Printed travel guides are significantly underrated. Sure Google and the internet have made finding new places as easy as its ever been, but having a printed guide with recommendations and information is invaluable as you head out into the more scenic parts of our beautiful country – aka: areas with no reception
Guide to State Parks
Content: As you might assume from the title, this guide contains information on more than 950 state parks across the United States. Organized by region, the parks are discussed by state with photos and longer descriptions for three to five locations and shorter blurbs about eight to ten more at the end of the chapter. Information varies with each park, but topics include what to see and do in the park, trail options for getting to scenic points, camping opportunities and other local attractions.
Why: The introduction to the guide notes that three times as many people visit state parks than they do national parks. Living in North Carolina, I have access to a number of incredible state parks and have tried hard to visit as many as I can. While they may not be as large as their national counterparts, I’ve found state parks to be almost equally well-maintained and often much less crowded. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this updated directory to seek out more adventures!
Opinion: Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed. The content is good and provides adequate information to make decisions about which park or parks to visit. For trips to states I am unfamiliar with, I think this will be a great way to identify what parks may be worth seeking out more information about. Being a National Geographic publication, I think I was just hoping for more details and images, but given that the book is already 480 pages, it’s understandable. The layout, maps and organization do make it a very user-friendly tool!
Recommendation: I would recommend this guide to anyone who is looking to get outdoors, particularly with families. The material is easy to understand and has attractions for everyone. This is not the guide for experienced hikers, bikers or outdoors(wo)men who are looking for the paths less traveled.
Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways
Content: Similar to the Guide to State Parks, the highways and byways are listed by state and the book is divided into regions. There are maps of the different drives in addition to photos of landmarks described along each route. Mixed in with the driving instructions are locations to enjoy along with the activities they offer. Many of the landmarks have websites, phone numbers and/or addresses listed. The book even notes if activities or parks have fees!
Why: My husband had a conference in Colorado Springs last summer, and we made a trip out of it doing a few different cities in Colorado over the course of 10 days or so. While visiting Rocky Mountain National Park we did both of the scenic drives in the park – Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road. I have always enjoyed road trips, but these two in particular opened my eyes to how exciting a drive could be. The drives listed in these pages have a variety of significant traits and expose travelers to everything this nation has to offer.
‘America’s Byways offer us the opportunity to explore our nation in a truly unique way. The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to preserving these scenic routes to ensure travelers experience the best of U.S. history, culture, and nature. The beauty of these roadways helps tell our American story, whether traveling across the country or close to home.’ – Ray LaHood, Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Opinion: In fairness to the State Parks guide, I have to say that I had lower expectations for this book. I’m not as familiar with the country’s scenic drives, so it was easier to be less critical. However, I truly do find this guide much more useful for travelers because it does more of the work for you. Even if you’ve heard of a number of the sites or activities described, chances are you hadn’t thought through how to see them all in one felled swoop. The actual driving directions may be a bit overkill when GPS will tell us where to go, but stringing together the individual landmarks in a way that is efficient, enjoyable and often times thematic makes it easy to plan a quick – or not-so-quick – getaway.
Recommendation: If you’re looking to do more site seeing within the confines of the United States, I would recommend this book. It would also make a great reference for deciding on the next family vacation. The drives range in distance (aka how much time you want to spend in the car), and there are activities for everyone ranging from hiking, biking and horseback riding, to fossil exhibits, war memorials, and native culture displays. It’s interesting to find out what’s available right next door, as well as across the country!
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for my honest review!