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!
Favorite local spot in Minneapolis: Minneapolis is a city that has so much to offer. However, the first place that comes to mind when thinking “Minneapolis” would be the Mall of America. While it’s not exactly outdoors this staggeringly huge complex is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and with more shops, restaurants, and believe it or not rollercoasters than any other mall. Looking for a fix of nature while on your trip to the mall? They have got it covered as it houses the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium! Literally, thousands of sea creatures are housed here. Be amazed as you gander upon sea life while being thousands of miles away from the ocean. The Mall of America is definitely at the top of the list of our favorite local spots in Minneapolis.
Where to Stay in Minneapolis
Minneapolis is a big city and with that comes a big variety of options when it comes to looking for the perfect vacation. An apartment in the Central Business District perfectly placed to catch a glimpse of everything the city has to offer could be the best choice. Looking for a spot that catches the natural beauty of Minneapolis? Browse over our extensive library of rental homes to find a cozy single-family home to rent in the Harrison neighborhood to get the full natural flavor of Minneapolis while still being close to the downtown action and convenience.
#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 its 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.
Favorite local spot in Bend: Oregon is one of those places that when the name of it is mentioned it is almost synonymous with nature. Bend is definitely no exception to that rule. Multiple outdoors activities from hiking to biking and so much more make it a challenge to choose just one favorite. The Deschutes River Trail definitely takes the cake. Walk, run, bike, or hike this expansive river-lined trail and allow yourself to get lost in the natural beauty that makes Bend such an amazing place to visit.
Where to Stay in Bend
Doesn’t a trip to Bend sound incredible? Plan your outdoor escape to Oregon now! A welcoming place to visit any time of the year the perfect place awaits depending on the season. Planning on visiting during the winter months? A cozy cabin might just be what the doctor ordered as snow-covered trees displayed against a backdrop of towering purple mountains will act as “nature therapy”. More of a summer person? Look into renting an RV! At first, this might seem a little bit out of the ordinary but, to make the most out of an outdoor-oriented vacation to Bend, an RV could be the best option available.
#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 1800s.
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 are 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!
Favorite local spot in Fort Collins: Colorado might be the greatest state when it comes to getting some quality time outdoors. Fort Collins embodies everything that this picturesque state has to offer and is one of the most outdoorsy cities that could be seen. Our favorite local spot in Fort Collins is the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. Taking one look at this absolutely iconic open space will have you second-guessing whether or not the desktop background screen has taken a vacation to Fort Collins itself!
Where to Stay in Fort Collins
Ready for a Fort Collins getaway? Start planning with VacationRenter. Much like its contemporaries of western statehood. Fort Collins is also beautiful year-round. Finding the perfect place for a much-needed holiday really all depends on the style and season of the vacation. A cozy single-family home downtown could be the perfect place to retreat after a long day getting in touch with nature. Fresh farm-to-table restaurants line the western streets with each one offering a mouth-watering menu perfectly suited to fill the belly after a day spent hiking and exploring making Fort Collins one of the best outdoor cities in the world.
#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.
Favorite local spot in South Lake Tahoe: With views around every corner that look as if they were ripped out of a magazine South Lake Tahoe can go head to head with almost any other world-class destination placing it among the best of the best outdoor cities. Amongst the seemingly endless array of opportunities for outdoor recreation, our favorite local spot is the Rubicon Trail. Walk or drive this 22-mile long trail that passes through El Dorado National Forest and create a day in your memory that will last a lifetime.
Where to Stay in South Lake Tahoe
Take a much-needed vacation to South Lake Tahoe today. While there are many options to fit all types of budgets and flavors. A cozy cottage or condo will suit perfectly whether skiing is the mission or some summertime hiking is what the heart desires. Vacationrenter has all of the options that you could possibly want to ensure the greatest possible journey to South Lake Tahoe.
Start Planning Your Outdoor Getaway
From coast to coast The United States has pretty much everything the world can offer when it comes to outdoor recreation. Tens of thousands of trails pepper the multitude of both State and National Parks just waiting to be explored and rediscovered by everyone from Sunday strollers to seasoned hikers. This list has contained some of the most outdoorsy to visit for a perfect outdoor-oriented getaway. Book a vacation now and gear up for the journey of a lifetime.