5 Things to do in… Orlando, Florida

Colorful cottages at Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee, FL.

When someone says they’re traveling to Orlando, the most likely assumption would be that the trip is to visit the theme-park laden city in Central Florida to enjoy all those attractions. And, that may well be the case, especially now that Disney World has reopened after COVID-19 restrictions temporarily closed the popular Florida attraction. But for those who want to experience a theme-park free, and socially distanced, trip to sunny Orlando, we’ve got five things to check out. To plan your adventure, visit wildfloridaairboats.com.

  1. If you want to feel like you’re on safari in the wilds of Africa, consider a trip through the Wild Florida Drive-Thru Safari Park in nearby Kenansville. Enjoy the show from the comfort of your own car as you drive a two-mile path through the 85-acre park that is home to exotic animals like zebra, giraffes, oryx, and Watusi cattle.
  1. What better way to enjoy the outdoors than surrounded by beautiful blooms of roses, camelias, azaleas, and a crazy variety of tropical plants? Set over 50 acres, the Harry P. Leu Gardens has over 10 individual gardens including a Butterfly Garden, a Rose Garden, a Tropical Stream Garden, and the Idea Garden, which contains 10 different garden designs within the garden. Don’t miss the Garden’s collection of camellias which is the largest documented camellia collection in Eastern North America. Visit leugardens.org for more information.
Orlando is home to many floral and butterfly varieties within the Harry P. Leu Gardens.
  1. If your trips are all about Instagram, you might like the slightly quirky, yet super trendy attraction called the Wall Crawl.  It’s not a museum or a historic site, but your photos may go down in history. Basically, it’s an installation of 20 walls with a variety of backdrops and vignettes that change seasonally and are there for the pure purpose of taking Instagram shots. There are holiday settings, beachy scenes, pop art, and other whimsical backdrops. And while it is an indoor shoot, COVID-19 protocols are in place and reservations are required. Check out wallcrawl.com for all the deets.
  1. Bike the West Orange Trail, a 22-mile paved rail-trail that runs through several towns, The Oakland Nature Preserve, and the Tilden Outpost, which includes a lovely butterfly garden. There are promises of wildlife glimpses, historic buildings, and plenty of Florida sunshine and fresh air. For specifics about the trail, visit bikeorlando.net/west-orange-trail.
An Airboat ride down Shingle Creek in Kissimmee, FL.
  1. You don’t need the theme parks to find thrill rides in the Orlando area. We’ve got a few unique, and certainly thrilling, ways to discover Orlando. Consider an off-road adventure aboard an ATV or an amphibious Mucky Duck as you explore acres and acres of countryside (revolutionoffroad.com) or take to the skies in a hot air balloon ride and view Florida from above on an approximate 45-60 minute ride (orlandoballoonrides.com). Tour the swamps and see the gators on an airboat ride (spiritoftheswamp.com) or get up close and personal with the trees in a soaring day of fun at the Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park in Kissimmee (orlandotreetrek.com). 
Cottage at Orlando RV Resort in Clermont, FL

Consider a colorful cottage rental at Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee for your home base. The roomy cottages have kitchens with amenities that include refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, and coffee makers. Orlando RV Resort in Clermont also has cottage rentals which make great accommodations for your Orlando adventures.

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Smile for the Holidays

This may be the year that you see an influx of holiday cards, specifically the photo kind, because the friends and family you may see regularly throughout the year, may not have seen you in at least six months! #2020 Those cards will bring a smile to many faces, so make sure that your photo is spectacular. Check out these photo-worthy spots for Holiday 2020 cards!

Leavenworth Tiny House Village in Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth, Washington: While just about everywhere in Leavenworth is worthy of a photo, the opportunity to pose with a real live reindeer just may be the key here. Head to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm for a holiday pic that will let your friends and family see who the holiday VIPS are! For details check out leavenworthreindeer.com. Another option is to have a traditional holiday character front and center in your photo – Karl, the mascot of Leavenworth’s Nutcracker Museum, stands ready and waiting for any and all photo ops (nutcrackermuseum.com). And sadly, while the annual Christmas Lighting Festival has been cancelled for this year, Leavenworth will still shine. The plans for the installation of more than 50,000 sparkling lights are still a go and what a backdrop for any holiday photo they will make!

Book a tiny house at the Leavenworth Tiny House Village while you create your 2020 holiday masterpiece.

Tiny House Otto at Leavenworth Tiny House Village in Leavenworth, WA

Santa Barbara, California: Let the Chromatic Gate provide the perfect frame for your holiday photo. Take a trip to the city’s Cabrillo Park and this multi-colored art installation by famed artist Herbert Bayer sets up the shot perfectly. Or, wish everyone luck in the new year with a photo of the gang (or just a selfie!) outside the Lucky Penny restaurant – the exterior wall is literally thousands of pennies! While you’re here, enjoy a slice of pizza! One last option that may bring on the figgy pudding comments – check out what is believed to be the largest fig tree in the U.S. The Moreton Bay Fig Tree, located at Chapala and Montecito Streets, has a circumference of 486 inches and is believed to have been planted over 140 years ago.

Prep for your photo ops while staying in one of our unique rentals at Rancho Oso.

Cathedral Rock near Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona: After a crazy year like 2020, you may want to convey healing vibes to friends and family in your holiday message. Choose one of the spectacular rock formations like Bell Rock or Cathedral Rock in Sedona’s Red Rock State Park to send season’s greeting with a healthy dose of good vibrations from these vortexes. Have your pic taken while on horseback and sign up for one of the scenic rides from Wild Western Horseback Adventures (wildwesternhorseback.com) that takes you through the Verde Valley itself. How about an ancient pueblo in the background of your photo? Explore the ruins of a Sinagua pueblo at Tuzigoot National Monument which is part of the National Park Service.

Tuzigoot National Monument near Verde Valley in Cottonwood, AZ.

Relax and recharge while staying in a cozy cabin or tiny house at Verde Valley.

Florida Keys: Send warm wishes of the Florida kind and take a pic with Key West’s iconic landmark, the Southernmost Point Buoy. Add a palm tree to the shot by heading to Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key or send your “deer-est” wishes by snapping some pics while visiting the National Key Deer Refuge National Center, also located on Big Pine Key. As always, the beaches of the Keys are great for building snowmen of the sand variety to appear in your shot and who can’t resist a beautiful sunset or brightly colored tiny house as a backdrop?

Rent a colorful tiny home from Sunshine Key Tiny House Village or a colorful cottage at Fiesta Key while you explore the Keys for the best holiday photo shoot!

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5 Things to Do in… Lancaster County and Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Cool weather walks and hikes, delicious apple and pumpkin treats, wildlife, different cultures and simple fall adventures can be found in and around Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Here are just five ideas for exploring this pretty part of Pennsylvania.

The Pinetown Covered Bridge spans Conestoga Creek in Lancaster County, PA.
  1. Explore Covered Bridges: A perfect way to enjoy the fall colors and stay socially distanced is to explore the more than 25 covered bridges in Lancaster County. There are so many to see from the oldest (Neff’s Mill Bridge, built in 1824 and reconstructed in 1875) to the newest (Willow Hill Covered Bridge built in 1962). Most photogenic? We’ll let you decide. Visit discoverlancaster.com/things-to-do/covered-bridges to download a list of the bridges and driving tour routes.
The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge over the Susquehanna River in Lancaster, PA.
  1. Fall Foliage Views: There are plenty of ways to experience the fall foliage in Lancaster County from hiking to biking and even aboard a train. The Strasburg Rail Road (strasburgrailroad.com), America’s oldest operating railroad, will take you on a 45-minute trip through the beautiful rolling countryside (Note: advance reservations and masks are required). Hikers and bikers should check out the Conewago Recreation Trail which has a 5-mile trail ideal for hiking and biking that runs along the old Cornwall-Lebanon railroad corridor. Another great outdoor experience is the Garden of Five Senses in Lancaster County’s Central Park. Designed to appeal to all five senses, you can smell the flowers, hear the birds, and see the beauty of autumn and this lovely garden.
  1. Visit a Wolf Sanctuary: Learn about The Wolves of Speedwell at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA in Lititz, an 80-plus acre refuge for gray wolves and wolf-dogs. The wolves can be viewed in the natural wooded habitat during an outside tour on walking trails. During COVID-19, tours are available by reservation only so please visit the Sanctuary’s website to make reservations (wolfsanctuarypa.org).
  1. Experience the Amish Culture: The Amish settlement in Lancaster County is the second largest in the U.S. While the Amish are “plain” (so named because they choose a modest lifestyle) and private people, their lifestyle can be glimpsed in many ways here. Take an Amish Buggy Ride through the countryside (amishbuggyrides.com), enjoy an Amish meal in the home of an Amish family (there are several but since they don’t have websites, google “Amish family meal in Lancaster” and you’ll get plenty of hits), or visit The Amish Village (amishvillage.com) for an up close look at the Amish culture.
Pumpkin wagon in Lancaster, PA.
  1. Pumpkins, Mazes, and Haunted Happenings: Another great outdoor activity is to visit the many pumpkin patches and corn mazes in the area. Country Barn Farm hosts Fall Harvest Days through October with plenty of pumpkin fun including pig races and a pumpkin patch. Explore the corn maze at Oregon Dairy in Lititz along with other fall fun like tractor rides, a corn launcher and all kinds of food. How about a Haunted Hayride? Check out Jason’s Woods (jasonswoods.com) for some spooky fun.
Cabins and yurts at Circle M in Lancaster, PA.

https://www.rvonthego.com/pennsylvania/hershey-rv-camping-resort/To be in perfect proximity to all this autumn fun, book a reservation with us at the Circle M, Hershey, PA Dutch, or Spring Gulch resorts, and choose between a cozy cabin, cottage, or yurt. Visit petiteretreats.com for more details on the resorts or to make reservations.

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Going “Abroad” Stateside

The charming Danish-themed city of Solvang, CA

Big summer vacations are looking a little different this year. Summer has typically been the time when big trips to Europe and other countries are planned, thanks in part to long school vacations and cooperating weather. Graduates head off for one last trip before starting the 9-5 grind and many honeymooners make plans for a trip abroad after a June wedding, which is a popular month for marriages.

However, for most of us, trips abroad are definitely off the table this summer but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the different cultures offered in a trip to a foreign country. We found a few places right here in the US that will provide you the opportunity to enjoy a bit of Europe while never leaving the country!

Solvang, California:

The solvangusa.com website describes this California town as “A little slice of Denmark in Southern California.” Solvang, which means “sunny field” in Danish, was founded by three Danish immigrants in 1911, after purchasing 9000 acres of land in the Santa Ynez Valley. The town features Danish-style architecture, four wooden windmills and even has a replica of Copenhagen’s famed The Little Mermaid statue. The Elverhoj Museum of History and Art is a great place to learn the history of the town. Visit one of the authentic Danish bakeries and sample some aebleskiver, a sweet Danish pastry akin to a doughnut hole. Plan to stay at Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort, which is about 45 minutes from Solvang, and book one of our unique accomodations choosing from cabins, cottages, a tipi, or covered wagon.

St. Augustine, Florida:

St. Augustine, Florida at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.

Not only is historic St. Augustine the oldest city in America, dating to the mid-1500s, but it might also give you the feeling that you’re in Spain. Founded by a Spanish expedition, the Spanish influence on the town remains with the town’s grand plaza, the narrow streets and the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the US. Don’t miss Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, a 15-acre waterfront park on the site where it is said the city was orignally founded. Make sure you sample some Minorcan Clam Chowder while here – it’s a specialty of St. Augustine featuring the datil chile pepper said to have been brought over from Minorca, an island off Spain. Book a stay at a colorful cottage at Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee and you’re just 2 hours from historic St. Augustine.

Cottages at Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee, FL 

West, Texas:

Plan a cozy cabin stay at at Bay Landing RV Campground in Bridgeport, Texas, and then plan a day to drive the “Kolache Trail.” The what, you say? The Kolache Trail is actually quite long, stretching from West, Texas, which is about an hour and a half from the campground to Shulenberg, which is a good four and a half hours away. The trail hits some of the best Czech bakeries that serve up these tasty pastries with all kinds of fillings – poppyseed, apricot, prune, and more. If you don’t want to make the whole drive, definitely plan a day trip to West, Texas, which is recognized as the Czech Heritage Capital of Texas. There are plenty of bakeries, restaurants, and shops that pay homage to the Czech heritage here.

New Glarus, Wisconsin:

Cabin at Yukon Trails RV & Camping Resort just 90 minutes from New Glarus, WI.

In 1845, representatives of the Emigration Society of Canton Glarus, Switzerland, were to sent to find land in America’s midwest. The result of their efforts was an  establishment on more than 1200 acres of land in Wisconsin’s Green County, which became “New Glarus.” More Swiss settlers followed and the communtiy remains today true to its Swiss heritage.  Swiss-style architecture set among the rolling hills of the area will have you feeling you’re really in the Alps. Specialty shops, a brewery, and eateries serving authentic Swiss cuisine add to the charm of this little town. Nearby New Glarus Woods State Park is great for biking and hiking. Spend the day in New Glarus and then spend the night at Yukon Trails RV & Camping Resort, in Lyndon Station, which is approximately 75 miles away.

5 Things to Do in… Leavenworth, Washington

Tiny Houses at Leavenworth Tiny House Village in Leavenworth, WA

Even if you choose to do nothing in this quaint little Bavarian-styled village in western Washington, you would still have an enjoyable time. The scenery, with the snowcapped mountains as the backdrop, highlighted by the Bavarian architecture is a visual vacation in itself. However, there are plenty of fun, exciting, and unique things to do here.

Pavilion in town square Leavenworth, Washington
  1. Golfing with Goats: Watch out for Snowball and Hansi, the resident goats at the Enzian Falls Golf Course. This gorgeous 18-hole course, which features beautiful mountain views, a waterfall, and the aforementioned friendly mountain goats, is fun for the whole family.  
  1. Eat: OK, so we realize everyone’s gotta get their three squares a day, but we’re talking about experiencing Leavenworth’s unique offerings one little bite at a time. Stop by the Gingerbread Factory for some delicious gingerbread cookies, plus all the other great cookies made here like gingersnaps and snickerdoodles. A visit to the Leavenworth Sausage Garten will be the wurst experience in a good way when you try the bockwurst, currywurst, bratwurst, and kielbasa, and don’t forget to toss in a side of German potato salad. If you still have room, try a Bavarian pretzel from Munchen Haus.
Traditional Bavarian cuisine featuring bratwurst and pretzels.
  1. Stroll an Organic Garden: The Organic Garden at Sleeping Lady is a two-acre garden planted with herbs, produce, and flowers. Visitors can glimpse wildlife, including hummingbirds and finches, and enjoy the scenery from the beautiful gazebo. 
  1. Walk the Wine Trail: Leavenworth’s local wine trail is unique in the fact that you don’t have to worry about driving while sampling since they are all conveniently located in town and walkable! More than 20 tasting rooms can be found in downtown Leavenworth.
  1. Enjoy the Outdoors: Leavenworth as a vacation destination really appeals to the outdoor lover. There is hiking, biking, mountain biking, white water rafting, and fishing, to start. Waterfront Park has a beautiful trail that runs along the Wenatchee River, which is a great spot for rafting. You can zipline, river tube, horseback ride, climb, and paddleboard in the great outdoors of Leavenworth.
Scenic views from the town of Leavenworth at night.

While exploring all that Leavenworth has to offer, don’t miss your chance to stay at the Leavenworth Tiny House Village. With five adorably named and decorated tiny homes, your Leavenworth experience is sure to feel complete with an accommodation like this.

The Thrill of It

Hiking trail at Red Rock State Park in Sedona, Arizona.

Are you a thrill-seeker? Are you always challenging yourself to try something new? Do you love the adrenaline rush and the sense of accomplishment after you’ve done something your friends or family say you were crazy to try?

Well you’re not crazy – and, according to some studies, you’re possibly managing life better than your more sedate friends. Tackling your fear of these thrilling sports can provide you with coping mechanisms that you can use in other parts of your life. Another benefit is the boost to your self-confidence. You did it! Hooray for you! Who doesn’t feel good about themselves after accomplishing these feats?

Cabins at Yosemite Lakes RV Campground in Groveland, CA

If you’re ready to get your thrill on, consider these sports:

  1. Whitewater Rafting: Book a stay at one of the cool yurts at Yosemite Lakes RV Campground in Groveland and ride the whitewaters of the Tuolumne River, which is considered one of the best rivers for such an adventure. Plenty of outfitters are waiting to help you tackle the Class III rapids of the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, Washington. Visit www.leavenworth.org to find the one that fits your idea of thrills. Plan to stay with us at Leavenworth Tiny House Village in your own tiny house where you can relax after a thrilling day on the water!
Yurt at Yosemite Lakes RV Campground in Groveland, CA
  • Rock Climbing: If you’re heading to Maine, check out rock climbing at Maine’s Acadia National Park which offers all kinds of climbing options through the Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School. Solo efforts can range from four to seven-hour jaunts, plus there are family climbs and evening climbs. Make a reservation at our nearby locations, Narrows Too (cabin and cottage options) or Mt. Desert Narrows (cabin accommodations) to be where the climbing action is. 
Cabins at Narrows Too in Trenton, ME
  • Zip-lining: Want to soar across the treetops of the amazing Adirondack forest? Book a comfy cabin at Lake George Escape and then find the zip-line adventure for you. There are plenty here including Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course or the Adirondack Adventure Center. Crazy views of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula as you fly over towering pine trees are what’s in store when you zip-line in this Wisconsin wonderland. Book a cabin at Tranquil Timbers and plan your adventure. Check out Door County Adventure Center or Lakeshore Adventures for their zip-lining courses.
Inside a yurt at Tranquil Timbers in Sturgeon Bay, WI
  • Snorkeling: No better place to dive deep than the Florida Keys. Reserve a colorful cottage at Fiesta Key or a super cool tiny home at Sunshine Key and explore the underwater kingdom of The Keys. The warm shallow waters off the Dry Tortugas are said to be best for snorkelers of all ages while John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the US, is great for viewing the various coral species, plus turtles, parrot fish and butterfly fish.
Colorful cottages at Fiesta Key in Long Key, FL
  • Ultimate Hiking: While hiking is a great activity for both body and spirit, the thrill on these hikes is the view. These are ultimate when it comes to the unparalleled beauty of nature (not to mention majorly Instagram-worthy photo ops).

Fay Canyon, Arizona: An easy 2.4-mile trail in the scenic Fay Canyon of Sedona’s Red Rock State Park. Rent a tiny home at Verde Valley and hike the park everyday for a different point of view.

Joshua Tree National Park, California: All levels of hiking trails are available here and most come with views of the Park’s namesake, the Joshua Tree. Find Heart Rock within the Park and you’re guaranteed an insta-shot you will love! A cottage accommodation at Palm Springs is the perfect companion to this hiking trek.

Atticus the Tiny House at Mt. Hood Tiny House Village in Welches, OR

Mirror Lake Loop Trail, Oregon: The Mt. Hood area of Oregon is full of opportunities for great hikes and great pics. One of the most popular, and amazing, is the view of Mt. Hood from the Mirror Lake Trail, a 3.7-mile loop. A tiny house at the Mt. Hood Tiny House Village is perfect for the after-trail relax.

5 Things to Do In… Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Area

Maymont Gardens in Richmond, VA

There’s a reason Virginia tourism still uses “Virginia is For Lovers” to entice visitors to the state. The slogan, which was first introduced in 1969, remains true today. What’s not to love about Virginia? It’s full of history, has produced more US presidents than any other state (eight, in fact), is known for its oysters, and other culinary delights such as blue crabs and Virginia ham, and offers all kinds of outdoor adventures from hiking to water sports. And one spot you will absolutely love is the Chesapeake Bay area.

Cottage at Bethpage Camp-Resort in Urbanna, VA

The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary between Maryland and Virginia. And the point where the Bay meets the Rappahannock River is known as the Virginia River Realm, a magical mix of shoreline, charming towns and one-of-a-kind experiences. Lucky for you, we have three great locations where you can settle in while exploring here. Bethpage Camp-Resort, in Urbanna, Greys Point Camp in Topping, and Chesapeake Bay RV Campground in Gloucester. Each of these locations has a number of cottages and cabins for you to make your home base while you explore the area. The towns of Topping and Urbanna are part of the River Realm and Gloucester is a charming town with roots dating back to Colonial Virginia.

Here are five ways to get to know the area:

  1. Day Trip to Richmond: About an hour west is Virginia’s capital city of Richmond, which offers a little bit of fun for everyone. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is 50 acres of amazing outdoor gardens (opens to the public July 16). Themed gardens include a Children’s Garden, Cherry Tree Walk, and the Rose Garden. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission and exhibits from around the world. Another option for an outdoor experience is Maymont, a Victorian estate with public parklands. While some of the exhibits are currently closed, the 100-acre estate offers plenty of outdoor parkland and gardens to explore. 
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Richmond, VA
  1. Belle Isle State Park: Open from dawn to dusk, Belle Isle offers all kinds of outdoor activity from bird and wildlife viewing to hiking, biking, kayaking, and canoeing. The great thing is they offer rentals for canoes, kayaks, and bikes so you can travel lightly there and back.
  1. Virginia Oyster Trail: You absolutely cannot visit this part of Virginia without getting up close and personal with the bivalve that Virginia is famous for! The Virginia Oyster Trail (virginiaoystertrail.com) is a mix of oyster-focused sites that provides insight to the world of Virginia oysters.
Cottages at Greys Point Camp in Topping, VA
  1. Presidential Birthplaces: George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, in 1732. The George Washington Birthplace National Monument is a national park where visitors can see a replica of Washington’s childhood home as well as a living colonial farm with historians to explain life as it was during Washington’s childhood. The James Monroe Birthplace Park and Museum honors our fifth president, James Monroe, who was born in Westmoreland County on April 28, 1758. Visitors can see the area where Monroe lived from birth until he left for college (College of William and Mary). A replica of the home is currently under construction, but the Visitors Center is open on Saturdays and Sundays and offers some history and artifacts.
Cabins at Chesapeake Bay RV Campground Gloucester, VA
  1. Deltaville: Known as the “Boating Capital of the Chesapeake Bay”, Deltaville is a delightful coastal town with shops, a maritime museum, and great places to eat crab cakes and oysters along the water. Consider booking a day sail, sunset cruise, or a fishing charter out of Deltaville.

Explore the Flora

Tiny Houses from Tuxbury Tiny House Village in MA
Tiny Houses from Tuxbury Tiny House Village in MA

June blooms are all around, so we thought we’d highlight some of the indigenous floras around our country (some are always in bloom and some are seasonal, so plan accordingly).

Texas Bluebonnets: This pretty, little blue flower, so named because its petals resemble a sunbonnet, can be found in full bloom across Texas in the spring. In fact, the town of Burnet (outside Austin) is considered the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas and celebrates each year with a festival. Fredericksburg is also a great spot to see the bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers in their full spring glory via the Willow City Loop trail.

Best time to see: March through mid-April.

Where to stay: Spend the night in a cozy cabin at Medina Lake to round out your Bluebonnet trip.

California Golden Poppies

California Poppies: The state’s official flower since 1903, the California Poppy, or Golden Poppy, is native to California. The Native Americans who lived in the area found the flower a great source for both food and cooking oil. While poppies can be found throughout the state, the best place to see them is the Antelope Valley California Poppy State Natural Reserve near Lancaster. The Reserve has the most consistent blooms of the poppy. P.S. – Harry and Meghan fans may find it interesting that the Duchess of Sussex honored her California roots and had the poppy embroidered into her wedding veil, as well as made a part of her official coat of arms.

Best time to see poppies: Mid-March to mid-May.

Where to stay: Call it a night in a cozy cabin at Soledad Canyon.

Florida Mangroves: This Florida native does so much for so many – from providing shelter to Florida’s animal kingdom to playing an important role in the overall health of the coastal ecosystem. Four types of mangroves can be found in southern Florida and those are the red mangrove, black mangrove, white mangrove, and the buttonwood. Guided tours through mangrove tunnels are available in the Everglades as well as the Keys and several hiking opportunities are available too. For hiking options, check out floridahikes.com/mangroves.

Where to stay: Vacation tiny at the Sunshine Key Tiny House Village, or opt for a more woodsy accommodation with a cabin at Miami Everglades.

Spanish Moss

South Carolina Spanish Moss:  When you picture the South, don’t most of those visions include trees draped with Spanish Moss? Which then begs the question, just what is Spanish Moss? It is not a tree or moss at all, but instead a plant from the bromeliad family that uses the trees they drape for support but not at all for nutrients. Those come instead from the moisture in the air and rainwater running down the tree’s bark, among other things. The Low Country of South Carolina is a great place to see an abundance of Spanish Moss.

Sedona’s Prickly Pear: One of the most famous cacti native to the southwest is the saguaro, but when it comes to Sedona, Arizona, the popular cacti here is the prickly pear (fun fact: Red Rock country’s elevation is too high for the saguaro). Squat and low to the ground, unlike the taller saguaro, the prickly pear cactus can be identified by its flat pads. And, the fruit of the prickly pear can be eaten raw but is most delicious when made into a wine or syrup.

Where to stay: Check into a cozy cabin or tiny house at Verde Valley, and while you’re there, head to Alcantara Winery, which is conveniently located right next to Verde Valley.

Five Things to Do In… Bend, Oregon

Yurts at Bend-Sunriver in Bend, Oregon.

According to an article in The Oregonian, Bend ranked 4th in the US as a vacation rental hotspot, based on a 2019 survey. The top three spots went to Florida locations. So, what makes Bend, a small city in Central Oregon, rank fourth on a list headed by some real hot spots? We’ve come up with just five reasons, but there are plenty more to be there now when it comes to Bend.

  1. Spelunking and Caving: First off, spelunking is just a fancy word for exploring caves, of which the area has plenty. There are said to be 400 lava tubes in the area and Wanderlust Tours (wanderlusttours.com) offers a great way to see the ones that are accessible. You can also choose to explore on your own – check out Hidden Forest Cave, Boyd Cave, or Redmond Caves, which has five different lava tubes to explore.
  2. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint: For more lava fun, head to Pilot Butte, which is actually the lava dome of an extinct volcano, rising 500 feet above the surrounding plains. A nice little trail provides access to the dome, which offers an amazing panoramic view of the snow-capped Cascades.
  3. Tumalo Falls: From June to October, the 90+-foot waterfall is the star of the show in Deschutes National Forest. Hike a seven mile loop trail and you’ll find the viewing platform, which provides the perfect spot for great photo ops. (Do it for the ‘gram.) Further up the trail, Middle Tumalo Falls, a two-tiered cascade is pretty spectacular, as well.
  4. Floating on the Deschutes River: The Deschutes River can easily be considered the biggest playground in Bend from May to September. On any given day, you’ll find kayakers, tubers, paddlers and floaters enjoying the scenery along the river. Floating is just one way to explore and enjoy the Deschutes. Check out visitbend.com to see how you can all float on!

    Floating on the Deschutes River.
  5. Bend Ale Trail: Is the Pacific Northwest really the birthplace of craft breweries? Maybe, maybe not, but one way to find out the history and enjoy the results of the craft beer craze is the Bend Ale Trail. There are several ways to explore the trail including by bike, trolley and tour bus. Choose one, drink responsibly, and say cheers to the innovation of Bend’s craft brewers. You’ll soon discover why Bend has been referred to as “Beer Town USA” and “Beervana.”

    Enjoy Craft Beer in “Beer Town USA.”

While exploring the natural beauty of Bend and eating or drinking your way through their exciting culinary and craft brewery scene, relax a bit in one of our yurts or cabins at Bend-Sunriver. It’ll make your visit even more photoworthy!

Cabins at Bend-Sunriver in Bend, Oregon.

Five Things to Do In……Houston/Lake Conroe, Texas

Glamping views in Lake Conroe • Willis, TX

A winter getaway to Texas will provide much in the way of cultural diversity, rich history, great food and music and, of course, moderate weather (average daytime highs are around 65 degrees in winter). There’s also plenty of great fishing and hiking in the area. We’ve highlighted five great things to do if find yourself Texas-bound!

  1. Space Center Houston: Housing more than 400 space artifacts, Space Center Houston is one of the city’s top attractions, welcoming close to 1 million visitors annually. It has the world’s largest collection of moon rocks and lunar samples, as well as space capsules, lunar modules and robonauts, which are humanoid robots, one of which currently serves aboard the International Space Station.
  2. Cockerell Butterfly Center: With more than 100 species of exotic butterflies and insects making their home here, this is a must-do for nature lovers. Also, the Center houses the Rainforest Conservatory, a three-story glass structure that acts as a simulated rainforest and has plenty of butterflies alighting on the exotic plants here. Don’t miss the 50-foot waterfall!
  3. Lone Star Monument & Historical Flag Park: Displaying 13 flags that flew during the history of the great state of Texas, this beautiful 3.5-acre park is worth the trip. Located in Conroe, visitors can also see The Texian, a 14-foot bronze sculpture by Conroe artist Craig Campobella, that depicts a soldier of the Texas Revolution.
  4. Distilleries, vineyards, and breweries: Starting with distilleries, you can find more than 10 dotting the countryside between Conroe and Houston where can sip spirits including vodka, whiskey, and rum. Check out distillerytrail.com to see locations in the area, as well as all across Texas. Blue Epiphany Vineyards (blue-ephiphany.com) in Conroe has a tasting room as well as a schedule of special events while Wild Stallion Vineyards (wildstallionvineyards.com) in nearby Spring offers a tasting room and an upcoming spring concert series. Beer lovers will appreciate the craft brewers in the area which include B52 Brewing, set on seven wooded acres complete with a tap room and beer garden, and Southern Star Brewing Company, which offers tours and has plenty of events including Trivia and Tacos Thursdays and live music and food trucks on Fridays.
  5. Fernland Historical Park and Museum and Memory Garden: Located in Montgomery, Texas, Fernland has several historic homes that have been relocated to provide a hands-on educational opportunity for visitors. The homes depict life in early Texas and are examples of early Texas architecture. All the homes date to the 1800s and range from rustic cabins to a Greek-revival home build in 1845.

Cozy cabins • Lake Conroe • Willis, TX

While exploring all the Houston and Lake Conroe areas have to offer, make a cozy cabin at Lake Conroe your homebase, where you can also relax by the pool and take in views of the lake from your deck.