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The Great Outdoors is Calling: Six Great Cities for Outdoor Adventure Vacations

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If your idea of a vacation involves running shoes, hiking boots, bicycles, paddles, or surfboards, check out these outdoor adventure vacation destinations.

Cody, Wyoming

Perched on the edge of Yellowstone National Park and surrounded by mountains on all sides, Cody is a charming western town that also serves as a gateway to outdoor adventure. There’s the natural wonders of Yellowstone—Old Faithful Geyser, herds of bison, miles of hiking trails—but that’s just the start. Climb a mountain, ride a horse, go whitewater rafting or kayaking, jump on a bike, cast a line for rainbow trout, or pitch a tent under a million stars. Put on your best cowboy boots and ten gallon hat and head for the rodeo. Looking for something to do in the winter? Rent a snowmobile and hit the trails. All this, plus dining choices that range from white tablecloth elegance to saloons with sawdust on the floor.

Bellingham, Washington

Just east of Mount Baker—a towering snow-covered volcano—and south of Canada, you’ll find Bellingham, Washington hugging the cold waters of Bellingham Bay. This town has something for every outdoor enthusiast. Hikers, runners, and bikers flock to Bellingham for the extensive network of trails that offer year-round paths to explore. If you’d rather paddle than pedal, Bellingham is a coastal town surrounded by a maze of waterways and islands that lead out to the Pacific Ocean, and you can also catch a ferry to Alaska if the mood strikes. At the end of the day, gather with your friends to celebrate the trails you’ve conquered and quench your thirst at a local brewery.

Juneau, Alaska

Speaking of Alaska… Many folks just know Juneau as a cruise ship port of call. Juneau is so much more than that. Use Alaska’s capital city as your base camp to explore the glaciers, fjords, mountains, rainforests, and rugged coastline of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Or stay close to town and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of other glaciers and fjords while still having time to make those dinner reservations. Speaking of dinner, the dining scene in Juneau has truly exploded in recent years—think fabulous seafood, restaurants from sophisticated to cozy comfort, craft beer, and even a distillery. Come for the outdoor adventure, stay for the small town with big city amenities.

The Florida Keys

Let’s shift from the mountains of the American west to a string of small islands stretching from the tip of Florida into the Caribbean Sea. Key West is the most famous, but Key Largo, Big Pine Key, Marathon, Islamorada, and others all have their charms for seaworthy adventurers. Picture this—deep sea trophy fishing, snorkeling, shipwreck diving, kayaking, parasailing, jet-skiing, and more, all just steps away. Don’t forget to plan a relaxing beach day to recharge your battery. Then sit on the deck at one of the many seaside restaurants, sipping a margarita, chowing down on caught-that-day seafood, and telling outlandish fish tales about the one that got away. The Keys have a casual vibe, so be sure to pack your flip flops.

Boise, Idaho

Boise? Yes, Boise. This is a robust city bracketed by both the high desert and the majestic mountains. A magnificent river, the Boise, flows through the heart of downtown with a welcoming greenbelt that follows it. The Boise River is outstanding for canoeing and kayaking, and if you’re inclined to wet a line, it teems with trout. For the more daring, there are not one but three whitewater rivers a short drive away. If you’re a hiking, running, or mountain biking enthusiast, enjoy the hundreds of miles of trails that weave through the high desert Owyhee Canyonlands. With fine restaurants and bars and a plethora of affordable accommodation choices, Boise may not be the first city that comes to mind as an adventure destination, but perhaps it should be.

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, blessed with perfect weather and 300 days of sunshine each year, is paradise on the Pacific, especially for outdoor lovers. Your biggest problem may be choosing between all the possibilities on both land and sea. On land—hiking, biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, golfing. On sea—surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, whale watching, sailing, deep sea fishing. The beaches are beautiful, and building an extravagant sand castle certainly counts as outdoor fun. Dining in Santa Barbara has something for everyone, and State Street is the place to be for nightlife after yet another spectacular Pacific sunset.

Looking for more adventure? Check out 6 U.S. Cities for Adventure for more suggestions:

If you’re planning the perfect outdoor adventure vacation, learn about why you should use a travel agent to get the most out of the experience.

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