The best lakes in the US you’ve probably never heard of and how to visit in 2022

As summer in the US takes a turn into its hottest months, we’re all looking for the perfect places to cool off. 

Luckily, the country is speckled with lakes of all kinds: natural, manmade, alpine, saltwater and more.

While big-name lakes get all the glory (looking at you, Lake Tahoe and the Great Lakes), there are plenty of spots to jump in and cool off farther from the crowds. Check out these beautiful under-the-radar lakes that are perfect for an aquatic getaway.

Boats on the shore at sunset at Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire
The quiet shores of Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire © Thomas H. Mitchell / Getty Images

Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire

Lake Sunapee is a quiet glacial lake in southwestern New Hampshire located within Mount Sunapee State Park. Visitors will find an expansive beach for swimming, a boat launch and hiking opportunities within the park area. Outside of the summer season, the lake is particularly enchanting during fall, when it’s ringed in various tones of yellow, red and orange.

New England’s best hikes can be enjoyed during the winter

Gazebo and forest on the shore of Lake Lure, North Carolina
Lake Lure is located in the mountains of western North Carolina © vixterd / Getty Images

Lake Lure, North Carolina

Lake Lure runs along the floor of Hickory Nut Gorge in the mountains of western North Carolina, and its shores might look familiar: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray filmed scenes here for the classic movie Dirty Dancing. Visitors can relax on the lake’s beaches or take to the hills to explore the surrounding mountains. Don’t miss Chimney Rock, which offers panoramic views of the gorge and the lake.

The lake from Dirty Dancing is reappearing after a 12-year absence

Chairs in the water at Lake Ouachita, Arkansas
Lake Ouachita is said to have some of the clearest water in Arkansas © Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

Lake Ouachita, Arkansas

Lake Ouachita sits in the hills of the Ozarks, and it has a unique critter swimming beneath its surface: freshwater jellyfish. These harmless invertebrates are quite rare globally, but they thrive in the lake’s clear waters, often regarded as the clearest in the state. The lake also harbors 200 uninhabited islands, so grab a kayak and take your pick.

5 of the top hikes in amazing Arkansas

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Lassen volcano across Lake Almanor in California
Volcanic Mount Lassen overlooks Lake Almanor in California © Amit Basu Photography / Getty Images

Lake Almanor, California 

The Northern Sierras are an outdoor wonderland, and while most travelers visit for the mountains, the range also harbors perfect swimming spots with magnificent backdrops. Lake Almanor is no exception. This manmade lake sits in the Plumas National Forest, adjacent to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and lake-goers will be treated to perfect views of the namesake volcano. Camp among the Ponderosa pines to get the full experience.

The best of California’s amazing hikes

Meadow in front of the blue waters of Bear Lake, Utah
Bear Lake is known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” © Ron Reiring / Getty Images

Bear Lake, Utah

When people think of lakes in Utah, their minds automatically gravitate to the famous Great Salt Lake or scenic Lake Powell, but they’d be remiss to exclude this crystalline body of water straddling the Idaho–Utah border. Bear Lake is often referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” owing its bright blue hue to suspended limestone in the water.

Introducing Utah’s national parks

Lakeshore of Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado
The calm waters of Blue Mesa Reservoir in southwestern Colorado © Bernadette Heath / Shutterstock

Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

The Gunnison River carves its way through the hills of southwestern Colorado, defining the landscape along the way. A visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park yields spectacular views of the namesake gorge, and an hour down the road lies Blue Mesa Reservoir, a picturesque body of water with golden hills and rocky outcroppings serving as a backdrop. Hit the lake to fish, kayak, windsurf and more.

The 10 best beaches in Colorado

Cave Run Lake in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
The summer sunset at Cave Run Lake in the Daniel Boone National Forest © ScottymanPhoto / Shutterstock

Cave Run Lake, Kentucky

An hour and a half east of Lexington lies Cave Run Lake, an oasis nestled among the trees of Daniel Boone National Forest. The blue-toned water invites everyone from anglers to boaters to swimmers to enjoy an escape from the heat, and its shores feature well-groomed beaches and activity areas for families. Those looking for terrestrial pursuits will be delighted by the trails that ring the lake. 

The complete guide to Mammoth Cave National Park

Mooselookmeguntic Lake
Maine’s Mooselookmeguntic Lake is a stunner © haveseen / Shutterstock

Mooselookmeguntic Lake, Maine

Mooselookmeguntic Lake is part of the Rangeley Lakes area in Maine, and it’s known as a fishing hotspot. The swooping loops of the lake are particularly lovely from the Height of the Land lookout point, and visitors looking for a quiet respite from everyday life will be rewarded with all the peaceful outdoor time they can handle. There are also beaches for swimming, but heads up, the water is cold!

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Hike, paddle and climb your way around the best of Grand Teton National Park

For hikers, climbers and mountain-lovers, life doesn’t get much better than a visit to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. The iconic, saw-toothed Teton range towers over a chain of jewel-like glacial lakes that dot the valley of Jackson Hole, offering some of the most dramatic landscapes in the West.

If you like to hike, paddle, scramble or simply camp beside stunning lakeshore views, you will love the Tetons. As an added bonus, combine your visit with neighboring Yellowstone National Park for the biggest park doubleheader in the nation.

Get the best out of your trip with our top picks for things to do in Grand Teton.

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View of the Grand Teton Mountains from Oxbow Bend on the Snake River.
The Grand Teton Mountains viewed from Oxbow Bend on the Snake River ©RIRF Stock/Shutterstock

Snap a selfie worthy of Ansel Adams at one of the park’s iconic viewpoints

You’ll get incredible views of the Tetons from almost any trail in the park, but a few prize roadside viewpoints offer some particularly perfect vistas. Ansel Adams immortalized the view from the Snake River Overlook in the center of the park, portraying the river as liquid light, but today you’ll get better views at nearby Schwabacher’s Landing, where the jagged Tetons reflect sublimely in the meandering Snake River.

For the biggest panoramic views of the entire Teton Range, drive three-quarters of the way up Signal Mountain Road to Jackson Point, named after the seminal early photographer William Jackson, who took one of his most famous photographs here in 1878. Arrive at dawn, and you’ll often see the Tetons bathed in pink light high above a sea of morning fog.

Lastly, head to Mormon Row for iconic shots of a Teton backdrop framed by sagebrush, bison and the famously picturesque Moulton Barn, built by the early 19th-century settlers that first called the valley home.

Summer lupine wildflowers under a stormy late afternoon sky in the Tetons
Stop and smell the wildflowers while on a hike in the Tetons ©Dean Fikar/Getty Images

Take a scenic trail hike 

Grand Teton ranks as one of the nation’s best parks for alpine hiking (it’s certainly much better than next-door Yellowstone – there, we said it!), so be sure to pack your best hiking shoes. The full-day hikes take you up one of the range’s half-dozen canyons (notably Cascade, Garnet and Paintbrush), past meadows of wildflowers to reach some stunning high alpine lakes (Solitude, Iceflow and Holly lakes, respectively).

But there are also plenty of less intense, shorter hikes. Consider the six-mile return trail to Taggart and Bradley Lakes, or the similar-length Leigh and Bearpaw Lakes hike, both of which take you past sublime lakeshore and Teton views. The Hermitage Point Loop offers fabulous views of Jackson Lake and plenty of flexibility, with various trail combinations that allow loops between two and nine miles long.

For a backpacking trip, the four-or five-day Teton Crest Trail ranks as one of America’s classic trails.

Canoeing and standup paddleboarding are just some of the fun activities families can enjoy together on the lakes (pictured here is Jackson Lake) in the Grand Teton National Park ©Phillip Rubino/Shutterstock

Paddle the park’s crystal-clear lakes

Grand Teton is the perfect place to bring a canoe or standup paddleboard (SUP). For a memorable family adventure, drive to String Lake – its warm, shallow waters are perfect for a summer splash. From here, you can paddle along String Lake, portage (carry) your canoe for 120ft along the connecting channel, and then continue paddling beautiful Leigh Lake for some incredible views. Best of all, reserve one of Leigh Lake’s three beachfront, backcountry campsites, and wake up to sublime dawn views of Mt Moran reflected in the utterly silent, mirror-still water. Your kids will never ask for their smartphones again.

Bring your own canoe, or rent one at Adventure Sports in Moose.

Hikers in Grand Teton National Park
See the mountain from the top and take a guided climb of Grant Teton © Johnathan Ampersand Esper/Getty

Challenge yourself on a guided climb of Grand Teton

The Tetons have played a pivotal role in the history of American climbing, and the coveted 13,775ft Grand Teton peak remains a magnet to climbers, who regard the range as sacred ground. Climbers should base themselves at the American Alpine Club’s Climber’s Ranch and then head to Jenny Lake Ranger Station for climbing information, conditions and permits.

Beginners ready for the bragworthy adventure of a lifetime can sign up for a four-day trip with expert local outfitters, Exum Guides. You’ll spend the first two days learning how to rappel and belay before attempting the two-day guided climb. Reaching the summit will be an achievement you’ll never forget.

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Contemplate nature at the Laurance S Rockefeller Preserve

The Rockefeller family was instrumental in establishing today’s Grand Teton National Park; John D alone donated tens of thousands of acres in the 1940s. Sixty-odd years later, his grandson, Laurance, formally donated the private family retreat, turning the charming former JY Ranch into the park’s most recent addition. Today the zen-like visitor center aims to be a meditative space through which to find solace in the natural world, and it’s an often-overlooked gem. Browse the library of conservation titles, and then make the delightful six-mile loop hike to Phelps Lake.

Due to road construction in 2022 on Moose-Wilson Road, on weekdays you can only access the center from the north. Parking spaces are limited, so arrive early to nab a spot.

Teton mountain range reflection on Jenny Lake during autumn.
Exploring Jenny Lake is one of the most popular pastimes while visiting Grand Teton National Park ©Krishna.Wu/Shutterstock

Explore Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake is one of the park’s busiest draws, for its combination of close-up mountain views, good (but popular) hiking options and a family-friendly boat excursion. Those short on time can take the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive and stop at Jenny Lake Overlook for fine views of Cascade Canyon and the Cathedral Group of the central Tetons.

Most hikers head for Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, either on a seven-mile loop hike around Jenny Lake (our favorite, via String Lake) or short-cutting the hike to just two miles by taking the Jenny Lake ferry boat both ways. You can also access the stunning Cascade Canyon from here. Either way, make an early start to avoid the crowds, which can be heavy in summer.

The Snake River is pictured in Wyoming
There’s nothing quite like seeing the sunset over the Snake River ©Pete Seaward/Lonely Planet

Float on the Snake River at dusk  

The Snake River flows out of Jackson Lake to meander through Grand Teton National Park for some 30 miles, flowing past sand bars and lush meadows to offer some of the best views in the park, as well as some of its best wildlife-watching spots. Several companies offer daily 10-mile-long scenic raft floats down the river from Deadmans Bar, including sunrise and sunset options that offer the best wildlife watching.

Outside the park, south of the Town of Jackson, the Snake River turns from Jekyll into Hyde, as it rages and thrashes through the narrow Snake River Canyon. This is the location for whitewater trips through the Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter rapids – a more adrenaline-inducing experience than the scenic floats, but one which lacks the wildlife watching and serene Teton views. 

Grand Teton Mountains in fall
Take a break from the crowds at Grand Teton National Park on the other side of the mountain © Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images

Lose the crowds on the back side of the Tetons

Grand Teton National Park can get busy in July and August, so to escape the crowds, head to the secret western approach, which sees only a tiny fraction of the park’s total traffic. Drive west from Jackson to Driggs, Idaho, on the far western side of the Tetons, and then swing back east towards Grand Targhee Ski Resort to reach Teton Campground. From here, a full-day hike leads up to Table Mountain to reveal incredible views of the little-seen western side of Grand Teton and its stunning Alaska Basin. The perspective here is so different, you’ll feel like you’re not even in the same park. Expect fewer facilities, worse roads and zero crowds on this side of the range.

A bull moose hides in the low-lying sage brush of Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
See if you can spot a moose while exploring the Grand Teton National Park © Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / G

Spot moose, marmots and bald eagles

Grand Teton can’t quite compete with Yellowstone in the wildlife-watching stakes, but there is still plenty to see here. As always, you’ll see the most at sunrise and sunset. Willow Flats is the best place to spot iconic gangly-legged moose and elk, while Antelope Flats is the place for grazing bison, wily coyotes and fast-moving pronghorn antelope. Bring your binoculars to Oxbow Bend, two miles east of Jackson Lake, and you’ll likely see cranes, ospreys, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, white pelicans and more.

If you are hiking into the remoter mountain valleys, be aware that the park has healthy populations of both black and grizzly bears (bring bear spray, and also a bear-proof canister if camping), though you are far more likely to encounter fat, furry marmots and super-cute pika.

Clear Water at Jenny Lake
Enjoying the crystal clear water of Jenny Lake isn’t a bad way to end your day at Grand Teton National Park ©Jeff R Clow/Getty Images

End the day at Jackson Lake Lodge

At the end of a tough day’s hiking or sightseeing, nothing beats watching the sun slide behind Jackson Lake and the Teton range from the patio of Jackson Lake Lodge, preferably while sipping on a refreshing Teton Amber Ale or huckleberry margarita. With luck, you might even spot moose nibbling on the willow bushes below.

After the sunset show has ended, you can grab bar snacks at the lodge’s Blue Heron Lounge, a burger at the old-school diner or something more gourmet at the classy Mural Room restaurant. It’s the perfect end to a perfect Teton day.

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11+ of the best lesbian bars in the US

Even before the pandemic, lesbian bars were an endangered part of LGBTIQ+ culture.

Today, of the nearly 63,000 bars in America, just 23 of them are lesbian bars — down from about 200 in the 1980s. Maybe it’s online dating, neighborhood shifts or societal changes that have diminished the number of dedicated lesbian spaces. But no matter the reasons, The Lesbian Bar Project is raising funds and awareness about the small handful of full-time queer-gal hangouts still open from coast to coast.

After raising more than $260,000 since its 2020 launch, The Lesbian Bar Project has boosted support for these last-standing bars, thanks partly to the support of multi-talented performer Lea DeLaria. DeLaria narrates and executive produced the short documentary of the same name, directed by Erica Rose and Elina Street, which is up for a Tribeca Film Festival award in 2022.

Beyond the project, though, there’s the IRL way to show some love for lesbian bars: visiting them for some in-person patronage (matronage?) in any of the 20 US cities where they’re still shaking, stirring and pouring. Of course, these bars are there mainly for lesbian and queer folx to feel safe and comfortable, but respectful LGBTIQ+ allies are welcome — and hey, there’s always room to throw back a shot and a beer, just like DeLaria in the short film. 

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The jovial scene inside NYC's Cubbyhole
The jovial scene inside NYC’s Cubbyhole © Cubbyhole

Henrietta Hudson & Cubbyhole, New York City: West Village icons of lesbian culture

Each of these legendary bars have served lesbians of Manhattan and beyond since the early 1990s, when they were among several other downtown girl bars. They’re owned by two different women, and serve up different vibes—i.e. Cubbyhole is adorably compact, while Henrietta Hudson is roomy with dancing and karaoke. But they are both beloved lesbian-centric institutions of the West Village, located just a few blocks apart, and a lovely walk from the Stonewall National Monument.

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Wildrose, Seattle: Serving the best of the Pacific Northwest’s lesbian scene

Anchoring the lesbian contingent of Seattle’s LGBTIQ+ neighborhood since 1984, the Wildrose has everything you’ll ever want or need in a corner bar. There’s a pool table, happy hour, karaoke, theme nights, DJs, a flirty bar for singles and plenty of tables for old friends. 

12 best places to celebrate LGBTIQ+ pride in Europe 

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Sue Ellen's lesbian bar in Dallas
Sue Ellen’s lesbian bar in Dallas © Courtesy of Sue Ellen’s

Sue Ellen’s, Dallas: Send the boys to JR’s and invite the women here

Opened in 1989 and occupying its spot on Throckmorton Street since 2008, Sue Ellen’s is the longtime ladies’ choice of Oak Lawn in central Dallas. With two stories, an outdoor patio, pool tables and stage for live shows, it’s easy to start early with happy-hour drinks at the bar, and end by kicking up your heels with late-night dance parties. 

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Herz, Mobile, Alabama: Southern fave for sports, hookahs, and fancy cocktails

In a state that’s politically flaming red, you’ve got to raise a glass in solidarity with Herz for representing and serving the LGBTIQ+ community in Mobile, Alabama. Opened by dynamic married duo Sheila and Rachel Smallman in 2019, Herz survived the pandemic with support from The Lesbian Bar Project and loyal locals who rely on such a friendly community gathering place in the conservative South—not unlike Stonewall-era bargoers, who needed a place just to be themselves.

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Blush & Blu, Denver: Drag kings and burlesque are only the beginning

Just down from Denver’s LGBTIQ+ Center on Colfax is another community space, this one with all manner of lesbian-centric fun. Blush & Blu is a three-story bar with strong cocktails, arcade games, a library lounge, and a busy calendar of events spanning burlesque shows, poker nights, live comedy, lesbian speed dating, and more.

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Walker's Pint in Milwaukee
Walker’s Pint in Milwaukee © Courtesy of Walker’s Pint


Walker’s Pint, Milwaukee: The corner tap for everyday janes and sports fans

Maintaining a safe, friendly spot for women is the mission of Walker’s Pint, one of the best, easygoing hangouts for lesbians in the Midwest. It’s occupied its 2nd Street corner in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood since 2001, drawing mostly women (and a mix of other folx) for pool, patio time, live music and local Bucks, Brewers and other big games. 

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Wild Side West, San Francisco: The West Coast’s oldest lesbian bar still pouring

This San Francisco outpost of lesbian pride has welcomed radically queer flirtations since 1962. It moved from its original Broadway location up to Bernal Heights back in 1976, and today Wild Side West still feels the love of devoted queer women (and their pals) who flock here for weird-but-true trivia nights, stiff drinks and its eclectic beer garden. 

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My Sister’s Room, Atlanta: Hotlanta’s favorite Midtown women’s bar

Celebrity pop-ins, live shows, strong drinks and sultry weekend soirees keep Georgians coming back to My Sister’s Room in Midtown Atlanta. This out, proud lesbian-owned club has welcomed women since 1996, amplifying the “L” in the LGBTIQ+ appeal around Piedmont Avenue.

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Ginger’s Bar, Brooklyn, New York: Proud queer outpost in the heart of Brooklyn

The last official lesbian bar in the outer boroughs of New York City, Ginger’s brings the cool old-school pub vibes to Park Slope. Bartenders and patrons are equally sociable, making this one of the easiest bars in town to belly up solo and meet new friends. There’s a pool table, drink specials, karaoke nights and a fabulous back yard usually buzzing with a mix of lesbians and the people who love them.

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Pearl Bar, Houston: The lesbian hitching post of Houston

Many agree with Pearl Bar’s self-proclamation of being “The best damn lesbian bar in Texas.” This giant, rustic-style bar is a quick jaunt from Montrose, Houston’s LGBTIQ+ neighborhood. Women love the big, colorful patio, crawfish boils and barbecues, rollicking shows and Pearl Bar’s great big heart, where queer folx come to carouse with their community.

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On a note of optimism, several bold entrepreneurs have added even more pride to the lesbian bar roster of late. Here’s a special shout-out to three brand-new queer-gal hangouts, all opened in the past year: Nobody’s Darling, a refined cocktail lounge in Chicago’s Andersonville; As You Are, in Washington, DC, a cafe and bar that warmly welcomes lesbian, trans and non-binary folx; and The Sports Bra, Portland, specializing in all things women’s sports. 

Check out the Lesbian Bar Project website here for other great spots for queer women in seven other US cities, and to contribute to the cause with a donation or an in-person visit.

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The best places for birdwatching in the US for 2022

The art of birdwatching isn’t just for binocular-wearing septuagenarians anymore. Birding is also a millennial-approved pastime, and it may be the stress relief many travelers in America need to get through the pandemic.

Just ask Jason Ward, 33, who got hooked on birds at age 14 while living in the South Bronx. “I saw this peregrine falcon eating a pigeon about 30 feet from me, and it blew my mind. For me, it was National Geographic in HD. It happened during a really dark time because the window I was looking out of was the window of a homeless shelter. I realized that no matter what my situation, birds could bring me out of a dark place.”

Jason Ward, credit- Mike Fernandez, National Audubon.JPEG
Jason Ward found an interest in birdwatching as a teenager © Mike Fernandez / National Audubon

Fast forward two decades and Ward is now the host of “Birds of North America,” a documentary series that extols the virtues of birding. “We are fortunate to have such a diversity of species in North America,” he says. “There are so many jewels to be found no matter what corner of the country you’re in.”

While travel might be paused for many people in America, there’s no better time to marvel at the feathered jet setters traveling outside our windows. Luckily for us, “birds aren’t discriminatory,” says Ward. “Birds show up wherever there are resources for them, and that might be right in your backyard.”

Here are seven of the best birding locations that might be right outside your doorstep, recommended by some of America’s most knowledgeable birders.

Green Jay, Santa Clara Ranch, Rio Grande Valley, Texas, USA
The green jay is a migratory bird whose habitat stretches from southern Texas to Honduras © Gallo Images / Brand X Pictures / Getty

1. Harlingen, Texas

For birding, Ward thinks the southern tip of Texas is tops, mainly when Harlingen hosts the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival during fall’s migration season. A good day of birding on the east coast usually means Ward sees 50 to 60 different species. In Harlingen, he saw 94 species after only three hours.

“Not only are you going to see a lot of breeding birds making their way back south,” Ward says, “but you’re going to see some species from Central America and Mexico that sometimes stray a little further north and wind up someplace they aren’t supposed to be. That’s when everyone loses their mind in Texas.”

With a unique list of birds that can’t be found elsewhere in the country, the Lone Star State has reason to lose their minds year-round. Noteworthy residents include the green jay – which flashes a brilliant set of emerald, saffron, and navy plumage – and the chachalaca. This pheasant-sized bird “looks like a velociraptor,” says Ward, and screeches like a remedial trumpet player.

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New York's parks, such as Central Park, are prime bird habitat
New York’s parks, such as Central Park, are prime bird habitat © vergie azevedo / Shutterstock

2. New York, New York 

Molly Adams, the 30-year-old founder of the Feminist Bird Club, was surprised when she opened the app eBird and found that Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is named one of the state’s most ecologically rich hotspots for birdwatching. Although the pigeon reigns supreme on NYC‘s streets, it’s got stiff competition in the 1700 parks around town.

New York’s urban green spaces provide a much-needed respite for over 200 species of migratory birds traveling throughout spring and fall. “These pocket parks are part of the Atlantic Flyway, so during migration, you can see close to 100 species in one day,” Adams says.

Adams, who creates inclusive birdwatching opportunities for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ folx and women, loves how long the birding season lasts in autumn. Still, “there’s nothing better birding-wise than going through the winter and having spring come,” she says. “There are all these colorful birds.” Be it a scarlet tanager in Central Park or a ruby-throated hummingbird flitting through Jamaica Bay, America’s most populous city boasts an equally dizzying amount of biodiversity. “It really invigorates my passion for birding,” Adams notes.

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3. Toledo, Ohio

Toledo might not be high on most travelers’ to-do lists, but the surrounding region is bar-none for birders visiting the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival. Lake Erie’s southern shores become the unofficial warbler capital of the world every May as over 300 species make their way from South America to the Great White North. 

“These birds are migrating,” says Ward. “They’re exhausted, and then they have to cross Lake Erie into Canada, and before they do that, they have to fatten up.” As a result, they take a break in places like the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, where visitors can walk along a boardwalk to view the avian Elysium. “It’s great to stop anywhere on that boardwalk and watch a warbler – or two, or five, or ten,” Ward says. Magee Marsh gets particularly busy, “but no matter where you are, you have a good seat because there are birds near you.”

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500px Photo ID: 55225884 - A fogless view of the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Shortly after this shot was taken the fog rolled in.
Point Reyes National Seashore is a migratory stop on the Pacific Flyway © Kevin English / 500px

4. Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Thirty miles north of San Francisco, the San Andreas faultline splits the California coast in two to form the Point Reyes National Seashore. Rolling hills stretch to the east, ocean waves crash on unspoiled beaches to the west, and nearly 500 species of birds soar around the 70,000 acres of protected land all year long. With its abundance of forests, estuaries, and grasslands, this area is a winged wonderland for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Of particular note is the endangered snowy plover, a small, cream-white creature that skitters along the shoreline. 

According to the National Audubon Society, many birders also check out nearby Bolinas Lagoon, “where a tidal estuary attracts waterfowl, wading birds, and, when the tide is right, large flocks of shorebirds.”

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East Everglades.jpg
Brian Rapoza, center, leading a group of birders in the Everglades © Bonny Masdeu

5. Everglades National Park, Florida 

Gators may be the crowning glory of the Everglades, but North America’s wading birds are also an essential part of Florida’s wetlands ecosystem. Kayakers and canoeists can float along the Gulf Coast’s waters to watch egrets, ibis, and roseate spoonbills pick through the shallows for food. The biking and hiking trail at Shark Valley, a one-hour drive from Miami, also offers an easy escape from South Florida’s suburban sprawl if you’re looking for ornithological entertainment.  

Winter is an ideal time to visit, as it offers “the highest diversity of birds and the best conditions for birding,” says Brian Rapoza, the Tropical Audubon Society’s Field Trip Coordinator. “One of the season’s highlights is when the swallow-tailed kites come back to Florida from their wintering grounds in Central and South America, usually in the second or third week of February.”

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500px Photo ID: 178441993 - Travel to Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA
The area around Tucson features a variety of habitats for birds, such as Saguaro National Park © Dmitry Vinogradov / 500px

6. Tucson, Arizona

From Saguaro National Park to the nearby Chiricahua Mountains, Tucson and the surrounding area sport an abundance of species that can’t be found elsewhere in the US. Because of this, Will Russell, owner of the local bird tour company Wings, says, “It’s a popular place for people who keep national lists with the number of birds they’ve seen in North America.”

While spring is prime birding time, July’s monsoon season brings a set of international fliers to the region. “Hummingbirds that bred in Mexico disperse north, so instead of having six or seven kinds of hummingbirds, there are sometimes twelve or thirteen,” says Russell. 

Birds aren’t the only thing that makes Tucson’s bird scene spectacular, though. “Tucson is a place where many bird people come to retire,” says Jennie Macfarland, Bird Conservation Biologist for the Tucson Audubon Society. “It’s got a strong birding community.” Local birders can often be found at the Sweetwater Wetlands, scaling Mount Lemmon, or checking out the bird feeders in Madera Canyon.

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Juvenile Peregrine Falcon in flight © Keneva Photography / Shutterstock

7. Cape May, New Jersey 

If Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller about an avian apocalypse leaves you feeling uneasy, you may want to skip Cape May during October’s migration season. The local Audubon festival’s tagline, “So Many Birds,” is an understatement. 

Cape May “is a peninsula on the southern tip of New Jersey, and birds get funneled there if they’re following the Atlantic Coast at nighttime,” says Ward. “It’s a traffic jam of birds.” Whether you’re watching warblers from the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge or raptors along Higbee Beach, Ward says you can “look at any point in the sky, and 15-20 birds are trying to figure out the next leg in their journey.”

His favorite bird to watch is the one that got him hooked in the South Bronx all those years ago – the peregrine falcon. “You have this pandemonium going on,” he says. “You witness a lot of birds struggling with the wind, and then you watch a peregrine falcon fly over the horizon, and it’s as if there’s no wind. It’s flying and doing whatever it pleases.”

If that’s not the kind of freedom travelers want right now, I don’t know what is. 

These 8 New Jersey destinations are worth traveling for

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Aliens among us? 10 top spots around the world for a close encounter with a UFO

In July 1947 a powerful thunderstorm blew over Roswell, New Mexico – and with it came whispers of a mysterious object. Was it a weather balloon, like US military officials claimed? Was it a flying saucer from outer space, as many locals claimed? 

What really crash landed from the inky desert skies that weekend has inspired countless conspiracy theories, journalistic investigations and pop culture hits from Forbidden Planet to Men in Black, from The Day the Earth Stood Still to The X-Files. It’s turned UFO hunting into a cottage industry that attracts thousands to Roswell each year for events like the UFO Festival, and to on-theme attractions like the International UFO Museum & Research Center.

Where to spot a UFO

All that attention has garnered various responses from the US government in recent years, ranging from denials of extraterrestrial activity to recent declassifications of videos released to the public, along with fresh reports investigating the true nature of… well, whatever it is that’s going on up there in the atmosphere. 

No matter the results of the latest UFO investigations, the debate is sure to rage for years to come. After all, a lot of people feel strongly that the truth is out there. If you, too, just want to believe, you can see for yourself where extraterrestrials may have touched down on earth at these destinations around the world. 

A sign that says 'UFO Crash Site' stands to the side of a dusty track
A sign for the UFO Crash Site near Roswell © David Zaitz / Photonica / Getty Images Plus

1. Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, near the site of the alleged 1947 crash of an alien spaceship, is proud to be considered the “UFO capital of the world.” The UFO Festival (this year from July 1 – 3, 2022), embraces everything associated with the extraterrestrial, with a costume contest (for both pets and humans) and a light parade. Enthusiasts and skeptics are welcome to come along and explore the unexplained. The schedule of speakers covers everything from abductions to ongoing secret government programs, from first-hand alien experiences to discussions of ancient aliens on the moon.

For something a little more earthlike, you can join the Alien Chase, a 5km or 10km race through Roswell’s parks.

How to take a perfect spring break road trip through New Mexico

2. Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada

Nevada State Route 375 has been officially named Extraterrestrial Highway due to the number of reported sightings of strange lights in the night sky. The road runs primarily through the uninhabited desert, adjacent to Area 51 and Nellis Air Force Base. Follow the tourist board’s alien-themed road trip for the best chance to see something paranormal. The town of Rachel near the midpoint of the highway trades off the mysterious sightings, with UFO-hunters stopping at the Little A’Le’Inn hotel to chat all things alien with the staff there.

There’s so little light pollution in the desert here that if there’s anything unexplained flying around up there, chances are, you’ll be able to see it clearly.

Discover the voices of Nevada’s Ghost Towns and Sagebrush Saloons

Lots of tall, thin trees are packed together as mist gathers in the forest of Hoia Baciu. UFO sightings in this area date back to the 1960s.
The mysterious Hoia Baciu forest in Romania © ungureanuvadim / Shutterstock

3. Hoia Baciu Forest, Romania

Hoia Baciu in Romania claims to be the world’s most haunted forest – but does that necessarily mean aliens are involved? The forest’s connection with UFO-sightings goes back to the late 1960s when a biologist took photos of some unexplained lights over the forest. Soon after, a military technician snapped some shots of flying orbs, and similar reports of flying objects over Hoia Baciu persisted through the 1970s. From “strange feelings” to missing children, mysterious voices and paranormal events, the forest has built a reputation as a very spooky place indeed.

7 unmissable things to do in Romania

Nazca Lines, Peru
Nazca Lines, Peru © Marcos E Ramos Ponciano / Shutterstock

4. Nazca Lines, Peru

Mystery shrouds the Nazca Lines in Peru. It’s thought they were made by a pre-Inca civilization around 450 to 600 CE, who removed earth and rocks from the Nazca plain to create vast etchings of a spider, a hummingbird and a monkey, among others. The lines can’t be easily seen at ground level, which makes them even more mysterious. Were they designed to attract aliens? Are they a giant message to life forms beyond earth? If you hang around here, will you get to see a UFO?

Experience the best of Peru with these 8 iconic hikes

Wycliffe Well is Australia’s UFO Capital © Shutterstock / Damian Pankowiec

5. Wycliffe Well, Australia

A quirky small town in the remote, rural Northwestern Territory near Alice Springs, Wycliff Well has a whimsical claim to fame as the self-professed UFO capital of Australia. The claims of extraterrestrial sightings have been pouring in since the 1940s, and neither the flat, dark-sky horizon, the presence of the Pine Gap US satellite surveillance station or the free-flowing roadhouse suds can quite explain them. Maybe it’s all some clever roadside marketing by local entrepreneur Lew Farkas, who doubled down on the destination’s eerie reputation by giving his hotel and restaurant the Rosewell treatment, with murals of aliens and other references to the area’s supernatural aura. Or maybe this really is an intergalactic rest stop for flying saucers road tripping across solar systems.

Sustainable Australia: top tips to minimize your carbon footprint and travel slow

6. Khao Kala, Thailand

There have been reports of mysterious objects flying through the sky over Thailand since the late 1300s, but most recently it’s a hill called Khao Kala near Nakhon Sawan that’s become known as the Area 51 of Asia. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported an uptick in sightings – so many, in fact, that a statue of Buddha on Khao Kala had become the gathering point for dozens of believers certain they’d found a portal to another world. Those who flocked to Khao Kala told CNN and other news outlets that they had been contacted by beings from Pluto, as well as a mysterious planet somewhere in the Milky Way known as Loku.

Your mileage may vary when it comes to alien encounters – some think the increased UFO activity is more likely the result of more Thai families logging onto the Internet and watching TV shows about extraterrestrials in recent years. But don’t worry about the trek from Bangkok being a waste of time – Nakhon Sawan has earned a reputation as a destination for foodies, too.

How to choose between Thailand’s gorgeous gulf islands

South America is full of sites with a high number of UFO sightings, from Brazil to Chile to Argentina © Shutterstock / Gabriel Ribeiro Vallim

7. Varginha, Brazil

Nestled in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, you’ll find all sorts of unusual critters who call the Serra do Espinhaço biosphere reserve home. There are maned wolves and woolly spider monkeys and… aliens? Back in 1996, UFO believers around the world perked up when local residents claimed they found a dead extraterrestrial in a field outside their town.

Like many destinations that have become UFO hotspots, there’s an army base near Varginha, and rumors spun wild that the Brazilian military covered up the crash which killed the aliens initially spotted by three women walking home that winter weekend. But the city itself has taken a very open approach to its new-found claim to fame, embracing terrestrial tourists curious about the possibility of intergalactic visitors and constructing the Nave Espacial de Varginha, a huge flying saucer-shaped water tower in 2001.

Three years later, Varginha was even the meeting place for a national UFO research conference, ostensibly to look into not only what happened nearly a decade prior, but a whole host of other incidents reported from throughout the region around Varginha long before the supposed crash coverup. Will you see some discos voadores yourself? That’s up to the extraterrestres themselves.

The best national parks in Brazil: jungles, jaguars and jaw-dropping waterfalls

8. Emilcin, Poland

About 25 miles outside Lublin, the village of Emilcin was the site of an unusual occurrence in May of 1978. Jan Wolski, a local man in his 70s, was allegedly driving a cart when he encountered a pair of extraterrestrial beings who took him to their space ship, invited him aboard and performed a harmless examination of his body. Wolski’s tale of his “alien abduction” captivated the imaginations of everyone from fellow UFOlogists to documentary filmmakers to psychologists and even comic book artists.

Other residents claimed sightings of their own, not of the little green men themselves, but of curious craft flying through the sky. Was it all a Cold War-era fantasy to liven up life behind the Iron Curtain, or was Wolski telling the truth? One thing’s for sure – you can see a monument to Wolski’s experience in Emilcin, which was erected in 2005 and reads “The truth will still amaze us.”

The ‘world’s deepest diving pool’ has opened in Poland

Stonehenge, Great Britain
Stonehenge: a temple to the sun, or a sign that we’re not alone? © Mr Nai / Shutterstock

9. Stonehenge, Great Britain

Stonehenge is one of Britain‘s great archaeological mysteries. Archaeologists have dated the site to around 2500 BCE, when somehow ancient engineers moved huge sarsen stones weighing up to 30 tons and smaller blue stones of around 2 to 5 tons into a circular formation aligned with the stars.

These smaller bluestones are believed to be from southwest Wales, over 150 miles away, while the sarsen stones were likely quarried nearer by at West Woods in Wiltshire – in both cases, it would have taken great effort to move the materials all the way to England’s Salisbury Plain. While it’s generally accepted that Stonehenge is a temple designed to follow the movements of the sun, it’s a persistent conspiracy theory that the sophisticated building techniques are clear signs of alien involvement.

Stonehenge: get to know England’s most mysterious monument

10. Bermuda Triangle, Atlantic Ocean

The Bermuda Triangle is one place given over to UFO conspiracy theories. This large expanse of water extends roughly from the tip of Florida out northeast to Bermuda and down to Puerto Rico. It’s also the site of several unexplained ship and airplane disappearances over the decades, a phenomenon that’s caused many an imagination to run wild.

Scientists and researchers believe these vanishings are the result of human error or caused by issues with instruments or even are the fault of severe storms. Experts have insisted that there’s nothing unusual about the frequency of reports for a high-traffic area of this size. That hasn’t dampened the convictions of paranormal believers who are certain something else is happening here – whether that’s UFOs, time portals in the sky or whatever was happening on Lost.

Find your pink-sand bliss at Bermuda’s top 14 beaches

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Most Comfortable Camping Chair

After all the ups and downs on the campground, you just need a well-deserved relaxation, and to achieve that you need the most comfortable camping chair. To count you among the few informed buyers, we have listed some features you must consider when buying a camping chair. So, as you are considering buying the most …

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To make an intelligent buying decision, you need to read reviews from first-hand users or product analysis from professionals. Since you are searching for the best lightweight camping table, we have done the work of selecting the best in this post. We hinged our selection based on the basic features of a reliable camping table …

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Camping is fun but camping with your soul mate is super romantic. Cuddling with your “HER” under the starry sky in the middle of nowhere is an experience you cannot put to words.  Spending a night under the stars, far away from the hustle-bustle of the city is the perfect antidote that one might need …

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There is no doubt camping is a great way to get away from everything, chillout and relax in the great outdoors. However, there are also inconveniences that can affect camping experiences such as back pain, uncomfortable sleeping position, and temperature regulation. Gladly, sleep mattresses are a lifesaver, especially for side sleeper campers. The appeal of …

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