Travel decision fatigue results from having to make too many decisions in a short time. This affliction is common among RVers who have to make more decisions than usual as they travel.
While traveling, RVers can become overwhelmed by the number of decisions they must make. These can be big decisions, everyday things, or tiny decisions like where to stay, what to do, what to eat—whether to turn left or right.
These decisions no matter how small pile up and a lot of people experience negative effects mentally and emotionally. It can put a damper on how much you and your travel companions enjoy your trip.
In this article, I’ll explain what decision fatigue is and how to identify symptoms. I’ll also share tips that will help you prevent or overcome decision fatigue as you travel.
Let’s dig right in.
What is travel decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue also known as ego depletion is the idea that after making many decisions a person’s ability to make additional decisions becomes worse. This increasing difficulty in making decisions taxes our brain and our emotions which is not a great combination.
The psychological effects of decision fatigue can vary but they often lead to making poor decisions, impulse buying, or other avoidance behaviors.
Travel decision fatigue is simply decision fatigue that you experience while traveling. Since you are outside of normal daily routines and more predictable daily life at home, you are more likely to experience decision fatigue while traveling.
Symptoms of decision fatigue
Many RVers experience decision fatigue and don’t even realize it. More accurately, they feel the effects of decision fatigue but don’t realize it is the cause.
So, it’s good to know the symptoms to help you identify if you’re succumbing to decision fatigue. If you can identify it, you can combat it and overcome it!
The most common symptoms are:
Brain fog (inability to think clearly)
Frequent procrastination even on simple decisions
Irritability and a short temper
Impulsivity (Forget it! Let’s just do this!)
Spending an inordinate amount of time making a decision
Feeling dissatisfied with whatever choice you ultimately make
How RVers can prevent or overcome travel decision fatigue
Living the RV lifestyle for 25+ years after retiring from a long career in education as a Principal, I know a few things about travel decision fatigue. I’ve spent my life out of routine and have learned tricks along the way to help me avoid this unique kind of burnout.
It comes down to two strategies. The first is to learn how to make better decisions faster. The second is to minimize the amount of decisions you have to make as much as possible.
The first strategy requires you to exercise your choice-making muscle, so to speak. You practice making decisions quickly and give yourself a small reward when you do even if that reward is a nice pat on the back. This practice can be as simple as giving yourself one minute to decide where to eat.
The second strategy is what I’m going to focus more on today because I have actionable advice specifically for RVers. As RVers, certain kinds of decisions come up often that we can tackle in different ways.
So, let’s jump into those!
Tips for overcoming travel decision fatigue
The most common decisions RVers have to make revolve around what to eat, buy, pack, and do. There are ways to systemize these decisions even if you’re traveling to different places and climates.
1. Delegate decisions
One of the best ways to save your mental energy is to delegate decisions to others. If you have travel companions, take turns making decisions. For instance, you decide one meal and your spouse decides on the next.
When you delegate decisions set the rule that the delegate has the final say! It’s their decision and you go along with it. Or, there’s another great tactic you can use…
One person narrows it down to three options they’d be happy with and then another person makes the final decision. That way, everyone is happy.
2. Minimize your wardrobe
What to wear is one of the daily decisions that can add quite a bit to decision fatigue. After all, deciding what to wear is actually requires many small decisions. You have to consider the weather, your comfort, what looks good, and more.
By minimizing your wardrobe you’ll have fewer options and thus fewer decisions. Here are some helpful tips:
Remember, less is more when packing
Make a packing list and edit it down as much as possible
Build a capsule wardrobe of interchangeable outfits
Make a master list of items you use as you travel (noting climate, activities, etc.)
3. Systemize grocery shopping
Grocery shopping is always packed with a lot of decisions. And it’s just made that much harder when you’re shopping in a different grocery store every week as you travel.
To make your shopping trip to the grocery store less mentally taxing have a shopping list ready to go.
If you want to take this to the next level have a standard shopping list you take on every trip that includes items you always buy. Things like bread, eggs, milk, cheese, your favorite ice cream, snacks, and drinks. Laminate it and keep it on your fridge!
Then you can make a separate short list of items you need or want for this particular shopping trip.
To further help you avoid a state of mental overload, ask a store associate for help as soon as you enter a new store. Don’t wander around and then ask. You can even take a minute of their time and have them tell you all the aisle numbers for the items on your list.
4. Streamline deciding where to eat
Finding a good place to eat while camping or on a road trip is another thing RVers have to decide daily. The difficulty of making the decision is exacerbated by not knowing what’s good in the area.
I have a few tips to help you decide where to eat more easily.
Tip #1: Assign a type of cuisine to certain days (i.e. Taco Tuesday or Wednesday is Mexican food day). This strategy narrows down all the restaurants in the area to a more manageable number. In remote locations, it might even narrow it down to one!
Tip #2: Let a local decide. Stop at a gas station or find the nearest local and ask them what their favorite restaurant is. Don’t ask questions. Eat there.
Tip #3: Don’t get overwhelmed by Yelp reviews. Look at overall star ratings but don’t read the reviews. Reading too many opinions makes it harder to decide.
5. Follow a travel itinerary
One of the best ways to avoid travel decision fatigue is to try to make as many decisions in advance as possible. You can make as detailed a travel itinerary as you think you’ll need. (Just be sure to always leave room for serendipity!)
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
What to expect when taking delivery of your new RV
The process of buying and taking ownership of an RV can be a bit confusing if not downright daunting especially for a first-time RV buyer. Many folks expect the process to be similar to purchasing an automobile and in some ways it is. Shopping, negotiating, and financing will be very familiar to anyone who has ever bought a car. But after that, things get a bit more complicated.
Remember, you are purchasing a house on wheels so the process might take a little longer than you initially expected. Don’t get frustrated. If your dealer takes time to inspect and prep your rig and you take time to learn how to use it your RV experience will be that much better in the long run.
Most likely, you will sign a purchase agreement, put down a deposit, and then make an appointment to return and actually pick up the RV. If it’s already on the dealer’s lot your appointment might be a week or two in the future. If you are ordering from the factory, you may have to wait months.
Here’s a list of a dozen do’s and don’ts for taking delivery of your new RV.
Do: Search for a reputable dealer with a robust service department
Sure, you want to get a great price but you also want to buy from a reputable dealer who will service warranty issues in a timely manner and at a convenient location. RV prices are definitely negotiable but you do not want to sacrifice customer service for rock-bottom pricing.
Read online reviews of the sales and service sides of the dealership. You will most likely need to take advantage of the RV’s warranty and you’ll want to be confident that the dealer will be there for you at that time.
Don’t: Expect to take delivery on the day you decide to buy the rig
First-time buyers are often surprised that they can’t take ownership on the day they decide to buy an RV but this is an industry norm. Remember, an RV has a lot more components than the typical automobile and there is quite a bit of work involved in getting it ready for the road and RV park. The dealer will do a complete predelivery inspection (PDI) checking over all the RV systems, cleaning the interior and exterior, and handling dealer-installed accessories and options.
If you buy at an RV show, it’s important to know that you probably won’t be towing the RV home with you. Instead, you will make an appointment to visit the dealership after the show to actually take delivery.
Shoppers, especially first-time buyers, should look for a dealer who is willing to educate them. They should also look for a dealer with a robust service center with positive online reviews.
Do: Research additional equipment you will need to safely tow the RV
Some first-time RV buyers are surprised to discover how much equipment is needed to drive a motorhome or tow a travel trailer or fifth-wheel.
When we bought our first fifth wheel trailer, our truck needed a hitch and brake controller installed. We had to get that work done before we could safely tow the trailer home for the first time.
Even if your vehicle is already equipped for towing, you’ll still want to research towing equipment in advance—for instance, sway bars and weight-distributing systems if you’re buying a travel trailer. Some buyers are successful with including this equipment in their RV price negotiations so it’s definitely worth a try.
On the other hand, some dealers will install the cheapest equipment when it’s included in the purchase order so it’s worthwhile to know the most effective and efficient equipment on the market, rather than relying on package deals.
Do: Compare interest rates if you plan on financing the RV
First-time buyers are often surprised at the differences in auto and RV financing. Typical RV loans will range from 10 to 20 years and the interest rates will likely be higher than those for a new car purchase. Avoid being captive to whatever loan terms are offered by the dealership. Arrange for financing in advance. Then you can use these preapprovals to better negotiate with the RV dealer’s finance department.
Do: Research extended warranties in advance
Everyone has an opinion about purchasing extended warranties but the bottom line is that there is no obvious answer to the question of whether or not you should buy one of these service packages. The key to purchasing an extended warranty is to research providers with good track records.
Handy people may prefer fixing problems with their rig on their own though buying a replacement appliance can be pricey so figure that into the equation when considering a warranty purchase. Other buyers will enjoy the RV only if they have the peace of mind an extended warranty can offer.
Either way, you want to do your research ahead of time and have an educated response to the high-pressure sales tactics that sometimes occur during the purchase process. Be aware of what is included in the warranty and what is excluded.
I get it. You want to get that RV on the road. But now is not the time to rush out of the dealership. When you show up to take delivery of your RV, the dealer will give you a walk-through of your new rig, demonstrating the systems and appliances from extending down the stabilizer jacks to filling up the freshwater tanks and opening the awning. We’ve purchased three Class A motorhomes from a wonderful dealer and every walk-through has taken over two hours from start to finish.
Do: Record the walk-through on a smartphone or other device
There’s a lot of information to take in on an RV walk-through and even seasoned RVers get overwhelmed. Don’t rely on your memory to take it all in. I highly recommend using a smartphone or other device to record the RV tech’s lessons on every system. Record each RV component individually so they are easy to reference in the future. For example, have separate videos on the automatic leveling system and the macerator for dumping the holding tanks, both new pieces of technology that we knew would take us awhile to learn how to operate.
While recording, also ask your service tech to demonstrate how to winterize and dewinterize the RV. Having reference videos for your personal rig is priceless.
Do: Ask the dealer to test all the RV systems
A reputable dealership will allow you to test the systems including running water and checking that the water heater is actually heating the water, the water pump is actually pumping water, and all the electrical outlets are working. The dealer will also take time then and there to fix any small issues that are found.
I’ve heard complaints that some dealers balk at testing everything during the walk-through. I encourage buyers to be persistent with this request as it is incredibly frustrating to uncover problems on your first outing that could have been fixed at the dealership.
Do: Test the air conditioning, refrigerator, and other appliances
Make sure that you run the air conditioner (and heat pump or strip) and turn all the appliances on and off and then on again during your walk-through. I highly recommend testing the refrigerator on both the electric and LP-gas settings. Ask to do this at the beginning of your walk-through and then check in at the end to make sure the fridge is cooling down (in most cases, it will not be down to the proper temperature during that time since that generally takes hours). This is a great time to ask the service tech to show you the fuse box and to ask about spare fuses. Some manufactures provide spare fuses with a new coach.
Don’t: Take ownership until the RV is in tip-top operating condition
An RV is a big purchase and there is a huge learning curve even for experienced buyers. If you don’t feel like the dealer has given you a complete walk-through or if you have concerns regarding anything operating correctly, do not take ownership of the RV. No issue is too small to address.
Do: Schedule a shakedown trip as soon as possible
Some of the best dealers have on-site camping for customers to fully test their new rigs and get any bugs out of the system. Our dealer provides four full-service sites for delivery of new RVs and other customers with service appointments. We stayed on site several days to have all issues resolved and questions answered. Since we were on our way south for the winter we wanted to ensure that we were knowledgeable of all aspects of our new coach.
Of course, not everyone is so lucky to purchase from one of those dealers but a close-to-home camping trip is always a good idea with a new RV. Find a full-hookup site near your home or RV dealer and put the RV through its paces. It’s better to discover issues on a shakedown weekend than hundreds (or thousands) of miles away on a bucket-list adventure.
Even if you do everything right, something may go wrong soon after your RV purchase. RVs are homes on wheels and they pack a ton of technology into a really small space and then we haul it around the country. Things are going to break. Don’t let a loose cabinet or a faulty Bluetooth stereo keep you from having the time of your life in your brand-new RV. If it’s not a big problem, don’t turn it into one. Keep a running list of small warranty items to address on your next visit to the dealer and head back out on the open road.
I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.
Below are 46 strange and fascinating facts about all of America’s Presidents
Today is President’s Day! In addition to indicating a day off work or school for many, President’s Day is among the oldest federal holidays and it was the first to celebrate the life of an individual American. It was originally signed into law in 1879 in honor of George Washington’s birthday (February 22) but eventually moved to the third Monday of the month in a bid to create more three-day weekends for workers. Today, the holiday also recognizes the presidents past and present who have served since Washington.
From a 19th-century president who killed a man in a duel to a 20th-century leader who once worked as a lifeguard, learn surprising facts about each U.S. president. In some ways, all 46 U.S. presidents have been very much alike. Not lacking in ambition or charisma, each had a certain knack for self-promotion and networking.
At the same time, each commander in chief is unique. Read facts about every president in order of their service from a 19th-century hotshot with a taste for dueling to a 20th-century veteran who nearly died after being hit by anti-aircraft fire in World War II.
1. George Washington (1789-1797): The first U.S. president and Revolutionary War hero was an enthusiastic dog breeder, particularly of hunting hounds to which he gave names like Sweet Lips and Drunkard.
2. John Adams (1797-1801): Adams and his wife, Abigail, exchanged more than 1,100 letters throughout their lengthy relationship.
3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, died on July 4, in 1826 within hours of John Adams.
4. James Madison (1809-1817): Madison was the shortest president at 5 feet 4 inches and weighed barely over 100 pounds. James Madison and his wife, Dolley, helped popularize ice cream in America. Tastes in the treat, however, would be considered questionable today: chestnut, asparagus, and parmesan were all on the menu. Dolley’s favorite flavor was oyster.
5. James Monroe (1817-1825): Other than Washington, Monroe was the only president to ever run essentially unopposed, coasting to re-election in the 1820 race.
6. John Quincy Adams (1825-1829): Years after leaving the White House, Quincy Adams argued a famous Supreme Court case that freed the captive Africans who had rebelled aboard the Amistad slave ship. The election of 1824 saw four viable candidates, none of whom won an outright majority of electoral votes. Andrew Jackson nabbed 99, John Quincy Adams won 84, William H. Crawford earned 41, and Henry Clay claimed 37. Despite having neither the highest number of electoral or total popular votes, Adams was chosen as President by the U.S. House of Representatives.
7. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837): Jackson once killed a man in a duel.
8. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841): Van Buren was the first president to be born an American. All previous presidents were originally British subjects, having been born prior to 1776.
9. William Henry Harrison (1841): Harrison died just 31 days after his inauguration in 1841, the shortest presidency in United States history.
10. John Tyler (1841-1845): Tyler fathered 15 children, the most of any president.
11. James K. Polk (1845-1849): During his term, Polk secretly purchased a number of enslaved children for his Mississippi cotton plantation.
12. Zachary Taylor (1849-1850): Old Rough and Ready never voted in an election prior to being on the ballot himself.
13. Millard Fillmore (1850-1853): Fillmore was the last Whig president; the party imploded soon after he left office.
14. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857): The only president from New Hampshire also attended college in New England—Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
15. James Buchanan (1857-1861): In 1853, while serving as minister to Great Britain, Buchanan helped draft the 1854 Ostend Manifesto which advocated for an American invasion of Cuba.
16. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865): Honest Abe, the tallest president at 6 feet 4 inches may have had Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes people to be very tall, thin, and long limbed.
17. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869): Though one of the few presidents without a pet, Johnson apparently cared for a family of White House mice which he called the little fellows.
18. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877): Civil War General Grant was invited to join Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the fateful evening of April 14, 1865 but was forced to decline after he and his wife made plans to visit their children in New Jersey.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): Hayes was the first president to have a telephone in the White House.
20. James A. Garfield (1881): Garfield (who was the first known left-handed president) was elected to the U.S. Senate but never served as Ohio senator because he then won the Republican nomination for president. In 1880, Garfield attended the Republican National Convention with no intention of running for President. But when the convention stalled, a delegate nominated Garfield as a compromise candidate, and a stream of unexpected votes flooded in. “This honor comes to me unsought,” Garfield said. “I have never had the presidential fever, not even for a day … I have no feeling of elation given the position I am called upon to fill.”
21. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885): Arthur was named in honor of Chester Abell, the doctor who delivered him.
22. and 24. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897): No president except Cleveland has ever served non-consecutive terms: He defeated James G. Blaine in 1884, lost to Benjamin Harrison in 1888 (despite winning the popular vote), and then came back to defeat Harrison in 1892.
23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893): Harrison was the first president to hire a female White House staffer. Under Harrison’s watch, electricity was installed at the White House in 1891. The newfangled invention utterly terrified him. Harrison and his wife, Caroline, refused to operate the light switches. He was so afraid of pressing the knobs that, sometimes, he’d sleep with the lights on.
25. William McKinley (1897-1901): McKinley’s likeness appears on the $500 bill which was discontinued in 1969.
26. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909): Roosevelt was the youngest president, taking office at age 42.
27. William Howard Taft (1909-1913): Famous for his corpulence, Taft was the first president to hurl the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.
28. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921): In a 1914 proclamation, Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
29. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923): Prior to taking office, Harding wrote a series of lurid love letters to his mistress, the wife of one of his best friends.
30. Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): A quiet man, Coolidge purportedly replied, “You lose,” to a visitor who bet she could get at least three words out of him.
31. Herbert Hoover (1929-1933): An Iowa native who spent part of his boyhood in Oregon, Hoover was the first president to hail from west of the Mississippi River. Despite humble origins, Hoover was a self-made multimillionaire. He was orphaned at the age of 9 and was raised by various relatives, eventually graduating from Stanford’s inaugural class with a degree in geology. Working for a British mine, he traveled the world looking for pricey mineral deposits and made millions doing
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): The longest-serving commander-in-chief claimed to be distantly related to 11 other presidents including his fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt.
33. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): The “S” in Harry S. Truman was just an initial; it didn’t stand for any name. (The “S” in Ulysses S. Grant didn’t stand for anything either.)
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): World War II hero Ike was the first president to ride in a helicopter.
35. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): After being injured and honorably discharged in World War II, Kennedy was briefly employed as a journalist during the waning weeks of the war.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): Johnson’s first career was as a teacher. He worked at a school near the U.S.-Mexico border for four years before launching a career in politics.
37. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974): Nixon became such a skillful poker player while stationed in the Solomon Islands during World War II that his winnings helped launch his political career upon his return to the U.S.
38: Gerald Ford (1974-1977): A star football player at the University of Michigan, Ford turned down offers from both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.
39. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): When his father died in 1953, Carter gave up his successful military career to move back to Georgia and work on their family’s peanut farm.
40. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Reagan worked as a lifeguard and sportscaster before becoming an actor and, later, a politician.
41. George H. Bush (1989-1993): As a student at Yale, Bush was captain of the baseball team and a member of Skull and Bones, an elite secret student society.
42. Bill Clinton (1993-2001): Clinton played the saxophone and performed on the Arsenio Hall Show when he was a candidate for president.
43. George W. Bush (2001-2009): Post-presidency, Bush took up oil painting, exhibiting his work at the Museum of the Southwest in Texas.
44. Barack Obama (2009-2017): Prior to becoming the first African American president, Obama won two Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word Album.
45. Donald J. Trump (2017-2021): Before becoming president, Trump was a real estate developer, entrepreneur, and host of the NBC reality show, The Apprentice.
46: Joe Biden (2021-present): Biden overcame a debilitating childhood stutter after enduring bullying over the condition in grade school.
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
Stargazing season is amazing! Enjoy the night skies at their brightest at National Parks stargazing festivals.
National parks are helping visitors make the most of their dark skies by hosting stargazing festivals. The festivals include various night-time events in addition to stargazing.
These events are right around the corner so bust out your stargazing kit and get going!
Dark Sky National Parks
National parks are becoming night sky havens since they have less exposure to light pollution. Dozens of national parks are even designated Dark Sky Parks because of their “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights…”
Some national parks with the official Dark Sky Park classification are:
Alrighty, let’s take a look at the national parks stargazing festivals 2024.
Death Valley Dark Sky Festival, March 1-3
Death Valley is known for some of the best stargazing in America. It’s even designated a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, the highest rating of darkness.
During the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival visitors can enjoy the stunning night sky as well as special events like the Exploration Fair, auditorium talks, astrophotography meetups, and more.
Grand Canyon Star Party, June 1-8
Grand Canyon National Park is known for its breathtakingly beautiful rugged terrain. But did you know it also hosts some of the most beautiful night skies around?
You can take in those skies in early June at their annual Star Party. The event is free but you must still pay to enter the park. The park fee is good for the North and South rims for seven days.
The event starts at sunset and the best viewing time is after 9 pm. Most telescopes will be taken down at 11 pm although some folks still share theirs after that when the skies are crisp and clear.
Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival, June 5-8
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah. This park has such excellent night sky viewing that it earned its dark-sky designation in 2019!
Come view the reddish-colored hoodoos during the day and then return for its spectacular nighttime views.
Their Annual Astronomy Festival includes lectures, star stories presentations, and guided stargazing sessions. Last year, they had a performance by an Arizona string quartet called Dry Sky Quartet and other family-friendly activities.
Annual Badlands Astronomy Festival, July 5-7
South Dakota is home to Badlands National Park which boasts exciting fossil beds and unique geologic formations. You can see things like sod tables and clastic dikes during the day then stay to take advantage of their dark night skies.
The Badlands Astronomy Festival partners with the NASA South Dakota Grant Consortium. Their festival typically includes guest speakers, telescopes, sky viewing, and a guided walk through a scaled solar system model!
Shenandoah Night Sky Festival, August 11-13
Shenandoah National Park is a gorgeous gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. In fact, this almost 200,000-acre park is so breathtaking that I have done several posts about it:
The event includes ranger talks, other lectures and presentations, and family-friendly activities. The guest presentations include a span of topics, including space travel, space weather, and our future in space.
The event is free with park admission.
Great Basin Astronomy Festival, September 5-7
The Great Basin National Park might be for you if you prefer to avoid crowds. It is one of the least crowded national parks!
The 77,000-acre park in eastern Nevada also has a research-grade observatory!
This fall, you can attend their 15th annual stargazing event. This year’s festival will have many of the same events as 2023 with new guest speakers, ranger programs, and art projects.
Joshua Tree Night Sky Festival, October (Dates TBA)
Joshua Tree National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
Every year, the park and non-profit organizations Joshua Tree Educational Experience (JTREE) and Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center partner to bring this incredible stargazing event.
The Night Sky Festival is a ticketed event and has a limited capacity. They haven’t announced the 2024 dates yet, but it’s typically held around the second weekend of October. You can click that link to see if they’ve updated their website with dates and ticket information.
I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly—or ever—gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe.
There are a lot of places to visit in Arizona—from admiring the Grand Canyon to experiencing cultural tourist attractions throughout its desert landscape
Arizona’s landscapes are nothing short of stunning. Towering buttes meet hills covered with saguaro cacti. The otherworldly landscape that often feels better suited for Mars than our planet is grounded by what has become Arizona’s other great draw: the proof of human history found in the sites and settlements of Ancestral Puebloans. These archaeological sites which include cliff dwellings, sandstone homes, and petroglyphs dot the state offering a reminder of the people who came before.
With a deep human history and a stunning natural landscape, there is plenty to explore in Arizona, including cities, national parks and monuments, and outdoor attractions. This guide is split into specific sections as Arizona has many different types of places to visit.
So let’s get started.
Best cities to visit in Arizona
Arizona isn’t all desert and canyons; the state has numerous cities that deserve visiting. The following cities are some of the best places to visit in Arizona.
Phoenix is the sunny state capital of Arizona. Located in central Arizona, Phoenix is surrounded by mountains and desert landscapes. Its location seems unlikely for a city with skyscrapers and luxury hotels shooting up from what (before 1881) was once sand and dust. However, its incongruous allure is all part of Phoenix’s charm.
Phoenix is the best place to visit in Arizona for a big-city experience. The city is bursting with creativity and attractions including more art galleries than you could see in a whole week.
Phoenix is also home to the Musical Instrument Museum, Natural History Museum, Phoenix Bat Cave, and Desert Botanical Garden.
Tucson is another Arizona destination worth repeat visits with history, culture, and outdoor activities galore. Plus, its food game is beyond your wildest expectations. Tucson is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Tucson gave us the Sonoran dog—a bacon-wrapped street dog forged in nearby Sonora and packed into a bun filled with burrito toppings.
Home to the University of Arizona, the city nurtures a vibrant downtown arts scene with the contemporary Tucson Museum of Art forming the backbone of a flourishing community of painters, glass-blowers, and jewelers. When the heat drops at night, that same downtown comes alive with bars, breweries, and upscale restaurants embracing the uniquely Tucson convergence of Mexican and Arizona influences, a dose of green chiles, open-faced quesadillas (cheese crisps), and those exquisite hot dogs
View a great variety of plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Two miles of paths lead through 21 acres of displays. Live demonstrations and tours daily.
A desert oasis, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is a hiker’s paradise. Tucked in a canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado Forest, it is easily accessible from Tucson. Ride the narrated shuttle bus and you can get off and back on at any of the stops for a picnic, hike, or a walk back.
One of the top places to visit, San Xavier del Bac is a Spanish Catholic Mission. This national historic landmark was founded in 1692 and welcomes more than 200,000 visitors per year. The church is considered the finest Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.
If Phoenix is best for a big-city feel, Cottonwood is best for the opposite. Part river town, part wine trail, and part historic hub: Cottonwood offers a fun and lively scene that sets it apart from the arid desert to the south and the soaring mountains to the north.
Although it might be best known as a gateway to the nearby red rocks of Sedona, Cottonwood has plenty of charms of its own. They start with the quaint Old Town district and branch out to the banks of the lushly green Verde River and the nearby historic towns of Clarkdale and Jerome.
Any visit to Cottonwood should start with a stop in the Historic Old Town, a district that dates back to the early 1900s when it was a center for the area’s mining and smelter industry. Today, many of the buildings feature the rock and brick architecture of the 1920s and ’30s. Old Town antique stores, wine-tasting venues, six galleries, and three hotels!
Best National Parks to visit in Arizona
What would a trip to Arizona be without visiting a national park? Arizona’s national parks are renowned for their incredible attractions including the famous Grand Canyon.
You can explore the hiking trails, and biking trails, take off-roading tours, or book a scenic helicopter flight—it is up to you. These are the best national parks to visit in Arizona.
The park is most known for its cacti. Indeed, in this national park, you’ll find some of the largest saguaro cacti in the U.S. Some of the cacti live up to 200 years old and grow at a very slow rate. The national park feels like an old American West movie scene and has over 90,000 acres to explore.
Valley View Overlook Trail is a short walk that should take around 20 minutes to complete while hiking to Signal Hill Petroglyphs, a must for anyone interested in ancient art and civilizations.
5. Petrified Forest National Park
If Petrified Forest National Park sounds fantastic, it’s because it is. However, if you arrive expecting a lush forest full of beautiful trees, you’ll be shocked. The national park is a barren landscape full of fossils and petrified, sliced tree trunks.
The petrified wood is scattered across the national park and you can drive the length of the park in around an hour or two—stopping at whatever spot catches your eye. Some not to miss places include Rainbow Forest Museum, Painted Desert, and Crystal Forest Blue Mesa hiking trails.
Wondering how this natural phenomenon occurs? Petrification of trees takes place when trees have been buried underground without oxygen for thousands of years. Over time, the decaying wood becomes mineralized and turns into fossilized stone creating a replica of the original form, just in a different material.
For a unique natural experience, Petrified Forest National Park is one of the best places to visit in Arizona. We recommend choosing this national park for anyone intrigued by natural mysteries and wanting a memorable experience in Arizona.
6. Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon! What can I say? The park is one of the best places to visit in the U.S., never mind Arizona. Visiting the Grand Canyon is at or near the top of most people’s bucket list.
South Rim and North Rim are the most popular areas to explore the Grand Canyon. The North Rim is the lesser-seen side of the Grand Canyon and is best for those who want a quieter place to experience this amazing wonder. South Rim is much busier and is packed with different hiking trails.
A popular hiking route is the Bright Angel Trail. The trail is well-maintained and relatively easy. It follows a side canyon, past cliff faces, and various switchbacks before finishing at Plateau Point. Plateau Point has stunning views of the canyon and the park’s scenery.
Of course, you can always splurge on a helicopter ride instead. Many tourists opt to view the canyon from above, which is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Arizona.
7. Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located in the Navajo Nation in the northeastern part of the state. For those who want to experience nature in the north, it is easily one of the best places to visit in Arizona.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument covers over 80,000 acres and is home to the Spider Rock spire. The spire is a 700-foot-high sandstone rock. Spider Rock spire gained its shape by gradual erosion over time and experts believe it was once connected to a ridge. Nowadays, it makes an unusual natural attraction and a great photograph.
You can drop by the Canyon de Chelly Visitor Center for expert local guidance on things to see and do. However, you should make sure to try a hiking trail or scenic drive.
8. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals including its namesake.
There are 28 different species of cacti in the monument ranging from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion. These cacti are all highly adapted to survive in the dry and unpredictable desert. They use spines for protection and shade, thick skin, and pulp to preserve water, unique pathways of photosynthesis at night, and hidden under their skin are delicate to sturdy wooden frames holding them together.
The monument’s namesake, the organ pipe cactus can live to over 150 years in age, have up to 100 arms, reach 25 feet in height, and will only produce its first flower near the age of 35.
9. Chiricahua National Monument
About 27 million years ago, this Land of Standing-Up Rocks was formed when a violent volcanic eruption spewed forth thick, white-hot ash. This eruption was a thousand times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helen in Washington. As the ash cooled, it fused into an almost 2,000-foot-thick layer of volcanic rock known as rhyolite. The Chiricahua Mountains were created as well during this time. Over the eons, wind, water, and ice sculpted what are today the formations that makeup Chiricahua National Monument.
There are hiking trails, both short loops and longer treks that take you back down the mountain and deep into the gorges and other splendors of this spectacular place. More than 20 miles of trails wind through the park. Duck on a Rock, Totem Pole, and Big Balanced Rock are a few of the more famous formations you will see.
With the Santa Catalina Mountains beckoning in the distance and canyons and seasonal streams dotting the landscape, Catalina State Park provides a delightful respite in the Tucson area. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The park’s 5,500 acres provide miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails that wind through the park and into the nearby Coronado National Forest.
More than 150 species of birds call the park home. This scenic desert park also offers equestrian trails and an equestrian center provides a staging area for trail riders with plenty of trailer parking. The state park offers 120 campsites with electric and water utilities suitable for RVs of all lengths.
11. Lost Dutchman State Park
Since the 1840s, many have claimed to know the location of the Peralta family’s lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains but none of these would-be fortune-seekers became more famous than the Dutchman Jacob Waltz. The German prospector purportedly hid caches of the precious metal throughout the Superstition Wilderness. Fact or fiction, Waltz’s windfall gave the park its name.
You might not find gold during your visit but other treasures include great hiking and biking trails and 138 RV camping sites (68 with electric and water) with sunset views.
12. Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho rises from the desert seemingly out of nowhere, its sharp buttes like lighthouses guiding travelers home. It wasn’t always a sight for road-weary eyes, though. In 1862, Confederate and Union soldiers clashed here in the Battle of Picacho Pass, a fight marked in history as the westernmost battle of the Civil War.
These days during the spring, vibrant wildflowers carpet the ground; come winter, the challenging trails that ascend the sunny peaks draw thrill-seeking hikers.
13. Red Rock State Park
Oak Creek runs for nearly 2 miles throughout this 286-acre state park adorning the sandstone mesas and red boulders with leafy riparian habitats. If we’re judging Sedona hiking hot spots, it doesn’t get much better than the park’s juniper-studded trails and vortex-framed vistas.
Red Rock State Park is one of the most ecologically diverse parks in Arizona which is why it makes sense that it serves as an environmental education hub. From the Visitor Center’s interactive exhibits and film presentations to guided nature walks and full moon hikes programming offers insight into Sedona’s majestic landscape.
14. Alamo Lake State Park
As far as lakeside parks go, this one in western Arizona has no beach and not much shoreline hiking. But! It’s considered one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country. Anglers: Pack your gear and reserve one of the 15 full-service camping sites or cabins where the front porch makes for an ideal spot to spin yarns about the catch of the day.
15. Patagonia Lake State Park
South of Sonoita, the blue waters of Patagonia Lake glisten for 265 acres. Unlike the craggy escarpments that border many desert lakes here it’s all rounded corners and gentle slopes. The surrounding hills ease down to the tall grasses that line the shore. A trail meanders from the beach to Sonoita Creek which formed the lake when it was dammed.
A marina provides boat rentals: canoes, pontoons, rowboats, and paddleboats. In a former life, this land was the home of the Sobaipuri and Papago tribes, both related to the Pima Indians. Today, it’s the home away from home for campers, birders, swimmers, sunbathers, boaters, and anglers.
Best Outdoor Attractions
After exploring the best national and state parks and cities, let’s look at Arizona’s largest category—its outdoor attractions.
Arizona is perfect if you love being outdoors and experiencing natural attractions. The state is full of things to see and do outdoors including visiting Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley. Ready to be inspired? Let’s take a look.
16. Monument Valley
Monument Valley is located along the Arizona-Utah border. If you want to visit easily, overnight at the Valley’s View Campground, and what a view you’ll enjoy especially at sunset. The valley is one of the most famous landscapes in the U.S. and easily one of the best places to visit in Arizona.
The valley is over 90,000 acres and is full of hiking trails and spectacular rock formations. It is most known for its towering sandstone buttes which you can experience on scenic drives or hiking trails. Don’t miss Forest Gump Point, the iconic viewpoint used in famous movies and is an important filming location in cinematic history.
The valley is a great place to cut through if you are planning an Arizona road trip. There are many things to see while driving through the valley and the scenery is perfect for memorable road tripping.
17. Lake Powell
If you are heading up to the Arizona-Utah border it is well worth detouring to Lake Powell. The lake is a stunning artificial body of water situated between Monument Valley and Grand Canyon National Park. It is a beautiful place to visit in Arizona. The lake’s bright blue water and orange sandstone surroundings cut a picture-perfect scene.
The lake is fed by the Colorado River and covers over 2,000 miles of shoreline. The Rainbow Bridge National Monument is a significant attraction on the lake and the vast stone arc is the largest natural bridge in the world. It is an excellent attraction to combine with enjoying the lake itself.
Many people spend a day or two staying along the shores of the lake. You may wish to visit on a day trip or book a campsite so that you can stay overnight. Full-service sites are available.
18. Montezuma Castle National Monument
Fascinated by ancient culture and archaeological sites of inhabitation? Montezuma Castle National Monument is the place to visit. The site is home to several cliffside dwellings, built and lived in by Indigenous People around 1100 to 1425 AD.
Sadly, access inside the dwellings has now been prohibited in an understandable attempt to protect the site from excessive damage. However, visitors can take a virtual tour inside the houses. They look incredible from the outside and you can enjoy numerous hiking trails for different views.
19. Desert Botanical Garden
I mentioned the Desert Botanical Garden when discussing Phoenix. The garden is located in Papago Park in the center of Arizona’s capital city. However, the Desert Botanical Garden is worthy of a spot on our list in its own right.
Why is the Desert Botanical Garden so spectacular? The 150-acre garden has over 50,000 desert plants and is the ideal place to visit for a convenient desert experience. The botanical garden is an easy and fun alternative for those who don’t have time to visit major desert locations like Saguaro National Park.
Planning a trip to Glen Canyon National Recreation Park to visit Lake Powell? I recommend taking a detour to visit the Glen Canyon Dam. The dam is a hydroelectric power plant and has become an iconic attraction along the Colorado River.
Visitors can take boat tours to view Glen Canyon Dam up close or even fly over the dam for a flight experience. The 710-foot infrastructure is incredible from a distance and even more impressive up close. Of course, to save a bit of money, you can always walk across Glen Canyon Dam Bridge where you’ll still have great views over the dam.
21. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead is another impressive artificial attraction. The lake has the highest water capacity of any U.S. reservoir and sits on the Nevada-Arizona border. If you love water activities and lakeside living, Lake Mead is one of the best places to visit in Arizona to unwind and relax.
Allow time to take a Lake Mead cruise as the contrast between desert and an oasis-like body of water is striking and best experienced from the water itself. You can also fish and boat on the lake.
If you are planning a road trip, Lake Mead is ideally located en route to Las Vegas. It is worth detouring to enjoy the lake and consider combining it with a visit to the nearby Hoover Dam.
22. Hoover Dam
Once the tallest dam in the world, the Hoover Dam has a nostalgic kind of power. While it no longer holds that grand title, it is still one of Arizona’s best places to visit. Visitors quickly appreciate its power and strength. It is said that the dam could withstand the force of Niagara Falls which gives you an excellent perspective on how strong it is.
You can view the Hoover Dam from afar or drop by the Hoover Dam Visitors Center to book a guided tour. Tours typically include access to the Hoover Dam tunnels, an elevator ride to the top, and special access to functional rooms throughout the building.
If you are interested in architecture or just want to see a national historic landmark up close, the dam is great to visit. It is also combined with a trip to Las Vegas as the dam sits on the Nevada-Arizona border.
23. Jerome State Historic Park
Fancy indulging in a bit of history? Jerome State Historic Park is a fantastic place to visit in Jerome. The state park has a couple of acres surrounding Douglas Mansion which has been transformed into a quirky mining museum.
Visitors can wander through two floors of informative exhibits plus outdoor gardens. The museum balances general mining stories and the local town’s history. You can learn about region-specific minerals and mining processes through various mediums including cinematic videos.
24. The Superstition Mountains
The Superstition Mountains cover 160,000 acres and are full of gorgeous mountainous and desert scenes. That is not what makes this place famous, though; it is the lost gold mines.
Legends of gold have kept mining companies and independent hunters searching the mountains for years. Many hunters have hit the jackpot and found lots of riches. You can join the crowds or find non-gold-related entertainment in the mountains.
You can visit the Superstition Mountains Museum, explore the surrounding Tonto National Forest, or hike along one of the various trails. These mountains are one of the best places to visit in Arizona for adventure.
A magnet for outdoorsy types, Sedona enjoys a picturesque location at the base of Oak Creek Canyon surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land. You could easily get swept away in all the activities to be enjoyed nearby from hiking and biking to rafting and fishing but the town itself is also well worth exploring. Thanks to its longstanding connection to the art world—surrealist painter Max Ernst and his wife Dorothea Tanning moved here in the 1940s—there are more than 80 galleries to explore as well as street art and performing arts centers.
More places to visit in Arizona
These destinations are special additions to my guide on the best places to visit in Arizona. Whether they are a museum or sacred tribal lands they don’t fit into the outdoor tourist attraction category. I’ve given them a category of their own.
Here is my final subsection, my special list of more places to visit in Arizona.
26. Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of the most unique places to visit in Arizona and there’s no way we couldn’t add this unique church to my list.
While I’m not placing the church in the outdoor attraction category, its exterior is a beautiful sight. The church is wedged between two sandstone buttes and has large, plain glass windows that give it a modern, chic design. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is not your typical church.
You can enter the church to look around or join a service if you wish. The church is near Sedona and plenty of other attractions so it isn’t too much of a detour to make.
27. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is situated on the outskirts of Tucson. However, the museum deserves a place on this list in its own right.
The museum is a bit of everything from a natural history museum to a zoo and a botanical garden. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum covers 98 acres and includes an aquarium section and live animal exhibits plus flora displays in the botanical garden section. There is also an art gallery for visitors to enjoy.
You could easily spend a whole day at the museum. The museum is a chance to experience multiple attractions at once.
28. Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
Looking for a scenic drive? Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway is an incredible, relatively short scenic drive that you can enjoy from Tucson. Short enough to comfortably squeeze into a day yet long enough to provide diverse scenes and attractions, this scenic byway is a great place to drive.
Mount Lemmon Highway starts near the outskirts of Tucson.
I recommend stopping at Babad Do’ag Scenic Overlook, Molino Canyon Vista, Thimble Peak Vista, Windy Point Vista, and Geology Vista Point. There are quite literally dozens of hiking trails and trailheads along the highway as well. You can easily park up and take a detour on foot.
Allow extra time again once you reach Mount Lemmon’s peak. There is Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, Mount Lemmon Sky Observatory, and a Fire Lookout Station to visit. Mount Lemmon has a small town near the mountain top where you can grab refreshments and do some light shopping.
A relic of the Wild West that refused to become relegated to the history books, Tombstone has a legacy stretching back some 140 years. The Cochise County town started life in 1877 when prospector Ed Schieffelin arrived here in the hunt for silver. He struck lucky discovering huge reserves of the stuff—as well as large gold deposits—and the town boomed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Unlike many similar places, Tombstone didn’t become a total ghost town. Today, it’s filled with everything from saloon-style restaurants to Western boutiques, all paying homage to the days when prospectors and merchants ran riot here.
30. Watson Lake
Although it may not be as well-known as big hitters like the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest, Watson Lake is certainly up there with Arizona’s most beautiful landscapes. This stunning natural lake situated just four miles from downtown Prescott provides a breathtaking backdrop for several outdoor pursuits including swimming, hiking, boating, and kayaking. For the best all-round tour, hike the six-mile Peavine Trail which loops around its granite boulders and follows along the route of the former Santa Fe Railway providing plenty of scenic vistas along the way.
The Grand Canyon State is packed with wonderful activities and tourist destinations. Visiting Arizona is guaranteed to be memorable and you’ll stay well entertained throughout your stay. The state has so much to offer, whether you want a typical desert experience, a quirky tourist attraction, or a cultural immersion.
Have a fantastic trip. I hope you manage to experience at least a few of these best places to visit in Arizona.
Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever.
Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.
Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip south.
Everything you need to know if you’re headed to the Valley of the Sun for baseball spring training and other activities
Are you a baseball fan who is craving a warm weather getaway? Then you need to check out spring training in Arizona—aka, the Cactus League.
A spring training trip is the perfect excuse to watch your favorite baseball team play a few no-stress games all while enjoying an amazing RV road trip somewhere warm and sunny while you’re at it. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
It’s every baseball lover’s dream and this Complete Guide to Arizona Baseball Spring Training will help you plan the perfect getaway to sunny Phoenix without a hitch.
Are you ready to get started? Keep reading for all my helpful tips!
About the Cactus League
During spring training, Major League Baseball (MLB) teams hold a series of practices and exhibition games which allows them to try out new players and practice existing players before the regular season starts.
The Cactus League is one of two spring training leagues (the other is the Grapefruit League in Florida) that are home to the MLB during the baseball spring training season.
Phoenix and the cities in its metropolitan area (Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Goodyear, Glendale, Surprise, and Peoria) are home to the Cactus League. Within a 50-mile radius, you’ll find 10 facilities that host 15 major league baseball teams during spring training which typically runs mid-February through March (February 22-March 26, 2024).
15 teams across 10 stadiums
American Family Fields of Phoenix
Location: 3600 N. 51st Street, Phoenix
American Family Fields of Phoenix is the spring training home to the Milwaukee Brewers. They were formerly known as Maryvale Baseball Park the facility is owned and operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The facility can hold up to 10,000 people.
Location: 10710 W. Camelback Road, Glendale
A state-of-the-art baseball facility like no other, Camelback Ranch-Glendale celebrates its eleventh season as Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. This Sonoran Desert-inspired facility offers baseball fans more than top-quality playing fields and facilities; the site also features picturesque walking trails, landscaped grounds, citrus groves, and extensive water features. One of the largest facilities in the Cactus League, Camelback Ranch-Glendale’s main stadium boasts a capacity of 13,000 which includes 3,000 lawn seats, 12 luxury suites, and a party deck.
Location: 1933 S. Ballpark Way, Goodyear
Goodyear Ballpark is the spring training and player development home of the Cleveland Guardians and Cincinnati Reds. A great deal of emphasis is put on the fan experience—guests enjoy a fun atmosphere with between-inning promotions, giveaways, kids’ days, family-friendly ticket pricing, and the largest kids zone of all Cactus League facilities.
Location: 1235 N. Center Street, Mesa
Hohokam Stadium is the spring training baseball home of the Oakland Athletics. The venue puts fans near all the action and up close to their favorite players from the major leagues.
Peoria Sports Complex
Location: 16101 N. 83rd Ave., Peoria
Peoria Sports Complex is a baseball complex and Spring Training Home of the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. There are twelve practice fields around the main baseball stadium.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Location: 7555 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
Salt River Fields, the Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, is the first Major League Baseball Spring Training facility built on American Indian land. The ballpark seats 11,000—7,000 fixed seats and 4,000 lawn seats—and features two large hospitality suites, the Pepsi Patio and Miller Lite Loft/American Airlines Deck for large groups and special events.
Location: 7408 E. Osborn Road, Scottsdale
Scottsdale Stadium is the spring training home to the San Francisco Giants. The baseball field located near Old Town Scottsdale was designed by the owner of the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards. The new stadium was built in 1992 and holds 12,000 people.
Location: 2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Mesa
Sloan Park is the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs. Distinctive touches of Wrigley Field align nicely with 360 views and a convenient location in this 15,000-seat stadium. Sloan Park is conveniently located next to Riverview Park with playgrounds extraordinaire, splash pads, shaded picnic areas, and miles of accessible sidewalks.
Location: 15930 N. Bullard Ave., Surprise
Surprise Stadium is located at the Surprise Recreation Campus athletic facility. The venue was opened in 2002 and is the spring training home to both the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers. The stadium holds just over 10,000.
Tempe Diablo Stadium
Location: 2200 W. Alameda Drive, Tempe
With amazing views of the Buttes, Tempe Diablo Stadium is the spring training home of the Los Angeles Angels.
The average high temperature in the Phoenix area in March ranges from 72 degrees at the end of February to 80 by the time March ends. In a typical spring training season many afternoons can get into the low to mid 80s which is quite comfortable given the low humidity.
Pro tip: That low humidity means that once the sun goes down it can be a bit chilly at night. Light jackets or sweatshirts are useful to bring along if you’re going to sample the nightlife.
Getting around Phoenix during spring training
No matter which teams/stadiums/games you come to Arizona to visit, you know you’ll need to get to Phoenix, find campgrounds and RV parks in the area and get to know the layout of the region. A car and a handy map and/or a reliable GPS are pretty much all you need to enjoy a Cactus League sojourn but here are a few handy tips.
It helps to think of Phoenix as the dividing line of a valley that is typically split geographically into two regions—the East Valley containing Tempe, Scottsdale, and Mesa among other suburbs, and the West Valley containing Glendale, Peoria, and Goodyear among others.
Only one team, the Brewers, trains in Phoenix proper and their complex in the Maryvale section of the city is closer to the West Valley than to the East.
Depending on which teams you wish to see most consider concentrating your search for an RV park or campground to one side or another (see recommendations below). However, count on a drive of 30-45 minutes minimum to cross over—something to consider if, say, you try to attend an afternoon game in the West Valley and then head over to an evening game in the East Valley.
For reference, Surprise Stadium and Hohokam Stadium are the two venues with the most distance between them at just less than 40 miles.
Get to know Loop 101, the freeway that connects both valleys as it carves a giant inverted U through the region. Not only is it an alternative to driving through a crowded Interstate 10 through downtown Phoenix during rush hour but five Cactus League venues (Camelback Ranch, Peoria, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale Stadium, and Sloan Park) are within a few miles of it.
Public transportation isn’t an option for any Cactus League venue. Phoenix’s Valley Metro light rail doesn’t go near any of the ballparks. As for parking, the cost varies at each ballpark (some have offered free parking for weekday games) but expect rates starting at $15-20.
Worth seeing in the Cactus League
Thanks to a building boom in the 2000s, the Cactus League is full of newer and renovated venues. The newest park is Sloan Park opened for the Cubs in 2015 to replace its longtime home of Hohokam Stadium (which was promptly renovated in order to become the A’s new spring base).
So if you’re a fan of stadium architecture or just like new things be sure to check out Sloan Park, Salt River Fields, Camelback Ranch, and Goodyear Ballpark, all opened over the last 15 years. The Brewers unveiled a renovated ballpark and complex in Maryvale in 2019.
If you’re a fan of regional food many of the ballparks offer specialties of the home teams’ cities in their concession stands. Some notable items worth mentioning: Skyline Chili at Goodyear Ballpark; Chicago deep-dish pizza and pork tenderloin sandwiches at Sloan Park; K.C. and Texas barbecue at Surprise Stadium; fried cheese curds at Maryvale Park; and Dodger dogs at Camelback Ranch.
All 10 Cactus League ballparks have some form of berm seating in the outfield. While they are typically the cheapest tickets offered, they are also some of the most popular throughout spring training. This is particularly true on weekends.
Be sure to bring a blanket to sit on and some sunscreen though many venues have installed sunscreen dispensers in the berm sections.
Scottsdale Stadium stands out among its Cactus League brethren because it is part of the downtown Scottsdale district within walking distance of many restaurants, bars, and other entertainment options.
However, this also means there’s limited space around for other ballpark operations while the Giants’ major-leaguers utilize an adjacent practice field their minor-league complex is actually a couple miles away.
Things to do in Arizona during spring training
As one of the largest cities in the U.S. you’ll find every kind of attraction in Greater Phoenix. If you’re not sure where you should start I’ve rounded up the top attractions everyone should check off their Greater Phoenix bucket list.
The panoramic view from the hump of this iconic landmark named for its resemblance to a kneeling camel is worth scaling its two tricky trails, Echo Canyon and Cholla. Hikers gain 1,200 feet in elevation to the summit which looks out over the city and Phoenix Mountains Preserve. Camelback is one of the most popular urban hiking spots in Phoenix so expect trail traffic and consider hiking on weekdays.
Just minutes from downtown is iconic Papago Park, home to red rock buttes looped with trails, scenic views from the intriguing rock formation atop Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, and two of the city’s top attractions: Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo.
South Mountain Park and Preserve
Boasting 50 miles of trails through 16,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert, this municipal park is perfectly suited for outdoor adventure just minutes from the city. The skyline views and Sonoran Desert flora aren’t the park’s only perks. Keep a lookout for ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks. If you’d rather drive than hike, bike, or hoof it up the trails hop on the 5.5-mile Summit Road up to Dobbins Lookout, the highest accessible point in the preserve.
Desert Botanical Garden
The winding paths of this 50-acre desert garden showcase a fantastic variety of arid plants from towering saguaros to delicate blooms. This beautiful landscape is also the backdrop for the garden’s seasonal events.
Tours of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home offer insight on how the masterful architect was inspired by the desert surroundings. Visitors walk through rooms, gardens, walkways, and Wright’s entertainment pavilion on the grounds while learning about his organic architecture.
One of the nation’s largest nonprofit zoos is home to more than 1,400 animals. See Sumatran tigers roam the savanna, feed giraffes in an up-close encounter, and discover the local flora, fauna, and critters of the Sonoran Desert on the zoo’s Arizona Trail.
The tradition, culture, and history of 22 regional American Indian tribes converge in the Heard Museum’s immersive exhibits and authentic art shop as well as annual events like the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest (February 17-18, 2024).
Phoenix Art Museum
The Southwest’s largest fine art museum features a collection of contemporary work and global masterpieces. Complementing the museum’s galleries of fine art and objects from Asia, America, Europem, and beyond are rotating exhibitions.
RV parks and campgrounds
Consider your preferred teams when selecting an RV park or campground. I’ve selected the following list of parks from those personally visited.
Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort, 11201 North El Mirage Road, El Mirage
Destiny RV Resort, 416 N. Citrus Road, Goodyear
Cotton Lane RV Resort, 17506 West Van Buren Street, Goodyear
Sun Retreats Phoenix West (formerly Leaf Verde RV Resort), 1500 S Apache Road, Buckeye
White Tank Mountain Regional Park Campground, 20304 W White Tank Mountain Road, Waddell
Pleasant Harbor RV Resort, 8708 W. Harbor Blvd., Peoria
Monte Vista RV Resort, 8865 E Baseline Road, Mesa
Campground USA, 2851 S Tomahawk Road, Apache Junction
Usery Regional Park Campground, 3939 N Usery Pass Road, Mesa
Here are a few links that may help you prepare for your RV trip to Phoenix:
Enjoy your trip… and bring lots of sunscreen (and trust me on the sunscreen).
Alone in the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.
I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, and sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world.
If you are seeking the best national parks to visit in March, this guide’s for you! It will detail eight beautiful National Parks to visit in March, why you should go to them, and what to expect during this month.
The national parks are a treasure—beautiful, wild, and full of wonders to see. But there’s more to experience than taking in gorgeous scenery from your vehicle or lookout points. National parks are natural playgrounds, full of possible adventures.
The most famous offerings of the National Park Service (NPS) are the 63 national parks including Arches, Great Smoky Mountains, and Grand Canyon. But there are 424 NPS units across the country that also includes national monuments, national seashores, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national memorials. These sites are outside the main focus of this guide.
Planning a trip to America’s national parks in March but don’t know which ones to visit? March brings warmer temperatures to most of the US. Travel begins to pick up during this month both because of the warmer weather and because families are hitting the road for spring break. There are many great national parks to visit in March which I cover in this guide plus eight bonus parks and two road trip ideas that links several of these national parks together.
About this National Park series
This guide is part of a series about the best national parks to visit each month. In this series, every national park is listed at least once and many are listed multiple times. It is a series of 12 articles, one for each month of the year.
These articles take into account weather, crowd levels, the best time to go hiking, special events, road closures, and my personal experiences in the parks. Based on these factors, I picked out what I think are the optimal times to visit each park. Since I haven’t been to all of the national parks I include only the parks we have visited on at lease one occasion.
For an overview of the best time to visit each national park, check out my Best National Parks by Season guide. This guide will cover the best time to visit each national park based on these factors. First are the links to my posts about the best parks to visit, month-by-month. This is followed by a list that illustrates the best time to visit each national park based on weather and crowd levels. Please note this overview will be posted following the completion of this 12 month guide in February 2024.
And at the end of this article, I have links to the other guides in my Best National Parks by Month series.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information I provide for each national park does not include temporary road closures since these dates are constantly changing. Roads can close in the national parks at any time so I recommend getting updates on the NPS website while planning your trip.
Visiting the National Parks in March
March is a great month to visit the national parks. With the warmer temperatures and the beginning of spring, the list of parks that you can visit without braving freezing temperatures gets larger. The days are getting longer, flowers start to bloom, and in some parts of the US, trees begin to get their first leaves.
Overall, park visitation still remains low for the year but there are a few hotspots that get busier as people visit the national parks for spring break. Even so, crowds are still quieter than the summer which is the busiest time to visit most national parks.
Best National Parks in March
1. Arches National Park
This small, easy to visit national park is a joy to explore. It’s also the feature photo for this post.
You can see several arches and unique rock formations without ever stepping out of your car. With just a little bit of walking you can visit many of the top sights in Arches National Park such as the Windows and Double Arch. And for those who like hiking don’t miss the Devils Garden Trail, a thrilling hike where you get to see eight arches and hike on a primitive trail.
Why visit Arches in March: March is a great time to visit Arches National Park because the weather is getting warmer and crowds are still relatively low for the year. In 2022, Arches National Park had 142,000 visitors in March. Peak visitation for that year was in May when 172,000 people visited the park. If you want to visit Arches with even lower crowds plan your visit from December through February but be prepared for freezing temperatures.
Weather: In March, the average high is 62°F and the average low is 37°F. Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 7:25 pm.
Top experiences: Hike to Delicate Arch, see Balanced Rock and the Fiery Furnace, visit Double Arch, Turret Arch, and Windows Arch, hike Park Avenue.
Ultimate adventure: Hike the Devils Garden Trail. To reach Landscape Arch, one of the most iconic arches in the park, it is only 1.6 miles round trip. But for the ultimate adventure, continue past Landscape Arch to Double O Arch and Dark Angel and return on the Primitive Trail.
How much time do you need? One day in Arches is all you need to see the highlights but it will be a very busy day. With two to three days, you can visit the park at a more leisurely pace or go off the beaten path.
Canyonlands National Park is one of my favorite national parks. Why? The landscapes, the hiking trails, and the off the beaten path experiences make this one of the top parks for those who crave adventure.
Journey below the rim of the Island in the Sky mesa for an unforgettable experience. Drive the twisting Shafer Canyon switchbacks onto the White Rim and then spend a few days driving through remote landscapes. Called the White Rim Road, this is one of the best experiences in the national park system.
You can also explore The Needles, where zebra-striped rocks form one of the most unique hiking destinations in the US.
Why visit Canyonlands in March: Just like Arches, park visitation remains relatively low and the warmer temperatures make March a better time to visit than the winter months. Canyonlands only gets a fraction of the visitors that flood Arches National Park so this park will feel delightfully empty compared to Arches. March is also a good time to drive the White Rim Road since permits are a little easier to get than late spring through early fall.
Weather: The average high is 54°F and the average low is 35°F. Rainfall is low. Even though Canyonlands sits next to Arches National Park it is at a higher elevation so the temperatures are a bit lower here.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 7:25 pm.
Top experiences: Visit the overlooks on Island in the Sky, watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch, go hiking in The Needles, drive Shafer Canyon Road, hike below the rim of the Island in the Sky mesa, and explore The Maze.
Ultimate adventure: Drive or mountain bike the White Rim Road. This is a 100-mile unpaved road that makes a loop around the Island in the Sky mesa. It takes 2 to 3 days to do this drive. It can be done in the winter but snow can close Shafer Canyon Road and cold temperatures will make camping uncomfortable for some people.
How much time do you need? You need at least two full days in Canyonlands National Park. Spend one day in Island in the Sky and one day in the Needles. But even more time is better if you want to venture deeper into the park.
Capitol Reef National Park is an underrated gem in the national park system.
This national park is full of many wonderful surprises. With an amazing scenic drive, hiking trails that rival those in Zion, rugged, remote areas to explore by 4×4, short, easy slot canyons, historical landmarks, and even delicious pie, this is another one of my favorite national parks.
Most people drive right through the heart of the park visiting the sights along Highway 24 which are nice. But those who venture farther into the park either on the hiking trails or the backcountry roads are rewarded with incredible views of remote, rugged landscapes.
Why visit Capitol Reef in March: Temperatures are finally getting a bit warmer and crowd visitation is relatively low. You could still have some cold mornings but Capitol Reef warms up nicely during the day and the cooler temperatures make this a great time to go hiking.
Weather: In March, the average high is 57°F and the average low is 34°F. Rainfall is low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:40 am and sunset is at 7:30 pm.
Top experiences: Drive the 16-mile round-trip drive along Scenic Drive, drive Capitol Gorge Road, hike to Hickman Bridge, and watch the sunset from Sunset Point, hike to Cassidy Arch, and Loop the Fold.
Ultimate Adventure: For the ultimate adventure, drive the Cathedral Valley Loop. This rugged, remote district of Capitol Reef National Park is one of the best backcountry experiences in the national parks if you like exploring by 4WD.
How much time do you need? Plan to spend three to four days in Capitol Reef. This gives you enough time to explore and hike the trails in the core of the park (along Scenic Drive and Highway 24) and venture into the backcountry, either in Cathedral Valley or by looping the fold.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a fantasyland of hoodoos, bizarre rock formations, and sandstone pillars.
This is an extraordinary place to visit and its unique landscape sets it apart from other national parks. Although Bryce Canyon may not have the same sweeping, expansive vistas as the Grand Canyon, it’s still a breathtaking experience the first time you see this view.
Why visit Bryce Canyon in March: For the chance to see Bryce Canyon with a dusting of snow. Temperatures are a bit warmer than January and February but snowfall is a possibility especially at the beginning of the month so you don’t have to brave frigid temps for the chance to see Bryce Canyon covered in snow.
Weather: In March, the average high is 46°F and the average low is 23°F. There is a good chance of snow and on average Bryce Canyon receives about 13 inches of snow in March. Bryce Canyon has the highest elevation of the parks in Utah’s Mighty 5 making this the coolest one to visit (pun intended).
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:40 am and sunset is at 7:35 pm.
Top experiences: Some of the best viewpoints are right along the rim which is easily accessible by car or the shuttle (mid-April to mid-September): Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. Hike the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop, a 3-mile hike past some of the best scenery in the park. Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point are also nice viewpoints.
Ultimate adventure: Hike the Fairyland Loop Trail, an 8-mile strenuous hike.
How much time do you need? One day is all you need to see the views from the rim and hike one to two short trails in the park. I recommend another day or two for additional time to hike into the canyon. You won’t regret it.
Pinnacles National Park preserves and protects the mountains on the eastern end of Salinas Valley. These mountains are the remnants of an extinct volcano. The rocky pinnacles are a popular rock climbing destination and wildflowers in the spring draw the biggest crowds of the year. This park is also one of the few locations where you can spot the California condor in the wild.
This is one of the newest national parks (it became a national park in 2013) and least visited national parks (it was the 15th least visited park in 2022 with 275,023 visitors).
Why visit Pinnacles in March: March through May is the peak blooming season for the flowers in Pinnacles National Park.
Weather: The average high is 68°F and the average low is 38°F. March is the end of the rainy season getting about 3 inches of rain during this month.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:15 am and sunset is at 7:12 pm.
Top experiences: See the wildflowers in the spring, hike the High Peaks Loop, hike the Bear Gulch Cave Trail, explore the Balconies cave, spot California condors, enjoy the view from Condor Gulch Overlook, and go rock climbing.
How much time do you need? Pinnacles National Park can be visited in one busy day but for the best experience spend two days here which gives you enough time to visit both sections of the park.
Isolated, remote, wild, and rugged…this is Big Bend National Park.
Located in the southwestern corner of Texas within the Chihuahuan Desert is an extraordinary mountain range that is a haven for hikers, backpackers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
This is one of the most remote parks in the lower 48 states so crowd levels tend to be low all year. Even when it is at its busiest, Big Bend feels rather quiet.
Why visit Big Bend in March: We visited Big Bend in March and had a great experience. The weather was warm and in early March, crowds are low. The second and third weeks in March get busy because this is when Texans go on spring break. If you can, plan your visit for the first week in March to take advantage of great weather and low crowds.
Weather: The average high is 74°F and the average low is 47°F. Rainfall is very low especially this time of year.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 8 am and sunset is at 8 pm.
Top experiences: Hike the Lost Mine Trail, go star gazing, hike Santa Elena Canyon, go for a drive on Maxwell Scenic Drive, visit Boquillas del Carmen, hike to Balanced Rock, and hike to Emory Peak, the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains.
Ultimate Adventure: For the ultimate adventure in Big Bend go on a half-day to multi-day canoeing trip on the Rio Grande.
How much time do you need? Spend at least three to four days in the park. Because of its large size and remote location, it takes a while to get here and you need a few days to explore it, so four days should work for most people.
Congaree National Park protects the oldest old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States.
This is one of the smallest, least visited national parks in the United States (it was the 12th least visited park in 2022 with 204,522 visitors). A visit here is quick and easy to plan.
Walk the boardwalk trail through the forest, go kayaking or canoeing on Cedar Creek, go birdwatching and fishing, and, if you like, venture farther into the park on a number of other woodland trails.
Why visit Congaree in March: This is a good time to visit Congaree because it’s warm and mosquitoes aren’t too much of an issue (the worst time for mosquitoes is from late spring through summer). March is one of the wetter months to visit Congaree so there is also a good chance that you will see some flooding in the forests which is a very unique sight to see (the peak time for flooding is the winter months).
Weather: In March, the average high is 68°F and the average low is 43°F. Rainfall is above average for the year with park getting about 4 inches of rain this month.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 7:30 pm.
Top experiences: Walk the Boardwalk Loop Trail, go canoeing or kayaking on Cedar Creek, hike the Weston Loop Trail, and hike to the General Greene Tree.
Ultimate adventure: For the ultimate adventure go on a multi-day canoe trip on the Congaree River.
How much time do you need? One day in Congaree is all you need to see the highlights. Walk the boardwalk trails and go for a canoe trip on Cedar Creek.
White Sands is a small, easy, fun park to visit. This national park protects the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. Sledding on the dunes is one of the best things to do here but you can also hike out farther into the dunes on several different hiking trails or take a ranger-guided tour.
Why visit White Sands in March: White Sands is one of the warmer national parks to visit in March and with temperatures in the low 70s the weather is great for hiking and exploring. We visited White Sands in March and had a wonderful experience. It’s cool enough to do a long hike without getting hot and the mild midday temperatures make this a great time to spend all day on the dunes. Just be aware that March is the busiest month to visit the park.
Weather: In March, the average high is 71°F and the average low is 33°F. This is one of the driest months to visit the park.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:15 am and sunset is at 7:15 pm.
Top experiences: Drive Dunes Drive, go sledding in the gypsum dunes, walk the Dune Life Nature Trail, take a ranger-guided hike, and go backcountry tent camping.
Ultimate adventure: Hike the Alkali Flat Trail. This trail makes a 4.5-mile loop through the gypsum dunefield. It’s the longest, toughest hike in the park but your treat is stunning views of untouched dunes.
How much time do you need? For the best experience, plan on spending one full day in White Sands National Park. Hike the Alkali Flat Trail first thing in the morning, before the crowds arrive and the temperatures climb. Midday, go sledding on the dunes and have a picnic lunch. You can also do one of the shorter hiking trails. At the end of the day, take the ranger-guided Sunset Stroll.
I would have included Zion as a top pick for March since the weather is gorgeous this time of year, but, and this is a big but, crowd levels skyrocket in March. In 2022, about 170,000 people visited Zion in February. In March, that number grew to 446,000 people. And that wasn’t even the highest month for visitation…June was a busier month with 570,000 visitors!
The trend for traffic to jump from February to March is not unique to 2022. This has been occurring for the last 20 years.
If you plan to do a Mighty 5 road trip in March (it’s a great one!) you can include Zion, just be prepared for large crowds.
Grand Canyon National Park
In March, temperatures are beginning to warm up and with that the Grand Canyon begins to draw more crowds. Even though visitation picks up in March, it’s still a lot quieter to visit the park now than during the busy summer months.
Saguaro National Park
The weather is pretty much perfect in Saguaro in March with daily highs of 75°F and low rainfall. But this is the by far busiest month of the year to visit the park so keep that in mind while planning your visit.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Like Saguaro, March is the busiest month to visit Carlsbad Caverns. But the weather is pleasant and this is a great time for a Texas-New Mexico road trip so if you also have plans to visit Guadalupe Mountains, White Sands, and/or Big Bend, it is worth including Carlsbad Caverns in your travel plans.
Bonus! 4 NPS sites to visit in March
Chiricahua National Monument
The most noticeable natural features in the park are the rhyolite rock pinnacles for which the monument was created to protect. Rising sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, many of these pinnacles are balancing on a small base, seemingly ready to topple over at any time.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Carved into a cliff 1,500 feet above the ground and featuring more than 20 rooms constructed in multiple stories, it’s a remarkably example of Sinaguan architecture. Today a short trail takes you to a viewing spot below the ruins, and museum exhibits help you imagine what life was like in this unforgiving desert landscape.
Tuzigoot National Monument
Tuzigoot is an ancient village or pueblo built by the Sinagua. The pueblo consisted of 110 rooms including second and third story structures. The first buildings were built around A.D. 1000. The Sinagua were agriculturalists with trade connections that spanned hundreds of miles. The people left the area around 1400.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
You can see many of Canyon de Chelly’s top sights from the rim roads but you’ll get a deeper understanding of its significance on a jeep tour with a Navajo guide. The only self-guided hike, the White House Trail, zigzags 600 feet down (and back up) to the spectacular White House ruins. Don’t miss the staggeringly tall spire known as Spider Rock; it rises 830 feet from the canyon floor.
March road trip ideas
Here are two great road trip ideas for March. The best time for both of these is in early March to avoid spring break traffic. If you are planning your visit for spring break, make your reservations well in advance because this can be a busy time to visit some of these national parks.
Texas & New Mexico
Combine Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, and White Sands into one big road trip. Start in Las Cruces, New Mexico or El Paso, Texas and drive this loop.
Utah’s Mighty 5
Visiting all of Utah’s Mighty 5 (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks) is one of America’s best road trips. To do this, you need 10 days or more.
Just like when you are photographing humans, your focus is on your subject and the background is for framing it. Your goal is to make the bird stand out from the background.
When photographing birds, it’s usually a matter of trying to get close enough to get a quality photo—and that’s even with the aid of a lens that provides ample magnification. Too often we get documentary photos of a distant avian subject but once in a while we get lucky and encounter a trusting bird, sometimes even a bird that walks, swims, or flies closer.
Having photographed extensively in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida, I must say that wintering birds that get familiar with people walking by or photographing at birding hotspots are more common in these states with high human populations than anywhere else.
From my experience, there is no question that Florida and Texas birds—some resident birds even more than wintering birds—lead the way in the trust department to the point where it’s possible to get especially close photos of some individuals. This is especially true at some of the well-visited birding hotspots like the Venice Audubon Rookery and the World Birding Centers in South Texas but it can happen anytime, anywhere.
And with many species taking advantage of wetlands and impoundments created to hold water in low-lying housing developments in many suburbs, the birds get very accustomed to people who generally are excited or uninterested in seeing them in their yards or near their property.
When I refer to the idea of close-up photos, I mean portraits of just the head, neck, and shoulders of the bird like your high school graduation photo so taking that kind of photo is usually going to be a larger bird to manage that level of close photos. The simple trick to taking advantage of such a trusting bird is to make the most of the opportunity.
Stay with it, don’t cause any level of alarm, and move slowly if you move. Focus on the bird’s eye and watch your background. In most cases, take some initial photos; then, if you have a chance to adjust it’s best to try to dial the aperture to f5 or a similar setting to reduce the area in focus. That technique will keep the bird in focus while blurring the background and it will increase the shutter speed to ensure the photos you take are sharper.
However, if your background is a uniform color, say a sky or water background, the aperture is less of a concern. The idea is to try to pop the bird apart from the background even beyond color differences. The bottom line is always “take what you can get and improve if possible.” In the moment it’s thrilling to be so close and to get optically closer yet with a telephoto or zoom lens zeroing in on the bird’s face, focusing on the eye.
The key to sharing close photos of birds is that you need to have a photo of a bird with a sharp eye. That’s true if you are using a photo as is or if you are cropping the photo which is a secondary way to create a close-up of a bird’s face and neck, or face, neck, and shoulders—a portrait.
I must share that it’s especially fulfilling to take portrait photos like the images that illustrate this article. You feel close to the birds, in company with them as they permit you into their inner sanctum; and if you can just walk away without disturbing them or let them walk away as they wish, it’s especially gratifying.
The idea for this article came to mind after reviewing the photos of birds I had taken in various locations over our many years of RV travel. I noted the many large birds—the Wood Stork, Sandhill Cranes, Great White Egret, Great Blue Heron, Ibis, and a couple of others.
For example, we were casually driving along Lake Okeechobee when I spied a pair of wood storks resting in the meadow near the lake. We quickly pulled off the road and suddenly sighted more storks on the edge of a pond closer to the large lake.
Quickly parking, I checked my camera settings and walked cautiously from the car for a closer view of the birds. I was immediately surprised by how close I was to the storks, so quickly zoomed down from my 400mm magnification to 200mm and took a couple of initial photos.
Then I quickly zoomed out to get a full-sized view and photos of the impressive Wood Stork as it waded a couple of steps in my direction. The grand bird was surrounded by sky blue water with barely a ripple on it which made for an especially pleasing background that was emphasized by the beautiful late afternoon light.
The chance opportunity to photograph the very trusting wood storks provided the best photos I’ve taken of the species to date of a bird on water or land.
Using a zoom lens was key to taking full-frame photos of the stork as well as being able to get portrait photos of the bird that show a lot of detail of the dinosaur-looking face of the big wading bird. Even I am impressed with the quality of sharp images produced during the few minutes I had in the stork’s company but you will find that the closer you are to a bird the better your lens seems to work. And if you are close, you don’t need to do any cropping to zero-in on the bird a bit more.
Before I sign off, I feel somewhat compelled to share with you that although the photos I selected to illustrate this feature are super-sharp on my big-screen laptop computer sometimes there seems to be a bit of a loss of image sharpness in the translation between my digital photos as viewed on my computer compared to when the same photos are published in a magazine publication.
That said, the birds’ eyes in each of these photos are remarkably sharp; if they don’t look absolutely sharp, it’s because of a difference between my original digital image and the online image but hopefully that won’t be a factor in the photos illustrating this article.
Then too, maybe it’s because over the years of photographing birds, I have developed a fine-tuned eye for photo sharpness and that’s an important point to keep in mind; be sure that you don’t over-enlarge a given photo. Share sharp, clear photos that don’t show a grainy background or body lines which is a sure sign of over-enlarging a photo.
I find taking photos of birds entertaining partly because of the many variables. From dealing with awkward lighting conditions to creating blurs and flight shots the photography opportunities are endless. And any time we get close enough to take a head and shoulders portrait of a bird, it’s a great breakthrough that we will likely remember forever especially when you have a quality photo to share and display as one of your favorites.
Although this niche is fun, it requires technical knowledge from every photographer. Go out and practice. Get familiar with your camera and play with the camera settings for bird photography.
Good luck as you search out photo opportunities and if you’re not in Florida or Arizona, stay warm!
In my view you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it.
Enjoy beautiful weather all year long on this 70 degree road trip through the United States and Canada
In 2015, a climatologist named Brian B. created a 70-degree Road Trip map shared over 10 million times over various platforms. He routed three road trips that chase 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) weather all year long.
Brian B. updated the routes in 2023 to make them more interesting and you can now choose a Coastal Route, Interior Route, or United States and Canada Route.
I’ve already written about the U.S. Coastal Route and Interior Route. Today, I’m sharing the INCREDIBLE 70-degree road trip that takes you through the United States and Canada.
A few quick notes
Before I jump into the route, I want to point out that you don’t have to do this entire year-long road trip to make use of the following information. You can use the route as a reference guide for shorter trips.
Simply look at the locations based on the month you’re traveling and you can plan your road trip based on a segment of this trip. That way, you can enjoy 70-degree weather whenever you want to travel.
Brian B’s map is an overview and not a detailed itinerary. So, I have provided related links and resources for each monthly segment below to help you plan your trip.
Route 3: The United States and Canada Route
This grand, cross-border adventure spans the U.S. and Canada in an incredible 13,996-mile (22,530 km) journey.
Starting in San Diego, California, the United States and Canada Route takes you through the heart of the American Southwest, the charming landscapes of the southern and eastern U.S., the vast wilderness of the Canadian provinces and territories, and the rugged coastline of western Canada.
The route returns you to the United States continuing down through where the West meets the Midwest to the southern states. Finally, you conclude your amazing journey in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Kick off your adventure in San Diego, California and stay on I-8 as you make your way to the sun-drenched city of Phoenix, Arizona.
Drive from El Paso along state roads toward Wichita Falls, Texas, and continue through extreme southern and eastern Oklahoma. Enjoy the beautiful and varied landscapes along the way. (Starting this month, you’ll need to start covering more ground every month to keep up with the 70-degree weather.)
Head east through the picturesque states of Arkansas and Tennessee into North Carolina before heading up the Blue Ridge Parkway through western Virginia, West Virginia, and finally to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Explore amazing cities and places like Chattanooga, Gatlinburg, Asheville, Roanoke, Monongahela National Forest, and more.
Start eastward in Pennsylvania before looping back to Youngstown and Canton, Ohio. Continue northeast to Chicago, Illinois, and then head north into Wisconsin. Conclude the month in the scenic landscapes of central Minnesota.
Continuing northward, you reach the international border at International Falls, Minnesota. Follow the highway north to Longbow Lake and then west to Winnipeg and Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway. Keep heading northeast and then north on smaller highways to Hay River on the shore of Great Slave Lake.
From there, head generally west toward Dawson, Yukon Territory, and the border crossing at the Top of the World Highway. Then make your way to Fairbanks, Alaska.
From Prince George make your way southeast to Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park, south on the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise and Banff National Park, and east to Calgary, Alberta, and cross back into the U.S. near Glacier National Park, Montana.
Complete your year-long adventure by driving the final leg from Lake City, Florida to Daytona Beach, Florida where you can relax on the picturesque Atlantic Ocean beaches and reflect on your incredible journey.
Once you’re in Florida, you might as well loop around and continue to enjoy the tropical weather. Travel down Florida’s Atlantic Coast, through the Keys, and back up the Gulf Coast.
From sea to shining sea, these are 15 of America’s best historic landmarks
Since 1960, the National Historic Landmark program has marked around 2,600 locations of special significance to the foundation and development of the United States. The sites range from The Alamo in San Antonio to the Historic Williamsburg in Virginia.
Almost all locations are found within the U.S., its territories, or areas the U.S. used to control such as the Federated States of Micronesia. Only one site lies in a completely sovereign nation that has never experienced any U.S. administration—the North African country of Morocco.
Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the U.S. as a sovereign nation by order of Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah on December 20, 1777. Due in part to the treaty of peace and friendship the two nations signed in 1786 (which created the longest unbroken diplomatic relationship in U.S. history), Morocco bestowed a sprawling mansion (now called the Tangier American Legation) upon the young nation in 1821.
The mansion is situated in the medina or walled city of Tangier, once Morocco’s diplomatic capital. The building has served many purposes throughout the years including acting as a consulate, espionage headquarters, and Peace Corps training facility. It became a historic landmark in 1982 and is still officially owned by the U.S. It is leased to the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies which continues the nearly 250-year friendship between the two countries.
National Historic Landmarks Program
National Historic Landmarks are historic properties that illustrate the heritage of the United States. The over 2,600 landmarks come in many forms: historic buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts. Each National Historic Landmark represents an outstanding aspect of American history and culture.
1. King Ranch
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: November 5, 1961
Description: In 1853, Captain Richard King purchased a creek-fed oasis in the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas. King now covers 825,000 acres—more land than the state of Rhode Island. Over 160 years, King Ranch led some of the first cattle drives, developed the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle, bred the finest Quarter Horses, and produced champion Thoroughbreds—all under its iconic Running W® brand. Today’s King Ranch is a major agribusiness with interests in cattle ranching, farming (citrus, cotton, grain, sugar cane, and turfgrass), luxury retail goods, and recreational hunting.
2. Tombstone Historic District
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: July 4, 1961
Location: Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona
Description: It would be hard to get more Old West in Arizona historical towns than Tombstone (The Town Too Tough To Die). It is one of the most frequented destinations in the state for history buffs since this is home to the famous OK Corral where the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday gunned down the ornery Clanton-McLaury gang. But there’s a lot more to Tombstone including a rich silver mining history and clashes with the Apaches.
Tombstone has done much to preserve its Old West atmosphere. The main street is still dirt and cars must share the road with horses, Western wear shops, restaurants, and saloons line the wooden sidewalks. Historic sights include the Birdcage Theater and Tombstone Courthouse.
3. Fort Adams
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: December 8, 1987
Location: Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island
Description: The second largest bastioned fort in the US, Fort Adams was the key to Narragansett Bay area defenses, from 1799 to 1945. It was designed to be the most heavily armed fort in America and to garrison 2,400 troops. Three tiers of guns defended Narragansett Bay’s East Passage. Situated at the mouth of the Newport Harbor, the fort offers a panoramic view of both Newport Harbor and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay.
4. USS Lexington
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: July 31, 1903
Location: Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas
Description: The Fore River Shipyard of Quincy Massachusetts built U.S.S. Lexington for the US Navy in the early days of World War II with the ship being commissioned in 1943. Named to commemorate the earlier Lexington which had been lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea, Lexington would serve the US Navy until the 1990s. Lexington was decommissioned in 1991. During its career, it received eleven Battle Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation. It was donated as a museum ship and is moored in Corpus Christi, Texas.
6. The Breakers
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 12, 1994
Location: Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island
Description: The Breakers is a Vanderbilt mansion located on Ochre Point Avenue along the Atlantic Ocean. The Breakers is the grandest of Newport’s summer cottages and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in the turn of the century America. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: December 19, 1960
Location: San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas
Description: In San Antonio, five missions were constructed between 1718 and 1720. Appropriately, the first of these was Mission San Antonio de Valero, later to be known as the Alamo. Remember the Alamo! It was the battle cry of Texas freedom fighters during the decisive Battle of San Jacinto led by Sam Houston against Mexico in April 1836. It was a memorial to the doomed defenders of the Spanish mission-turned Texas fort. The Alamo became a bloody battlefield and a hallowed final resting place for those who would never leave these grounds alive.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 9, 1960
Location: Williamsburg (City), Virginia
Description: Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum with 301 acres featuring iconic sites, working tradespeople, historic taverns, and two world-class art museums. The city was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699 and it was here that the basic concepts of the United States of America were formed under the leadership of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and many others.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 6, 2008
Location: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Description: The historic 105-mile Skyline Drive, a National Scenic Byway, traverses Shenandoah National Park, a beautiful, historic national treasure. The mountain-top highway winds its way north-south through Shenandoah’s nearly 200,000 acres along the spine of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. 75 scenic overlooks offer stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west or the rolling Piedmont to the east. While you are gazing out at the views, keep a close eye on the road too, as deer, black bear, wild turkey, and a host of other woodland animals call Shenandoah home and regularly cross Skyline Drive in their daily travels.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: May 28, 1987
Location: Navajo County, Arizona
Description: In its almost 100 years overlooking the Painted Desert, the inn has undergone many changes. The original building from the early 1920s was made of petrified wood. Today’s adobe facade dates to the 1930s renovation of the Painted Desert Inn.
The national historic landmark functions only as a museum now, with no overnight accommodation and food service. Interior displays highlight the building’s history, Route 66, and Civilian Conservation Corps. There are also restored murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: June 24, 1986
Location: Carroll, Coos County, New Hampshire
Description: While the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods is tucked away from the main drag, it’s almost impossible to miss it with Mount Washington hovering over like a halo. Once you walk into the lobby, you’re transported back to 1902 when the hotel first opened. It’s even rumored that the owner’s wife, Carolyn, still lives in the hotel (don’t worry, a friendly tenant), and ghost aficionados jump at the opportunity to book her old quarters in Room 314.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 9, 1960
Location: Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico
Description: Downtown Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors on the plaza is one of the most iconic sites in the city. The oldest continuously inhabited building in the United States, it’s perhaps best known for the Native American market beneath its portal. But inside is a historic gem as well—the New Mexico History Museum which covers centuries of life in Santa Fe and hosts exhibitions related to the tri-culture of the Native Americans, Spanish, and Anglo peoples and cultures of New Mexico.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: May 11, 1976
Location: Galveston, Galveston County, Texas
Description: Galveston’s Historic Strand District, or The Strand, is the heart of the island and a great place to shop, dine, and be entertained. Fronting Galveston Bay, The Strand is a National Historic Landmark that harkens back to Galveston’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the buildings here are more than a century old, stunning in their detail and craftsmanship. Storefronts here are a mix of antique shops, art galleries, souvenir shops, and more. The Strand serves as the commercial center of downtown Galveston. Places of interest include the Ocean Star Offshore Energy Center and Museum, Pier 21 Theater, the Texas Seaport Museum, and the tall ship Elissa.
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: December 24, 196767
Location: Goliad, Goliad County, Texas
Description: Presidio La Bahía is a fort located in Goliad, Texas. Its official name is Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía and it was built and utilized by the Spanish Army. The fort was originally founded in 1721 and it was home to many Texas Revolution conflicts including the Battle of Goliad and the Goliad Massacre.
15. Mesilla Plaza
Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: July 4, 1961
Location: La Mesilla, Dona Ana County, New Mexico
Description: Mesilla did not become part of the United States until the mid-1850s but its history begins with the end of the Mexican-American War and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe. Soon after, the sleepy border town would become one of the most important towns in the West, playing a key role in Western expansion. By the mid-1800s, Mesilla’s population had reached 3,000 making it the largest town and trade center between San Antonio and San Diego and an important stop for both the Butterfield Stage Line and the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Lines.