Author Topic: Please suggest: May gateway destination (nature preferred) in the middle of US  (Read 2347 times)

Krolik

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Happy New Year Everybody !

I am looking for some suggestions where it would be a good place for Memorial Day weekend somewhere in the middle of the country.
The place would need to be somewhere with good flight connection (direct flight preferred) from Miami and Seattle since this is where we (Florida) and our friends (Washington) live.
We all prefer nature so somewhere close to National parks / mountains or lakes will work. Also within 2h drive from airport.

From preliminary research flying to Denver (CO) suits these criteria and then driving to Keystone or Winter Park is an option. There are plenty houses to rent on Airbnb and VRBO but the prices are rather high . We would be 3 families with young kids.

I am open to all other suggestions / tips and thank you in advance for any help :-)



bognish

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Depending on the snow year, and its big so far, Memorial Weekend is typically the tail end of mud season in the CO mountains - Winter Park & Keystone. It will be warm in the day, but lots of snow is still melting out so hikes can be soggy or stopped by snow if you go too high. Utah Parks like Arches, Capital Reef and Zion are lower and peak season in May, but are really crowded that weekend. Zion is within 2 hours from Las Vegas and Moab/Arches is 3.5 from Salt lake.

Fuzz

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Second the suggestion for Utah. Northern Arizona is another bet.

St. George's is a nice way to be close to Zion.

ltt

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Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri.  Stunning.  Am not sure what airport, though, would be 2 hours away.  We've stayed on Indian Point. 

Krolik

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Thank you all. All the information is very helpful.

elaine amj

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We really liked Denver last year. We went in August though. If you go a little off the beaten path, I think you can get places on Airbnb fairly cheap. I found cheaper places once I started searching away from the main tourist area (like Estes Park, etc)

We had decided we wanted to rough it and found a tiny cabin in the woods with no electricity/running water for US$60/night. It included unlimited firewood and unlimited drinking water and every possible amenity (for a rustic cabin lol!). It was my dream vacation spot. https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/9114774?s=N-dcgs1a

I loved that
- I had my fill of the outdoors
- had trails right onsite
- was secluded and yet not truly remote (civilization and all modern stuff was close by)
- it was only 1hr 20 mins from Denver airport (my DH doesn't like driving too far)
- had the huge Indian Peaks Wilderness literally FIVE MINUTES away with amazing hiking
- had other trails within a reasonable driving range

It was a CHEAP vacay because we cooked at the cabin and mostly just hiked/enjoyed the fire. Also skipped Rocky Mountain National Park itself to avoid the extra 1hr drive and the $20 admission fee.

Another spot we enjoyed was the Smokies (we spent a week a couple of years back). I think u can fly into Chattanooga or somewhere in North Carolina? Not sure since we drove. I don't think this is as accessible to an airport. We stayed on the NC side of the Smokies deep in the mountains (way less tourists).

I loved that
- cabins were dirt cheap. We had a 5 bedroom gorgeous cabin perched on the side of the mountain with no neighbors in shouting distance overlooking a lake...for a measly $90/night. It was crazy and the cabin was BEAUTIFUL. Spacious with all the amenities, leather reclining couches, etc.

- activities were cheap on this side of the Smokies. White water rafting for $30/pp, horseback riding for $30/pp, AMAZING tubing for $3/pp (to rent - free to bring your own), and of course, the Appalachian Trail and the FREE Smoky Mountain National Park was right there.

The one drawback for me is that I don't find the Smokies as beautiful as many other parts of the US and Canada. The value is tremendous though - we only spent $1k for the 4 of us, including gas, food, activities, rentals, a few restaurants....and would have spent much much more doing similar things somewhere else. My kids have asked to go back to go rafting and tubing. I posted on FB about all our adventures all week and a friend ended up booking the same cabin! I sent her a full breakdown of everything we did and she ended up doing most of the same things :) The Pigeon Forge side is pretty cheap too, but everything is a notch cheaper on the NC side which adds up.

Good luck! Another option is to visit Canada. With the 30% drop in the Canadian dollar, it really is a good value for your US dollar. Plus, Canadian national parks are all free in 2017.

boarder42

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Utah national parks ... cant beat them.  though thats not really central.  but we dont have alot around the central US.

Either go to the Moab area for canyon lands and arches - my favorites.  or hit up Zion in the south.  bryce is close by but will be cold that time of year. 

we went to moab for a long memorial day in 2014 and by june 2014 had already booked a campervan for 10 days over memorial day in 2015 to go to all the Utah Mighty 5 as well as lake powell/horseshoe bend/ antelope canyon.

easily my favorite vacation i've ever been on.

and we travel a ton. 40+ days a year this year.

JoJo

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Utah national parks ... cant beat them.  though thats not really central.  but we dont have alot around the central US.

Either go to the Moab area for canyon lands and arches - my favorites.  or hit up Zion in the south.  bryce is close by but will be cold that time of year. 

we went to moab for a long memorial day in 2014 and by june 2014 had already booked a campervan for 10 days over memorial day in 2015 to go to all the Utah Mighty 5 as well as lake powell/horseshoe bend/ antelope canyon.

easily my favorite vacation i've ever been on.

and we travel a ton. 40+ days a year this year.

I did something like this and can also recommend.  Use Las Vegas as your gateway (lots of flights in), get a cheap rental car (see if you can get it cheaper from the strip than the airport...it's very close), and hit the road. 

I did a whirlwind trip that was:
Day 1:  Had brunch in a casino overlooking the Colorado river in Laughlin, NV, went to Oatman so see all the wild donkeys, drove a stretch of Route 66.  stayed in Flagstaff.
Day 2:  Grand Canyon.  stayed in Flagstaff
Day 3: went to some volcano monument & indian ruins, had lunch in Navajo lands (fried bread good, mutton not!), saw horseshoe bend & rock formations in south Utah.
Day 4: Bryce National park, drive to Hurricane (thru Zion)
Day 5: Zion, and return to Las vegas for evening flight.

The days are long at that time of year so depending on your energy you can fit in lots of stuff.

CheapScholar

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Estes Park, CO.  Near Rocky Mountain NP.  2 hour drive from Denver.  It's a big park, you can get away from the crowds.  Cheap lodging on AirBNB or Hotwire.  Well worth a $20 admission fee; it's a NP for a reason.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2017, 10:44:04 AM by CheapScholar »

boarder42

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Utah national parks ... cant beat them.  though thats not really central.  but we dont have alot around the central US.

Either go to the Moab area for canyon lands and arches - my favorites.  or hit up Zion in the south.  bryce is close by but will be cold that time of year. 

we went to moab for a long memorial day in 2014 and by june 2014 had already booked a campervan for 10 days over memorial day in 2015 to go to all the Utah Mighty 5 as well as lake powell/horseshoe bend/ antelope canyon.

easily my favorite vacation i've ever been on.

and we travel a ton. 40+ days a year this year.

I did something like this and can also recommend.  Use Las Vegas as your gateway (lots of flights in), get a cheap rental car (see if you can get it cheaper from the strip than the airport...it's very close), and hit the road. 

I did a whirlwind trip that was:
Day 1:  Had brunch in a casino overlooking the Colorado river in Laughlin, NV, went to Oatman so see all the wild donkeys, drove a stretch of Route 66.  stayed in Flagstaff.
Day 2:  Grand Canyon.  stayed in Flagstaff
Day 3: went to some volcano monument & indian ruins, had lunch in Navajo lands (fried bread good, mutton not!), saw horseshoe bend & rock formations in south Utah.
Day 4: Bryce National park, drive to Hurricane (thru Zion)
Day 5: Zion, and return to Las vegas for evening flight.

The days are long at that time of year so depending on your energy you can fit in lots of stuff.

yeah our path was
fly into vegas stay 1 night
Zion 2 nights - Camp in park
Bryce 1 night - camp in park
take the scenic road to Moab thru Capital Reef ( a picture i took of my wife here is on the cover of a calendar)
2 nights arches
1 night near canyon lands
1 night along the colorado in moab
drive thru monument valley
hitup antelop canyon and horseshoebend
2 nights lake powell
back to vegas. 

makes me want to sell it all and get an RV.  but my wife hasnt ever lived in one city more than 7 years continuously so she wants roots so we'll stake our family claim for the next 20 years and RV in the summers with the kids while they are out of school.

bognish

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I think they closed the entrance station to Arches at like 8AM this year on memorial day because traffic to get in was backed up to the highway and the trail parking lots were full. That is the busiest weekend of the year for Arches. Still nice and lots of other places to spread out, but it will be a zoo in Moab.

Also Rocky Mtn natl park will be snowy. It is very unlikely that Trail Ridge Road would be open by and of May. Most hiking trails will be muddy and soggy down low and become snow packed within a few miles.

boarder42

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I think they closed the entrance station to Arches at like 8AM this year on memorial day because traffic to get in was backed up to the highway and the trail parking lots were full. That is the busiest weekend of the year for Arches. Still nice and lots of other places to spread out, but it will be a zoo in Moab.

Also Rocky Mtn natl park will be snowy. It is very unlikely that Trail Ridge Road would be open by and of May. Most hiking trails will be muddy and soggy down low and become snow packed within a few miles.

we get up early we also stayed inside at devil campground the second trip.  so aweseome to wake up inside these national parks. - you do have to plan 6 months in advance to get the spot.  i get butterflies inside just thinking about being around that beauty i love it so much