May 21

Creative Discovery Museum: Child’s Play in Chattanooga

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Traveling through Chattanooga, Tennessee with little ones in tow is a little easier after a visit to the Creative Discovery Museum.  No worries about getting a good night’s sleep.  This hands-on children’s museum will tucker not only them out but you as well.  The Creative Discovery Museum had a wide variety of fun, interactive exhibits.  Our M and M’s (3 and 1 years old girls) had a blast.  We did as well. The Creative Discovery Museum is one of the best children’s museums we have ever been to. 
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The Creative Discovery Museum has over a dozen permanent interactive exhibits.  Mostly dealing with STEM topics, but they also have areas for art, music, nature, and medicine.  They have it all.  Ingenious in the design they even have a quiet place “library” for kids and families to go to unwind.  Great idea especially for little kids.  Give them an area to recharge before going back for out for more is such a blessing for parents.  They also have temporary exhibits so check their website to see what they currently have on display. 
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We enjoyed our visit completely.  One of the many places we have seen on our journeys that we wished was in our hometown.  Top to bottom we had a blast, but there were a few areas that our girls kept going back to.  Their gigantic Riverplay area was huge hit.  They loved playing in the water and our oldest like sending the boats down through the different chambers.  Our oldest also enjoyed playing in the jungle gym area.  As a bonus for me as she asked me to follow her through all the twists, nooks, and crannies.  Personally I enjoyed their Rooftop Fun Factory playing with the different simple machines.  The rooftop also provides nice views of the city. 
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Ideally located in Chatanooga’s downtown area.  The Creative Discovery Museum is within walking distance to many different restaurants, their Riverwalk area, and their incredible aquarium.  If you do visit the aquarium keep your ticket because you can get an admissions discount to the children’s museum.  The hard part for us was figuring out the best way to spend our time. 
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To see our reviews of other Children’s Museums, click here

Creative Discovery Museum
Located at 321 Chestnut St, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Hours of Operation 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day of the week with extended hours during the summer months.
Cost as of this Posting: Children and Adults 2 and up $13.95
For more information visit their website at
http://www.cdmfun.org/

May 19

Fall Creek Falls: Tennessee Waterfall

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Fall Creek Falls is Tennessee’s largest waterfall.  Located in Fall Creek Falls State Park.  One of the best state parks that I have ever visited.  My trip there was a basically a drive by but still got to see some stunning scenery.  Also realized that a drive by is not going to cut it next time I visit that part of the state. 
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At 256 feet it is the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River.  At least that is what they claim.  Other states claim that due to the Fall Creek Falls nature the top part as you can see in the photographs makes Fall Creek Falls first dozen or so feet count.  I am not one for semantics.  I just know that it is beautiful and worth a visit.  I highly recommend going in the spring because Falls Creek Falls has a sister waterfall Coon Creek Falls that flows right next to it.  It is seasonal but it does make for a more impactful viewing. 
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A person can view Fall Creek Falls from the parking lot.  Wonderful views there.  However, if physically inclined to do it.  There is a short but very steep trail down to the base of Fall Creek Falls.  I took the hike down and while it was easy going down but a bit of a dyspneic (my word of the day I might as well use it) causing journey on the way out.  It was well worth it.  

To see our reviews of other waterfalls, click here

Fall Creek Falls
Located at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Spencer Tennessee
Roadside Waterfall
For more information about the state park visit their website at
http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/fall-creek-falls

May 17

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

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The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is one of the best museums of its kind around.  Our family enjoyed our visit.  Unlike most natural science museums the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science seems to have as many living animals as dead ones. Other ones that we have visited are just filled with static displays.  Not bad but now that we have seen this our perspective has changed.  While our daughter likes looking at fossils and stuffed animals seeing some of them move brings on a whole new more fulfilling experience. 
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The largest museum in the state.  The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is gigantic.  Here is just some of its stats: 73,000 square feet of exhibits, 2.5 miles of nature trails, 300 acres of natural landscape, a 100,000-gallon aquarium, and a 1,500 square foot greenhouse.  There is a lot to see and do there.  They also have temporary traveling exhibits.  On our particular visit we got to see “Tiny Titans” an exhibit on dinosaur eggs and babies.  It was really well done and my three-year-old daughter and our resident dinosaur expert loved it. 
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My wife and I really enjoyed how the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science caters to kids.  From their choice of temporary exhibits to the hands on areas they had.  At some natural science museums kiddos can get a little bored just looking at fossils all the time.  Here, however there seemed to be unlimited options on keeping them entertained.  The aquarium, the swamp area with reptiles and amphibians, the number of prehistoric fossils to look at, and last but not least the nature trails. There was so much to do there. We found the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science to be a great family friendly education place to visit. 
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The only thing that could have made it a better visit for us was the weather.  It started to rain just as we were pulling up to the museum.  From what we saw from the windows the outside nature area looked lush and a fun place to take a stroll.  We did enjoy sitting inside and watching the birds come to the many feeders they had up.  But our first and only visit, so far, was a strictly indoor trip.   My family still had a blast.  My favorite part was their “Swamp” an indoor greenhouse filled with amphibians and reptiles in a recreated swamp.  My youngest daughter enjoyed the aquarium.  Watching her fingers and eyes follow the fish, turtles, and frogs dart about was a lot fun.  My wife enjoyed the static displays and the variety they had.  She also enjoyed the short informational signs about the exhibits.  Our oldest wants to know what everything says so sometimes the shorter the better. 
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Overall, I was really impressed with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.  The admission price was cheap which is great for our growing family.  The exhibits were topnotch.  We enjoyed the great variety and types of exhibits that they had on display.  Definitely a place we would stop again the next time we have to make the drive through Jackson, Mississippi.   

To see our reviews of other Mississippi attractions, click here

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Located at 2148 Riverside Dr. Jackson MS
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 8 to 5 Saturday 9 to 5 and Sunday 1 to 5 closed all major holidays
Cost as of this Posting: Adults $6 Seniors 60 and over $5 Children 3 to 18 $4
For more information visit their website at
http://www.mdwfp.com/museum.aspx

May 14

Chattanooga Zoo

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Woo Woo! The little Chattanooga Zoo Zoo.  Oh wait… I think that was so supposed to be Choo Choo.  Either way for a family with two little ones the Chattanooga Zoo was a fun family outing.  At just over a dozen acres this is probably the smallest zoo we have ever reviewed.  I will say to their credit it did not feel that small going through.  The exhibits were well designed.  Grounds were clean and the animals seemed happy.  All three things that make for a good zoo visit in our book.
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No lions, tigers, elephants, or bears to say oh my.  Actually glad about that.  Not enough room for them so unlike some zoos the Chattanooga Zoo made, in our opinion, better choices.  They have a nice collection of smaller animals.  Lots of monkeys, a very nice red panda exhibit, reptiles, and birds make up most of their collection.  Our children are young enough that seeing any animal that is different from the ones they see around the neighborhood fillls them with excitement.
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The Chattanooga Zoo is divided up into 5 themed zones.  The Gombe Forest is their marquee exhibit.  Two waterfalls, a troop of chimpanzees, some reptiles and other animals make this one of the better stops at the zoo.  Not to say the others were bad.  In fact, every themed area in the zoo was of similar quality. Corcovado Jungle with its nice jaguar exhibit area.  Along with the Himalayan Passage with its Snow Leopards and Red Panda are worth seeing.  My two girls liked the Warner Park Ranch a farm petting zoo area.  Chattanooga Zoo also has a nice large mountain lion exhibit in their Walkin’ the Tracks section. Like I mentioned before they have no large animals on display, but what they do have is a nice variety that is fun to see.
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I was really impressed with their cat exhibits.  The mountain lion has a viewing platform that is inside a train car.  The jaguar exhibit in their Corcovado Jungle area had multiple views for the majestic cats.  However, my favorite is their snow leopard area.  Our home town zoo has snow leopards but their exhibit is so crowded with plants and sits on a hill that it is hard to get a nice view of the animal, one of my favorites.  Here they had nice size yard with a large rock cropping complete with waterfall.  My wife’s favorite was their red panda facility.  It is the largest indoor red panda exhibit in the country.
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We have now traveled through the Chattanooga area twice in the last 4 years.  Each time we walk away with a greater appreciation for the area.  Chattanooga has turned into quite a fun little trip. The wonderful state parks within a few hours’ drive, a world class aquarium, history, and this fun family friendly zoo.

To see our reviews of other Tennessee attractions, click here

Chattanooga Zoo
Located at 301 North Holtzclaw Avenue, Chattanooga
Hours of Operation: Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
Cost as of this Posting Adults 13 to 65 $8.95, Seniors 65 and over $6.95 and Kids 3 to 12 $5.95
For more information visit their website at http://www.chattzoo.org/

May 12

Oklahoma Land Run Monument: OKC

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The Oklahoma Land Run Monument is made up of 45 larger-than-life bronze statues idealizing the 1889 event.  Started in 2003 and completed in 2015.  The Oklahoma Land Run Monument is one of the largest freestanding bronze sculptures in the world.  It spans a whopping 365 feet in length.   Ideally located in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown area. The commercial and entertainment district in the city’s downtown. 
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The bronze sculptures of the Oklahoma Land Run Monument are literally frozen in motion as they race to secure their new homesteads.  The romanticized scene of the Land Run is on full display.  Starting with a cannon being fired and ending with horses, riders, wagons even a rabbit taking part in the act that singled the end of the frontier and Indian Territory.  Situated along the Bricktown Canal.  The Oklahoma Land Run Monument can be viewed along the walking path or from the water taxi.  Both are wonderful options.   
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The Oklahoma Land Run Monument is a powerful monument for several reasons.  The size and detail of the sculptures shows off the artist’s amazing ability.  The setting is well done.  Having them stopped in time as they are moving forward fording the stream is how many people see the historical event.  The moving forward from one age to another.  The ending of the West and the start of the industrial age.  For Oklahomans it means a little bit more.  It symbolizes their becoming a state.  It will also be viewed by some people as a catastrophe.  The breaking of United States treaties with Native Americans.  One of the oldest history narratives around is of one group taking land from another and it is captured in bronze. 
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Making people feel different things is what makes this monument so powerful.  Unlike many institutes and places in this day in age, Oklahoma choose not to cover up its history by removing it, changing names, or covering it up.  It allows people to look at it and determine for themselves how they see it.  Was the Land Run a historic right, wrong, or something in between? It is the freedom of the United States that allows us to personally decide.          

To see our reviews of other Oklahoma attractions, click here    

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Oklahoma Land Run Monument
Located on the South End of the Bricktown Canal just passed the Bass Pro Shop, Oklahoma City
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information about the Oklahoma Land run Monument visit
www.okc.gov/landrun/

May 09

BASE OF FALL CREEK FALLS TRAIL: Tennessee

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Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail was the only trail that we had time for in our drive to Chattanooga.  Obviously not enough time for this marvelous state park.  Filled with waterfalls, hiking trails, and various other activities.  Fall Creek Falls State Park is the gem of the Tennessee State Park System.  Home to the Fall Creek the tallest single plunge waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.  Seeing this tall 256-foot waterfall from its base was a real treat. 
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To see Fall Creek Falls from its base there are two relatively short trails.  The first and easiest is from the Fall Creek Falls parking lot.  From there it is a .4-mile steep trail down to the base.  Then it feels like a steeper trail back up to the parking lot.  Like all hikes just take your time, bring plenty of water, as much rest as your body needs, and remember it is not a race. 
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Now if you have the time I recommend a different route.  A slightly longer one.  Start off at the Betty Dunn Nature Center and cross the swinging suspension bridge.  An adventure in itself.  Thank you to the group who braved the bridge with me.  It was fun trying to balance my step with yours as we met in the middle.  From the bridge I had a choice to take the Woodland Trail or the Gorge Trail.  Both are relatively flat.  I took the Gorge trail on the way to Fall Creek Falls and the Woodland Trail which is shorter on the way back to the nature center. 
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The Gorge Trail is a wooded trail that skirts the scenic gorge.  This is a must see short trail that has an outstanding scenic view at the Crane Creek Gorge Overlook.  There is also the Rocky Point Overlook with views of the rocky mountainside.  This part the of the trail is well shaded and flat. 
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The Gorge Trail will connect back with the Woodland Trail which will then leads to the Coon Creek Falls and Fall Creek Falls overlook.  Once again spectacular views of running water.  Fall Creek Falls is fed and controlled by a dam so it pretty much runs year round.  Coon Creek Falls is a seasonal waterfall that flows in spring and after a good rain.  Like most waterfalls the later in the year it is viewed the less spectacular it will be. 
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Near the parking lot there is a trail that will lead to the base of Fall Creek Falls.  This is a short but very steep trail.  Losing roughly 300 feet in elevation in less than a half a mile.  Lots of switchbacks some steps here and there.  Towards the end of the Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail is some large boulders I had to work my way around.  However most of the trail is well taken care of and mostly people friendly.  Just steep.  Main thing is just make sure your body is healthy enough to make the trek down so you can make the strenuous climb up.  After checking out the falls I retraced my steps back to where the Woodland Trail and the Gorge Trail meet.  The Woodland Trail was much shorter so I hopped on that one back to my awaiting family.  The Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail is a must do in this wonderful state park.    

To see our reviews of other hiking trails we have done, click here

Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail
Distance .8 miles RT from the Falls Parking Lot
Time about 45 mins
Trail Difficulty Moderate

May 05

Fort Negley: Bastion of Nashville

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Fort Negley is a nice stop to escape the car.  Free, nice path to stretch the legs on, a little Civil War history, and an informative visitor center.  Not the greatest attraction in Nashville. However, if you are in a pinch to get the kids out and about Fort Negley will get the job done.
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There is not a whole lot left of Fort Negley.  When it was first developed by Union forces to protect the transportation hub that was Nashville.  Fort Negley was the largest inland stone fortification built during the Civil War.  The fort’s size and guns discouraged the South from attacks throughout the Civil War.  The fort was then reconstructed during the Great Depression by the WPA, but once again deteriorated over time as officially closed to the public in the 60s.  Only to be brought back to life in 2002 by the city of Nashville.
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Now what remains of Fort Negley is only a few partial walls.  Though if you like history especially Civil war history you will enjoy a visit here.  There is plenty of information around the fort about the place.  The visitor center has a short video explaining the cause and creation of the fort.  There is also a nice view of Nashville from the top of the fort remains.

To see other Tennessee attractions, click here

Fort Negley
Located at 1100 Fort Negley Blvd., Nashville, TN
Hours of Operation Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Friday 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday 9:00 am. To 4:00 p.m.  The fort itself is opened from dawn to dusk daily.
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at http://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Historic-Sites/Fort-Negley/History.aspx

May 02

Twin Falls: Rock Island State Park

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Twin Falls was the reason we hit Rock Island State Park as we driving from Cookeville Tennessee to Chattanooga.  The state park has plenty offer.  But if you are like us and don’t have enough time, Rock Island State Park is still a good visit.  Most things are right off the park road.  Also the majority of the parks hikes are on the shorter side.  Just make sure you visit Twin Falls.

The main attraction at the state park is Twin Falls.  A spectacular waterfall that appears out of a lime stone cliff.  It is a wide waterfall with a height of 80 feet.  Now for the waterfall purist out there this is not a natural waterfall.  A lot of people would quickly dismiss it but don’t.  This “man-made” waterfall was by product of a dam that was built in 1925.  The pressure of the water built up and worked its way through the limestone.  The interesting thing about Twin Falls is the water emerges in the middle of the cliff instead of over the top.  

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Twin Falls flows year-round so a great fall foliage picture can be had here when the leaves change colors.  But really any time of year could afford nice framing for a picture.  Like photographing any waterfall, the ideal time is early morning, late afternoon, and overcast days. 

To see our reviews of other waterfalls, click here  

Twin Falls
Located off of Powerhouse Road on the North side of Rock Island State Park
Feet from the parking lot
Cost as of this Posting Free

Apr 28

Rock Island State Park

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Rugged beauty, historic buildings, epic waterfalls, and hiking is what Rock Island State Park has to offer.  Unfortunately, our day trip through the area did not afford the time to do all that.  In fact, I would not even call it a day trip.  More of a vacation survey. What we found out was we want to go back. The whole Tennessee Eastern Highland Rim was gorgeous with one state park after another worth seeing. Poor planning on my part and the need to get back for work only left us one day in the area.  Definitely not enough time. 
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We spent our time taking in the two main waterfalls, letting our girls burn off some energy on a playground, and going for a short family stroll near Twin Falls.  We tried to see as much as we could in our visit.  The nice thing is the waterfalls were literally steps from where we parked.  Great for our little ones to see.  We stopped off at the visitor center and the rangers were really helpful.  Lots of friendly advice.  Hopefully we will get to use it in the future to make full use of the 870 acres of Rock Island State Park.  The multiple waterfalls that are there.  Plus, get to hike some of their rugged trails. 
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I think a Rock Island State Park visit will be in our future.  Hopefully, next time we will pack our tent and spend a little bit more time there. Even if we couldn’t we would still enjoy a quick drive by the park.  The gorge is gorgeous.  Great Falls has its own masculine beauty.  However, Twin Falls tops it all.  Seeing this accidently made waterfall seeping magically out of the cliff side is inspiring.  Good thing they built that dam in 1925 which diverted the water.  The water then found its way through the limestone creating the spectacular Twin Falls. 
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Rock Island State Park was a lot of fun for us.  Short and oh so sweet.  Just wish there would have been a little bit more time there, but it did whet our appetite for another visit.  I will say the people that live along US 70S Highway sure have a pretty bit of country to explore. 

To see our reviews of other State Parks, click here

Rock Island State Park
Located at 82 Beach Rd, Rock Island TN
Cost as of this Posting Free
For more information visit their website at
http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/rock-island

Apr 26

Top 10 Things to see or Do in Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is known for its rugged spectacular views and intense blue color of its famous lake.  A trip here takes real dedication.  It is kind of far from anywhere, which adds to its appeal.  Located in the south central part of Oregon.  It is the states only National Park and it is a good one.  A single attraction that has created an amazing destination of scenic wonderment.  Below is our list of the Top 10 Things to see or do in Crater Lake National Park.  Like all such lists it is formed based on our opinions and is meant to inspire.  After seeing our list, we hope it will motivate you to seek beauty in our natural world.  Happy Travels!  

Top 10 Things to see or do in Crater Lake National Park

10. See the Waterfalls

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Vidae and Plaikni Falls are nice waterfalls located in Crater Lake National Park.  If you are from the Plains like we are then these seasonal waterfalls, if flowing, will be a real treat.  If you are from the Pacific NW then enjoy your typical run-of the-mill waterfalls. I hope you enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.

9. Boat Tour

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Most visitors see the Crater Lake from the top down.  Make sure you get to see what the view is from the lake up.  If you take the Wizard Island Boat Tour you can hike to the summit of the volcanic cinder cone right in the middle of Crater Lake. To get to the boat you will have to take number 7 on our list Cleetwood Cove Trail.   

8. Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site

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Technically outside Crater Lake National Park boundaries.  The Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site is a great stop coming from or going to Crater Lake National Park.  A beautiful turquoise water at the start of the wood river is a sight to see. 

7. Cleetwood Cove Trail for a Cold Dip

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Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only trail that leads to the shoreline. A steep 2.2-mile roundtrip hike with 700-foot of elevation loss.  The water is freezing cold so caution is a word to the wise.  However, if you are truly brave enough or crazy enough, a splash in the deep blue water will be like nothing you have ever been in before. 

6. Visit the Visitor Centers

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Scenic views check, waterfall viewing check, enjoying a lovely hike check, but the backstory of the park not checked.   Come on now!?!?  A little history of the place never hurt anybody so bone up on some knowledge about the grand scenery your checking out, talk to a park ranger, sign up for a tour at the two visitor centers in Crater Lake National Park.   

5. Garfield Peak

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One of the more popular hikes in the park and for good reason.  Conveniently located to the Rim Village.  Offers panoramic views of the area including some of the best views of Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship. 

4. Highway of Waterfalls

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Nearly two dozen waterfalls can be found on Highway 138 to Crater Lake National Park.  Toketee, Fall Creek, Clearwater, Watson, Wolf Creek waterfalls to name a few. There are some beautiful waterfalls in this area.  Highway 138 is a great way to spend some time coming to or going from Crater Lake National Park. 

3. Stay at Crater Lake Lodge

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Historic building with built in character.  Crater Lake Lodge just turned 100 years old and it is one of the architectural icons in the National Park system.  Nestled along the rim and surrounded by the peaks of the Southern Oregon Cascades.  Staying in one of America’s national parks does not get much better than this.   

2. Rim Drive

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Of course the main star of Crater Lake National Park is Crater Lake.  Nothing short of plane trip will give you a better all-around view of the lake than the Rim Drive.  Lots of pullouts scenic views everywhere this is how most visitors will see the park and you should to. 

1. Mount Scott Trail for Sunrise or Sunset

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The Mount Scott Trail is arguably the best hike in the park. It climbs 2.5 miles to the park’s highest point and offers sweeping views of the lake and wilderness below.  An added bonus is doing the hike during sunrise or sunset for the feeling of seeing the day end or begin from the top of the world 

 To see our top 10 lists of America’s National Parks, click here

We hope you enjoyed our list of the top 10 things to see or do in Crater Lake National Park.  Let us know what you think of our list, is there anything that you can think we left off.  Please sound off.   Let us know if you like the list or disagree with our top 10.  Looking for other vacation ideas check our other top 10 lists.  As always we wish you happy travels!

For more information about Crater Lake National Park visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm

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