Grand Canyon National Park
El Tovar Dining Room: Executive chef Matthew McTigue describes El Tovars menu as continental cuisine with a Southwestern flair. He relies on Arizona and California suppliers for the freshest ingredients possible, using habaneros, chipotles, prickly-pear syrup, and other Southwest flavors to add a hint of the exotic. El Tovars Wild Alaskan Salmon Tostada is a perennial favorite.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, McTigue has cooked at the canyon for more than 14 years, and some of his staff have been there even longer, so theres a family feel that makes working -- and dining -- at El Tovar special. The service, the atmosphere, the canyon setting, and the food all combine to make the El Tovar dining experience what it is, he says.
Park information: Grand Canyon National Park offers soul-stirring views of one of the worlds greatest natural wonders.
Lodging: El Tovar Hotel is Grand Canyon National Parks oldest and most elegant lodge, perched on the South Rim in historic Grand Canyon Village. An eclectic mix of log-cabin, Queen Anne, and Craftsman styles, the lodge has 78 rooms ($174 to $268).
Mount Hood National Forest
The Cascade Dining Room at Timberline Lodge: With todays economy, travelers are looking for value, says executive chef Leif Benson, whos responded to tourists needs with a daily brunch buffet featuring Northwest cuisine. The popular buffet is the foundation for a weekly culinary- tourism series in which brunch dishes showcase an Oregon product, such as Dungeness crab or fresh berries. Benson has invited artisan producers and family farms to participate. Cooking demonstrations, recipes, and samples are each part of the fun at the special chefs tables. On the other side of the dining room, the scenery -- 60-mile views of the Cascade Range -- continues to hold court.
Park information: Okay, so its technically not a national park, but Mount Hood National Forest boasts top-class recreation, from mountaineering to mountain biking.
Lodging: The Timberline Lodge, built by Works Progress Administration labor as part of President Franklin Roosevelts New Deal program, opened in 1938 (and appeared in the 1980 flick The Shining). The lodge offers rooms year-round ($110 to $290). Even if you dont spend the night, you can take a ranger-guided lodge tour.