With the dog days of summer here and travel back in full swing, a road trip may be the best option for those looking to lock in a getaway.
Here are three options to consider: Chattanooga, Tenn., Congaree National Park in South Carolina and New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia.
Chattanooga: As of late June, there were not any COVID-19 travel restrictions in Tennessee. But it’s a good idea to check state government websites for COVID-19 updates before you leave.
Many of Chattanooga’s best activities revolve around water. A good place to start is the 16.1-mile paved Riverwalk on the southern banks of the Tennessee River. There are lots of restaurants and activities along the way. On the Riverwalk is the Tennessee Aquarium, one of the top 10 aquariums in the United States as ranked by USA Today.
Ruby Falls, deep inside historic Lookout Mountain, is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the U.S. A glass elevator takes you down 260 feet to explore the formations and see the thundering falls.
The Chattanooga Market, one of the top markets in the U.S. according to Frommers, has more than 50 farm booths, offering produce, cheese and meat, and 130 local artisans. It’s open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Chattanooga has a variety of public art: sculptures, decorated alleys and murals. One of the most striking pieces is the 40,000-square-foot mural in the M.L King District.
Congaree National Park: Located in Hopkins, S.C., Congaree National Park is 18 miles south of Columbia. It is part of the Congaree Biosphere Region. The park, which is free, is the largest intact area of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States.
The most popular activities at the 27,000-acre park are boating, fishing and hiking. Congaree has 2.4 miles of boardwalks through the swamps and 25 miles of hiking trails, according to the National Park Service. Because a majority of the park is located in a floodplain, the trails are mostly flat and there is little change in elevation.
Throughout the park you’ll see otters, wading birds, loblolly pines, oaks, maples, bald cypress, tupelo and holly trees. Fishing is allowed throughout the park with a valid South Carolina fishing license. But only recreational fishing is permitted. Catch and release sportsmanship is encouraged. Kayaks and canoes are the only boats permitted in the park.
Rangers lead paddle tours and walks throughout the park, telling visitors about the natural and cultural history.
The only accommodations within the park are two campgrounds, which require reservations. And within the park there are not any food services, though there are limited options in Gadsden, about 10 minutes from the park.
Following CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated visitors to South Carolina do not need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve: On Dec. 20, 2020, the New River Gorge became the 63rd national park in the U.S. system.
The park consists of the 53 miles of the New River and the 70,000 acres of the gorge that were created by the river – and there is no fee to enter the park.
There are an abundance of a activities: primitive camping throughout the park, an 83-mile scenic drive, guided activities throughout the year, 1,400 established rock climbs ranging from 30 to 120 feet in height, whitewater rafting, hiking trails ranging from ¼ mile to 7 miles in length, a range of easy and intermediate biking trails, fishing and hunting.
Currently, there are not any travel COVID travel restrictions in West Virginia.
COVID-19: If you and your family are planning to travel this summer, the safest strategy is to make sure that everyone 12 and older is fully vaccinated. Vaccines are free and are easily obtained. But some locations may still require masks and social distancing, so it’s a good idea to pack your masks and check the latest guidance from the CDC online