Category Archives: US Travel

Veteran Tour Operator Advises that Government Shutdown Should Not Halt Vacation Plans

Yosemite National Park. The National Park Service is struggling to keep parks open during the government shutdown. Austin Adventures is advising vacationers to make their bookings (spaces fill up) because an experienced tour operator can adapt the itinerary © Karen Rubin/

BILLINGS, MT – Jan. 17, 2019 – An experienced tour operator expects and prepares for the unexpected. A nimble tour company embraces the unexpected and sees opportunity in alternative planning.

As America’s government shutdown continues to set a record for longevity, Austin Adventures has seen a rise in consumer anxiety during a time many travelers are usually looking to book their spring and summer vacations. Since national parks are a primary focus for the company it is understandable that people are nervous and even holding off on making their vacation plans.

“First and foremost, this latest government shutdown should NOT shut down your vacation plans,” says Dan Austin, founder and director of Montana-based Austin Adventures. “Talking with both alumni travelers and prospective clients on the phone my first advice is to not panic and worry. We’ve seen this before and all will be OK.”

Austin points to a previous 17-day government shutdown in the fall of 2013. “Our itinerary had us visiting Bryce Canyon National Park but it was closed. Unknown to the guests, we had a contingency plan in place to instead visit and explore nearby Kodachrome Basin State Park, an equally awesome geological wonder 20 miles to the east. Many guests said that it was the unexpected highlight of their trip,” explains Austin.

Many of the company’s adventures in and around National Parks of the West take place during the spring, summer and fall. While these trips—other than nervousness in the marketplace—have not been directly impacted by the shutdown, Austin believes that the likelihood of the political impasse dragging on into their spring season is unlikely. However, if need be, they are ready to react should the situation warrant it.

This government shutdown has been a bit different than those in the past. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, “The Department of the Interior directed its staff, including National Park Service staff, to keep national parks as accessible as possible while still obeying the law. This means that approximately a third of our national park sites are completely closed, including places like presidential homes, museums and cultural sites with buildings that can be locked. Gates at many other park sites remain open, but few if any staff are on hand to protect visitors and park resources, and many visitor centers and restrooms remained locked and roads are closed due to weather.”

Austin points out that many parks remain partially open. While this may be good for the public and the gateway communities that rely on park visitors for their livelihood, it also poses certain risks such as the unlawful use of park resources like off-limits camping, harassment of wildlife, off-road driving, trash and vandalism.

“This is where national park travel with a professional tour company can be the best alternative,” points out Austin. “Our veteran guides are naturalists who don’t pass a chewing gum wrapper without picking it up. If a trailhead is closed due to fire damage or aggressive wildlife sightings, we have another option in place. I feel confident that if we are faced with such partial park closures in the future, our groups will adhere to the highest code of back country ethics with our guides sharing and setting positive examples for all.”

“We remain confident the shutdown will end soon, and the parks will get back to their mission established with our first National Park back in 1872: ‘For the enjoyment and betterment of the people’,” Austin said. “Without getting political, the current situation is unfortunate and unnecessary. The only people it is hurting right now are the government employees furloughed and the small businesses in and around our National Parks. But it has also got the public worried about how it might affect their vacation plans.”

The fact remains, suggests Austin, that booking a National Park vacation now may be a great way to put the unrest of our country out of mind. It is more positive to anticipate breathtaking views, stronger family bonds, and invigorating adventure instead.

Lemons really can be made into lemonade. An enthusiastic travel partner of the positive lifestyle brand, Life is Good, Austin Adventures is committed to living out their 10 Super Powers. In the case of dealing with a government shutdown, creativity, openness, humor and optimism have come in handy.

For the sake of the communities, businesses and furloughed National Park Service employees that contribute greatly to the ethos of national parks in the West, Austin Adventures hopes for a swift resolution to this most recent government shutdown.

But in the meantime, the company is open for business and ready to help travelers explore some of America’s most precious parcels of public land.

For more information, questions and trip availability, call 800-575-1540 or email [email protected]. For a full roster of Austin Adventures’ 2019 trips, cruises and distinctive accommodations on seven continents visit

To access the 2019 digital catalog or order a print copy, go to

Austin Adventures is a Travel + Leisure Magazine World’s Best Award Winner and a Virtuoso Preferred Tour Operator.

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New York State Goes All-Out to Commemorate Erie Canal’s Bicentennial

Lockport has the only original locks of the Erie Canal still remaining. Events throughout the state will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal, an engineering marvel then and now © Karen Rubin/

Celebrations and events will take place across New York State to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal. An engineering marvel that stimulated trade, exploration and invention, the canal project created the first superhighway across New York, connecting Albany and Buffalo and improving transportation to and from New York City by linking the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
“The Erie Canal was critical in establishing New York as a national hub for commerce and industry, and today offers boaters unparalleled views and access to our canalside communities,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “In commemorating this anniversary, we celebrate the canal’s rich heritage as well as its pivotal role in promoting economic development and tourism today. I urge visitors to come experience the many events planned for the bicentennial celebration.”

The 2017 boating season is already underway on the 524-mile canal system for recreational vessels, which are now the primary users of the canals. The season runs through Oct. 11 when the canal is actually drained. A ceremony to mark the occasion was held in Waterford, the eastern terminus of the canal, where Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul gave the orders to open the gate at Lock 2, where more than 20 boats were waiting to begin their canal journey.

It was on April 15, 1817, the New York State legislature approved construction of the Erie Canal, connecting Albany to Buffalo. Crews began work following the ceremonial first dig on July 4, 1817, in Rome, Oneida County. The canal was officially completed on October 26, 1825.

The towns established along the canal now blossom with annual festivals, living history re-enactments and hands-on museums that celebrate the region’s rich past and the communities that live along the canal today.

“This will be an exciting year to visit the canals,” Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said. “Come experience our unique destinations and celebrate the Erie Canal Bicentennial with the more than 200 communities within the corridor and be a part of a history that is still being written every day.”

The New York State Canal Corporation is co-hosting bicentennial events with communities along the canal. They include:

  • Amsterdam, June 9, with a festival and fireworks at Riverlink Park, home to the new Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Bridge;
  • Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, June 10, all day canal-themed events and barbeque, where you can see the remnants of the original Erie Canal, the enlarged canal and current configuration of the Barge Canal;
  • Lockport, July 8, home to the famed “Flight of Five,” a set of five locks dating to the 1860s. The Flight once effectively acted as “stairs for boats” heading up the Niagara Escarpment, the long cliff that runs east/west across New York that famously includes Niagara Falls;
  • Rochester, July 14-15, featuring an Erie Canal forum and a day of family-friendly events and music, both held at the Strong National Museum of Play; and
  • Rome, July 22, an all-day event at Bellamy Harbor Park, featuring a first-dig re-enactment, an arts and crafts fair, concerts and fireworks.
Mid-Lakes Navigation’s Lockmaster canalboat at Fairport, one of the revitalized canaltowns © Karen Rubin/

Other festivals, exhibits and celebrations commemorating the bicentennial include:

  • The Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor plays host year-round to a number of museums and historical sites, which bring the rich history of the canal to life.
  • The Corning Museum of Glass will launch GlassBarge, a floating performance venue that will bring the story of glassmaking as well as demonstrations to waterfront communities across the state beginning June 2 in Fairport.
  • The Albany Symphony will bring “Water Music NY,” a series of unique musical celebrations of the historic waterway, to communities beginning in Albany on July 2, culminating July 8 in Lockport, when the orchestra will play while on a barge inside a canal lock.
  • The 1862 replica canal boat “Lois McClure” will travel across the state, including the length of the Erie Canal, visiting towns and villages along the way, as crews from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum show visitors what life was like aboard a canal boat. Erie Canal Cruises in Herkimer will put on a July 4 commemoration and is planning season-long exhibits and demonstrations that will highlight the engineering triumphs of the eight-year construction process with notable innovations on display such as the wheelbarrow and stump puller.
  • The Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry in the Finger Lakes shows how the opening of this vital trade route helped foster social reform movements, including women’s rights. Nearby, catch fireworks during Canal Fest on July 7-9.
  • WCNY Public Media’s new documentary, Erie: The Canal That Made America will premiere this September.
  • Syracuse will host the annual World Canals Conference from September 24 – 28, an international event that attracts canal professionals, tourism experts, academics and canal enthusiasts and boaters. Syracuse is also home to the Erie Canal Museum, located in the only remaining weighlock building in the U.S., where year-round interactive displays and artifacts tell the story of the canal’s development and the creativity and inventions that made it possible.
  • From September 30 through October 15, Locktoberfests will take place in communities along the canal system. The annual autumn events incorporate community markets, Taste NY products, local art and entertainment and family activities. Locktoberfests are scheduled in Fort Edward, Rome, Seneca Falls, Phoenix and Lockport.
  • A new Erie Canal exhibit, “New York’s Erie Canal: Gateway to a Nation,” will open this fall at the New York State Museum in Albany.
  • In Lockport, the Kenan Center, celebrating its 50th anniversary, will have a special exhibition of Erie Canal photographs.
  • The Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum lets visitors step back in time to experience life on the canal as it used to be, while the Canastota Canal Town Museum highlights canal history and engineering achievements.
  • In the Greater Niagara region, Canalside Buffalo offers a calendar full of fun festivals featuring live music, artisans, food and kid-friendly activities.

To further celebrate the bicentennial, permit fees for recreational vessels, normally costing $25-$100, have been waived by the Canal Corporation this year.

New York’s canal system includes four historic canals: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca. Spanning 524 miles, the waterway links the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. The canals form the backbone of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and connect more than 230 unique and historic communities.

The Erie Canalway Trail is a multi-use trail accommodating more than 1.5 million pedestrians, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers annually. More than three-quarters of the 365-mile Erie Canalway Trail from Albany to Buffalo is a dedicated off-road trail, much of it along the canal’s former towpath.  Other off-road sections will be completed as part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail initiative, which will include the Erie Canalway Trail and portions of the Champlain Canalway Trail, and at 750 miles will be the longest multi-use recreational trail network in the nation upon its completion in 2020.

Biking along the Erie Canalway with New York Parks & Trails © Karen Rubin/

For the most amazing immersion into the Erie Canal’s rich history and stunning landscape, join New York Parks & Trails annual Erie Canal bike ride, when you bike the full length of the Erie Canal and the Erie Canalway (and then some), on the 400-mile, 8-day supported camping trip (July 9-16, Parks & Trails New York, 29 Elk Street, Albany NY 12207, 518-434-1583, [email protected]). Or, take a Lockmaster canalboat (a houseboat) through Mid-Lakes Navigation (11 Jordan St., Skaneateles, NY 13152, 315-685-8500, 800-545-4318, [email protected],

To learn more about New York’s canal heritage and bicentennial events, visit:

Since 2011, Governor Cuomo has made substantial investments in the tourism industry throughout New York State, leading to historic levels of visitors and direct spending. New York recently welcomed 234 million visitors who spent over $63 billion, generating a total economic impact of more than $100 billion for the second straight year. Additionally, tourism the state’s fourth largest employer, supporting more than 910,000 jobs annually.

New York State features 11 vacation regions. New York’s attractions feature landmarks such as Niagara Falls, the largest park in the continental U.S. in the Adirondacks and treasures such as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Corning Museum of Glass. New York State offers diverse activities for all: outdoor fun – snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding, fishing, hiking and boating, year-round festivals and exploring the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies. Visitors also enjoy the fine cuisine, beverage trails and farm-to-table fresh foods.  For more information, visit


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Austin Adventures Facilitates Vacations in America’s Over-Popular National Parks

Hiking up the Mist Trail alongside Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park. National parks are ideal for summer family vacations, so much so, they are overrun. Tour operator like Austin Adventures not only has hotel space, but can facilitate the visit to minimize crowds © 2017 Karen Rubin/

Last year, a record setting 331 million people visited a national park in the U.S.  2015 had earlier set the record at 307 million visitors. Over the last two years there has been a 13 percent visitor increase overall. This is a trend that experts say is here to stay.

The good news is that more and more people are enjoying America’s “best idea.” The downside is that roads, pull-overs and entrance stations are more crowded than ever, parking is hard to find, campgrounds are booked full by noon, restaurant reservations are difficult to secure and for those waiting too long to book lodging, there’s no room left at the inn.

Because vacation time is too precious for such factors as frustration and anxiety, advance vacation planning that includes putting a professional tour operator in charge of the logistics can help buy peace of mind and a better overall experience.

“When a national park is in the equation, a good tour company can give you the kind of quality park vacation that just might not be possible on your own,” said Dan Austin, President of Austin Adventures, a leader in family-focused, multisport vacations here and abroad.

Austin’s company offers a good reason of why one should consider a tour operator for a national park vacation. “We have stayed ahead of the growth curve by adding capacity and trip departures. We also work hard to block the best rooms inside a park, a year or more in advance.” This is an investment (and risk) to the tour operator, having to secure everything so far into the future. But in Austin Adventures’ case, it has been a winning strategy.

Where an individual or family may find frustration going it on their own, booking through an operator can make the process pain-free. A tour operator has the rooms, the restaurant reservations and sightseeing logistics all worked out. They alleviate parking woes by dropping guests off at a trailhead and picking them up at a different spot later. They can also avoid the masses because they know where the crowds aren’t as well as the best times to be there (on Austin’s Yellowstone Park trips they often avoid the crowds at Old Faithful by visiting at sunrise – a short walk from their lodge).

“Guests benefit from our expertise, ‘insider’s knowledge and long-standing park connections,” Austin said.

Tour operators know the area, inside and outside the park, as well as the best places to stay, eat, view wildlife, etc. They have highly trained guides who are focused on customer service, safety and security, as well as having fun, said Rick Hoeninghausen, Director of Sales & Marketing for Yellowstone National Park Lodges.

Quality tour operators often build in special touches that enhance the experience for their guests. For example, Austin Adventures will surprise their guests with fresh made ice cream and fruit parfaits served along the hiking trail.

Some of Austin Adventures’ most popular National Park family itineraries include Yellowstone Family Adventure, Yosemite National Park Multisport, Grand Canyon Family Vacation & Tour, and the Bryce and Zion National Park Tour in Utah. For information on all of the company’s National Park adventures, see:

Based in Billings, MT, Austin Adventures has spent more than 40 years building an international reputation as a top provider of luxury, pre-set and custom-designed small group tours for adults and families to the world’s most captivating destinations. In 2013, Austin Adventures joined the Xanterra Parks & Resorts® portfolio of experiential leisure offerings that includes operations in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Crater Lake, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park; and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also owns and operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in Williams, Ariz., the Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, Country Walkers and Austin Adventures.

For information on Austin Adventures,, call 800-575-1540 or email [email protected].


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Contest to Win Getaway in Oceano and Nipomo, Hidden Gem Beach Towns Along CA Highway 1

Some of the coastal scenery along California’s Highway 1 (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

Explore the roots of the California Central Coast, Find the only CA State Beach you can drive on, explore Hollywood history at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dune Center, see thousands of Monarch Butterflies, enjoy miles of unspoiled beaches and go back in time at the Oceano Train Depot and The Rancho Nipomo Dana Adobe

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.– Oceano and Nipomo are genuine California beach towns at the edge of the largest sand dunes complex in the state found along California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route covering 101 miles of stunning shoreline and incredible journeys along Coastal San Luis Obispo County. There are must-see spots all along the way that immerse travelers in history and culture and help them find the locals favorite hang outs. 

Nipomo Must-See Spots

Nipomo is home to three world-class golf courses, flower-filled greenhouses and orchards laden with citrus and avocados, and fields of strawberries and flowers. Situated as the first town in San Luis Obispo County when traveling on Highway 101, locals proudly proclaim “The Central Coast Starts Here!” Nipomo offers a quaint old downtown featuring the deliciously world-famous Jocko’s Steak House.

Rancho Nipomo Dana Adobe

Monarch Butterfly Grove

The Luffa Farm

Guadalupe – Nipomo Dune Center

Oso Flaco Natural Area

Oceano Must See Spots

Oceano is an authentic California beach town at the edge of the largest dunes complex in the state. The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is the only place in California where visitors may drive on the beach and enjoy the area’s diverse recreation opportunities, from ATV cruising and horseback riding to surf and kayak fishing. The historic Oceano Train Depot served as a classic Type 22 train depot until 1973, and is now a museum filled with a plethora of railroad artifacts.

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area

The Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville

Oceano Train Depot and Museum

Plan for a memorable rural road trip or vacation in Oceano and Nipomo and download the Oceano and Nipomo Road Trip Map to check out these must-see spots.

Enter to Win A $5,000 Oceano and Nipomo Must-See Getaway 

Immerse yourself in these hidden gems with by entering to win the $5,000 Must-See Getaway Contest. Just fill out this form and you could be selected to win two nights, three-days in this historic destination along the CA Highway 1 Discovery Route plus two tickets to the world famous Melodrama.

For more information as well as lodging and dining options, visit  For more information on the California Highway 1 Discovery Route, visit

See also: 

Four Friends and a Babymoon Travel California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route

Four Friends and a Babymoon in Morro Bay on California’s Highway 1


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Moab Adventure Center Offers Active Itineraries to Explore Region’s Red Rock Wonders

Moab Adventure Center offers active itineraries to explore to explore the Region’s Red Rock wonders
Moab Adventure Center offers active itineraries to explore to explore the Region’s Red Rock wonders

MOAB, UT– The red rock playground better known as Moab, UT, has scaled the heights to become one of the country’s most sought-after destinations for active vacations.

When first-time visitors to the region choose to experience all that Moab has to offer, more bang for the buck comes with advance planning and using local guides who know the territory best, suggests Jamie Pearce, Manager of the award-winning Moab Adventure Center (

Pearce and her staff highly recommend choosing one of their three time-driven, guide-assisted adventure packages to fully enjoy this small town surrounded by two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, and the mystique of the Colorado River.

Moab Signature Multisport Package is a short escape offering the most popular Moab adventures over two days: a Colorado River rafting trip, a two-hour Hummer Safari into the adjacent backcountry plus an exploration of Arches National Park on a professionally guided hike. The rate is $212 for adults and $154 for ages 5-15. Moab lodging (on your own) is available at a variety of motels, campgrounds and lodges.  See: This package can be upgraded to include a full-day rafting trip with lunch and a special sunset Hummer safari for just $35 more per person. Offered Mar. 15 through Oct. 21.

Southwest Sampler spans four days and three nights. Guests spend two nights at Moab’s quirky and stylish Gonzo Inn near shopping and restaurants, just a short walk from the Moab Adventure Center while hiking and touring Arches National Park capped by an off-road sunset Hummer Safari.  Two days of rafting the Colorado River follow, including one night of star gazing while camping riverside. The rate (including all-inclusive camping) is $625 for adults and $525 for ages 5-15. Offered May-September.

Westwater Multi-Sport Moab Package engages guests over four days and three nights as they raft legendary Westwater Canyon on the Colorado River that National Geographic named “The West’s Best Short Whitewater Trip.” On this Utah rafting and multi-sport adventure guests experience different thrills every day with all the comforts of home each night. Included is Moab’s breathtaking backcountry on an exhilarating Hummer Safari; an optional horseback ride in Utah’s famous Castle Valley brings to life scenes from countless movies and commercials filmed in the Moab area. The overnight host is Red Cliffs Lodge on the banks of the Colorado. Offered May-September the rate is $685 for adults and $635 for youth ages 12-15. See:

Recognized nationally as a mecca for outdoor recreation and spectacular scenery, National Geographic named Moab #1 among America’s 10 Best Mountain Bike Towns. Moab was included in Matador Network’s Top 10 in a 2016 ranking of “America’s 20 Coolest Outdoor Towns for Adventure.” Smarter Travel’s 2016 ranking of the “10 Best Outdoor Towns in America” slotted Moab in its honored Top 10.

To speed things up so people can slow themselves down, the region now has scheduled daily air service from Denver, CO, and Salt Lake City, UT.

The Moab Adventure Center website suggests other activities and info on lodging and where to eat in Moab. The Center recommends, due to its popularity over spring and summer weekends, to have lodging reservations in hand before coming to the region. Pocket Guide Moab: Last Minute Itineraries for the Undecided Traveler is also a good resource to the area.

For more details see:
What to See:
What to Do:
Where to Stay:

Moab Adventure Center is a division of Western River Expeditions ( an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab and Fredonia, AZ. The company is the largest single tour provider in Moab. The Moab Adventure Center is located at 225 South Main St., Moab, UT 84532. For information and reservations call (435) 259-7019 or (866) 904-1163 or send an email from The center also has a 2,000-square-foot retail space selling adventure related gear, clothing and souvenirs.


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NYS Proposes Completing 750-Mile Long Empire State Trail by 2020; Erie Canal Designated National Landmark

Biking the Erie Canal trail, Medina, NY. Governor Cuomo is proposing to fill the gaps in the 400-mile canalway and other greenways to create a 750-mile long network, which would be the largest state multi-use trail network in the nation © 2017 Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, in his 2017 State of the State policy pronouncements, has proposed completing the Hudson River Valley Greenway and Erie Canalway trails by 2020 to create the Empire State Trail, the largest state multi-use trail in the nation. To achieve this, the state will develop 350 miles of new trail in three phases to create a 750-mile pathway for hiking and biking along scenic vistas and through charming, historic communities. The Empire State Trail will span much of the state, from the New York Harbor up through the Adirondack Mountains to the Canadian border – and from the shores of Lake Erie along the historic Erie Canal to the heart of the Capital Region.

“The scenic ‎natural beauty that spans every corner of this state is key to our prosperity, vital to our future and part of who we are as New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Empire State Trail, once completed, will be the nation’s largest state multi-use trail network, providing residents and visitors alike unprecedented access to New York’s outdoor treasures, driving tourism and economic activity to communities across the state and helping to protect our environmental resources for generations to come.”

New York’s existing Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Erie Canalway are two of the most renowned multi-use trailways in the United States, but both trails remain unfinished with a number of gaps across the state. Currently, the Hudson River Valley Greenway is nearly 50 percent complete and crosses the Appalachian Trail, spanning over 260 miles between the Manhattan Battery and Lake George. The trail closely, and in many places parallels State Bike Route 9, which extends the Greenway an additional 130 miles along Lake Champlain to the Canadian border. The Hudson River Valley Greenway generates more than $21 million in economic impact annually from visitors stopping in communities along the trails.

The Erie Canalway is nearly 80 percent complete and runs approximately 360 miles along the storied Erie Canal, connecting Buffalo to Albany. The Governor’s commitment to complete this trail coincides with the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, as construction of the engineering marvel begin in 1817. Each year, approximately 1.5 million people use the Erie Canalway Trail along the historic Erie Canal, resulting in an estimated $253 million in economic activity from visitor spending. The Buffalo-Pendleton segment is the most heavily used part of the Canalway Trail with approximately 350,000 annual users. With this proposal, remaining gaps will be completed, connecting the two trails to establish the New York’s Empire State Trail.

Once the Empire State Trail is complete, the trails will attract more hikers, bikers, and cross country skiers than ever before and provide access to destinations, heritage areas, and historic sites and districts including:

Hudson River Valley Greenway

  • Battery Park, NYC
    · Walkway Over the Hudson, Poughkeepsie
    · Olana State Historic Site, Hudson
    · Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Kinderhook
    · Schodack Island State Park, Schodack Landing
    · Saratoga National Battlefield, Stillwater
    · Fort Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga

Olana, artist Frederick Edwin’s Church’s fabulous mansion, is part of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Hudson River School Art Trail © 2017 Karen Rubin/

Erie Canalway Trail

  • Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Historic Site, Buffalo
    · Buffalo State Park, Buffalo
    · The Salt Museum on Onondaga Lake, Liverpool
    · The Montezuma National Wild Refuge, Seneca Falls
    · The Great New York State Fair, Syracuse
    · Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site, Oriskany
    · Fort Stanwix National Monument, Rome

This extensive trail network will enhance community connectivity and support healthy lifestyles by providing both urban and rural communities access to endless outdoor recreational opportunities. These long distance destination trails are economic drivers that can generate $1.5 – 5 million in annual economic impact for surrounding communities. Additionally, this trail network is expected to support an estimated 9.6 jobs for every $1 million invested, and every dollar will yield $3 in direct medical benefits for surrounding communities. The trails will also draw tourists from around the world to explore New York’s striking landscapes and rich history, while enjoying local bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants, wineries, breweries, farmsteads, and cultural attractions along the way.

Empire State Trail Website and Mobile App Launch

A new trail website and mobile app will launch to further connect New Yorkers and visitors to the state’s great outdoors. Both the website and app will feature a list of greenways, trails with hiking descriptions, and their level of difficulty. The app will allow users to find services and attractions nearby using location services with the option to share the user’s exact location with friends, or first responders, in the case of an emergency. Social sharing options will also be available, to share photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. A live tour map, walking and driving directions, are available as well as an elevation reader that lets users know when trails cross hills and mountains.

The trail system will provide travelers access to a number of signature attractions, all of which can be found on the website and mobile app, including Battery Park, Walkway Over the Hudson, Corning Preserve, Lake George, Schenectady Rivers Casino, the Erie Canal Museum, the Buffalo Naval Military Park, local breweries, and other lodging accommodations and family-friendly destinations found along the Empire State Trail.

“Parks, historic sites, and heritage areas are the very fabric of our local communities and the Empire State Trail will further connect these treasured resources with all New Yorkers, neighbors and friends,” said New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “Governor Cuomo is rejuvenating the state park system and now with the creation of the Empire State Trail we are deepening the connection and sharing many of these wonderful treasures and all it takes is a bike ride or casual stroll.”

“New York’s natural resources are truly world class destinations and through Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the new Empire State Trail will establish important connections to offer residents and visitors even more opportunities to experience all the state has to offer,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “I look forward to working with our partners in State Parks, to expand and enhance marketing of all the outdoor adventures one can have throughout the state, and continuing to help communities across the state capitalize on the economic potential of outdoor recreation.”

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton said, “Tens of thousands of people already use the Canal trail year-round for hiking, biking, jogging and cross-country skiing. I’m beyond thrilled that Governor Cuomo has proposed completing the trail along the entire length of the Erie Canal. Now, more people will be able to enjoy all this iconic waterway has to offer as we celebrate the canal system’s bicentennial in 2017.”

Meanwhile, the US Department of Interior has just designated New York State Barge Canal as a national historic landmark. “This massive early-twentieth century enlargement of New York’s canal system was an embodiment of a Progressive Era emphasis on public works. The New York State Barge Canal was built explicitly to counter the growing monopoly of railroad corporations over the American economy. The spine of the canal is a direct descendant of the Erie Canal, which opened the interior of North America to settlement and commercial agriculture, transforming the Atlantic economy.”

19th Annual Cycle the Erie 400-Mile Ride Returns July 9-16

Each year, Parks & Trails New York, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating and raising funds for the maintenance of New York’s trails and greenways, organizes an eight-day, 400-mile trip from one end of the Erie Canal in Buffalo, to the end, in Albany. The 19th annual Cycle the Erie Canal , is scheduled July 9-16, 2017, just in time to celebrate the beginning of the bicentennial celebration of the Canal.

Cycle the Erie riders along the canalway outside of Fairport, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/

Join more than 650 cyclists from across the country and the world cycling and visiting iconic port towns such as Lockport and Brockport, and places rich in history such as Seneca Falls and Rome, and visit charming small towns, museums, and historic sites which collectively tell the story of America. Marvel at the natural beauty of the rolling farmland of America’s original frontier and experience 19th century engineering innovation.

The trip is supported, which means your luggage and camping gear is transported from each campsite (typically schools and recreation centers) to the next, so all you have to do is cycle from one attraction to the next. A team of SAG vehicles provides peace of mind knowing that you’ll be taken care of if you need mechanical support.

There are some updates for 2017:

  • Return shuttle: for the third consecutive year, we’ll be offering riders from Buffalo and points west our shuttle from Albany back to Buffalo at the end of the ride.
  • Erie Canal Trailblazers: Interested in cycling the whole tour for $100? Become a Cycle the Erie Canal Trailblazer and fundraise to help PTNY Close the Gaps in the Erie Canalway Trail. Registration is only $100 and includes a free Cycle the Erie Canal jersey, guidebook, and special recognition on the tour. Trailblazer registration also opens on January 3.
  • Cycle the Erie Canal Jersey: A must-have souvenir from the ride. Other merchandise options for this year’s ride include a commemorative Cycle the Erie Canal pint glass, an ECT sticker, our best-selling guidebook, and new for 2017, a Cycle the Erie Canal cap. Visit the PTNY shop for more information about these items.
  • Four-day and Weekend Options: If you don’t have the time for the entire eight-day tour, consider a shorter getaway on the Erie Canalway Trail. PTNY’s four-day and weekend options allowing you to fit the tour to your schedule. They are also great for families with kids and inexperienced riders.

See our series:

Going Places, Near & Far: Cycle the Erie Canal Tour Affords Extraordinary View of ‘Real America’

Going Places, Near & Far: Cycle the Erie Bike Tour Crosses Finish in Albany

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BirdLovers and LoveBirds Flock to Morro Bay for Winter Bird Festival

Kayaking in the Morro Bay National Estuary Preserve. Winter is birding season in the California coastal town on the Pacific Flyway, when more than 200 species can be sighted (photo by Dave E. Leiberman).
Kayaking in the Morro Bay National Estuary Preserve. Winter is birding season in the California coastal town on the Pacific Flyway, when more than 200 species can be sighted (photo by Dave E. Leiberman).

MORRO BAY, Calif. –Lovebirds and bird lovers flock to Morro Bay, a quaint Californian coastal town with a romantic vibe, located along the Pacific Flyway. Winter is birding season, and the Morro Bay National Estuary Preserve and its 800-acre wetland are home more than 250 species of land, sea, and shore birds, both migratory and resident and dozens of endangered species including Peregrine Falcons.

Lovebirds flock to Morro Bay in the winter, too, to enjoy the romantic sunsets, restaurants and cozy hotel rooms. Find a plethora of bird watching and love bird lodging specials throughout January and February here, including offers to stay two nights and get third night half-off.   Plus, every hotel guest in January/February receives a Food & Wine Passport with over $90 in food offers.

Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

Every Martin Luther King weekend, more than 500 bird lovers from around the world attend the annual Winter Bird Festival. Morro Bay is a globally important bird area, making it the perfect place to see, photograph, and learn about birds. Morro Bay is on the Pacific Flyway. More than 200 species can be sighted during the Festival weekend. While you’re in town, kayak through the National Estuary Channels, sail the bay and watch a variety of birds take flight, or hike near Morro Rock, a key haven for the once endangered bird, the peregrine falcon. Online registration for the 2017 Festival is open.

But that’s not all to discover in Morro Bay.

For information on all the exciting things to do and see in Morro Bay, visit


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New York’s Canal System Opens for Season; Opportunities Abound to Explore Historic Waterways

Exploring the Erie Canal on one of Mid-Lakes Navigation's self-skippered Lockmaster canalboats © 2016 Karen Rubin/
Exploring the Erie Canal on one of Mid-Lakes Navigation’s self-skippered Lockmaster canalboats © 2016 Karen Rubin/

New York State’s Canal system has just opened for the 192nd consecutive season of navigation. The April 27 opening date marks the earliest start to the navigation season since 1982 thanks to a mild winter which allowed staff to complete maintenance projects, and opening preparations, ahead of schedule. The Canal system includes the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals in upstate New York.

“New York’s Canal system is an engineering marvel of epic proportions and its construction demonstrated the sort of vision, determination and boldness that define us as New Yorkers,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Nearly two centuries after its completion, the Canal system continues to be an important tourist destination, while also playing a vital role supporting industries throughout Upstate New York.”

The Erie Canal represents one of the most significant engineering achievements in New York’s history and along with its adjoining canals, it continues to play a pivotal role in supporting the state’s economy. According to a 2014 report, the system generates nearly $380 million in tourism spending annually across upstate New York, and more than $6.2 billion from non-tourism uses such as agricultural irrigation, commercial shipping, and renewable power generated at 27 hydroelectric facilities located along the Canal. The report also determined that the Canals support 26,472 jobs, $1.6 billion in personal income, and $702 million in tax revenue, both directly and indirectly.

The Canal system plays host to several special events each season, including races, festivals, and other recreational activities which can be found by visiting the Canal’s Calendar of Events. New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to take part in these events that last throughout the duration of the navigation season.

Twenty-four hour service is available to commercial vessels such as tour boats, tugboats, charter boats, cruise ships, and hire-boats operating on the Canal system. Registered commercial operators should call (518) 471-5016 during regular business hours and (518) 499-1700 after hours to make arrangements for lock and lift bridge service outside of the Canal’s regular operating schedule.

“Each year, our iconic Canal system draws scores of visitors from all over the world to travel along America’s most storied manmade waterway and to enjoy walking, biking, and fishing along its banks. It is a historical marvel that has consistently fueled New York’s economy through recreation and tourism, and I look forward to seeing what this year’s Canal navigation season adds to that already-rich history,” New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said,

The Canal navigation season is scheduled to end on November 20, weather permitting.

Self-Skipper a Canalboat

A fabulous way to experience the Erie Canal is to rent an easy-to-operate Lockmaster canalboat and really explore at your own pace. Mid-Lakes Navigation has a full fleet of boats – completely outfitted with galleys and showers and even bikes and BBQ gear – that range in size. You are given a complete orientation on how to drive the boat and navigate through the locks (the most fun) and the boats have excellent radio controls (which you need that to get the lift operators to raise the bridges). You feel like a real explorer.

This year, they have added a new boat, the Harriet H. Wiles, which offers a/c, a queen-size bed in master suite, large master bath, flat screen TV/DVD player, microwave and coffee maker among its amenities.

Mid-Lakes also offers Cruise and Dine programs on its own boats on the Erie Canal and on Skaneateles Lake.

Contact Mid-Lakes Navigation, 11 Jordan St., Skaneateles, NY 13152-0061, 800-545-4318,, [email protected].


Journey by boat and bike along the Erie Canal: Macedon-Fairport-Pittsford and slideshow

Erie Canal journey by boat, bike: Exploring canaltowns from Pittsford to Albion and slideshow

Erie Canal journey: Albion-Medina bikeride is most scenic, illuminating and slideshow

Erie Canal journey by boat and bike: Palmyra, ‘Queen of Canal Towns’ and slideshow

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Natural Habitat Adventures Launches New “Safari America” Series in Iconic National Parks

Natural Habitat’s newest trip seeks to replicate a traditional African safari experience with large canvas tents, fine dining and a telescope for stargazing.
Natural Habitat’s newest trip seeks to replicate a traditional African safari experience with large canvas tents, fine dining and a telescope for stargazing.

BOULDER, CO — The nature travel professionals at Natural Habitat Adventures have come up with a fresh way to explore America’s national parks and reserves. By choosing paths less traveled and incorporating deluxe catered camping, guests experience in solitude the wonder of the country’s most magnificent landscapes without compromising comfort.

NatHab-NatlParks2Natural Habitat’s newest trip seeks to replicate a traditional African safari experience with large canvas tents, fine dining and a telescope for stargazing. The first offering in the Safari America series, Safari America: Under the Desert Sky, is a 9-day, 8-night adventure that combines moderate hiking with catered camping and classic lodge stays at four premier parks: Grand Canyon (the quieter North Rim that hosts just 10 percent of all visitors to the park), Bryce, Zion and rarely visited Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Departures begin and end in St. George, UT. 2016 dates are Aug.7-15 and Aug. 25- Sept. 2. The per-person double rate is $3,995; single supplement $1,095. Guests spend four nights in walk-in canvas tents with real beds (two twins or a queen) and down comforters, a private toilet for each tent, and hot showers. Home-cooked meals are served at a table set with linens and porcelain dinnerware, complemented with fine wines. Three nights are spent in classic western lodges.

Evoking the concept of a mobile African safari, camps are secluded on private lands adjacent to national parks. An open-sided lounge tent provides a gathering space, with comfortable chairs for relaxing. A high-powered telescope is situated for shared use after dark. Camps are set in areas known for near-perfect conditions for stargazing, with low humidity, isolation from ambient light and the darkest skies in the West. While accommodations are not luxurious, they offer full-service, classic tented camping at its finest.

Interspersed during the week between safari camp stays are three nights at exclusive western lodges. Guests enjoy two nights in rustic luxury at Zion Mountain Ranch, a private spread with its own bison herd, perched atop a plateau under wide-open skies. From individual cabins with private decks, guests watch buffalo and wild deer graze in meadows before retreating inside to the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace. The ranch restaurant prepares acclaimed farm-to-table meals featuring seasonal dishes sourced from local growers. Guests also spend a night at Bryce Canyon Lodge, the venerable 1920s hostelry recently restored to its original splendor and that remains the only lodging on the rim inside Bryce Canyon National Park.

NatHab-GrandCanyon NRimTwo naturalist Expedition Leaders share with a maximum of 14 guests per departure the highlights and hidden corners of the Colorado Plateau’s dramatic topography, a trip that includes the little-visited Grand Staircase-Escalante, a geological wonderland of broad mesas, narrow slot canyons, stacked sandstone and arid washes. While tenting in Escalante and on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, guests may gaze at the heavens with a high-powered telescope under a canopy of stars. While traveling throughout this region, each guest has a window seat in one of two comfort-designed vans.

The canyon country of the American West has long held a storied place in the annals of travel adventure. From John Wesley Powell’s Colorado River explorations to Mary Colter, who influenced Southwest architecture, to Teddy Roosevelt, who fell in love with the Wild West, intrepid pioneers and everyday explorers alike have pursued the allure of these rustic landscapes. This trip’s focus in tandem with Nat Hab partner World Wildlife Fund is a classic journey into America’s high deserts, forests and canyonlands, shunning crowds by staying in secluded areas where quiet and solitude reign, just as they did for the early explorers.

For details, see

For information on all of Nat Hab’s trips, descriptive itineraries, date availability and reservations call 800.543.8917 or visit Click HERE to order a copy of the 2016 catalog.

Natural Habitat Adventures is a world leader in responsible adventure travel and nature-based ecotourism. Since its founding in 1985, the company has offered eco-conscious expeditions and wildlife-focused small-group tours to the planet’s most remarkable nature destinations. Inspired and created from years of scouring the planet for the singular and extraordinary, Nat Hab’s itineraries are artfully crafted experiences that are far from “typical.” Trips are guided by professional naturalist Expedition Leaders, and Nat Hab enjoys a longstanding reputation for hiring some of the world’s best guides. Conservation is at the forefront of everything NHA does, and its philosophy is simple: tourism must work with and benefit local communities, which will in turn find value in protecting natural resources and wildlife.

NHA is proud to be the travel partner of World Wildlife Fund, sharing a mutual commitment to travel as a means of helping to protect the world’s wondrous natural places.  Nat Hab has donated more than $2 million to WWF and will continue to donate 1% of gross sales plus $100,000 annual through 2018 in support of WWF’s mission.
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Registration Opens for Parks & Trails New York’s 18th Annual 400-Mile Cycle the Erie Canal Bike Tour

Cycle the Erie riders bike on the Medina section of the trail built over a rushing creek that drops into waterfalls, with an extraordinary angled turn that displays the engineering genius of the builders © 2016 Karen Rubin/
Cycle the Erie riders bike on the Medina section of the trail built over a rushing creek that drops into waterfalls, with an extraordinary angled turn that displays the engineering genius of the builders © 2016 Karen Rubin/

Registration is now open for Parks & Trails New York’s 18th annual Cycle the Erie Canal 400-mile, eight-day bike tour, an unparalleled opportunity to experience great cycling while taking in the rich history of the legendary canal that helped transform America.

The 2016 tour kicks off in Buffalo on July 10 and arrives in Albany on July 17. This year, the Cycle the Erie Canal tour offers:

2-day and 4-day Options: If you can’t take off a full week, consider joining us for half the tour or for a weekend. With 4-day options from Buffalo to Syracuse and Syracuse to Albany, you’re halfway to becoming an Erie Canalway Trail End-to-Ender. These shorter options are great for children, too.

Return Shuttle: Riders from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and points west will be happy to hear we’ll once again be offering our return shuttle from Albany to Buffalo at the end of the ride. Less driving means more time to discover the Erie Canal, and there is so much to discover.

Erie Canal Trailblazers: Interested in cycling the whole tour for only $100? Become a Cycle the Erie Canal Trailblazer and help PTNY promote the Erie Canalway Trail and bicycle tourism! Registration includes a free Cycle the Erie Canal Trailblazer jersey and guidebook and special recognition on the tour. Learn more.

Last year’s ride had more than 600 riders and was frankly amazing, with all the sights to see and special activities arranged, not to mention to comradery and the adventure of camping out. The trip – superbly organized – really touches on all pistons.

For more information about Cycle the Erie Canal, call Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or email [email protected]. Also, check out the new Cycle the Erie Canal website to learn more about all the Erie Canalway Trail has to offer.

See our series from the 17th Annual Cycle the Erie bike tour:

Cycle the Erie Canal 400-mile tour affords extraordinary view of ‘Real America’ and slideshow

Cycle the Erie 400-Mile Bike Tour: Lockport, a Town Birthed by the Erie Canal and slideshow

Cycle the Erie ride reaches Seneca Falls, Birthplace of Women’s Rights Movement and slideshow

Cycle the Erie: National Women’s Hall of Fame personifies struggle, achievement and slideshow

Cycle the Erie: Seneca Falls to Syracuse crossing half-way mark of 400-mile tour and slideshow

Syracuse’s Erie Canal Museum Highlights Day 5 on 400-Mile Cycle the Erie Tour and slideshow

Cycle the Erie: Fort Stanwix, Rome, Brings Revolutionary War Era to Life and slideshow

Cycle the Erie: Remington Gun Museum links history to current issues and slideshow

400 miles and 400 years of history, Cycle the Erie tour crosses finish at Albany and slideshow

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