It’s that time of the year again when the days are longer and the weather is warmer, which means we get more time to entertain ourselves outdoors! Don’t take the sunshine and fresh air for granted because when it all comes down to it, all living things need their daily dose of the outdoors to recharge.
After all, the sun is our best source of Vitamin D. All you need to do is slap on some sunblock and spend time outside doing an activity you love in order to absorb the good stuff. Whether it’s biking, swimming, hiking, or simply reading a book outside, we’re all for it. Our team at VacationRenter did the honors of surveying 1,000 outdoor adventurers to find out which cities were the best destinations for outdoor activities. Read on to find out if your home city made the list.
#4: Minneapolis, Minnesota (11.92% vote)
Our first stop takes us to the lively urban area of Minneapolis, also known as the west half of the “Twin Cities.” This city shares the pseudonym with Minnesota’s capital, Saint Paul, located on the east side of the Mississippi River. When it comes to finding a place to hang out by the water, Minneapolis lives up to its historic reputation, with more lakes within its city lines than you can count using your two hands. The origin of the city’s name stems from the Dakota Sioux term “mni” translating to “water” followed by “polis,” the Greek word for “city.”
Speaking of water, this leads us to our first exciting outdoor activity in the city: hiking to Minnehaha Falls. The leisurely hike allows you to stop at a 53-foot waterfall flowing into the Mississippi River. What’s even better is this trail is a family-friendly path, so you can bring your kids, and your leashed dogs too!
Other family-friendly water activities include spending an afternoon somewhere along the Chain of Lakes. The Chain of Lakes Regional Park is made up of five lakes: Brownie Lake, Bde Maka Ska, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, and Lake Harriet. First, pick your lake. Then, pick your outdoor activity! At these five lakes, you can kayak or canoe in the summer. When the lakes freeze over in the winter, you might spot ice surfers and people playing ice hockey. Of course, you can always jog or bike the perimeter during any time of year.
Minneapolis is also a great place for mountain bikers and runners. Two locations for off-road explorations include Theodore Wirth Park, less than 15 minutes away from the heart of the city, and Fort Snelling State Park. To certify the city’s credibility, Forbes included Minneapolis in their list of “Top 10 Cities for Runners.” You can run just about anywhere in the city, including all the sites mentioned above, but the Meet Minneapolis website outlines the perfect routes any runner will enjoy. Our personal favorite is the Ultimate River Route, taking you on a scenic city tour along the Mississippi River and across the city’s Stone Arch Bridge.
When all is said and done, we know that some people prefer to spend their days relaxing under the sun instead of breaking a sweat. Lucky for you, Minneapolis has dozens of outdoor restaurants and rooftop patios to soak in that Vitamin D. Spend happy hour at Betty Danger’s Kooky Country Club, where they proudly host a dog-friendly mini golf course and offer ferris wheel rides. Or you can also visit Libertine’s rooftop for next-level bar food like bone marrow toast and duck ravioli, then get competitive with some classic arcade games, giant outdoor beer pong, skee ball and more!
#3: Bend, Oregon (20.99% vote)
Bend is one beautiful city with lots to do outside, so we’re not at all surprised that it falls into the top three rankings out of all the cities in this category. One of the most striking sites in this city is the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, made up of 54,000 acres of volcanic land. From a bird’s eye view, you’ll be able to spot the Newberry Crater’s distinct silhouette, where astronauts simulated their first moon mission prior to their actual lunar arrival.
Today, the land, made up of remnants from a volcanic explosion thousands of years ago, serves as a popular travel destination for outdoor explorations. Hike Crater Rim and circle the Newberry Caldera, or pay a visit to the gorgeous Paulina Falls Trail.
Two breathtaking hikes — literally and figuratively — are Broken Top Mountain and South Sister Mountain, both meant for experienced hikers only. To get to Broken Top Mountain, first and foremost: make sure you’re using a four wheel drive car. Then, navigate to Forest Service Road 380, Blue River, OR. The Broken Top Trail is a fairly difficult path leading to No Name Lake and Bend Glacier, but if you’re up for the feat, the hike will be worth it. South Sister Mountain, on the other hand, does not require a four wheel drive to get there. All you have to do is navigate to Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway and you’ll be on your way.
Making your way north of Bend, you can visit Smith Rock State Park where many come to hike, bike and horseback ride. But what this park is best known for is their various rock climbing routes, including the Monkey Face spire, among a dozen other climbing areas that climbers attempt to conquer. Their official website also conveniently breaks up hiking trails based on skill levels, with a few must-see suggestions including Summit Loop. The park is open to visitors from sunrise until sunset, but a limited number of visitors can reserve campsites on a walk-in basis.
After a dusty, sweaty day on the rocks, head back to town for a grand ol’ time on the Deschutes River, your ideal location for fishing, kayaking, canoeing and whitewater rafting. For an exceptional whitewater rafting experience, book a Raft N’ Brew tour with Sun Country Tours, which takes you on a wild ride through the Big Eddy rapids, and ends with a complimentary beer tasting at one of Bend’s many craft beer breweries. If you’d rather skip the rapids and go straight to the breweries, hit up Crux Fermentation Project at sunset. Other great outdoor breweries in the area are 10 Barrel Brewing and Worthy Brewing Company, which has a three-story tower telescope with a retractable roof used to stargaze from Thursdays to Sundays.
Doesn’t a trip to Bend sound incredible? Plan your outdoor escape to Oregon now!
#2: Fort Collins, Colorado (25.94% vote)
According to The Gazette, the U.S. Federal Government owns and upkeeps more than a third of Colorado’s land, made up of national parks, forests, and grasslands, so we can see exactly why this state would be an outdoor lover’s dream. One city in particular that sits right on the outskirts of Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests is Fort Collins, also an hour away from Rocky Mountain National Park. The closest airport to Fort Collins is Denver International Airport, so you can kill two birds with one stone and pay Denver a visit too.
If you’re coming to Fort Collins for all the outdoor fun, it’s likely that you’ll be spending a lot of time wandering inside Roosevelt National Forest. To start, you can spend an entire day at Poudre Canyon. Outdoor activities in this area include rock climbing, bouldering, biking, and hiking. You can also ride on horseback through the canyon and gallop by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to get a feel for how pioneers explored this region in the 1800’s.
Additionally, Cache la Poudre River’s lively waters keep visitors occupied with exciting whitewater rafting adventures during the warmer months. Less than 30 minutes away from Poudre Canyon also lies the Shambhala Mountain Center, where you’ll find 600 acres of land dedicated to meditation sits, yoga retreats, hiking trails and many other programs to focus on mindfulness.
Colorado’s lush terrain has so many peaks and mountains to climb, that you can check one off your list each day. Horsetooth Mountain, right across the reservoir from Fort Collins, allows hiking access to Horsetooth Falls with panoramic views of the city in the distance. Visitors of Rocky Mountain National Park can also take on Flat Top Mountain, the largest flat top mountain in the world. This park is a must-see site for outdoor adventurers, ranking in the top three as one of the best national parks to visit in the nation.
Inside the town of Fort Collins itself, we have something exciting for the adults, and for the kids too. Our beer loving adults can take a Beer & Bike Tour to find out why Fort Collins is considered to be craft beer paradise, and you won’t feel guilty for indulging because you’ll burn off the calories biking to the next brewery. On the topic of burning calories, runners can also participate in the Horsetooth Half Marathon which ends with a New Belgium Beer Finish Line Party.
As promised, there’s exhilarating outdoor activities for the kids too. Treat them to a day of fun at Fort Fun, an amusement park with tons of things to do under the sun. The kids will have a blast go-karting, playing mini golf, paddle boating, driving bumper cars, bumper boats and more!
Ready for a Fort Collins getaway? Start planning with VacationRenter.
#1: South Lake Tahoe, California (33.18% vote)
Taking first place by a landslide is the lovely South Lake Tahoe in California, directly adjacent to the state line of Nevada. Lake Tahoe is a jaw-dropping city to visit during any time of year, but what makes it such an enchanting location to travel to is that it’s a completely different vibe in the summertime compared to the winter.
No matter the season, there’s always some kind of outdoor activity to keep you occupied. In the winter months, people from all over Northern California come to Tahoe to ride through its powdery mountains, whether it be by snowboard, skis or snowmobile.
In the summertime, the unique outdoor experiences are endless! Chase thrills on Heavenly Resort’s mountain coaster or enjoy a sunny afternoon on the glistening blue lake, with a kayaking adventure unlike anywhere else. Clearly Tahoe rents out transparent kayaks which allow you to see what’s below you while paddling, over 50 feet deep into the crystal clear waters. Not afraid of heights? See Lake Tahoe from a completely different perspective while hang gliding, or feast upon gorgeous aerial views from a colorful hot air balloon. Then when the sun sets, you can also get a full moon kayak tour and stargaze from the middle of the lake, far from any city lights that may obstruct your view.
South Lake Tahoe has a thriving mountain biking community working round-the-clock to ensure that visitors have a fantastic riding experience. Tahoe’s most popular biking trail is the Flume Trail, a 14 mile ride with amazing views. This particular trail offers a one way shuttle that takes you to the opposite end of the trail, so you can conveniently bike towards the direction of your car. One other invigorating trail is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The name itself already implies that you’re in for a wild ride, so keep in mind that this route is for advanced bikers only! Full disclosure: it’s a burly climb to the summit, then a roller coaster to the base. Flat tires and battle scars are definitely a possibility, but the rush of adrenaline and phenomenal views make it all worthwhile.
The state parks in this area are spectacular for exploring and hiking. Head over to Emerald Bay State Park and visit California’s first historic underwater trail. Snorkelers and divers can get a close look at sunken barges, boats and shipwrecks peacefully resting several feet underwater. Land explorers can hike one of Emerald Bay’s many majestic trails, including the Cascade Falls Trail and the refreshing journey from Eagle Falls to Eagle Lake. Both hikes are less than two miles round-trip, making it an easy adventure for you to enjoy. Lastly, tucked away behind the trees of Emerald Bay, you’ll find the hidden castle of Vikingsholm. Keep your eyes peeled for this Scandanavian-inspired structure, built in 1929 after owner Lora Knight was inspired by Emerald Bay’s beauty, suggesting that its landscapes reminded her of fjords from Scandinavia.
One final spot in Tahoe that deserves a mention is D.L. Bliss State Park, just a three minute drive from Emerald Bay. There, you can hike the Rubicon Trail, spend a night in the campgrounds, and marvel at the gravity-defying Balancing Rock.
Take a much needed vacation to South Lake Tahoe today.