Here’s the thing about photoshoots: they’re not always the glamorous, linen soirees they’re made out to be. When we went to Acadia National Park on the eastern shores of Maine for our Fall photoshoot, we got rain, snow, ice, stuck cars, closed roads, and an emergency drill. It was a far cry from blow dryers and lemon water – so naturally, we were stoked.
Protruding into the Atlantic, Acadia National Park takes up the better half of Mount Desert Island (pronounced “dessert”, it’s a Maine thing) on the Schoodic Peninsula. It’s home to ragged cliffs, precarious lighthouses, bucolic lakes, and Cadillac Mountain — the tallest mountain on the eastern coastline and first place in the USA to see the sunrise. Of course, the road to Cadillac Mountain is closed during the winter (news to us), so we changed the plans and started back at the beginning.
The main entrance to Acadia NP is through Bar Harbor, ME – a shingled seaside town that ebbs and flows with tourists and the tides. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s a sea of baseball caps and tail lights. In the winter, you can have it all to yourselves (and a few hearty locals).
Just outside of Bar Harbor we picked up the 27-mile Park Loop Road, a one-way “best of” tour of the park. Driving slowly and with our Kodaks at the ready, we hopped out to explore when the mood struck us: a jaunt up Precipice Trailhead, scrambling to unnamed overlooks, and a heated debate over whether to take the plunge at Sand Beach or not (we settled for a toe dip – and yes, it was freezing).
Just short of Otter Cove we stopped off at Thunder Hole, a formation named for the cacophony of sound emitted from waves crashing against rocks. It did not disappoint.
Likewise, Otter Cliff coaxed a few holy mackerels from our lips. These 110-foot granite cliffs are dotted with evergreens and icy waterfalls that quietly spill down into crystal green waters, beckoning you to take a plunge… I mean, if the otters can do it…
When we rounded the corner to Jordan Pond our excursion came to an abrupt end due to a Park Ranger safety drill. So we did some calisthenics and picked up Route 3 back to Bar Harbor, in search or the one joint still serving cold brews and hot chowder.
4,600. That’s the number of islands that belong to the state of Maine. Somewhere in there is Peaks Island – a busy little suburb off the coast of Portland and home to one of our all-time favorite Toads, Ponch. He’s our National Retail Development Manager and has been heading up our flagship store in Freeport since 2001. A few things you should know about Ponch: he’s part polar bear, can fix literally anything, and he’s the greatest pizza chef in the state of Maine (unconfirmed, but trust us on this). He’s got every skill you need to live on a tiny Maine island for 365 days a year (which he does with his wife, 2 daughters, and 2 pups). When were out there for our photoshoot this fall, we sat around Ponch’s kitchen and got the local’s take on Peaks Island living.
How many years have you lived on Peaks?
This stint is 13 years, but Jess and I did a previous 3 year stint.
What’s the easiest way to get there?
Casco Bay Lines Ferries out of the Portland harbor – same spot they’ve been running out of since 1880! It’s a 17 minute ferry through the bay, and you pass the old Fort Scammel, can see lighthouses and the Portland skyline. It’s really pretty (You can always take a water Taxi if you plan a late night out on the town).
What’s your last stop before the mainland?
Standard Baking Co. for incredible bread and Old Port Spirits and Cigars for libations.
Best place to get a pizza on the island?
My house! There aren’t any pizza joints on the island, but I like Portland’s Flatbread Pizza, or Micucci’s for a Sicilian Slab.
What’s the best way to get around on the island?
When you get off the ferry, walk up the hill, take the first left, walk a few blocks and visit Brad’s Recycled Bike Shop – you can rent all sorts of 80’s and 90’s bikes, plus some old Schwinn tandems and even kid carriers – great for your beer and lobsters, or dog, if not your kid. Walking is also great as is unicycling.
Best place to watch the sunrise?
Picnic Point – I recommend walking out past the rope swing.
Best place to watch the sunset?
Picnic Point is still a great spot, or the front of the island to watch the sun set over Portland.
Best spot to the get creative juices flowing?
The Illustration Institute cabins. The Illustration Institute is a non-profit based in Portland that allows artists to spend a few weeks off the grid, living in quiet cabins on the island just working on their craft.
Best spot for a cocktail?
Make your own in advance or pack the ingredients, put it in a thermos, and go hang out on the rocks.
Best place to pitch a tent:
It’s not necessarily legal, but can’t say it doesn’t happen… Best advice is to be friendly, and don’t make a mess, but know that most of the land is private and the rest of the island is Portland City property.
Best piece of advice for living on an island:
A friend of mine had recently moved to the Great State of Maine and was considering buying a house but didn’t know where. He asked me about Peaks but had heard that it was a pain. My response to him was “It’s only a pain if you don’t like boats.” You have to know that you can’t get home without a boat and you can’t come and go on your own schedule. You have to share transportation with a whole bunch of people – some you know and some you don’t, some you like and some you don’t care for. BUT it’s a very pleasant way to start a commute or end a long day or week.
For more local tips about Maine, catch up with Ponch and the rest of the Toads at our Toad&Co Freeport store at 11 Bow Street in Freeport, ME.
When the phrase “car camping” comes to mind, you might envision the well-curated craft of surviving in the out-of-doors a la Wes Anderson. It’s a well executed blend of home sweet home meets the great outdoors into a savory alfresco. But when is comes to driving a rickety 1959 trailer across the country on our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour, the line between survival and car glamping begins to blur. But Dr. Drew, our Tour Manager and Master of Wingin’-It makes tight tour dates and long hours between the white lines look like a breeze. We caught up with Dr. Drew for his advice and insights into easy summer car camping.
Cot or inflatable or sleeping pad? No more sleeping pads! Cots or inflatable only to help keep the ol’ back in fighting shape.
Sleeping bag VS. Blanket? What you want is a high “warm and cozy” factor and the freedom to move freely. In the summertime, I go blanket. Currently using: Down-filled Kammok Bobcat Trail Quilt (mostly because I like the name). For a lighter but equally cozy option, I’m all about the Cashmoore Blanket.
Jerky – A tasty protein filled snack that keeps froth levels high and hunger levels low. Currently munching: Epic Provisions, high quality product and a mission-based company.
Kitchen – Never hit the road without a way to heat up water. No matter where you are, you can fire up a hot meal and warm the soul. Currently using: Jet Boil Genesis Base Camp System. Lightweight, packable, everything you need to get gourmet if you want.
Quinoa – Fills you up in desperate times. Good sweet or savory.
Trail Mix – When the Jet Boil runs out of fuel and you have to go caveman style. I’m currently snacking on Shar Snacks (rhymes with “bear”), which I picked up in Austin. Organic and responsibly sourced.
A good book – Currently reading: History of Haight Ashbury by Charles Perry.
Audio Book – The sound of another human’s voice can be quite comforting on the open road, especially when it reminds you of home. Currently listening to: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.
Tunes – DemerBox for indestructible tunes and a long battery life. Currently jamming to: 2 Spotify playlists, Highway Sounds (more rocky/bluesy) and I’m With Her (all the badass ladies).
Bug Control – When you’re in Charleston in the summertime, you need all the help you can get. I’m not a fan of the chemical sprays so I like to wear clothes with Insect Shield® Technology built right into it. Currently wearing: Debug Mission Ridge Pants and Debug Peak Season Shirt – they keep the bugs out and still look presentable for date night.
Trash – Rule #1: try not to make any. I like to make my own meals, buy in bulk with mason jars, and avoid takeout. But if you’re driving, stick a box on the passenger seat floor, a perfect receptacle for cherry stems and peach pits.
Hydration Station – My ultimate long drive hack: strap a Camelbak to your seat and never deal with water bottle caps and spills again!
Happy Trails. Come out and see the Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour on the road. Check out national summer schedule here.
There’s nothing more gratifying after a long hike than a plate full of tacos and a cold cerveza. Trust us, we Toads are experts. With half of HQ born and bred Californians and the rest happy transplants, we’ve got this state pretty well covered. If you find yourself in the Golden State, here’s where we recommend heading. And we know you know, but stay on trails and pack-in-pack-out. Save your reckless abandon for the taquerias.
Torrey Pines State Park – Easy trail along the Pacific coast with a glimpse of the rarest pine tree around.
The Taco Stand – Tacos al pastor, Mexican street corn, mango chile paletas. YUM.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Willow Hole Trail – Big rocks and an oasis; great spot to see wildlife like big horn sheep.
Algobertos Taco Shop – Hole in the wall taqueria with burritos bigger than the front door.
Bronson Canyon – Part of LA’s Griffith Park, so hike up to the Observatory and channel James Dean.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos – There are 3 options: fish, shrimp, and special. Get all 3.
Horn Canyon – Crisscross streams toward an epic pine grove with distant views of the Channel Islands.
Ojai Tortilla House – Cash only, handmade tortillas daily. Buy some to go if you know what’s good for you.
Rattlesnake Trail – Named for the twisty nature, not the inhabitants. Moderate to the meadow, then steep for .5 miles to the top. Good views abound.
Mony’s Tacos – Great salsa bar (hello pistachio salsa) and 5 minute walk to the beach.
Old Cove Landing Trail – 3 of the 34 miles of trails in the Wilder Ranch State Park. Bonus: Wheelchair and stroller accessible!
De La Hacienda Taqueria – Carnitas are bomb, but so is the veggie burrito. Something for everyone!
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Trail – 4.4 miles through the oldest trees in the WORLD. Like 5,000+ years old.
Taqueria Mi Guadalajara – A sedentary taco truck with bizarro hours and delish barbacoa.
East Ridge Trail – In Redwood Regional Park; you can see SF on a clear day then hike down into the redwoods.
Mariscos La Costa – Cash only so you know it’s legit. Great ceviche tostada.
Golden Gate Park – Start at 9th and Lincoln, mosey through the Botanical Garden, loop around Stow Lake.
If you can’t be eating $2 street curry in Malaysia, you might as well be dreaming about it. Whether you’re an overachiever and already booked your 2019 travels or you’re more of the “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” type, half the fun of travel is fantasizing about it. Here are 12 places to visit in 2019 dreamed up by Team Toad. Some trips are booked, some just pipe dreams, all possibilities. See ya out there?
BAD ISCHL, AUSTRIA
“The Austrian mountain topography is very different than the US, so I’ve always been intrigued to ski there. You can cover a lot more vertical ground. I do an annual ski trip with a close group of friends and it just so happens one of them is directing a film in Ishch this winter. I’ve never been to Austria, but the Europeans have been dealing with intense mountainous snow culture for centuries, so I’m excited to see what’s what. I’ve also heard they go hard for the aprés.”
– Napper, Creative Director & Perpetual Party-Starter
“Melbourne has amazing coffee. It’s kind of their thing. I used to live in Melbourne and there’s a reason it always ends up on those “Most Livable Cities” lists… it’s urban but has gorgeous green spaces, great beaches, old architecture, great public transit (the most extensive streetcar system in the world!), a bangin’ music and art scene, and did I mention the coffee?? It’s seriously the best.”
– Holly, Product Developer & International Coffee Connoisseur
“I want to see Hawaii with my own eyes! There are so many outdoor activities, but at the top of my list is backpacking across Haleakalā Crater. You start at sunrise and hike in, camp in the old ranger huts that are INSIDE the crater, then hike down the other side into Hana Forest Reserve. It’s a 2-day backpacking trip that ends with me snorkeling in Hana and eating all the fruit I can find. My kind of paradise.”
– Ashley, Production Assistant & Lifelong New Englander
“This is the year I get my butt to Japan! I want to go in the spring for the cherry blossoms (obviously) and fly into Tokyo to check out the Yayoi Kusama Museum (she’s the artist who does all those crazy dot installations). Honestly, I just want to go to all of the Japanese grocery stores… I just love them. All of the hill towns of Japan are supposed to be stunning, too. Kanazawa is one of the oldest towns with temples and canals dating to the 17th century. They have a samurai district! I don’t even know what that means, but I bet it’s awesome.”
– Helena, Asst. Women’s Designer & Cookie Monster
“We’re taking my father-in-law back to the homeland for the first time in 60 years. I’ve heard a lot about Calabria so I’m excited to see it first hand. I want to explore the coast, the countryside, and generally eat my way through “the toe.” The cured meats, the seafood, the homemade pasta… that’s the best part about visiting family – you skip the touristy things, and just get to live.”
– Bradley, Sales Ops & Award-Winning Chef
“I’m headed to Galway with my parents to visit our friends who live on an old battleground! Then we’ll make our way to Galway. It’s smack dab in the middle of Ireland’s western coast, so it’s a great mid-way point to explore the coastal towns and islands. I want to take a day trip to hike the Gap of Dunloe, a mountain pass that leads to a lake and you can boat back to the bottom. It drops you off at a 15th century castle! Ireland is so dreamy…”
– Kira, Men’s Designer & Queen of Crafts
“The Sawtooth Mountains are a gem. They’re reminiscent of the mountains you find in Alaska, but on this side of Canada. There’s unbelievable mountain biking, hiking, fishing, epic rafting down the Salmon River… it’s the ultimate outdoor playground. Driving the 93 to Missoula, MT takes you through 3 National Forests! We’re taking our boys and meeting a few other families. It’s a great place for kids of all ages to roam.”
– Scott, VP Global Sales & Amateur DJ
MOUNT COOK, NEW ZEALAND
“The geology of New Zealand is insane. It’s located on a tectonic plate boundary so the mountains jut straight into the sky, rising quickly from water’s edge to 12K feet! I read a book once about a dude who solo hiked all of NZ. He hiked through the fjords and the glaciers and eventually up Mount Cook, the highest point in New Zealand. It all sounds breathtaking.”
– Sarah, Chief of Staff & Resident Geologist
“Bhutanese food is like Nepalese food but with Indian and Tibetan Chinese influences. Bhutan may be small, but it’s very innovative. They’ve done significant things in terms of the environment – I think they’re the world’s only carbon negative country, meaning they capture more carbon than they produce. Nearly 75% of the country is still forested and they measure development by Gross National Happiness. There’s a great TEDTalk by the Prime Minister about it.”
–Divas, Controller & Momo Master
“I want to surf this wave in Morocco that breaks off a shipwreck at Boilers. It’s a great right hand break, a natural footer’s dream. I want to explore the souks, maybe get a sick stained glass lantern… As for food, I want it all. I want to see what my body can handle. I want to see the Sahara desert. I don’t need to ride a camel, though. I did that once and that camel was pissed. I don’t need to do that again.”
– Drew, King of Customer Service & Thrift Store Finds
“I love that Mexican history always starts with the native peoples. If you go to the Air & Space Museum, the first thing you’ll see is how the Olmecs used the stars to navigate thousands of years ago. Mexico has such a rich culture and diverse landscape. And the food! The food is out of control. I want to go to Oaxaca because it’s the “Land of Seven Moles” – there’s one with chocolate in it! I’d love to go first weekend of November to catch the Dia De Los Muertos celebrations.”
– Daisy, Content Manager & Mole Enthusiast
TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE
“I think Chile is amazing. You get the hot and the cold, mountains and seaside… what a great place to reflect and rejuvenate for the new year ahead. I want to spend the the holidays in a lodge in Torres del Paine National Park, then hit the beaches for New Years. Cachagua is a beach town north of Santiago. Pisco sours on the beach sounds like a fantastic way to ring in the new year!”
– Kyle, VP of Design/Merch/Supply Chain/Leisure Sports
Only a short, scenic and twisty trip from the hustle of San Francisco, lies the true California, coastal treasure of Tomales Bay. Approximately fifteen miles-long and one mile-wide, Tomales Bay was once home to the indigenous Coast Miwok people. Today the bay now plays host to a variety of aquatic recreational activities, not to mention home to California’s largest oyster production beginning in 1875.
Whether you’re interested in a day of sea kayaking, sailing, hiking or simply devouring some of the locally produced bounty, the Tomales Bay area is a wealth of riches that won’t disappoint. A place were the celebration of nature and great food seem to coexist in a way you don’t encounter every day.
When it comes to food, oysters seem to be the star of the show. While not loving oysters may not be a crime, it’s certainly frowned upon if you’re visiting this mollusk mecca. That said, if shucking oysters sitting on the very water they were pulled from sounds good then by all means stop by the legendary Hog Island and Tomales Bay Oyster Company.
Hog Island planted their first oyster seed in 1983 when their motto was “Strong backs and weak minds.” Well, they were clearly sandbagging because today they’re considered one of the premier producers of certified sustainable shellfish, harvesting over 3.5 million mouth-watering mollusks a year. As a true testament of commitment to their backyard, they’re also a Certified B Corporation and California Benefit Corporation. Achieving such designations require meeting rigorous standards related to social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Make sure to reserve a picnic table, order a bucket-o-beers and proceed to lay down a shuckin’ and grillin’ oyster fiesta you won’t soon forget.
Just down the road you’d find the Tomales Bay Oyster Company (TBOC) which was established in 1909 and is the oldest continuously run shellfish farm in California. Like Hog Island, TBOC has worked diligently over the years to become increasingly more sustainable and minimize plastic waste in the waters. When it comes to farm-to-table experiences, you’ll be hard pressed to beat eating oysters being pulled and cleaned twenty-yards from your picnic table. The team at TBOC is a close knit group of hard working, dedicated aquafarmers and watching them go about their business as you enjoy their fruits just makes you smile.
Perhaps Tomales Bay’s greatest virtue is its charismatic blend of quintessential and picturesque New England maritime flare with the Golden State’s laid back, good vibrations. Beautifully dilapidated fishing boats and weathered, shingled cabins pepper the coastline, waving peacefully at the occasional surf wagon that drifts by. To really soak up the vibe rent a house for a weekend or a rustic yet luxurious cottage from Nick’s Cove right on the water. Nick’s Cove also has an award-winning restaurant that truly takes advantage of the areas abundant farms from both the land and sea. Bottom line, get up here some time. You won’t regret it.
Baja is everything and vast swaths of nothing. It’s a unique blend of the past and the present, a perfect reminder that history, in some way or another, repeats itself. We’d heard that the wine region of Guadalupe Valley in Baja, Mexico is a growing hotspot for lovers of rich history, fine wine, posh digs and swanky grub. Naturally, we had to check it out for ourselves. Here are our picks for what to do south of the border:
Make camp in Cuatro Cuatros. And we say “camp” lightly. Wake up in posh glamping tent and stoke the potbelly stove while brewing some coffee. Light out for an early morning hike to soak up breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Breakfast under the shade of the canvas roofed restaurant and have whatever the chef suggests (you won’t be disappointed). Throw on walking shoes and traverse the massive property, making a special detour to check out the old, wooden fishing boats that were marooned among the vines long ago.
Speaking of vines, spend an afternoon sipping wine from 200 year-old vines at La Casa Vieja. Sidle up to the bar and get the full story from the Don himself, Señor Humberto Tosacano. He’ll regale you with stories of the Spanish Jesuits who planted the oldest known grapes in the Americas on this very land. Listen carefully and you may hear the voices of jovial missionaries planting grape clippings in the Mexican sun. Then again, maybe it’s just the organic- and sulfite-free wine talking.
Just down the road you’ll find a much different wine tasting experience at the ultra-modern Encuentro Gualdalupe. Gussy up a tad and indulge in a decadent meal and architectural prowess. Be sure to ask for a peek at the underground cave cellars and boulder garden.
To get your heart-pumping, fly with the crew at Desert Nest Zip Line. Buckle up for a high-wire flight over the beautiful rolling hills of the Guadalupe Valley. Five zip lines at 50mph with a maximum height of 265ft. Ya, you’ll gain a new perspective, alright.
Wind down with a glass of the local nectar while soaking up incredible views at the Finca Altozano farmstead. Shake the hand of celebrated chef Javier Plascencia while marveling at his ranch, restaurant and farm-to-table cuisine. Spend a few hours reminiscing on what you’ve seen and done, the smells you smelled and the sounds you heard. You’ll leave Baja with the ultimate souvenir: Exceeded Expectations.
So you’ve spent the day traipsing great swaths of land, catching glimpses of bears and billygoats, staring up at sky-high waterfalls and down into prehistoric craters. You are, of course, exploring one of the great National Parks, America’s best idea. You’re also in need a cold one somethin’ fierce. Say hello to America’s second best idea: National Park Lodges. Grand, classic and unmistakably Americana, the National Park Lodges are worth a visit in and of themselves. Some have grand ballrooms, others have epic views, many have been featured in classic films, and all hit the spot after a long day on the trail. Here are some of our favorite National Park Lodges to grab a drink and let it all sink in.
Nothing gets your heart pumping like staring 8,500 feet straight down. Better get a drink to calm your nerves. Perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, the North Rim Lodge and Roughrider Saloon make for a pretty epic stop after hiking nearby Kaibab Trail. Grab a Dark n’ Stormy and see if your drink doesn’t predict the future: At over 1,000 ft higher than the South Rim, the North Rim is known for it’s unpredictable weather. Sit back in the stellar common room and watch a summer storm roll through, or lounge on the patio listening as the piñons and ponderosas whisper across the canyon. Open May 15 – October 15, so get a move on!
Their slogan says it all, “7500 feet above the ordinary!” Sure, it’s the entrance of the rough n’ tumble Rockies, but make no mistake, the Stanley Hotel drips with glamour. Established in 1909 by a well-to-do yankee in search of a summer home, Freelan Oscar Stanley wanted his hotel to hold it’s own against the poshest hotels of the East Coast. Goal achieved, Mr. Stanley. Belly up to the Cascades Whiskey Bar and experience the Rockies the Stanley way – scotch in hand, beautiful views a plenty. The bar offers Colorado’s largest selection of whiskeys, bourbons and scotch (we like the Stanley Old Fashioned for the black walnut bitters), and a healthy dose of paranormal activity. In 1974 Stephen King spent some time at the Stanley Hotel and came up with a story about a haunted mountain hotel plagued by unkind spirits… perhaps your second drink will be The Shining Redrum Punch…
Sitting on the deck at Crater Lake Lodge, beer in hand and good friends at your side, you think to yourself, “Well this is pleasant.” But as you look down to the crystal blue lake below, you realize just how terrifying this place really is: You are teetering on the edge of a massive caldera, just a step away from falling into the deepest lake in the United States which, only 8,000 years ago, was a massive volcano. So it’s okay if you’re feeling a little jumpy all of a sudden. But by your second beer you’ve come to grips with the fact that you’re having happy hour on the edge of an abyss.Grab a flight of local Oregonian beers on tap and watch the lake change as the sun sets. No reservations.
No “Best of” list would be complete without mentioning the beloved Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Awahnee Hotel) at the heart of Yosemite Valley. Where else can you sip champagne and gaze upon Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point? Sitting in the great dining room, you can’t help but sit up a little straighter and tap into your inner President Roosevelt – no matter how sweaty you were just a few hours ago. Towering 34-ft ceilings, glowing chandeliers and enormous pine rafters evoke the great pioneer days of yore. But unlike the mountain men and women who came before us, you can’t just roll in off the wagon. Men are required to wear long pants and shirts with a collar, while ladies are asked to cover their knees and shoulders. It’s a small price to pay for an evening in one of America’s grandest hotels.
Ok, so Hermit’s Rest isn’t actually a National Park Lodge at all, but bear with us. Originally commissioned by the first tourism companies in the west, Hermit’s Rest was built in 1914 as a rest stop for weary coach travelers. They’d stretch their legs, peruse the native crafts sold on site, and warm themselves by a the fireplace during the colder months. Sure, it’s not an authentic historical ruin and the whole thing is a little kitschy, but there’s something kind of sweet about 1920’s Americana tourism marketing. There’s still a good snack bar to grab a can of cold beer and it makes for a great photo-op. What more could you want on a road trip pit-stop?
We’ve entered into a new age of travel: People want true immersion in local culture versus observing it from the lap of luxury. Gone are the days of the one-size-fits all tour packages, cheesy tourist traps, or typical sightseeing spots. Here to stay is traveling like a local. Discovering how the people really live—where they eat, what they do, where they go—is almost guaranteed to offer a richer travel experience. Whether you’re visiting a large metropolis, charming mountain town, or new country for the first time, you can blend in (or at least try to). Here are our tips to help you travel like a local, no matter where you’re headed on your next trip.
Ditch the Tour Packages
Who really wants to shuffle on and off a stuffy bus all day? While tour packages and bus tours have a place in travel, it’s usually not among the more adventurous set, who want to experience their destination in person rather than through a rear window. Yes, it will require more planning and legwork, but your trip will be far more memorable. Get a book (yes, an actual book) and dig into the place you’re headed. Then do some google searches and see what sorts of blogs or articles turn up. You’ll have a whole list of places to see. Check out wikipedia and get some history under your belt. You just became your own tour guide – and the best past is that no one will hurry you along when you’re soaking it all in.
Tap Into Local Knowledge
Before you hit the road, check out Instagram feeds and blogs of in-the-know locals who live where you’re heading (checking out relative hashtags is a good place to start). Chefs, outdoor lovers, travel writers, and cocktail enthusiasts, just to name a few, are the kind of folks who love to dish on what makes their town great. Once you’re in town, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals. Baristas, bar tenders, staff at outdoor shops and hotel concierges are generally happy to offer up local tips. These folks work at establishments that are the true town-centers, so they attract people with a lot of local pride. They’ll send you straight to the good stuff: the authentic burrito joint, the hippest basement bar, the most secret swimming hole – if it’s off the beaten path, they’ll know where to go. And if you just cant wait until you’re traveling, websites like RootsRated.com compile intel from in-the-know locals on where to find the best hiking, biking, paddling and post-adventure pints in cities across the country.
Take the Backroads
Interstates are great for getting to your destination in a hurry. But tiny, two-lane country roads offer an adventure within themselves and let you experience an aspect of local culture you just can’t get blasting down the highway at 70 mph. Chat with the farmer while you pick up some local honey or jams at the roadside stand. Stop at an old-school diner for a milkshake and mingle with the locals at the counter. Taking the road less traveled almost always means a chance to interact with local folks.
Listen to Local Radio
While you’re on a road trip, take a break from your playlist and tune in to the local airwaves. It’s a cultural lesson to discover the different types of music depending on where you are. In Nevada, for instance, old-timey country seems to dominate local stations, so much so that you’ll probably have a few ballads memorized by the end of your journey. Bonus: When you roll into town, you’ll have inspiration for what to sing at the local karaoke bar.
Consider Staying in a Hostel or House Rental
Don’t brush off hostels as hubs solely for the backpacker set: In recent years, many hostels, especially those in big cities, have spruced up their digs, offering private rooms, more sophisticated lobbies, and even concierge services. Hostels typically offer more local flavor than chain hotels: Check out the posters and fliers that showcase local events happening around town. You’ll also probably meet some fellow travelers to hit the town with. And there’s a reason that home rentals like Airbnb and VRBO.com have exploded as of late: you can’t beat staying in a local’s home to feel like, well, a local.
Visit a Local Supermarket
For a true microcosm of your destination, head straight to a neighborhood market (not a national chain). Not only can you stock up on staples like fruit, snacks and drinks, you’ll get a real taste for local culture by seeing what they eat. Oh, and local delicacies—whether it’s fried grasshoppers in the Yucatan or fiery hot sauce in Thailand—make authentic and affordable souvenirs.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Lost
Have a general roadmap of a plan, but know that it’s not totally necessary to have a step-by-step itinerary mapped out. This isn’t summer camp after all, and it’s important when you’re traveling to leave a little room for serendipity to really dig into what makes a place tick. Linger in a coffeeshop, or take the longer route on that hike. Have a little faith in flexibility. More often than not things tend to work out, and you’ll have a helluva story to tell!
Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Basheer Tome
Finding world-class taverns and bars in New York City is easy. It’s finding the trails, which can sometimes be the challenging part. But if you know where to look—and in some cases, if you’re willing to venture outside the city limits just a little ways—there are some surprisingly great places to hit the trail. And when you do, there’s arguably nothing better than sipping on a nice, cold one after your time out in the wild. Here are five tried-and-tested, trail-to-tavern pairings that will be sure to make for a memorable (and refreshing) experience.
1. Bear Mountain | Defiant Brewing Company
Hiking in Bear Mountain is one of the most fun trail experiences you can have without going far from the city. Combined with nearby Harriman State Park, there are roughly 50,000 acres of mostly forested landscape and 235 miles of trails between them. With chunks of the Appalachian Trail in the park, plus plenty of other gorgeous single-track trails that are—especially on weekdays—rarely overcrowded, it’s a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) if you’re used to pounding pavement in the city.
Once you’re done hiking, you can make your trip outside the city even more fun if you swing by the Defiant Brewing Company in Pearl River on your way back into the city after your hike. Pro tip: if you’re not the designated driver home from this adventure, live large and try the O’Defiant Stout—the creamy, dark Guinness-esque beer will not disappoint, and will fill you up even if you did a 20 miler!
2. Prospect Park | Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn doesn’t really call to mind nature and nice trails, but they do exist…you just have to know where to look. Head to Prospect Park for some on-dirt adventure in the nearly 3 miles of trails found in the park. It’s a place with a similar vibe to Central Park (they were both designed by the same landscape architect), just way more scaled down and with far fewer people. It’s also the best spot around for a need-to-get-on-trail urge when you don’t have time to go out of the city.
3. Cunningham Park | Fillmore’s Tavern
Cunningham Park, up in Queens, isn’t just for mountain bikers: it’s a great spot for trail runners and hikers as well. And the meticulously groomed and well-signed trails make its 358-acre expanse one of the best kept secrets in Queens. If you’re trail running or casually strolling, be aware that it is a somewhat popular spot for mountain bikers, so listen for bikes behind you. Bonus mileage: if you need to add more miles, you’re just a few blocks from Alley Pond Park, another great park with a combo of paved, doubletrack and singletrack trails weaving through wetlands, forests, and meadows.
And you might need that mileage if you’re going to go two miles down the road to Fillmore’s Tavern—a 102-year-old establishment with a ton of character—to indulge in a a beer or two during their fantastic happy hour, or if you’re planning on having the Tequila Poppers (we won’t blame you if you don’t share them with your hiking buddy).
4. Inwood Hills Park | Hogshead Tavern
Inwood Hills Park has some of the best trails in the city. Winding singletrack allows great views of the Hudson River and skyscrapers, so it’s a bit of a fairyland vibe where you feel completely alone in the middle of nowhere, but you’re actually totally surrounded by the hustle of the city. The route from the tip of the park down to Hogshead—one of NYC’s top taverns—is (dare we say) epic. You’ll start winding through Inwood Hills, exploring and enjoying some of the serious stairs, before heading through neighboring trails in Fort Tryon as you head south four miles to Hogshead Tavern in Harlem. The selection of craft beer, whiskey, and uber-hip snacks (and brunch, naturally) make this the perfect post-hike destination, especially if you finish thirsty and hungry, and want some incredibly Instagram-able eats and drinks.
5. Sprain Ridge Park | Pete’s Park Place Tavern
Twenty-five cent wings post-hike? Sounds like the best day ever, which is why you should venture north of Manhattan on Mondays to make a visit to the technical trails of Sprain Ridge Park (the terror of mountain bikers, and the training ground for those hoping to compete in more serious trail running events). After you’ve exhausted all of those trails and your legs, you can head to Pete’s Park Place Tavern for beers and wings. It’s the most traditional sports-bar environment out of the taverns we’ve checked out, but the ultra-casual atmosphere is welcoming even if you’re a little bit sweaty, so it’s worth the stop. And again—where in Manhattan will you find tasty wings for 25 cents?