Planning your East Coast vacation, but bored with the same tired theme park routine? There are lots of exciting, unique things to see and do south of the Mason Dixon line that don’t involve cartoon characters and waiting in interminable lines. When was the last time you flew on a zip line through a mountain forest? Explored a swamp by kayak? Studied endangered bald eagles in their natural habitat? Your East Coast holiday can offer all that and more. You only need to look around.
The Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is 35,000 acres of islets off the coast of Collier County, Florida. The US Fish and Wildlife Service named it the largest mangrove forest in America and is home to hundreds of protected species of wildlife. The Outward Bound program offers family camping tours of the Ten Thousand Islands. The four-day expeditions by canoe combines the beauty of the islands with learning experiences about ecology, water safety, teamwork and confidence.
The Biltmore Estate, in Asheville NC, is open to tours year round. Explore the history of the Vanderbilt Family, and learn more about the Gilded Age. Or you can tour the winery and sample their wares. Or, if outdoor activities are more your style, you can visit the Antler Hill Village and experience life in a farm village of the 1890’s. The Village also offers horseback riding and carriage adventures, river rafting, bike tours and fly fishing excursions.
The Raymond R “Andy” Guest, Jr Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia offers families the chance to experience the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley with a canopy tour. This three hour experience includes zip lines, rappelling, a sky bridge, an air stair bridge, and nature walks. Anybody can explore the river valley from the ground. But how many chances do you get to see the mountains from 90 feet up in the air? Or fly a thousand feet down a ridge face by rappelling line? And this unique adventure is less than a two hour drive west of Washington DC.
The New River Gorge National River National Park, in Fayetteville WV, offers beauty and excitement for travelers interested in camping, hiking, climbing or white water rafting. The park also boasts the New River Gorge Bridge, which American Heritage Magazine named the longest arch bridge in the western hemisphere. The Bridge Day celebrations, held every October, has both descending and ascending demonstrations, Bridge Walk tours on the catwalks under the bridge, and BASE jumping for the daring visitor.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston, Georgia is 680 square miles of black water swamp, the largest in the United States, according to the National Park Service. It is home to hundreds of birds, plants and animals that can be found nowhere else. The unique beauties of this wetland area can be explored by hike, auto, motorboat or canoe. They offer fishing, boardwalk tours, not to mention boat launch and picnic areas. Special tours offer opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography enthusiasts.