5 sites for sore eyes from the pandemic

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Don’t have a seat on the cruise you want to take or the park you want to visit? No worries. America is full of scenic destinations. Here are some of our favorite picks.

Some call it a revenge trip – that is, getting back to COVID-19 by running away. The pandemic may have kept us confined for two years, but 2022 is shaping up to be a year of travel. With restrictions eased and nine out of 10 older Americans fully vaccinated against COVID, 67% of seniors said they intended to travel, according to the AARP 2022 Travel Trends study, released in March.

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California. | Credit: Jenny Wisniewski

Two months later, the picture has become a little more complicated with the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise again. Still, some travelers may feel a little less vulnerable than they did last summer, knowing that 77% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine and that newly developed Pavlovid pills may help stave off the consequences. severe from COVID. Many others have simply reached their social distancing limit.

“Some people say I don’t care where, I just want to go somewhere.”

“I really see a mix of desires,” said Andy Lunt, an advisor at Travel Experts Inc., which specializes in travel for seniors. “On the one hand, the desire to get away – and some people say I don’t care where, I just want to go somewhere. Combined with that, however, there is a reluctance to venture too far,” he added.

Many seniors book inland cruises on the Great Lakes, Mississippi or New England coastline, Lunt said. National parks are another popular destination. However, he warns that many cruises are booked and the parks are crowded.

Still, the United States is a big place. If you want to get away this summer or fall to see something beautiful, something beyond the four walls of your office or home, here are five scenic destinations that are likely to rejuvenate your spirit.

The beautiful seascape of Monterey County, California

You’ve probably seen the footage in movies: a sports car winding down a winding two-lane road before crossing the famous Bixby Bridge. On a very close side, the cliffs drop dramatically to the crashing waves of the Pacific. On the other, the Santa Lucia Mountains reach up into the blue-gray sky and practically hug you along the way.

Scenic Highway 1 is breathtaking on screen. But it’s much, much better in person.

On the drive between Monterey and Big Sur, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to step out of your car at scenic vantage points to take in the misty majesty of it all. Several state parks, including Point Lobos, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Parks, offer the opportunity to experience the area’s natural wonders a little deeper. Hiking trails for people of all skill levels will take you to waterfalls, giant sequoias, and more scenic viewpoints.

For other places to take in the scenery, take in a sunset on dog-friendly Carmel Beach after a fresh lunch of the day at one of the many sidewalk cafes on Carmel-by’s Ocean Avenue. -the-Sea, or play a round of golf at Pacific Grove, where the back nine overlooks the Pacific.

There is no shortage of scenic beauty in Monterey County, and I would recommend travelers explore it on their own,” advised Rachel Dinbokowitz, public relations manager for the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The destination is full of incredible scenic drives – from 17-Mile Drive to Pebble Beach to explore vineyards along River Road and iconic Highway 1 to Big Sur.”

Mountain Vistas in Asheville, North Carolina

During your stay in Asheville, you can pleasantly spend your days sitting in an Adirondack chair admiring the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In other words, if the region did not have so many other things to offer.

A winding road through a forested mountain.  Next Avenue, places to travel during the pandemic
The Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina

Taking in the views while seeing some of the Asheville sights is a great compromise. And one of those highlights is the Omni Grove Park Inn, perched atop Sunset Mountain. Opened in 1913, this grand hotel features an 18-hole golf course, multiple restaurants, and a 43,000-square-foot underground spa.

Even with its modern amenities, it has retained its rustic charm of yesteryear. The native uncut granite boulders of the original pavilion remain, and its walls are adorned with black-and-white photos of past guests such as Eleanor Roosevelt and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Stay at the lodge to take advantage of its many offerings or come for a tour and some relaxing time on its expansive grounds while sipping a glass of wine and taking in the views.

Another must-see is the Biltmore Estate, a 250-room French Renaissance castle built for George and Edith Vanderbilt. Appreciate the Golden Age up close by visiting the house and its 65 fireplaces, 16th century tapestries and original masterpieces of art. The property includes a winery, and on its 8,000-acre backyard is an outdoor adventure center that offers biking, kayaking, archery, and more.

Asheville is also known as a community of artists and art lovers. In its River Arts District, you can visit artisans at work, take a class, and shop. And once a month the neighborhood really comes alive with gallery walks, live music, wine tastings and free trolley rides. Other arts festivals abound throughout the summer and fall in the Asheville area.

Wisconsin’s Northwoods Outdoor Paradise

When poet Mary Oliver wrote of trees “transforming their own bodies into pillars of light” and “giving off the rich scent of cinnamon and flourishing,” she may have experienced the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Its half-million acres of box elderberry, sugar maple, and white birch cover five counties in the northern half of the state. The region is also home to 3,200 lakes, streams and rivers.

A forest in the fall with a blue sky.  Next Avenue, places to travel during the pandemic
Wisconsin Northwoods | Credit: Tom’s Pier

Vacationers head to the Northwoods (or “Up North” in Wisconsin parlance) for hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, kayaking, and waterskiing. Rustic cabins, campsites and lodges are great places to hole up for a few days or more.

A popular destination is Vilas County. A great way to experience its woods is on a bike trail, like the Bearskin Trail, a scenic railroad trail starting in Minocqua. If hiking is more your thing, options include the Powell Walsh Wildlife Area between Manitowish Waters and Flambeau Lake and the North Lakeland Discovery Center at Manitowish Waters, which features a 22-station bird breeding trail. And golfers have seven courses to choose from, including Timber Ridge, an 18-hole public championship golf course.

Be sure to take a break from the activity to visit one of the many supper clubs in the area. Menus are almost certain to include whitefish and walleye, and bars toss in a tasty old-fashioned brandy, a Wisconsin specialty.

The Otherworldly Landscape of Southern Utah

Admire the colors of southern Utah. Expect to see more variations of taupe and terracotta than you ever imagined possible, all set against cobalt blue skies.

Southern Utah boasts of five unique national parks. One of the many possible routes is to drive the 200 km long Scenic Byway 12. Start with a stay in the quaint town of Torrey and a visit to Capitol Reef National Park, the least visited of the state’s five national parks.

Red rocks in Utah against a vivid blue sky.  Next Avenue, places to travel during the pandemic
Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah | Credit: Jenny Wisniewski

Continuing, you will begin a climb to 9,000 feet. Stop at a lookout point to admire firs and aspens, red rock and canyons in the distance. You may even see some snow. After continuing, a great place to stop is the Anasazi National Park Museum in Boulder, site of an ancient Puebloan village.

For the adventurous (and those with a four-wheel-drive vehicle), a hike through Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons in Escalante National Monument is an otherworldly experience. Hiking through these narrow, winding canyons is like a journey through a natural funhouse. Be aware that they require a 25 mile dirt road drive and hike to reach the canyons themselves.

After a night in the town of Escalante, head to Bryce Canyon National Park, known for its flamingo-colored cliffs and spindly hoodoos, or rock columns. If you are in the morning, remember to admire the landscape at sunrise. You will never forget the warm hues that change quickly as the sun rises over the canyon.

Kentucky Interior Waterway: Lake Cumberland

Nothing beats listening to the rhythmic ripples of the lake water as the setting sun casts its golden glitter on the waves. Sitting on the deck of a boat or dock with a beer in hand isn’t bad either.

So why Lake Cumberland? For one, its size allows for solitude if desired. The lake is a reservoir with 1,200 miles of shoreline.

And it offers a unique stay-and-play option – houseboats. In fact, some call it the houseboat capital of the world. Boats typically come with full galleys, living areas and bedrooms, and many have hot tubs and slides. A special license is not required to operate the boats, but training is provided.

The waters of Lake Cumberland are generally calm, making the lake ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Anglers have good opportunities to catch several varieties of bass, including striped bass, bluegill, crappie, redfish and walleye.

You may never want to leave the lake, but if you’re looking for alternative activities nearby, there’s something for everyone.

History buffs might love Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Nancy, site of a major Civil War victory for the Union Army. Music aficionados might want to head to the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center in Mount Vernon to listen to classic Southern music: country, Southern gospel and mountain bluegrass. For those interested in cars, there is a monthly car show and “car cruise” in Somerset.

Jenny Wisniewski
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