Green City Getaways

With April having two dates that recognize the importance of taking care of our Earth (Earth Day and Arbor Day), it makes sense to plan a trip to visit a Green City this month (or in the future).

Cherry tree blossoms on the waterfront in Portland, OR.

According to treehugger.com, there are several things to take into consideration in determining how “green” a city is. Those include efficient public transportation, quality public space, plentiful parks, and the availability of bike lanes as well as composting and recycling programs. One other interesting item is whether a city offers “good green fun,” which means farmer’s markets, plenty of organic fare served up in the local eating and drinking establishments and music festivals and outdoor events that feature solar-powered stages and valet parking for bicycles. There are several more “green definers” and combined that’s a lot for a city to tackle, yet slowly but surely, more and more of our urban areas around the country are hitting the mark when it comes to being green. Additionally, there are many different groups providing different rankings for these cities, but some consistently make the grade across the board.

  1. San Diego, California: San Diego’s nickname is “America’s Finest City”, but it can also boast being one of America’s greenest cities. San Diego is home to Balboa Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. Other green things about this southern California city include dozens of weekly farmer’s markets, a major “Farm to Fork” movement in the dining industry, a variety of public transportation including trolleys, shuttles, and pedi-cabs, and plenty of opportunities for green fun including kayaking, mountain biking, and surfing.

Book a cabin or cottage stay at Pio Pico or Oakzanita Springs for a San Diego Green Getaway.

Tiny House Savannah at Mt. Hood Tiny House Village in Welches, OR.
  1. Portland, Oregon: With over 90,000 acres of green space and a top-notch biking/walking trail system, Portland is definitely eco-friendly. In fact, they have the highest rate of workers biking to the office than any other U.S. city. They were also one of the first cities to ban the use of plastic bags. For green space, visitors and residents alike need to look no further than the city’s Forest Park, a 5200-acre urban forest, featuring hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, and plenty of greenery!

Book a stay at the Mt. Hood Tiny House Village for a Portland Green Getaway.

Cozy cabin Yukon Trails in Lyndon Station, WI.
  1. Madison, Wisconsin: Did you know that the man behind Earth Day was from Wisconsin? Gaylord Nelson, who served as both governor and senator of the state was not only a politician, but also an avid environmentalist, calling upon the citizens of America to bring awareness to problems with the environment. So naturally, it makes sense that Madison would be a green city – it’s in the genes! Madison consistently ranks as a green city thanks to its abundance of green space – from plenty of city parks to acres of lakes and miles of biking and hiking trails. Madison is home to more bikes than cars and the city is very walkable. The city has more farmer’s markets than you can shake a cucumber at, and in fact, Saturday on the Square, an event that features more than 250 vendors, is a popular destination for visitors and Mad-Town residents like.

Book a cabin stay at Yukon Trails for a Madison Green Getaway.

Lake Eola Park in Orlando, FL.
  1. Orlando, Florida: While green space is not as abundant as in some of the other green cities, Orlando makes the green grade thanks to its continued efforts and eye to the future when it comes to being, and staying, green. With goals like a 40% city-wide tree canopy coverage by 2040, the One Person One Tree initiative to help expand the urban forest, and a host of programs to protect the ecosystems found here, Orlando is definitely putting a green foot forward. And to clarify, they have plenty of green space to the tune of more than 100 parks, plus plenty of lakes and wetlands.
Colorful cottage stay at Tropical Palms in Kissimmee, FL.

Book a colorful cottage stay at Tropical Palms for an Orlando Green Getaway.

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A Sunny Southern Cali Kind of Stay

A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.
A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.

Make your winter months as sunny as possible and head to southern California to explore the area. Daytime temperatures tend to hover around 68 degrees and the sun is out more than it’s not! There are places to make a home base while you visit the known and lesser known attractions in the Golden State.

Los Angeles: First, book a stay in a cozy cabin at Soledad Canyon and then get ready to check out the area that draws more than 48 million visitors each year.

Of course, many people flock to LA to see the stars of the human variety rather than the celestial kind. You may want to combine a hike in Runyon Canyon with your star-search efforts as this a is favorite spot for the exercise-minded celebrity. Another spot to see stars in their everyday life is The Grove, an LA shopping mecca and the adjacent Original Farmers Market. Whether you see the stars or not, these are all worthy expeditions while in Tinseltown.

Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.
Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.

Other LA attractions include the Griffith Observatory for celestial stargazing, the Santa Monica Pier, and Huntingon Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. And, if you want to feel like it’s winter in all the sunshine, visit Pershing Square’s Holiday Ice Rink, located in the Financial District of the city. The Square will also host a Winter Holiday Festival on December 7, complete with LA’s version of snow!

San Diego: Start by making a reservation to stay in a cabin or cottage at Pio Pico, which is a perfect location thanks to its proximity to San Diego proper. San Diego has beaches, the Pacific Ocean, museums, galleries, a world-class zoo, lots of history, and a boatload of outdoor fun to be had.

The San Diego Zoo consistently ranks as one of the top zoos in the world. With more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals, including gorillas, polar bears, and koala bears, this is definitely not your basic zoo. Visitors can enjoy a guided bus tour through the zoo or see it from above on the zoo’s Skyfari Aerial Tram.

Make a stop at the zoo as part of your San Diego Hop-on Hop-off Trolley tour which also makes stops at Old Town State Historic Park, which is considered the Jamestown of the Pacific; the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter and Balboa Park.

Santa Barbara: Choose from a cozy cabin, teepee, or covered wagon at Rancho Oso and then head out to explore this charming California town known for its architecture and history.

A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.
A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.

One of the neat things about Santa Barbara is its proximity to the Channel Islands National Park, an archipelago of five islands. A great way to explore the Park and the islands is through the Santa Barbara Adventure Company (www.sbadventureco.com). There are all kinds of adventures waiting on the Channel Islands including snorkeling, sea cave exploration, hiking and whale watching.

A great way to get to see the beautiful architecture of the city is to take one of the weekend walking tours, offered Saturday and Sunday, through the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (afsb.org) Tours begin at 10 a.m. and last approximately two hours.

And again, if you want to experience a bit more of a winter feeling in this sunny climate, don’t miss the “snow” events at the town’s Paseo Nuevo outdoor shopping center where “snow” fills the evening skies through December 31. There is also holiday entertainment including carolers, choirs, and Santa himself!