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Travel Local

by Jenn & Hanna

Traditionally, April Fool’s Day has been a day to act out wildly, prank your friends, or play practical jokes on your classmates. Remember replacing the contents of a sugar bowl with salt as a small child, or jamming a dye tablet behind the faucet screen so the water ran red? One year I carefully crafted ice cream cones out of mashed potatoes, complete with chocolate syrup for an April Fool’s Day joke the kids have never forgotten.

In our family, April Fool’s Day has become synonymous with major change. We’ve sold one house and bought another, taken off on round the world trips, switched continents and made other major life changes on April first. Some would call these a “fool’s errand,” but to us, it’s a tradition that we hold dear and every year we consider what our “next big thing” could be as April 1 approaches. Even if you don’t take off on April 1, you could make a shocking announcement of big changes to come and the joke will be on your friends when they find that you’re not fooling at all! Here are a few ideas to set you dreaming:

Guest Post by Alan LeStourgeon

About three years ago my wife and I discovered the quaint beach towns of South Walton County in the Florida panhandle. Many people vacation along this 18-mile stretch of route 30A to enjoy the shopping, great restaurants, beautiful state parks, small community feel and easy access to the fine white sands that line the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Coastal Dune Lakes

But, beyond the relaxing resort atmosphere and just behind the tall dunes marking the end of the beach lies an unspoiled secret that few tourists take advantage of, and many may not even know is there. The secret treasure is a phenomenon known as coastal dune lakes and they can only be found in six locations worldwide (when you visit, don’t go climbing all over the dunes, but approach the lakes from the proper access points).

Australia, Madagascar, New Zealand, Oregon, South Carolina and Walton County Florida are the only places on the planet that feature this scarce natural attraction. Walton County is home to 15 of these lakes that usually average about 5 feet in depth and can contain varying levels of salinity – the hardest coastal dune lakes to come by contain completely fresh water. They range in age from 2,000 to 10,000 years old and are vital to the ecosystem in which they exist.

Many of the lakes protect the coastal regions as retention ponds that minimize flooding during hurricanes. They can also act as breeding grounds for insects that form the beginning level of various natural food chains. They also contain unique species of flora and fauna and are home to a variety of wildlife including otters, turtles, and little blue heron. Warning: some are home to alligators, so be careful as you wander around the shorelines. Just because you are near the beach doesn’t mean you won’t encounter Florida’s largest reptile.

Because of their proximity to the ocean, these lakes are sometimes fed by storm surge and exceptionally high tides that may only occur one or two times a year. Excessive rain occasionally fills the lakes to overflow capacity, at which point they empty into the gulf and can be counted as a unique experience if you ever get to witness an outlet bursting open.

Two of the rarer lakes are located in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and are unique because they contain completely freshwater. Stand on the shore of either Campbell or Morris Lake and you are looking at a completely unspoiled ecosystem that hasn’t changed much in the last 5,000 to 10,0000 years. It is worth the short hike off the main park access road to view these unspoiled treasures that also boast some of the highest beach sand dunes in Florida at over 25 feet tall.

Enjoy everything there is to see and experience on your next vacation to the quaint little resort communities that grace Highway 30A in the Florida panhandle. There are a variety of gorgeous vacation rentals, superb restaurants, exclusive shops and beautiful beaches to spend your days simply relaxing on, but don’t miss the hidden treasure of the rare lakes just beyond the dunes.

Alan LeStourgeon works at home writing on a variety of subjects including his travel adventures around the United States. You can read his travel blog and follow him on Twitter @Affconfession for more updates.

Yoga on the BeachIn a town known for dive bars, drag shows and Jimmy Buffet, it quickly becomes clear that there is something in Key West for everyone. Here are some of the best opportunities to do as the locals do and get outdoors in the Florida sunshine if daytime is more your speed than nightlife…

1. Yoga on the Beach

Yoga on the Beach is an absolute joy in Key West. Don Bartone and Nancy Curran run this daily ocean-side yoga class. Most of the classes take place in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, on a beach that’s preferred by locals. There are three styles of yoga: Yoga for Everybody, a more traditional hatha practice; Yoga Rhythms, a non-conventional yoga that focuses on dancing and movement; and YinYoga, which slows down movements and holds poses for five minutes or longer. Thanks to the contemplative music and the sound of waves lapping against the shore, the $18 class fee is worth every penny, as it includes park entrance and equipment rental in addition to making you feel as if you are practicing yoga on the set of the most tranquil DVD shoot. Check the website for dates and times as Dan and Nancy head north for the summer.

2. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is also a great place to explore on your own. The beach where the yoga practice takes place is, in my opinion, the most beautiful beach in Key West (a great find on an island not exactly celebrated for its beaches), and a perfect place to spend the day under the pines if you are looking for some seaside shade. The fort itself was built in the mid-nineteenth century as a defense against the Spanish and can still be visited, with tours available daily. Fishing and snorkeling are encouraged in the park, and there are bike paths and nature trails for visitors to enjoy.

3. Rent a Bike

Renting a bicycle is another great way to get out and enjoy the island. Key Lime Bike Tours has reasonable rates by the hour, day or week and offers a $39 guided tour (which includes bike rental for the day). The tour focuses on the history of the Conch Republic, stops at island sites such as the Southernmost Point and Ernest Hemingway’s House, and finishes off with a piece of Key Lime Pie. Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour is an “eco-tour” of Key West that takes visitors through quieter, lesser known streets and seeks out the tropical flora and unique architecture of the island.

4. Go Fishing

If you’re looking to go fishing independently while you’re in Key West, then you can rent equipment and buy bait at the Key West Bait & Tackle Shop in Old Town. For a little more adventure, why not try a boat excursion? The Tortuga IV departs Conch Harbor in Old Town for two fishing trips daily, from 9am-1pm and from 2-6pm. An additional night fishing trip leaves at 7pm. Rod, reel, bait and license are included. The galley is fully stocked and the crew will even clean your catch for you when you return to Key West. A fishing trip is a great idea if you are a fan of yellowtail snapper!

5. BYOF (Bring Your Own Fish)

A fun local trick is to bring your catch of the day to a restaurant and have the house cook it for you. The Hogfish Bar and Grill on neighboring Stock Island is a little tricky to find, but it’s a real local favorite. They charge $10.95 per pound to cook your fresh catch and serve it with rice and veggies, a fun alternative if you are craving a little island atmosphere and don’t feel like cooking at home. Also great are their buffalo shrimp, Baja-style tacos and daily happy hour – on an island that celebrates Jimmy Buffet, you deserve that margarita.

Mary-Elizabeth O’Neill is a New York based event designer who has lived in Paris and London. She travels frequently, loves writing about her adventures and appreciates your comments! You can find Mary-Elizabeth on Twitter as @m_oneill_nyc.

When it comes to indulging in a last-minute getaway, one of my favorite things to do is hop a red-eye flight to Fiji for a week of fjord hopping and relaxing on white sand beaches. At least I assume that would be one of my favorite things to do, seeing as I’ve never actually done it.

When it comes to a real last-minute getaway, nothing beats the great American road trip. Unlike a trip to Fiji, all it takes is hopping in your car and choosing a direction. At least that’s the theory… One thing I’ve learned in the past decade of road tripping is that it helps to have an awesome destination to look forward to—and the perfect FlipKey rental to relax at. So whether you’re a permanent resident of the Emerald City, like myself, or only visiting for a short while, I think you’ll find that a visit to the following list of destinations Is worth the price of gas.

Click on the destinations and images below to see all available FlipKey rentals in that location. Staying in a rental means extra living space, a full kitchen, and amenities like laundry or outdoor barbecue area.

Rearview shot of a couple reading a map while sitting in a car

Day Trips

Tacoma, WA (35mi, <1hr)

One of the top reasons to make the drive to Tacoma is to admire its world-renowned glass art. The Museum of Glass showcases hand-blown glass pieces from around the world and includes a glassblowing studio. The Museum District is connected by the Bridge of Glass and pays homage to the craft with more art, glass, and history, including installations by the native Dale Chihuly. Other cultural attractions worth stopping for are the Tacoma Art Museum, the Le May-America’s Car Museum and the Washington State History Museum. Although, Tacoma is rooted in the arts, it is ideally situated on the banks of Puget Sound and offers a vibrant, urban pit stop for road trippers. Shop in the historic Proctor and Stadium districts or stroll through the city’s parks and gardens. Explore the shores by kayak or boat to see the abundance of wildlife that inhabit Tacoma. If you’re looking for a nature wonderland where hiking boots aren’t required, then Tacoma is the destination for you.

See all rentals in Tacoma!

Fall City, WA (30mi, <1hr)

Fall City is situated within the scenic Snoqualmie Valley, an area just east of Seattle, criss-crossed with quiet back roads that carve paths through forests, mountains, and a network of streams feeding into the Snoqualmie River. On your drive in to town, you’ll notice totem poles scattered about Fall City, evidence that the town was originally home to the Snoqualmie Indian tribe, as well as the 130-year old Hop Shed where farmers brought hops to be transported to the Puget Sound. The massive Snoqualmie Falls is arguably one of the biggest attractions for visitors to Fall City. The 270-foot falls boasts magnificent views from the top and bottom and is an impressive site to see. Snoqualmie Falls isn’t the only attraction, though. Odds are you’ll find yourself sticking around to tour the wineries, hike the trails, and maybe even do some antique shopping.

See all rentals in Fall City!

The majestic Snoqualmie Falls in Washington plunges into the water below.

The majestic Snoqualmie Falls in Washington plunges into the water below.

Ashford, WA (80mi, <2hrs)

Hidden amongst towering fir and cedar trees at the foothills of Mt. Rainier National Park, Ashford is a popular “base camp” location for those venturing deep into the Cascade Mountain Region of Central Washington. However, this enchanting area has plenty of natural wonders to offer the day tripper as well, including the nearby Alder and Mineral Lakes, over 300 miles of hiking trails, plus snowshoeing and sledding in the winter. Adjacent to Ashford you’ll find the small town of Elbe, where you can board the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, which is by far one of most relaxed ways to take in the secluded back country of Mt. Rainier National Park.

See all rentals in Ashford!

Leavenworth, WA (120 mi, 2hrs)

Leavenworth is unique in that the town offers visitors an authentic German experience, right in the heart of Washington State. Boasting a Bavarian village main street, replete with Tudor revival architecture, this mountain town plays host to monthly festivals, one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States, and an annual month-long Christmas extravaganza that has to be seen to be believed. While you might expect the hiking, biking, and skiing adventures waiting to be had in the surrounding Cascade Mountains, what you might not expect from this Pacific Northwest landmark is the 300 days of sunshine they receive every year!

See all rentals in Leavenworth!

A couple drives down the road on a road trip in their red convertible.

Weekend Trips

Vancouver, BC (140mi, 2.5 hours)

Canada’s third-largest city, and one routinely featured on lists of the world’s greatest places to live, has been thrust into the global spotlight thanks in part to its young metropolis vibe, overall quirky appeal, and role as the host city for the 2010 winter Olympics. A melting pot of cultures nestled between city beaches and lush waterfront forests, this British Commonwealth is still very much forming its identity: something reflected in its eclectic art scene, diverse shopping districts, and laid-back hipster hangouts, all topped off with the myriad of outdoor activities right outside their door. Make Vancouver your destination if you want to experience both bustling city life with attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium and the Orpheum Theatre as well as a quiet, oceanfront setting that is home to a variety of wildlife, including fish, birds, and whales.

See all rentals in Vancouver!

Portland, OR (175mi, 3 hrs)

If you’ve never been there, you might be inclined to assume that Portland and Seattle are interchangeable from a destination standpoint, especially given the similarities in their cultural and natural landscape. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Where Seattle offers more of an urban flavor, Portland has a quaint, almost small town feel relative to its size. Although replete with museums, fine dining, and a vibrant night life, Portland provides a level of hospitality and accessibility to these attractions unparalleled anyplace else in the Northwest. While in the area, popular things to do in Portland include touring the Portland Japanese Garden, exploring the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and browsing at one of the many Portland farmers markets. With so much to do and its laid-back, friendly atmosphere, Portland is a must-visit place along the Pacific Northwest.

See all rentals in Portland!

Sunrise view overlooking the city of Portland, Oregon

Sunrise view overlooking the city of Portland, Oregon

Friday Harbor, WA (100mi, 3hrs including ferry travel)

One of the main hot spots in the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor has long been recognized as a top travel destination in Washington. Although relatively small, the island offers a dynamic landscape ranging from pebble-lined beaches, to lush valleys and mountain meadows. Since it rests in Seattle’s rain shadow and is often sunny when nowhere else in the Puget Sound region is, it is routinely referred to as “nature’s playground.” One of the top attractions here is orca whale watching in autumn, although many animals such as harbor seals, porpoises, and sea otters are year-round residents. To really get into the casual spirit of island living, enjoy an art tour, or of course, find your own little corner of paradise on one of the many pristine local beaches.

See all rentals in Friday Harbor!

Seaside, OR (195mi, 3.5hrs)

The North Oregon Coast is a place of great history, entertainment, and natural beauty. While scenic vistas and amazing day hikes can be found throughout the region, Seaside has really become the place to go for a wide variety of traditional “coastal” activities, such as bike tours, festivals, and fresh, local cuisine. Wander along the Tillamook Head Traverse Hike for impeccable views of the landscape and dine by the ocean to start your day. When you’re ready to hang on the beach, you’ll be delighted with how wide they are here, leaving plenty of room for sand castle building, cookouts, or even a round of beach volleyball. Make sure you also swing by Funland Arcade, the largest on the Oregon Coast, to take a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl and feel like a kid again! Whether you’re on a romantic road trip or embarking on some family fun, Seaside has something for everyone in your car.

See all rentals in Seaside!

Victoria, BC (185mi, 4.5hrs including ferry travel)

Green and beautiful year-round, Victoria offers an enchanting place for visitors to escape every day life. It is the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest, and here, new world experiences complement old world charm. Snap photos of the spectacular parliament building  and tour the opulent rooms inside. Nearby churches and castles showcase impressive architectural designs and interesting historical significance. Take a walk through the historic James Bay neighborhood or head to the boutiques on Johnson Street and Trounce Alley to purchase wares from local designers. The island has a mild climate throughout the year making it an ideal place for outdoor exploration. Whether you drive through the city, cycle one of the many trails or swim in the ocean, Victoria’s lush landscape can be enjoyed by all. Before getting back on the road, enjoy the time-honored tradition of high tea at the Empress Hotel National Historic Site of Canada.

See all rentals in Victoria!

A young man sits down with coffee to plan his US road trip on a map.

Week Trips

West Glacier, MT (550mi, 9.5 hrs)

West Glacier is really more of a gateway destination, as it anchors the western entrance to Glacier National Park, offering an ideal location for lodging while exploring the surrounding area. A trip to Glacier National Park is without a doubt more rooted in natural beauty than it is commercial obligations. The views as seen from the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road are breathtaking as you cross the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass, and will undoubtedly stay with you forever. The town of West Glacier and the surrounding National Park play host to a huge assortment of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, including whitewater rafting, golfing, hiking, and horseback riding.

See all rentals in West Glacier!

San Francisco, CA (800mi, 13hrs)

If I was going to recommend travel to any major city in California, or the entire West Coast for that matter, it would have to be San Francisco. Most endearing about this city is that even when you partake in one of the more cliched tourist activities like exploring Pier 39 or climbing one of the 40+ hills, you still never know what to expect. Take a drive down the city’s well-known Lombard Street, one of America’s crookedest streets, before ditching your car to cling to the side of a vintage cable car. Explore the neighborhoods like the Upper Haight or the Mission to see the different parts of the city that make it so unique. From the Marina district, enjoy picture-perfect views of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge before people watching at one of the hip bistros nearby. San Francisco is a city teeming with outlandish free thinkers and lovable weirdos, yet it manages to quickly find a place in the heart of your average Joe.

See all rentals in San Francisco!

View of the Golden Gate Bridge giving drivers access to San Francisco

View of the Golden Gate Bridge giving drivers access to San Francisco

Lake Tahoe, CA (750mi, 12hrs)

Lake Tahoe is a haven for outdoor adventures year-round. In the summer, visitors can enjoy swimming, windsurfing, and boating on the picturesque lake, while the surrounding parks and trails beckon to hikers. Mt. Tallac Trail and Emerald Bay State Park offer magnificent views of the lake area while the Gondola at Heavenly provides a peaceful ride with incredible panoramic views. During the winter, strap yours skis or snowboard onto your car and enjoy the epic amounts of snowfall that transform Lake Tahoe into a winter wonderland. Hit the slopes at Northstar or Squaw Valley for a fun day in the snow. Other things to do in Lake Tahoe include making a visit to the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum or placing some bets at one of the 24-hour casinos in the area. Because Lake Tahoe straddles the border between California and Nevada, the area does also has a flashy nightlife scene and vibrant atmosphere. The area is perfect for a girls’ week away or a family getaway – it’s up to you!

See all rentals in Lake Tahoe!

Las Vegas, NV (1,150mi, 19hrs)

Ah, Las Vegas. Some would say that no matter where you reside in this country, a rubber-meets-road sojourn to Sin City constitutes the ultimate road trip – a statement I’m very much inclined to agree with. Even if you’re not into the well-lit, nonstop party element Vegas is so famous for, you’ll find yourself easily charmed by its rugged beauty and frontier-inspired sightseeing opportunities. One thing is for sure though: going from Seattle to Las Vegas by car is a must-have experience. Cutting through the southern half of Central Washington, skirting the northeast corner of Oregon and the northwest corner of Idaho, then dropping straight down the eastern half of Nevada is an amazing journey that is nearly impossible to match. The ever-changing landscapes and classic roadside attractions encountered along the way make this trip completely worthwhile, even if all you do in Las Vegas is fill up your gas tank and turn right back around.

See all rentals in Las Vegas!

Original post was written by Jay Ferris, a Seattle-based writer, husband, and father of three, whose penchant for outdoors-based travel is rivaled only by his dependence on a steady internet connection and spider-free existence. Follow him on Twitter at @jayferris.

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It feels like spring has finally arrived. Here in Boston we have definitely started to get our April showers, which bring with them high expectations for May flowers. Travelers with children in school may have a spring break coming up, but for most of us it’s time to start thinking about summer travel. Whether you’re planning a couple weekend getaways or one long summer vacation, now is a good time to start looking for deals and availability on FlipKey – it’s a great way to stay dry and optimistic on rainy April days!

Summer vacation rental bookings are heating up. According to a New York Times article, bookings in some popular vacation spots are “up twenty percent compared to last year.” If you want to have your choice of vacation rentals, then don’t hesitate to begin planning your summer getaway!

Do you travel with your best friend? The four-legged one, that is. If so, you might be interested in a useful new tool from pethotelsofamerica.com that helps you search for pet-friendly rental cars.

Today, the Key West City Commission will officially oppose a pair of Florida state senate bills that would “essentially remove the ability for municipal governments to regulate short-term vacation rentals,” reports KeysNet.com. The city commission wishes to retain the ability to control short term rentals through licenses and taxes.

Tell us about your summer travel plans! Will you be traveling with pets? Visiting Key West? Where do you dream of visiting when it’s raining at home?

Road Tripping

Steeped in history and filled with impressive attractions that have inspired awe in millions of visitors, Washington, DC is one of America’s most visited major cities. Yet, as someone from the MD/DC area, I had visited every historic site and every museum that you could think of by age 12. Road tripping became my solution to escaping the “same-olds” of the tri-state area. Here is a list of the top 10 road trip destinations that I have taken in the area. Some of these destinations make excellent day trips for visitors to the Capital, while others make great weekend destinations for locals looking to escape the city.

1. Annapolis, MD (40 mi, <1 hr)

Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, is only a short drive away and has a beautiful old town aesthetic. You can enjoy historic sites such as the Maryland State House or get into the thriving community theatre scene by catching a show performed by the Colonial Players. At night, check out the Annapolis Harbor and have dinner on the waterfront by candlelight!

2. Baltimore, MD (47 mi, 1hr)

An architectural masterpiece, Baltimore is filled with everything from 18th century structures to I.M. Pei’s modern masterpieces. My favorite area is the Harbor: home to the incredible Baltimore Aquarium and tons of fun places to grab a meal or a drink by the water. When it’s warm out, you should definitely go for a paddleboat ride for a sea-level experience!

3. Richmond, VA (100 mi, 2 hrs)

Discover history and adventure in nearby Richmond, VA. Here, more than 400 years of American history live on through magnificent architecture, monument-lined cobblestone streets, and world-class museums. Brave the gorgeous yet intense James River: the only urban setting with Class IV rapids. Rafting is just one of many outdoor activities close by. For more urban adventurers, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is constantly expanding its world-class offerings, and more than 900 restaurants make Richmond a foodie paradise.

4. Shenandoah Valley, VA (112 mi, 2.5 hrs)

Blanketed in shades of amber, gold, and green in the fall, Shenandoah is a mandatory road-trip destination for anyone looking for a slice of nature in the tri-state area. The Valley has many areas that are open for camping, as well as plenty of cabins for rent. Plan a visit to one of the pristine limestone caverns for sights that will truly take your breath away. The most famous underground adventures are the Luray Caverns, which also boast a mind-boggling hedge maze right outside the caves!

5. Bethany Beach & Rehoboth Beach, DE (134 mi, 3hrs)

South Bethany Beach is one of the best-kept secrets along the east coast. The friendly inhabitants of this tucked-away city will be happy to show you its picturesque boardwalk, miles of crystal clear waters along the beaches, great shopping and more. Most of the trendy boutiques and restaurants serving up fresh local seafood can be found along South Garfield Parkway, but there’s plenty to do across town as well.

A word to the wise: If you want to enjoy a relaxing beach vacation free of hordes of local teenagers, then steer clear of these destinations, as well as Ocean City, during the first half of June. When school lets out for the summer, High school students from the surrounding areas overrun the typically peaceful spot during “beach week.”

6. Ocean City, MD (153 mi, 3hrs)

Ocean City is a fun, family-oriented beach destination with an incredible boardwalk, fun nightlife, delicious seafood and more mini-golf courses than you can shake a putter at! My family frequented this beach for years, and I still have not managed to try every mini-golf course (not from lack of trying!). Ocean City can be a good choice for frugal travelers who don’t need to spend extra to stay in more posh communities like Bethany.

7. Philadelphia, PA (142 mi, 3 hrs)

Famous as the birthplace of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Philadelphia offers much more than just cobblestone streets and historical landmarks. Cultural, culinary, artistic and ethnic treasures abound in this city and its surrounding countryside. What makes Philadelphia so memorable are the unique blend of experiences that you have to discover in person. By day, explore four centuries of history and architecture, beautiful neighborhoods, and remarkable museum collections. After the sun sets, the city heats up with acclaimed performing arts, amazing dining and vibrant nightlife. And don’t forget: it’s worth the trip just for the city’s signature cheese steak!

8. Atlantic City, NJ (197 mi, 3.5hrs)

From New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse to deep-sea fishing, and everything in between, you can always find excitement in Atlantic City. Relax at one of the Atlantic City casino spas, go all in on the excitement of 24/7 gaming, experience the thrill of a full house, feel the sand between your toes or visit one of the many attractions in this historic resort town. Atlantic City also offers an extensive boardwalk, pristine golf courses, and a variety of water sports to enjoy on your road tripping adventure.

9. Pittsburgh, PA (255 mi, 5hrs)

Previously known as a blue-collar city responsible for half of the steel production in the states, Pittsburgh has truly transformed itself into a unique and exciting travel destination.  Whether its catching a game of one of the city’s three professional teams or checking out the top notch museums and fine arts centers funded by the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, the city truly exhibits a unique flavor. Pittsburgh has many public green spaces, parks and riverside trails maintained throughout the city’s hilly landscape. From many of these areas, walkers, joggers and bikers are treated to spectacular views of a skyline that’s scene sleek, towering glass and steel architecture is a dramatic departure from the days when the grey cloud of industry loomed over the ‘Burgh.

10. Raleigh, NC (256 mi, 4.5 hrs)

When you’re looking for the excitement and attractions of a great city, combined with the affordability, approachability and appeal of a classic town with authentic southern hospitality, look no further than Raleigh. Best known for its world-class museums, best-of-Broadway shows, Capital area historic sites, professional sporting events and shopping mecca status (nine major retail areas!), Raleigh truly offers a variety of entertainment all in one park-like, scenic setting.

A View from the "Front" of the House which faces the Dock

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending spring break at my girlfriend’s family vacation rental in Darien, GA. I landed in Hilton Head International Airport late Tuesday night and we headed straight to Darien, a small coastal town with a booming commercial fishing industry. This was my first stay in a vacation rental, and after having such an amazing time, I may never look at commercial accommodations the same way again. Here are a few reasons why I fell in love with not only this home, but with vacation rentals in general.

A View from the "Back" of the House
1. The Beautiful Vintage Aesthetic of the Property

The vacation rental was perfectly tucked away at the bottom of a gravel road that is covered by a canopy of orange trees. The front porch faces the ocean and has four old white rocking chairs, making it an ideal place to relax and watch the sun set. The house is surrounded by pink azalea bushes and the back of the property has a dock leading down to Brighton Creek. At night, you can see the lighthouse glimmering in the distance on Sapelo Island.

View from the Porch of the House
2. A TON of Room and Privacy

The house sleeps upwards of 10 people and you are in the creek bed of coastal Georgia. How much more privacy can you get? Not to mention there was plenty of space around the house for my girlfriend’s dog Annie to chase after the nearest squirrel.

When I was growing up, Presidents Day was part of ski week. My parents would pack three kids and two dogs into an overstuffed Ford Explorer and head up to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. If we took two cars, then my folks would argue over who had to drive with my sister because she would sing along to every song on the radio (even when she didn’t know the words).

My Presidents Day vacations have gotten shorter as I’ve gotten older, but I’ve held onto the tradition of piling into a full car and heading for the hills. Looking over FlipKey guest reviews, it appears I’m not alone: the most-reviewed Presidents Day weekends are not grand overseas tours, but road trips to local hideaways. Here are some last minute ideas from locals who know where to go to get away…

If you live in the Northwest… Head for the North Cascades

Becky L, from Bothell, WA took the whole family to Cle Elum last year and had a great time:

The cabin was exactly what we were looking for ! …..witht he exception of no snow (which we know you have no control over 🙂 It was great for the kids, dog & adults. It was well stocked, very clean & well stocked with basics. We instantly felt right at home!

Cle Elum is only an hour and a half from Seattle, right in the middle of the Snoqualmie National Forest.

If you live in California… Head for the Sierras

Hebro M, from Castro, CA can’t stay away from Sierra village:

The one reason why we keep on coming back to this place is because of the private sledding area. There is simply nothing that could come close to it, since it is long, smooth, safe, free, and not very crowded. The house is nice as well. Pretty spacious, kids friendly, and has everything we need.

Sierra village is about 2 hours from Sacramento, 3 hours from San Fransisco, and 6 hours from Los Angeles.

If you live in the Mid Atlantic… Head to Snowshoe, WV

J Stephens, from OH, went to Snowshoe last Presidents day and had a blast:

Our group stayed at Loggers Run 1 over Presidents day weekend. The condo is very comfortable and nicely furnished. It is situated close to the high speed Soaring Eagle lift… It was a wonderful trip with great snow and skiing.

Snowshoe is 4-5 hours from Washington D.C. and Baltimore, 4 hours from Pittsburgh, and about 6 hours from Cincinnati.

President’s Day weekend is just around the corner – February 19-21. It’s the perfect weekend for a winter retreat, and there’s still time to make last minute travel plans! From the Berkshires in Western MA to Taos, NM, there’s a local hideaway waiting for you to find it.

Where are you headed next weekend?

The leaves are already changing all across North America—don’t hesitate to finalize your plans before the symphony of color turns to winter white! For all of you fall foliage travelers, we’ve ranked the top ten best North American leaf-peeping destinations by comparing their autumn beauty with the overall appeal of their vacation accommodations and attractions.

Montreal1. Montreal, Canada Take in Montreal’s outstanding fall scenery while rafting the Lachine Rapids or exploring Mount Royal, two outdoor adventure opportunities in close proximity to the city. No large Canadian city can match Montreal’s vibrant culture—so come back downtown and enjoy the nightlife in the evening.

2. Stowe, Vermont Stowe’s fall foliage is spectacular. Convenient to Interstate 98, Stowe’s burst of autumnal color is just peaking—hop in the car or book your flight today to catch the leaves before they fall! Extend your stay to take advantage of this rustic resort town’s exceptional East Coast skiing accommodations.

Denver3. Denver, Colorado Denver, a city of more than half a million people, is often under-appreciated for its fall foliage. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is an exciting metropolis within close driving distance of the best autumn sightseeing the Western U.S. has to offer. Leaf peep while exploring Colorado’s nearby wine country or by catching a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the most famous outdoor venues in the United States.

4. Quebec City, Canada The capital of the province of Quebec is an ideal destination for taking in autumn’s awesome palette. Enjoy the panoramas of leaves while visiting nearby pick-your-own strawberry farms or Montmorency Falls, a waterfall almost 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Quebec City’s additional attractions include a rich French heritage and its Old Town section, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bar Harbor5. Bar Harbor, Maine Located on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor is never prettier than during the changing of the leaves. Bar Harbor, famous for its pastoral setting and peaceful beauty, also includes the largest portion of Acadia National Park, affording dramatic views of Cadillac Mountain.

6. Logan, Ohio This small Ohio town sports exceptional leafy fall fireworks—especially at Hocking Hills State Park, which features multiple dramatic rock-shelter waterfalls. More unusually, Logan is also home to the last washboard manufacturer in the nation, the Columbus Washboard Company, as well as the annual Washboard Music Festival.

7. Lake Placid, New York Lake Placid’s stunning autumnal aesthetics can be richly appreciated by hiking: all 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks are convenient by car. Lake Placid was also the home of the 1980 Winter Olympics and the famous Miracle on Ice.Sedona

8. Sedona, Arizona Sedona features stunning sandstone sunsets and exceptional fall foliage. Enjoy the leaves by making a trip to Tonto National Forest or the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church dramatically built into a rock face. Visit in October and you can also catch the Sedona Jazz on the Rocks festival!

9. Branson, Missouri This town is one of the best in the Midwest for choice leaf-peeping. Branson features two gorgeous lakes—Table Rock and Bull Shoals—both of which make an exceptional fall-foliage day trip. A visit to Silver Dollar City will please the whole family: it’s a popular theme park known to some as a Midwestern Dollywood or a far more kid-friendly Las Vegas.

The Bershires
10.  The Berkshires, Massachusetts No fall foliage best-of would be complete without the Berkshires. Attractive towns in the region include Pittsfield and Williamstown, Massachusetts. Pittsfield is worth a stop for the foliage displays afforded by Pittsfield State Forest alone. This bucolic town also hosts the Berkshires Museum, the cultural epicenter of the Berkshires, and can boast of being the place Moby Dick was written. While in Williamstown, enjoy the fall scenery during a tour of Williams College, the definition of the picturesque elite liberal arts school.

Don’t let autumn escape you. After all, leaf peeping is more popular than you may realize—and for good reason. In fact, fall foliage tourism is an $8 billion industry in New England alone, with visitors flocking from all over the globe.

Based out of Boston, FlipKey may have an affinity for Massachusetts, but not without good reason. New England showcases the four seasons like no where else in the United States. Vacationers come from all over the world to survey New England’s fall foliage, apple pick in Central Massachusetts, or hike in the Berkshires. As winter arrives, New Englanders trade their hiking boots for skis as people flock to the mountain slopes. In springtime, Boston becomes a hotspot for vacationers eager to experience Colonial history through Duck Tours and walking the Freedom Trail.

But when it comes to summers in Massachusetts, there’s no place better than Southeastern Massachusetts. So if you’re planning a summer retreat, look no further than Cape Cod and the Islands.

Provincetown

 ProvincetownAt the utmost tip of the Cape Cod Peninsula lies Provincetown, or more affectionately known as “P-town”. While the population may seem desolate during colder months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Provincetown becomes a nonstop soirée of vacationers. In true summer style, vacationers can kayak around P-town Harbor, sail the Cape Cod Bay and partake in a whale watching tour, peruse the busy shopping district of Commercial Street, or simply enjoy the ocean breeze on its sandy, pristine beaches, all within eyeshot of the famous, 252-foot Pilgrim Monument. Provincetown also features a variety of festivities to honor the arts, such as the International Film Festival in June and the Provincetown Jazz Festival in August. Of course, Provincetown is best known as a gay village. The majority of its events and festivals are centered around the LGBT community, perhaps of which no event proves more popular than the annual Independence Day celebration.

Chatham

 ChathamIf you want to experience the true old world charm of the Cape, look no further than Chatham. The town has managed to avoid the urban sprawl that has pervaded many parts of Massachusetts, and still features a variety of mom and pop shops along the picturesque Main Street. Chatham’s appeal comes from its antiquity. You can tour the old Atwood House, built in 1752, or pay a visit to the Chatham Lighthouse, established by Thomas Jefferson in 1808.

Hyannis

HyannisFor a slightly more urban appeal while still on the Cape, head over to Hyannis, home to the Cape Cod Mall. As one of the largest towns on the Cape and a designated commercial and transportation hub, Hyannis has earned the nickname, “The Capital of the Cape”. Hyannis offers something for all ages, from a family-friendly tour of the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory, to the much more adult tour of the Cape Cod Beer brewery. Don’t forget to pay homage to one of our most beloved political families, the Kennedy’s, by visiting the John F Kennedy Memorial and Museum.

Falmouth

 FalmouthTo witness the natural beauty of the Cape, visit Falmouth, whose southern shore boasts a series of ponds and rivers indicative of the Cape’s topography. Enjoy the finer things Falmouth has to offer, like a day trip to the Cape Cod winery, or a visit to the Cornelia Carey Sanctuary, which features nature trails that run alongside Buzzard’s Bay and offers spectacular views of the Elizabeth Islands and seaside sunsets. Perfect for a family trip or a romantic date, the Shining Sea Bikeway winds along the Vineyard Sound shoreline, ending in Woods Hole. From there, you can catch the ferry over to Martha’s Vineyard.

Martha’s Vineyard

 MarthasVineyardThe once home of Jackie Onassis, Martha’s Vineyard has attracted the attention of celebrities, politicians, and artists for decades. The Vineyard boasts temperate summers rarely exceeding 90 degrees, features ample beaches and cliffs, and offers plenty of scenic ocean views and places to eat and shop. Be sure to stop by The Black Dog, a restaurant and tavern that has become a Martha’s Vineyard icon, known throughout New England by its souvenir tee shirts featuring its eponymous Black Dog logo. Another popular destination, the Wesleyan Grove in the town of Oak Bluffs features 350 gingerbread cottages. Or check out the town of Aquinnah to view the scenic Gay Head Cliffs. Proceed with caution, however, as below the cliffs lies Lucy Vincent Beach, one of the few remaining nude beaches left in the US.

Nantucket

Nantucket2A place of serene beauty, Nantucket has become known as a center for the visual and performing arts, but not without a price tag. Nantucket possesses the highest median property value of anywhere in Massachusetts, but for good reason. It hosts a variety of world-class museums, including the Maria Mitchell Association, featuring observatories, an aquarium, a natural history museum, and a science library. While you’re there, plan a visit to the Whaling Museum, the Nantucket Vineyard, Cisco Brewery and Triple Eight Distillery, or the Brand Point Lighthouse, America’s second oldest lighthouse.