - and, better still, keep what you find

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Arkansas Dig for Diamonds, Arkansas With my husband - a treasure hunter to the core - I've panned for gold in northern California, searched for shipwrecks on South Padre Island, and dug for diamonds in southwestern Arkansas. That last one has surprised a lot of folks over the years. "Did you say diamonds?" Yes, diamonds. In fact, Crater of Diamonds State Park is the world's only diamond-producing site that's open to the public, the only place where you can search for diamonds and other gems - and, better still, keep what you find. We first visited Crater of Diamonds in May of 2000. Upon our initial viewing, it didn't look like much - just an ordinary farmer's field before the crops emerge. Plowed into neat little rows, the soggy 38-acre dirt Photo by: Laura patch seemed no place for a sparkling diamond, but that's the reason we were there. After purchasing our inexpensive day passes, we gathered our strainers, spades, gloves, and buckets, and trekked across the field - incidentally, the eroded surface of an ancient, gem-bearing volcanic pipe. Although April would have been a better time to visit - when the seasonal rains cause the diamonds and other precious stones (including agate and amethyst) to rise to the surface - we were eager to begin our search. Beside a sheltered screening area, we filled a bucket with dirt, scooped a few handfuls onto our screens, and patiently shook the box frames in the water bin. When nothing but rocks and potential gems were left in our screens, we turned them over on a nearby workbench to let the gravel piles dry before sifting through them more carefully. We spent much of the day repeating the process, and though we discovered no diamonds, we were surprised by how many interesting rocks and minerals could be found in several handfuls of ordinary-looking dirt. Of course, it's the possibility that has lured us back on multiple occasions - the possibility that we might find a record-breaking jewel, like the 40-carat Uncle Sam excavated at the Crater in 1924. Hey, it could happen. If you, too, dream of finding your own gemstone, head straight for Crater of Diamonds, where there is, in addition to the diamond mine itself, an interpretive center, a gift shop, a restaurant and water playground (summer only), and a campground/picnic area. I wish you lots of luck on your prospecting adventures - whenever you choose to visit. Laura, Moon Travel Guides

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My favorite escape when I want a couple of week's worth of camping in the off-season when no one is around

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California Big Sur, California In the last thirty years I have often traveled up and down Highway 1 through Big Sur, and in all that time the landscape has never ceased to amaze me. It has probably never been the same landscape twice, on any one of my road trips through the area. Most people drive from one end of Big Sur to the other as fast as possible - like it's something they don't really want to do but should in order to tick it off their must-see list. It's like they're seeing the multiple hairpin curves as obstacles rather than nature's way of getting them to slow down and look. And rarely do people take the time to camp and hike in the area. For me, even though I had spent a lot of time in Big Sur because I lived at the south end for a number of years, it wasn't until 2002 that I stayed more than one night along the coast in Big Sur. It's not only my favorite Photo by: Kimberly stretch of road to drive in California, now it's also my favorite escape when I want a couple of week's worth of camping in the off-season when no one is around. Big Sur is a landscape artist's dream and taking the time to really spend some time in the area is a peaceful gift to oneself like no other. Kimberly, Notes to Self

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Built in 1908, this gorgeous Victorian-style mansion is indeed the world's most famous club for magicians and magic enthusiasts

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California The Magic Castle, Hollywood

Photo by: Laura

Featured in the film Lord of Illusions (1995), The Magic Castle (7001 Franklin Ave., 323/851-3313, show times vary) is a one-of-a-kind place, a storied edifice that is well-suited to its legendary Hollywood surroundings. Built in 1908, this gorgeous Victorian-style mansion is indeed the world's most famous club for magicians and magic enthusiasts, a showplace for some of the finest magicians from around the world, and home to the Academy of Magical Arts. Inside, you'll find a labyrinth of rooms and theaters, filled with memorabilia and magic tricks - and surely, no one leaves this real-life Hogwarts disappointed. The problem is that it's closed to the public. In fact, this exclusive club is only open to members and invited guests. Even the on-site restaurant (for which reservations are required) is off-limits to regular

folks. Of course, this makes it even more exciting to visit, as though you're part of a select group ushered into a house of mysteries. A few years ago, my husband and I were lucky enough to be invited by a newly-accepted magician, a friend of a friend. It was truly a wondrous experience. From the moment we said the "secret word" that opened the front doors, we were immersed in a world of magic. We watched and participated in several magic shows that night - and we even had a chance to witness the young man who had recently won a world championship with his unique cup-and-ball trick, using clear glasses! To this day, I don't know how he accomplished that. If you're even remotely interested in magic, I highly recommend adding The Magic Castle to your must-see list, and the great news is that being or knowing a member is not the only way to gain entrance. A little-known fact is that staying at the nearby Magic Castle Hotel, which was renovated in 2004, allows you access to the coveted Magic Castle. That's reason alone to stay at this lovely boutique hotel, which also offers Turkish cotton bathrobes, complimentary snacks, free high-speed wireless Internet access, suites with fully equipped kitchens, and a heated pool, among other amenities. Even if you live in the Los Angeles area, it's worth staying at this hotel. Believe me, you won't soon forget your visit to the Magic Castle. I doubt there's any other place like it on earth. Laura, Moon Travel Guides

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Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park and you may feel as if you've traveled back in time to the boiling cauldrons that seem representative of the beginnings of the Earth! Photo by: vgm8383

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California Lake Tahoe, California Lake Tahoe is located where California and Nevada meet. Popular destinations are divided between the north shore and south shore. Both offer skiing areas in the winter and water recreation in the summer. The north shore seems to be less populated and more spread out so if you are looking to hop around from place to place, most people stay at south shore. Skiing is often what Tahoe is known for, but I prefer heading out there in the summer as I am admittedly a cold wimp. Summertime offers magnificent hiking and mountain biking suitable for all ages and skill levels, fishing, water sports of every kind, and you can even parasail over the lake. (Parasailing is when you are attached to a parachute and a long tether that is anchored to a motorboat. The boat speeds around the lake as you get an incredible view Photo by: Lora from as high as 1200 feet in the air. You are later reeled back into the boat with some assistance from the crew. It is, unexpectedly, a serene experience. ) Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite destinations and a jewel of California. Lora, Tripping With Kids

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Lassen Volcanic National Park, California It's amazing to me how many Californians have never even heard of Lassen Peak and its park! After all, Lassen Peak erupted on May 22, 1915, making it the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. Prior to Mount St. Helens' eruption in 1980, Lassen's powerful 1915 explosion (which shot debris seven miles into the Earth's atmosphere) was the most recent to occur in the continental United States. Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park and you may feel as if you've traveled back in time to the boiling cauldrons that seem representative of the beginnings of the Earth! It contains your usual park features, Photo by: Stephen Coles such as wildflower-laced meadows and lush forestland to entice the hiker in you to take to the trails, but there's much more to Lassen than beautiful scenery! It's also home to steaming hydrothermal vents, bubbly-boiling hot mud pots, thundering fumaroles, and smelly sulfurous springs that burn your nose -- all of which should serve to remind us that Lassen Peak is still very much a live and active volcano! Suzi, Discover Northern California

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I love Los Angeles, but Catalina Island offers an amazing respite from all the madness and smog of the city

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California Catalina Island is so Much Cooler than Rodeo Drive Sure, Rodeo Drive is famous, a cultural reference, and maybe even cool if you're like Carrie Bradshaw, but less glitz and more nature make for better photo ops. And better soul cleansing. I'd never heard of Catalina Island and only learned about it while gazing at a map of southern California. A trip to Los Angeles was coming up and despite my half-assed travel habits, I always want to keep vacation days packed. If I'm heading near a coastline with any islands, I will investigate all humanly possible methods to visit. Santa Catalina Island was a gem to discover. Just an hour-long ferry ride from Los Angeles, it's a small island with only one city and one unincorporated town, Avalon and Two Harbors, respectively. Catalina island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, so despite the 200 miles of roads, most of the island is off limits to tourists except via tours and hiking permits into the back country. Cars are also restricted, leaving you to foot travel, bicycles, or mad sexy golf carts. Photo by: Aaron Logan

I love Los Angeles, but Catalina Island offers an amazing respite from all the madness and smog of the city. Another cool option I plan to look into is a voluntourist vacation through the Conservancy. A nice way to preserve one little gorgeous corner of California. Catherine , Mischief and Impermanent Bliss

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The hike starts in rather typical dusty California coastal terrain, taking you past sweeping Pacific vistas us locals have grown accustomed to

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California Palomarin Hike, Marin County, California My friend at work had been telling me about "the secret hike" for months. Huddled over our staff meals in the cramped bus station, she made rope-swinging into the clear lake and the coastal waterfall at the trail's end sound like a dream. Or at least a damn good fantasy. We finally coordinated a day off together in August and headed up to Marin to the Palomarin Hike. We grabbed sandwiches and drove up past Stinson Beach to tackle the 11-mile hike. And I gotta say, it was just as killer as she'd described. The hike starts in rather typical dusty California coastal terrain, taking you past sweeping Pacific vistas us locals have grown accustomed to. After about 45 minutes, the foliage and trees thicken, and you eventually get to Bass Lake, a frigid-water lake with the biggest draw being an old-school rope swing. You could while away hours here, but, seeing as though it was August in the Bay Area and foggy as hell, we were too cold to partake. We continued on, and ended up at the trail's end, where a waterfall tumbles into an isolated coastal cove. Photo by: Lauren

The good news: the hike, although long, is gentle and not too strenuous. Which means just about anyone could do it - including my smoke-a-pack-a-day friend and me, who was then recovering from swine flu (yes, really). The bad news: the Palomarin Hike is a total word-of-mouth Bay Area secret. As is the way with Marinites, locals don't want outsiders to know about their secrets or have access to them (see also: why BART doesn't run to Marin). Locals take down street signs and signposts, meaning that you've pretty much gotta go with someone who's been there. So if you're headed to the Bay soon, just hit me up; I'll take you. Lauren, Lonely Girl Travels

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It's the abundance of minerals in the water that gives the lake its other-worldly quality

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California Mono Lake, California Mono Lake (pronounced MO-no - both O's are long and the stress is on the first syllable) is a natural phenomenon. Created by a combination of Ice Age and volcanic activity, this inland sea has nowhere to go. Thus evaporation occurs, leaving the waters salty and alkaline -- perfect conditions for the breeding of brine shrimp and alkali flies. These creatures, in such great numbers, provide an excellent food source for millions of migratory birds. It's the abundance of minerals in the water that gives the lake its other-worldly quality; edged with tufa spires jutting up out of the water, it's hard to believe you weren't transported to an alien planet while your back was turned! For a real treat, explore the lake from the water -- take a guided canoe trip with the Mono Lake Committee. Photo by: Sathish J

Suzi, Discover Northern California

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Fish Ranch Road, Northern California For a free and stunning view extending both up and down the San Francisco bay area, head to Fish Ranch Road in Orinda on the East Bay. Drive to Grizzly Peak Blvd and at the highest elevation look for any clearing to the left. From this height, you'll see the Bay Bridge, San Francisco and beyond. For something extra special, visit on a July 4th evening and watch about six simultaneous fireworks displays in neighboring cities up and down the bay.

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Photo by: marc_smith

Best Kept Travel Secrets 2010 Tripbase.com

Robin, My Melange

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We've stayed here three times, drawn back by the freely wandering cows, penned-in longhorns, grassy hills for tramping and near-ridiculous views of the Atascadero Valley Photo by: vgm8383

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California On a Hilltop Wine Ranch in Central California, It's so Quiet You Can Hear Electricity in the Wires Long for a private country road, wind in the oaks and as much pinot noir as you can drink? Meet Asuncion Ridge, a three-suite vineyard/inn a half-mile above Highway 101 near Paso Robles wine country. We've stayed here three times (a travel phenomenon for us), drawn back by the freely wandering cows, penned-in longhorns, grassy hills for tramping and near-ridiculous views of the Atascadero Valley. We also love having a chance to slow down, chat and sip wine with owner Philip Krumal. A passionate chef who makes gorgeous breakfasts and is happy to let you nab recipes from his cookbook library, he's recently become a professional vintner with his own label, also called Asuncion Ridge. His pinots could make you weep, in a good way. Photo by: Melanie

Melanie, Travels With Two

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Point Reyes, California Point Reyes' has always reminded me of a dewclaw -- that toe on a dog that sits higher than the rest of the paw and seems to have no purpose. On a map, Point Reyes looks like an excess piece of land sticking out from the coastline, sure to become an island when the next big quake hits. This description is less than romantic, I know, but this unique location gives Point Reyes an opportunity to have its own personality apart from the big city of San Francisco, which is only one hour south. Here is a peaceful retreat where many of the B and B's get the eggs, fruit and veggies served at breakfast from their own gardens and backyard chickens. Tomales Bay Oysters are a specialty here, and fabulous restaurants are plentiful. Activities center around the admiration of nature through hikes, bird watching and kayaking Photo by: Lora tours. Point Reyes is perfect for exploring the beauty of the northern California coastline. Lora, Tripping With Kids

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Truckee, California is kind of a love -- especially if you are a single, straight woman

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California San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park The San Diego Zoological Society is world-famous, but you may not know it manages two separate parks. The main zoo is located in the heart of the city in historic Balboa Park. But if you venture to inland North County, you'll find a unique safari adventure at the Wild Animal Park.

Photo by: San Diego Zoo

This is a breeding facility for endangered species that encompasses 1,800 acres amid the rolling hills of beautiful San Pasqual Valley. The vast acreage is divided into two habitats representing "Africa" and "Asia." Animals are grouped by their native continent, but live otherwise without barriers. They co-mingle and roam freely in this well-designed natural environment.

General admission to the park offers access to great shows and exhibits. But if you're looking for the kind of experience to remember for a lifetime, go on the guided safari. In my opinion, the Photo Caravan Tour is well-worth it: You get a close-up look at these worlds from the back of a flatbed truck. In "Asia" you'll get to toss apples into the mouths of rhinoceroses that are close enough to touch their tusks. In "Africa" you stop in the middle of what feels like wilderness to feed giraffes biscuits out of the palm of your hand. Right out of your hand. Giraffes. Awesome! S, The Word Wire

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Truckee, California Truckee, California is kind of a love -- especially if you are a single, straight woman. I'm just saying. Yes, it's a horrible name. But besides that, it's an amazing little hideaway off of I-80, with trees and water everywhere. Hiking right behind the house. Truckee River down the street for a perfect afternoon of sitting on a rock and letting the water come up to your knees, meditating on the tiny, rippling waves. Drinking beers (or other, gluten-free, beverages) as you float in a big, ridiculously expensive raft (but worth it) from Tahoe City toward Truckee. My favorite Mexican restaurant ever (I know, surprising) that serves up some seriously good flautas. An actual cheap and long-lasting rejuvenation option just 20 Photo by: Christine miles over the mountain at Sierra Hot Springs. And yeah, of course, it's got that whole skiing thing happening in the winter for those of you into that sort of thing. Christine, Living Holistically with a Sense of Humor

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It's a fabulous retreat for people of any ilk who want to spend an hour or a day or a week in a pristine and peaceful Rocky Mountain setting

Photo by: Paraflyer

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Colorado Manitou Springs, Colorado Manitou Springs is often lumped in as part of greater Colorado Springs in travel books, whereas I see it as a separate destination with a distinct history and personality. Three reasons to go to Manitou Springs: 1. You can drink the water. Typically I like to soak in hot springs, but here they have uniquely-designed water fountains scattered around the town and each features different elements of the underground springs. Free! 2. Explore Pikes Peak, the inspiration for "America the Beautiful". You can walk, run, drive and take a cog railway up this fourteener. 3. Check out Miramont Castle Museum for its bizarre history and impressive stone structure. .

Photo by: Chica-tica

Mindy, Moon Denver Guidebook

The Shambhala Mountain Center, Colorado This place may not be a secret to Buddhists or some yoginis, but it is a fabulous retreat for people of any ilk who want to spend an hour or a day or a week in a pristine and peaceful Rocky Mountain setting. Three reasons to go to Shambhala Mountain Center: 1. Peaceful as many people are here to meditate and it's all out of cell phone range 2. Mountains as far as the eye can see Photo by: Shambhala Mountain Center

3. The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya is an incredible example of religious architecture not seen often in the U.S. Mindy, Moon Denver Guidebook

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Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort, Colorado Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort is just outside the ski resort town of Winter Park. I know, a secret resort? Yes, sort of. It's Colorado's only cross-country ski resort and it's been recently upgraded in the most ecologically friendly ways. Three reasons to visit: 1. It's so relaxing to hear only the sh-sh of people's skis gliding across the snow or the quiet crunch of snowshoes 2. The spa is amazing for a yoga class with a spectacular view or a much-needed massage 3. The wood-burning fireplaces in the cabins are perfect for rustic, cozy nights

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Photo by: longhorndave

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Mindy, Moon Denver Guidebook

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Head to the edges of the district and you'll find peace and great people-watching

Photo by: Misserion

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Florida Lakefront in Celebration, Florida This waterfront shopping and dining district can be crowded, but head to the edges of the district - the small park at the end of Market Street or the benches near the fountain on Front Street - and you'll find peace and great people-watching. Bonus tip: Be sure to stop into the Columbia Restaurant on Front Street for the best mojito in the U.S. or a glass of their housemade sangria.

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Photo by: turtlemom4bacon

Leigh, Theme Park Mom

Panama City, Florida Panama City, Florida. Not Panama City Beach, just Panama City. We have been traveling to Panama City every six to eight weeks to visit family for ten years. The beach is fine, but if you are coming to the Gulf Coast for the beach, there are other beaches that we love. To be honest, I went to the beach for Spring Break when I was in college (so cliche, I know) and maybe one time after I got married. In Panama City, stop by the Bay County Junior Museum to learn more about the area. Take a walk through St. Andrew's and while you are there, watch the sunset and look for horseshoe crabs. Stop by Cahall's for some of the best chicken salad ever made. Ever. .

Photo by: Jennifer

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Jennifer, Two Kids and a Map

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Rainbow River is so beautiful -- with cedar trees and so much wild flora and fauna to see in the crystal clear water

Photo by: Misserion

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Florida Canoeing or Kayaking on Rainbow River, Florida The Rainbow River is located in the southwest corner of Marion County Florida, 100 miles northwest of Orlando and 100 miles north of the Tampa Bay area. The Rainbow River is a winding river that is 5.7 miles long and merges with the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon Florida. The headwaters are the anchor for the Rainbow Springs State Park. It's the fourth largest freshwater spring in Florida and the eighth largest in the world. Rainbow River is so beautiful -- with cedar trees and so much wild flora and fauna to see in the crystal clear water. Photo by: Kari Marie

Thanks to the restriction of any disposable containers, bottles, cans, plastic bags and the restriction of motorboats in the headwaters, this river is a haven for Florida wildlife. Rent a canoe from Canoe & Kayak Rental at Marion County Parks & Recreation K.P Hole Park. Kari Marie, Active Kids Club

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Head for the coast, and enjoy the lush jungle full of tropical fruits in stark contrast with endless fields of black lava

Photo by: bryce_edwards

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Hawaii East Coast of the Big Island, Hawaii Not only is the Big Island of Hawaii the least known and least visited Hawaiian island, but it is arguably the most diverse and spectacular. As a whole, the island is home to 11 of the 14 micro-climates that exist in the world, and both the world's tallest and largest mountains (from ocean bases to summits) loom in the centre. All this and more is on a little piece of land that you could drive around in a (long) day. But if the Big Island is rarely visited in comparison to its neighbours, the east coast (the Puna region) sees even fewer people. About 30 miles from Hilo you'll find yourself in Pahoa, an eccentric town that is your starting point. Head for the coast, and enjoy the lush jungle full of tropical fruits in stark contrast with Photo by: Nora endless fields of black lava; Papaya Farms Road with lots of WWOOF-ing opportunities; or further south towards the Kalani area where you can find yoga retreats, a circus school, Sunday morning ecstatic dances, and a clothing-optional black sand beach. No kidding! Nora, Professional Hobo

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Stay in Volcano How would you like to brag to your friends that you slept in a volcano? Well, on the Big Island you can stay in some wonderful B &B's and inns in the town of Volcano. You won't find any big name resorts here, but what you will find are small locally owned and operated accommodations that will provide you with a unique experience of the Big Island.

Photo by: Go Visit Hawaii

The town of Volcano is located adjacent to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the world's most active volcano, Kilauea, which makes it a great base for exploring that area of Hawaii Island. For first time visitors to the Big Island, I always recommend staying in Volcano for one to three nights in addition to several nights on the Kona side.

Though the historic Kilauea Lodge is a favorite of many, I prefer the B&B's that are surrounded by rainforest filled with Hapu'u Ferns. I've stayed at Volcano Rainforest Retreat and on my upcoming trip to the Big Island I'll be staying at the Volcano Teapot Cottage. Sheila, Go Visit Hawaii

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One of the gems of the trip was the beautiful drive between the two and watching the landscape change from a rainforest to something more temperate Photo by: bryce_edwards

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Hawaii Driving from Hilo to Kona, Hawaii Hilo gets a lot of rain and the foliage is lush, similar to a rainforest. Kona is drier so the area is rockier and more arid. To get the full Big Island experience, we decided to fly into Hilo and out of Kona, splitting our time equally. One of the gems of the trip was the beautiful drive between the two and watching the landscape change from a rainforest to something more temperate. We took a scenic drive across the top of the island on route 19, rather than cutting through the island on Saddle Road (we heard the driving could be a bit treacherous). One of the really awesome parts was that about halfway along our trip, we went through an area with fields of lava rock. The messages people leave using lighter-colored rocks make the ride more entertaining. It's a fun but long drive that you should definitely try if you enjoy scenic drives. Photo by: the_tahoe_guy

Jim and Martha, Wanderlust Journey

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As a marine biologist with thirty years of experience in Hawaii, she knows absolutely everything about the animals, their patterns, and ecological preservation Photo by: bryce_edwards

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Hawaii Kauai Sea Riders, Hawaii For our wedding, my father-in-law's good friends gave us their timeshare in Lihue, Kauai for the week (awesome!) and introduced us to Captain Tara of Kauai Sea Riders . Every time they visit, they go on one of Captain Tara's tours. In our week there, we went on two! The first was a snorkel tour, where I went snorkeling for the first time in my life, and the second was a whale-watching tour. The best part of going on these tours was Captain Tara and her wealth of knowledge. As a marine biologist with thirty years of experience in Hawaii, she knows absolutely everything about the animals, their patterns, and ecological preservation. We were able to go to places that were lesser known Photo by: eye of einstein because of her experience. Some captains will take you to the popular places and, if there's nothing there, blame it on bad luck. Not so with Tara. She knows her stuff and there's no such thing as bad luck. On our trip we saw rays, dolphins (they jumped out of the water!) and huge tortoises - not to mention hundreds of absolutely beautiful fish. The best part about whale-watching with Tara was that we were on a Zodiac, the same type of rigid-hull inflatable boat that the US Marines use. This gives the boat the ability to move very fast. We must have spent hours just chasing and seeing whales (that second part is crucial, you can go for hours and see nothing!). They slapped the water, they breached (jumped out of the water), and otherwise swam around in their pods. So if you're in Kauai and looking for an accomplished guide, you won't be disappointed with Kauai Sea Riders. Jim and Martha, Wanderlust Journey

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Sunset in Waikiki, Hawaii Along our travels we've noticed that people ditch the beach around sunset. One of our gems is sitting on the beach just watching the sun set because it can be one of the most beautiful sights in the world. You have the ocean air, the soft sand, perhaps music playing in the background if you're near the outdoor restaurant seating of a hotel, and just watching the sun float gently over the horizon.

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Avoid Chicago's O'Hare airport if you can and wander through Midway Airport instead

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Illinois Avoid Chicago's O'Hare Airport Avoid Chicago's O'Hare airport if you can and wander through Midway Airport instead. O'Hare is smack dab in the middle of the country and as such, it is the third busiest airport in the world. Midway, on the other hand, is like the Windy City's poor step-sister but it is efficient and has one of the best on-time rates in the country.

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Photo by: Idle Type

Lisa, Travel Dreams and Moonbeams

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Begun in 1984 as the "locals' festival," the French Quarter Fest has since evolved into Louisiana's largest free music event

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Louisiana The French Quarter Festival, New Orleans The French Quarter Festival is dedicated to supporting the local music community, which means the 17 outdoor stages - spread throughout the French Quarter, from Jackson Square to Woldenberg Riverfront Park - only host local gospel, jazz, funk, zydeco, brass, classical, bluegrass, folk, and blues acts. In other words, you won't see Bob Dylan here (unless, of course, he's one of the attendees). Begun in 1984 as the "locals' festival," the French Quarter Fest has since evolved into Louisiana's largest free music event. In addition, the festival - which typically takes place in mid-April, a couple weeks prior to Jazz Fest - offers a wealth of food and beverages for sale, from boiled crawfish and Photo by: Laura stuffed artichokes to refreshing snoballs and locally brewed Abita beer. Despite its popularity, though, it has yet to become the corporate beast that many accuse Jazz Fest of being. Although some areas - such as Woldenberg Park and the grounds of the Old U.S. Mint - teem with festival-goers, you rarely feel trapped and overwhelmed, as so often happens at the Fair Grounds. Given its location in the Quarter, you're never contained for long. Even the iron fences that surround Jackson Square and the U.S. Mint are temporary barriers. The great thing about French Quarter Fest is that you're always free to wander from stage to stage, food booth to food booth - or quit the crowds altogether by venturing onto the other historic streets not involved in the event. My husband and I adore this festival - not only for the variety of local music and delicacies, but also because we're usually staying in the Quarter come mid-April, which makes bathroom breaks infinitely less bothersome than they are on the Fair Grounds, where port-o-potties rule. You'll find plenty of hotels within walking distance, making your potty breaks less bothersome, too. Laura, Moon Travel Guides

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Teddy's serves up some Baton Rouge Blues along with delicious and pocket-friendly soul food

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Louisiana Teddy's Juke Joint, Louisiana This little dive is so close to my house that I could walk there if I really put my mind to it. Those that don't know about this hidden little place will miss it as they drive down Old Scenic Highway in Zachary. For you non-locals, this would be Hwy 964. Teddy's serves up some Baton Rouge Blues along with delicious and pocket-friendly soul food. I support this local venue so much that I wrote about it in the 2008 Official Louisiana Tour Guide. It may be holiday season right now, but at Teddy's the Christmas lights are up 365 days a year. If you want a taste of the REAL Louisiana, Teddy's food choices include such items as turkey wings, hot sausage, gumbo (seasonally), and pork chop sandwiches. Visit the last surviving roadside juke joint in the area and put on your dancing shoes. Check out Teddy's Juke Joint website and Photo by: stu_spivack be sure to let me know if you make a visit. I just might meet you there. Shannon, Travel Tips and Deals

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Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, Louisiana Located at the corner of Bourbon and St. Phillip's Streets in the French Quarter, Lafitte's is quite possibly my most favorite of all favorite places to enjoy a cold beer. This is the oldest bar in the United States and still holds the historic grit of the time when it posed as a front for the Lafitte Brothers' smuggling business. Anyone who visits New Orleans with me is obligated to stop in Lafitte's and sit down for philosophical ponderings about life and travels

Photo by: "Team New Orleans, US Army Corps of Engineers"

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No list of indie rock clubs would be complete without this Boston institution

Photo by: Werner Kunz (werkunz1)

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Massachusetts The Pill at Great Scott, Boston No list of indie rock clubs would be complete without this Boston institution. The crowd here is probably slightly older than the partygoers in London due to the fact that it's in the US, where we've got a higher drinking age, but it attracts a healthy mix of people. The Pill attracts a lot of local bands and aspiring musicians - partly because it's located in Allston, affectionately referred to as Allston Rock City.

Photo by: Adam

The music is labelled as BritPop and they play a lot of stuff like The Libertines and The Smiths, but you'll get local hits from the likes of Passion Pit as well as all that (admittedly awesome) trendy hipster music (Cut Copy, MGMT, etc). And, with a $5 cover and $3 PBR beers, it's easily one of the cheapest (and most fun!) nights out in Boston. Adam, Travels of Adam

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It's a nighttime so black that the bright twinkling of stars in the sky are literally all that can be seen

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Minnesota The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is over 1,000 lakes in a million acres of wilderness located in Northern Minnesota. Motorized boats are not allowed. There are no hotels or indoor plumbing. This is what you should do. Get a permit and choose a point of entry. Follow tiny squiggly lines on a map, trying to decipher if that clump of rocks ahead is the island in the picture. Paddle all day long in your canoe, stopping for a lunch of PB&J if you must, or fresh walleye if you're lucky. Portage from one lake to another, carrying a forty-five pound pack on your back and a canoe on your head, back and forth over land and around un-passable rapids. Photo by: Colleen

I have seen a wealth of wildlife the few times I have visited the BWCA with my dad. I spied on a mama moose with her calf wading through the water, pausing to take sips from the lake. I paddled past a family of playful otters that popped their heads up and peered at us, as if to say, "Whatcha doin?!" I braved a shower of fluorescent green frogs leaping from mucky black mud and into my canoe. (Have I mentioned that I have a phobia of frogs?) I witnessed a bald eagle soaring above my head, pausing to listen to the "swoosh...swoosh" of wind whipping through its wings. I have seen snakes, mice, bunnies, squirrels, and birds of all kinds. My brother and my dad even had a showdown with a bear once, but that is their story and I'll leave it for them to tell. I have heard the haunting call of loons, which sounds like a cross between a wolf's howl and a wind flute. It is at once the loneliest and the most beautiful sound in the world. Instead of having hollow bones like most birds, these prehistoric creatures have solid bones. This extra weight restricts their habitat to the large lakes of the North, where I have watched these magnificent black and white speckled birds take off from the water, flapping their wings furiously until their bodies began to slowly rise and skim the water, and finally they soared through the air. Camping here takes planning. And the right gear (which, if you're like me, and you don't camp much, you can rent from an outfitter). And more planning. And some skills - like how to pitch a tent and how to hang up your food pack at night so you don't attract bears. I have neither of these skills, but I can follow directions like a champ. I suppose I could go car-camping sometime. I could probably manage that. But after camping in the Boundary Waters, it would seem like cheating. For me, wilderness does not have cars or electricity or, for the most part, other humans. Camping means miles and miles of still water, trimmed by prickly triangles of pine, jutting up into the sky and back down again into the water's reflection. It smells like emerald green, mixed with the sweet scent of crisp leaves slowly turning soft and sinking back into the earth. It's a nighttime so black that the bright twinkling of stars in the sky are literally all that can be seen. There is no noise beyond the gentle lapping of water, the buzz of mosquitoes wishing they could enter your tent, and the footsteps of some woodland creature padding past your campsite, all punctuated by the sweet melancholy sound of loons calling out to each other, looking for reassurance that they are not alone. Colleen, Travel Mamas

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Flathead is a lovely lake with lots of rentals, from condos to full-scale luxury homes to a dude ranch

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Montana Montana Lakes I was born in Montana, spend time there every summer (and some winters!), and have family there now. In short, part of my heart lives there, even though I reside in Colorado. One of the things we love, being from high, dry Colorado, is our time on the water. My parents have a cabin on Swan Lake, which is a major score for us. There are a few rentals available there for the rest of you, but they're hard to find. You're more likely to find a place on Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake West of the Mississippi and right by the quaint town of Bigfork. (I don't just say this to keep you off the Swan, I swear.) Flathead is a lovely lake with lots of rentals, from condos to full-scale luxury homes to a dude ranch. It's nice to be anywhere on the northern part of the lake, but I'm partial to either being on the northeastern side - with Photo by: Lisa easy proximity to Bigfork, and amazing sunsets - or across on the northwestern side, between Somers and Lakeside. On the northwestern side, you get a terrific view of the Flathead Range, which lead to the Mission Mountains. There's something about that combination of sprawling water and towering mountains...but then rent a boat so you can visit Bigfork, or take a day cruise around the lake and down to Wildhorse Island, where you can get out and hike. TIP: Be sure to keep an eye on the weather and waves if you're boating on Flathead. Big waves tend to stir up deadheads (floating trees); big weather can make the water pretty frightening. Think ocean over lake. Good Eats Near Flathead Lake: In Bigfork, I recommend you eat at Showthyme, which offers an upscale but accessible menu. (It's housed in the old bank building - the wine cellar is in the old vault.) And they're accustomed to getting you fed in time for a show at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse next door, a great way to introduce your kids to the stage. Another family-friendly restaurant in Bigfork is the Bigfork Inn, at the end of Electric Avenue in a rustic building reminiscent of an old, alpine lodge. Locals wait in line for the huge breakfast/brunch/lunch offered at the Echo Lake Cafe, just eight minutes outside of Bigfork. TIP: Don't miss the chance to eat anything with huckleberries in it while in Northwestern Montana. The small, purple berry is highly prized by locals and grizzlies alike. (You can buy huckleberry jam at Eva Gates's store in Bigfork.) Lisa, The World is Calling

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OK, so Glacier isn't really a "secret," but in relation to the MegaStars of national parks, it's relatively unknown

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Montana Go on up to Glacier National Park, Montana OK, so Glacier isn't really a "secret," but in relation to the MegaStars of national parks, it's relatively unknown. You'll thank me later for rousing you out of your deck chair by the water and sending you north. And I'm about to let you in on my favorite stops, and I've been going there all my life. The western entrance to this Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park (it crosses the border into Canada) is about an hour and a half north of Bigfork. Pack a picnic for lunch! My BFF Glacier Park Itinerary: Start early and get to Glacier by 9am. You can get a good feel for it in a day, but I encourage you to spend the night on the eastern side, preferably at Many Glacier. At the Photo by: Lisa minimum, stop in at the visitor's center at Lake McDonald and then eat some breakfast at Edie's Cafe, take a peek at the pristine lake, then head out. Do stop at Avalanche Campground and do the short, easy but beautiful Trail of the Cedars walk that leads to Avalanche. Stop at the campground restrooms and head out again. Your goal? The Going-to-the-Sun Highway. Take your time going up, pausing at frequent turnouts for the view (you don't want your driver rubber-necking on this road, trust me). At the top, Logan Pass, you can eat your picnic lunch and do the popular Hidden Lake trail or a bit of the Highline Trail that traces the Continental Divide just above you. But I recommend you keep on moving after lunch and stop instead at St. Mary Lake, with a view of Wild Goose Island - a poster-perfect image that you can see for reals, as my kiddos would say. There's a boat ride down on lower St. Mary that I'd like to take. Even better? Their sunset cruise! But keep on moving...I want you to get to my very favorite stop in Glacier, Many Glacier. You can stay in the quintessential mountain lodge, or in the cheaper Swiftcurrent motel/cabins (start trying to book in March!!), or camp in the campground, but do stay in Many Glacier overnight, if at all possible. You can kayak on the lake, or take the two-boat ride up to Grinnell (and hike to Grinnell Lake) as a family. If all parties are fit and ready for a pretty good hike, please, please, please go to Iceberg Lake. I haven't seen icebergs floating in an alpine, turquoise lake anywhere else. (But you need a half day for it.) Something between easy-peasy Grinnell Lake and Iceberg? Head toward Redrock Falls. Time on your hands? Do all three. You'll thank me later. Anywhere you hike, wear bear bells (this is grizzly country, seriously) and go prepared for weather changes. (FYI, it'll take you about 3.5 hours to reach Kalispell or Bigfork from this side of the park?) Into hiking? Make a reservation as early as possible to spend the night at the Granite Park Chalet and hike the Highline Trail - incredible views, little elevation gain (very family friendly). Lisa, The World is Calling

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Instead of handing over the big buckaroos for the upscale Whitefish Mountain, save your money by skiing Blacktail Mountain

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Montana Montana in Winter: Old Time Ski Resort (that's Pretty New) Instead of handing over the big buckaroos for the upscale Whitefish Mountain, save your money by skiing Blacktail Mountain, located above Lakeside. We loved skiing in this small, old-style ski resort. It reminds me of what Whitefish Mountain once was...back when it was called Big Mountain. Retired guys smile and joke with you as they size you for boots and skis in the rental shop; kids are apt to be one of only a few in ski school. And the views! The views are...spectacular. You can see all the way from the Mission Mountains to Glacier to Canada on a clear day. Lift lines? Non-existent. Attitudes? Joyous and non-grudging. We'll be back. .

Photo by: [email protected]!

Lisa, The World is Calling

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Great Basin National Park, located in central Nevada on the Utah border, is far from everywhere but definitely worth visiting

Photo by: Wolfgang Staudt

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Nevada Great Basin National Park, Nevada Big-time National Park beauty without the crowds? Check. No entrance fee? Check. Isolated wilderness all to yourself? Check. The darkest skies in the lower 48 states with a million stars tipped over the top? Check. Great Basin National Park, located in central Nevada on the Utah border, is far from everywhere but definitely worth visiting. All the campgrounds are first-come, first-serve, and there is no luxurious lodge in Photo by: JoAnna which to spend the night. Dress warmly-at more than 10,000 feet in elevation, the night can be quite chilly. But don't pack it in too quickly; make sure you stay up long enough to check out the stunning starry sky. Adventurous types looking for a challenge can climb Nevada's second highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Or choose from one of several long hikes that traverse the rolling hills. The alpine lakes and flowers are stunning, and it's more than possible to hike all day without seeing another person. If you're interested in visiting Lehman Caves, which does get overrun with visitors (and is, in my opinion, is a bit depressing), book a tour as soon as you arrive in the park. It is free of charge to visit the cave, but tours fill quickly and are capped. JoAnna, Kaleidoscopic Wandering

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Sin City doesn't have to be for the rich

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Nevada Low-Cost Las Vegas Sin City doesn't have to be for the rich. There are a lot of great places in and around Las Vegas that cater to those on a budget. For the outdoorsy folk, I recommend Red Rock Canyon. For $5 per car (or no cost, if you have a National Parks pass), you have access to a 13-mile scenic drive, miles of hiking trails and some of the best rock climbing in the United States (One of my favorite trails is the one through Ice Box Canyon). In nearby Henderson, the Village at Lake Las Vegas has a full schedule of free concerts and events, and the ambiance is chill and low-key among the cafes and boutiques. It is also free to check out Ethel's Photo by: JoAnna Chocolate Factory and the nearby botanical gardens, which are turned into an awesome lit-up wonderland during the holiday season. In northern Las Vegas, stop by the Broadacres Swap Meet for an entire day's worth of bargaining and shopping. On the Strip, visitors can check out the Fountains of Bellagio, the flamingos at Flamingo Las Vegas, the Fall of Atlantis Show at Caesars Palace and the new Sirens of TI show at Treasure Island (though, honestly, the Sirens show is not that great anymore) free of charge. JoAnna, Kaleidoscopic Wandering

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Golden Nugget Hotel Pool, Las Vegas

Photo by: S

If what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas, everything in this city would be a travel secret. I bet you already know about lavish resorts and attractions on "The Strip." Did you also know you can swim with sharks? You sure can. At Las Vegas' exotic Golden Nugget pool. In the middle of this salt-water oasis is a shark tank you can swim around from all sides. And you can even go through it if you want to. From the pool's upper deck, you'll find the entrance for the water slide that shoots you through a tube in the middle of the shark tank. Plus, there's poolside blackjack and cocktail service if that's your kind of thing. Too bad max capacity of people in the hot tub is only 52. If you're here in the summertime, that won't matter to you anyway. When it's 110+ degrees outside, you'll want to be in the uber-cool pool. S, The Word Wire

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If it's not on the main Strip between Treasure Island and Excalibur, don't even bother! They are not within walking, or stumbling distance and should be avoided at all costs Photo by: Wolfgang Staudt

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Nevada Imperial Palace Hotel, Las Vegas So call this one a travel secret hiding in plain site. Vegas is all about the glitz, glamor, and high rollers; and many of the hotels on The Strip have prices to match. If you want to go all out, all the Vegas hotels are amazing and worth staying at. But if you are trying to save a few dollars in the process, then you may want to scale back the accommodation, you're hardly in the room anyway. The main choices that budget Vegas-goers turn to are cheaper, off-strip hotels, like Circus Circus and the Stratosphere. If you catch yourself thinking of staying at one of these places, STOP! If it's not on the main Strip between Treasure Island and Excalibur, don't even bother! They are not within walking, or stumbling distance and should be avoided at all costs. Don't be fooled by the map. They are not close at all! One block over is easily a Photo by: Jeremy 20-minute walk if not more, and the free shuttles that some offer cycle once every 30 minutes at best. That is where the Imperial Palace comes in. It may not be the nicest looking hotel on the Strip, or have lavish suites, but the price is right for those looking to spend their money elsewhere on the Strip. Weekday nights are often as low as $49 plus tax and weekends barely tip the hundred dollar mark. Not bad in a city that room rates can sky rocket to $300+ on weekends for nothing more than a small bedroom and access to a pool. In fact, with the recession, the Imperial Palace has been offering packages with three nights for a total of $89. That is three nights on The Strip, located directly across from the shops at Caesars Palace for under the cost of one Cirque du Soleil show! The money you save from going to another hotel on The Strip would pay for two sets of tickets to those amazing shows! If you are planning on going to Vegas anytime in the next year, sign up for the official mailing lists to the main hotels/chains on The Strip. There are many packages being offered that make any hotel within a budget and have perks such as free show tickets or spa packages to round out the deal! Jeremy, Living the Dream

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Gramercy Park neighborhood residents as well as guests at the Gramercy Park hotel are the only people in the world who possess keys to unlock its gates Photo by: kennymatic

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New York Gramercy Park in NYC This small patch of green surrounded by a wrought-iron fence in the concrete jungle of New York enjoys extra-special status as Manhattan's only private park. Gramercy Park neighborhood residents as well as guests at the Gramercy Park hotel are the only people in the world who possess keys to unlock its gates. Traditionally, Gramercy Park has opened to the public on Gramercy Day each year. I read that unfortunately this tradition ended a couple of years ago. However, you can still travel the park's private paths on Christmas eve. For a couple of hours, those wrought iron gates open and the public swarms through for Christmas caroling and sharing the delicious feeling of being somewhere you're ordinarily not allowed. My boyfriend and I strolled the park a few Christmas eve's ago, taking our time and staying so Photo by: Sabina late that two men who were about to lock up after the rest of the public left thought we must be residents and narrowly avoided locking us in for the night. I kind of wish they had... Sabina, Solo Female Traveler

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This funky, new-age-meets-Billy-Graham little town has a great mix of people, plenty of stores with crystals and homemade, organic soaps and a Christian college right up the street Photo by: bbsc30

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North Carolina Black Mountain, North Carolina Sure, Asheville, NC gets all the love. Deservedly so, but there are certainly quite a few little towns in my home state (though far, far away from my hometown) that make this place worth settling into, for at least a little while. Necessity, and a bit of luck, got me to check out Black Mountain, about 20 miles east of Asheville. This funky, new-age-meets-Billy-Graham little town has a great mix of people, plenty of stores with crystals and homemade, organic soaps and a Christian college right up the street (literally, Billy Graham's retreat center is just a few miles away). I love working around the artists that call this mountainous village their home. I've been here for less than a month, so I still have a lot to explore. But running around the shops at the yearly Holly Jolly festival, chatting with the fun (and cute - but young) male baristas at the Dripolator, and taking in a show at the White Horse (where they actually have tables you can sit at! Good for my wary, almost 31-year-old feet) makes the place all that much warmer. Photo by: Christine

Christine, Living Holistically with a Sense of Humor

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The Alvord is my negative space, a place where my mind retreats to find calm

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Oregon Oregon's Alvord Desert I love the vast empty space of Oregon's Alvord Desert, the way it unrolls into flatness below the giant fault block of Steens Mountain. I suppose I love it because there is so much noise in my life, not just auditory, but also visual and kinetic noise. To use a term from art, the Alvord is my negative space, a place where my mind retreats to find calm. The valley floor is stark and bare, the alkali clay surface cracked into jagged lines like an endless white-tile mosaic. All vegetation and rocks are held back, distant. The emptiness close by is broken only by that which we bring with us. In warmer weather, heat waves rise from the surface, distorting and then Photo by: lyzadanger dissolving the edges of the flats and my companions -- if I wander too far from them. The experience is surreal, the white place in movies between life and death. Without the mountain peak visible above the shimmer, the world would disappear. The surrounding valley is mostly void of trees, with the exception of willows and cottonwoods following the streams that flow from the higher elevati ons. Sagebrush spills over the land, and offers its scent. To the West, Steens Mountain presses abruptly into the sky, lifting 5500 feet above the dry lake bed. The mountains to the South, Southeast, and North are not as imposing, but complete the rim that contains the void. Eva, Gill Adventures Blog

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Experience a Sea of Flowers in Northwest Oregon We're big fans of gardens, and we found one of our favorites in sleepy little Canby, Oregon, eight miles from Portland. From August 1st to September 30th each year, the 40-acre flower farm at Swan Island Dahlias explodes with pom poms, dinner plates, collarettes and more. Bring along a picnic, stroll through the rows hand in hand, even order tubers for your own perfect dahlia garden. Dahlias will grow just about anywhere you can find eight hours of daily sunlight in summer, but if your area freezes in the winter, you have to dig up the tubers and replant them in spring. Sound like too much work? All the better to come here and revel, labor-free, in a seriously romantic profusion of blooms. .

Photo by: Melanie

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300 miles northwest of the Alvord Desert, a ribbon of blue water has spent centuries sculpting a bed for itself into the volcanic earth

Photo by: Misserion

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Oregon Lower Deschutes River, Oregon

Photo by: Eva

Three hundred miles northwest of the Alvord Desert, a ribbon of blue water has spent centuries sculpting a bed for itself into the volcanic earth. Its banks are a verdant green of grass and trees, a shock of color surrounded by muted desert tones. The contrast leaves little doubt that the Lower Deschutes River brings life into this place. The steady pull of gravity creates endless power in the water; restless to return to the sea and begin again its life-giving cycle.Herds of wild horses graze and run on the far bank in the Warm Springs Reservation. High, open canyon walls rise with rolling rhythms, enclosing the life-giving river in a valley of its own making. Open hillside grasslands dotted with pungent sagebrush and twisted juniper are broken by rock outcroppings and cliff bands.

They all come eventually, if you watch long enough. The wildlife of the canyon are sustained by the water. Skunks chase and play and river otters raise their families along the banks. Osprey return to their nest and hungry young with trout. Fly fishermen tempt steelhead and pull their leader from the trees that line the bank. White water rafters float by laughing and splashing each other with their paddles. Then quiet returns, and the river continues flowing, nurturing the lives it sustains. Eva, Gill Adventures Blog

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Oregon's coastline is rugged sea cliffs and huge open beaches

Photo by: Misserion

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Oregon Yaquina Head, Oregon Oregon's coastline is rugged sea cliffs and huge open beaches. The pounding Pacific Ocean rises and falls in tides, revealing and taking back vast stretches of sand and tide pools. At the base of Yaquina Head, a bluff of land stretching out from the shoreline stands obstinately against the waves that crash endlessly against its cliffs. At low tide, rocks and pools filled with starfish and spiny urchins are exposed. Monolith boulders stand sentry, towering above the tidal pools. Washed clean of soil, seaweed clings to their bases and noisy rookeries of common murre crowd their tops. The beach to the south of Yaquina Head sweeps down toward Newport, a tourist haven complete with a brew pub, wax museum, and shops selling plastic souvenirs and t-shirts. Tucked against the head on the north end, piles of driftwood logs like tumbled matchsticks rest against the cliffs, strewn where the ocean left them during high tide storms. My dogs and children run free on the beach, chasing the wind. At the end of the day, we climb the stairs back to our favorite condo at Starfish Point, and watch the sun slide down the sky and vanish into the Pacific. Photo by: Eva

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It was built to convince tourists to drive hours out of their way to spend 20 minutes staring at it from three miles back

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South Dakota Mt. Rushmore Isn't a Natural Formation I think I was about nine years old when I found out this bit of information. As a kid, I figured the appeal was that it was magically created, like Lucky Charms, the Shroud of Turin or the Virgin Mary. As it turns out, it was built to convince tourists to drive hours out of their way to spend 20 minutes staring at it from three miles back. And then shop. Sure, that area of South Dakota is gorgeous, but who the hell would drive all the way there if it weren't for this mountain-sized piece of eco-vandalism?

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Photo by: Joel

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Though there was not too much tulip viewing, my eyes were not disappointed

Photo by: rachel_thecat

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Washington Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, Mt. Vernon, Washington

Photo by: G's memories

Last year, I made a last minute spring break trip to visit friends in Seattle. My wanderlust led me further north to Vancouver. One of my Seattle friends had mentioned a tulip festival somewhere between Seattle and Vancouver. It was said to rival the famous tulip fields of Holland. I looked up the information and directions so I could make a stop there on my way to Canada. Unfortunately, I arrived too early in the season. Mother Nature must have decided she wanted a bunch of late bloomers. But though there was not too much tulip viewing, my eyes were not disappointed. There were tons of daffodils with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. I'd say I frolicked in fields of daffodils, but that would be a lie. But I did venture (against the rules, shh) into the flower rows to take a few awesome pictures. Ekua, Girl, Unstoppable

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Contributing Authors This Travel Secrets eBook is the result of a unique collaborative project, the first of its kind to take place on the Internet. It would not have been possible without the amazing community spirit and unrivalled travel knowledge of the talented writers and bloggers listed below. Take a virtual world tour around their inspiring travel blogs. What are your Best Kept Travel Secrets? Join our team of travel writers and become a Travel Secrets Author. Kari Marie Suzi Joel Ekua JoAnna

Active Kids Club Discover Northern California Freedonia Post Girl, Unstoppable Kaleidoscopic Wandering

Melissa Nancy Eva Sheila Christine

Jeremy Catherine Laura Robin Nora S Leigh Colleen Adam Lora Jim and Martha

Living the Dream Mischief and Impermanent Bliss Moon Travel Guides My Melange Professional Hobo The Word Wire Theme Park Mom Travel Mamas Travels of Adam Tripping With Kids Wanderlust Journey

Lauren Mindy Donna Kimberly Sabina Lisa Lisa Shannon Melanie Jennifer

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Adventuroo Family on Bikes Gill Adventures Blog Go Visit Hawaii Living Holistically with a Sense of Humor Lonely Girl Travels Moon Denver Guidebook My Itchy Travel Feet Notes to Self Solo Female Traveler The World is Calling Travel Dreams and Moonbeams Travel Tips and Deals Travels With Two Two Kids and a Map

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