With holiday travel back in full swing, you’ve probably noticed that your flights home are just as packed as they’ve ever been, if not more so. But whether your trip is a mere two hours or a whopping 14, you should try to make your flight as comfortable as possible. Flight attendants will do their best to aid you in that pursuit: From a can of soda to a pair of headphones, they offer everything that they can to make sure that passengers have a smooth ride. At the same time, there are some in-flight amenities that you shouldn’t take advantage of. According to flight attendants, if you’re offered certain items on a plane, you’re better off turning them down. Read on to find out what you should just say no to.
Never use the blankets or pillows you’re given on a flight.
Once you board a plane, you may be in for quite a long flight, depending on your destination. To make yourself comfortable for the next however many hours, you might want to make use of some of the amenities being offered to you, including the complimentary pillows and blankets that are often left on your seat. However, you should think twice before getting cozy with these items. In a 2019 interview with Inside Edition, flight attendant Jamila Hardwick revealed that you should never use the blankets and pillows that are on a plane.
“Bring your own,” she said. “These [blankets] get washed, but we’re not sure how great they get washed, right. Same for the pillows.”
The blankets and pillows aren’t washed until the end of the day.
The pillows and blankets provided for you aren’t cleaned nearly as often as you’d think. Flight attendant Linda Ferguson told Business Insider in 2018 that these items are reused from flight to flight, without being properly washed until the day is over. So, if you’re on the very first flight of the day, you’re more likely to be supplied with freshly cleaned pillows and blankets. However, if you’re not, these items can essentially become an easy way for germs from another passenger to be passed onto you.
“I see people wrap their feet in the blankets, I see people sneeze in the blankets,” Ferguson said.
Pillows, like the neck ones, are sometimes changed in between flights, but only to a certain extent. Airlines “will take the lining off the pillow and give you a new one,” Hardwick added. “But you still have the pillow in there that’s dirty.”
There are many areas on a plane where you’re susceptible to germs.
Pillows and blankets aren’t the only unsanitary items on your flight. In July, flight attendant Tommy Cimato detailed the dirtiest spots on airplanes in a TikTok video. He explains that passengers should not fall asleep or lean their heads on the window because “you’re not the only one who has done that.” And you never know how many people have wiped their hands on your makeshift pillow.
Cimato also recommends that when going to the bathroom, you never touch the flush button or lever with your hands. Since you don’t know what germs could be there, use a napkin or tissue to flush instead.
The many struggles at airports around the country have been well documented in recent months, as major airlines have seen delays and cancellations on a massive scale. In recent weeks alone, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines each canceled thousands of flights in high-profile snafus due in large part to staffing shortages brought on by the pandemic. All of the drama for passengers around the country is only expected to get worse in the coming weeks, with demand for holiday travel surging and airlines trying to beef up their employee rosters and trim their schedules in the hopes of minimizing disruptions. If you are scheduled to travel in the midst of the mayhem, you’ll want to make a plan to move through the process as smoothly and proactively as possible to get where you’re going. Read on to find out how early experts suggest you arrive for your holiday flights.
Experts recommend arriving two hours early for domestic flights this holiday season.
The ongoing circumstances mean you should be arriving at the airport with a much larger buffer of time than was necessary in the past, even for domestic flights. Now, both the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airport officials around the country say travelers should plan to arrive two hours before a domestic flight.
Experts call this a “critical” tip, citing the huge demand for travel as well as long TSA screening lines. “Passengers should not cut it close or they could definitely miss their flight. We want to avoid any backlog at the TSA passenger screening checkpoint,” Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, told The Morning Call.
The TSA app can help you gauge airport conditions and wait times.
In order to guarantee that you don’t miss your flight—and miss Thanksgiving dinner with the family—always give yourself at least that two-hour buffer, experts say. But you can also get some help gauging wait times at your target airport by downloading the MyTSA app. In advance of your scheduled flight, you can check how busy the airport is likely to be on your specific day and time of travel based on historical data.
The holiday travel surge will slam into the airline staffing shortage.
Consider that TSA data shows that 1,525,948 passengers passed through security checkpoints on Nov. 3, which is nearly two and a half times more than the 636,533 passengers recorded on the same day last year. That’s a lot of people going through airports at a time when the whole industry is struggling to find enough workers. A large-scale staffing shortage happened after airlines slashed rosters early in the pandemic, encouraging employees to take buyouts or furlough arrangements. But the demand for travel roared back faster than expected and left a gap at a time when hiring is difficult and job seekers have choices.
Expect travel disruptions, crowds, and oversold flights this season.
Airlines are trying to mitigate disruptions through strategies like offering major perks to employees who work throughout the season, CNBC reports. But you’re still likely to face hiccups, so pack your patience—and a few strategies of your own. If your flight is oversold, for instance, know how to negotiate: Never take the airline’s first offer, experts say.
Like them or not, electric vehicles are gaining in popularity. Car manufacturers produce more electric versions of existing models and create new ones built from the ground up to run on batteries. Expect to see more EVs on the road with each passing year.
While battery range is going up and charging times are going down, the infrastructure is not there yet. You can install a charger at home so your EV can get you to work the next day, but what if you want to drive beyond its range?
Here’s the backstory
Anderson Economic Group recently released a report about the costs of fueling EVs and ICE vehicles. The company has served as a consultant to numerous businesses and worked with automotive manufacturers and distributors, suppliers, trade associations and dealers.
“The cost to fuel a vehicle, ICE or electric, is a substantial part of the total cost of ownership,” the report reads. The group went beyond government data on fuel costs and economy to include consumer experiences and cost burdens.
Refueling stops were measured with stopwatches, customers were interviewed about their residential and commercial charging experience, forums were reviewed for more consumer reports and purchase prices were taken into account along with actual driving and fueling experiences in an EV.
The AEG study produced four key findings.
1. There are more costs to owning an EV beyond charging it
Commercial chargers include fees that can double or triple what you would spend at a residential charger.
In many states, an additional EV tax is imposed for road construction and maintenance.
You usually get a Level 1 charger with your EV purchase, which uses a standard outlet at home. If you want a Level 2 charger, you’ll have to purchase it separately and get it professionally installed.
You typically have to drive further to find a commercial charger.
Time is money and you’re going to spend more time finding a commercial charger and waiting for the process to complete.
2. EVs can cost more to fuel
Researchers at AEF gathered six categories of EV and ICE cars in the entry-level, mid-priced and luxury segments to compare refueling costs. This finding took the following into account:
Some EV drivers primarily use commercial chargers while others use residential chargers.
The retail price of gasoline inclusive of road taxes and cost of operating the pump and the cost of electricity at commercial and residential chargers inclusive of registration taxes.
The burden of deadhead miles for EVs.
Once these were factored in, the study concluded that EVs often cost more to fuel than similar ICE vehicles. In Michigan, for example, it costs between $8 and $12 to drive 100 miles in an ICE vehicle, and it costs between $12 and $15 to do the same in an EV.
3. EV fueling costs vary widely
The analysis took commercial and residential rates into account and showed that fueling costs for EVs vary more than they do for ICE vehicles.
Commercial charger rates are often double or triple residential rates. Residential rates can change 50% or more due to Time-of-Use rates. Gas prices vary by about 10% by comparison.
Charging speed changes depending on the type of charger and its working status, how much juice is in the battery and temperature.
Prices at commercial chargers can include an additional per session cost in addition to the standard per kWh cost.
4. The burden of time
Finding a commercial fast charger and waiting for your EV to charge puts a time investment on you under even the best circumstances.
The study found that it takes 20 minutes for a typical EV driver in a non-rural area to find a reliable DC fast charger. Add 20-30 minutes to this for the charging process. Slower L2 chargers are more common but can take hours.
EV drivers have to deal with chargers breaking down, software bugs, syncing issues between their mobile apps and charger and the charger itself being slower than advertised.
Researchers experienced these problems firsthand, which were compounded by the comments they found from frustrated EV owners in online forums.
So the verdict of the report is that EVs actually cost more to fuel right now because of added costs of equipment, varying charging fees and time involved. This will improve with time, but at the moment we’re not quite there yet.
Deciding what to wear on the airplane is a decision you’ll have to live with for hours. Finding the sweet spot between being comfortable but not looking like you’re wearing pajamas when you check in to your hotel can be a challenge. There’s also the additional conundrum of finding a way to dress appropriately for the weather at the location you’re taking off from, while also being dressed comfortably for the temperature at the place you’re flying into. But if you’ve got one last summer vacation coming up, there’s one thing you should absolutely not wear. A flight attendant recently urged passengers to avoid wearing one particular article of clothing on a plane. Read on to find out what it is.
A flight attendant warns you to never wear shorts on a plane.
In a July 27 TikTok that went viral, flight attendant Tommy Cimato detailed a handful of things people should never do on a plane, one of them being wear shorts. Don’t “wear shorts while you’re on an airplane,” warned Cimato. He pointed out that you don’t know how many people have wiped their hands on the seat or what has touched it. “You never know how clean it’s going to be, so if you have pants, you’re going to have fewer germs,” he explained.
He also says not to nap in one position.
Keeping your legs covered on the plane isn’t the only advice Cimato had for his followers. He also warned flight passengers to avoid falling asleep or leaning their heads on the window. “You’re not the only one who has done that, and you don’t know how many people have wiped their hands or other things all over the window,” Cimato said.
And there’s one part of the plane he says to never touch with your bare hands.
Cimato also doled out advice about what you should do before you board the flight and his top tip was to stay hydrated. “You want to have about 16 ounces [of water] every flight that you go on,” said Cimato.
Flying is known to dehydrate you. Family physician Matthew Goldman, MD, told Clevland Clinic that airplane cabins have very low humidity levels because about half of the air circulating is coming from outside of the plane, and at high altitudes, it’s almost completely stripped of moisture. Goldman said this could “cause your throat, nose, and skin to feel dry.”
Of course, being well hydrated means you may have to use that teeny tiny plane bathroom, but Cimato says if you do, you should never touch the flush button or lever with your bare hands. “It’s honestly just super unsanitary. It’s pretty gross,” Cimato said. “So when you flush, use a napkin or tissue.”
America may be a relatively young nation but it has a diverse and complex history – one which is retold through monuments across the country. From tributes to indigenous peoples to incredible feats of engineering, here are 50 of the most important landmarks across the US.
National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York City, New York
This moving tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks is built where the World Trade Center’s twin towers once stood. Waterfalls cascade into vast pools, the walls of which are inscribed with the names of those who died in 2001. More than 400 swamp white oaks trees, selected for their resilience, surround the pools, creating a serene place of reflection in the Big Apple.
This elegant red-brick building in the City of Brotherly Love holds great historical significance. The Declaration of Independence – the document that freed the States from British rule – was debated and signed here in 1776, and the hall later became the birthplace of the US Constitution. Indoor visits are temporarily suspended; check the NPS website for updates.
The stark expanse of Alcatraz Island was originally used as a military jail and later became a high-security prison. Inmates at The Rock, as the prison was known, were subjected to brute force and complete isolation on a daily basis. Al Capone, a Brooklyn mobster convicted of tax evasion, was one of the prison’s most high-profile detainees, serving time between 1934–39.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Pearl Harbor, a US naval base on the Hawaiian isle of Oahu, was the site of a surprise attack by the Japanese in 1941, during the Second World War, and museums and monuments here memorialize the tragic event. A key sight is the USS Arizona Memorial, a tribute to one of the ships that was sunk during the strike. The head-turning white structure is built above the vessel’s wreckage.
In 1861, the first shots of the bloody American Civil War were fired from Fort Sumter, a garrison with a strategic position at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. It played a key role throughout the conflict and the immaculately preserved fort ruins remain today. Guided tours of the historic site, which is accessible only by boat, are usually available, but check the NPS website for current details.
Slow and relaxing, train travel is one of the best ways of getting around if you have the time to spare. Some of the most breathtaking views in the world can be enjoyed from behind a train window and you don’t necessarily have to shell out the big bucks for an epic ride. Here we take a look at the world’s most scenic train journeys that you won’t have to splash out on.
San Luis Obispo to San Diego, California, USA
One-way fares start from $62 and the full journey takes just over eight hours. Normally, the route offers 13 daily round-trip services between San Diego and Los Angeles, five to Santa Barbara and two to San Luis Obispo so travelers can be flexible with their itinerary, however, Pacific Surfliner is currently operating a reduced service.
For an even more authentic Harry Potter experience, there’s the The Jacobite steam train – it’s the one used in the movies. This year the train is scheduled to run Monday to Friday from early April to late October between Fort William and Mallaig. An adult return ticket costs $63. Otherwise, regular ScotRail trains run every day and one-way off-peak fare is around $38.
Christchurch to Greymouth, New Zealand
Perhaps one of the most stunning features along the TranzAlpine’s route is traversing the snow-capped mountains of Arthur’s Pass National Park. The scenery then quickly turns subtropical as the train continues its journey through the west coast’s rainforests and one of the best experiences on the train is stepping out on the open-air viewing car.
Williams to Grand Canyon Village, Arizona, USA
The trip on the Grand Canyon Railway begins in Williams, a small town 30 miles (48km) west of Flagstaff. Meandering its way through ponderosa pine forests and open prairie, the train terminates in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park before heading back to Williams. On the way, passengers are encouraged to get into the spirit of the Old West and enjoy the musical entertainment, cowboy characters and other surprises.
Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi, Tanzania and Zambia
The trains, which have sleeping cars and a restaurant car, provide a safari experience on a budget. Prices start from $31 for a one-way, third-class seat while the first-class sleeper is $45. The TAZARA (Tanzania & Zambia Railway Authority) route is a great way of experiencing a safari without splashing out. The train travels from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the Zambian town of Kapiri Mposhi through the Selous game reserve, offering a chance to spot elephants, lions, giraffes and more. The journey covers 1,150 miles (1,852km) and takes just under 48 hours to complete.
Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, Vietnam
When traveling on The Reunification Express line (also known as the North-South Railway) you don’t have to choose between seeing historic cities, charming towns and spectacular coastline – this journey has it all. Traversing more than a thousand miles between Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh City in the south, the route is one of Asia’s most popular train rides. The full journey takes over two days but you can hop on and off at destinations like Hue and Da Nang.
There’s more to see including train journey’s in Canada, Mexico and Switzerland to name a few. Click on the link below.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that the U.S. is taking “a very close look” at vaccine passports for international travel.
Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mayorkas was asked about the possibility of vaccine passports for traveling into or out of the U.S.
“We’re taking very close look at that,” Mayorkas said.
“You know one of our principles that has guided us throughout this pandemic is the value of diversity, equity and inclusion, and making sure that any passport that we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised,” he said.
Vaccine passports have become a flashpoint for debate amid the U.S.’s vaccination efforts. Several GOP-led states have banned local governments and businesses from requiring such proof, arguing that they infringe on the personal right to choose to get vaccinated.
The White House has also said there would be no federal mandate for proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Asked about Mayorkas’ comments, a DHS Spokesperson clarified to The Hill that he was talking about making sure that Americans meet travel requirements for other countries.
“We’ve always said we’re looking at how we can ensure Americans traveling abroad have a quick and easy way to enter other countries,” the spokesperson said. “That’s what the Secretary was referring to; ensuring that all U.S. travelers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements.”
“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” the spokesperson continued.
The comment comes as several countries reopen their borders for international travel. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that that the European Union and some Asian countries are scrambling to develop passports that users could use from phone apps.
Mayorkas still encouraged Americans to get vaccinated.
“We’ve got vaccination centers everywhere – no more than a few miles from everyone’s homes. And it’s so important to get that vaccine, make one safe, make one’s loved ones and friends safe around you,” he said.
The museum, located approximately 30 minutes south of Washington D.C. on 84 acres of land at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, honors the service of the more than 30 million men and women who have donned an Army uniform since 1775, according to a news release.
A live-streamed virtual opening ceremony took place on opening day, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, among others, made remarks during the ceremony.
The public and privately-funded museum cost $200 million to build, and construction broke ground in 2016, the release said. The 185,000 square-foot main building will display Army artifacts, documents, images and artwork, most of which have never been seen by the public.
A few notable artifacts will be on display: The M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle that led the 2003 charge from Kuwait to Baghdad, the M4A3E2 Sherman “Jumbo” Tank that broke through German lines during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and one of the few remaining “Higgins boats” that carried U.S. troops ashore to Normandy on D-Day during World War II.
“The U.S. Army has greatly aided the nation’s progress and prosperity. Soldiers have conducted countless missions in the areas of exploration and discovery, science and technology, communications and cooperation, and recovery and disaster relief,” retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, chairman of the Army Historical Foundation, said in 2016.
“Nearly every major event in our nation’s history has involved the U.S. Army, and this Museum will ensure those contributions and sacrifices are not lost to time.”
Hiking around Los Angeles offers miles of spectacular views of the Pacific coast from the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Gabriel mountain range in the Inland Empire, and the iconic Hollywood sign in Griffith Park. Here are some of the best LA hikes.
Article for Travelmag.com by Mollie O’Brien
View from Mount Lee over the Hollywood sign to LA (Photo: Eugene Kim via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)
Hiking is a large part of the culture of Los Angeles. There are so many places in the region to explore, offering an opportunity to appreciate the region’s scenery and escape the cloying urban sprawl, while getting closer to nature. These seven hikes have been selected to cover each region of Greater LA, from South Bay’s Ranchos Palos Verdes Peninsula, up to North County’s Malibu vineyards. Ranging from easy walks to challenging treks, each of these hikes greatly rewards the effort you’ll put in.
Hollywood Sign via Canyon Drive
Hiking to the Hollywood sign in LA’s Griffith Park is a memorable experience, and a must when visiting Los Angeles. This trek uses a combination of interconnecting trails to take hikers up behind the enormous metal letters, offering views of Greater LA and beyond. The trek is about six miles, with roughly 1,100 feet (335m) of elevation gain and will take about three hours to complete. Start at the trailhead of Brush Canyon Trail at the north end of Canyon Drive in the city of Hollywood. There’s a free parking lot here, and you’ll find a plaque at the trailhead that points you toward the Hollywood sign.
The Trail: The first 30 to 40 minutes is uphill on a wide dirt path, after which there’s a bench with a viewpoint that offers panoramas of Los Angeles. The most challenging and steepest part of the journey is now over. Then, there’s a fork in the path, with a sign that’s marked “Mulholland Trail” heading left towards the Hollywood sign. After about 20 more minutes, there’s another fork. Follow the sign that points to Tyrolian Tank along Mt. Lee Drive trail, a moderately steep but paved path. After about 20 minutes of following this trail, hikers will be up behind the famed Hollywood sign. The sign itself is fenced off for safety reasons. From this vantage point there are fantastic panoramic views of Los Angeles and beyond, particularly on clearer days.
Trailhead: 2980-3000 Canyon Dr, Los Angeles
Ballast Point Loop Trail (Photo: Kristin Metcalfe for TravelMag.com)
Catalina Island’s Two Harbors Ballast Point Loop
Just off the coast of Los Angeles is the rural escape of Santa Catalina Island, which is accessible by ferry service or private boat. From the small town of Two Harbors, you can walk the Ballast Point Loop trail, a moderately challenging three-mile hike with just under 1,000 feet (305m) of elevation gain. This adventure features a steep ascent rewarded with breathtaking views overlooking the ocean, the town of Two Harbors and the string of islands below. Be sure to bring water, because there are no services along this rugged hiking trail.
The Trail: Begin hiking from the bus stop and bathrooms which are just uphill from the Two Harbors visitor center. Follow the road south past the little red schoolhouse and continue toward Catalina Harbor. Keep left on the road that crosses toward the east side of the harbor. There might be a group bison encounter, as these animals now reside on the island. The road grade is pretty flat until this point, where the road splits just before the 1-mile mark. The route turns uphill onto a small trail that begins to rapidly gain elevation. At the top of the hill, there’s a cluster of rocks and views of the ocean for miles.
From here, follow the road downhill as it turns east. Before reaching the lowest point in the dip, bear left to keep on the trail. At mile two, hikers will hit Banning House Road. Follow it downhill toward town, but look left for a bird’s-eye view of Catalina Harbor, and right for 25-mile views of Los Angeles on a clear day. Stay straight on the main road and head toward the eucalyptus along the steep descent. The downhill section of this loop follows an old dirt road with views of the island’s old radio tower. The final stretch of the descent will pass the Banning House, Two Harbors’ only hotel. At the bottom of the hill turn right to bypass the little red schoolhouse which still educates kids aged 5-11, and return to town.
Trailhead: 1 Banning House Rd, Avalon
Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes (Photo: Molly O’Brien for TravelMag.com)
Ranchos Palos Verdes: Terranea Discovery Trail
Terranea Resort in the South Bay of LA’s Ranchos Palos Verdes is open to the public for exploration and costs around ten dollars for all day parking with validation at the resort. Terranea Resort faces south on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which means hikers can watch the sun rise and set in one day from a single location. There are two miles of coastal trails lining the clifftops of the resort through the site’s 102 acres of open space.
The Trail: The Terranea Discovery Trail, which starts on the northern part of the property, is a family-friendly trail that runs throughout the resort’s grounds for just under two miles with under 200 feet (61m) of elevation gain. This trek will take about one hour to complete. The hike has interpretive nature stations along the way for guests to stop and learn about the local wildlife. There are also views of the historic Point Vicente Lighthouse and hikers might even be able to catch a glimpse of sea lions and whales throughout the year.
Trailhead: 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes
Waterman Mountain Loop Trail (Photo: Molly O’Brien for TravelMag.com)
Inland Empire: Angeles National Forest’s Waterman Mountain Loop Trail
The Waterman Mountain Loop Trail is a moderate six-mile hike near Mount Wilson in the Angeles National Forest, roughly an hour outside of downtown Los Angeles. This hike takes about three hours to complete, and even though it only includes 1,400 feet (427m) of elevation gain it’s challenging because it starts at nearly 7,000 feet (2,134m) up in the mountains. It’s best done between the months of March to November when there’s no snow. There’s plenty of parking near the trailhead, but visitors need to display a forestry park pass, which can be purchased at a variety of convenience stores including gas stations nearby. Bring a map or a pre-downloaded digital map as there’s no internet or cell service in this region.
The Trail: Of the many pretty views along the way to the top, the best is about one mile into the climb, when there’s a point looking beyond the San Gabriel Mountains and across the San Gabriel Valley toward the silhouette of Santiago Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains. The Waterman Mountain peak is marked with a sign that states the elevation: 8,039 feet (2,450m). About 3.3 miles into the descent, bear right at a fork in the path to stick with the main road down Mount Waterman. Hike past a few frisbee golf baskets, and descend toward Mount Waterman Village, where a small lodge is perched at the top of the main chairlift for Mount Waterman Resort.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (Photo: Molly O’Brien for TravelMag.com)
Mid-City: Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
This moderate hike takes two hours and features about 300 feet (91m) of elevation gain over 1.25 miles. Parking is free on the street at the base of the hill. There are multiple ways to climb to the top of this mid-city peak in addition to the moderate trail that zig zags to the top. Exercise enthusiasts who want a tougher workout can choose to take the stairs which climb straight up for nearly a mile. The easiest way to get to the top would be to walk on the sidewalk along the road that leads up to the visitor’s center and amphitheater area. The visitor’s center contains seasonal exhibits on native wildflowers, birding and wildlife, plus stories of how this area’s land – historically drilled and exploited for oil – has now become a symbol of conservation and restoration, to the benefit of all.
The Trail: The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook hike is unique because it’s located in an urban area of Los Angeles. But for such a short trail, it offers impressive views of Greater Los Angeles. To the west, hikers can see Santa Monica Bay. To the northwest, the mountain ridges of Malibu rise up. Century City and the Sony Pictures lot is visible down below, and the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory can be seen toward Hollywood. To the east there’s downtown LA, framed by the San Gabriel Mountains which are sprinkled with snow in the winter months.
Trailhead: 6300 Hetzler Rd, Culver City
Topanga State Park’s Parker Mesa Overlook (Photo: Molly O’Brien for TravelMag.com)
Santa Monica: Topanga State Park’s Parker Mesa Overlook
Parker Mesa Overlook is located on the west side of Topanga State Park. It’s a roughly seven-mile trek with 1,171 feet (357m) of elevation gain that offers views from the peak of the entire LA basin. This means hikers will be able to see from the San Gabriel Mountains to the east, Catalina Island to the south, and the crescent shaped coastline of Santa Monica to the west on a clear day. There’s very little shade on this trail, so as always, it’s important to be sure to pack water and sunscreen.
The Trail: Start at the Los Liones Trailhead, which begins on Los Liones Drive in the Pacific Palisades at a clearly marked gate. There’s plenty of free street parking on the road. About a mile in there will be a vista point and junction with the Paseo Miramar Trail. Take a hard left, following the wide fire road up the hill. From here, the trail continues to roll up and down the mountain and reaches the junction to Parker Mesa Overlook at the three-mile mark. At the top, there are several strategically placed benches aiding a well-deserved rest and photo opportunities.
Trailhead: 580 Los Liones Drive, Santa Monica
Malibu Wine Hike (Photo: Haley Pointer and Joe Flores)
Malibu Wine Hikes
For oenophiles who love a good walk before a tipple, Malibu Wine Hikes offers a guided, two-mile hike suitable for all ages which explores the vineyards of Malibu’s Saddlerock Ranch. This trek climbs approximately 300 feet (91m) in elevation and offers consistent views of the Pacific Ocean and vineyards on all sides. Hikers will learn firsthand about the types of wines produced on the ranch’s property and can catch a glimpse of the well-preserved Chumash illustrations at the “Cave of the Four Horsemen” along the way. There’s also the chance to sample produce from the onsite organic garden and take plenty of photos. At the end of the hike, each person is awarded with an entire bottle of the property’s wine in the varietal of their choosing, with selections of white, red and rose. Onsite parking is included with the purchase of a ticket.
If you’re looking for an effortless domestic getaway with international appeal, this southernmost U.S. island chain holds the keys.
Who couldn’t use a little escape these days? Few destinations suit the current moment better than the Florida Keys. Easy to get to by road or air, this uniquely American island paradise offers 365 days of practically perfect subtropical weather, a vast array of outdoor activities on land and water, and a wealth of authentic experiences across five distinct districts—no passport required.
The northernmost island in the Keys, Key Largo may look and feel like the Caribbean, but it’s only about an hour’s drive from South Florida’s two major airports. You might know its name from the classic Humphrey Bogart film, or you may know its reputation as the Diving Capital of the World. Either way, it’s a fitting place to take the plunge into the Keys.
With the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. just off its eastern shores, Key Largo was destined to adopt diving as a way of life. Visitors can become scuba certified in only three days, learning with some of the world’s best instructors—then practice their skills in the brilliant undersea world at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the country’s first underwater nature preserve. More advanced divers will want to explore the wreck of the Spiegel Grove, a U.S. Navy ship that was intentionally scuttled in 2002 to create a new reef system. At 510 feet, it’s larger than any natural reef structure in the Keys and a spectacular introduction to the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail. But if you prefer your adventures on land—or in shallower waters—take heart: Key Largo is also flanked by Everglades National Park, a natural wonderland for hikers, birders, kayakers, and eco-tourists of all stripes.
Islamorada translated from Spanish as “purple isle,” has yet another name among sport fishing enthusiasts: heaven. Its unique location, between the “backcountry” of the Florida Bay and the “front side” of the Atlantic Ocean, provides an unrivaled diversity of fishing opportunities. Seasonal visiting species like sailfish, marlin, and tuna are brought in by the Gulf Stream; tarpon and bonefish are among the treasures to be found in the backcountry, with catch-and-release and other responsible practices fully observed. If you’re an angling newbie or just not sure where to start, you’ll find a host of charters available, with tournament-grade captains and experienced guides ready to show you the way.
Take your catch to any number of local restaurants, like Islamorada Fish Company, where they will be happy to cook it to perfection. Or if you’ve spent the day kiteboarding, paddleboarding, or kayaking, just take your appetite. Grab a seat at a dockside eatery or on an outdoor patio at sunset. You’ll want to sample all of the local delicacies—especially the succulent stone crabs, in season from mid-October through mid-May. (Key lime pie is always in season.)
Midway through the Keys and sandwiched between the waters of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Marathon is a boater’s paradise and a restless family’s dream. Whether you’re cruising in on your own vessel or renting one while you’re here, this is one of the Keys’ most boat-friendly destinations, with a jewel of a marina and a rich seafaring history.
By water or via the historic Seven Mile Bridge, make your way to Pigeon Key, the tiny island that served as home for workers building the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad in the early 20th century; it’s a great spot for picnics, historical tours, and easy snorkeling. Families can also immerse themselves in Marathon’s world-class marine education programs, whether by enjoying close encounters with loggerheads, hawksbills, and their brethren at the Turtle Hospital—the world’s first licensed veterinary center for endangered sea turtles—or swimming and playing with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is unlike any other aquarium experience, with opportunities for visitors of all ages to engage with the aquatic world through touch tanks, feeding experiences, and snorkeling encounters designed to inspire the next generation of marine conservationists.
Big Pine Key & Florida’s Lower Keys are a string of small islands best known for their abundance of natural wonders, including two national wildlife refuges and a national marine sanctuary. The names of these idyllic keys hint at their quirky, irresistible appeal: Big Pine, Little Duck, Sunshine, Summerland, Sugarloaf—and the list goes on. But charming names are only the beginning. The “Natural Keys” will capture your heart and take your breath away with adventures in the wild, both on land and on (or under) the water.
One of the most remarkable creatures you’ll encounter here is the Key deer, a diminutive subspecies of whitetail found nowhere else on earth. These carefully protected beauties roam free throughout Lower Keys, but especially on Big Pine—home to the National Key Deer Refuge, where you can spot them on guided walks, bike rides, and kayak excursions. Just east of Big Pine Key lies Bahia Honda State Park, one of the most beloved beach destinations in the country. The park encompasses more than 500 pristine acres, including an offshore island, and snorkelers can explore the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, one of the most glorious reefs in the Keys. Just before you hit Key West, pay a visit to Stock Island, an up-and-coming resort destination with a colorful history as the hub of the Keys’ shrimping industry and a vibrant community of young artists.
Celebrated for its flamboyant personality and anything-goes spirit, Key West also has a softer side. Those who come for the party scene and colorful characters won’t be disappointed—but history buffs, nature lovers, and sporty types should prepare to fall in love, too. This island has captured the imaginations of countless artists and writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Winslow Homer. And if it seems unlikely that the same small patch of land could provide inspiration for “Margaritaville” balladeer Jimmy Buffett and poet laureate Robert Frost, just wait. Once you get to know Key West, it won’t seem surprising at all.
In addition to literary landmarks like the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West’s historical sites include Harry S. Truman’s Little White House, where the 33rd President took respite during the winter months. Who could blame him, when the sea beckons from every direction, and water and air temperatures are nothing short of perfect? Do what Truman would do: hop a charter for some of the best sportfishing you’ll find anywhere. Leisurely cruising is always an option, too, whether on a catamaran charter or paddling a kayak along one of the island’s peaceful waterways. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, take your pick from a feast of outdoor dining venues, from spacious porches to candlelit seaside lawns.
Dedicate a day—or more—to shopping; from antiques to handcrafted jewelry, clothing, and works of art, Key West is brimming with one-of-a-kind boutiques reflecting its irrepressible personality. Now more than ever, it feels great to support small local businesses, and you’ll find no shortage of eclectic mom-and-pop stores and enterprises throughout the Florida Keys & Key West. From signature, Cuban coffee shops to family-run eco-tours to distinctive home goods and so much more, shopping mom-and-pop in the Keys is a lot like exploring the reefs and nature preserves: you get to discover all sorts of treasures while doing your part to support the ecosystem.
Think of the Florida Keys as the world-class destination that happens to be right in your own backyard—with all of the superb accommodations you would expect to find there. From family-run properties to luxurious resort hotels and rentals, all are observing stringent cleanliness protocols to ensure travelers’ health and safety during this time of Covid-19. Always a pioneer in the realm of sustainability, the Keys continue to lead in another area of responsible tourism: social distancing and masks are respectfully enforced throughout the destination. And dining establishments throughout the region—now more than ever—offer outdoor seating, waterfront dining, and convenient takeout options.