The Solstice Challenge

Nothing beats a summer day that’s packed to the brim. The kind of day when your bones are tired from a day of rebel-rousing and joy-seeking. It’s the kind of tired that fuels your next wild idea. And that, friends, is The Solstice Challenge: We challenge you to use the longest day of the year to do something EPIC (pssst: there are prizes).  Post a photo and quick itinerary of your ultimate longest day to Instagram and tag #ToadSolsticeChallenge. Winner takes a $200 Toad gift card. 

Need some inspiration? We asked some of the Toads to recall their most epic days… 

“I went to Fiji with my dad for a surf trip last October. The weather was horrible but we’d heard rumors that it was better on the other side of the island. So we took a taxi at 4am to the other side of the island (2 hrs), then hopped on a tiny boat (1 hr) to a world-famous surf spot, “Cloudbreak,” in the middle of the ocean over a reef. The boat dropped us off in the middle of the lineup with only a few other people. My dad and I spent the whole day surfing a world-famous wave in the middle of the ocean. When we got back to our side of the island, we were formally “accepted” into the local village through a traditional ceremony involving Kava and a lot of singing.”

– Danny, part fish/part Sales Manager 

“The most epic day was when I went spelunking in the largest cave system in the world, Vietnam’s Son Doong. I spent the day climbing cave walls, examining rare geological formations, swimming in subterranean rivers fed by underground waterfalls, and capped it off with sleeping in (literally) complete darkness. (Does it count as the best longest day if it’s pitch black?)” 

– Sarah, our Office Manager and resident geologist 

“One time, I took a trip Amsterdam to play in an ultimate Frisbee tournament for one day, and it was totally worth it!”

– Holly, Product Tech and master of spontaneity 

“I woke up to the desert sunrise in Nevada at 6am and hopped on my Harley. It always gets windy around the Nevada/California line in Mojave. It’s a gusty wind so riding becomes really physical. At certain points my whole body was on an incline, just fighting the wind. But I had to get back to Santa Barbara that day for my buddy’s wedding that night. So I drove about 600 miles through the desert, cleaned up nice, and made it to the wedding. That was actually a pretty epic day… now I’m getting excited for another trip…” 

– Anthony, Graphic Designer and professional wedding date 

“I recently spent an epic day in Philadelphia… coffee on the “Rocky” steps, a stroll through the Museum of Art, a planetarium show at the Franklin Institute, not one but TWO cheesesteaks, whiskey tasting in Fishtown, a tip o’ the hat to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, wandering along Spruce Street Harbor, open mic night at the Magic Garden, bar hopping on South Street, rooftop rosé for sunset (at 9pm!), and a dance party on Electric Avenue. I walked 16.3 miles that day…”  

– Daisy, Content Manager and amateur Rocky impersonator 

“A few years ago my buddies and I woke up at 5am to drive to Mount Baldy (the highest point in LA County) to catch the first chair lift of the day. Over lunch beers we had the wild idea to blaze back to Venice Pier in time to catch a few ankle biters… That day was an epic day.”
– Napper, Creative Director and eternal “hell yes man” 

Don’t forget to post a photo and quick itinerary to Instagram of your ultimate longest day and tag #ToadSolsticeChallenge. Winner takes home a $200 Toad gift card. Winner announced on 6/22, so hop to it!
 

The Best National Parks

Alright, full disclosure: There are a ton of National Parks that we could add. It’s hard to say that any ONE park is the BEST park. What’s not to love about Yosemite’s Half-Dome or the Grand Canyon’s… well, GRAND canyon? And the Great Smokey Mountains! One of the most mind-blowing network of trails on the planet! But try we must. So here’s our super-scientific, definitely not-subjective list of Best National Parks: 

A marmot by Hidden Lake and Reynolds Mountain in Glacier NP. (photo via Tobias Klenze)

Best For Epic Views: Glacier National Park

With more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park has no shortage of jaw dropping views. Bonus: cross the border to explore the Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. It’s all part of the same range (because borders are a human thing, not a nature thing).

The campsite Jumbo Rocks really lives up to its name.

Best For Camping Under the Stars: Joshua Tree 

Big rocks, dark skies, and some really freakin’ cute “trees.” There’s no better place to catch nature’s celestial spectacular than Joshua Tree National Park, the mystical rock field at the nexus of two great deserts. Plan your trip around a meteor shower and don’t forget to pack layers (it’s the desert!).

The Pacific Northwest rainforest ranges from Northern California to British Colombia.

Best For Getting Wet: Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park actually has four different regions – the epic Pacific coastline, the western temperate rainforest, the alpine regions and the drier eastern forests. On the west side of the park is Hoh Rain Forest, where rainfall (12-14 feet annually!) and a lush canopy of coniferous and deciduous trees create perfect rainforest conditions for mosses and ferns to flourish. 

Eye spy something pointy… (photo via Burley Packwood)

Best For Tacos: Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is split into two sections that straddle Tuscon, AZ, making it an excellent park for people who love a taco pit-stop. On the East side, start at the Douglas Spring Trail and head up to Wild Horse Tank, then hit up Street Taco and Beer Co (free chips!) in downtown Tucson, then head to the West side to catch the King Canyon Trail before the sun goes down. The namesake Saguaro cacti abound.

They’re cute until they steal your lunch. (photo via National Park Service)

Best For Solitude: Channel Islands National Park

Off the coast of Central California are five remote islands where island foxes reign supreme and there’s no such thing as cell service. The only way to get to the Channel Islands is by boat, and once you’re there it’s just you and your legs. Camping is available on all five islands, with some spots a half-day’s hike in. But it’s all worth it for a true off-the-grid experience and run-ins with the locals: The Channel Island Fox, the smallest (and cutest) fox on the planet.

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley (photo via Wolfgangbeyer)

Best For Rocks: Death Valley National Park

Before joining the Toad team, our Office Manager, Sarah, was a geologist by trade, running all over the US looking at rocks. So according to our resident expert, “Death Valley National Park has some of the most insane rocks.” These sedimentary rocks make up the hottest, driest place in the USA and consist primarily of sandstone, limestone, conglomerate, hornfels, and marble. They date back to the Triassic Age and you can actually see the markings in the rocks from earthquakes that happened millions of years ago. Now that rocks! (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves).

Bass Harbor Head Light (photo via NPS, Kent Miller)

Best For Craft Beer: Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is unique in that it shares Maine’s Mt. Desert Island (pronounced “dessert”) with a handful of 19th century fishing villages. Located along the Atlantic Coast, Acadia is surrounded by picturesque towns and harbors that you’ll drive through (or bike through!) as you drive the Park Loop Road. Stop in Bar Harbor to try Atlantic Brewing Company and Bar Harbor Beerworks. When you’ve gotten back to the mainland, hit up Fogtown Brewing in Ellsworth – all 3 come highly recommended from the Toads in our Freeport, ME store.

Life’s a breach in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Best For Kayaking: Kenai Fjords National Park 

Thanks to the food-rich waters in the Kenai Fjords, this national park is known for its lively residents of sea otters, humpback whales, dolphins and orcas. Get set up with a kayaking tour out of Seward, AK (we recommend a guide as the tides can be tricky) and dip your paddle into Aialik Bay or Bear Glacier Lagoon.

Wonder where the Double-O-Arch gets its name from? (photo via Flicka)

Best For Mountain Biking: Arches National Park

“The best mountain biking is in Moab, hands down. Plus, they have wild porcupines!” That review comes from Napper, our Creative Director, and with good reason: With over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, towers, and spinnakers in Arches National Park in Moab, UT has some of the best views you can see on a bike. To note: you can’t bike on hiking trails, but you can bike on paved roads (and you’ll want to – summer traffic can be brutal) and some dirt roads like Willow Flats Road and Salt Valley Road. There are also plenty of biking trails outside the park in nearby Moab.

Stalactites hang from ceilings, stalagmites rise from the ground. (photo via Daniel Mayer)

Best For Vampires: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Described by Will Rogers as “The Grand Canyon with a roof,” New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns are a subterranean sensation. There are 119 known caves, with the grandest one of all, The Big Room, clocking in as the largest single chamber in North America! Wander the caves at your leisure but make sure you’re out before sunset to catch the great Bat Flight at the main entrance to the caverns. At sunset, thousands of Brazilian free tailed bats take to the skies in search of dinner. Don’t worry, you’re not on the menu… yet…

With 61 national parks in the United States, it’s hard to pick just one -– tropical islands, active volcanoes, soaring peaks, teeming wildlife refuges, apocalyptic sand dunes…. But if we had to say which National Park is the BEST, we’d say it’s the one you’re currently visiting. Every time. 

Summer To-Do: Shakespeare in the Park

A warm summer breeze, an open bottle of wine, men in tights… it’s a midsummer night’s dream, or, Shakespeare in the Park. Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Bard or have fuzzy memories of that one high school English class, get thee to this summer tradition. The tradition goes back to 1954 (well, 1599 if you want to get technical), when a few New York visionaries wanted to make Shakespeare theater as free and accessible as library books. Well, turns out people love free stuff and outdoor drinking, so the idea was a hit and has since caught on with communities all over the world. So without further ado, here’s our list of the best FREE 2019 Shakespeare in the Park festivals in the US. Pack a picnic and bring your kin.

New York, NY – The grand dame of Shakespeare in the park and the one that started it all. Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The New York Shakespeare Festival runs May through August and offers two shows: May/June catch Much Ado About Nothing staged with an incredible all black cast! and July/August is Coriolanus, a riveting political epic of democracy and demagoguery. Ah, art imitating life.

Asheville, NC – On a campy-but-lovable Olde English stage,The Montford Park Players put on North Carolina’s longest running free Shakespeare Festival. Prepare with bug spray or our new Debug clothes.

Kansas City, MO – Does it get better than sonnets and BBQ? Kansas’ City’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival knows how to party. This season’s show is Shakespeare in Love (we’re sensing a pattern…) and you can reserve your seating online beforehand.

Boston, MA –  The 24th season of Boston’s Commonwealth Shakespeare Company goes off at the Parkman Bandstand 6 days a week. This year’s show is the little known mystical dramedy, Cymbeline, about the fates of King Cymbeline’s family. Expect mistaken identities, twists and turns, and the all-consuming quest for true love.

Louisville, KY – Coming in at the most ambitious company, The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is putting on no less that 7 different productions. No tickets required, and dogs are welcome. All of Louisville’s a stage…

Buffalo, NY – Mark your cal for June 20th  when the 44th summer season of Shakespeare in Delaware Park kicks off. The first half of the summer will bring The Tempest and late July switches to Love’s Labour’s Lost (the story of a king and his comrades who swear off women for three years… hilarity ensues.)

Dallas, TX – Park your lawn chairs at Shakespeare Dallas’s series at Samuell Grand Park, now in its 48th season. Catch Shakespeare in Love (not technically by Shakespeare but hey, it’s on theme) and As You Like It, a classic rom com where “Love is merely a madness…”

San Francisco, CA – A little different than the traditional set-up, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival actually travels to 5 different venues throughout the Bay Area. This year they’re toting a musical version of As You Like It from June – September.

Los Angeles area, CA – From San Pedro to Hermosa Beach to Torrance to Venice (and many stops in between), Shakespeare by the Sea makes the rounds. This season catch The Comedy of Errors (two young visitors arrive in the city unaware that their long-lost twins already live there), and Henry V (Shakespeare’s most patriotic and inspiring play tells of a young King Henry V who seeks to unite his beloved England). Gird your loins and your flip flops.

Seattle, WA – In the mood for some hormone-induced teen romance? Romeo & Juliet is calling your name. Love the idea of love triangle in Elizabethan drag? Twelfth Night is for you. Get your fill as the Seattle Shakespeare Company tours the Puget Sound region all summer.

But what will you wear?! 

What is UPF Clothing?

It’s no surprise that pretty much everyone’s favorite part about summer is the sunshine. Think about it – all the classic summertime activities are better in the sun. Swimming, going for a bike ride, drinking beer. These things only get better when the rays are plentiful. But as with most things in life, too much sun can be detrimental to your skin. When you expose your skin to the sun, you are exposing yourself to ultraviolet radiation (UV), which is the driving agent of sunburn, skin aging, and skin cancer. While sunscreen is a great line of defense against the sun, it’s not the only option. Enter UPF clothing.

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing enhances your protection against UV rays. You can think of UPF as the equivalent of the SPF in the sunscreen you use.  Factors such as garment construction, color, treatments, and fiber type all play into a specific piece of clothing’s UPF rating. Luckily for you, rather than inspecting a piece of clothing for these attributes, you can simply look at the tag on the piece of clothing to see if the style has a UPF rating. UPF ratings between 15-20 are good, 20-40 is very good, and 40+ is excellent. If possible, always opt for a higher UPF rating. Your skin will thank you later!

MsUPFCatHead-S18-Day_01-Toad_ButterflyBeach_121_INBLOGCheck out our Men’s UPF styles here!

Everyone can benefit from UPF clothing. Even if you never get sunburnt, your skin will still be susceptible to UV rays when exposed to sunshine. Certain folks have more to gain from UPF clothing than others. If you have fair skin, UPF clothing can help shield you from powerful UV rays. Children are particularly vulnerable to UV rays because their skin is thinner, and more sensitive than adult skin. If possible, choose UPF styles for any children in your life. Additionally, people at high elevations are at a greater risk to the effects of UV rays. If you have any trips to the mountains planned this summer, make sure you have a few UPF pieces packed for your outing.

Taking care of your skin is no joke! Always liberally apply sunscreen before exposing yourself to UV rays, and wear clothing with an excellent UPF rating if possible. Now get out there and enjoy your summer!

WsUPFCatHead- S18-Day_02-Toad_Presidio_109_INBLOGWomen’s UPF styles are waiting for you here! 

Sunscreen For All

 

Summer is arguably the best season of the year. Longer days, warmer nights, and the always beautiful sun put our favorite outdoor activities on the front burner.  With the increase in time spent outdoors comes more exposure to the sun, and subsequently the need to protect our skin. We’ll be the first ones to admit that we love a good tan, but looking like weathered leather is no bueno (from both an aesthetic and medical standpoint.) Sunscreen is king this time of year so consider these factors when choosing your next tube of sun protection.  

Chemical vs Mineral Sunscreen.

There are primarily two types of sunscreen, chemical and mineral. Chemical sunscreen relies on chemicals, usually oxybenzone and avobenzone, to absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays and transform them to red beam, which is less harmful for your skin than ultraviolet rays. Since chemical sunscreen contains carbon, it is often referred to as organic sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen, often referred to as inorganic sunscreen since it doesn’t contain carbon, usually contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which reflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

When choosing between the two types of sunscreen, it is important to remember why you are wearing sunscreen in the first place. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and benefits from wearing sunscreen outweigh the potential risks from its ingredients. However, studies have shown that oxybenzone has been found to cause hormonal changes in animals; short-term research on people, however, did not show any adverse effect. Both chemical and mineral sunscreens have their advantages and disadvantages and the bottom line is the best sunscreen is the one you’re using on a daily basis.

Keeki Pure & Simple Natural Sunscreen (SPF 45) and Dr. Mercola Sunscreen (SPF 50) are two of our favorite options for sunscreen this year. Be sure to check out EWG’s complete list of best sunscreens for more sunscreen recommendations.

SPF Ratings

As you may have noticed, sunscreen comes labeled with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number. This number is a measure of protection against ultraviolet rays, which can be the leading cause of sunburns and can lead to skin cancer. For all intents and purposes, a sunscreen with a high SPF will offer more protection than that of a lower SPF number. In a recent post from Consumer Reports, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB rays, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, and SPF 100 blocks 99 percent.

Other Protection Methods

Although sunscreen is a great option for protecting skin, simply covering your skin can be even more effective than sunscreen when battling UV rays. It doesn’t always make sense to wear long sleeves and pants when out swimming, but a hike at high elevations can be much safer for your skin when you cover up. We make clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating which is based on the construction, color, and treatment of the garment. By purposefully buying clothing with a high UPF rating, you can ensure greater skin protection from ultraviolet rays. Just don’t forget to wear a hat and later up any skin that still sees the sun! 

Men’s Debug Quick Dry LS Shirt (UPF 45+)                         Men’s Barrow Pant (UPF 40+)

 

Women’s Sola LS Shirt (UPF 50+)                                     Women’s Debug Trail Tight (UPF 40+) 

Weekending in Nantucket

 

Not so long ago, Toad&Co Ambassador Gretchen Powers spent a weekend on Cape Cod’s Nantucket Island. Between cobbled stone streets and historic lighthouses, Gretchen found an island filled with picturesque landscapes and classic East Coast eats.  Here’s her run down on all things Nantucket. 

Nantucket, the timeless star of many classic summer beach reads, is an idyllic island of quaint homes, windy beaches, and summer love. Or so I’ve read.  This small island, about 30 miles by ferry south of Cape Cod, MA, has a year-round population of roughly 10,000. This seemingly quiet destination can swell to nearly 50,000 souls during the summer months, so timing is everything for a trip to the fabled Nantucket. My partner, Kaleigh, and I were lucky enough to sneak out to the island just as the trees were blooming and before the summer crowds arrived.  We were in search of a bit of adventure coupled with some tasty food and drink. I was secretly nervous that my dreams of the island wouldn’t live up to my expectations.

On the morning of our first day on Nantucket, Kaleigh and I woke up to the peaceful sounds of raindrops on our tin roof. The weather report showed a break in the rain later in the day and as soon as I saw a sliver of sunshine I turned to Kaleigh and said, “We are going to bike out to Brant Point Lighthouse and we’re going now!”  While we enjoyed walking the cute, cobbled streets and sipping beers at Cisco under umbrellas, we were thrilled to shed our rain gear and get out for a bicycle-powered adventure.

We scurried down to the main strip of bike rental shops, snagging two robin’s egg blue cruisers from Joe at the Nantucket Bike Shop and we were off!  We pedaled past dozens of cute houses en route to the lighthouse and made record time (I’m sure). Just as we rolled up to the lighthouse we were able to see a ferry coming into the harbor – so perfectly East Coast!  Brant Point Light was built in 1746 and sits right at the mouth of the harbor where all the big boats come in. It turned out to be one of the best vantage points for checking out the dozens of boats entering the harbor.

As we explored the grounds of the historic lighthouse, we could see the next batch of clouds coming in from the distance. Regardless, we still took the long way back, past the Coast Guard Station and through neighborhoods full of late-18th century-style cedar-shingled houses. They were perfectly picturesque with ivy running up trellises and brown, weathered shingles that spoke of a storied past.  We bounced across the cobbled streets, returning to the bike shop just as the first drops of rain were pitter-pattering around us.

After exploring Nantucket, I was so happy to find that the island lived up to my expectations. The best thing about Nantucket, aside from the beautiful beaches, authentic historical architecture, and the friendly people, is just how bike-able the island is.  Though the rain put a bit of a damper on our full biking potential, most major roads have paved bike paths alongside so you can safely bike from corner to corner of the island.  If you’re looking for an adventure worthy of a summer beach read or want to take a step back in time, Nantucket is not to be missed. There’s no doubt we’ll be back soon to enjoy more of the good company, bike paths and white sandy beaches.  

How To Pack For A Weekend On The Cape 

East coast style may be just as iconic as east coast light houses. Blend in with the locals in poppy colors, polka dots and stripes. Stay cool lightweight, organic cotton, and quick drying fabrics. Add a lobster bib for a finishing touch! Check out our picks for a one-bag weekend on the cape.

5 Popular Campsites Within 60 Miles of San Francisco

 

Technically, Summer ended on September 21st, but if this California heat wave is any indication, the summer weather is far from over. Sea, sand, or hills, California’s terrain has a lot to offer the Indian Summer adventurer. In association with our friends at TheDyrt.com (think Yelp for public campsites), we’re highlighting some of the most popular camping spots in our California Camping Series. Part I focused on Los Angeles, and Part II focused on Santa Barbara. In Part III, we’re highlighting 5 great campsites within a 60 mile drive of San Francisco, reviewed and photographed by real campers in the Bay Area.

1. Kirby Cove Campground
Distance from San Francisco: 7.4 miles

★★★★☆

“Very easy to get to from San Francisco. We had amazing views of the bridge and the city and were lucky enough to have a clear day (which is rare in SF!). We biked across the Golden Gate bridge and back. We hung out on the beach and had amazing views of the Golden Gate bridge from there. We had a great time in this area and would definitely recommend.” – The Dyrt user Ethan K. See more here. 

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2. Anthony Chabot
Distance from San Francisco: 18 miles

★★★★★

“Amazing urban get-away. We love Anthony Chabot! The eucalyptus groves make the air smell wonderful, and there is so much wildlife to see (deer, turkeys, owls, etc.). It’s a great natural area that is so conveniently located in the Bay Area. There is an extensive network of trails accessible from the campground. It’s popular, especially on the weekends, and I’d recommend reservations. Restrooms are fairly clean, there are showers, and recycling collection, which I appreciate.” – The Dyrt user Amanda P. See more here.

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3. Steep Ravine Environmental Camp
Distance from San Francisco: 22 miles

★★★★☆

“Incredible views, hiking, and hot springs, BUT: bring layers of functional clothes since the weather on the coast of the SF bay can be anything from roasting to foggy frigid cold during the day and night year round. Don’t just look at weather online and go. Be ready to ACTUALLY camp, not just glamping drive in, unless you have one of the cabins. Many people have less than stellar experiences due to being underprepared.” -The Dyrt user Patrick O. See more here

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4. Mt. Diablo State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 30 miles

★★★★☆

“Great campsite near San Francisco/Berkeley. This was a great campsite for people that want to go hiking near Berkeley or SF and have a car. They had a good number of spots to camp with grills at each site. Our site had some good trees as well to hang up our hammocks. Great hiking in the area through desert terrain although be ready for some hills. It was very hot on the hikes as their was not much sun coverage. Would definitely recommend. No open fires allowed when we were there because of the dryness of the area.” -The Dyrt user Ethan K. See more here.

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5. Point Reyes National Seashore Campground
Distance from San Francisco: 37 miles

★★★★★

“Point Reyes is breathtaking… If you go camping one place this is it. Point Reyes is HUGE! There are a half dozen camping spots in this beautiful park. Tomales Bay is a boat in only campground on Indian Beach a unique experience if you have access to a boat. There are plenty of drive or walk in sites if you don’t have a boat. Pick your terrain the coast, meadow, or woods and there is a campground for you. You can easily spend a week here with all of the trails, horseback riding, mountain biking and kayaking options.” –The Dyrt user Kayko S. See more here.

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And that wraps up our list of top San Francisco camping spots. With a list this great, you have no reason NOT to get out there and explore the coast! And remember – You could win a $100 Toad&Co gift card when you camp in California and review your campsites on TheDyrt.comContest ends on September 30th!

 

Free Summer Concerts You Can’t Miss

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Summer! The weather’s getting warmer, the produce is perfect, the kids are out of school and there’s no shortage of things to do with your longer days. The sky is the limit, and even a lack of sun in the sky can’t dampen your summer spirit. On any given evening when the sun begins to set, outdoor music venues across the country host concert series featuring local and world-famous artists—for free. We’ve got a few in our hometown of Santa Barbara (jazz on Wednesdays, bluegrass on Sundays) and we’re willing to bet your town has a free summer concert series, too. So pack a picnic and head to the local park, pavilion or amphitheater for a no-cost, people-watching, frisbee-throwing, outdoor-dancing, beer-sampling good time.

And since not all free concerts are created equal, here’s a few of our favorites in some great cities across the country. Use these incredible outdoor concert series as an excuse to plan the summer road trip you’ve been daydreaming about…

Nightfall Concert Series in Chattanooga

Nightfall Concert Series, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Nightfall Concert Series, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Nightfall Music Series

 

With nearly three decades under their belts, the organizers of Chattanooga’s free Nightfall Series know how to put together a summer concert lineup. Every Friday from May – August, head to Miller Plaza to watch a local band open for a national headliner—many of whom will play in Chattanooga for the first time in 2016. This summer’s diverse lineup runs the gamut from bluegrass to Afro-pop, and no matter who’s playing, admission is always free. In addition to the varied musical selection, come to Nightfall prepared to please your palate with grub from local food trucks and local booze vendors. The 2016 Nightfall Concert Series has a special twist, too: on the first Friday of each month, crowds will gather at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, then “Rock the Block” down to Miller Plaza—enjoying a parade of antique motorcycles, cars, and bikes, collected by local hobbyists, along the way. Get your Chattanooga choo-choo on!

Millennium Park in Chicago

Millennium Park Series, Chicago, Illinois.
Millennium Park Series, Chicago, Illinois. John Menard

 

Visit Chicago’s 24.5-acre Millennium Park today, and you’d never guess it was an industrial wasteland for nearly a century and a half. With some help from world-renowned architect Frank Gehry—whose other notable designs include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles—the seminal park took shape in 1997, and is now home to one of the country’s best-known summer concert series. The 2016 Millennium Park Series lineup is as genre-defying as the park’s architecture, and includes free twice-weekly concerts (Mondays and Thursdays) from June through August.

City Park Jazz in Denver

City Park Jazz, Denver, Colorado.
City Park Jazz, Denver, Colorado. jess melgey

 

Whether you get there by bike (there’s a free corral), public transit, on foot, or by car, arrive early for the City Park Jazz series and enjoy some time exploring the Park before the show. There’s the Denver Zoo, or the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which features rotating natural history exhibits, a planetarium, and a terrace featuring some of the city’s best views of the Colorado Front Range. Adventurous park visitors can rent cruiser bikes, surreys, pedal boats, and kayaks to explore the park.When the sun goes down each Sunday between June and August, head to the pavilion—rain or shine—for a diverse cultural mix of music and local cuisine.

Concerts at the Mural in Seattle

Pickwick – Hacienda Motel (Live at the Mural) from KEXP RADIO on Vimeo. During KEXP & Seattle Center’s Concerts at the Mural series at the Mural Amphitheater. Recorded 8/26/11. Video courtesy of KEXP.

The music scene that brought you Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, and countless others brings you free concerts every Friday in August at the Seattle Center.The beautiful Mural Amphitheater was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, which also featured artwork by contemporary American painters like Georgia O’Keefe and Jackson Pollock, as well a performance by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and a concert by Ella Fitzgerald. Today, you can enjoy free Live at the Mural shows with the backdrop of that quintessential Seattle symbol, the Space Needle. In a city with a music history as rich and colorful as Seattle’s, you know the free concert scene will knock (or rock)  your socks off.

Twilight Concerts in Santa Monica

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Few outdoor venues have the staying power of the century-old Santa Monica Pier. You know the one: located just north of Muscle Beach, the iconic pier has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, and was once considered the best fishing spot in Santa Monica Bay. Several makeovers later, the modern-day pier is home to an amusement park, complete with a giant solar-powered ferris wheel, the original 1920s carousel, and an aquarium. This year’s Twilight Concerts lineup runs Thursdays from July through September and features a diverse lineup of bands from across the country. Tip: skip pricey parking near the pier and opt for public transit—or bike valet—instead.

Whatever free concert series you visit this summer, make sure you spend it with good company. Let us know which concerts we missed!

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Nightfall Music Series.

Modern Travel: Ashland, OR

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What’s in a name? When it comes to Ashland, Oregon, a whole bunch of stuff: the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, great regional wine, Lithia Park, a lively pub scene, Southern Oregon University and pungent (but stunning) mineral hot springs. Located in the foothills of the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountain Ranges, late summer is the perfect time to spend a weekend exploring the Rogue Valley and dining al fresco. For the oenophiles, spend your day sipping pinots in Oregon’s latest wine belt (we like Dana Campbell Winery for the great views of Ashland, or 20 minutes up I-5 Dancin Vineyards pairs nicely with homemade wood-fire pizza). If you’re looking for something more active, grab a cup of Joe from Noble Coffee and explore stunning Lithia Park. Designed by the same landscape architect who did Golden Gate Park, Lithia’s spectacular gardens switchback across Ashland Creek through the foothills and connect to plenty of hiking and biking trails. Grab an early dinner at one of Ashland’s local cafes (you really can’t go wrong – most places proudly serve farm-to-table menus), then catch a show at the Shakespeare Festival (February – October). If the Bard isn’t your cup of tea, fret not – the OSF features plenty of modern playwrights and world premiers. After the show, grab a nightcap at one of the many pubs along the creek. With great food, awesome trails and a varied nightlife, Ashland is just the place for a weekend escape to while away the mid-summer nights!

What To Do in Ashland

Grizzly Peak: Oregon is known for environmentally conscious locals, no sales tax, and some of the most stunning and varied landscapes in the US. We count Grizzly Peak among one of the best spots. With awesome panoramic views of the valley and surrounding mountain ranges, Grizzly Peak is nothing short of jaw-dropping. And the peak is just the beginning – take the loop trail that winds through the pine forests and you’ll start to see where one forest ends and another begins. Ecology at it’s finest!

Loft Brasserie: Terrace dining isn’t the exception in Ashland, it’s the norm. But Loft Brasserie is exceptional. With a menu that rotates daily, the Loft is French inspired food with a distinctly local twist. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Beef Tar Tar and Dungenese Crab Macaroni Gratin are beyond decadent, though the tried and true French Onion Soup and Lamb Shank are favorites for a reason. Ask your waitress which local wine pairs best or opt for a fresh cocktail (Mint Juleps and terraces mix well) – or have both since you’re on vacation.

OSF Elizabethan Theater: Sit amongst the plebeians or gaze upon the stage with fellow patricians, either way there’s not a bad seat in the house. Modeled after outdoor theaters like the famous Globe in Renaissance London, you can’t help but feel the majesty of live theater when you’re watching a production at the Allen Elizabethan Theater. Under the stars and sans mics or elaborate sets, you’re struck by just how compelling words, some written centuries ago, can still be so relevant. As long as you dress for the weather, you’ll be mesmerized by the reverie and feel much ado about nothing.

Standing Stone Brewing Co: To beer or not to beer? That is not a question – always beer. A great spot to sit on the patio and recap your day, Standing Stone Brewing Co has solidified its reputation as a classic Ashland hangout. The historic 1925 building definitely helps, but good ol’ fashioned on-site brewing and hearty local ingredients (3 cheers for Oregon Hops!) give this micro-brewery old-school street cred. The I ♥ Oregon Ale and Steel-Cut Stout pair nicely with the crisp valley air, and the kitchen is open until midnight in case you didn’t grab dinner before the show. We’ll take a late night pint and give a standing-O to this awesome brewpub.

What To Wear in Ashland

Smooth Crew: Don’t let the calendar fool you, these summer nights can get a wee bit chilly when you’re sandwiched between mountain ranges. The Smooth Crew is the perfect weekender staple. 100% organic cotton Butterknit fabric is unspeakably soft, wicks away moisture and resists wrinkles. Great on it’s own or a nice layer for crisp nights – all’s well that ends well.

Tamaya Tunic: Like a Shakespearean heroine, the Tamaya tunic is a classic beauty. Our eco–friendly Samba fabric charms in any hue and print and travels like a pro – it resists wrinkles, stays super soft and keeps it’s shape all day long. The split–V neckline shows off your come-hither collarbones while the back box pleat makes for an easy, swingy fit that pairs well with leggings or shorts. You’ll look simply divine.

Rosalinda Dress: When it comes to dresses, there’s no such thing as unconditional love. We want great fit, form and function – no caveats. With that in mind, we propose the Rosalinda Dress. She’s got a comfy, complementary shape, a stretchy Samba knit blend (Tencel®, organic cotton and spandex) and coffee–to–cocktails adaptability. We think you two will live happily ever after.

Mojac Overshirt: Devilishly handsome, we orchestrated our Mojac to look like a jacket but feel like a shirt. Richly colored flannel is fully lined with a buttery–shirt knit (both 100% organic cotton) making it perfect accomplice to an outdoor show. Oh, and we added chest pockets, chambray lining and a relaxed, shirttail hem so you’re always the perfect degree of “dressed up”– just as you like it.