Crisp air, crunching leaves. Autumn is finally here, and she’s calling us all outside to play. Why should we listen? Nature isn’t just a pretty face – she does a body good. From vitamin D to serotonin to other scientific words we can barely spell, the great outdoors are essential to good health. So lace up your boots, grab your pumpkin spice whatever and check out our picks for the best nature spots near each of our 21c Museum Hotel destinations around the country:
Smile more in Bentonville, AR Did your mom ever tell you to go outside to get some vitamin D? You should have listened. Sunlight activates vitamin D in your body, which boosts your mood, fights disease and helps your body function more efficiently. Our favorite place to get sunshine in the Ozarks is Devil’s Den, an easy one-hour drive from 21c Bentonville. You can hike, bike or ride horses along the miles of trails, or rent a canoe at Lake Devil. We recommend trekking to the park’s famed Yellow Rock Overlook for some stunning views of the Lee Creek Valley.
Inhale, exhale in Oklahoma City, OK Indoor spaces and city smog make your body work harder for every bit of the vital oxygen it needs. And when you’re working too hard to breathe, your heart and blood pressure rise. Luckily there’s plenty of good clean air at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, an hour and a half drive from OKC. The 59,000-acre refuge is home to a host of protected animals, including American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, river otters, white-tailed deer and 240 species of birds.
Breathe deep in Durham, NC Oxygen is also linked to healthy levels of serotonin – that essential brain chemical that regulates your mood. Too much and you’re grouchy. Too little and you’re sad. Plenty of good oxygen makes you a friendlier, more relaxed person. Our favorite place to breathe deep in Durham is Eno River State Park, just 20 minutes from the hotel. Get your oxygen fix on one of the 30 miles of trails that wind around the swift-moving water.
Unplug in Louisville, KY We’re betting you brought your phone last time you were in the woods. It sounds like a good idea but according to recent studies, multi-tasking – especially on electronic devices – is the leading cause of stress. Our advice? Leave your phone in the glove compartment or, at the very least, just power it off for the day. You’ll forget all about your Insta feed in Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, just 30 minutes from downtown Louisville. More than 15,000 acres of unplugged beauty will let you connect with nature, not your to-do list.
Rest easy in Lexington, KY Sunlight helps you sleep. No kidding. Getting at least 30 minutes of sunlight a day regulates your internal clock so your body knows to wind down when it’s time to sleep. You could get your sun in the famed Kentucky horse country around the hotel, but we recommend heading a bit east to the incomparable Red River Gorge. Just 60 miles outside downtown, you’ll find the best rock climbing east of the Mississippi River and miles of breathtaking hikes.
Be grounded in Cincinnati, OH It’s not just the sunlight and air that help keep us healthy, but the earth, too. A beneficial bacteria called mycobacterium vaccae, commonly found in soil, acts as a natural antidepressant and immune booster. Get your fill of (good) dirt at Clifton Gorge, about an hour and a half from downtown Cincinnati. Trails take you through the gorge’s limestone and dolomite walls and cliffs. For the dirt-averse, you can wash off on in the Little Miami River, which cuts through the gorge.
Pump it up in Nashville, TN Getting your blood pumping releases endorphins, those feel-good neurotransmitters that produce the well-known “runners high.” When the weather gets mild and the leaves crunchy, we choose outside for exercise. Just 20 minutes south of the hotel is Radnor Lake State Park, an ideal spot for endorphin production. Hike, walk, bike or go for a trail run and leave feeling loose, clear-minded and happy.