Vacation Ideas: 5 Amazing National Parks to Visit This Spring

When most of us think about vacation, we dream about overseas destinations, envision exotic adventures or picture ourselves relaxing on a sun-drenched Caribbean beach. It’s so easy to forget that we have access to some of the most amazing destinations in the world right here in America. They’re all just a road trip away!  We’ve all heard of Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. They’re incredible destinations that most of us have on our travel to-do lists if we haven’t seen them already. But they aren’t the only National Parks in America worth visiting. Searching for a spring destination? Check out these 5 lesser-known National Parks.

The Narrow Trails in Zion National Park - National Parks to Visit in Spring

Zion National Park (Utah)

National Parks are some of the best places in the country to go camping. With three different campgrounds, Zion National Park has plenty of space to pull up your camper or set up your tent in the heart of nature. The 229 square miles offer countless trails that guide you into beautiful canyons and atop the highest plateaus.

Must See: Zion National Park is a hiker’s paradise. It’s most popular hiking trail is called The Narrows. This trail (pictured above) winds you through a gorge with walls over a thousand feet tall, and can even take you into the shallow Virgin River, which is no more than a stream in some parts and safe for supervised children.

Sequoia National Park - National Parks to Visit in Spring

Sequoia National Park (California)

Yellowstone may have been the first National Park in America, but as the second National Park in America, the Sequoia National Park in California was the first created specifically to protect living things. Today there are thousands of great Sequoia trees thriving in the park, many of them hundreds or thousands of years old.

Must See: The prize of the Sequoia National Park is the General Sherman Tree. It’s the largest living single stem tree on the entire planet. The massive tree is 275 feet tall and over 36 feet in diameter. A close second to General Sherman is the General Grant Tree, a sequoia located in nearby Kings Canyon National Park.

The Newfound Gap in the Smoky Mountains National Park - National Parks to Visit in Spring

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee & North Carolina)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to the highest diversity of animals and plants in America. It boasts thousands of unique plant species and well over a hundred different species of trees. Astonishingly, most of this land remains untouched by humans. It also has some of the most beautiful views in the country.

Must See: One of the easiest ways to experience Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in your vehicle. The Newfound Gap Road allows you to drive through over 30 miles of forest. Because the road’s elevation is so high, passengers get great views of the park, with plenty of scenic overlooks to stop and take it all in.

Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico - National Parks to Visit in Spring

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Most of this National Park might be desert and grassland, but Carlsbad Cavern is known for its caves. With nearly 120 unique caves in the park, there’s enough territory to keep any cave fanatic busy and continually surprised. More so, these caves, like the main attraction at Carlsbad Caverns, are immaculately preserved.

Must See: The biggest attraction at Carlsbad Caverns is known as “The Big Room“. It’s the fifth largest cave chamber in North America, and one of the largest of these chambers in the world. This limestone chamber features excellent views of overhanging stalactite formations (pictured above) and huge, ancient columns.

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado - National Parks to Visit in Spring

Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

Great Sand Dunes National Park proves that Colorado isn’t just known for its snowy slopes. Over 30 square miles of mountainous sand rests within view of numerous Colorado peaks. A popular hiking destination, the dunes feature the refreshing Medano Creek, where you can splash around and enjoy the occasional wave.

Must See: Some of the dunes are over 700 feet tall. Hiking to the top is adventure in itself, but it’s even better if you can reward yourself by taking the easy way down. The dunes are known for sand-sledding and sand-boarding. You can even rent sleds and boards from the park that are specifically designed to surf the dunes.


Get ready for your spring vacation or summer getaway with a variety of helpful products from The Lakeside Collection. Discover useful camping gear, athletic apparel, as well as travel essentials to help you pack up.

10 Fun Holiday Facts That Caught Our Attention

We’re right in the heart of the holiday season. There’s no better time for some holiday facts about Santa, the Christmas elves, snowmen, toys and more. Find out the history behind why we hang stockings over the fire, what Michelangelo has to do with one of our favorite outdoor winter activities, differences in opinion when it comes to Christmas marriage proposals, as well as a look into Christmas traditions from around the world…


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The “Jolly Old Elf”

Clement Clark Moore, author of the famous poem we know as “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was one of the first authors to mention elves in the Christmas tradition. But the elf in his story isn’t who you’d expect. Moore describes Santa as the “jolly old elf.” This early depiction of Santa might be one of the major reasons why elves are such a big part of Christmas today. Find out more about the origins of Christmas elves here.

St. Nick’s Stockings

Christmas stockings are one of the oldest Christmas traditions, dating back to one of the most popular origin stories of Santa Claus almost 2,000 years ago. The story revolves around the Greek Bishop, Saint Nicholas. Even though the events in the story can’t be proven, it also offers insight into our tradition of gift giving during the holidays. Get the details and learn more about Santa hats, sweaters and more in this Lakeside article.

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Crazy Christmas Calories

Santa Claus covers nearly 175 million miles in his worldwide Christmas Eve tour. He also has to consume over 260 million calories from cookies alone, and deliver over 20 million presents that would weigh around 700 million pounds. Santa also has to speak hundreds of languages to read all those notes and say “Merry Christmas” when necessary. Learn several of those Christmas greetings from around the globe right now.

Holiday Birthdays

The traditional Christmas celebration might revolve around the birth of Jesus, but fewer babies are born on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day compared to the rest of the calendar. Christmas Day is the least common birthday in America, second only to Leap Day. Christmas Eve isn’t very far behind, ranking fourth on the list. With Thanksgiving falling on different dates, it’s likely that it takes the top spot regarding holiday birthdays.

Festive Proposals

Year after year, the Christmas season beats out every other for the most marriage proposals. Christmas Eve is the most popular day to pop the question, but in a recent survey, men and women seemed to differ on the popularity of Christmas Eve proposals. Many women agreed on the holiday timing, but a bigger percentage thought Valentine’s Day or anniversaries were better. Get tips on holiday jewelry in this informative article.

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Snowman Renaissance

The tradition of building snowmen during the holidays has been around for quite a long time. Just to get an idea of how old the tradition is, it’s known that the artist Michelangelo was once commissioned to sculpt one of his own design in the courtyard of a ruler in Florence, Italy. The year: 1494; when Michelangelo was 19.

Toy Traditions

Many of the best-selling and most influential toys of all time were dolls. The Barbie doll reinvented the trend in the late 50’s, the G.I. Joe changed the game by giving boys a doll of their own, and action figures climbed in popularity following the release of Star Wars in the 70’s. Dolls have been an important Christmas tradition for centuries, from nutcracker dolls in 17th century Germany to Russian nesting dolls in the 19th century. It’s such an important Christmas tradition in Portugal, that doll hospitals thrive during the holidays, restoring and repairing all kinds of dolls that are cherished and passed down in families from generation to generation.

Gift Wrap Beginnings

Wrapping gifts can be traced back to ancient traditions in Japan, Korea, and more famously to upper-class European customs. However, it was a couple of famous brothers running a stationery store in Kansas City who are responsible for wrapping paper as we know it today. After selling out of tissue paper during a busy holiday season, the brothers replaced it on short notice with fancier paper they had in stock that was meant for lining envelopes. This paper sold out as well, and in the following years, the brothers started producing decorative versions for Christmas gifts. The brothers were Joyce and Rollie Hall. Their store was Hallmark.

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We Three Kings

St. Nicholas wasn’t the original Christmas gift-giver. Those familiar with the Christmas story know that The Wise Men started our favorite holiday tradition by bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. Although the Bible does not mention the names of the Wise Men (it doesn’t even specify that there were three), many cultures have names for the three men. Three of the most popular are Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. In Latin America, Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings Day) is traditionally celebrated on January 6th to honor the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus. Traditionally, children put out their shoes the night before, waking up to gifts from the Three Kings. Similar to Christmas Eve, kids set out grass and water for camels instead of reindeer.

Holiday Travel Tips

According to this interesting infographic from Travel and Leisure, nearly 100 million Americans travel during the holiday season. Airfare is typically the lowest and least hectic on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for the simple fact that many people aren’t looking to travel on these days. However, airfare usually spikes right after both of these days. And for future reference, if you’re one of the 6 million people who typically fly during the holiday season, booking your domestic flights two months in advance will typically get you the best deal.

Take Care of Your Commuter: Gifts for Travelers

For most of us, the best gifts we receive are often the ones that make our daily lives a little easier, a bit more comfortable and a lot less stressful. Luckily, especially if you’re still trying to find gifts for loved ones, there is one aspect of everyone’s day that can be improved with a thoughtful gift–the daily commute. End the search with some of these great gift ideas for travelers that drive on the daily, frequently fly or ride the train to work.


Ideas for Daily Drivers

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22-Oz. NFL 360° Wrap Travel Tumblers
Universal Phone Magnetic Dashboard Mount
Memory Foam Microsuede Auto Cushions


Gifts for Frequent Flyers

personalized-duffels-or-cosmetic-bags1,000-dot-to-dot-activity-books2-in-1-stand-with-power-bank

Personalized Duffels or Cosmetic Bags
1,000 Dot-to-Dot Activity Books
2-In-1 Stand with Power Bank


Deals for Railroad Riders

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Breathless Trilogy Set
Collegiate Mascot Neck Pillows
Lisa Frank® Power Banks


DAY TWELVE Holiday Fun Fact:

According to this interesting infographic from Travel and Leisure, nearly 100 million Americans travel during the holiday season. Airfare is typically the lowest and least hectic on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for the simple fact that many people aren’t looking to travel on these days. However, airfare usually spikes right after both of these days. And for future reference, if you’re one of the 6 million people who typically fly during the holiday season, booking your domestic flights two months in advance will typically get you the best deal.


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Holiday Gift Ideas for the Frequent Traveler
People celebrate Christmas many different ways, but if there’s one thing nearly all of us can agree on during the holidays it’s the fact that traveling is a pain. While most of us just get a taste of these traveling challenges during the holidays, there are a few people in every family who put up with many of these traveling woes on a monthly, weekly or daily basis. Whether they’re logging a lot of hours driving, flying or riding the train it’s in your power to make their life more comfortable and a little less stressful with these thoughtful Christmas gifts.

7 Expenses to Make Any Vacation More Relaxing

VacationEveryone likes to save money when they travel; though the expense is often necessary and always worth it, if you can save money and cut expenses you might as well—usually. Some things are actually worth shelling out the cash for, simply because they nip stress in the bud and allow you to enjoy your hard-earned vacation all the more.

Here are seven expenditures worth the expense, for the sake of your peace of mind:

Good Locks

There’s nothing to ruin the relaxation of a vacation quite like the worry that your home will be burgled while you’re gone. Even if you are the meticulous type, checking the locks at least twice before you leave, it’s all too easy for toxic thoughts of “I did lock up, didn’t I?” to pop up uninvited while relaxing by the pool. And even if you aren’t plagued by those thoughts, there’s always a chance that the locks could be broken or disassembled by a particularly determined thief.

If you’re thorough in your pre-departure lock checks but still anxious about the structural integrity of your locks, you may want to get them inspected by a locksmith. Edmonton or any other city should have professionals who can schedule a consultation and inspection.

A Suitcase of Distinction

That beat-up duffel bag was fine for college, but now you deserve a suitcase that is more durable and professional. But that doesn’t just mean basic black! The more distinctive your luggage is, the less likely it is to be stolen or lost.

Choose luggage in a color that suits you—even lime green or baby pink can work on luggage as a solid color choice! Make sure the luggage is well-made; hard cases should be constructed of quality materials and structurally sound, and softer suitcases should be well-stitched.

A Reliable Guide

The best way to know you’ll get the most out of your vacation? Get the best tour guide you can!

This doesn’t always mean the pricier tour buses advertised by brochures at your hotel desk (though some of the tours advertised there are fine). One of the best ways to see the best of a foreign city and its surroundings is to hire a local taxi cab driver to show you the best the town has to offer from the local perspective. Why pay to see just one aspect of the Genoa-Portofino area when you can zip along faster than the local speed limits (like a local) and see the best of this part of the world from a true expert?

A Camera up to Your Par

This will mean different things to different people. For most of us, it will mean our smartphones. It could mean a basic digital camera with extra batteries and SD cards. Or, it could mean a professional-grade camera with three different lenses.

Why is this so important? Because your enjoyment of this trip and the memories you’ll make on it will be significantly curtailed if you don’t have photographs you’re satisfied with, both in quantity (which is why you always bring extra batteries and memory cards) and in quality (which is why no photography aficionado should try to get by on their iPhone).

Authentic Local Cuisine

Yes, food is expensive and you can still survive on basic bread or fast food, but you could do that at home. Only in Italy can you have locally prepared squid ink pasta, only in Alaska can you eat red, native sockeye caught that very day.

It’s worth it to your wallet and your waistline to have locally prepared food when abroad; most cuisine and portion sizes, especially in Europe, are less processed and more reasonable than those in America. So indulge in baklava and pots de crème while you can—stressing over finding the cheapest food you can the entire trip will make you gain more weight than if you just eat and and enjoy!

The Souvenir You Really Want

Let me save you the debating over the price of what you really want versus the price of something cheaper or more practical. Yes, the thing you want seems terribly expensive now, but you clearly want it more than superficially if you keep going back to it, despite the cheaper price of some other items. If a souvenir is in a price range you can afford and you will use and/or treasure it, then it’s better to buy the one thing that will remind you of this trip in the best way, than multiple cheaper items you won’t care about in a month.

Airport Transportation

Getting from the airport to your hotel and back again can be stressful if you don’t know the area. Arrange in advance for transportation such as an airport taxi. Toronto, Salt Lake City, or any other city with an international airport should have multiple companies specializing in getting you too and from the airport on schedule, eliminating the stress of missing check-in or a flight.

Follow these tips for a vacation without stress or unnecessary corner-cutting!

Lucy Markham is an avid blogger and researches with companies such as Airflight Services. As a recent homeowner, Lucy considers herself a bit of an expert on all things home improvement, gardening, and home decoration.

Traveling Buyers in Hong Kong and China

If you follow our Lakeside Buyer Sam on Twitter, you know some of our buyers recently took a trip to Asia in search of hot new items. Below are some great pictures they captured from Hong Kong and China. *Special thanks to our buyer Beth for sharing these awesome pictures!

This harbor shot shows the Hong Kong Convention Center (in the middle on water front) where our buyers attended the Hong Kong Housewares Show Mega 1. This show had over 2,000 exhibitors spread accross a 52,616 sq meter gross area. There were over 26,000 buyers from around the globe in attendance (though only a handful from Lakeside). Our buyers enjoyed checking out housewares, gifts, home décor, garden, storage and pet items. Continue reading

Holiday Family Travel Tips

As autumn rolls in, many people start planning their holiday travel. Whether you are heading over the river and through the woods or getting ready to hop off the plane at LAX, you want to be prepared for the big trip. We have pulled together some of our favorite family travel tips and products to help make your vacation amazing.

(1) On a plane or in a car, reading is a great quite activity kids can enjoy. However selection of the perfect book is key. Tossing a copy of A Tale of Two Cities to your 9 year old will likely lead to the worst of times. We recommend the 2012 Guinness World Records Book. It’s interesting and engaging, and could even be a fun family guessing game (how tall is the largest man?)

(2) Can you believe how many travelers check plain black bags? It always seems that the pink ribbon you tie around the handle falls off or is not visible on the luggage belt. However traveling can be easier (and more fashionable) for your kids. The 2-Pc. Girls’ luggage sets come in fun patterns like Hearts, Peace and Butterflies that can’t be missed (assuming your luggage actually makes it to your destination city).

(3) Entertainment on the road or at the grandparents’ house is often very limited. The trick to keeping kids well-behaved is offering them an entertaining toy that travels well. For kids 8+ we suggest Find It Brain Teaser Game. This game is the ultimate I spy cylinder with colorful beads and hidden items for your eagle-eyed kids to enjoy.

Wherever you are headed this holiday season, preparation is the key. A little planning will make the whole trip so much more enjoyable for you and your family.