Austin, Texas has many claims to fame. It’s the liberal hotbed of conservative Texas, the live music capitol of the world (or at least the country), and it’s proudly “weird”. It’s also been criticized for skyrocketing costs of living in recent years and an LA-like obsession with status and trendiness. Both the criticism and the most well-known characteristics, however, fail to touch on one of the things that makes Austin so attractive to residents and visitors alike: its natural beauty and the ample opportunities to enjoy it for little or no money.
McKinney Falls State Park sits on the southeast corner of the city and can be enjoyed every day for just $5 per person. The park offers shaded campgrounds for tents and RVs, as well as plenty of outdoor recreation for the day visitor. Biking and bouldering are among the most popular – and will burn the health conscious the most calories – but long walks and fishing can keep the laid back crowd in touch with Mother Nature.
As the name suggests, McKinney Falls State Park is also home to some photogenic scenery, including the upper and lower waterfalls. While small, the falls are beautiful and give kids a chance to get up close and personal with the rushing water as the rocks that form the falls can actually be traversed by foot. For over night trips like this one, you may want to consider staying at mountain lodges or cabins to capture the true experience instead of staying at hotels.
Austin’s weather makes McKinney and other local parks enjoyable all year long, but the extreme heat of the summer does call for safety precautions like ample water and shade breaks. The mild winters are perfect for throwing out a sweatshirt and getting out into the sunshine.
Photos: Britt Reints
Sunset at Sandia Peak
To the east of Albuquerque, New Mexico lie the beautiful Sandia Mountains, named for the watermelon color the rocks turn when bathed in the light of the setting sun. Hikers and rock climbers can work their muscles and their skills in these rocky hills, while the rest of us can take an easy ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway.
The tram, which takes visitors up and down the mountain side every 15-20 minutes, provides thrilling panoramic views of the landscape as it takes guest over 10,000 feet to an observation deckk at Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest. To put that in perspective, you can turn your electronic devices back on when your airplane reaches a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet.
Once at the top, the High Finance restaurant offers dinner with a view a few steps from the tram. The restaurant actually relies on the tramway to bring all of its supplies and employees up the mountain every day. A more casual meal can be enjoyed at Sandiago’s Mexican Grill located in the same building as the tram lobby at the bottom of the hill.
Rountrip tickets for the tram are $20 for adults, $17 for teens, and $12 for children. The tram runs 9am to 9pm during the summer and 9am to 8pm during the fall and winter months.
Travel Writers Getting Ready for Zip Lining in Florida!
Many people associate zip lining with tropical rain forests in foreign lands like Costa Rica. However, you don’t need a passport to go zipping through the tree tops high above the ground. There are several places in Florida that offer adventure travelers and wanna-be adventurers a chance to strap themselves to a metal wire and jump off a platform over alligator infested waters. Lucky you!
New zip courses are opening all the time at existing Florida attractions all over the Sunshine State. These three were among the first to bring the sport to Florida.
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Until recently, Mexico’s remote Copper Canyon was a destination that few travelers had ever heard of and even fewer had visited. But since the book “Born to Run” hit the NY Times best selling book list, all that has changed. The book was the result of author Chris McDougall’s quest to answer the question, “Why does my foot hurt?” Like most runners, McDougall had suffered multiple running related injuries and eventually doctors began advising him to take up an alternate sport. Unwilling to give up running, he sought a solution from indigenous Taraumara Indians, the world’s greatest endurance runners.
Tarahumara women wait in line in Guappalayna
Because the book discusses the towns of Urique and Batopilas fairly extensively, visitors now arrive expecting to see Tarahumara men walking the streets in their skimpy loincloths and capes and women wrapped in yards and yards of multicolored fabric. But these indigenous residents of Copper Canyon remain as reclusive as Read More »