10 Relaxing Vacations in the U.S. to Help You De-Stress
Not to dwell on the past, but it’s been a pretty rough 15 months for most folks. And we’d like to put that chapter behind us. Now that restrictions are lifting and travel is opening up, it’s the perfect time to get away. These days, lots of stuff comes with a degree of anxiety or worry, however, there’s absolutely no reason that a vacation should cause any stress. In fact, we’re of the mindset that the exact opposite is true.
Interested in some domestic travel ideas guaranteed to have you feeling peaceful, joyful and totally relaxed? Scroll on for 10 relaxing vacations in the U.S. we all definitely deserve right about now.
1. SEE THE GRAND CANYON (ARIZONA)
Our problems often seem big until we’re standing in front of something as massive and majestic as the Grand Canyon with its striated red rocks that seem to go on forever. All of the sudden those trivial little things that took up so much attention only moments before no longer matter. This immense, pilgrimage-worthy destination just seems to have that effect on people. That tiff with your sister or roommate? Just a blip on the radar in the scheme of things--especially when you consider the Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years.
2. CONQUER PIKES PEAK (COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO)
Sometimes things happen in life that make us forget our strength and potential. The antidote to that feeling of powerlessness? Conquering a new challenge, like perhaps one of the Centennial State’s fourteeners (mountains taller than 14,000 feet above sea level). It’s no secret that Colorado brims with beautiful places. But Pikes Peak—the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rockies—isn’t just pretty, it’s a quad-torching, endurance-testing, boundary-pushing adventure that will reveal levels of fortitude and resilience you never even knew existed. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel at the top is truly unparalleled.
3. DRIVE THE HANA HIGHWAY (MAUI, HAWAII)
There’s something so uplifting about rolling down the windows (even better if you rent a convertible), cranking up the tunes and just hitting the open road. Maui’s Hana Highway is not only one of the 25 things you must do when in Hawaii, it’s also the most therapeutic, at least by our estimation. The gushing waterfalls, tropical flora and scenic turnouts are a poignant and picturesque reminder to stop and soak it all in. Pro tip: set aside at least two hours to complete the 52-mile-long journey, as it can be slow going with the blind turns and one-way bridges.
4. GLIMPSE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Of all the incredible, indescribable, life-changing natural phenomena in the world, the Northern Lights might just be the most eye-popping, jaw-dropping and soul-satisfying on the planet. The way the colorful streams of light illuminate the sky is truly indescribable (you just need to see it IRL). Those who have gazed up at the Northern Lights remark on the shift in perspective that such a unique and unforgettable experience provided. There are actually quite a few places to peep the aurora borealis around the globe. In the United States, Fairbanks, Alaska reigns supreme.
5. HIKE THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL
Need a mood boost? To quote Elle Woods, “endorphins make people happy.” We’re not just advocating for any old form of exercise (though physical activity in general has a slew of obvious benefits), but rather movement in a magical setting. Hiking the iconic Appalachian Trail pairs quad-torching trekking with fresh, alpine air and scenery so splendid it all but promises a spiritual awakening. Now that’s a win for your mind, body and soul. Guess the only thing left to do is decide where to start your expedition. Might we suggest the northernmost jumping-off point, Mount Katahdin in Maine?
6. VISIT AN ACTIVE VOLCANO (BIG ISLAND, HAWAII)
Will exploring an active volcano such as Kīlauea on the Big Island, which most recently erupted back in 2018, calm your nerves like an aromatherapy spa treatment or a yoga class might? Probably not. Though, that doesn’t mean the exhilarating experience won’t leave you feeling rejuvenated and uplifted in a way that’s equally significant. After all, doing something thrilling can have a profoundly positive emotional and physical impact on a person. Also, just to assuage any concerns, it’s actually completely safe if you book an organized tour and go with a trained guide.
7. STAND AMONGST REDWOODS (CALIFORNIA)
They say hugging trees is a form of therapy. Why not? We’ve heard of stranger stuff. And, hey, whatever works, right? Jokes aside, just being in the presence of towering, hundred-year-old redwood trees has a wonderfully calming energy that’s hard to put into words, but easy to feel in your soul. Take a deep breath, inhale the earthy aroma and exhale the bullsh*t. We swear you’ll feel better in minutes. Leaving you ample time to actually enjoy the trails and picnic areas in one of California’s best national parks.
8. SEEK OUT ENERGY VORTEXES IN SEDONA (ARIZONA)
Sedona is a deeply spiritual destination known for its spectacular red-rock formations, epic hiking and energy vortexes. If you’re not familiar with the latter, they’re often described as “swirling centers of energy” that radiate from the earth. The most powerful vortexes (Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon) are great spots to meditate, sit alone with your thoughts or connect to Mother Earth. After recharging out in nature, head into town to pick up some healing crystal at one of the New Age shops or hit up a ritzy spa resort for a stress-melting massage.
9. TAKE A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER SANTE FE
It may sound sort of counterintuitive, but we guarantee standing in the basket of a hot-air balloon, looking down at the expansive Rio Grande Gorge, perhaps even spotting eagles, deer and bighorn sheep, will help you forget about, well, basically anything else that might have been a bother earlier. Ultimately, it’s all about changing your perspective, saying “yes” to new experiences and embracing adventure. And, yes, for some people (thrillseekers and those who thrive at high altitudes, we’re looking at you) that’s totally zenifying—or, at the very least, let’s call it transformative.
10. SLEEP UNDER THE STARS IN DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK (CALIFORNIA)
We all need to unplug every now and again. What better way to disconnect from the pressures of daily life than by snoozing somewhere without access to a smartphone charger and cell reception? Death Valley National Park may be one of the hottest, driest places on the planet but at night is a celestial paradise that’s miles away from light pollution. Instead of counting sheep, lull yourself to sleep by watching heavenly bodies dance through the night sky. Dozing off under the stars assures some restful and rejuvenating winks.