As travelers contemplate last-minute summer trips and Labor Day plans, Audubon invites Americans to exit the highway and discover beautiful nature destinations with its list of seven scenic stops. Spanning cities across the country, the travel ideas feature a lush array of bird, animal and plant life plus a diverse look at some of the nation's natural habitats. The "Exit the Highway" initiative is part of a $20 million TogetherGreen project with Toyota to fund conservation and spur interest in taking care of the environment.
"It's not too late to fit in a summer trip that is scenic and educational at the same time," said Luisa Arnedo, TogetherGreen program manager at Audubon. "We hope our suggestions inspire people to consider nature as a vacation destination. So often, outdoor parks and recreation areas are right around the corner and we forget that they are filled with miles of opportunities to hike, bike, picnic or just relax."
To trade highways and byways for the scenic route, try these road trip ideas:
- Audubon Center at Debs Park – Los Angeles, California – Bring the binoculars to this nature escape, which features more than 140 types of birds nestled in walnut-oak woodland, grasslands and coastal sage scrub. Also, check out Audubon Film Fridays for a free nature-themed movie appropriate for all ages (shown in English and Spanish).
- Bartel Grassland – Matteson, Illinois/Greater Chicago Area – Embark on your own butterfly walk or bird sighting adventure on this 585-acre prairie restoration project. Bring a sketchpad to capture the rich plant life or listen to the sounds of rare birds like Grasshopper Sparrows who return here to nest.
- Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center -- Scarborough, Maine – Located on Maine's largest salt marsh and an important bird area, visitors can rent a canoe, go birding, take a walk on the trails and explore the marsh, either with guide or on their own.
- Pickering Creek Audubon Center – Easton, Maryland – Explore the Chesapeake Bay through educational programs, strolls through the woods and rare wildlife sightings, including the Bald Eagle and the endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel.
- Swindler Cove at Sherman Creek Park – New York, New York – Connect with family and nature at one of the many city parks and gardens that make up Bette Midler's city-wide restoration project. Families can explore an urban forest, one of the only saltwater marshes on Manhattan's shoreline and the magnificent Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse.
- Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm – Dayton, Ohio – Enjoy six miles of trails that wind throughout this 200-acre sanctuary, including a working farm, farm animals, wildlife and engaging educational displays.
- Trinity River Audubon Center – Dallas, Texas – Explore trails through wetland, forest and prairie habitats at this 6,000-acre forest. Scenic overlooks abound making this a fun place to enjoy nature photography and outdoor activities. Outdoor enthusiasts may even want to join their "citizen scientist" program, which has volunteers help scientists track wildlife.
These Audubon sites represent seven of the nearly 100 nature destinations in more than 60 cities featured at ExitTheHighway.com. This summer, Toyota and Audubon are challenging people to take a pledge to spend time in nature at ExitTheHighway.com. For every pledge and every photo shared from nature trips, participants are entered to win a Toyota Prius v, a new evolution in hybrid vehicles with more cargo space and Prius' heritage of environmental performance and fuel economy.
Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at www.audubon.org.
Toyota established operations in the United States in 1957 and currently operates 10 manufacturing plants and has a network of nearly 1,500 dealerships. Toyota directly employs over 30,000 in the U.S. and its investment here is currently valued at more than $18 billion, including sales and manufacturing operations, research and development, financial services and design.
Toyota is committed to being a good corporate citizen in the communities where it does business and believes in supporting programs with long-term sustainable results. Toyota supports numerous organizations across the country, focusing on education, the environment and safety. Since 1991, Toyota has contributed over half-a-billion dollars to philanthropic programs in the U.S.
Audubon and Toyota launched the $20 million TogetherGreen initiative in 2008 to foster diverse environmental leadership and fund innovative conservation ideas. TogetherGreen funding recipients have helped protect 250 species of birds and other wildlife, improved 10,000 acres of habitat, mobilized 220,000 individuals, collected two million pounds of recyclables and captured $5 million worth of volunteer time. For more information, visit www.togethergreen.org.