sedona arizona

The sun shines bright in Sedona, Arizona. (Photo: Getty Images)


Beach, Mountains or Forest: Where Will Your Soul Find Solace in the U.S.?

It can be challenging to stay healthy — mentally and physically — during stressful times. Research suggests that spending time amid nature can invigorate our mood and help us breathe a little easier.

Whether the cause turns out to be the negative ions in the air or simply the temporary change of scenery, a deep breath of salty sea air or a cool mountain breeze on your face might do wonders for your spirit.

But which suits your needs and your mood — beach or mountains? Read on to decide.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Carolina Beach, North Carolina

“Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.” Carolina Beach beckons the young and the young at heart to live the lyrics of this iconic song sung by Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Judy Garland, among others..

Start your day with a Rise and Shine beach yoga class at Salty Dog Yoga & Surf. Soak in the sun as you boat, kayak, fish or kick up your heels in beachfront swings.

Want some culture? Rent a bike for a self-guided tour of historical sites, beginning at the north end of the boardwalk.

If all that biking and sightseeing makes you hungry, choose from an eclectic mix of local eateries, including the Carolina Smokehouse and the Shuckin’ Shack.

San Diego, California


The West Coast offers legendary sunsets, and the San Diego area can deliver a variety of beach experiences: Coronado, La Jolla, Mission Bay and the secluded Solana Beach to name a few.

Joggers, bikers and walkers might enjoy the Strand — eight miles of land along the Scenic State Highway SR 75 that links Coronado and Imperial Beach. Also called Nature’s Bridge to Discovery, the trail is located just southwest of downtown San Diego. Take a stroll and you’ll find curated discovery points and a circle of benches that form a solstice clock.

The family will probably enjoy the renowned San Diego Zoo, but also consider doing some whale watching with experts from the San Diego Natural History Museum. For a quieter, more serene afternoon, pay a visit to the Japanese Friendship Garden.

South Padre Island, Texas

At the southernmost tip of the state more famous for deserts and cattle ranches await sandy white beaches and diverse wildlife. Spring breakers have known about South Padre Island for a while, so it can get busy.

Don’t worry: Even if you like a quieter vacation, you have an annual 300 days of sunshine to plan a unique getaway. Level up your sandcastle game with lessons in the art form.

Look for coastal and migratory birds along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a 1,500-foot boardwalk that crosses over four acres of marshland. The whole family can learn about the creatures native to the area at Sea Life Marine Center.

Local cafés and restaurants will keep your tummy full with a delectable assortment of foodie-pleasing choices, from burgers to shrimp tacos — or at Ceviche Ceviche, mahi-mahi with fresh mango.

Aspen, Colorado


World-famous to skiers for its powdery slopes and spectacular après-ski lifestyle, Aspen can also be the place to go year-round for a respite at the base of one of the nation’s most fabled mountains: Aspen (aka “Ajax” to the locals), Buttermilk, Snowmass or Highland.

Mid-to-late spring temperatures melt the snow, creating excellent conditions for whitewater rafting. Rock climb, bike or hike — or collect eggs or take a hayride at a local ranch. Or in the fall, grab your binoculars to watch bird migrations in a group guided by a local environmental scientist.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona, and its incredible Coconino National Forest offer a bit of almost everything for nature lovers: majestic red mountain ranges, ponderosa pine forests, alpine tundra and even a southwestern desert. Once upon a time, thousands of Sinagua made the gorgeous Verde Valley and canyons their home.

Today you can see where this ancient civilization was based. After a few days of hiking and exploring, your tired muscles may need a day at a local spa. And if you like wine, don’t forget to taste some of the local vintages.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

The natural beauty of Geneva Lake — just a 90-minute drive from Chicago — offers one of the most rejuvenating outdoor experiences in the Midwest. Walk the entire length of the shore via Lake Shore Path.

Stay active but relaxed on your vacation with paddleboarding, horseback riding, hiking, biking, camping and much more. The entire family might enjoy the petting zoo, local orchards and water park.