Celebrate Earth Day and 4/20 With These April Travel Ideas

Get weird with Mother Nature.

Steve Boice/Shutterstock
Steve Boice/Shutterstock
Steve Boice/Shutterstock

We have made it to the fourth month of the year, the one we kick off by fooling acquaintances for sport. But you know who would never try to trick us? Mother Nature, whose bounty we especially revere every 4/20 and Earth Day.

Ground into the earth-mind-body connection and cruise into spring with these travel ideas and virtual events: Revel in budding wildflowers, walk amongst ancient dinosaur bones, gaze upwards at a long-awaited meteor shower, and get weird in the desert (always). Get lyrical for National Poetry Month and tune into virtual readings, art exhibits, concerts, and talks with special appearances by Redman, Method Man, a very obsessive birdwatcher, and Korn. All this, plus an expanded scope of vaccination candidates? April is about to be lit.

Lean into wildflower season

Grab your allergy meds and hit the road to see some of the best wildflower blooms in the country, from bluebonnets in Texas to the amazingly-named Elephantella, Sky Pilot, and sneezeweed shooting up in Colorado. Wildflowers are also emerging in Napa Valley, where you can check out Napa’s new, first-ever stand-alone brandy tasting room, California Brandy House.

For cherry blossoms, head to Washington DC for the eruption of millennial pink that happens now through the end of April (be sure to check out these Amtrak deals and the Bikes, Baskets, Blooms & Flights package at DC’s Thompson Hotel). We also found 11 other colourful choices for cherry blossoms around the US, from San Francisco to St. Louis.

Be inspired by artist Yayoi Kusama in New York

Speaking of flowers, beginning April 10th celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama will turn the New York Botanical Garden into a multisensory fantasyland. The 250-acre outdoor space in the Bronx will be transformed with Kusama’s larger-than-life sculptures and immersive installations amongst its own flowers in bloom. Ready your Instagram: She has a brand new mirrored infinity room and her first ever obliteration greenhouse-an interactive piece where you are let loose in a greenhouse with a sheet of flower stickers (just don’t stick any on the plants). Get your tickets, like, yesterday; the exhibition will run through October.

Take a virtual trip to Paris

For more art-this time of the European masterpiece variety-the Louvre in Paris is still closed, but they recently digitized 482,000 pieces of their artwork (over 75 percent of their collection) and made it viewable online for free. So throw some Serge Gainsbourg on the Bluetooth and have a crêpe with the Mona Lisa why dontcha.

Walk amongst dinosaurs in our newest state park

Did you know there’s a Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway cutting through Eastern Utah and Western Colorado? And it’s not just a quirky name: The 512-mile scenic loop takes you past tons of dinosaur-related stuff, from a national monument with fossils and petroglyphs to museums featuring life-sized specimens.

Its newest attraction is the freshly-crowned Utahraptor State Park, named for the abundance of the specific dinosaur fossils found in the area. Like relatives of the velociraptor but with way bigger teeth and claws, Utahraptors were apparently almost called “spielbergi” by the paleontologists to flatter the Jurassic Park director into giving them funding. When you’re done imagining how terrifying it would be to encounter one, take a spin through some of the other beautiful places in Utah.

Explore some cannabis-friendly spots

You know what Arizona has to offer besides the Grand Canyon? A bunch of really far out-looking landscapes, like the swirly, sherbet-hued Vermilion Cliffs and the red rock vortexes of Sedona. And you know what enhances the experience? All that legal weed.

Yes, we’ve arrived at 4/20, definitely Seth Rogan’s favourite holiday. To celebrate this year you can stream Cypress Hill’s “world’s largest smoke session and performance” from the Roxy in Los Angeles (4:20 pm Pacific) and choose sides when Redman and Method Man face off in a special VERZUZ battle. Watch a classic stoner movie, drink one of these Cannadrinks, eat one of these edibles, or hit up the best dispensaries in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Portland. And do pass one around to welcome the newest member to the legalization club, old New York!

Then satisfy your inevitable munchies 

Give in to your cravings while standing in solidarity with the Asian American community, whose businesses have been threatened since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic (thanks, former President who shall not be named). Things have only gotten worse, compounded with a recent string of violence including a horrifying attack in Atlanta. We’ve compiled some ways to show your support in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, and Dallas.  And when your stomach compels you, shop some Asian-owned food brands, sample the best Asian eats in New York’s Chinatown (we spy some delicious-looking crab, Cantonese-style), and slurp on some dumplings and other fare in Los Angeles.

Look up for the Lyrid Meteor Shower

This month, those lucky enough to be under clear skies can catch the magical Lyrid Meteor Shower, coming in hot after a meteor drought earlier this year. Their first recorded sighting was in 687 BC, which makes it one of the oldest meteor showers ever-so if you see it, consider yourself a part of history. Find a dark country sky if you can, and in the few hours before dawn on the morning of April 22, look to the southwest for the constellation Lyra and the star Vega. Then wait for the sparkly trails.

Get weird in Joshua Tree

For an optimal place to stargaze, may we suggest the beautiful, bizarre Joshua Tree National Park, just a couple hours from LA. Springtime is especially gorgeous here in the High Desert, when the flowers, shrubs, cacti, and namesake Dr. Seussian yuccas start to bloom, and the weather is a dream.  There are otherworldly Airbnbs to stay in (including a giant igloo, and one that’s basically a spaceship) and quirky art towns to explore. And when it’s time for grub, everyone’s favourite famous honky tonk is open for outdoor dining.

Say thanks to the Earth

Hot on the heels of 4/20 is Earth Day, and if you haven’t already checked to see what environmental initiatives you can get involved with nearby, that’s a good place to start. If you happen to be in California, San Diego will throw their 19th annual Creek to Bay cleanup, and through their site you can also pledge to pick up litter in your ‘hood. Last year, volunteers self-reported over 15,000 total pounds of litter removed, and this year they’re doubling it to an ambitious 30,000 pounds. Meanwhile in San Luis Obispo County (pending the state of the virus) there’s an Earth Day Fair with music and a trash-turned-into-fashion, or “trashion” show.

Folks nationwide can tune into EarthFest on the 22nd, a slate of free online programming presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Talks include a look at how our astronomical universe impacts our environment, how we can find climate data in corals, and an Earth Day dance party which you should probably wear themed outfit to. Maybe like, a tree.

Tune into a virtual concert

April traditionally kicks off festival season with Coachella, but we’re not quite out of the weeds yet when it comes to live music. For the next best thing, tune into livestream shows like Rufus Wainwright on April 6 and 7, or Carrie Underwood‘s free Easter concert from Nashville’s historic Ryman Theater, with donations benefiting Save the Children. Beam over to the Netherlands for a virtual edition of their heavy music festival Roadburn Redux, streaming April 16 to 18, savour the songwriting of Sharon Van Etten on April 16 and 17, or tune into Weezer as they perform their most recent album OK Human with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles on April 16th. Finally, you can delve into the mind of Korn when they present an immersive concert on April 24th filmed on the set of downtown LA’s Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience. Tickets are on sale now, if you dare.

Check in with the birdwatching community

If you’ve been meaning to learn more about our feathered friends, author (and lead singer of Shearwater) Jonathan Meiburg has a new travelogue about his search for the charismatic caracara, a type of falcon, which takes him to the southern depths of Guyana, among other places. He’s also doing a few virtual events, many free, including one recently with avid birder Margaret Atwood and ornithologist David Sibley, celebrating the re-release of Graeme Gibson’s The Bedside Book of Birds. You can find video of that online. And for more birding events-maybe some near you-check out All About Birds.

And find poetry in everyday things 

April is National Poetry Month, and though we still can’t visit spaces like the Poetry Center of Chicago or Bowery Poetry Club in New York just yet, we can still get inspired with virtual events like Punk Poetry, through the Poetry Society of New York on April 1st, where you’ll learn to write like the irreverent lyricists (leather and safety pins optional, but you should probably take a shower). The Center for Creativity will teach you how to find inspiration in everyday objects and explores the horror genre and poetry from a queer perspective (both workshops are free). And if you happen to be in upstate New York, why not head to the picturesque Poets’ Walk Park, 120 acres in Red Hook where Washington Irving allegedly was inspired to write “Rip Van Winkle” while gazing at the Catskill Mountains; they play a pivotal part in the story. They say the park has been “inspiring poets and non-writers alike since 1850.” Sounds like a challenge to us.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. This past year she’s made many bird friends, but tbh the relationships are pretty one-sided. 


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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