Sharks, sharks and more sharks. No creature of the sea does more to intrigue … or terrify. With sharks top of mind over the coming week, we thought we’d let you in on the top places to see sharks nationwide.
If you’re looking for a close encounter, but not too close, you’ll want to head to some of America’s top aquariums. Some great bets include the Tennessee Aquarium, where you’ll see this fierce-looking shark, and the Newport Aquarium, where you can see sharks circling above your head.
Of course, not all shark encounters are welcome (unless you’re LandLopers blogger Matt Long, check out his blog and amazing whale shots here). So when you next hit the beach, be prepared – for helpful hints on how to stay safe when swimming near shark-infested waters, check out our Travel 911 web series episode, Shark Attacks.
Come early and bring your patience. That’s the word on the 88th annual Chincoteague Pony Swim. Every July, on the last Wednesday of the month, the small island of Chincoteague sees its population of 3,500 people swell to more than 40,000, as visitors from all over the country — and as far away as Canada and Europe — flock to the island off Virginia’s coast, to witness an event of epic pony proportions: more than 120 wild ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel, between Chincoteague and Assateague islands.
The actual swim takes all of 5 to 10 minutes. And it’s worth every minute of waiting to see the oldest continuous wild pony roundup east of the Colorado River.
“This is an event of historical proportions,” says Denise Bowden, spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the ponies, often called the Chincoteague herd, on the Virginia side of Assateague Island.
Historical … or historic … one thing’s clear: This is the biggest event on Chincoteague Island’s annual calendar.
Chincoteague Island’s fire department has held the event nearly every year since 1924, culminating in the Salt Water Cowboys — about 145 cowboys from Virginia and neighboring states including Maryland and North Carolina — rounding up the feral fellas and females for a parade down Main Street, to the carnival grounds, where an auction of the ponies takes place Thursday morning. (Some ponies are bought under “buy back” terms; the bidder donates the money to the fire department and allows the pony to be released back onto Assateague Island.)
Now the patience part: Chincoteague Island will be packed. And while the pony swim will be held sometime between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., crowds will start gathering well in advance. “Come early,” says Bowden. It’s not uncommon, she adds, for visitors to gather at the heart of the action — the Pony Swim Lane and Memorial Park — as early as 5 or 6 a.m.
The long wait time — plus the actual event’s start time, dependent on inclement weather conditions — spells greater exposure to the elements — lots of sun, maybe rain. “Make yourself as comfortable as possible,” says Bowden. Bring your sunscreen, hat and umbrella. Plus, a pair of old tennis shoes (no flip-flops or high-heels) — you’ll need them while standing in the marshy, muddy field. But the pay-off will be something to behold: Just beyond a fence, a herd of wild ponies — only 20 to 30 feet away.
For parking, Bowden advises heading to Chincoteague High School’s parking lot: A shuttle on the grounds takes visitors to the Pony Swim Lane. Find shuttle information here.
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The countdown begins to the largest surfing event on the planet. On Saturday, July 20, the US Open of Surfing kicks off in the morning, with rounds 1 and 2 of the Junior Men’s championship. If you’re one of the thousands of surfing fans en route to the event or are already stretching out on the sands of Huntington Beach, check out highlights of the 9-day surfing competition, which runs through July 28.
In all, this year’s event is slated to see more than 20 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers compete against the best new surfing talent from around the globe at Huntington Beach Pier. Beyond surf, skateboarding is also in store. This year’s event sees the debut of the Van Doren Invitational, an invite-only skateboarding event set to attract pro and amateur riders.
Another big draw will be music. Billed as one of America’s largest free concert stages of the summer, this year’s musical lineup includes indie rocker Modest Mouse, the dance-punk band The Faint and alternative pop artist Twin Shadow.
Can’t make it to the Vans US Open of Surfing? Check out the live webcast.
And if you’re looking for more places to ride out the heat wave, check out the world’s best surf destinations. Plus, explore the world’s best stand-up paddleboarding spots, extreme beach adventures and some pretty cool extreme adventure sports – all sure to provide great summer memories.
Summer temperatures have sizzled into triple digits across large swaths of America’s West this season. Travelers would be wise to cool down at one of the region’s more spectacular attractions, Lake Powell, a shimmering, 186-mile-long behemoth that straddles the Arizona and Utah border. Technically a reservoir of the Colorado River,
Lake Powell is located within easy driving distance from some of the nation’s grandest and most popular parks, including the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon, and is a perfect respite for families that have just sweltered their way through national park trails and tours.
This man-made lake was created when part of the Colorado River was dammed, and a sweeping expanse of canyonland filled with water. The result? An otherworldly landscape of turquoise waters bordered by looming canyons crisscrossed with nooks and crannies begging to be explored by boat or kayak. Rocky buttes jut toward the sky both in the distance and above canyon walls. Watching sunset turn the colors of the canyons and buttes ablaze into fiery reds and oranges is one of the region’s more unforgettable experiences.
To best enjoy the lake’s scenery and activities, travelers should hightail it to the spectacularly situated Antelope Point Marina, a family-friendly destination born out of a unique partnership with the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service. Head to the marina to explore Lake Powell by boat tour, rent watercraft such as jet skis and kayaks, or take advantage of the pinnacle of all lake experiences: a houseboat rental.
Antelope Point Marina is teeming with houseboats — literally hundreds line the floating docks — some of which are privately owned, others which are for rent. For the uninitiated, houseboats here are no ordinary watercraft. These vessels are, without exaggeration, nicer than a good number of actual houses. Houseboats range in size from 59 feet to 75 feet and can sleep up to 12 people in as many as 6 bedrooms — perfect for multiple families vacationing together. These mega-boats are tricked out with flat-screen TV’s, indoor-outdoor living areas, kitchens, staterooms, covered decks, waterslides (!), gas barbecues and wet bars. Think that’s awesome? Some models even feature outdoor hot tubs.
Families can rent houseboats for a few days up to a week or more, which keeps them busy exploring Lake Powell’s beauty. Folks who only have a few hours to spend on the lake, can cool off at the marina’s
kid-friendly swimming area, arrange a boat or fishing tour, rent kayaks and ski boats, or hike down to nearby beaches along the lake’s clear, crisp waters (families take note: No lifeguards are present).
For the ultimate Lake Powell experience, book a helicopter tour over the lake via the Lake Powell Jet Center. Aerial views of Lake Powell offer the most breathtaking perspective of its expanse and stunning vistas. You’ll swoop past iconic Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, the dam that created the lake, and monstrous Tower Butte, where your chopper will actually land and you’ll be allowed to wander the butte’s top — absolutely the tour highlight.
Yellowstone’s busiest season is now in full swing, and if you’re among the thousands of travelers who plan to visit America’s first national park this July, first thing’s first: Bring a jacket. Yes, really, a jacket — in July. You’ll be grateful you did when winds up to 15 mph nip at your face and temperatures drop into the 40s at night. You may even see snow. (Keep current on Yellowstone’s weather here.)
Hard to believe, as scorching temperatures cripple other regions of the west, but Yellowstone is one place you do not want to explore without a jacket this month. I found out first-hand on a visit to the national park just a few weeks ago. From a chilly morning rain to a late-evening snowstorm, I experienced Yellowstone’s dramatic temperature drops all within the span of a few hours.
Once you’ve brought a coat (and a good pair of boots and sunscreen, too), you’ll be well on your way to exploring the park — here’s a taste of Yellowstone’s beauty in summer.
Roosevelt Arch: An elk rests by Yellowstone’s famous Roosevelt Arch — Teddy Roosevelt himself laid the cornerstone of the arch, located at the park’s north entrance. “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” reads its inscription. (All Photos: Lisa Singh)
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Geysers … bears … but just why is Yellowstone called “Yellowstone”? The park’s abundant yellow-colored rhyolite lavas provide the answer. You’ll see these rich colors at Yellowstone’s massive gorge, roughly 20 miles long.
Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin: Remember your jacket? These smart folks certainly did as they make their way down a walkway to view some of Yellowstone’s breathtaking geysers. Did you know Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration geysers in the world?
Rocky Mountain Fauna: It’s not just bears or American bison you may see at Yellowstone. Look up! This mountain goat, with some winter fur still left to shed, may be peering down at you from a mountain cliff. Just beware of Yellowstone’s deadly bears.
Fishing in Yellowstone: Don’t forget to get in some fishing. Pick up a Yellowstone fishing permit, and enjoy angling and fly-fishing in this massive 2 million-plus-acre wonderland, home to 13 native fish species … and plenty of trout.
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Thanks to its many rivers and abundance of livestock equipment, Nebraska has become a hot spot for the unlikely activity of “tanking.” Like a cross between Tilt-O-Whirl and bumper cars, but set on water, tanking involves retrofitting a large, round plastic livestock feeding tank with chairs and tables. Folks then pile in — most tanks can accommodate about 6 people –and enjoy a leisurely float down the river as they meander and turn with the current and take in the sights and sounds.
While Nebraska isn’t the only state that offers tanking trips — there are a handful of outfitters popping up in places like Iowa — it’s by far the most popular. And even though Nebraskans have been doing it for decades, tanking is still relatively unknown outside the Midwest, although that’s slowly starting to change.
Michael Suelter founded Get Tanked in Ericson, NE, in 1987, and claims to be the state’s first tanking outfitter. Today he has nearly 50 tanks, and offers 4-mile trips down the horseshoe-shaped Cedar River, which flows past sandhills and open woodlands thriving with wildlife.
In nearby Burwell, Bruce and Sue Ann Switzer of Calamus Outfitters offer 2- and 5-hour tanking trips down the Calamus River, which gently flows past rolling sandhills where you’re likely spot beavers, muskrats, herons and deer.
In addition to river tanking, Calamus Outfitters has accommodations for up to 65 people at 2 lodges and 4 cabins, along with horseback riding, canoeing and Jeep tours, although tanking remains one of their most popular activities, especially with families. “It’s not really for thrill seekers,” Sue Ann says. “You just relax and go with the flow.”
At the Sandhills Motel in Mullen, NE, Mitch and Patty Glidden offer tanking trips down the spring-fed Middle Loup River, which winds through a valley past lush green meadows and picturesque highlands.
“On a good Saturday we’ll put up to 200 people in the river,” says Mitch Glidden. “It’s really taking off.”
While most tanking outfitters are located in the remote sandhills area of western Nebraska, a few have popped up in the more densely populated eastern side of the state. Steve and Jill Evers enjoyed their tanking excursion so much they opened Tank Down the Elkhorn in Omaha in 2007, which offers a 7-mile trip. Steve says he and his wife both have a blast helping families float down the river, and it supplies supplemental income during the summer when things slow down at his taxidermy business.
And just recently, tanking has finally made its way out of the Midwest. Last year during a business trip, John Johnson came across a Nebraska flyer promoting river tanking. Always looking for new entrepreneurial opportunities, Johnson launched Foothills Outdoor Adventures. Based in Wilkesboro, NC — about 3 hours west of Raleigh — the outfitter offers tanking trips down the Yadkin River, which rises in the Blue Ridge Mountains and flows through the 1,475-acre W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.
“We’re the only one east of the Mississippi doing this,” Johnson says. “We’ve definitely hit on a really good niche market.”
- Sam Boykin
It’s time to get real — really, really real.
Nude Recreation Week kicks off this week, and with it so should your clothes. Just imagine letting it all go, and embracing your true, natural self. You’ll be living out loud Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” like never before … and joining a revered American tradition while you’re at it.
Bear with us …
Turns out, for the past 82 years, nude recreation has been celebrated nationwide by the premier, uh, outfit of its kind — the American Association for Nude Recreation, whose annual membership costs less than the price of a bathing suit. Thank AANR’s advocacy and its 35,000 members: The US is now home to more than 250 campgrounds, beaches and resorts nationwide for nude recreation, says AANR president Susan Weaver.
Goodbye, Tan Lines!
If all of this is a little new to you, relax: We’ve got you, um, covered, with a little advice from AANR prez Weaver herself. Her first tip: Check out AANR’s Nude Resort Locator — it lists all the nude recreation venues nationwide where you, in all your natural best, are welcome. Also be sure to check out TravelChannel’s roundup of best nude beaches. Plus, our scoop on Jamaica’s nude beaches and where to go au naturel in the Caribbean.
And once you show up, don’t be afraid to tell people you’re new.
“If you say it’s your first time, people are overwhelmingly cordial and put you at ease,” says Weaver, speaking to us from her home in Annandale, VA. Weaver, personally, loves all the resorts she’s been to – including her home club, Avalon Resort in West Virginia, as well as recent visits to Star Ranch Nudist Club in McDade, TX; Squaw Mountain Ranch, a family nudist campground in Estacada, OR; and DeAnza Springs Resort in Jacumba, CA.
“There are no end to places to visit and wonderful people to meet,” says Weaver.
Since the mid-1980s, Weaver has embraced the nude recreational lifestyle herself. “It’s such a joyous and freeing experience,” says Weaver. “You feel more one with nature … you don’t have to worry if your tan lines will be even … you can simply enjoy the sun, wind and water … and you won’t get sand in your bathing suit, which is most uncomfortable, we’d all agree.”
Americans Want to Get Naked
Turns out, some 53 million Americans agree. That was the finding of a recent survey conducted by MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm: Roughly 15% of the American population would spend their recreational dollars on nude leisurely fun like skinny dipping (an activity Weaver calls the “wave of the future”).
Doing the math here: That means that in an office of 100 people, about 15 of your coworkers would be game for a nude recreational outing. And lucky for you guys, the big one is coming up next Saturday.
World Record Skinny-Dip: Make History Next Saturday!
In 2009, history was made, when more than 13,500 nudists skinny dipped simultaneously at the same time – a feat captured by Guinness World Records. This year, AANR, and North America’s other premier association of its kind, the Naturist Society, will gather members to make history once again.
On Saturday, July 13, at 1 p.m. LNT (Local Nudist Time) nudists throughout North America will take the plunge in lakes, rivers, resorts and waters off beaches from coast to coast. Get all the World Record Skinny Dip details, then plan ahead.
Wherever you take the plunge, keep in mind these tips, says Weaver: Leave cameras at home, bring sunscreen (“we take skin safety very seriously,” she says), and be open to meeting new people.
And once you do: We want to hear from you – tell us your story below!
Can he do it? This coming Sunday, the world will find out as Nik Wallenda attempts his latest daredevil feat: a walk across the Grand Canyon while suspended a stomach-churning 1,500 feet — more than 4 football fields — above the Little Colorado River.
Wallenda is no stranger to mind-boggling stunts. A year ago, this seventh-generation American acrobat made headlines when he successfully walked across Niagara Falls — a total of 1,800 feet — becoming the first person to do so.
Now Wallenda has his eye on the Grand Canyon, without the tether he wore last year (something Wallenda reportedly wasn’t happy about wearing, but which he did in compliance with the Niagara Falls Commission’s stipulations). This go-round, Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk, on land owned by the Navajo Nation, will occur without a harness, before a live audience (10-second delay notwithstanding). Two wireless point-of-view cameras will also be affixed to Wallenda’s vest.
Don’t think you’d want to duplicate Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk? You can still score bragging rights with your own dramatic adventure. Take a South Rim mule ride through the Grand Canyon, but plan ahead — trips may be booked 13 months in advance. North Rim mule trips are offered from mid-May to mid-October.
If views of deep chasms and astonishingly old geologic formations spread across 1.2 million acres are all the drama you need, hike the Grand Canyon. Or enjoy the dazzling, dizzying view of the canyon from the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bridge walkway that offers a 4,000-foot-high view of the canyon’s floor. Come night, crash at one of the 10 best luxe hotels near the Grand Canyon.
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Over the last 2 months I’ve managed a couple of fun vacation runs — a variation of a mileage run that involves actually leaving the airport and exploring a city — to Moscow, Paris and Johannesburg. My trip to Moscow was a weeklong vacation, while my runs to Paris and Johannesburg were just extended weekends. A little crazy, I know, but the experiences and sights were well worth the expense and travel time. And besides, or perhaps most importantly, I earned a LOT of miles, ate caviar and saw elephants.
Total Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM): 29,043
Total Redeemable Miles (RDM): 58,086
Flying Time to/from Moscow: 23h 13m
Flying Time to/from Paris and Johannesburg: 37h 40m
This year, I’m hoping to earn 150,000 SkyMiles in order to book a round-trip business-class award ticket to Australia — a ticket that would normally cost approximately $16,000 (yes, you read right). I was inspired to book both of my recent “vacation runs” after I saw posts about cheap tickets on FlyerTalk. Another great site to follow is The Flight Deal, which gathers airfare deals that make the most of your miles and money.
When booking mileage runs, be sure to check your fare class. Some fare classes don’t earn miles or only earn a reduced number of miles. For my trips, I flew Delta T class and KLM/Air France R class, both of which earn full Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM). Both trips also had a low cost per mile (CPM), which is important for a great mileage run. Typically, you want the CPM to be under 5 cents per mile.
Moscow Cost per Mile: $0.0347
Johannesburg Cost per Mile: $0.0420
A mileage run is a trip solely for earning EQM, so oftentimes you never even leave the airport. But in this case, I turned them into vacations.
My trip to Moscow was the first time I used Global Entry, a Customs and Border Patrol program that expedites the immigration process when returning to America, which I was approved for the week before leaving for Russia. Thanks to this program, it literally takes less than 1 minute to clear customs. If you don’t have it, I recommend you apply since it also includes TSA Pre-Check, which gets you through security quicker and with fewer hassles.
Overall, Moscow is a beautiful city with many activities, but in my experience, it is also very expensive. I stayed at the Hotel National, where Lenin stayed while the Kremlin was under construction. It’s also a Starwood property, with which I have Gold elite status, and so I earned 8,852 SPG points thanks to my stay.
While in Moscow, I enjoyed the various sites such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral and a day trip outside the city to Troitse-Sergiev Monastery. If you find yourself in Moscow, be sure to explore the metro system — the various stations are truly beautiful, each with a different design. I also enjoyed proper meals, including a 10-course omakase meal at Nobu Moscow. Don’t worry, I also sampled iconic Russian cuisine such as caviar and borscht.
My trip to Johannesburg was a much shorter and farther excursion, with a 12-hour layover in Paris and about 37 hours in Johannesburg. With such a short amount of time in Paris, I made my way into the city and used a hop-on/hop-off tour bus to see the major sites before I returned to CDG and grabbed some food and Scotch whisky in the Air France Salon to await my flight to Johannesburg.
Once in Johannesburg, I took the Gautrain, Africa’s first rapid rail system, to the Radisson Blu Gautrain hotel, and shortly after, my guide arrived to take me on a tour of Joburg. I liked the sound of Cashan Private Day Tours, which offered custom city tours, and I was able to book a half-day tour with Penny Cashan. Our first stop — and most surprising and enjoyable element of the tour – was the Market on Main, which occurs every Sunday at the Arts on Main in the Maboneng Precinct, with great food and various art galleries. I had no idea that Joburg has such a thriving art community.
The next and last day in Joburg, I booked a 1-day safari with Felleng Tours to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. This turned out to be a great experience, since we were able to take the time to find 2 of the Big Five– the white rhino and the African elephant — along with many other amazing animals and sights. Fortunately, the daytime temperatures were low, so the animals weren’t hiding in the shade.
Back at O.R. Tambo Airport, I headed to the Air France Salon before deciding to check out other lounges in the airport thanks to my Priority Pass membership, which gives me access to lounges around the world where I do not have elite status. Properly hydrated and nourished, I headed to the gate to catch 2 flights home — just short of 22 hours with a connection in Amsterdam. Now I need to start thinking about my next mileage run.
Watch Mommy Points‘ tips to earn airline elite status.