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Everyone knows that New York City is famous for its New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, but for those looking for something a little more unique and symbolic to ring in 2022, these towns are hosting slightly weird yet totally “on-brand” drops on December 31. MoonPie Drop , Mobile, Alabama Photo by Joseph Brooke / Flickr Creative Commons Mobile’s mantra is “Born to Celebrate,” which makes New Year’s Eve a pretty exciting time around here. At midnight, you can witness a 600-pound electric MoonPie drop from the sky, complete with fireworks and a laser light show. Mobile’s big claim to fame is that it’s home to America’s original Mardi Gras. In the mid-1900s, locals started tossing sticky-sweet (but still-wrapped!) MoonPies from their Mardi Gras floats. Spectators went crazy for them and today an estimated half-million pies get tossed during an average Carnival season. Since Mobile loves a good party – and consumes more MoonPies per capita than anywhere else (including the pies’ hometown of Chattanooga) – its citizens decided to create the world’s largest electric MoonPie to help them usher in each new year. Mushroom Drop, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is part of the Brandywine Valley, is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” because more than 60% of all the mushrooms in the United States are grown here. Celebrate their nickname – and their favorite crop -- by dropping a 700-pound lighted mushroom on New Year’s Eve during the annual Midnight in the Square event. The mushroom will be raised right before 9 p.m. and the drop will be live-streamed across social media at midnight. Marlin Drop, Orange Beach, Alabama Gulf Shores Reelin' in the New Year at The Wharf The Wharf, a popular dining, shopping and entertainment district in the town of Orange Beach, is hosting Reelin’ in The New Year from 5 p.m. to midnight on December 31. The highlight of this event is the Marlin Drop, a fishy nod to one of the many outdoor activities that draw visitors here year round. It’s free admission for the drop, and the whole family can come and ring in the new year Gulf Coast-style. Apple Drop, Winchester, Virginia To celebrate the arrival of the new year, a 400-pound apple is dropped more than 100 feet during the First Night Winchester event. First Night Winchester has been a tradition in the Northern Shenandoah Valley since 1987. Winchester is known as the “Apple Capital” because it’s the largest apple-producing area in all of Virginia and home to countless apple orchards. Giant Acorn Drop, Raleigh, N.C. Courtesy firstnightraleigh.com Each December 31 a giant copper acorn, the official monument commemorating the bicentennial of “the City of Oaks,” is transported from Raleigh’s Moore Square to the roof of the Civic Center where it’s dropped to celebrate the New Year - First Night Raleigh. Clam Drop, Yarmouth, Maine On December 31, Yarmouth's First Universalist Church lowers a giant clam named Steamer 25 feet from the bell tower. The Clam Drop includes music, cookies and cocoa to stay warm. Giant Potato Drop, Boise, Idaho Courtesy mrfood.com This year will be the 9th annual Idaho Potato Drop in Boise, Idaho. From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., ring in the new year with food trucks, a beer garden, fireworks, and of course, the potato drop in front of the Idaho State Capitol.
Get your history fix in Philadelphia
There is plenty to splurge on in Philadelphia, from rooftop cocktails at the Hotel Monaco to High Tea at the Rittenhouse Hotel. And while hitting up a pricey art museum and then indulging in Vetri Cucina's quattro piatti for dinner is a good time, Philly doesn't have to be expensive - especially if you're a history buff. Luckily, most of Philly's top attractions are easily accessible via public transportation, which is very affordable. One-way subway rides are just $2.50. For just $13, you can get a one-day SEPTA Independence Pass, which allows you to switch between modes of transportation. Then there's the tourist-friendly Philly PLASH bus which stops at the city's main tourist attractions for just $2 per ride or $5 for a day pass. Here is our guide to taking in Philadelphia's history and culture without breaking the bank. Philly's top historical sites Entrance to the Liberty Bell Center is free, and it's open on a first-come, first-serve basis with capacity restrictions in place. While the bell is visible from outside the center, there are benefits to waiting in line to get inside. One side of the hallway is lined with exhibits, and there's also a space for rotating temporary exhibitions. And once inside, you get an unobstructed photo op of this American icon. Independence Hall tickets must be reserved online in advance. They carry a $1 reservation fee, which is less than the cost of a small "wooder" ice anywhere in Philly. Guided tours last 30 minutes and run every 15 minutes, with the last one each day starting at 4:45 PM. Between the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall sits the President's House, an outdoor exhibit that explores the contradiction of freedom and slavery during the founding of the United States. The 24-hour open-air display sits on the former grounds of America's first executive mansion. George Washington and John Adams lived here while James Hoban was constructing the first White House. Beneath the large glass vitrine at the south end of the exhibit, you can see the foundations of the predecessor to The White House. Philly's best history museums under $10 The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall get most of the much-deserved attention when it comes to historic sites in Philly. But both are surrounded by history museums that are affordable and family-friendly. Just a couple blocks east of the Independence Visitor Center, you can tour the Betsy Ross House with an audio guide for under $10. Each tour includes a Q & A with a Besty Ross reenactor dressed in period clothing. For no additional fee, you can find out why she kept the name "Ross" after remarrying twice and learn what George Washington was like to do business with. Before you reach the Betsy Ross House, you'll pass Benjamin Franklin's gravesite, which you can visit between noon and 4 Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5, but many choose to experience Ben's final resting place by throwing pennies onto his gravestone through the cemetery gates. You are better off saving your $5 and using it to enter the Benjamin Franklin Museum, located just one block south of his final resting place. You'll get much more for your money, including five rooms of exhibits, videos, touchscreen interactives, and hundreds of artifacts. Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Photo by Sean Pavone, iStock Explore America's oldest residential street A couple blocks east of the Betsy Ross house is Elfreth's Alley. This well-preserved, car-free cobblestone street is widely recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited street in the United States. There's a small museum halfway down this short, narrow alley, sandwiched between homes that date back to 1755. The museum is open from noon to 4 Friday through Sunday. Admission is just $3, with an optional audio guide for an additional $3. Even if you cannot stop by during their business hours, you can't leave the City of Brotherly Love without visiting Elfreth's Alley. The Fireman's Hall Museum is located one block north of Elfreth's Alley. This restored 1902 firehouse has various tools of the trade on display, some of which date back to the earliest days of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Reservations are free but must be made in advance, and donations to the fire department are appreciated. Live our your Rocky fantasy for less than the price of a movie ticket Regardless of the time of day or year, the Rocky Statue is a major attraction. You may have to wait in line to get your picture snapped with the world's most famous fictional sports hero, but it's an essential Philly experience! From there, you should climb the 72 steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some run like young Rocky did, while the rest ascend at a more leisurely pace reminiscent of an aging Rocky in the first Creed movie. Once atop, you can take in the view of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Logan Square, and the Philly skyline. Get lost in a public market Reading Terminal Market dates back to 1893. Before Philly had the subway system that we know today, the Reading Railroad Company operated the city's main market. Back then, it had 250 specialty vendors and up to 100 farmers on any given day. Today, the National Historic Landmark market operates daily from 8 to 6 with more than 70 vendors. Inside, you'll see (and smell) Philly cheesesteaks, as well as a mix of fresh fish, meat, and cheese. You can also purchase treats sold by Amish vendors from nearby Lancaster County. If you're driving in and plan to explore the area for a couple of hours, it's worth making a $10 purchase at the market. That will get you two-hour validated $5 parking at two of the nearby garages. But it's even more affordable to take the SEPTA Regional Rail to Jefferson Station or the underground MFL to 11th Street ----- SPONSORED BY GEICO Carefully crafted collaboratively between GEICO, Budget Travel, and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.
New Smyrna Beach, FL Spending January in 70° F weather has its perks but that’s just part of what makes New Smyrna Beach especially inviting. The city also boasts 17 miles of white sandy beaches and wave action that’s great for surfing. Some “new-to-you” activities can include: Fresh-caught Dinner – Since New Smyrna Beach is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River Lagoon, both saltwater and freshwater fishing are available. Book a charter with an experienced captain to catch an oh-so fresh seafood dinner. Many local restaurants offer a “catch and cook” option where the chef will prepare your fish almost any way you like it. A Trio of Water Views – A visit to Smyrna Dunes Park delivers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River, and Ponce de Leon Inlet. The park has two miles of wide, elevated, handicapped accessible boardwalk, along with access to the beach. Florida’s Tallest Lighthouse – Climb 175 feet for a spectacular, sweeping view of coastal Florida. The world-famous Ponce Inlet Lighthouse was constructed in 1887 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998. The site includes all the original structures, including the homes of the principal keeper and first and second assistant keepers. On January 17, the lighthouse hosts its monthly “Climb to the Moon.” Get spectacular views of the sunset and full moon, along with a private tour with a lighthouse keeper. NASCAR’s Prestigious Track – The Daytona International Speedway, which is just is 15 miles from New Smyrna Beach, is an iconic track that hosts the internationally known Daytona 500. A track tour includes a: visit to the start/finish line; close-up view of the pit stalls; photos in Gatorade Victory Lane; stunning view of the trioval and infield; and access to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. For those who’d like to see racing in person at the track, the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association's Classic MotoFest will be held January 7-9, 2022. RVers can spend the night at New Smyrna Beach RV Park and Campground. New Orleans, LA peeterv / Istock This French, Creole, and Cajun city literally beckons travelers to try something new. NOLA Curiosities – The neighborhood of the French Quarter was the original city of New Orleans established by the French to control commerce on the Mississippi River. Today, it’s the epicenter for activities and eccentricities. Start with the curiosities of Jackson Square that include unusual street artists, fortune tellers, and brass bands. Visit the 200-year-old Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House which became famous in the 19th century for its absinthe frappe – a mixture of absinthe and sugar water – and the popular legend that pirate Jean Lafitte met with Andrew Jackson at the establishment. Finally, it’s not a sure thing but jazz funerals are still held. Catching one is just by luck since they’re typically conducted only after the death of a significant resident or musician. Ghost Tours – New Orleans is home to two well-known women of mystery. Marie Laveau was a powerful voodoo priestess from the 19th century and Anne Rice is the best-selling author who wrote the Vampire Chronicles series. Set fears aside and book a nighttime walking tour that shares the city’s “dark side” and takes visitors to above-ground cemeteries, haunted locations, and voodoo shrines. Boiled Crawfish – Whatever name you use – crayfish, crawfish, crawdads, or mudbugs – the crustaceans are synonymous with New Orleans. Crawfish are in season from January through July and can be served boiled, sauteed, baked, or fried. However, locals insist boiled is the best. Crawfish boils abound throughout New Orleans so get courageous and make a reservation. Swamp Tours – Explore the watery world of Louisiana’s swamps and bayous aboard an airboat, skiff, or kayak. Travel through channels edged by cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss and learn how the waterways still provide a living for locals. See alligators, nutria, wild hogs, and other wildlife. RVers can spend the night at the French Quarter RV Resort or Reunion Lake Luxury RV Campground, which is an hour from New Orleans. New Braunfels, TX Founded in 1845 and known for its German heritage, New Bruenfels is in Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin and provides a gateway to exciting adventures. Fly Fishing – From December to February, Texas Parks & Wildlife stocks more than 20,000 rainbow trout in the Guadalupe River and Canyon Tailrace. Action Angler, a stream-side fly shop and guide service, provides seasoned pros, rods, flies, waders, and boots for fishing on the Guadalupe River. For those who aren’t quite ready for fly fishing, nature tour float trips are available. Spelunking – At 180 feet below ground, Natural Bridge Caverns is Texas’ largest show cave with dramatic stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones, chandeliers, and soda straws formed by minerals in water drops. For the bold, a Discovery Adventure Tour delivers an “off trail” experience in an undeveloped section of the cave. Gear is provided but be prepared to get muddy while crawling, wiggling, and climbing to explore deep sections of the cave. For those who’d like a more predictable visit, a walking path tour is available. Craft Breweries – Due to its German heritage, New Braunfels has a long history of brewing that includes the original New Braunfels Brewing Company built on the banks of the Comal River in 1847 by Julius Rennert. Three exceptional craft breweries include a reborn New Braunfels Brewing Company, Faust Hotel & Brewing Company, and Guadalupe Brewing Company – all of which are on the Craft Beer Trail that winds through Texas Hill Country. To be safe and responsible, book a spot on a trail shuttle bus. Country Music – Gruene Hall is the place to embrace country music. Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum, Lucinda Williams, and many other legends have played at this historic honky-tonk. Built in 1878, it’s the state’s oldest continually operating dance hall and hasn’t changed much since its early days. RVers can spend the night at Hill Country Cottage & RV Resort. New Harmony, UT jose1983 / istock Although New Harmony is home to just 200-some residents, it’s the ideal place for a New Year’s selfie. Who doesn’t want “new harmony” in 2022? Plus, its setting is picture perfect since it’s surrounded by the peaks of Pine Valley Mountain and close to some of the best recreational areas in the United States. Water Hiking – Kanarra Falls, which is approximately 10 miles from New Harmony, is a spectacular adventure trek that requires stamina, agility, and surefootedness and, in return, delivers rushing waterfalls in red rock slot canyons. The canyoneering hike includes walking through and along a stream bed, climbing a 15-foot-ladder, and scaling a large boulder. All the effort is worth it to see a natural water slide and pool and two sets of waterfalls in slot canyons. Advance tickets are required, winter hours are limited, and cold weather gear (including neoprene socks) are a must. Double Arch Alcove – Located in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park, the Taylor Creek Trail is a five-mile roundtrip hike up a “finger” canyon that leads to Double Arch Alcove. The cave-like formation features a palette of beautifully colored streaks thanks to water that seeps through the porous Navajo sandstone. The trail also includes two historic cabins from the 1903’s before the Kolob area became part of Zion. Kolob Canyons is smaller than Zion Canyon but that also means it’s not as busy. Rugged Horseback Riding – Experience the beauty of southern Utah on horseback. Book a ride that ranges from 1 ½ hours to six. The pace and scenery of the rides can vary from a demanding ride in the steep and rugged Zion Mountain country to a more leisurely trip through the valley to admire the peaks from below. RVers can spend the night at Zion River Resort - RV Park & Campground. Newport Beach, CA Those looking for marine adventures will adore Newport Beach. Take sailing or surfing lessons, rent a paddle board, or simply stroll the beach, it’s all possible at Newport Beach. Whale Watching – December through April is a prime time to see gray whales as they travel 12,000 miles round trip from the Arctic to the lagoons of Baja California to calve and breed. Humpback, Fin, and Minke whales can be seen year-round, along with dolphin megapods with more than 1,000 in each pod. Electric Boats & Gondolas – Known as the first and finest electric boat since 1970, Duffy Boats are available to leisurely cruise Newport Harbor and take in the beauty of the coast. For a romantic cruise for two, book a gondola. Options range from a casual pizza cruise to a dinner cruise with a three-course meal. 1919 Ferry – A mere $1.25 secures a one-way ticket for a quick ride on the Balboa Island Ferry. Ferry service was established in 1919 to span the 800 feet between the peninsula and Balboa Island. Island activities include a stroll on Marine Avenue that’s dotted with chic coastal shops and quaint island restaurants. Don’t miss the area’s iconic Frozen Banana treat that’s been a signature for 75 years. In fact, the banana stand in the sitcom Arrested Development was located on Balboa Island. Tidepools – Visit Crystal Cove State Park and its more than three miles of pristine uninterrupted coastline. During low tide, check out four tidepool viewing areas – Reef Point, Rocky Bight, Pelican Point, and Treasure Cove – to spot bat stars, chestnut cowries, purple sea urchins, and other amazing creatures. The tidepools are Marine Protected Areas so picking up or moving animals is prohibited. The area also includes Crystal Cove Historic District, an enclave of 46 vintage rustic coastal cottages originally built in the 1920s and 1930s nestled around the mouth of Los Trancos Creek. It is one of the last remaining examples of early 20th century Southern California coastal development. RVers can spend the night at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina. For more information on Holiday Rambler visit their site.
If you’re in the mood for a challenging but rewarding hike, Phoenix is ready to deliver. The city boasts a variety of mountain trails that’ll have you scrambling over boulders, marveling at saguaros, and earning incredible views. Phoenix features over 200 miles of hiking trails, but these seven are among the most iconic mountain hikes in the city. Before you set out, make sure that you’re taking the necessary safety precautions. Phoenix is a dry, desert climate, so bring plenty of water(!!) and a fully charged cellphone, and wear sunscreen and protective gear. And, of course, read up on these Phoenix peaks to decide which is suitable for you before hitting the trail — consider distances and elevation gains carefully, and only attempt hikes that you're confident you are physically capable of completing safely. Piestewa Peak Located smack dab in Central Phoenix, Piestewa Peak is the third highest peak in the city, at 2,610 feet. “The Stairmaster” is an apt nickname for the out-and-back Summit Trail, which climbs 1,200 feet in 1.2 miles. Be prepared for a trail that rises dramatically almost from the get-go and only levels off occasionally. The hike gets more intense closer to the summit, with metal handrails to guide you up the trail. At the very top, hikers scramble up a few rocks to reach the apex. Your reward for all the effort? Epic views of all of metropolitan Phoenix. Camelback Mountain Named after the shape it takes on the skyline, Camelback Mountain is the highest point in Phoenix at 2,704 feet. There are two popular trails on this mountain: Echo Canyon, and Cholla, although Cholla Trail is currently closed for renovation. Some consider Cholla the easier of the two but make no mistake, both trails are a challenge. Expect to get dusty and sweaty as you scramble to reach the top, ascending a staggering and heart-pumping 1,280 feet in 1.2 miles. The steep slope begins not far from the trailhead, with railroad ties used as steps that help hikers navigate the rocky terrain. After the seemingly endless climbing, the work pays off with stunning city views and a deep sense of satisfaction. Mind your footing on the way back down for a 2.5-mile hike. The top of Camelback Mountain. Photo by Reuben Schulz, iStock Tom’s Thumb Located in the McDowell Mountains of Scottsdale, Tom’s Thumb was named after the first person to climb it, Arizona Mountaineering Club member Tom Kreuser. When you reach the end of the trail, you can’t miss the granite formation at the summit of this trail that looks like… yep, you guessed it: a thumb pointing toward the sky. Hikers will get an intense cardio workout as the trail ascends more than 1,300 feet in 2.5 miles. The stellar hike features switchbacks, scenic vistas, dramatic granite outcroppings, and desert flora and fauna. As you’re working up a sweat from start to finish, be sure to pause and take in the sweeping and stunning views of North Scottsdale and the surrounding area. The view from Tom’s thumb is particularly unforgettable. After enjoying the sights and a well-earned breather, simply hike out the way you came for a round-trip that’s about 5 miles. Siphon Draw to Flatiron Trail About 40 miles south of Phoenix, the Flatiron Trail is a hike that is simultaneously iconic, challenging, and totally epic. Part of the Superstition Mountains (“the Supes,” to locals), Flatiron towers high at 4,861 feet. Hikers can anticipate a 2,750-foot elevation gain if they hike this out and back 6-mile journey. Begin your hike at the Siphon Draw trailhead in Lost Dutchman State Park. The hike from Siphon Draw will take you into a canyon of the same name. This trail is 4 miles round trip and offers plenty of scenic Sonoran desert vistas untouched by development. Many hikers will turn around at the end of the Siphon Draw Trail. If you’re up for a steep climb and have the experience and stamina, scramble up Flatiron, sticking to the left to stay on course. Before you reach the top, you’ll have to scale a (gulp) 12-foot wall to reach the summit. Once you’re there, relax, revel in your accomplishment, and take in breathtaking views of the Apache Junction area. Sunset in the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Brent_1, iStock Images Shaw Butte Trail Back in Central Phoenix, the Shaw Butte Trail in North Mountain Park is well-maintained and one of the easier mountain peak hikes in town. Parts of the trail are even paved, and it all kicks off at a well-developed visitors center. It’s relatively flat for the first mile, after which the course begins its reasonably steep climb. The trail dips and rises a few times before topping out at Shaw Butte, which stands high at 2,149 feet. At the summit, you can’t miss the radio towers and sweeping views of the Central Valley of the Sun. On your way back down, be sure to check out the concrete remnants of Cloud 9 Restaurant—a swanky spot that burned down in 1964—for a hike that’s around four miles total. Holbert Trail At more than 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one the largest municipal parks in the entire country. Its Holbert Trail is one of the most popular hikes for one key and beautiful reason: Dobbins Overlook. Dobbins is the highest point in the park that is open to the public (at 2,330 feet), and it offers sweeping views of the entire Valley. By following this steep 2.5-mile hike that covers 1,100 vertical feet, hikers can reach this iconic viewpoint. Sure, you can drive to the top… but hiking the Holbert Trail and following the detour that leads to the Overlook is admittedly more rewarding. Once you’ve soaked up all the views, turn back the way you came – by the time you’ve returned to the trailhead, you’ll have hiked about 3.6 total miles. Lookout Mountain Summit Trail Lookout Mountain is a short peak hike that’s tucked away in a North Phoenix neighborhood, making it ideal for hikers who are short on time. Anticipate an elevation gain of about 400 feet in less than a mile. Near the summit, be prepared to do some scrambling on this mostly moderate trail. At the top, take in panoramic views of metro Phoenix before you head back down. __________ SPONSORED BY GEICO This content was produced in partnership with GEICO, Lonely Planet, and Budget Travel.Sponsored by Geico