5 Activities to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains

Escaping from the city for a week-long vacation in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains can be a revitalizing experience. Detach yourself from modern technologies to relax and reconnect with nature by staying in Pigeon Forge, an area just outside the mountains that offer numerous activities to keep you busy.

The following list is only a sample of things you can do:

  1. Zip Lining

ziplineSee the Smoky Mountains and its waterfalls by taking a ride on a zip line. Several companies, such as Smoky Mountain Ziplines and Canopy Tours, CLIMB Works, and Waterfall Canopy Zipline, offer several options for exploring the region.

Waterfall Canopy Zip Line, for instance, hosts multiple tours from its two sky bridges. The two-hour tours glide participants over the mountains’ treetops with a guide, who controls the progression with power brakes. This means you do not have to worry about wearing gloves or handling cables; you are just along for the ride.

If you decide to go on a zip line tour, make sure you check the company’s weight capacity, as well as minimum age stipulations, to ensure you meet the requirements. In addition, you should wear closed-toe shoes to protect your feet.

  1. Picnicking

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to hold a picnic. From Cades Cove to Deep Creek, the park has 11 open-air dining areas that are available year-round. Select areas have grills and pavilions that you can reserve for private use. Fees range from $10 to $75.

If you decide to enjoy a picnic, be sure to properly dispose of food waste and clean your grill, so you don’t attract bears.

  1. Fishing

fishingWith approximately 2,900 miles of streams filled with trout and bass, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an ideal place to fish. The park permits fishing all year long, from 30 minutes before sunrise to half an hour after sunset, as long as you have a valid license.

The park limits you to 20 rock bass per day and up to five rainbow, brook, or brown trout or smallmouth bass. A combination of the types, which must be larger than 7 inches, are allowed as well as long as the number does not exceed five per day.

Be prepared to have your tackle and equipment inspected by park authorities, who aim to preserve the streams. You may only carry artificial flies and lures with single hooks. Liquid scents and fish bait are not allowed.

  1. Hiking

Boasting more than 800 trails, the Great Smoky Mountains have much to offer hiking enthusiasts. Within the national park, you will find Rocky Top, Gregory Bald, Mount Cammerer, and The Jump-Off trails, which are rated among the park’s top-10 hikes.

The Jump-Off, in particular, makes a great picnic location following a steep climb. As you make your way up to the 1,000-foot cliff on Mount Kephart, be sure to take a moment to enjoy the view of Mount LeConte and Myrtle Point off to the northwest. At the summit, you can see the Appalachian Trail.

If you want a more leisurely stroll, you can attempt the Indian Creek Falls or Laurel Falls trails, both of which are less strenuous and span approximately two miles. The Indian Creek Falls trail climbs 150 feet in elevation, and the Laurel Falls trail takes you up 314 feet in elevation. Both hikes boast beautiful waterfalls.

  1. Backcountry Camping

backpackingBackcountry camping in the national park requires a permit and reservation for no more than three consecutive nights. To ensure your safety and protect the environment, you must follow the park’s backcountry regulations, which you can find here.

If you are planning to have a fire, make sure to reserve a campsite that allows one. These sites have designated fire rings in which you can burn dead wood as well as wood already lying on the ground. If you prefer not to look for wood, you can transport bundled heat-treated firewood that holds United States Department of Agriculture certification into the park. Firewood bearing a state department of agriculture seal is approved as well. You can find these products at stores in Smokemont and Cades Cove.

7 Sites to Explore in the Ozarks of Missouri

Dubbed the Show-Me State, Missouri offers entertainment and fun for the whole family, and visitors especially love the Branson area. You can easily access the many attractions and sites around Branson by staying at Bluegreen Resorts’ Paradise Point in Hollister, The Falls Village™ in Branson, or Bluegreen Wilderness Club at Big Cedar® and The Cliffs™ at Long Creek ™ in Ridgedale. From these resorts, you can visit the award-winning Silver Dollar City theme park or catch a live show at one of Branson’s more than 50 performance venues.

Branson, Ridgedale, and Hollister are surrounded by the beautiful Ozark Mountains, a  paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. With lush forests, sparkling lakes and rivers, and more than 6,000 caves, the Ozark Mountains offer endless entertainment. Here are just seven of the must-see sites around Branson in the Ozarks of Missouri:

Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Conservation Area

Just 14 miles outside of Branson, immerse yourself in nature at the Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Conservation Area, a 2,502-acre expanse of creeks and rocky hills. Visitors have access to almost 20 miles of well-marked nature trails that are perfect for biking, hiking, and horseback riding.

Although the creeks are too small for fishing, Busiek State Forest does offer seasonal hunting with a permit. The park also has an unstaffed shooting range that is open to the public. Open year round, Busiek State Forest allows pets on leashes and admission is free.

Table Rock Lake

Table Rock Lake

Image courtesy Doug Wertman | Flickr

One of the most popular destinations in the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake offers nearly 800 miles of shoreline and dazzlingly clear water. You can sunbathe and play volleyball in the soft sands of Moonshine Beach, or escape the crowds and go swimming in the Beaver area on the lake’s southwest corner.

For more fun on the water, rent a pontoon boat from the Indian Point Marina, take a guided tour on the 48-foot catamaran Spirit of America, or go on a SCUBA diving adventure. Table Rock Lake is also famous for being one of the top bass fishing spots in the country, and fishermen frequently catch large bluegill and crappie as well. If you enjoy relaxing on the water, you can book a trip on the Showboat Branson Belle for a two-hour cruise that includes live entertainment and lunch or dinner.

Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area

A free attraction just west of Branson, the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area features more than 1,500 acres of scenic wilderness and an observation tower and lookout with stunning views of the Ozarks. Hikers can explore the steep hills, oak and hickory forests, and open glades on paved or dirt trails dotted with benches.

Also within the conservation area is a permanent stream called Roark Creek, which is a relatively untouched Ozark headwaters stream. Bird watching is popular in the conservation area and four information kiosks explain the habitats in the park.

Marvel Cave

Opened to tourists in 1894, Marvel Cave is one of the Ozark’s most amazing sites and it was first discovered around 1500 by Native Americans of the Osage Tribe, who named the cave Devil’s Den. For hundreds of years, explorers and industrialists ventured into the cave, but it wasn’t until after 1927 that the site was renamed Marvel Cave. An entrepreneurial family went on to develop Silver Dollar City theme park around the opening to Marvel Cave, and the area has since become one of Branson’s most well-known attractions.

During the 60-minute cave tour, you’ll travel 300 feet underground in the wet limestone cave and discover intricate formations that continue to grow and change. The tour starts in the magnificent Cathedral Room, which is the most expansive cave entrance in the country. Led by an experienced cave guide, you will travel over ramps and climb approximately 600 stairs surrounded by carefully lit rock formations. The guide will also provide geological and historical information about Marvel Cave.

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Spanning 10,000 acres, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park contains some of the most scenic landscapes in the Ozark Mountains and lies just 30 minutes outside of Branson on the Missouri and Arkansas border. While the park offers a gift shop and other conveniences, it’s known for its rugged terrain, which has remained largely untouched over the years.

You can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities in Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, including horseback riding, trout fishing, hiking, and back-country jeep tours. For the aspiring angler, the park maintains a popular fly-fishing school with two-day courses on the picturesque streams that run through the lush forests and meadows in the park.

Lake of the Ozarks

The largest man-made reservoir in Missouri, Lake of the Ozarks is located two hours from the Branson area in the heart of the state. The lake offers more than 1,150 miles of shoreline, with a 92-mile main channel that is ideal for boating, fishing, and sailing.

As part of Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the lake is surrounded by beautiful wooded terrain, with 12 winding trails for hiking and biking. The state park also features the Ozark Caverns, which are open for tours by lantern light.

Fantastic Caverns

Discovered by a farmer and his dog in 1862, Fantastic Caverns is the only cave in America that you can tour by vehicle. The jeep-drawn trams depart every half hour for 60-minute tours of the cave, which is located in Springfield, Missouri.

Open all year, Fantastic Caverns is an all-season destination because the cave remains comfortable year round at about 60 degrees. Fantastic Caverns is the perfect trip for families with young children and people with limited mobility who may not be able to explore some of the other caves in the Ozarks on foot.

5 of the Best Off-Broadway Theater Venues in New York City

If the bright lights and trendy streets of New York City are beckoning, you should book a stay at Bluegreen Resorts’ The Manhattan Club, located in the center of the city. Make this resort your home base from which to explore New York City’s iconic landmarks, its glorious art scene, and some of the best restaurants in the world.

After checking out the city’s world-class museums and exclusive shopping venues, don’t forget to buy tickets for a show at one of New York City’s famous theaters. The city is renowned for its Broadway productions, but you can enjoy a more intimate and more affordable theater experience at an Off-Broadway show.

The following are some of the best Off-Broadway theater companies and venues in New York City:

Delacorte Theater

Delacorte Theater

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A beloved summertime destination, the Delacorte Theater is an open-air stage nestled in the southwest corner of Central Park’s Great Lawn. The theater is famous for hosting Shakespeare in the Park, a free series produced annually by The Public Theater. Since 1962, more than 5 million theater-goers have attended free productions by The Public at the 1,872-seat venue.

The nonprofit theater company produces a Shakespeare play for the Delacorte each summer. It also presents other classic plays, including Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht and Anton Chekov’s The Seagull. In addition to introducing emerging talents, the theater often casts celebrated performers like Meryl Streep.

While admission is free, you will need to obtain tickets on the day of a performance.

Astor Place Theatre

Astor Place Theatre was built in 1831 as a row of nine buildings along the historic Colonnade Row on Lafayette Street. Today, just four of those buildings still stand, fronted by marble columns in the Greek Revival style. The site, located in New York City’s “NoHo” area, has become famous as the original home of the Blue Man Group. Collaboration between the Blue Man Group and the Astor Place Theatre has resulted in one of the longest lasting Off-Broadway shows in the city.

Pershing Square Signature Center

Home to the Signature Theatre Company, the Pershing Square Signature Center is an expansive new venue on 42nd Street in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Midtown Manhattan. The center includes three distinctive theater spaces that deliver an immersive and intimate experience.

Modeled after the company’s original theater space, the Diamond Stage seats 294 people, while The Linney Stage seats 191 people in a flexible courtyard configuration. The Griffin Jewel Box Theatre also seats 191 audience members, but the space resembles a traditional grand opera house that has been miniaturized to promote the audience-performer engagement that is characteristic of Off-Broadway theater.

Along with the three theater spaces, the Pershing Square Signature Center offers two studios, a bookshop, and a café that is perfect for an after-show drink. The spacious center was designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry and enables the Signature Theatre Company to support more talented playwrights.

The Daryl Roth Theatre

The Daryl Roth Theatre is an unmatched space in the Union Square area, with high ceilings and an unobstructed layout. Located in the former Union Square Savings Bank on the corner of East 15th Street, The Daryl Roth Theatre opened to audiences in 1996, when producer Daryl Roth revitalized the historic 1840’s building. For seven years, the building housed DE LA GUARDA, an international Off-Broadway hit.

In 2002, The Daryl Roth Theatre also transformed the former Union Square Savings Bank annex into the DR2 Theatre, an intimate theatre venue with just 99 seats. The DR2 has presented a number of top productions, including The Velveteen Rabbit, Stars of David, and Ears On A Beatle.

Cherry Lane Theatre

In 1924, the Cherry Lane Theatre began as the Cherry Lane Playhouse, an influential and long-running Off-Broadway venue that hosted productions starring a variety of celebrated artists, from Geraldine Fitzgerald to Barbara Streisand. The Commerce Street venue in Greenwich Village was the birthplace of several major theater movements, and it became known for showcasing the work of emerging playwrights. Some of the most famous American plays, written by greats like T. S. Eliot and Sam Shepard, came out of the small theatre.

Cherry Lane was revived in 1996 by Angelina Fiordellisi, who went on to found the Cherry Lane Studio to support more aspiring playwrights. Currently, Cherry Lane Theatre includes a 60-seat studio and a 179-seat main stage.

5 Outdoor Attractions to Enjoy in Wonderful Atlantic City

Renowned for its casinos and historic boardwalk, Atlantic City is a popular destination for travelers interested in an exciting East Coast getaway. You won’t miss a moment of the action when you stay with Bluegreen at Atlantic Palace, a contemporary 31-story resort situated on the Atlantic City Boardwalk with views of the Atlantic Ocean. On the Boardwalk, you will be surrounded by a wide range of diversions, including shows by the world’s best performers, luxurious spas, and cuisine prepared by some of the top chefs in the country.

However, Atlantic City offers much more than just gaming and lavish leisure opportunities. The city is also rich with sandy beaches and open-air attractions that let you really relax. To take a break from the casinos and other indoor activities, check out these five outdoor destinations:

The Steel Pier

Atlantic City Steel Pier

Image courtesy Kevin Jarrett | Flickr

A fun destination for visitors of all ages, the Steel Pier is located right on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and extends 1,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. The Steel Pier was first opened in 1898 as a theater and soon became famous for hosting some of the best entertainment in the world. For example, the Pier has presented legendary shows like the Diving Horse and renowned entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and The Beatles.

After a recent $23 million renovation, the Pier is now prepared for the modern visitor, with updated arcade games, delicious food, and 25 rides that range from gentle to extreme. The Pier also features an ocean-front family restaurant and bar that frequently features live entertainment.

From the Steel Pier, you can experience stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlantic City skyline. Helicopter rides from the Pier are also available, giving you a birds-eye view of the shoreline, the city, or a combination of both.

The Atlantic City Fishing & Dive Center

Enjoy some fresh ocean air and take a tour with the Atlantic City Fishing & Dive Center. The Center offers a number of cruises and charters, including bottom-fishing and sport-fishing charters on boats that are inspected twice a year and certified by the United States Coast Guard.

On year-round charters, you can fish for various ocean species, such as shark, seabass and cod, while other sea life can be fished on a seasonal basis. For instance, winter flounder fishing charters are available in the spring and Mahi Mahi fishing trips are conducted between July and September.

The Atlantic City Fishing & Dive Center also offers sightseeing and party cruises so anyone can experience Atlantic City from a different perspective. Skyline tours journey along the picturesque coastline and sunset tours reveal the city in its best light.

The Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm

wind farm

Image courtesy ToneOne | Flickr

Located at Atlantic City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm is the first wind farm in New Jersey. It features five, 380-foot turbines that can produce enough energy to power nearly 2,500 homes.

The wind farm works in combination with the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) solar energy project to power the wastewater treatment plant, and since its founding in 2005, the farm has reduced ACUA energy costs by more than $3.8 million. The ACUA wind farm and solar project also prevent an average of nearly 9,000 metric tons of CO2 from infiltrating the atmosphere annually. According to the ACUA, the Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm is unique as an urban, eastern, coastal, on-shore, industrial and multi-turbine wind farm.

The ACUA offers tours of the facility and will customize the experience based on the group’s interests and age levels. There are two tours available: one tour focuses on the Haneman Environmental Park and another tour explores the wind farm, the solar project, and the wastewater treatment center.

The Senator Frank S. Farley State Marina

At the Senator Frank S. Farley State Marina, experienced boaters can rent one of the marina’s 640 floating slips, which can accommodate yachts as long as 300 feet. The harbor is sufficiently sheltered, with no wakes and a minimal current, and dock attendants can even help boaters navigate the slip. As a registered marina guest, you have access to private showers, bathrooms, and the on-site fuel dock.

You can also visit the marina for a casual dining experience at The Deck, one of the two restaurants located in the two-story marina building. The Deck also hosts outdoor entertainment when the weather permits.

The Civil Rights Garden

Image courtesy SortofNatural | Flickr

Image courtesy SortofNatural | Flickr

To experience more of the beauty and history Atlantic City has to offer, visit the Civil Rights Garden on Pacific Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard. The public sculpture garden honors the pivotal role Atlantic City played in the Civil Rights Movement with a tranquil arrangement of Gingko trees, flowers, and winding pathways. As a tribute to the leaders behind the Civil Rights Movement, the Garden also includes 11 granite columns and sculptures with inscriptions about notable people and historic events.

The Civil Rights Garden in Atlantic City is also the site of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ceremony in January and other related events, such as the Fannie Lou Hamer commemorative ceremony.

7 Reasons Your Kids Will Love Beautiful Lake Lure

Staying with Bluegreen Resorts means that you have access to some of the best vacation destinations in the United States, from mountainous Aspen to colorful New Orleans. You can also stay at one of Bluegreen’s locations in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, such as Foxrun Townhouses in Lake Lure, North Carolina. In Lake Lure, you won’t have to drag the family around a busy city or try to navigate an overcrowded beach.

Instead, you’ll discover a plethora of relaxing retreats and natural attractions that are perfect for the whole family. From natural waterfall slides to zipline tours, it won’t be hard to entertain the kids and get back to nature while staying at Foxrun Townhouses. Here are seven reasons why your kids will love visiting Lake Lure:

Lake Lure Beach and Water Park

lake lure

Image courtesy Donald Lee Pardue | Flickr

When the weather is warm, the 100-yard beach and inviting waters of Lake Lure are understandably some of the main attractions in the area. The whole family can swim and play in the cool lake, picnic on the clean beaches, and visit the Lake Lure water park. At the water park, kids will enjoy hours of fun with games and a water slide. While you soak up the sun at the lake, you can also savor the beauty of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

Canopy Ridge Farm

Spanning 120 acres on the east side of Lake Lure, Canopy Ridge Farm offers exciting zipline tours through Hickory Nut Gorge and kayak adventures on the lower Rocky Broad River. The 90-minute zipline tour takes you flying through lush forests, and each line delivers a unique experience for constant entertainment. For example, the Zip Zilla is designed for speed and soars through the trees for more than 1,000 feet.

Canopy Ridge Farm’s guided kayak tours are also great for adults and kids above the age of five. On the 90-minute tour, you’ll paddle through a gentle section of the river, with minimal class 1 and class 2 rapids and a few fast moving shoals. The scenic river tour is perfect for paddlers of all experience levels.

Pearson Falls

pearson falls

Image courtesy Kat Jenkinson | Flickr

To further discover North Carolina’s stunning water features, you can drive a short way to Pearson Falls, located between the towns of Saluda and Tyron. The cascading waterfall is part of a 268-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary that features spring-fed streams, thick green forests, and stunning rock formations.

While there is an entry fee, the park is a prime picnic destination, and most kids will be able to easily navigate the quarter-mile trail to the 90-foot waterfall. Climbing and swimming are prohibited to protect the terrain and sensitive ecosystems around the waterfall.

Green River Cove Tubing

While in the Saluda area, visit Green River Cove Tubing and take a trip down the Green River on an inner tube. Green River Cove Tubing supplies the tubes, transports you to the start site, and picks you up at the end of the trip.

At just $9.00 per person for three miles, or $14.00 each for six miles, floating down the gentle Green River is an ideal way for the whole family to cool off in the summer heat and relax for a few hours. The company only requires that kids be at least 42 inches tall or five years old.

Cedar Creek Stables

horse-837220_1280Open year round, Cedar Creek Stables is known for having gentle horses, seasoned guides, and 350 acres of picturesque trails around Lake Lure. Cedar Creek offers a number of different trail rides that are between one and two hours long, allowing you to ride through the forest and summit a mountain ridge for a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Although kids must be at least six years old for trail rides, Cedar Creek Stables does offer pony rides for kids under the age of nine.

Lake Lure Adventure Company

With Lake Lure Adventure Company, water lovers will be able to enjoy all the best water sports on Lake Lure, including wake boarding, water skiing, and paddle boarding. The company’s USA Water Ski-certified staff can teach the basics to beginners, or help experienced wakeboarders and water-skiers learn new skills.

For a more relaxing day on the water, try renting a pontoon boat or booking a guided fishing trip. An experienced fishing guide will show you the best fishing spots on the lake, which is stocked annually with bass, trout, catfish, and bluegill.

Sliding Rock

A 60-foot long natural water slide, Sliding Rock is located in Pisgah Forest and has become one of the most popular water destinations in North Carolina. Each minute 11,000 gallons of water rush over the waterfall into a cold, six-foot deep pool below, creating a truly unique and exciting way to cool off on a hot summer day.

Since the slide is part of a Forest Service recreation area, there are lifeguards on duty between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. You can also visit the nearby Looking Glass Falls on your trip to Sliding Rock.