Spring has sprung! You’ve been anxiously waiting to take that vacation with your family, significant other, or even alone. Looking to relax and commune with nature? A trip to the Grand Canyon may be just what you need. Want to go farther west? Try San Francisco. An island vacation in the Bahamas may be just right for a little fun in the sun. If you really want to do it big, consider going to Africa. And there’s always Atlanta, where something is always happening. Each of these places promises a pleasurable vacation getaway.
The Grand Canyon
Here you can behold one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Located in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon National Park encompasses 277 miles along the Colorado River. You’ll just love the great outdoors, but be careful if you’re afraid of heights. The average canyon elevation point is 7,200 feet and 15 miles at its widest. When planning a vacation here, be sure to make reservations in advance because, with five million people visiting annually, it’s always busy. Contact the visitor’s center for precautions you need to take and other vital information.
The warm season is a good time to go for hiking, backpacking and camping in the Grand Canyon. During the summer, you may want to avoid the inner canyon because it can get really hot in the lower regions. Be sure to catch the magnificent sunrises and sunsets at popular points like the Yaki Point on the South Kaibab Trail and the Hopi Points on Hermit Road. Gazing at the beautiful scenes at various points is the No. 1 activity of the Grand Canyon, and you can do it on a trail ride by horseback or on a river rafting tour. You can also take an exciting scenic tour by plane or helicopter to see the beauty of the various rock formations, trees and river. An ideal place to stay is the Bright Angel Lodge, where you can enjoy Southwestern cuisine at its family style restaurant, the Arizona Room.
With its ethnic restaurants, booming nightclubs and world-famous attractions and historic sites, San Francisco is still one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Start your tour of the city at the Fisherman’s Wharf, the city’s most popular site. Just minutes away from San Francisco’s famous cable car lines, the waterfront location is where you can shop, dine and enjoy different types of entertainment. From the wharf you can take the ferry and get a closer look at the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as a breathtaking view of the East Bay hills and the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to visit Alcatraz Island to tour remnants of the infamous prison. And don’t forget to visit Chinatown, the oldest Chinese community in the country.
For Black heritage sites in San Francisco, be sure to visit the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, the San Francisco African-American Museum, the Willie Mays Statue at Pacific Bell Park, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Fountain and the Historic Filmore District, known for its jazz and rhythm and blues.
The Haight-Ashbury District offers alternative shopping selections, such as high-end vintage clothing at exclusive boutiques, sleek lounges for drinks, and myriad restaurants, with cuisines ranging from Cajun and Russian to Caribbean and Vietnamese. Try Nate’s Barbeque for great barbeque and Raffelaf for delicious Ethiopian food.
For a beach vacation, you can take a trip to the Bahamas and stay at the popular Atlantis on Paradise Island, the largest resort in the Bahamas. Built to resemble the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis, the 2,300–room resort offers more than 8 million gallons of water activities and attractions on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Atlantis is the location of a humongous water park that includes a jungle with five slides, swimming pools, waterfalls, fountains and swimming lagoons, all surrounding a life-size replica of an ancient Mayan temple. It is the perfect playground for kids and adults of all ages. After enjoying the water park, snorkeling, jet skiing, boating, fishing or just sunning on the beach, retreat indoors for more than 100,000 square-feet of entertainment. Restaurants, lounges, bars, nightclubs, boutiques and the largest casino in the Bahamas — all are under one roof. Indeed, you can have an unforgettable vacation in the Bahamas without leaving Atlantis.
African heritage is very much ingrained throughout the islands and cays of the Bahamas. The rich African Diaspora Heritage Trail begins with a visit to the Venue House in Nassau, the original marketplace where captured Africans were sold, along with household goods and other commodities, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nearby is the Pompey Museum, dedicated to the study and interpretation of slavery, named in honor of Pompey, an African slave who led a rebellion in 1830. Nassau’s Black heritage trail also encompasses colonial mansions, Black townships and segregated burial grounds. While in Nassau, visit the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, where you can see artistic work of Bahamian slave descendants. You can learn more about Black Bahamian culture at Nettie’s Different of Nassau, a unique cultural village that recreates the Bahamian way of life. Here you will find artifacts and related items that take you back in time when people enjoyed the simpler things in life.
This spring or summer would be a great time to visit the world-famous Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary in Senegal. Just northeast of the city of St. Louis on the bank or the River Senegal, the bird sanctuary is a World Heritage Site and considered one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world. It covers more than 120 square kilometers and includes part of the river and many lakes, basins and marshes. Nearly 400 species of birds live here, with as many as 10,000 birds of each species migrating in and out of wetland habitats, many from the Sahara. Some of the world’s greatest concentrations of white pelicans and flamingos can be seen here. You don’t have to be a bird enthusiast to be awestruck by hundreds of the beautiful pelicans flying around and perching in the water.
Now is also a great time to go to St. Louis for the eight-day St. Louis International Jazz Festival, which begins on May 30. You can experience some of the world’s best jazz, exotic food, all kinds of art and crafts, as well as drumbeat dancing. This year’s jazz festival takes place during the commemoration of 350 years of the festivities in St. Louis. While in St. Louis, an excellent place to stay is the Hotel de la Residence, in the heart of the city and downtown district. With the colonial charm of the 1950s, its 32 rooms are arranged around a restaurant and a patio with palm trees that is complete with a bar and panoramic view of the city from the terrace. Be sure to tour the whole city of St. Louis, the oldest French town in Africa and a mecca for Senegalese arts and culture. One of St. Louis’s most famous tourist attractions is the Faidherbe Bridge, symbol of the city. Sometimes called the Bridge of St. Louis, this metallic cast iron structure is more than 100 years old. One of the most characteristically French colonial destinations in West Africa, the city of St. Louis is a World Heritage Site due in part to its colonial architecture.
If you like jazz and art festivals and can’t quite make it to Africa, you can always take a trip down South to Atlanta, or “Hotlanta,” for some of the best jazz. The Atlanta Jazz Festival is in May and the National Black Arts Festival is in July. The 2010 Atlanta Jazz Festival takes place in the beautiful meadows of historic Piedmont Park on May 29 and 30, and it is free to the public. Aside from many show-stopping performances, lots of vendors sell cultural items and good eats. During the National Black Arts Festival, July 14 – 18, people from around the country celebrate the art, music and culture of people of the African Diaspora. The NBAF is one of the premiere national and international celebrations of music, dance, theater, film, literary arts, as well as visual art.
While in Atlanta, be sure to visit some of the city’s many tourist sites, such as the World of Coca Cola, the High Museum of Art, the CNN Center and the Georgia Aquarium. If you can, go out to Stone Mountain Park for a superb laser show and fireworks in the summer. The Black Heritage Trail in Atlanta is a must-do also. The most recognized and frequented of any site in Atlanta is the King Center, which draws more than 650,000 people from around the world each year. Visit Atlanta’s Apex Museum and the Auburn Avenue Research Library to learn more about Black culture and heritage. A popular tourist place for dining is the Sun Dial, a revolving restaurant at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. The newly reopened restaurant Rare offers dishes of the African Diaspora, with daybeds to relax on while you enjoy your meal. Don’t forget to stop at Underground Atlanta for unique shopping, dining and nightlife entertainment under one roof.