Palm Springs is a kaleidoscope of spectacle plopped between the highways and wind farms. It’s a place where pool parties kick off at 8am, drag brunch margaritas are a breakfast staple, and colorful art installations peacock on every corner. If you haven’t made your way to Robolights, here’s why it’s a must-see.
Robolights is a sprawling residential plot that’s about as eye-popping as they come. And each year, artist Kenny Irwin Jr. tears down his masterpiece and starts anew. Using scavenged and gifted trash items, he constructs a mental wonderland of robots, tunnels, bridges, trolls, whosits and whatsits, giant chairs, aliens, creatures from the deep, interactive arcades – whatever comes to mind.
It’s the definition of controlled chaos. It’s 4 acres of upcycled paint cans, phone chords, plastic bottles, tires, hubcaps, cages, garden hoes, 8 million Christmas lights, disco balls, giant Christmas blow-ups, busted electronics, patched up bouncy houses, car parts, unwanted toys … imagine the Wall-E junkyard then blasted with paint. It’s kinda like that.
To visit this fun house (it’s actually the artist’s residence), check the website first – it’s closed during parts of the year so the Irwin can work on his masterpiece. Bring a few bucks for a suggested donation (it takes money to keep those lights on!) and your walking shoes – it takes about 45 minutes to walk through the whole thing.
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!
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:
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).
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve partnered with AFAR magazine and the Adventure Travel Trade Association to sponsor the Adventure in Motionfilm contest that debuted at the recent ATTA Summit in Chile. We were honored to present the Modern Travel Award to the film that we thought best embodies our criteria of modern travel: A sense of adventure, an appreciation for culture and tradition and a deep love for all things culinary and community.
So why Chile & Argentina? Misty mountain ranges, crashing seasides, romantic rolling hills, unruly wildlife, pulsing cantinas… The Argentinians call it buena onda, or “good vibes”. We call it adventure.
WHAT TO DO IN CHILE & ARGENTINA
Pisco Sours: While the Peruvians will claim this cocktail as their own, Chileans are known for knocking back their signature spirit: the Pisco Sour. A mix of Pisco (a brandy distilled from grapes in the winemaking region of Chile) and fresh lime juice with a dash of simple syrup and an egg white for fizz, the Pisco Sour will put some hair on your chest. Santiago, the buzzing capital of Chile, slings a mean Picso since pride is on the line. Wander from barrio to barrio and try the variations on the classic cocktail.
Villarrica Volcano: Adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers will delight in Chile’s adventure capital, Pucon, in central Chile. World class mountain biking, whitewater rafting, hiking, climbing, horse riding – whatever gets your blood pumping – it’s all in Pucon and it all comes with a killer view of smouldering Volcán Villarrica. Known locally as Rucapillán, it’s nickname is a Mapuche word meaning “House of the Pilán” or “House of the Spirit,” and it certainly lives up to it’s name. Villarrica is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes and the top is permanently covered by snow and giant glaciers. Pack a few layers and get spirited away.
Lanin National Park: After a few days traipsing the volcano, journey over the mighty Andes into Argentina. Drop by the country’s picturesque Lake Districtfor some much needed R n’ R and a dip in one of its 24 glacial lakes. Flowing from lake to lake are hundreds of rivers and creeks bursting with salmon and trout. Hike amongst the grand Argentinian forests to the Mapuche reserves – home to the indigenous people who are known for their hospitality and stunning craftsmanship. And in case you’re missing the rumble of a volcano, Lanin Volcano is always there when you when you need it – all 3,776 meters of it.
Bariloche chocolates: Belgium, Switzerland, and Bariloche: The chocolate trifecta. Home to some of the world’s best chocolatiers, Barilocheis a sleepy mountain town with quaint, chalet-style wooden architecture and a serious sweet tooth. Back in the1800’s, German and Austrian immigrants came to Argentina looking for new opportunity and brought their time-honored recipes. Pop into the chocolate shops on Mitre Street, Bariloche’s main thoroughfare, for some of the most delicious chocolate you will ever try.
Empanadas: Is there anything better than buttery, flakey pastry stuffed with goodies and eaten on the fly? Baked, fried, stuffed with meats and cheese, veggies or fruits, drizzled with honey or dipped in salsa – you really can’t go wrong with an Argentinian empanada. And though each region has it’s own take on the snack, Buenos Aires is the unquestionable heartland of empanadas strictly based on the sheer number of empanada shops in the city. Sample versions from the Tucuman Province (big and fried in oil), Salta Province (small and baked in clay ovens), Patagonia (seafood and lamb fillings), or the spicy empanadas of the Jujuy region. Whatever your preference, good luck stopping once you’ve started!
WHAT TO WEAR IN CHILE & ARGENTINA
Boarding Pass Short: Packed for any adventure, these shorts are up for anything: exploring the barrios, cruising the playas and scrambling around in the Andes. They’re styled like classic walking shorts but our performance Travel Twill fabric stretches, keeps you cool, blocks the sun (excellent UPF 40+), dries fast, and repels dirt and salsa stains.
Swifty Tank: In a word, the Swifty is smokin’. It wicks moisture and fends off UV rays with a dynamite fabric blend that feels soft as cotton (but it’s actually a rockin’ blend of polyester and green-tech Tencel®). Tiny stripes and curving seams boost the sizzle factor. And Swifty’s hidden zip pocket and generous shoulder coverage means you won’t lose your room key or show your bra straps when you’re hiking up a volcano.
Whirlwind Dress: After two days in Buenos Aires, your hips break loose and you start to walk like the locals do. Blame it on the music, the sunshine and this dress. Super-simple and free flowing, the Whirlwind Dress is made of two layers of cool, quick-dry fabric that handles heat, travel and water with ease. With an excellent 40+ UPF rating to block the burn and a super-secret stash pocket in between layers, the Whirlwind will have you walking to a new beat from sun up to sun down.
OnRush Polo: Good looking, refined and ready for action. No, we’re not talking about the Argentine gauchos – we’re describing the Onrush polo. Our Onrush is designed for those who are ready to wrangle the day. Perfect for travel, a day on the trails, city cruising or a sea salt happy hour, the polyester drirelease® and organic cotton knit wicks moisture and keeps you dry and looking muy bien all day long.
The travel bug always strikes me in the middle of the work week. Somewhere between my morning emails and the 3rd cup of coffee, my mind starts to wander to days spent meandering cobblestone streets, washing clothes in bathroom sinks, sipping dreamy cappuccinos at cafes with names I can’t pronounce… Traveling is exciting and, although not always relaxing, it’s always memorable. It’s those memories – of the places we’ve been and the people we get to know along the way – that give us something to daydream about and work toward.
Our friends over at the travel blog Wonderlust and Lipstick summed up this feeling perfectly in a recent post, Traveling Inspiration: Why You Should Just Go For It. No matter how simple your next trip, shaking up your daily routine is good for the body and mind. Grab a bag, toss in a few layers, set an away message and off you go.