Ahhh...Spring Break. The time when a young man's and a young woman's fancy turns to...Hey, wait a minute! What about us adults? After this winter, we could certainly use a Spring Break, too! And here are my ten favorite places to spend it...
#10 - GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA - Here you can find the ideal - and idyllic - Spring "Break" for adults. Its 32 miles of pristine white beaches with sugar-soft sand made of quartz crystals. You can hit the links on nine championship golf courses, have a relaxing spa day at The Beach Club, or shop and stroll at The Wharf, the area's most upscale entertainment complex. If you prefer quieter pleasures, you can explore the 21 miles of trails perfect for hiking, biking, and watching the stunning variety of birds here. I like to spend the morning hiking Pine Beach Trail at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and the afternoon biking the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail at Gulf State Park. Or exploring the area's back bays on a dolphin cruise with Cetacean Charters or a sunset cruise with Sail Wildhearts. My lodging of choice here is Caribe Resort, 30 pristine acres of luxury on a peninsula overlooking Perdido Pass, offering the Five-Star Cobalt Restaurant and stunning sunsets.
#9 - PINEHURST RESORT, NORTH CAROLINA - When you hear the word "Pinehurst," you probably think "golf." And well you should; this resort has nine championship courses, and has hosted many a prestigious tournament. In fact, Pinehurst No. 2, designed by the legendary Donald Ross, hosted the men's and women's U.S. Open back-to-back for the first time ever in 2014. When I hear the word "Pinehurst," though, I also think of relaxation in the North Carolina sandhills and the charming Village of Pinehurst. I think of the resort's luxurious Carolina Hotel. It's Four-Diamond 1895 Grille. And the award-winning spa that offers unique treatments, including - what else? - the golf-ball foot massage!
#8 - DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA - The geology gods who carved out Death Valley National Park apparently favored mountain peaks, rambling salt pans, and enormous caverns. I like to hike Golden and Mosaic Canyons, bike to Badwater Basin - the lowest point in America, at 282 feet below sea level - to explore the white salt flats, take in the dramatic panorama at Dante's view, or take a jeep tour deeper into the park. Death Valley's monster mountains, sprawling salt pans, and colorfully-hued canyons offer the perfect playground for hikers, cyclists, and 4-wheel enthusiasts. At sunset, you'll often find me in the Mesquite Sand Dunes, a place of striking beauty at that time of day. And after that, you'll usually find me at the Inn at Furnace Creek Resort. This is an elegant hideaway with a spring-fed pool, palm gardens, a unique gift shop, quaint stone patios, and the Stargazers Deck, a wonderful place for watching the glorious sunsets. Built in 1927, the 66-room inn sits atop a hill at the mouth of Furnace Creek Wash, offering spectacular views of Death Valley and the Panamint Mountains to the west. And springtime is a great time to visit!
#7 - LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - Louisville's one of those under-the-radar surprises that offers a special urban experience. The "Urban Bourbon Trail" now boasts more than 30 establishments. Seven new distilleries offering bourbon, brandy, and even moonshine(!) are set to open this year, as are eight new hotels. But I love one that's already here - the 21c Museum Hotel, a 90-room boutique hotel with an award-winning restaurant. While here, you'll want to visit Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, for some great racing. Other "must-do's" include The Hot Brown Hop, a foodie trail taking you to restaurants offering this iconic local dish; and the Speed Art Museum. Inside Louisville's Mega Cavern is Mega Zips, the world's only fully-underground zip-line course. Not for the faint of heart...but great fun!
#6 - CHEYENNE, WYOMING - Few towns in America embody the Old West spirit better than Cheyenne. The Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley, for instance, offers a wonderful historic tour of the town. Yet, just outside of town is Curt Gowdy State Park and Vedauwoo Recreation Area, where you can hike, bike, climb, sail or row (for starters)...or simply relax and watch the miracles of nature, the striking, angular beauty of the ancient rock formations. Where to stay? I especially like two places here. At the Terry Bison Ranch, the buffalo still roam - 2,300 of them, in fact. You can view them on a daily train ride through the pastures. Of course, there's also horseback riding, an old-time trading post, Old West restaurant and saloon, and lodging options including cabins and a bunkhouse. Then there's the Nagle Warren Mansion B&B, built in 1886, converted to a B&B in 1997, and filled with period-pieces and Old West personality.
#5 - ESTES PARK, COLORADO - This colorful town is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and some of the most spectacular scenery - and wildlife - in America. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy can help you see it, with a variety of interesting tours ranging from photography to wildlife. If you've a hankerin' (pardner) to see it on horseback, Sombrero Ranch can take you on scenic trail rides. Downtown Estes Park is an authentic Western village, with more than 200 shops, restaurants, galleries and attractions...and no chain stores. It's not unusual to see elk wandering around downtown. I love to stay at the legendary Stanley Hotel, a Victorian lodge on the outside and Western on the inside...and, apparently, a number of ghosts; or at one of the seven Rocky Mountain Resorts, from luxury mountain cabins to riverside condos. And, happily, Estes Park may have more great ice cream shops than any town its size in America!
#4 - MOHICAN LODGE, PERRYSVILLE, OHIO - This 96-room resort is situated in a scenic river valley in Ashland County, surrounded by 6,000 acres of Mohican State Park forest and bordering Pleasant Hill Lake. The resort regularly hosts birds-of-prey presentations conducted by experts from the Ohio Bird Sanctuary, and bird-watchers come from throughout the region - binoculars in hand - to spot some of the many species in the park. Ohio's scenic Amish Country is a short drive away, with its furniture and antique shops, its horse-drawn transportation, and its interesting restaurants. Quaint antique shops and galleries line the country roads all around the lodge, as well as the charming town of Loudonville. This area is an idyllic getaway, with history, unusual crafts, and wildlife. And one of the best things about it is that it hasn't yet been overrun with tourists.
#3 - ADVENTURES ON THE GORGE, FAYETTEVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA - Located on the New River Gorge, Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG) is the largest "adventure resort" in the country. The resort combines active adventure with great lodging, dining and entertainment. Whitewater-rafting season just opened...and spring, with the run-off from winter snows, is the most exciting time to do it. The resort has a variety of accommodations, from tent camping and platform tents to bunkhouses sleeping eight people and cabins sleeping 12, as well as luxury homes with spectacular views of the gorge. The resort overlooks the gorge, as well as three miles of the New River Gorge National River. And the "adventure" part includes two acclaimed zip- lines, TimberTrek Aerial Adventure Park and the highest Bridgewalk in the world, and other exhilarating experiences such as rock climbing, stand-up paddle boarding, mountain biking, fishing and kayaking. It's truly an Appalachian Mountain "high!"
#2 - SANDHILLS REGION, NEBRASKA - Nebraska? Yes, Nebraska! In the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska, the natural beauty, wildlife, and Western heritage all blossom in spring. This is where the "Taming of the West" took shape; the Great Platte River Road was the main overland route. In fact, the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, California Gold Rush Trail, Pony Express Trail, the first Transcontinental Railroad, and the Lincoln Highway, the nation's first transcontinental road, all followed the Platte through Nebraska. Buffalo Bill even had a ranch here (which you can visit). North of the Platte are the Sandhills, a vast, rolling prairie covering nearly a third of the state, home to large cattle ranches, and small towns that haven't changed much over the years. And home, too, to one of America's great wildlife migrations - the Sandhill Cranes. Charles Kuralt called Nebraska Highway 2, which includes the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, one of America's 10 most beautiful highways. This is one of my favorite road trips. If you're a Western buff, as I am, you'll enjoy the numerous shops selling Western wear. And you can settle in for a few nights at Sandhills Guest Ranch, a working ranch that raises cattle and quarter-horses, and takes you on horseback rides into places of stillness and beauty.
And now...my choice for the No. 1 Spring Break for Adults in America!
#1 - MOAB, UTAH - This small town in Utah takes your breath away. Figuratively, because you're in the middle of Red Rocks Country, and next to two National Parks (Arches and Canyonlands). And literally, because you're in the middle of an outdoor-recreation hot-spot, where the chances of hearing your own rapid breathing - and nothing else - are sky-high. Here, you're in the middle of a desert adorned with giant sandstone formations, canyon mazes, and thousands of natural arches. You can choose active pursuits such as river-rafting in the Colorado River, off-road Hummer safaris, hiking in the National Parks, guided tours, horseback riding, and mountain-biking. My favorite place to stay? The Gonzo Inn, a very cool lodging with eclectic design elements encompassing Southwestern, Retro 70's, and Industrial Era. I enjoy wandering the quintessential Old West town centered by Main Street. Everything you need for climbing, hiking, rafting, biking - and any other type of outdoor adventure - can be found at the Moab Adventure Center. And talking about taking your breath away - I always spend at least one night star-gazing. In this magical place where a black-velvet sky is dotted by thousands of brightly-shining sprinkles, there's definitely no "light pollution."
There you have it...my Top 10 Springs Breaks for Adults. What are yours? Let us know how you feel about our choices!