As the temperatures begin to climb, here are some inspiring urban destinations where you can kick back and embrace the great outdoors.
San Francisco, California
Amidst the lakes, playgrounds and museums of vast Golden Gate Park, you’ll encounter resident American bison, plus a Japanese tea house and pagoda in manicured gardens. The Presidio offers 24 miles of hiking and bike trails, and superb views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take the ferry to Angel Island in the Bay, where you can hike and camp. And enjoy a legendary cable car tour through San Francisco’s historic downtown.
The Emerald City is surrounded by natural beauty. Take a boat trip from Puget Sound and spot seals, porpoises and the elusive humpback whale. Peruse contemporary outdoor art at Olympic Sculpture Park, and meet lions, giraffes, and rhinos at Woodland Park Zoo. Walk, boat and picnic in 350 acre Magnusson Park, which has a pebble fringed beach for swimming. Explore unspoilt forest and craggy peaks in vast Olympic National Park, two hours’ drive from the city.
At scenic Boulder Reservoir you can swim, kayak, fish and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding Flatiron peaks. Hike or bike the 5.5 mile Boulder Creek Path. This picturesque trail passes city landmarks and cafes, and has plenty of spots for fishing and paddling. Enjoy regular free summer music concerts in downtown Pearl Street, courtesy of Bands on the Bricks. Take a guided horseback ride in glorious Rocky Mountain National Park, an hour from the city.
San Diego, California
San Diego’s balmy temperatures and stunning coastline offer abundant outdoor adventures. Enjoy swimming, snorkelling and surfing at La Jolla Shores, or join a guided kayak excursion around its sea caves. This protected ecosystem is home to seals, dolphins, sea lions and multiple fish species. Cycle the 10 mile panoramic Silver Strand bike path from Coronado to Imperial Beach, skirting beautiful San Diego bay. Hike through tranquil pine forest in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Utah’s 2002 Winter Olympic Park is a thrill seeker’s paradise. Enjoy zip lining, extreme tubing and alpine slides. Hit speeds of 60 mph on a bobsled ride, and try aerial ski training (you land in a splash pool!). Visit Great Salt Lake Marina, where high salinity levels make floating a breeze. Swim, paddle board, kayak or take a boat tour. After all that exertion, relax with a drive-in movie at Redwood Theatre.
Asheville, North Carolina
Take a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy breath taking views from Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Explore 8,000 acres of manicured gardens, forest trails and a vineyard at Biltmore Estate. This 250 room French renaissance castle was formerly home to George Vanderbilt. Back in town, explore Asheville’s urban trail, an alfresco ‘museum without walls’ which unveils the history, architecture and culture of the city.
In the 19th century cobbled streets of Old Port you’ll find galleries, chic boutiques and excellent seafood restaurants. Enjoy sweeping views of Portland’s harbour from its 86 feet high observatory, a 200 year old landmark. Admire the sunset from Eastern promenade’s waterfront park, with splendid views across the harbour and Casco Bay. Hop on a ferry to nearby Peaks Island and Great Diamond for swimming and unspoilt sandy beaches.
Deering Estate overlooking Biscayne Bay offers picturesque hikes, bird walks, kayaking and boat tours. For retail therapy, head to Lincoln Road’s boutiques, bars and restaurants. Chill out on the legendary turquoise fringed, bleached shores of South Beach. Hire a lounger and a shade, lie back, and enjoy that fine white sand between your toes. Later, head to Little Havana district for authentic Cuban cuisine.
In Minneapolis they say you’re never more than six blocks from a park. Theodore Wirth Regional Park is the city’s largest, a whopping 740 acres of walking and bike trails, flower gardens and a bird sanctuary. Play golf or tennis, visit the archery range, enjoy pier fishing or take a dip in Wirth Lake Beach. For culture, visit Walker Art Centre’s outdoor sculpture garden, where you’ll find the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain.
Verdant Forest Park is the lung of Portland. Hike, bike, or horse-ride through 5,000 acres of cedars, maples and firs, past creeks and trout streams. Routes vary from a one mile stroll to the challenging 30 mile Wildwood Trail. For lively entertainment and locally made crafts and souvenirs, head to Portland’s bustling weekend market. Enjoy a picnic with river views at Tom McCall Park, where on summer afternoons you’ll hear the shrieks of children cooling off in the water jets.
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