Enjoy America's Great Outdoors

If your idea of a holiday involves plenty of sunshine, scenic vistas and a pinch of adventure, you will love these American short break ideas. See the other side of New York, from the thrill of deep-sea fishing off Long Island to tranquil hiking and paddling in the Adirondack Mountains. Try the deep south Louisiana, a state known for rich traditions and good times.  Its calendar is filled with festivals and parties, most of which celebrate food, music or both or have great underwater adventures in the U.S Virgin Islands.

UNDERWATER TREASURE, U.S. VIRGIN ISLAND
For some of the best snorkelling and diving in the USA, many point to the trio of islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands.  St. Thomas is the most populous, home to the bustling town of Charlotte Amalie, filled with shops and cafés.  But the real magic lies underwater, including in a offshore area known as Cow and Calf Rocks.  Here, the reefs and coral tunnels that winds through caves make for fantastic diving.

A short ferry ride away is sister island St. John, two-thirds of which is a national park.  It boasts a self-guided snorkelling trail in Trunk Bay, where submerged signs identify species of coral and fish.  St. John's version of downtown, Cruz Bay, is beloved for its live music and fresh local seafood.

Danish-influenced St. Croix is the jumping-off point for Buck Island, home to a whopping 220 species of fish, sponges and other marine life.  Wherever you go in the U.S. Virgin Island have an average temperature of 25C in winter, so park your parker and pack your flip flops.

MILE-HIGH MEMORIES, COLORADO
Perched one mile above sea level at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver enjoys about 300 days of sunshine, just one factor making it among the most active cities in the USA.  The "Mile High City" is home to 845 miles of paved bike tails, some of which wind past bustling districts such as the mile-long 165th Street Mall, a tree-lined pedestrian promenade perfect for a shopping or lunch break.  An old stagecoach stop just four miles from downtown, the Four Mile Historic Park is home to the oldest structure in Denver.  Take a horse-drawn ride around the grounds and learn the stories of early pioneers.  Plan a beer taste-test during your Denver visit: More beer is brewed here than in any other city in the USA, and it's home to the world's largest single brewery, Golden Brewery.

With so many rivers in Colorado, white-water rafting is a popular and exhilarating way to see the rugged landscape during spring and summer. In the south-western portion of the state, the Old West town of Durango is a perfect base for a rafting trip on the Animas River.  For a breath-taking trip through the canyons of southwest Colorado's San Juan National Forest, climb aboard the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

RUGGED PARADISE, UTAH
Utah is an incredible four-season state with five of the country's most popular national parks - Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches and Canyonlands - each with a name that hints at its majesty.  From mountain biking in St. George to the scenic drives in Logan and everything in between, there's a lot to do under the state's bright blue skies.

Southern Utah in particular is a must for those who love the outdoors.  The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and both Canyonlands and Arches national parks are still within an area known as Canyon Country or within easy driving distance. Cedar City lies on the edge of flat rangeland next to the heavily forested highland of the Markagunt Plateau, which offers great hiking, biking and horse riding.  Filled with lodging and dining options, Cedar City also works as a base for visiting Zion National Park (60 miles south), known for its deep and narrow slot canyons and the 16-mile Zion Narrows, where hikers splash through the shallow waters of the Virgin River.  Cedar City is also about the same distance from Bryce Canyon National Park, home to thousands of tall, Multihued limestone rock spires known as 'hoodoos' rising from the eastern edge of Paunsaugunt Plateau.  The town of Kanab is central to both Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, as well as to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

SOUTHERN SOJOURN, LOUISIANA
If you have a set of binoculars and a curious nature, you're ready to go bird watching, and perhaps there's no better place to enjoy the sport than in the meandering marshes and coastal bayous of Lafayette, Louisiana, just two hours west of New Orleans. Filled with the songs of more than 200 bird species, Cypress Island Preserve's trails and boardwalks provide great perches from which to spy on thousands of water birds.  The Wetland Birding Trail cover a bevy of coastal habitats, including postcard-worthy hardwood forests and swamps covered with moss-covered cypress and tupelo trees.   Join a swamp safari in the Atchafalaya Basin, North America's largest river swamp, for a different vantage point.  Many guides are also geologists or botanists, which provides a deeper understanding of the native ecology.

Just an hour south of New Orleans lies Houma, set in Bayou Country, which is home to nearly 45 percent of all the wetlands found in the lower United States.  Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, surrounded by rich, coffee-coloured bayous and shaded by a canopy of moss-draped cypress trees, Houma comprises a blend of rare natural resources.  Join a swamp tour and come face to face with wildlife.  From birding sanctuaries to nature preserves, many with elevated boardwalks and viewing decks, the region is perfect for those who like to get close to nature.

PRESIDENTIAL PANORAMA, SOUTH DAKOTA
South Dakota's glacial lakes, prairies and peaks have earned it a reputation as a land of infinite geographic variety.  It's also famous for having the faces of four U.S presidents - Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, carved into granite at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills (hike the Presidential Trail for a great vantage point). Visit the nearby Indian Museum of North America and the Crazy Horse Memorial, and ode to the state's proud Sioux heritage, to learn about the area's Native American history.

South Dakota's varied terrain offers numerous outdoor adventures, such as climbing the vertical granite "needles" at Custer State Park and exploring the fossils of extinct animals at Badlands National Park.  Drive along Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway to the 11th Hour Gulch so named because it receives only one hour of sunlight each day. For a taste of the Old West, visit the restored gaming halls in the historic town of Deadwood.

SCENIC RIVER AND MOUNTAIN VIEWS, NEW YORK
Extending 150 miles north from New York City to the state capital of Albany, the scenic Hudson Valley region is bisected by the Appalachain Trail.  Hike sections of this famous trail to see the views that inspired the mid-19th-century Hudson River School of landscape art.  For more breath-taking vistas, walk across the world's longest elevated pedestrian bridge or go rock climbing along the Shawangunk Ridge in the Mohonk Preserve in the Catskill Mountains.

Filled with picturesque lakes, rivers, streams and reservoirs, the Catskill Mountains region offers world-class fly fishing as well as scenic kayaking and canoeing.  Browse out-of-the-way antiques shops or numerous small museums that introduce visitors to the area's rich history.  Stay in a charming farmhouse or wrap yourself in history at a bed-and-breakfast inn.  Enjoy farm-fresh produce as well as locally crafted wines, brews and spirits.  Visit in the fall and watch the mountainsides turn shades of red, gold and yellow.  Winter brings unending fun with activities such as downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The Catskill area is perfect for lovers of both history and the outdoors. Spend a morning hiking to the 260-foot-high, dual-cascade Kaaterskill Falls, and an afternoon exploring the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on the site of Woodstock, the iconic 1960s music festival.  Tour some of the 25-plus wineries in the oldest wine-producing area in the USA, and enjoying the tasty creations of chefs-in-training at the Culinary Institute of America, where meals incorporate fresh produce from local farms and markets.  Just two and a half hours north by cay in Syracuse, the Erie Canal and numerous lakes provide ample fishing opportunities as well as adjacent biking and walking trails.  About 40 golf courses (more per capita than any other area in the Northeast) and more than 50 parks and nature centres provide more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

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