Best Photo Op Spots

Sam Abell, a photographer well-known for his amazing photos for National Geographic through the years said, “Essentially what photography is is life lit up.” Light up your life this month and get outdoors and take some amazing pics of your life’s adventures. After all, it is National Photography Month. Back in the day, excellence in photography required all kinds of gear. Now it’s simply using your ever-present smartphone to capture the people and scenery experienced during your travels. Here are a few spots to visit for some guaranteed spectacular shots.

California: The varied landscape of California makes for plenty of great photos (not to mention all kinds of outdoor fun). Consider a stay in a cabin or cottage at Russian River and head to nearby Guerneville to capture the majestic giant redwoods; or book at yurt at Yosemite Lakes and try your luck at photographing a moonbow at Yosemite Falls. Late May and early June are prime time for this opportunity and for specific times and details, check out yosemitemoonbow.com.

Florida: The Sunshine State is full of all kinds of great photo ops, from the crocodiles in the Everglades to the characters of Disney World. But one off the beaten path location that makes for great photos is Kelly Park, home to the amazing Rock Springs. Book a colorful cottage at Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee and spend the day photographing the natural beauty of Kelly Park/Rock Springs.

Maine: According to goxplr.com, there are at least 17 great photo opportunities in Maine’s Acadia National Park. Those include the view from atop the Park’s Cadillac Mountain, Schoodic Point, Jordan Pond, and the Park’s wild gardens. Choose your basecamp from either Mount Desert Narrows or Narrows Too, book a cozy cabin, and see if you can capture all 17. For a complete list, go to www.goxplr.com/maine/guide-to-acadia-national-park.

Photo Captured from Mount Desert Narrows Camping Resort
Photo Captured from Mount Desert Narrows Camping Resort

Oregon: May is said to be a great time to capture the rushing waters of Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. The melting snows of winter make a May visit to the falls worth the trip. Plus, the budding wildflowers are an added bonus. Book a tiny house at Mt. Hood Tiny House Village and get set to capture plenty of breathtaking images in this area, including majestic Mt. Hood of course.

Pennsylvania: Although the covered bridges found throughout Lancaster County are man-made, they still provide some pretty unique opportunities for great photos if you’re planning to spend some time in this beautiful area of Pennsylvania. With 29 covered bridges sprinkled throughout the County, there are plenty of choices. Some of the most popular include Pine Grove Covered Bridge and Zook’s Mill Covered Bridge. For a list of bridges and covered bridge tour opportunities, visit discoverlancaster.com/things-to-do/covered-bridges. A cottage or yurt rental at Circle M makes for a great stay while snapping the bridges.

Bay Landing • Bridgeport, TX
Bay Landing • Bridgeport, TX

Texas: Are you a fan of Bridgerton? If so, you might want to plan a visit for you and your camera to the Rose Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The garden rivals anything you might see on the popular Netflix series, and you can make-believe you’re waiting for Lady Whistledown to write you into the story. Book a cabin at nearby Bay Landing and explore the gardens. The months of May and June promise plenty of blooms from the Garden’s jasmines, hydrangeas, dogwoods, and southern magnolias.

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5 Things to Do in the Russian River Valley

If vacation plans include a trip to California’s wine country, consider exploring the Russian River Valley, which lies in the heart of Sonoma County. So named for the Russian River that winds through this part of California wine country, the Russian River Valley is full of things to do – including taking in the many wineries. Book a cabin or cottage at Russian River and settle in for a getaway that includes beautiful scenery, plenty of outdoor activity and a few other things we found of interest.

  1. Charles Schulz Museum/Peanuts Sculptures: If you’re a fan of Charlie Brown and his friends, the town of Santa Rosa will be of interest. The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center (schulzmuseum.org) is dedicated to the works of Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz. The museum includes a collection of both permanent and traveling exhibits and a re-creation of the studio where Schulz created the beloved Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and friends. For fun photo ops, there are several over-sized statues of the Peanuts characters around downtown Santa Rosa. Visit sonomacounty.com for a location listing.

  2. Outdoor Adventures: There is so much outdoor activity to be had in Sonoma County from biking to hiking to whale watching and, of course, sipping wine in the sun. Check out some of the vineyards as you bicycle by on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail, a 2.14-mile paved trail complete with scenic views. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park offers a hike with a waterfall while Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve features hikes among giant redwoods. Cloverdale River Park is great for water-based activities like canoeing, kayaking, and fishing on the Russian River.

  3. Jack London State Historic Park: If The Call of the Wild is one of your favorite books, or other works by Jack London top the list, head to Jack London State Historic Park, which contains the cottage where London wrote as well as several other historic buildings related to London and his life. Free guided tours are available and the Park also has hiking trails and opportunities for wildlife viewing and picnicking. For details visit jacklondonpark.com.
Sonoma County Winery
Sonoma County Winery
  1. Wineries: Of course, wineries have to be part of an itinerary for a trip to Sonoma County and the Russian River Valley. There are at least 425 in Sonoma County alone and the best way to see them is on a tour. Whether you want a private tour, a walking tour, a group tour, a biking tour, or a trolley tour, they are all offered here. Check out sonomacounty.com to see the various tours available. Reds, whites, bubbly, rose, sustainable, rustic, majestic – the wineries here serve up something for everyone.

  2. Cheese Trail: If you’re not into wine, or just want a little cheese to go with your wine, consider exploring the California Cheese Trail. While the trail stretches from northern California on south to San Diego, there’s plenty of cheese to be found in Sonoma County. Visit cheesetrail.org to find cheese near your cabin at Russian River as well as other Sonoma County locations.
Russian River Cabin
Russian River Cabin

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5 Things to Do in Monterey, California

There’s no dispute that Monterey and the surrounding area contain some of the most picturesque landscape you’ll find in not only California, but also the U.S. Located in Central California on a peninsula, the area offers a lot to see and do, both inside and outdoors. To begin your Monterey adventure, book a stay at Marina Dunes. Located adjacent to the Marina Dunes Preserve with its stunning dunes, Marina Dunes accommodations include your choice of three rental cottages with queen-sized sleeping options, a separate bathroom and fully equipped kitchen or one of the ultra-unique glamping tents.

  1. Visit Big Sur: It’s a little under an hour’s drive from the resort to Big Sur, but we guarantee the ride will be epic in terms of scenery. There’s so much along the way, you’ll be tempted to stop but we think these places are worthy of their own visit, so let’s just get to Big Sur. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks offers amazing overlooks and great hiking while Pfeiffer Beach is home to the unique purple sand. Lunch at Nepenthe promises more great views while Bixby Bridge provides perfect photo ops. It was rated the #1 Instagram Worthy Destination in 2019!

  2. Carmel-by-the-Sea: This town is pure charm – and lots of it! There are art galleries, restaurants, shops, scenic views, and the beach. Consider a Carmel food tour or a self-guided historic walking tour which starts at the First Murphy House, which is also the Welcome Center where you can learn more about the walk and the sites you’ll see. There are wine tastings and plenty of special events including the upcoming 27th Annual Carmel Art Festival set for May 13-15 and the 28th Winemaker’s Celebration, scheduled for May 7. 

Sea Otters at Monterey Bay Aquarium
  1. Marine Things: Of course, as a coastal city, there is plenty of focus on all things water here including whale watching excursions and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium’s exhibits include the underwater Kelp Forest, playful sea otters and ocean-view decks to watch for humpback whales. Speaking of whale watching, check out the Monterey Bay Whale Watch group that offers a variety of excursions to view whales, orcas, and dolphins. For details visit gowhales.com. You can also go tide pooling at McAbee Beach or kayak the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (rentals available at adventuresbythesea.com).

  2. Drive Time: There are several scenic drives (although what wouldn’t be scenic here) and they include the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. Photo op stops on the 17-Mile Drive include the iconic Lone Cypress, Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point, and Cypress Point Lookout. Another kind of driving is done here too as the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links are here – while it is a public course, tee-time reservations are typically done at least 18 months in advance and a round can be quite pricey, like $575 pricey!  But, you can stop in at the Visitor Center which has several exhibits and enjoy a drink and a snack on the Visitor Center’s patio.

  3. Soak up the beautiful weather with a walk or bike ride along the 18-mile Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. Its’ a great way to see the coastal countryside as well as visit some of the attractions along the way like Fisherman’s Wharf, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Cannery Row. Plus, at the end of the day, you won’t need to sneak in a workout since that breezy bike ride doubled as your exercise for the day!
Marina Dunes Cottage
Marina Dunes RV Resort Cottage

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Best Desert Vacations

Plan a trip to the desert or a desert town for your next vacation getaway. There are several located in the western part of the U.S. and typically, the towns are not crazy crowded with tourists and tend to enjoy a quieter lifestyle, while the desert landscape is a sight to see.

Book a stay in a cottage at Palm Springs and you’re in prime desert country. Located in the town of Palm Desert, which is situated in the Coachella Valley, the north-western extension of the Sonoran Desert, trips to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, desert excursions with Red Jeep Tours (red-jeep.com), and a visit to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens are all possibilities when you stay here. Instagram memories can be made with a hike to the Palm Desert Cross via the Cross Trail. Hiking through classic desert terrain, you’ll be rewarded with the view of the 30-foot cross.

Yakima Valley Washington

A desert town in Washington State? Doesn’t sound likely, but in fact Yakima, Washington, presented plenty of tumbling tumbleweeds and sagebrush when early pioneers came upon this area of the Pacific Northwest. In fact, the surrounding Yakima Valley is considered a semi-arid desert. Through ingenuity and hard work, the town was transformed to the city it is today and the area is one of the world’s leading producers of apples and produces a whopping 75% of all the hops grown in the U.S. Not bad for a desert climate! Plan a stay at Leavenworth Tiny House village and take a day trip to Yakima. The Yakima Valley Museum, a hike or bike ride on the Cowiche Canyon Trail, or a tour of the Hop County Craft Beer Trail (putting all the hops to good use) are itinerary options.

Situated in Arizona’s High Desert, part of the Sonoran Desert, Sedona is a great destination any time thanks to its year-round mild climate. Make a tiny house or cabin at Verde Valley your home base as you hike, bike, or horseback ride through the scenic Red Rock State Park. Or maybe take a day trip to the Grand Canyon, which is just over 100 miles from Sedona. Or stay local and visit a spa, enjoy a round of golf, ride the Verde Canyon Railroad, or simply stroll Sedona’s Main Street. Make your friends jealous with your Insta-worth shots from a Boynton Canyon Trail excursion which includes spectacular Subway Cave.

Oddly, an area that is known for its bright lights and late nights is also home to the driest, and smallest, of the four American deserts. Las Vegas is surrounded by the Mojave Desert, which is named after the Mojave Indians. To experience this part of the Mojave, which actually extends through four states, check out Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, home to 4000-year-old petroglyphs, to start. The Petroglyph Trail presents the easiest of the trails to tackle in order to view the petroglyphs. The Valley of Fire is another great spot for petroglyphs and petrified trees dating back some 2000 years. Another Mojave experience could be a visit to Red Rock Canyon, which features a 13-mile, one-way driving option, which can also be enjoyed on bike. Additionally, there are several hiking trails here. Reserve a cozy cabin at Las Vegas RV and you’re all set for a memorable Mohave adventure.

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Winter Plans?

Just as surely as the sun rises, you can guarantee winter comes knocking each year in late-December. And for some who are fortunate to live year-round in areas that don’t really experience winter, it’s just another date on the calendar. But for others, it’s time to head towards the sunshine. And, even if you are lucky enough to live where the sun always shines warmly, a change of scenery is always good to chase away the winter doldrums. Here are a few ideas for fun in the sun winter escapes.

Arizona: If Sedona is your home base, day trips to the Grand Canyon (about a 2-hour drive north), the Phoenix/Scottsdale area (about a 2-hour drive south) and the Petrified Forest National Park (about a 2-hour drive east) are all possibilities. Of course, the Grand Canyon is the Grand Canyon, but there are other things to do here. There is the 22-mile Desert View scenic drive, wildlife to glimpse, and the Grand Canyon Railway Adventure which is a scenic train ride to the Grand Canyon that originates in Sedona. If you’re a baseball fan, then you’ll be happy come winter when Major League Baseball’s Cactus League begins their games in stadiums in the Phoenix metro area. If you’re not a baseball fan, Scottsdale has plenty of hiking opportunities including Camelback and Pinnacle Peak. Plus, there’s shopping, arts and entertainment, and plenty of good eating to be had here. The Petrified Forest, named for the large amounts of petrified wood found here, is home to the Rainbow Forest Museum and the petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock and may also seem familiar to Clint Eastwood fans as parts of his famous film, “The Outlaw Josey Wales” were shot here. Verde Valley is the place to reserve your winter accommodation where you can choose to day trip or just enjoy the local scene.

California: Rarely, if ever, do California beaches post “Closed for the Season” signs. The ocean water may be colder than most prefer, but the warm California sun is pretty plentiful and of course, anything but mountain snow is rare. Yosemite National Park is less crowded but still just as breathtaking in the winter months, so consider a stay in an ultra-cool yurt at Yosemite Lakes. The Park’s Badger Pass Ski Area offers winter skiing opportunities. Cross off your bucket list item to “stay in a tipi or covered wagon” this winter with reservations for these unique accommodations at Rancho Oso and then explore winter in Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Zoo, a mission tour, a visit to the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, or a tour of the local wineries can all add up to winter fun.

Tropical Palms RV Resort
Tropical Palms RV Resort

Florida: Warm days and cool nights give the Florida-bound winter vacationer the best of both worlds. Days are sunny with temps averaging around 70 degrees while nights are sweater-weather worthy with average lows in the ‘50s. The only shovels required during a Florida getaway are those used to build sandcastles on the fabulous beaches around the state that include Daytona, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, and St. Pete Beach. Consider a trip to the Keys and a stay at the Sunshine Key Tiny House Village or a colorful cottage right on the water at Fiesta Key. On the Atlantic side, visit historic Flagler Beach or enjoy the sights and sounds of Miami. Accommodations at Bulow Village RV Resort and Miami Everglades are great locations for these. Wanna do Disney? Book a stay at Tropical Palms, Lake Magic, or Orlando RV for all things Disney and beyond. Check out petiteretreats.com to find your ideal Florida location.

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Celebrate The Girls with a Getaway

National Girlfriends Day is celebrated August 1 annually. And to be clear, it’s not a celebration of the romantic type, but one for the woman, or women, in your life who are there for you through thick and thin. The ones who show up, the ones who’ve known you since before you were you, and the ones who you may go a long time without seeing and then pick up right where you left off.  If you’re lucky enough to have these kinds of girlfriends in your life, why not celebrate with a girlfriends getaway?

Franklin, Tennessee: While nearby Nashville is also well-suited for a girls trip, Franklin might be a good idea, as well. A little lower key than the neon lights of Nashville, Franklin is great for girl-focused fun, like eating, shopping, cocktailing, and maybe even a walking ghost tour! Book a stay at nearby Natchez Trace RV Campground and you’ll have quick access to Franklin, Nashville, and the surrounding areas. Franklin highlights include the Lotz House Museum, the Franklin Glassblowing Studio, and brunch at The Honeysuckle where you can experience the Biscuit Board, like only the South can offer! More shopping and eating can be found in nearby Leiper’s Fork, anther quaint southern town considered “Nashville’s Backyard,” which is also home to a few celebs. Check out Puckett’s Grocery for great burgers and live music.

Potawatomi State Park

Door County, Wisconsin: Not only is this a great destination because of all the shopping, but the area also offers plenty of outdoor activity to indulge in so everybody gets a little something on a girls getaway here. Get the girls all settled into a cozy cabin at Tranquil Timbers Camping Resort and prepare to explore the Door. Take in a tasting at Hatch Distilling in Egg Harbor which features a craft cocktail menu that changes daily, or hike, bike, or stroll through Potawatomi State Park, which has roughly 20 miles of trails. Speaking of trails, the Door County Wine Trail is also an option. A few don’t miss items are the goats on the roof at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and an iconic Door County fish boil.

Tuolumne County, California: Tuolumne County is home to Yosemite National Park, which is in and of itself, an adventure. But there’s also whitewater rafting opportunities, shops, and eateries to try in the area’s several small towns, plus wineries and hiking trails. Start off with a yurt rental at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort and get ready for indoor and outdoor fun, girlfriend-style. Enjoy a two-fer when you visit Gianelli Vineyards Winery that offers fabulous wines as well as live music on Friday and Saturday evenings in a tented venue among the vines! Spend a day or two touring the historic Gold Rush towns that include Groveland, Sonora, and Jamestown. Outdoor fun includes horseback riding, whitewater rafting, panning for gold and exploring the wonders of Yosemite.

Cozy cabin at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort in Groveland, CA

The Adirondacks, New York: Imagine the great photo ops when you gather the girls in the beauty of New York’s Adirondack Region for a getaway. Mountain backdrop: check. Lake backdrop: check! With a vacation cottage rental at Lake George Escape, you’re in the perfect location to see why the Adirondacks are a great place to celebrate girlfriends. Toast to friendship at the Adirondack Winery (there are two tasting rooms – the Lake George Tasting Room and the Bolton Tasting Room). Or, head to Million Dollar Beach, one of the largest beaches in Lake George, and take a few beach shots for the ‘gram. Although it is also the most popular beach, there’s plenty of space at this beautiful 51-acre beach. Girlfriends can appreciate history so head to Fort William Henry, a British fort dating to 1755 or the Chapman Museum in Glen Falls which details the history of the area. End the days with a relaxing sunset or dinner cruise on Lake George.

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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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Warmest Wishes

Hiking at sunset in Sedona, AZ

‘Tis the season….to seek out the sun. Why not give yourself the gift of sunshine this season and head toward the warm weather where the skies are sunny and coats are not required! Here are a few places to consider where you can let the sunshine in.

Palm Springs, California: Palm Springs is the perfect place to soak up some of that warm California sun thanks to its great location to all the nearby hotspots including Joshua Tree National Park, the hiking trails in Indian Canyons, and the Living Desert Zoo and Garden. Rental accommodations at Palm Springs include three cottages that have plenty of the comforts of home including TVs, microwaves, and plenty of space to relax in. Downtown Palm Springs has a celebrity Walk of Fame, shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Cottages at Palm Springs in Palm Desert, CA.

Santa Barbara, California: Enjoy beautiful Santa Barbara and plan a stay in some the coolest, and most unique accommodations you’ll find at Rancho Oso. In addition to its fabulous location, the resort offers cabins, cottages, covered wagons, and a tipi. You can’t beat that when it comes to something different. If you ride horses, or maybe that activity is on your bucket list, then Rancho Oso is the place to be. They have horses and guided horseback rides for groups. Visit nearby Solvang, a charming Danish-style town with plenty of shops and eateries as well as opportunities for wine and craft beer tastings. Of course, there is also beautiful Santa Barbara that offers beaches, architecture, wineries, and more.

Florida Keys: Sunshine Key Tiny House Village has five brightly colored tiny homes that are yours to choose from at this resort located on the 75-acre Ohio Key in the Florida Keys. Take the holidays to the tropics and spend some time exploring The Keys. The resort itself is quite the playground with opportunities for pickleball, fishing, and tennis. Plus, Key Boat Tours, a Blue Star Operator, is onsite for rentals of kayaks, stand up paddle boards and bikes, and also to arrange fishing charters and snorkeling tours. If snorkeling floats your boat, then a Keys vacation is the perfect trip since the first underwater state park in the US, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, is located on Key Largo and has some of the best snorkeling around the area.

Tiny House Lucy at Sunshine Key Tiny House Village in Big Pine Key, FL.

Sedona: Head for the sun and take the mountains as the added bonus when you plan a trip to Sedona, Arizona. Book your cozy cabin or tiny house at Verde Valley and set off to explore the very walkable downtown Sedona, the beauty and vortexes of Red Rock State Park, the abandoned mining town turned artist colony of Jerome, and some of the prettiest desert landscape you’ll find. There’s also a Verde Valley Wine Trail where you can toast the new year or ride the rails on the Verde Valley Canyon Railroad Adventure. All aboard for fun in the Arizona sun!

Cabin under a starry night at Verde Valley in Cottonwood, AZ.

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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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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.