Sick of the “staycation”? After a summer at home, many families are itching to get in one last outing without breaking the bank. Fortunately, you can still plan a Labor Day excursion that costs nothing more than a tank of gas and an $8 entry fee. In most regions of the U.S., the beginning of September offers prime bird-watching days as migration season gears up and hundreds of species of colorful songbirds, hawks, and waterfowl start moving south. And most likely, there’s a state park or wildlife refuge within a day’s drive of your house that serves as a way station on their journeys. We asked David Mehlman, director of the Nature Conservancy's Migratory Bird Program, and Kenn Kaufman, field editor for the Audubon Society’s Audubon magazine, for their suggestions.
1. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
This park—situated on Key Biscayne, a barrier island off the southern coast of Florida, just south of Miami—is a way station for birds migrating down Florida’s east coast. “Birds tend to pause at Key Biscayne,” says Kaufman, and “rest up for their long journeys across the ocean.” This time of year, you’ll see plovers, ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, and willets, and later in the fall, the island teems with birds of every kind. The beaches there have also been ranked among the nation’s best, so you can enjoy one last weekend in the sand before heading inland for the summer.