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GIFT GUIDE FOR SAVVY TRAVELERS

WI N T E R 2019

Beach Therapy

COOL CAMPING CHILLS, THRILLS OF COLORADO MUSIC MECCAS BEST BLUES, JAZZ & ROCK GETAWAYS NATURE CALLS MEXICO’S BIRDING PARADISE AWAITS

Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi


THE POWER

of PLACE. More than a museum, a public square. There is power in experience. More than exhibits, lessons. There is power in knowledge. More than events, opportunities. There is power in connection. More than history, today and tomorrow. There is power in moving forward. More than a destination, a journey. There is power in purpose.

S E E . L E A R N . E N G A G E . A C T.

450 Mulberry Street | Memphis, TN 38103 | civilrightsmuseum.org


The Ultimate Driving Machine®

TRUE VACATION: A BMW, THE TRACK AND YOU.

The BMW Performance Driving School is a pulse-pounding adventure like no other. Unleash our fleet of Ultimate Driving Machines® on the track in a variety of programs. Work on control, handling and recovery on the wet skidpad in a Car Control Clinic. Book an M School and push the limits of physics in the pinnacle of performance automobiles. We’re also a great destination for corporate outings and group events. Make sure your travel plans include a trip to the BMW Performance Driving School—it’s a ride you’ll definitely enjoy.

View program options, full calendar and make reservations at bmwperformancecenter.com or call 888.345.4BMW. Car Control | Teen School | M School | Advanced M | Driving Experiences | Offsite Adventures | Corporate Events


FAIRMONT MALDIVES, SIRRU FEN FUSHI

WINTER 2019

VITAMIN SEA Great escapes guaranteed to cure the winter blues

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WINTER 2019

FEATURES AROUND THE WORLD 31 Our gift guide has something for any traveler on your list

PLAY IT BY EAR 39 Music-inspired destinations span generations and genres

REGIONS

n WEST 94 Alexandra Shipp’s

51 54

22

n SOUTHEAST 56 Logan Browning’s 58

UP FRONT 10 12 14 16 18 20 22

BEST DUTY-FREE SHOPS DUTY-FREE LIQUOR FINDS TRAVEL HACKS AIRPORT BREWERIES DIGITAL DETOX RESPECTFUL TOURISM VEGAS AMERICANA

Bucks County, Pa. Presidentially posh in Kennebunkport, Maine Warm up with Vermont’s best mac ‘n’ cheese

62 66 70 76

Jonesboro, Ga. Seven things you should do in the Sunshine State Find historic charm at The Greenbrier resort Murals boost growing art scene in Nashville, Tenn. South Carolina’s kid-friendly Columbia Mobile, Alabama’s burgeoning food scene

96 100 102 106

Phoenix Button up in Colorado’s Crested Butte Zion National Park’s breathtaking beauty Adventure time in fantastic Phoenix Go big for the holidays in Galveston, Texas

n PACIFIC 112 April Gargiulo’s 115 118 123

Napa Valley Spend the night catching Z’s in the trees Vibrant and fun, Sin City continues to wow visitors Spaceships and sips on California’s Central Coast

DESTINATIONS

n MIDWEST 82 Ellie Kemper’s St. Louis 84 Southwestern Michigan

n MEXICO 126 Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit

86

n CANADA 130 The many flavors of

92

has become a wine mecca Tour Chicago’s rich, diverse literary scene Good to the last drop in Columbus, Ohio

is a birding paradise

Prince Edward County

n EUROPE 134 Anglos use language to bond with Italy locals

n CARIBBEAN 138 The U.S. Virgin Islands are just beachy

n CRUISES 142 Tauck offers all-inclusive

86

land-and-sea trips

n ONE FOR THE ROAD 144 Learning how to slow

down while riding fast

ON THE COVER: Sirru Fen Fushi resort PHOTO BY: Fairmont Maldives

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All prices and availability are subject to change.

NEON MUSEUM; SMITHFLY.NET; PROVIDED BY THE CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER

n NORTHEAST 48 Danny Seo’s


FEATURED CONTRIBUTORS PREMIUM PUBLICATION EDITORIAL

DIRECTOR Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com

Brian Barth is an American journalist living in Toronto. He is the writer-at-large at Modern Farmer and contributes to other publications, including The Washington Post, Mother Jones, The Guardian, Pacific Standard, Nautilus, newyorker.com and City Lab. For his story on Prince Edward County (page 130), he didn’t have to venture far from home. “Prince Edward County seems to hold another winery, brewery or farm stand in every bend in the road — my kind of place for a vacation.”

Cheryl Rodewig got her start in journalism shadowing soldiers during field training, where she learned the value of quick camera reflexes. Now, she’s a content marketer, speaker and award-winning feature writer specializing in travel. She’s already looking forward to using some of the top hacks shared from frequent travelers (page 14). “I especially liked learning ways to save money on a trip. I’d rather buy an experience than a souvenir. Experiences are the things that change us.”

MANAGING EDITOR Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com ISSUE EDITOR Sara Schwartz EDITORS Amy Sinatra Ayres Tracy Scott Forson Debbie Williams ISSUE DESIGNER Gina Toole Saunders DESIGNERS Amira Martin Miranda Pellicano Lisa M. Zilka INTERN Jordan Pecar CONTRIBUTING ILLUSTRATOR John S. Dykes CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Matt Alderton, Karen Asp, Diane Bair, Susan B. Barnes, Brian Barth, Kit Bernardi, Brad Cohen, Nadine Jolie Courtney, Lisa Davis, Hollie Deese, Jonah Flicker, Sue Hollis, Connie Hum, Elizabeth Kendig, Maureen Kenyon, Patricia Kime, Sarah Maiellano, Wendy Pramik, Rina Rapuano, Gina Roberts-Grey, Cheryl Rodewig, Mark Rogers, Sarah Sekula, Susan Shain, Gene Sloan, Nancy Trejos, Pamela Wright, Amy Wu

ADVERTISING

PROVIDED BY THE CONTRIBUTORS; RINA RAPUANO HEADSHOT BY BRIAN OH

VP, ADVERTISING Patrick Burke | (703) 854-5914 pburke@usatoday.com

Susan Shain’s writing on travel, food and personal finance has been published in a range of outlets, including The New York Times, CNN and Playboy. She recently visited Mobile, Ala., for a wedding — and spent most of the weekend eating her way through the historic city, an experience she generously shares with readers (page 76). “Everything I tried was scrumptious and affordable. It’s an ideal destination for eaters on any budget.”

FACEBOOK Facebook.com/usatodaymags

Rina Rapuano is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer who has written for publications that include The Washington Post, Food Network, and NPR. Never one to turn down an adventure, she jumped at the chance to travel to Italy’s Puglia, where she helped locals improve their conversational English (page 134). “There are so few opportunities in our adult lives to meet a group of people from another culture, share ideas, work together and ultimately bond for a lifetime.”

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @USATODAYMAGS

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Justine Madden | (703) 854-5444 jmadden@usatoday.com

FINANCE

BILLING COORDINATOR Julie Marco Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved herein, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or reproduced in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the written consent of USA TODAY. The editors and publisher are not responsible for any unsolicited materials.

This is a product of

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travel.usatoday.com

DOUGHNUT DESTINATIONS

Cannon Beach

THE WONDERFUL WEST USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham trains his cameras on Pacific paradises. See his evocative photo essays of favorite locales, including luscious Kauai, Hawaii, zany Hollywood Boulevard and Cannon Beach, the tiny Oregon town with the enormous rock.

uusatoday.com

uusatoday.com/travel/ usa-today-eats/

Protect yourself from a weather delay: u Fly nonstop. Bad weather in your connecting

Lake Tahoe

Do you fantasize about a vacation home? Each month, we feature five houses for sale — from budget to luxe — in popular locations, with advice from an area real estate agent. With great destinations from Lake Tahoe to the Greek Islands, you may find the home of your dreams.

ASK THE CAPTAIN What are those chimes you hear in the cabin while a flight is climbing? Why are there still ashtrays in an airline lavatory? Former airline pilot and aviation safety expert John Cox answers intriguing questions from readers every week.

uusat.ly/2NcklPZ

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JEFFERSON GRAHAM; BOGART’S DOUGHNUT CO.; TAHOE LUXURY PROPERTIES; GETTY IMAGES

DREAM HOMES

CONSUMER CORNER

city may increase the risk of a delay or cancellation. Consider a nonstop flight, even if you have to pay extra. u Avoid certain airports. San Francisco, Newark, N.J., and Chicago are the top weatherdelayed cities, according to a Weather Channel study. They’re also major airports where passengers connect to other flights. Avoid them, if possible. Also, never book the last flight of the day. If delayed by weather, it’s typically canceled — then you’re stuck overnight. u Consider travel insurance. “Flight delays are just one reason why travel insurance is essential,” explains Danielle Peterson, a travel agent based in Columbia, Md. “While you may need to have extra funds readily available to cover unexpected costs, such as an extra hotel night, the insurer will reimburse you.”

America’s craft doughnut shops and bakeries are always innovating with glazes, icing, fillings and toppings so fans never tire of the treat. USA TODAY found an independent doughnut shop or regional chain in each state (and D.C.) serving up inventive toppings, flavorful glazes and picture-perfect icing that make art of the classic breakfast indulgence. Find your doughnut destination at


| GO ESCAPE

UP FRONT I N T H E N O W, I N T H E K N O W

AIRPORT NEWS 10

|

GETTING AROUND 14

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BREWERIES 16

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TRAVEL BETTER 18

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AMERICANA 22

TOKENS OF REFLECTION

CARLA MILLS

Souvenirs take us instantly back to our favorite travels. For Minnesotabased photographer Carla Mills, it was being gifted with a Corn Palace spoon and fork set during a family trip to South Dakota that kicked off a decades-long interest in collecting spoons — and a reason to seek out new places.

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UP FRONT | AIRPORT NEWS

Duty-Free Deals Find exclusive pricing on fragrances, cosmetics, spirits and luxury goods BY HOLLIE DEESE

IT’S NOT EASY to pass up a bargain, especially when you are on vacation and willing to spend some money. That’s what makes shopping duty free a not-so-guilty pleasure — it has all the fun of splurging on luxury sunglasses and handbags without all the financial guilt. Jerome Falic, CEO of Duty Free Americas, says when you shop duty free, not only are you paying less than the suggested retail price, you also don’t pay tax when traveling overseas. And the good news doesn’t stop there. “There are also special packs, for example a duo with two of the same item with a very large savings,” Falic says. For instance, Lancome might offer two or three mascaras in one box, with a savings of up to 25 percent,

exclusively sold in travel retail. “The same goes for liquor, cigarettes, as well as chocolates,” Falic says. “Like when you see six chocolate bars of Tolberone sold as one item.” Falic says shoppers are privy to exclusive access to certain items: “Most duty-free shops carry the latest launches and also many times you will find exclusive items only sold in duty free. All items sold in the duty-free shops are all major brands and they always have the latest and greatest in each category.” There are some limits: Depending on the arrival country, there is a cap on how much liquor and tobacco can be brought in. “Some allow two bottles or maybe only one carton, but it really depends,” Falic says.

Miami International Airport

GET YOUR SHOP ON Duty Free Americas is the largest duty-free retailer, and top-selling items in its many airport locations vary by region, but here are some favorites:

uMiami International Airport Carolina Herrera and Chanel fragrances are the top-selling brands at the Miami International Airport — including Herrera’s shoe-shaped Good Girl Légère. Check out the duty-free liquor offerings, too. The airport is the location of the first Johnnie Walker standalone airport shop.

uPunta Cana International Airport Some airports around the world have walk-through duty-free shops — as in, the only way to reach your gate is to walk through the store. At the Punta Cana store in the Dominican Republic, pick up a bottle of Gila Tequila Reposado, aged at least two months in white oak barrels.

Offering a little bit of everything, including Swatch’s PUNKXJOB line and Yves Saint Laurent makeup, the Duty Free Americas location at JFK features some of the greatest hits of travel deals. Load up on gifts and snacks for the ride home.

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PROVIDED BY DUTY FREE AMERICAS

uJFK International Airport


UP FRONT | AIRPORT NEWS

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1

5 2

High Spirits Find liquor deals in duty-free stores around the world 4

SOME OF THE best deals on spirits can be found at airport duty-free stores, but the low prices are not necessarily because of the lack of duty, or taxes, added to the sale. Spirit brands often release exclusive travel offerings for duty-free outlets, and for aficionados of fine whiskey, vodka, cognac, tequila or gin, that’s where the value lies. “Global travel retail is a $65 billion industry, with some 1.1 billion customers,” says John Kilmartin, vice president of global travel retail at Patrón Spirits International. The concept was born in 1947 in Ireland, when the first duty-free shop opened at Shannon Airport. Since the days of this small kiosk, the industry has grown to the extent that, according to Kilmartin, if global travel retail were a country, it would be Patrón’s second-biggest market. “Travel retail provides a unique opportunity for brands to engage with consumers from across the globe,” he says. “It’s a chance for brands to truly communicate and demonstrate their heritage, values, position, uniqueness and personality.” That’s where the travel retail exclusive concept comes in. Yes, it’s a marketing ploy, but it’s also a chance to try that particular 12-yearold whiskey aged in two different casks with just a hint of peat that you’ve been dreaming about. Plus, the packaging often looks impressive. And if nothing else, travel retail exclusive spirits make great gifts for whomever you plan to visit.

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1

Released in August, Jack Daniel’s Bottledin-Bond is a global travel retail exclusive, now available at select national and international airports. The 100 proof Bottled-inBond is made in Lynchburg, Tenn., charcoalmellowed and matured in new American oak barrels.

2

Bowmore is one of the oldest distilleries on the Scottish island of Islay and has several travel retail exclusives. The 10 Years Old combines whiskey from Spanish oak sherry casks and hogsheads, resulting in what the brand calls a “dark and intense” flavor.

3

This special packaging of Jonge Bols Genever is available in the duty-free store at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Genever is the precursor to gin, a combination of malt wine, neutral grain spirit and botanicals that can be enjoyed on its own or in cocktails.

4

Patron Cask Collection Sherry Ańejo is a brandnew offering for travel retail from this highend tequila distillery. The 100 percent blue agave spirit is aged for two years in Oloroso sherry casks, infusing it with dried fruit flavors and resulting in a flavorful sipping tequila.

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Much of the single malt scotch you’ll find in liquor stores is chill-filtered, purely for cosmetic reasons — this prevents it from becoming cloudy when cold. But the 12-year-old Glen Grant travel retail exclusive is not — the fatty acids that provide the whiskey with some of its flavor remain.

PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES

BY JONAH FLICKER


Contact us for the family adventure of a lifetime. EATONS’ RANCH

ALISAL GUEST RANCH AND RESORT

ELKHORN RANCH

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort located in Santa Barbara Wine Country is California’s premier Guest Ranch with 73 accommodations, golf, horseback riding, spa, fishing and tennis.

Individually tailored horseback riding for all ages and levels of experience in beautiful mountain and desert country. Enjoy Arizona sunshine and curious Sonoran Desert vegetation and birding.

1-805-688-6411 www.alisal.com

1-520-822-1040 www.elkhornranch.com

BAR W GUEST RANCH

MARBLE MOUNTAIN RANCH

CIRCLE Z RANCH

Experience Montana at its finest with friendly staff, scrumptious food, horseback riding, & rusticluxury accommodations. Located 25 miles from Glacier National Park. A ranch vacation awaits you!

California’s original “saddle and paddle” dude ranch offers horseback trail rides, rafting, arena challenges, shooting sports and fishing. Experience the adventure and legendary hospitality.

Arizona’s oldest guest ranch. Authentic tradition meets unspoiled adventure. A Winter vacation where you will ride horses, take in mouth dropping scenery, enjoy fine dining, and relax in style.

Wolf, WY

Tucson, AZ

Solvang, CA

For over 138 years, Eatons’ Ranch has offered our guests a western experience and shared with them a way of life. We invite you to join us this summer.

1-800-210-1049 www.eatonsranch.com

Whitefish, MT

1-866-828-2900 www.thebarw.com

Somes Bar, CA

1-800-552-6284 www.marblemountainranch.com

Patagonia, AZ

1-888-854-2525 www.circlez.com

C LAZY U RANCH

Granby, CO A luxury guest ranch ideal for families seeing endless winter activities including horseback riding, snowmobiling, ice skating, tubing and skiing all located on-site.

1-970-887-3344 www.clazyu.com

www.duderanch.org 866-399-2339


UP FRONT | GETTING AROUND

Travel Hacks Improve your trip experience by heeding expert advice from these frequent fliers BY CHERYL RODEWIG ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN S. DYKES

TRAVEL CAN BE an adventure, sure, and experienced travelers know it’s not all spontaneity and selfies. There are booking hassles, flight delays and luggage that just won’t seem to fit the requisite number of shoes. Maybe that’s why Americans spend less than half of their vacation time traveling, just eight days a year according to the State of American Vacation 2018 report, published by Project: Time Off, a group of organizations working to change how Americans think about vacation time. But as the researchers point out — and no surprise here — those who do travel more are a lot happier. So how do you make the most of your getaway and stock up on all that extra happiness? The process starts long before you leave. That means both the fun part (what to see and do) and the practical (transportation, weather, costs). Set a budget early on and stick to it so you know exactly how much you can spend, building in a buffer for extras like that perfect souvenir or the unexpected show that rolls into town. If you’re flying, you can save on one of your biggest costs by using sites like Skyscanner.com to aggregate flights and find the lowest fares. For entertainment, look for Groupon deals or free admission days at area attractions. Most importantly, learn from the wisdom of those who have been there, done that. These expert globetrotters have distilled their best advice, from scouting savings to savoring the experience once you’re there, so you can have an unforgettable — and stress-free — trip.

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UP FRONT | AIRPORT BREWERIES

Raising the Bars Airport pubs so cool you’ll want to make them part of your itinerary B Y KAREN ASP

CRAFT BEER HAS never been hotter in the United States. In 2017, craft breweries numbered 6,266, up from 5,424 the year before, according to the Brewers Association. Fortunately for frequent fliers, a number of breweries are opening in airports. Here are three to try: CLEVELAND HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT The brewery: Great Lakes Brewing Company Where: Gate C14

TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT The brewery: Cigar City Brewing Where: Airside C Terminal

DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT The brewery: New Belgium Brewing Where: Near Gate B60

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The Sunshine State might be best known for its oranges, but one stop at Cigar City Brewing will tell you that beer should rank high on that list, too. The airport location opened in 2013, making Cigar City one of the first companies to bring craft beer brewing to airports. The brewpub recently underwent a renovation and in July debuted more seating, a second bar and a clear window to its in-airport brewing facility. Six drafts are on tap with a seasonal Nitro Tap as well as Invasion and Tocobaga in cans. You’ll find Jai Alai IPA, Maduro brown ale, Florida Cracker Belgian-style white ale, Tampa-style lager and a beer made in-house that changes monthly.

If you haven’t visited New Belgium at DIA, add it to your beer bucket list. While the suds alone are certainly worth the stop at this 100 percent employee-owned brewery — 12 taps offer New Belgium’s most popular creations, including Fat Tire Amber Ale, Voodoo Ranger IPA and Trippel Belgian Style Ale as well as award-winning sour offerings and seasonal releases — it’s the cool vibe that seals the deal. Vintage New Belgium advertising and custom-branded cruiser bicycles decorate the walls, and at the entrance, you’ll spot small windmills as a reminder of the brewery’s long history of championing environmental sustainability.

GREAT LAKES BREWING COMPANY; CIGAR CITY BREWING; DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Since 1986, Great Lakes has been synonymous with Cleveland, and nine years ago, the brewery opened a location at the airport. You’ll typically find six to eight different beers on tap, including year-round signatures such as Dortmunder Gold Lager (its flagship beer), Burning River Pale and the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, one of the most awarded U.S.-brewed porters. Pair your selection with Brewer’s Barley pretzels for the perfect snack.


There’s something new under the sun A V I B R A N T B E AC H S I D E D E S T I N AT I O N I N F U S E D W I T H A N E X U B E R A N T N E W AT T I T U D E

H O L LY W O O D, F L

S TAY & P L AY F R E S H O F F A $ 1 0 0 M I L L I O N D O L L A R T R A N S F O R M AT I O N | G U E S T R O O M S & S U I T E S W I T H U N PA R A L L E D V I E W S | 1 0 C A S U A L & F I N E D I N I N G R E S TA R U A N T S L E D B Y C E L E B R I T Y C H E F S G E O F F R E Y Z A K A R I A N A N D M I C H A E L S C H U L S O N | P R I VAT E B E A C H O N T H E AT L A N T I C O C E A N | O C E A N F R O N T S PA & W E L L N E S S S A N C T U A R Y | D I P & S L I D E P O O L S I D E WAT E R PA R K | D I P LO M AT K I D S C L U B P E R F E C T L O CAT I O N C O N V E N I E N T LY LO C AT E D F R O M B O T H F O R T L A U D E R D A L E & M I A M I I N T E R N AT I O N A L A I R P O R T S | M I N U T E S T O H I S T O R I C O C E A N F R O N T B R O A D WA L K , S O U T H B E A C H , G U L F S T R E A M , A N D W O R L D - C L A S S S H O P P I N G AV E N T U R A M A L L & B A L H A R B O U R S H O P S

T H E D I P L O M AT B E A C H R E S O R T | 3 5 5 5 S O C E A N D R I V E | H O L LY W O O D , F L | 3 3 0 1 9 W W W. D I P L O M AT R E S O R T. C O M | C O N N E C T W I T H U S

From Sunrise to Sunset, Explore Cape Coral’s Natural Abundance

Cape Coral is the largest city in Southwest Florida—and one of the most unique. With more than 400 miles of canals, Cape Coral is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Caloosahatchee River and Matlacha Pass. Thanks to a balmy year-round climate, our unparalleled natural amenities beckon year-round exploration and instant relaxation the moment the workday ends. The metro area’s population and employment growth rank among the fastest-growing in the nation. Come see for yourself why Cape Coral draws visitors and businesses from around the globe with its unique balance of economic growth and outdoor fun. Contact us to learn why your business is a natural fit.

(239) 574-0444 • (833) CAPEEDO ecodev@capecoral.net bizcapecoral.com


UP FRONT | TRAVEL BETTER

Digital Detox How to unplug from work and savor your vacation BY BRAD COHEN

SO YOU’VE DECIDED to take that trip to Thailand? Well, that’s a good first step, considering that almost half of Americans don’t take any vacation. Anywhere. Ever. And the ones who do often spend far too much time staring at the screens on their various devices. But how do you actually take a vacation, and not just relocate your office to a far-flung destination? How do you avoid the emails, and phone calls, and siren call of social media? Devise a plan before you leave. Here is a step-by-step guide to successfully leave work behind while you’re away:

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BE REALISTIC

2

WORK AHEAD

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STAY ACTIVE

Decide how much time you actually need to spend online to avoid getting fired, then set a goal before you leave.

Answer all the emails that have been piling up in your inbox and let any important clients know you’ll be out of reach. A clear inbox will lead to a clear mind while you’re gone, and it will make your return less overwhelming.

If spending your vacation completely off the grid isn’t your thing, you can plan a trip that makes it easier to leave your phone in your room. There’s only so much time you can spend on technology when you’re surfing or skiing all day.

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4

WRITE A PROPER AWAY MESSAGE

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GETTY IMAGES

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PICK A DESIGNATED TIME TO BE ONLINE

LOG OUT

Airplane mode is the way to go, but if that’s too much for you, at least turn off your notifications and log out of your apps. You’ll be a lot less likely to fall down the social media rabbit hole if your phone screen isn’t letting you know you’ve been tagged in eight photos, have 632 emails or that Beyoncé just tweeted.

PLAN AHEAD

MAKE A WAGER

Need extra motivation? Bet dinner with your travel buddy. Pick an expensive restaurant and whoever spends more time online has to pay. You can use the Moment app to track your usage.

Set up an auto response on your email starting the day before you leave and ending a day after you return. Explain that you’ll be out of reach, and offer an alternate contact — someone you’ll gift a bottle of the local wine when you return. Inform your friends that you’re sorry you’ll be missing their parties and ignoring their messages, but you’ll be too busy hanging with elephants. And tell them not to worry, that of course you’ll post selfies when you return.

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There are plenty of great offline apps that will allow you to access virtually anything you need for a perfect vacation. Download maps, travel guides, playlists and anything else you might want before you hit the road. Bring a book, playing cards or a pair of knitting needles to keep you busy en route.

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FORCE YOURSELF OFF THE GRID

Scared that guilt will force you to take on a few hours of work while you’re away? Go somewhere with limited internet access. If you’re camping in the wilderness or staying in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas, there’s no way your boss is going to reach you.

If spending a week without checking email is going to make you too nervous to enjoy your vacation, decide how much time you actually need to spend online. Choose a designated time of day and limit yourself to logging on once per day. That way you can reassure yourself, stay on top of what needs to be done and then spend the rest of the day carefree.

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SET EXPECTATIONS

It’s important to let your boss and co-workers know that you’re taking an actual vacation, which means you’ll have limited to no phone and internet access. Outline any projects that might require help while you’re gone and decide who will be responsible for covering for you should anything come up.

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UP FRONT | TRAVEL BETTER

Respectful Tourism While traveling to exotic locales, enjoy wildlife without harming it

Don’t be duped Seek out responsible tourism spots that treat animals humanely.

THE NEXT TIME YOU want to take a selfie with a tiger, ride an elephant or swim with dolphins, stop to consider the consequences. That’s what animal welfare groups have been saying for a long time. Now, tour operators, online travel agencies and social media sites are starting to listen. Wildlife tourist attractions account for 20 percent to 40 percent of global tourism, which produces more than $1 trillion a year, according to a report from PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by

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the Public Library of Science. Advocacy groups say many animals end up being exploited for entertainment. Sometimes the animals are not given enough food or water, or suffer physical abuse. “Well-meaning people are often duped by ‘wildlife’ attractions, unaware of the cruelty that animals endure in captivity,” says Ben Williamson, senior international media director at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Williamson advises travelers to steer clear of any venue that lets you “ride,

hug or take a selfie with an elephant, tiger, dolphin or other wild animal.” In the U.S., online travel agencies TripAdvisor and Expedia no longer sell experiences that involve human interaction with animals held in captivity. TripAdvisor added another layer of protection this year, including a ban on certain types of animal shows that it considers demeaning to animals, such as dressing up orangutans as boxers in Asia. Instagram recently started flagging particular wildlife-related hashtags and

PROVIDED BY WORLD ANIMAL PROTECTION

BY NANCY TREJOS


notifying users of the abuse that some animals experience when being posed for photos. Other travel companies such as Trafalgar and Worldwide Expeditions have also altered their policies. “There isn’t really a universally agreed-to criteria on what’s on the right side or wrong side of the line,” says James Kay, associate director of TripAdvisor. “We needed to say where we stood.” Williamson recommends that people be mindful of animal welfare when considering camel rides at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, donkey rides at Blackpool beach in the United Kingdom and horse rides at Taal Volcano in the Philippines, to name a few attractions. The treatment of elephants, in particular, has disturbed the animal welfare community. A World Animal Protection report last year found that more than 75 percent of nearly 3,000

elephants used for entertainment in Asia are kept in cruel conditions. Many elephants at tourist attractions were kept chained day and night. They had poor diets and got limited veterinary care. Given all of this, it can be tough for a traveler to discern what is the right thing to do. Williamson recommends booking your trip through an agency that specializes in animal-friendly travel, such as Humane Travel. Many companies that have adopted animal welfare procedures also have educational components. Activities that involve any animals on TripAdvisor and Viator have paw print icons that send users to an education portal. “Where we can have the greatest impact is having consumers as informed as possible and having them making ethical choices they are comfortable with,” Kay says.

BEFORE YOU GO While on vacations, do your part in protecting wildlife by being informed and alert to the welfare of the animals you encounter. Make decisions when you travel by following these steps, provided by World Animal Protection, an international nonprofit organization:

uDo your research. Investigate the venues you intend to visit. If animal encounters are offered, how are the animals treated and where did they come from?

uAsk questions. Check whether the tour operator or travel agent has an animal-welfare policy. Ask your friends and family about their experiences.

uMake positive choices. Support tourism that does not exploit wild animals. uEat ethically. When served local or exotic meat, ask whether the animal is rare or endangered. If it is, avoid these foods. It is often illegal to have killed and served such animals.

uThink before you buy. Locally produced animal souvenirs may actually be driving demand for the illegal wildlife trade. Be careful with purchases.

uConsider the culture. Always be respectful when you travel, and remember that culture is not an excuse for cruelty.

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UP FRONT | AMERICANA

Retro Glow The eclectic Neon Museum in Las Vegas gives old signs new light BY SARA SCHWARTZ

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THOSE YEARNING FOR the bygone era when the Rat Pack headlined Las Vegas can get a dose of classic cool at the city’s Neon Museum, founded in 1996 and officially opened in 2012. The museum’s main attraction — and social media darling — is its Boneyard, featuring neon signs from as far back as the 1930s from casinos, motels and other businesses. Visitors can view the collection on their own, but it’s recommended to take the hourlong guided tour, where an interpreter shares how the signs show development in design and technology. The main building is historically cool, too: The visitors’ center is inside the former La Concha Motel, which opened in 1961 and closed in 2004. Purchase tickets at neonmuseum.org.

NEON MUSEUM

The former Jerry’s Nugget sign, restored in 2014, is one of 150 pieces on display at the Neon Museum’s Boneyard.


Irresistibly adventurous. Download our free app. Be transported to unusual destinations, must-see landmarks, and the hidden gems for your inner world-traveler.


Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi


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Great escapes guaranteed to cure the winter blues

PROVIDED BY THE FAIRMONT MALDIVES

BY SARAH SEKULA

ith kayakers to my right and my smiling sister in the lounge chair to my left, I think to myself how nice it is to be doing nothing. We are currently zen-ing out at the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort on Mauritius island in the Indian Ocean. Here’s what’s not happening: Cellphones are not buzzing; horns are not honking, and TVs are not blaring. Instead, my agenda consists of lunch, yoga and a deep-tissue massage. In the foreground, the impossibly blue Indian Ocean is at my beck and call. In the background is an inviting, adults-only pool. Being surrounded by water means a quick snorkeling session, catamaran ride or splash time in the pool are all within reach. In other words, my stress level is at an all-time low. It’s no wonder people vacation by the water. Just ask Dr. Wallace Nichols, a marine biologist and author of Blue Mind, a best-selling book that Nichols says proves that being near water promotes happiness and well-being. His blue mind concept refers to that super relaxed, almost meditative state humans feel when soaking in a tub, carving up some waves or floating down a river. >

25


VITAMIN

He says this mode can actually make you happier, healthier, more connected and better at what you do. “Whether on a boat or a beach, time spent near, in, on or under water has been shown to relax our minds and bodies,” says Nichols, who has spent more than 20 years studying our relationship to water. “Stress chemicals are reduced and feel-good chemicals increase and heart rate and breathing rate slow,” he says. “As anxiety and stress have been on the rise and contribute significantly to illness and disease, water is medicine.” Better yet, he says, the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness by lowering the stress hormone cortisol, increasing serotonin production and inducing relaxation. As the outside temps drop, balmy waterfilled destinations are that much more enticing. Here are some other sunny spots to fill your aquatic prescription for pure bliss:

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The Florida Keys have been a welcome respite for sun-loving travelers since the 1930s. With beautiful beaches, live music and pastel-colored bungalows galore, it comes as no surprise that Key West, the southernmost key, was Ernest Hemingway’s muse. It was here on this tiny island surrounded by turquoise water that he penned some of his most prolific prose. These days, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is a National Historic Landmark where you can take a tour, snap photos next to his typewriter and say hello to the famous six-toed cats. If you’re itching to hop into that inviting turquoise water yourself, there are loads of impressive dive and snorkel spots, including the outer reefs, where lionfish and turtle sightings are not uncommon. Or opt for a wreck dive for more of a challenge. Several Key West, outfitters offer such experiences, including Dive Florida Key West, which has a specific dive to explore the USS Vandenberg, a World War II troop transport that today is the one of the largest most accessible artificial reefs. Megan Faust and her husband, who have lived in Key West for 10 years, enjoy stand-up paddleboarding to get a dose of blue mind. “It’s very healing because nothing else matters for that moment in time, and the body and mind can repair the damages life inflicts,” she says. “People generally feel a biological connection to water that has evolved in a very elegant way into a love for the ocean’s aesthetics: the colors, the sounds, the scents, the feel, even the taste.” Prefer to skim the surface instead? Paddleboading past mangroves is always a treat, and renting a see-through kayak can provide quite

GETTY IMAGES (3)

SEA


“Whether on a boat or a beach, time spent

PROVIDED BY THE FAIRMONT MALDIVES

near, in, on the show (look for stingrays and dolphins darting beneath you). Come dinnertime, dine on conch fritters at the Conch Shack on Duval Street and top it off with Key lime pie at Camille’s Restaurant on Simonton Street. Then, hit Smathers Beach for sunset. If camping is your thing, a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park is a must. Known for its amazing coral reef system, historic fort and sea turtles, this stunning spot, about 70 miles west of Key West — a two-hour, 15-minute ride by ferry — is a special place to park your tent. With just 60,000 annual visitors and accessible only by boat or waterplane, the national park’s hundred square miles are nearly 99 percent submerged beneath the picturesque waters. And those waters are home to loads of marine life, including moray eels, Goliath grouper and nurse sharks.

or under water has been shown to relax our minds and bodies.” — DR. WALLACE NICHOLS, MARINE BIOLOGIST

At the Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi, the blue mind concept is taken to another level. Earlier this year, the luxe resort opened the world’s first intertidal submerged museum, known as The Coralarium, complete with a coral forest and a handful of beautiful sculptures. Guests can literally wake up in an overwater bungalow, roll out of bed and swim to the underwater masterpieces. “The Coralarium is a place of preservation, conservation and education,” says Jason deCaires Taylor, the artist who created the sculptures. His aim is to raise awareness for the protection of Maldivian coral reefs. Maldives By day, guests can tour the art museum with guidance from the resort’s resident marine biologists, fish aboard a traditional Maldivian dhoni and attend art classes. Come evening, an integrated light system illuminates the museum and attracts marine life while creating an impressive sight. The resort overlooks a 5.6-mile coral reef lagoon, home to manta rays, turtles and large pods of bottlenose and spinner dolphins. There’s even a manta ray cleaning station, which means guests get an up-close look at the daily life of these wide, winged creatures. >

27


VITAMIN

For Kai McBride, who has lived on Maui for 27 years, the ocean has always had a healing effect: “For me, it’s a way of life,” she says. “I need to go into the ocean regularly; it’s cleansing and gives me peace.” So it makes sense that she worked as a scuba instructor for years, racking up about 5,000 dives: “Diving allows me to explore as well as relax. I love seeing all the diverse marine life, from tiny seahorses to manta rays to sharks and humpback whales.” Maui, Wailea Beach is one of her favorites, and the Hawaii Four Seasons Maui at Wailea is an excellent choice for some R&R. Start with a dip in the infinity pool, then make a beeline down the beach for epic snorkeling. And there’s no better way to get to know the locals (spinner dolphins, turtles and candycolored fish) than by skimming the surface in an outrigger canoe. From the resort, you’ve got gorgeous views of Molokini Crater (great for snorkeling and diving) and Kaho’olawe, the smallest of the eight

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main volcanic islands. For lunch, plop down on a chaise lounge in your private cabana and order a poke bowl and a homemade gelato or two. And as an added luxury, the staff offers complimentary mineral water facial spray and cold cucumber slices for your eyes. For more water time, sign up for a scuba or water-aerobics class. End the day with a visit to the in-house chiropractor or acupuncturist. One thing is certain: You’ll leave with relaxed muscles and a warm sense of aloha. l

KYLE ROTHENBORG

SEA


MOVE OVER LA, MIAMI AND HONOLULU. SOME OF THE BEST COASTAL TOWNS MIGHT BE ONES YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF. 10BEST READERS SELECTED THESE TOP FIVE — EACH WITH A POPULATION OF FEWER THAN 25,000 AS OF THE LAST CENSUS — THAT OFFER UNCROWDED, UNPRETENTIOUS AND AFFORDABLE SEASIDE FUN IN SMALL PACKAGES, PROVING BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER:

1

GEORGETOWN, S.C.

The small community of Georgetown is what Charleston used to be, with 200-year-old homes (more than Charleston in fact), scenic plantations, lots of Southern charm and fewer crowds. Restaurants serve up low country specialties and outdoor adventures include kayaking. uhistoricgeorgetownsc.com

2

PISMO BEACH, Calif.

Situated on California’s central coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Pismo Beach offers white sand beaches and spectacular sunsets and is close to numerous local wineries. A perfect area for surfing or body boarding, this classic California beach town feels straight out of the 1950s. upismobeach.org

3

EASTPORT, Maine

Eastport, the easternmost incorporated city in the U.S., serves as a coastal gateway to Downeast Maine and Fundy Bay. While rich in natural beauty, this small town also packs a cultural punch because of the many artists, filmmakers and writers who call the area home. ugoeastport.com

4

VERMILION, Ohio

5

GULF SHORES, Ala.

Vermilion, located on the south shore of Lake Erie, feels more like a New England seaport, complete with a historic lighthouse and rich nautical heritage. Popular in summer, Vermilion’s streets feature small boutique shops, art galleries, ice cream parlors, restaurants and concerts on the green. uvermilionoh.us

PROVIDED BY CITY OF PISMO BEACH; GETTY IMAGES

Pismo Beach, Calif.

Visitors to Gulf Shores can enjoy white sand beaches, fresh seafood, championship golf courses and nearly any water sport imaginable, thanks to the many nearby back bays and rivers. Preserves and state parks protect much of the region, making it a great coastal escape. ugulfshores.com

For prime shelling conditions, go within an hour of low tide, when the beach is exposed.

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2018 GIFT GUIDE

GETTY IMAGES

COME AWAY WITH ME Whether they’re set on touring Europe for months or looking for a quick weekend getaway, our travel-themed gift guide has something for all the explorers on your list BY SARA SCHWARTZ

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THE JET SETTER

STAY FRESH Patchology’s On the Fly kit keeps beauty regimens on track. $20, patchology.com

NOVEL IDEA Sink into Tana French’s suspenseful tale The Witch Elm, which follows Toby, who, while caring for a dying uncle, finds his family has a secret past. $28, hudsonbooksellers.com

Genius Pack’s G3 carryon spinner comes with a laundry compression bag and multiple external and internal pockets for extraordinary organization. $238, geniuspack.com

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RELAX

HYDRATE

Stave off jetlag in high style with Slip’s luxurious sleep mask and queen pillowcase. mask $50; case $85, slipsilkpillowcase.com

The lightweight and space-saving Que Bottle collapses and expands. $24.95 for 20-ounce size, quebottle.com

PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES

PACK IT UP!


GLOBE-TROT TER

ENERGIZE

NOVEL IDEA

STAY FRESH

Battery power is on hand at all times with this phonecharging bracelet by Mark & Graham. $149, markandgraham.com

Long flights are better with epic novels, like Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, an extensive story with a dazzling cast of characters. $30, hudsonbooksellers.com

Made from nutrient-rich botanicals, the Active Botanical Serum by Vintner’s Daughter restores and renews. $65 for 5-milliliter travel size, vintnersdaughter.com

PACK IT UP! Travel the world in style with Calpak’s TRNK three-piece set. $395, calpaktravel.com

HYDRATE Hydration won’t be an afterthought with the Healthish water bottle, which includes printed time reminders. $26, healthish.com

RELAX Vim & Vigr’s striped and colorful compression sleeves help to re-energize and support legs on long trips. $27.95, vimvigr.com

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KIDS IN TOW

WRITE ON! Keep kiddos entertained with Wee Society’s Go!: A Kids’ Interactive Travel Diary and Journal, which includes postcards, stickers and more. $14.99, penguinrandomhouse.com

STAY FRESH

HYDRATE

Skin gets TLC on the go with Herbivore Botanicals’ travel-friendly set of facial oil, face mist and cleansing bar soap. $46, herbivorebotanicals.com

The durable Lunatec Aquabot multitasks (just like you!) as a water bottle and misty shower. Starting at $28, lunatecgear.com

NOVEL IDEA Edited by Roxane Gay, The Best American Short Stories 2018 works for busy parents on the go. $28, hudsonbooksellers.com

Pair the adorable two-piece Oh Joy! for Calpak confetti hardcase luggage with the power luggage tags to keep devices running. $285 for luggage; $32 for power tag, ohjoy.com

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PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES

PACK IT UP!


ROAD TRIPPER BAG IT UP! The durable and roomy Homestead Road Toter by The North Face holds all necessities. Integrated bottle opener and exterior daisy chains add helpful details. $50, thenorthface.com

NOVEL IDEA In Road Trips, author Jen CK Jacobs explores eight inspiring ways to see the world. $18.95, roostbooks.com

ENERGIZE Add one effervescent tablet of 8Greens to a bottle of water to get a dose of spinach, wheatgrass, kale and five other essential greens. $28 for 20 tablets, 8greens.com

KEEP TRACK

STAY FRESH

HYDRATE

The Tile Sport is waterproof and uses Bluetooth and a smartphone app to keep items from getting lost. $25, thetileapp.com

ESYM’s sets include a roll-on, face mist, room spray and scent pod kit — keeping unwanted smells at bay. $87-$100 in jasmine or rose, esym.co

The 64-ounce Takeya insulated water bottle helps keep hydration a priority between rest stops. $54.99, takeyausa.com

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ZEN SEEKER

HYDRATE

STAY FRESH

NOVEL IDEA

VitaJuwel’s Gem-water bottles have a detachable bottom filled with a selection of precious gemstones, which the creators say improves the water’s pH and oxygen. Starting at $78, gem-water.com

Make any space yours with Among the Flowers’ Sacred Spaces kit, which includes a mini smudge stick, Himalayan salt crystal, soap and soy wax candle. $65, amongtheflowers.com

The Inner Beauty Bible by Laurey Simmons teaches practical ways to nurture well-being. $23.68, harpercollins.com

RELAX Find zen wherever life takes you with the foldable eKO SuperLite yoga mat by Manduka. $42, manduka.com

WRITE ON! Rustico’s beautiful leatherbound traveler journal preserves memories. $68, rustico.com

Paravel’s Week(ender) is roomy enough to go the distance, and it fits over most suitcase handles for easy transport. Starting at $345, tourparavel.com

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PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES

BAG IT UP!


OUTDOOR ADVENTURER

GO BIG The Shoal floating tent is part tent, part raft, making the world your waterbed. $1,499, smithfly.net

HYDRATE

BAG IT UP!

Nomader’s collapsible bottle is durable and leakproof. $23.95, nomader.com

The Avenues Pierpoint by Gregory goes from urban jungle to actual jungle with its weather-shielding cover flap and loads of storage. $129.95, gregorypacks.com

NOVEL IDEA

CHILL OUT

STAY FRESH

Homecamp: Stories and Inspiration for the Modern Adventurer by Doron Francis and Stephanie Francis offers multiple ways to enjoy the world around us. $45, chroniclebooks.com

The small and rugged Soundlink Micro Bluetooth speaker by Bose keeps the campfire hangouts going. $99.95, bose.com

Juniper Ridge’s 2-ounce travel body wash comes in awesome outdoorsy scents, including White Sage and Cascade Forest. $5, juniperridge.com

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PLAN YOUR NEXT GETAWAY! VISIT: ExploreSmokies.com

Treat Your Dog Like a Champion! My Doggy Soft-Baked Cookies Delicious treats for your dog, made in the USA from the highest quality ingredients, come in ten different flavors and an assortment pack. Training size treats come in three flavors, and a new Protein Line features Apple Duck and Sweet Potato Turkey treats. Dogs love ’em!

Here’s a winning offer:

Try out our treats! Your dog will be your biggest fan forever. Order online at mydoggy.com. Use Code SPMD-17 for 15% off plus free shipping on your first order!!* *Offer for one time use only. Cannot be combined with any other coupons or discounts.

MyDoggy.com

SOFT-BAKED COOKIES Wheat, Corn & Soy Free

No Preservatives


Hitting the Right

Notes These music-inspired destinations span generations and genres

PHOTO BY PETER NEWCOMB PHOTOGRAPHY/NATIONAL BLUES MUSEUM; ILLUSTRATION BY AMIRA MARTIN

By Lisa Davis

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hether you lean more rock ‘n’ roll, or blues is your thing, this curated-beats bucket list of museums and acoustic-themed hotels and restaurants will be music to your ears. Here’s a sampling of states that tout great music destinations:

OHIO

LOUISIANA

new orleans

The musical legacies of Louis Armstrong, Ellis Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews continue in the jazz clubs of NOLA. Frenchmen Street, in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, is the place for live music with a dozen or so venues featuring the best street bands in town. Preservation Hall (preservationhall. com), established in 1961 and in the French Quarter, hosts traditional New

Orleans jazz concerts. For free jazz sets, head to Musical Legends Park (neworleansmusical legends.com), which has selfie-friendly statues of music icons including Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas. For the ultimate music experience, spend a weekend at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (nojazzfest.com) where jazz, gospel, Cajun and zydeco music are performed on multiple stages.

Trombone Shorty at New Orleans Jazz Fest

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PLAY ALONG: On most Monday evenings at 5:30 p.m., the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, about an hour from New Orleans, hosts music sessions. Bring your instrument — guests are invited to play along. The center also has an exhibit dedicated to Cajun history. nps.gov/jela

ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME; NEW ORLEANS JAZZ FEST

cleveland

Travel down a musical memory lane at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (rockhall.com), which tells the stories of music legends living and deceased. (Don’t miss Michael Jackson’s famed sequined glove.) Newer to the museum are the Hall of Fame Experience, with current inductees and a memorial section dedicated to those who recently passed away. The Power of Rock Experience runs clips from induction ceremony presentations, an immersive 12-minute film featuring performances and an opportunity for visitors to be interviewed by inductees including Smokey Robinson and Alice Cooper in the “Say It Loud!” story booths. Have a favorite artist you’d like to see inducted into the Hall of Fame? Stop by the “Voice Your Choice” booth and let the museum know who you’d like to see nominated.


GEORGIA

macon

ELLIOTT ANDERSON; CARA PASTORE

athens

The B-52s, R.E.M. and Widespread Panic all originated here, and the city’s venues have been used as locations for videos and album art, including the Morton Theatre (mortontheatre. com), where R.E.M.’s video for the song Losing My Religion was filmed. Soul food restaurant Weaver D’s on Broad Street provided inspiration for R.E.M. In 1992, the band got permission from owner Derrick Weaver to use his slogan “automatic for the people” as the title for one of its albums. Listen to local and out-of-town bands at the Georgia Theatre

(georgiatheatre.com), a movie-house-turnedconcert-venue. At the Georgia Music Hall of Fame at the University of Georgia, guests can admire musical artifacts at the school’s Special Collections Library (uga.edu). If vinyl is your thing, visit Kindercore Records (kindercore.com), a musician-owned and operated vinyl record manufacturing plant where, on a limited basis, tours show how vinyl records are made. Head to record stores Wuxtry Records (wuxtry records.com) and Low Yo Yo Stuff Records to find LPs and more.

SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE For more R.E.M. trivia, visit soul food restaurant Weaver D’s, weaverds.com

It’s easy to see why Macon was dubbed the “Song and Soul of the South.” Music legends Otis Redding, Little Richard and The Allman Brothers Band got their start here, and any itinerary should include The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House (thebighouse museum.com) and the Rose Hill Cemetery, where Duane Allman is buried. The Otis Redding Foundation and Mini Museum (otisreddingfoundation. org) and his statue at Gateway Park are also must-sees. And although Little Richard’s childhood home was torn down, you can pay homage to “the architect of rock ‘n‘ roll” at the Tic Toc Room (thetictocroom.com) where he performed. For live music, visit Grant’s Lounge, Hargray Capitol Theatre (hargraycapitoltheatre. com) and the historic Douglass Theatre (douglasstheatre.org). Rock Candy Tours (rockcandytours.com) explores music sites, including Downtown Grill (macondowntown grill.com), where Gregg Allman proposed to Cher and H&H Soul Food Restaurant (handhsoulfood.com), where owner “Mama Louise” fed The Allman Brothers Band before they were famous.

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Prince mural at 26th Street and Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis

minneapolis

Fans are still going crazy for Prince in the singer’s hometown. A DIY tour of sites related to the performer includes murals and dance clubs, including First Avenue (first-avenue. com), where many of the concert scenes in the film Purple Rain were filmed. The singer frequently performed at the Dakota jazz club (dakotacooks. com), and the record shop

Electric Fetus (electricfetus. com) has a bin filled with Prince’s recordings on CD and vinyl. Visit the Schmitt Music Mural located at Marquette Avenue and 10th Street where Prince’s first publicity photos were taken in 1977. Also save time to visit the Purple One’s suburban home and studio, Paisley Park (officialpaisley park.com), which is open for tours.

TAKE ME WITH U: If you want more, Prince The Tour stops at 10 spots in the Minneapolis area. princethetour.com

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memphis

You can’t visit Tennessee without taking in Graceland (graceland.com), Elvis Presley’s former mansion and burial site. Same goes for touring the Rock N’ Soul Museum (memphisrocknsoul.org), the Stax Museum of American Soul Music (staxmuseum.com) and Sun Studio (sunstudio.com), where B.B. King, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded.

brownsville

Tina Turner’s flashy costumes can be admired at the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School, the one-room schoolhouse she attended as a child. Also on display are several of Turner’s gold and platinum records, photos and audio commentary from Turner herself. The museum is part of a larger collection of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center (westtnheritage.com), which also includes the West Tennessee Music Museum, where you can see a rotating exhibit of Elvis memorabilia

PROVIDED BY MEET MINNEAPOLIS

MINNESOTA


TENNESSEE on loan from Graceland and learn why the highway between Nashville and Memphis is known as “Music Highway.” Next door to the Flagg Grove School is the John Adam Estes Home, the last home of blues pioneer Sleepy John Estes.

pigeon forge

Said to be the biggest ticketed tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee, Dollywood parks and resort (dollywood.com) is near where Dolly Parton grew up and is partially owned by the music legend. The theme park hosts concerts that pay tribute to Southern gospel and bluegrass music. If you’re lucky, you might see Parton performing. Gold records at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

I LIKE IT, I LOVE IT The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has one of the world’s most extensive musical collections. country

JOHN RUSSELL; COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME; CHRIS HOLLO

musichalloffame.org

nashville

A music lover’s nirvana, Nashville is packed with attractions. Head downtown, where your first stop should be the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (countrymusic halloffame.org). Often referred to as the “Smithsonian of Country Music,” the spot is home to 2.5 million pieces of music history, including Elvis’ 1960 solid gold Cadillac and Dwight Yoakam’s skinny jeans. It hosts rotating exhibits, the RCA recording tour, three restaurants, and the Hatch Show Print store (hatchshow print.com), where you can see handmade posters and make your own as part of the paid tour. After touring the museum, stroll by the nearby Music City Walk of Fame (visitmusic city.com/walkoffame) on Nashville’s Music Mile, which honors musicians “who have contributed to the world

through song.” Also in the vicinity, the Johnny Cash Museum (johnnycashmuseum.com) has the world’s largest collection of Cash artifacts, including his first gold record for I Walk The Line. When done, head upstairs to the Patsy Cline Museum (patsymuseum.com) to listen to a rare recording. Another notable spot is the Historic RCA Studio B (studiob.org), where dozens of country and pop stars made recordings, including Parton, Elvis and the Everly Brothers. Other attractions include the Recording Academy Grammy Museum (grammy museum.org) and The Gallery of Iconic Guitars at Belmont, located on the Belmont University campus (thegig atbelmont.com). For an intimate jam session, reserve a spot at The Bluebird Café (bluebird cafe.com) — seats fill up fast; check website for reservation details. For larger concerts, try the Grand Ole Opry (opry.com) or the historic Ryman Auditorium (ryman. com). To find local flavor, Downtown Nashville is filled with honky-tonks open 365 days a year featuring live music and no cover charges. Continue your music vacation in Leiper’s Fork, about 45 minutes south of Nashville. There you’ll find the antique shop Serenite Maison (serenitemaison.com) with a pickin’ corner filled with rare musical instruments you can strum. At Open Mic Night on Thursdays at Puckett’s Grocery, (puckettsofleipers fork.com) you might sing alongside Wynonna Judd or Justin Timberlake.

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MICHIGAN

detroit

Pay homage to Motown Records at its namesake Motown Museum (motownmuseum.org). At the original site of the music label, fans can visit Studio A, where acts like the Supremes, the Four Tops and Smokey Robinson recorded. The museum includes artifacts, and visitors can tour the upstairs apartment where Motown founder Berry Gordy lived. Stop by Third Man Records (third manrecords.com) and browse the handpicked vinyl stock of Jack White. The store also has a performance stage, record booth and a viewing window of its vinyl pressing plant.

TIP: The Motown Museum was founded by Esther Gordy Edwards, Berry Gordy’s sister.

Motown Museum

MISSISSIPPI

clarksdale

If you’re devoted to the music of blues legends B.B. King and Muddy Waters, then the Mississippi Delta area, known as the land where the blues began, is where you want to vacation. Start your pilgrimage at the Delta Blues Museum (deltabluesmuseum.org), which tells the history of blues through photos, videos and artifacts, including the sharecropper’s shack that Waters lived in, which has been restored and relocated to the museum. Travel along the Mississippi Blues Trail (msbluestrail.org), where roadside signs make it easy to find the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, where singer Bessie Smith died in 1937 after being injured in an automobile accident and Dockery Farms plantation in Cleveland, where Charley Patton, an important

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figure in the pioneering era of the Delta blues, lived intermittently for three decades. Roebuck “Pops” Staples and Howlin’ Wolf are other prominent bluesmen who once lived at Dockery Farms.

indianola

Housed in an old brick gin mill, the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center (bbking museum.org) pays tribute to King’s life and blues fame. A touch-screen exhibit allows visitors to learn about King’s childhood and career. Another interactive program shows the blues legend giving guitar instruction while visitors can finger chords on a guitar. Outside, the blues legend rests in peace at the memorial courtyard, where he was buried in 2015.

B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center


WASHINGTON

seattle

Your West Coast music journey begins when you land at Sea-Tac International Airport, where local musicians can be heard through the speakers and seen entertaining on the concourse. Head to the Museum of Pop Culture (mopop. org), and take in a wide range of exhibits, including Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, celebrating the history of the Seattle rock band Nirvana through more than 200 rare artifacts, photographs and oral histories. The museum’s sound lab gives visitors a place to make their own music using electric guitars, drums and mixing consoles.

ARIZONA

phoenix

See, hear and handle instruments from around the world and throughout history at the Musical Instrument Museum (mim. org). Peruse the galleries organized by geography, containing items culled from collectors, instrument makers and musicians, including the piano on which John Lennon wrote Imagine. The Mechanical Music Gallery features self-playing instruments. There’s also a 300-seat concert theater that hosts approximately 200 artists each year. (Other instrument museums include the National Music Museum in Vermillion, S. D., and the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, Calif.)

MISSOURI

PROVIDED BY THE MUSEUMS

st.louis

This destination is a must for blues lovers and fans of rock ’n’ roll. The National Blues Museum (nationalbluesmuseum.org) showcases the history of blues’ rhythmic sounds through exhibits and live jam sessions on Thursdays. Pay your respects to the “Father of Rock & Roll” Chuck Berry, who was born in St. Louis, at his bronze sculpture in the Loop district across the street from Blueberry Hill (blueberryhill. com). The restaurant and music club is where Berry duck-walked across the stage more than 200 times. The Loop is where you’ll find The Pageant (thepageant.com) and Delmar Hall (delmarhall.com), two music venues that draw national acts. You can also watch musicians record tracks at Gaslight (gaslightstl.com), which has a bar, lounge and built-in recording studio. New to the St. Louis music scene is North Gateway inside Gateway Arch National Park, which offers concerts throughout the year.

National Blues Museum

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America’s Town, America’s Story Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA 01342 (413) 775-7214

www.historic-deerfield.org

Visit Brewster

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escape to the outdoors Chenango

DE STI N ATI O N Visit www.chenangoNY.org or call 607-334-1400

® NYSDED

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E XPLORE

AMERICA 54

115

86

84

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48 92

112 96

62

82

100 118

66

123

70 56 94 102

76 59

MAP ILLUSTRATION: MIRANDA PELLICANO

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NORTHEAST

SOUTHEAST

MIDWEST

WEST

PACIFIC

48 My Town: Bucks County, Pa.

56 My Town: Jonesboro, Ga.

82 My Town: St. Louis

94 My Town: Phoenix

112 My Town: Napa Valley

51 The Coastal Draw of Maine’s Kennebunkport

58 Fantastic Florida

84 Taste Michigan’s Wine Country

54 Vermont Mac ‘n’ Cheese Aims to Please

62 Greenbrier Charm 66 Artsy Murals in Nashville, Tenn. 70 Take the Kids to Columbia, S.C. 76 Foodie Fun in Mobile, Ala.

86 Chicago’s Literary History 92 Grab a Coffee in Columbus, Ohio

96 Chill Out in Crested Butte, Colo. 100 Utah’s Zion National Park Shines 102 Adventure Time in Phoenix 106 Spend the Holidays in Galveston, Texas

115 Climb a Tree in Oregon City, Ore. 118 Live It Up in Lively Las Vegas 123 Enjoy Rockets and Rosé in Santa Barbara County, Calif.

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DANNY SEO’S

Bucks County, Pa. Danny Seo spent a decade in New York City before moving to Bucks County, Pa. The host of Naturally, Danny Seo fell for the bucolic area that encompasses parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. — ELIZABETH KENDIG

BEST PLACE TO

“I always pop into Early Bird (Espresso) for their delicious coffee drinks. I bring a reusable thermos filled with collagen creamer, and they top it off with their amazing coffee.”

“The owner of Modern Love has a great eye and is always finding beautiful things. I get all my gifts from here. The giant wooden chopping block on my TV show, Naturally, Danny Seo, that’s shaped like a giant knife is from here!”

Frenchtown, N.J.; earlybirdespresso.com

Frenchtown, N.J.; shopmodernlove.com

HEALTHY-ISH STOP

BEST UNDER-THE-RADAR

DESTINATION “The Boat House restaurant and bar is a converted house that, yes, once held boats. It’s as if Ralph Lauren threw up in here: antique paintings, silver-plated tray tables, and they make the best margaritas. It’s down a hidden pathway and in the winter, they have a wood-burning stove that warms up the place. Love.” Lambertville, N.J.; 609-397-2244

They’ve done a beautiful job restoring the Black Bass Hotel and it’s the place for Sunday brunch. Sit by the windows and watch the Delaware River below. You'll see fishermen and boaters just float on by.” — DANNY SEO

blackbasshotel.com

SHOP

BEST WEEKEND

RITUAL “Running on the towpath along the Delaware River. Even if you hate cardio, this makes it seem like it’s no big deal. You get the best views of the river, and the crushed stones make running secure. You can run from one river town to the next without even realizing you’ve done a few miles.” fodc.org/visit-the-canal/towpath-trail

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PROVIDED BY DANNY SEO (3); GETTY IMAGES

BEST


Your Adirondack Base Camp

“Snowmobile Capital of the East” Get Back to Real Winter Fun

McCauley Mtn. Ski Area

OldForgeNY.com


You’re going to

LOVE

Kent

County

MD

Maryland’s Upper Eastern Shore on the Chesapeake Bay kentcounty.com

• • • • •

Chestertown • Rock Hall • Galena • Betterton • Millington

Our National Parks The National Mall welcomes millions every year, but what they see is hardly welcoming.

It welcomes the world to our most significant monuments and memorials. But like many national parks, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., desperately needs our help, including $350 million in federal funding for maintenance, repairs, and preservation. You can help with a simple letter. Visit NPCA.org/mall. Or call 1-800-NAT PARK.


NORTHEAST | M A IN E

Bush family compound, Kennebunkport, Maine

Presidentially Posh Vacation like American royalty in Maine’s Kennebunkport, home to the Bush family compound BY DIANE BAIR AND PAMELA WRIGHT

GETTY IMAGES

“T

here are three things people in Maine are proud of — lobsters, Stephen King and President (George H. W.) Bush!” says Carl Greeley, a waiter at the Grace White Barn Inn and Spa in charming Kennebunk. That’s especially true in the neighboring coastal oasis of Kennebunkport, location of the Bush family’s stunning summer residence at Walker’s Point.

In addition to the Bush clan, Kennebunkport hosts tourists galore at its beaches, golf course and the cluster of shops and restaurants (lobster, fried clams, anyone?) in Dock Square. But in mid-October, as the last of the revelers and leaf peepers head home, things quiet way down, and the fierce beauty of this seaside town awakens. It’s true that some businesses close for the season, including Mabel’s Lobster Claw, said to be a favorite of President H.W. Bush. But there’s a >

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trade-off: When the crowds decamp, you can live like a president — if only for a weekend — for less, thanks to off-season rates at Kennebunkport’s most luxurious digs. In winter, the views from the oceanfront Cape Arundel Inn & Resort reveal a palette of silvery grays and moody blues. It’s different from the sunwashed summer hues, but every bit as beautiful. Arrive before dark so you can admire the frothy Atlantic Ocean across the street as you sip your welcome glass of bubbly. Bundle up for a walk along Ocean Avenue, winding alongside a tumble of boulders at water’s edge. Turn right, and you’ll head past St. Ann’s Episcopal Church and down to Colony Beach, where the Kennebunk River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Head left, and you’ll view the Bush family compound at Walker’s Point, jutting into the ocean and adorned with a towering flagpole. While the public isn’t permitted to enter the grounds, there are benches along the water that invite ogling at a distance. For dinner, settle in at Ocean, the Cape Arundel Inn’s acclaimed dining room, and have chef Pierre Gignac whip up some favorites of the 41st POTUS and FLOTUS: a Tito vodka martini,

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DENNIS COOK/ASSOCIATED PRESS; DANIEL LOISELLE/GETTY IMAGES; KENNEBUNKPORT RESORT COLLECTION (2)

The Bush family, including former President H.W. Bush and the late Barbara Bush, has long resided in Kennebunkport.


Kennebunkport, Maine

oysters and lobster thermidor for him, for lunch and dinner, the Boathouse and the seasonal yellow heirloom offers fresh seafood with an Asian twist tomato gazpacho for her, according (how’s a lobster spring roll sound?) at its to our helpful waitress. This is dining lobster bar, plus winter-hearty fare like at its finest, featuring seasonal Maine New England clam and corn chowder. delicacies with a hint of Provence, and Kennebunkport is especially Instadefinitely first-family worthy. gram-worthy under a blanket of snow. It The 28-room Cape Arundel Inn is the gets an annual average of 40-plus inches closest hotel to Walker’s Point — and of the white stuff. Make the most of it at those ocean views are exquisite — but nearby Harris Farm. This dairy farm, run it’s not the by the Harrises only option. for four generaThe Grace tions, morphs White Barn Inn into a winter and Spa is the wonderland of ultimate in cozy fun when the chic, and its snow flies and stunning dining nearly 25 miles room, set in an of trails open for antique-filled cross-country barn, has won skiing, snowthe coveted shoeing and AAA five fat-tire biking. diamonds and Gear rentals Forbes’ five and lessons are stars. Live piano available. music adds an Still not sure extra touch of that chilly (OK, elegance. (Most sometimes reromantic room: ally cold), snowy, the Loft Suite, coastal Maine in with a fireplace winter is your and a Jacuzzi cup of chowder? tub for two.) Consider this: Stroll to KenKennebunkport nebunk Beach, puts on its or along the party hat come walking path at December, with the Franciscan its Christmas monastery Prelude (Nov. At Ocean, the 41st POTUS ordered across the 29 to Dec. 9 this lobster thermidor, above, while the street. If you year.) Events former FLOTUS opted for the seasonal love that include candleyellow heirloom tomato gazpacho. old-inn charm, light strolls and consider the the arrival of historic but Santa via lobster comfy family-owned Captain Lord boat accompanied by “lobster elves.” Mansion. All 21 rooms in the main and And lest its considerable charms go to garden houses have gas fireplaces, waste, the town puts on a monthlong upping the cozy factor. And, it’s a short Valentine’s party called Paint the Town walk to town. Red with an ice bar, pop-up restaurants, Although, several shops and resand dining and hotel package deals. taurants are shuttered for the season, Let the crowds (and former world some wonderful spots remain open, leaders) have it in summertime; this including the Boathouse restaurant at presidential locale is pretty awesome all The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel. Open year-round. l

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Hot Dish Vermont restaurants put interesting twists on classic mac ‘n’ cheese quickly became an American staple when Kraft began selling its boxed version in 1937. Today, the dish is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, especially in Vermont. Thanks to its booming dairy industry, Vermont has plenty of local cheese that chefs are using to give the classic dish a modern reboot. Here are nine places, identified by 10Best, where you can get your fill:

OUR HOUSE BISTRO Winooski Our House Bistro is known for what it calls “twisted comfort food,” and that includes more than two dozen types of mac and cheese, including the Buffalo Chicken Mac topped with a buffalo chicken wing, above. The Traditional comes with cavatappi pasta in a house cheese sauce and topped with herb bread crumbs, while some of the more unique offerings come topped with poutine, coconut shrimp or French fries. For something truly twisted, try the Thai-inspired Peanut Butter & Jelly Mac.

JASCHA HERLIHY; GETTY IMAGES

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hile the origin of the quintessential side dish macaroni and cheese is unknown, the earliest recorded recipe dates back to 1769. According to Smithsonian magazine, it likely made its way from France to the U.S. via Thomas Jefferson, who served the dish at a state dinner in 1802. Mac ‘n’ cheese


PROVIDED BY THE RESTAURANTS

J. MORGAN’S STEAKHOUSE Montpelier A guest favorite at J. Morgan’s Steakhouse is the Lobster Mac & Cheese — cavatappi pasta tossed in a velvety four-cheese blend and the fresh-picked meat of a whole Maine lobster. It’s topped with garlic bread crumbs and baked to a golden brown.

CORNERSTONE PUB & KITCHEN Barre Cornerstone serves six varieties including the Traditional Mac with Vermont cheddar sauce, trottole pasta and a butter cracker crumb; and the Maine Lobster Mac features lobster meat, brandy and scallions. For something different, try the Sugar Shack Mac with Vermont maple syrup and smoked bacon.

PROHIBITION PIG Waterbury Prohibition Pig takes their Craft Mac & Cheese seriously. It’s made with Vermont baby Swiss and two types of Cabot cheddar (clothbound and sharp). Diners can order as-is or topped with chopped pork, local bacon, black truffles or house pickled jalapeños.

VERMONT COUNTRY DELI Brattleboro Macaroni and cheese is a signature menu item at the Vermont Country Deli. Available in many sizes, this popular mac is made with a rich and creamy cheese sauce, Vermont cheddar cheese and a golden mozzarella crust. (It’s so popular that catering manager Tracey John says they sold 44,000 pounds of it in 2017!).

BIG FATTY’S BBQ White River Junction Big Fatty’s is known in Vermont for its barbecue and several homemade sauces. Whether you’re ordering pork spare ribs, brined barbeque chicken, pulled pork or Texasstyle brisket, be sure to request their house-made mac and cheese as a side, made with Cabot Creamery cheddar cheese.

TWO BROTHERS TAVERN Middlebury Classified as a main course at Two Brothers Tavern, the Vermont Mac + Cheese is made with Vermont aged Cabot cheddar, cream from Monument Farms (located about 2 miles down the road) and elbow macaroni.

WORTHY KITCHEN Woodstock Worthy Mac from the Worthy Kitchen starts with cavatappi pasta tossed in a sauce made from roasted garlic cream and aged Plymouth cheddar. It’s topped with chives and crushed cheesy treats for crunch.

YE OLDE TAVERN Manchester Built in 1790, the charming Ye Olde Tavern is on the Vermont Register of Historic Places and boasts “delightfully uneven floors” and antique touches that add to the warmth of your meal. The Tavern’s take on mac and cheese involves Vermont cheddar, lobster and applewood-smoked bacon.

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LOGAN BROWNING’S

Jonesboro, Ga. For actress Logan Browning, the friendly, small-town feel of Jonesboro, Ga., where she grew up provided a comforting backdrop. And the star of Netflix's Dear White People is always thrilled to be able to return home. — GINA ROBERTS-GREY

BEST PLACE TO

EAT LOCAL

MUSEUM

BEST

PARK “Lee Street Park in historic downtown Jonesboro is a place I’ve taken advantage of as an adult. There are free workout classes in the park, and wonderfully produced concerts in the amphitheater.” jonesboroga.com/LeeStreetPark. aspx

I love the Brake Pad in historic downtown College Park. It’s a great place to stop and grab a bite when headed towards Jonesboro from Atlanta.” — LOGAN BROWNING

brakepadatlanta.com

“My favorite claim to fame when people ask where I’m from is to say ‘Jonesboro. The town Gone With the Wind is set in.’ There is a Road to Tara Museum that allows you to relive the novel. ... There’s nothing like reliving Rhett and Scarlett’s epic romance.” atlantastruesouth.com

BEST PLACE TO

TRY SOMETHING NEW “The (Porsche Experience Center) provides a really unique experience that includes the chance to drive a Porsche with a drive coach in the car. It’s a great place for thrill-seekers and families alike.” porschedriving.com

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chick-fil-a.com DIANA RAGLAND; ROAD TO TARA MUSEUM; CHICK-FIL-A; ERIC SIMPSON/ PORSCHE EXPERIENCE CENTER ATLANTA; LEE STREET PARK

BEST

“You can’t argue me down about who makes the quickest and most delicious breaded chicken sandwich. It is hands down The Dwarf House, the original Chick-fil-A. S. Truett Cathy started the small diner with his brother, which led to an empire.”


TripAdvisor “CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE” EIGHT CONSECUTIVE YEARS

Autumn Island Getaway

S T. S I M O N S I S L A N D , G E O R G I A I S M A G I C A L I N T H E F A L L

800.342.0212 kingandprince.com #kingandprinceresort

ASK ABOUT OUR OCTOBER USA TODAY SPECIALS

Farm-to-Table Dining Charming Downtown Specialty Shops & Boutiques Annual Dogwood Festival Go Fish Education Center Georgia National Fair

Perry Convention and Visitors Bureau

101 GENERAL COURTNEY HODGES BLVD. PERRY, GEORGIA 31069

478-988-8000 — www.perryga.com


SOUTHEAST | FLOR IDA

Seven things to do while visiting the Sunshine State BY MAUREEN KENYON

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hen you think of Florida, what comes to mind? Is it the miles and miles of beautiful beaches? How about the fun rocket launches? Do you think of alligators in the Everglades? Or do you just want to add to your sensational seashell collection? Luckily, because of the Sunshine State’s near-perfect weather, it’s easy to plan adventures around all of those items, even in the winter. Here are some of the quintessential activities and places throughout the state — excluding the house that Mickey built because that’s kind of a given — that every Florida visitor should experience:

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Pensacola is known as the birthplace of aviation, and it’s also home to the Navy’s famous Blue Angels and the National Naval Aviation Museum. At the museum, visitors can see more than 150 restored aircraft representing the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The historic, one-of-a-kind aircraft are displayed inside the 350,000-square-foot museum and outside on its 37-acre grounds. Admission is free. The best part, though, is visitors can watch the Blue Angels practice over the Naval Air Station on select days through November. Practices last about 55 minutes, and admission is free and open to the public.

PATRICK DOVE/TCPALM

Florida Bucket List

SEE THE BLUE ANGELS SOAR


COCOA BEACH PIER

GETTY IMAGES

Built in 1962, the Cocoa Beach Pier is a historical landmark on the Space Coast. Stretching 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, the pier was constructed with more than 2.5 miles of boardwalk planks and 270 pilings, each 40 feet in length. With scores of restaurants, beach bars and stores, you can eat and shop for souvenirs at the pier. You can also try your hand at catching a wide array of fish, with applicable fees and passes. Cocoa Beach has been referred to as the Surf Capital of the World, and now visitors can take daily lessons at Flohana's surf school. And because the Space Coast could see at least three launches during the remainder of 2018, the pier is a prime spot to watch rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center, too.

LIKE SEAFOOD? THERE’S A FESTIVAL FOR THAT

TAKE AN AIRBOAT RIDE

Between oyster eating, and oyster shucking, and running redfish and racing blue crabs, the Florida Seafood Festival — the state’s oldest maritime festival — draws thousands of visitors to historic Apalachicola every November. The 55th annual festival is Nov. 2-3 and takes place at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, about 70 miles southwest of Tallahassee. Enjoy fresh Florida seafood, local artisans and the annual blessing of the fleet at Battery Park. This year’s event will include exhibits and marine labs, too.

Get the full Florida experience on an airboat ride from Naples. Everglades Excursions offers half-day tours (4 to 4.5 hours for $96) and full-day outings (7.5 to 8 hours for $134). Board an authentic airboat and prepare for an exhilarating trip through the backwaters of the Gulf, including mangrove tunnels and old Indian trails. Airboat captains will wind through the rugged Ten Thousand Islands, revealing the hiding spots of alligators, manatees and other local inhabitants. The tours are fully narrated.

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SEARCH FOR SEASHELLS The beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel started National Seashell Day, so we’re going to presume they know what they’re talking about. While you’re over there shelling, make a stop at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. It’s the only museum in the country dedicated to shells and mollusks. Also, even though Bowman’s Beach, located mid-island on Sanibel, is a pretty popular place, there’s still enough room to find some beautiful shells. Another popular spot to search is unofficially called “Shell Key,” and it’s on the Ten Thousand Islands, south of Naples.

THERE SHE BLOWS! Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island was named for its rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline, the largest on the U.S. Atlantic coast, according to The Nature Conservancy. During extreme high tides and after winter storms, seas break against the rocks and force plumes of saltwater up to 50 feet skyward. The best way to predict a good show, says Cristin Krasco, who manages the preserve, is if there’s a small craft advisory, which are days that aren’t best for the beach. Visitors also can check a webcam at the nearby Jupiter Inlet for rough conditions. Blowing Rocks is open daily, except on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ybor City, one of Tampa’s most historic neighborhoods, was founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers and became a melting pot of immigrants from Spain, Cuba, Germany and Italy. Today, it’s home to some of the world’s most famous cigar factories, and visitors can learn more about its history during a Cigar Industry History Tour. Ybor City is also the only neighborhood on Florida’s west coast to be designated a National Historic Landmark District. After your tour, get a brewing history lesson. Cigar City Brewing is a good place to start your education.

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GETTY IMAGES

SMOKY HISTORY


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Save up to 20% by planning your getaway today! Visit discoverhcv.com/stay-and-play or call (866) 892-5890 for the Book Early discount. Holiday Inn Club Vacations® at Orange Lake Resort 8505 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34747 18-MRP-0600

Orlando’s Best st Vacation Value Nestled just outside the new Disney Springs® Resort Area, the Staybridge Suites Lake Buena Vista offers spacious suites for the entire family. Voted 2017 Traveler’s Choice on Tripadvisor and a Walt Disney World Good Neighbor® Hotel, this property is just a few minutes from Orlando’s most exciting attractions including the Walt Disney World® Resort Area, Universal Orlando Resort™ and SeaWorld® Orlando. Known for our friendly staff and convenient location, we are looking forward to being a part of your vacation memories. Complimentary Breakfast Daily Free Scheduled Shuttle to Walt Disney World® Resort Heated Pool • Whirlpool • Kid’s Pool • Evening Social (Mon-Wed) No Resort Fee • Free Wi-fi • Free Parking

Lake Buena Vista sborlando.com | sbreservations@ihg.com | 407-238-0777


SOUTHEAST | W EST V IRGIN I A

Grand Greenbrier Historic resort has been welcoming guests for centuries

S

ince 1778, travelers have come to White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., for the water, long considered beneficial to health. Through the 1800s, guests stayed in cottages (that remain in use today) on The Greenbrier resort’s property and it became known as a grand summer social gathering place. After the Civil War, the completion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway made accessing the area easier, and in 1910, the railway company purchased

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the property and began adding amenities. Thousands flocked to the area to vacation at the resort, “take the waters” and golf on the esteemed Old White TPC course, designed by golf course architect Charles Blair Macdonald. In 1914, the resort opened year round. Given its relative proximity to the nation’s capital (about a four-hour drive to the resort), The Greenbrier has frequently crossed paths with government interests. During World War II, at the request of the State Department, it became a temporary home to German, Japanese

and Italian diplomats. As the war continued, the U.S. Army converted the entire resort into a 2,000-bed hospital, where more than 20,000 soldiers were treated over the course of four years. In the late 1950s, the government built a secret Emergency Relocation Center (also known as a bunker or fallout shelter) hidden in plain sight under the hotel’s West Virginia wing. Though it was never used, the bunker was equipped to accommodate the U.S. Congress in the event of an attack on Washington. Now decommissioned, it’s open for tours.

RON BLUNT

BY SARAH MAIELLANO


A Legendary Place Where history is preserved, heroes are celebrated, and natural beauty surrounds you. Download our new VisitClarksvilleTN app to plan your next getaway.

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SOUTHEAST | W EST V IRGIN I A

WILD, WONDERFUL WEST VIRGINIA The Mountain State enjoys more than a million acres of state and federally protected lands, as well as numerous parks and recreational areas — a varied landscape for outdoor adventures. Don’t miss these four:

GREEN BANK OBSERVATORY

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LOST WORLD CAVERNS

Lewisburg Lost World Caverns take visitors 120 feet down to see a series of impressive cave formations below the earth's surface, including a 30-ton stalactite known as The Snowy Chandelier and a column of glittering white calcite called The Bridal Veil. The cave maintains a 52-degree temperature throughout the year. ulostworldcaverns.com

HARPERS FERRY NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

Harpers Ferry This nearly 4,000-acre National Historical Park encompasses Harpers Ferry, a historically noteworthy town of the 19th century. Visitors enjoy history and outdoor recreation in a region that feels like you’ve traveled back in time. With the distinct combination of attractions it’s no wonder nearly 500,000 visit every year. unps.gov/hafe

TRANS-ALLEGHENY LUNATIC ASYLUM

Weston Purportedly one of West Virginia’s most haunted sites, the asylum opened its doors in 1864. By the 1950s, the facility was overcrowded and operating under inhumane conditions. The hospital has since closed, but visitors can still tour the landmark to hear about its storied past and supposed paranormal present. utrans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com

SARAH MAIELLANO FOR USA TODAY; GREEN BANK OBSERVATORY; PROVIDED BY LOST WORLD CAVERNS; NATIONAL PARK SERVICE; ADVENTURE MYTHS

Famed interior designer Dorothy Draper redecorated the entire resort in 1946, using her trademark vibrant colors, bold patterns and posh furnishings. More recently, and especially in the last several years, under the ownership of businessman Jim Justice (who’s also currently West Virginia’s governor), The Greenbrier has emphasized its luxurious accommodations, spa treatments and exclusive entertainment — while maintaining its old-fashioned, historic charm. Visitors can sip afternoon tea while enjoying live piano music. The new private, subterranean casino (open to hotel guests only) holds a nightly Champagne toast and waltz performance. In the cold weather, guests can enjoy ice skating with rinkside fire pits, sleigh rides, indoor swimming, bowling or relaxing in front of glowing fireplaces. When temperatures warm, the outdoor pool’s infinity edge overlooks surrounding mountains; the Greenbrier Classic brings an annual PGA Tour FedEx Cup event to the Old White course, and tennis matches are held in a professional stadium. One special activity not to be missed: the ancient sport of falconry. l

Green Bank A tour of the Green Bank Observatory site starts at the Green Bank Science Center, where hands-on exhibits bring the world of radio astronomy to life. Visitors to the center’s restricted zone get a close-up look at the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. ugreenbankobservatory.org


EVERY DAY EXTRAORDINARY

Convention & Visitors Bureau

travelwv.com

800.4WVA.FUN

126 E. Race Street, Martinsburg, WV 25401, 304.264.8801


Wallflowers Nashville’s spectacular murals are growing in number, boosting the city’s art scene BY SARAH SEKULA AND SARA SCHWARTZ

S

trolling through Nashville, Tenn., is like going on an Easter egg hunt — you never know what you’re gonna find, but you know it’s gonna be good. Nashville-based freelance journalist Kristin Luna seeks out the eye-catching murals scattered around the city. “My husband and I tend to go mural chasing early on Sunday mornings when businesses are closed,” says Luna, who blogs at Camelsandchocolate.com. “Not only are the crowds fewer, but you don’t have cars obstructing your view (or getting in the way of that money shot!).”

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R!VIVE! This mural, painted by Brooklyn artist Beau Stanton, is part of Rivive! Nashville, a stream and river stewardship campaign created by five nonprofits that comprise the Nashville Waterways Consortium to revitalize the waterways of Middle Tennessee. u5th Ave. N. and Commerce St.

PHOTOS BY SARAH SEKULA

SOUTHEAST | T EN N ESSEE


INSTAGRAM’S RAINBOW WALL In 2017, Instagram sponsored rainbow murals in many cities to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. The brightly colored wall, which asks viewers to use the #KindComments hashtag, was created by artist Adrien Saporiti, who also created the I Believe in Nashville mural. u221 2nd Ave. N. GUITARS AND AUTOMOBILES Nashville artists Herb Williams, Sam Dunson, Emily Miller, Brian Donahue and Chris Zidek worked together to create five distinct guitars for this mural. It’s also across the street from Instagram’s rainbow wall. u213 3rd Ave. N., between Church and Union streets

GREEN AND BLUE ABSTRACT MURAL Last spring, emerging San Francisco-based artist Ian Ross painted his green and blue abstract mural in Nashville’s historic Gulch District, drawing inspiration from Northern California’s forests and beaches. u251 11th Ave. S.

FROM ME TO YOU For this Gulch District favorite, artists Chris Zidek (who signs his work as Zidekahedron) and Nathan Brown each painted very distinct and different murals that connect on one wall. At left is Brown’s colorful geometric design. u601 Overton St., facing Mansion Street

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GOOGLE FIBER MURAL IN THE GULCH Sponsored by the local office of Google Fiber, the blue geometric mural was also created by Zidek. Bonus: This mural is on the side of Whiskey Kitchen, so after admiring the art, grab some appetizers and beer. u118 12th Ave. S.

BEAUTIFUL DECAY Artist Tavar Zawacki says his mural “represents peeling away the older layers and starting fresh.” u148 5th Ave. N.

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GEOMETRIC MURAL On the adjacent building next to Ian Ross’ green and blue abstract mural, is Jason Woodside’s eye-popping geometric mural, a kaleidescope of colors. Both murals are in the historic Gulch District of Nashville. u299 11th Ave. S.

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JOHNNY CASH LYRICS Niels “Shoe” Meulman adds his own flair to lyrics from Johnny Cash’s song As Long As The Grass Shall Grow. u5th Ave. N., between Commerce and Church streets

DOWNTOWN DOG Herakut, the German street artist duo Jasmin Siddiqui and Falk Lehmann, depicts a giant dog hugging a girl. “One day I will rescue your brother, too” is painted near the top. uCorner of 6th Ave. and Church Street (on side of Cornerstone Square Building)


The Nashville Mural Arts Project chronicles and supports the creation of murals painted by street artists. nashvillewalls project.com

WHAT LIFTS YOU Kelsey Montague’s 20-foot-high mural allows passersby to be photographed with angel wings. Plan to get there early, however, or prepare to wait in line. u302 11th Ave. S.

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Soda City Market

South Carolina’s capital city offers a bevy of family fun to fill a weekend BY SUSAN SHAIN

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n average high of 63 degrees in February. An easy drive from Atlanta or Raleigh, N.C. A range of family-friendly eateries and activities, plus a huge children’s museum and an award-winning zoo. No, we’re not talking about Charleston or Savannah, we’re talking about South Carolina’s capital: Columbia. Known to the locals as “Cola,” this laid-back city of 130,000 is a wonderful weekend destination — especially when you’ve got kids in tow. “Affordability and accessibility make Columbia a great place to visit with the family,” says Dayna Cantelmi, marketing and communications associate for Experience Columbia SC. “Plus the region’s year-round temperate climate makes it an ideal winter escape.” Here’s a weekend itinerary full of local flavor and fun:

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Whether you’re driving or flying, you’re probably going to be tired — and the kids are probably going to be cranky. The first priority: food to fight the “hangry.” Stop by neighborhood joint Henry’s Restaurant and Bar and sit on the covered patio while enjoying satisfying hamburgers and chicken tenders, playfully plated on a Henry’s Frisbee (kids menu only). If you’re not quite ready to crash after dinner, stop by Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe, which has sweet options for everybody — including boozy adult milkshakes in flavors that include Bananas Foster and Dreamsicle. Or, opt for one (or more, we won’t tell!) of the spot’s signature desserts. “Get the brownie sundae,” says Lynn Luc, founder of the popular Instagram account @GoCola, which celebrates Columbia. “You can split it between three people and still be full.” >

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The Columbia Marionette Theatre

SATURDAY Rise and shine! It’s Soda City Market day. If you ask a local what they love most about Columbia, many will mention this weekly event. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, it encompasses three lively blocks of crafts, food and music — all with a killer view of the state Capitol. Meander freely for as long as you want: There’s free parking throughout the city on the weekends. “I go every week,” Luc says. “So many awesome small businesses are out there. It’s a perfect place to bring your kids and dogs; I’ve even

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seen goats and cats on leashes.” Once you’ve had your fill of boiled peanuts and ambulant animals, catch either the 11 a.m. or 3 p.m. show at The Columbia Marionette Theatre (the building that looks like a fairy-tale castle). The marionettes range in size from a few inches to more than 5 feet tall, and have been entertaining local young’uns since 1988. If you want to stretch your legs after the show, the theater is spitting distance from Riverfront Park, which offers a 2.5-mile stroller-friendly path along the water. By this point, you’re probably ready to take a load off. While Columbia has its fair share of craft breweries, River Rat Brewery is one of the best for families. There’s cornhole, magnetic building blocks and a large yard where kids can run wild. If you’re ready for some adultsonly time, hire a babysitter from a service such as SC Nannies, whose rates start at $13 an hour. You can then sneak >

River Rat Brewery

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EXPERIENCE COLUMBIA SC

After everyone’s had their treats, head back to the hotel to get some rest. For a trendy boutique feel, try the brand-new Hotel Trundle. Located right off Main Street, it has an inviting bar, chic art deco rooms and custom Lego artwork kids will love. It also offers complimentary baked goods and coffee in the morning, both from locally owned establishments.


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Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Affordability and accessibility make Columbia a great place to visit with the family.” — DAYNA CANTELMI, EXPERIENCE COLUMBIA SC

SUNDAY Something about Sunday says “cinnamon rolls,” and you won’t find any better than at The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli. Owned by a mother-and-son team who relocated from the Northeast, it’s quickly become a Columbia favorite. It’s not difficult to understand why: Even breakfast sandwiches come with a mini cinnamon roll. Make sure to fill up, because

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you’ve got a lot of walking to do at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, which houses 2,000 animals across 170 acres, as well as a zip line, rock climbing wall and merry-go-round. “Go between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. so you can feed the giraffes,” Luc says. “It was the best thing I’ve done all year.” If it’s rainy, bypass the zoo for EdVenture, the largest children’s museum in the Southeast. One attraction you literally can’t miss is EDDIE, the “world’s largest 10-yearold.” He’s 40 feet tall and has an explorable interior with tunnels and slides representing organs such as a heart, lung and brain. For your last stop, grab a bite at Za’s on Devine, a pizzeria that manages to be classy and

EdVenture ’s EDDIE family-friendly at the same time. “It’s the kind of place that you and your husband could eat alone,” says Tiffany Nettles, founder of the Columbia SC Moms Blog. “But is also totally OK if you bring the kids.” Just like everywhere else in Columbia, it doesn’t really matter whether you’ve got the kids or not — you’re probably going to have a good time. l

EXPERIENCE COLUMBIA SC

out to the revitalized Main Street. You can watch a movie at The Nickelodeon, a long-running indie theater; play bar games at the boutique bowling alley, restaurant and bar The Grand; or enjoy a romantic nightcap at Lula Drake Wine Parlour.


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• Learn about Earl Scrugg’s influence on music around the world at the Earl Scruggs Center • Enjoy live music & entertainment at the Don Gibson Theatre • Try a hometown favorite, Liver Mush (Yes, it sounds gross, but we can’t get enough of this pâté of the south!) • Famous Red Bridges BBQ • Enjoy locally crafted beer at Newgrass Brewing Co. • Live music & entertainment on the historic court square in Uptown Shelby • “Liberty Mountain” is a Revolutionary drama performance in Kings Mountain (June-July)


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On the Menu Mobile’s burgeoning food scene is drawing national attention — and for good reason

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hen 32-year-old Chris Andrews was growing up in Mobile, Ala., his family never went downtown. “Everything was kind of boarded up,” he says. But over the past decade, those shuttered buildings have begun to open their doors again. “We’ve had a few good mayors who made downtown a priority,” says Andrews, who created the Bienville Bites Food Tour in Mobile. That strategy helped to revitalize the city, bringing it in line with its rich culinary and cultural history. Since 2008, the number of annual visitors to Mobile has grown by 45 percent — and the number of restaurants has nearly doubled, going from 28 to 50, according to Tara Zieman, marketing and communications manager for Visit Mobile. That abundant history dates back to 1703, when the country’s first Mardi Gras celebration took place in what is now present-day Mobile — 15 years before New Orleans was founded.

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“Folks have been talking about the historic side of Mobile for 300 years, but lately they’re talking about the food,” Zieman says. “Shrimp, blue crab, oysters and more are as bountiful as they are succulent — and they come straight from our backyard: the Gulf of Mexico.” That said, seafood isn’t the only delicacy on Mobile’s menus these days. Whether you have a hankering for down-home barbecue or are looking for a contemporary take on authentic cuisine, even the most >

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BY SUSAN SHAIN


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Wintzell’s Oyster House

BOUNTY OF THE BAY “When you talk about the food scene in Mobile, it revolves around oysters. It always has and always will,” Andrews says, adding that oysters were the primary food source for the area’s Native American tribes, and that nearby islands still have hills composed entirely of shells. The bay’s oyster-filled past extends through the Civil War, when hungry soldiers were delighted to arrive in Mobile. “They came down here, and it was like a seafood buffet,” he says. “They could scoop their hands out of the water and have a meal.” To taste them for yourself, venture to one of the longestrunning restaurants in town: Wintzell’s Oyster House. What began as a six-stool oyster bar in 1938 is now a Mobile institution. Andrews takes visitors to

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Wintzell’s on his main tour, LoDa Stroll, which has seven stops and explores Lower Dauphin Street Historic District (LoDa). The original downtown location oozes nostalgia, with walls plastered in hundreds of the founder’s homespun sayings. Under signs like, “The best way to look young is to hang around older people,” you can enjoy the city’s signature dish: oysters, either fried, stewed or “nude” (raw). While you’re there, try the West Indies Salad, a tangy combination of crab meat, onions and vinegar that originated in Mobile. O Magazine called Wintzell’s version one of the best things to eat in Alabama — and if you can’t trust Oprah, who can you trust? To sample more of the region’s bounty, head out onto the Causeway, a narrow highway that straddles Mobile Bay. Here you’ll find several “fish camps” — establishments modeled after

Felix’s Fish Camp

the tin shacks of fishermen — offering rustic charm paired with tasty seafood. One of the most famous is Felix’s Fish Camp, which affords expansive views of the water — and resident gators Shelia and Big Brutus — from its panoramic windows. “The crab soup is to die for,” says Stacy Hamilton, former vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Mobile. “As is pretty much everything else on the menu.” >

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THE NEW PITMASTERS

Meat Boss

MODERN SOUTHERN CHARM Like the downtown it inhabits, Mobile’s restaurant scene has elevated itself in recent years — while still staying true to its Southern roots. Take, for example, Southern National. Months after opening, this upscale spot was named a

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Southern National

semifinalist for a James Beard Award — the first restaurant in Mobile to receive such a nod. “When I started cooking, I never imagined I would be part of something like a city’s transformation,” says chef Duane Nutter. “But as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one way to cook — and that’s with a sense of place.” For Nutter, that sense of place has led to contemporary takes on Southern classics, like grilled shrimp jalapeño Johnny Cakes, mussels and collard greens and “Kentuckyaki” braised short ribs. It’s also contributed to the restaurant’s casual, vintage vibe, complete with floral upholstery, retro light fixtures and a dramatic Alabama pine ceiling. For down-home Southern cooking, look no further than Mama’s on Dauphin. Each weekday, it offers an enticing lunch special: an entree and two sides for $8.95. You could

be treated to chicken and dumplings, jambalaya or shrimp creole, accompanied by sides like black-eyed peas or fried okra. The Noble South is an airy restaurant with two-story ceilings, exposed brick and a trendy vibe that wouldn’t seem out of place in any major city. Although the seasonal farm-to-table menu changes frequently, favorites include the deviled eggs and fried oyster benedict. When you’re ready to hit the town, head to Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, a neighborhood watering hole that’s been serving up live music and beer since 1946. While most bars this fun aren’t typically known for their food, locals say Callaghan’s has the best cheeseburger, well, ever. “Mobile used to be a city that people passed through,” says Andrews. “But I think people are starting to recognize there are things to do here. And things to eat.” l

TED MILES PHOTOGRAPHY; PROVIDED BY MEAT BOSS

While Mobile has always been known for its seafood, a relative newcomer is making waves in the BBQ world, too. Meat Boss, a homey spot with license plates on the walls — and a constant line on its front porch — was recently named the best-loved barbeque in the state by Yelp. “We baby our meat all night long,” says Dara Chinnis, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Benny. She’s not exaggerating: Meat Boss has an overnight staff that tends the meat during its 12- to 14-hour smoking process, producing more than 2,000 pounds each week. With a choose-your-ownadventure menu, patrons can create their perfect combination of meat, starch, sauce, toppings and sides. (Some can’t-miss options include the pulled beef brisket and creamy white Alabama sauce.) “It’s like you’re coming into our house to eat,” says Chinnis. “We make it however you want it.”


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I love the University City Loop neighborhood. I like seeing movies at the Tivoli Theatre and eating at Winslow’s Home. I like walking around this neighborhood.” — ELLIE KEMPER

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TAKE IN ART “The St. Louis Art Museum is fantastic. Their American art collection is one of my favorites. They have a spectacular series of Hudson River School landscapes, and I also adore the river scenes of George Caleb Bingham. Missouri artist shout-out! In addition to the permanent collections, the exhibitions they feature are phenomenal. I love everything about this museum.” slam.org

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Grape Escape Southwestern Michigan is a must-visit wine destination

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hether they crave a buttery chardonnay, an earthy merlot, a fruity sauvignon blanc or a spicy syrah, oenophiles know exactly where to find it: California. France. Italy. Maybe even Australia or Chile. Oh, and ... Michigan. Because it borders four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan is best known for its relationship to water. Its wines, however, have been slowly making a name for themselves during the past 40 years. And if you ask the winemakers behind those vintages, they’ll proudly

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declare that their time has finally come. They might be right: In February, Wine Enthusiast magazine gave the 2015 estate-grown cabernet sauvignon from Dablon Vineyards in Baroda, 90 points on its 100-point rating scale — the highest rating ever for a Michigan cabernet sauvignon. “The wines being made in Michigan today are not the same wines that were being made 15 years ago,” says Karel Bush, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. “Not only have the winemakers become much more experienced, but so have the growers. ... They’re growing varietals consumers want and managing their

vineyards in a way that produces the best-quality grapes. Because without good grapes, you can’t make good wine.” Better wine has generated more wine tourism, according to Bush, who says 94 percent of Michigan’s 132 wineries receive approximately 1.7 million visitors each year. Although most of the state’s wineries are concentrated in northwestern Michigan, near Traverse City, the southwest section of the state is a rising star. Brimming with year-round activities, agricultural ambiance and, of course, lots of wine, it’s an ideal destination for anyone who measures fun in sips. Southwestern Michigan owes its wine

PROVIDED BY MOERSCH HOSPITALITY GROUP (3); GETTY IMAGES

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GET YOUR GLASS The best way to uncork a bottle of wine is to explore the Southwest Michigan Makers Trail (makerstrail.org), which includes 21 wineries, as well as brewers and distillers, or the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail (miwinetrail. com), which lists more than 20 wineries. Here are a few can’t-miss stops: LEMON CREEK WINERY The Lemon family settled in Berrien County in 1834 and has been farming there since 1855. The Lemons opened the winery in 1984 and now make wine from more than 20 grape varieties. Come for a flight in its tasting room, but stay for the harvest: Guests can roam the orchards and pick their own seasonal fruit, starting with cherries in late June.

ST. JULIAN WINERY Michigan’s oldest and longestoperating winery, St. Julian, was established in 1921 and has been in its current spot since 1936. Named for the patron saint of the Italian village from whence its founder came, the winery is home to Michigan’s first female winemaker, Nancie Oxley, who oversees production of more than 90 products. Free tours are available year-round.

ROUND BARN WINERY, DISTILLERY & BREWERY Founded in 1992, Round Barn’s headquarters is a turn-of-the-century Amish barn that founders Rick and Sherrie Moersch moved 70 miles from Indiana. It was reassembled in 1997 and is now home to guided tastings, as well as a lively summer social scene that includes live music and outdoor events May through October.

Round Barn Winery, Distillery & Brewery

cred to its big blue neighbor to the west: Lake Michigan. “Lake Michigan has a moderating effect throughout the year,” Bush says. “In the winter it blows snow, which insulates vines and protects them from the bitter cold we get throughout the season. In the spring, cool breezes off the lake keep vines in hibernation, so they don’t bud too quickly, making them less susceptible to damage from late frosts. Because the lake warms up over the summer, in the fall it produces warm breezes that keep the temperatures in vineyards a little higher, which extends the growing season and mitigates risk from autumn frosts.”

TABOR HILL WINERY & RESTAURANT Tabor Hill began in 1968 and was acquired in 2017 by Round Barn’s Moersch family, whose patriarch began his winemaking career there in 1979. A foodie’s winery, it’s best known for its elegant restaurant, where its wines are showcased with chef-made food and breathtaking vineyard views.

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MIDWEST | IL L INOIS

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

By the Book A tour of Chicago’s rich, diverse and historic literary scene

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or more than a century, Chicago has influenced writers whose integral works have helped shape America’s identity. Before becoming famous for his 1900 novel, Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser was a newspaper reporter at The Chicago Globe. He also had verse published in Chicagoan Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine, still based in the city today. Canadian-American writer Saul Bellow began his writing career in Chicago during the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’

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Project, a program started under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. During its four-year run, it supported thousands of writers, editors and researchers, including Bellow, authors Nelson Algren and Richard Wright and renowned Chicago broadcaster Louis “Studs” Terkel. And The Chicago Defender, a historic, social action-focused African-American-owned and operated metropolitan newspaper founded in 1905, published Langston Hughes’ column for more than 20 years, as well as poetry by Chicagoan Gwendolyn

Brooks when she was just 17 — long before she became the first African-American author to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first black woman to be a Library of Congress poetry consultant. Contemporary Chicago writers include Sandra Cisneros, whose Mexican-American coming-of-age novel, The House on Mango Street, is included on many schools’ required reading lists. South Chicago native and novelist Sara Paretsky is a diehard Cubs fan like her detective series’ female protagonist, the scrappy private investigator V.I. Warshawski. Graphic novelist >

PROVIDED BY THE CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER

BY KIT BERNARDI


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system,” says Carey Cranston, museum president. Compose a poem or short story using the museum’s vintage typewriters, laptops and paper at the Story of the Day exhibit, and you might even be featured on the museum’s website. More interactive exhibits delve into writers’ personal lives, trace America’s literary history, explore children’s literature and examine the writing process, including Frederick Douglass: Agitator, which ends Dec. 31.

Frederick Douglass: Agitator exhibit

American Writers Museum

LET POETRY GUIDE YOUR STEPS You don’t have to know haiku from iambic pentameter to be well-versed in Chicago’s poetry scene. The Chicago Poetry Tour podcast by The Poetry

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

The Poetry Foundation collection includes tiny poetry books.

Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, set in 1960s Chicago, started out as art therapy to help her recover from paralysis. To immerse yourself in Chicago’s literary legacy, check out these locations:

LISTEN TO FAULKNER AND FROST At the American

Writers Museum’s (americanwritersmuseum.org) permanent exhibition, Mind of a Writer, visitors can head to Featured Works, which

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has touch tables that play 35 recordings of American writers’ pieces, read aloud by many of the actual authors, including William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Robert Frost. In the Wintrust Chicago Gallery exhibit, Chicago Writers: Visionaries and Troublemakers, you’ll hear eight readings by Chicago writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Carl Sandburg and Saul Bellow. “Chicago has always drawn writers who were willing to speak out, be loud and buck the

poetry written in or about 22 Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods. Downtown podcast sites include the Art Institute, Fine Arts Building, Harold Washington Library, Chess Records, the “EL” train and Chicago Cultural Center. The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine since its founding in 1912, is the Midwest’s only poetry library open to the public with exhibits and galleries for readings and lectures. Browse the contemporary, sun-filled space housing 30,000 poetry volumes and 3,000 children’s works by internationally renowned poets. According to Katherine Litwin, library director, rare and novel pieces are available to view upon request and include micro-press poetry books — such as the tiny books featured in the EarBookShelf series and a 1935 edition of The Dream Keeper by Langston Hughes with a handwritten inscription to Harriet Monroe. >

PROVIDED BY THE AMERICAN WRITERS MUSEUM (2); JAMES STEINKAMP PHOTOGRAPHY/CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER; POETRY FOUNDATION

Foundation (poetryfoundation. org) is a multimedia tour of


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OPEN TO INTERPRETATION

The Newberry Library collection includes a first edition of Ulysses.

Published in 1623, Shakespeare’s First Folio, containing 36 plays, is not only one of the most influential books of the English language, but also a venerable stage craft training manual that today’s directors and actors use to interpret the Bard’s works. (It’s also what scholars refer to as the first published collection of Shakespeare’s plays.) Chicago Shakespeare Theater (chicagoshakes.com) is renowned nationwide for its rigorous, text-focused First Folio technique training. Barbara Gaines, the theater’s founder and artistic director, says, “If we do our jobs as storytellers onstage, the audience can easily understand every moment of the story without ever having read the play.” She adds that Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter scripts are “loaded with clues” telling actors how to reveal characters and propel the story forward. These clues include punctuation, rhyme, rhythm and syntax signaling scene changes.

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Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier has three performance venues staging this season’s productions: Nell Gwynn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Chicago’s own Q Brothers’ hip-hop version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, An Inspector Calls and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, as well as free pre- and postshow audience enrichment programming.

LITERARY TIME CAPSULE Established in 1887, the

Newberry Library (newberry. org) enjoyed stardom as a world-renowned research institution long before Chicago-based author Audrey Niffenegger’s best-seller, The Time Traveler’s Wife, about a librarian at the Newberry with the ability to drift through time. Open to the public, visitors can time travel, too, through the library’s collection spanning six centuries of manuscripts, books, maps, music, periodicals and famous writers’ letters, photos and personal belongings. Just sign up for a reader’s card to view and

PEN TO PAPER “Our directors are true to the text, never straying from the playwright’s intent,” says Michael Halberstam, co-founder and artistic director at the

Writers Theatre (writerstheatre. org). This word-wise approach to stagecraft pays homage to the north suburban Glencoe theater’s humble beginnings in the backroom of a nowshuttered bookstore. The company’s next residence was the Women’s Library Club of Glencoe, until 2016, when it moved to its current spot in a state-of-the-art complex designed by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang. Voiced-over by Writers Theatre actors, free audio tours guide visitors through the building’s two intimate theaters and public space. Productions include classics and burgeoning playwrights’ works such as the new play Vietgone, opening this season, followed by Twelfth Night, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Next to Normal, Witch and A Number. Pre- and postshow audienceactor discussions are free. l

PROVIDED BY THE NEWBERRY LIBRARY

Newberry Library

handle these treasured items. Chicago-centric artifacts include newspaperman Ben Hecht’s 1928 Oscar awarded for his original screenplay of silent film Underworld, the first-ever gangster movie; correspondence between author Willa Cather and Chicago Tribune literary critic Fanny Butcher; and Ernest Hemingway’s letter to Sherwood Anderson expressing pleasure with James Joyce’s Ulysses, published in 1922 and of which the Newberry has a first edition. First-floor galleries and the new permanent exhibit From the Stacks, located near an impressive bookstore, showcase treasures. Free, guided library tours are available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.


ComE CRossRoads TO THE

Surrounded by woods, lakes, and hills, the Wausau area offers the combination of big-city amenities with the look and feel of the great Northwoods and small-town hospitality. Four seasons of outdoor recreation, a thriving arts community, entertaining festivals and events, and diverse shopping and dining are just some of the many things to discover in Wausau/Central Wisconsin.

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MIDWEST | OHIO

Some Like It Hot In Columbus, the coffee scene brews enterprising spirits BY WENDY PRAMIK

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A

cooperative spirit among entrepreneurs has led to a buzzing coffee scene in Columbus, Ohio, that’s steeped in tradition and fueled by creativity. Columbus is a melting pot of entrepreneurs, its residents a blend of locals, transplants and newbies drawn by business and academia. People here are willing to take risks if they think those risks will lead to something great. Or at least something hot. In Columbus, you’ll find coffee from well-established roasters, such as Brioso Coffee and Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, incorporated into specialty drinks throughout the city, with newcomers such as One Line Coffee and Mission Coffee Co., supplying distinctive blends. “There’s a great coffee culture in Columbus,” says Tom Griesemer, who founded Stauf’s in 1988. “We care about each other and support one another.

Competition isn’t competition. It just raises awareness.” A few years ago, several representatives of the specialty coffee community teamed up with Experience Columbus, the city’s visitors bureau, to establish the Columbus Coffee Trail. The founding members have seen the size of their group more than double. Today, there are 25 establishments on the brew route, including roasters, coffee shops and retailers. One of those shops is The Roosevelt Coffeehouse. Opened in 2015, the nonprofit has donated $80,000 to charitable groups seeking to fight hunger and human trafficking around the globe. It’s housed in a reclaimed building in downtown Columbus and was named following a trip to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in D.C. For those looking for global tastes, head to Bottoms Up and Cova Cowork, a public coffee shop and memberbased coworking space in Columbus

WENDY PRAMIK

The Roosevelt Coffeehouse


Yerba Mate at Bottoms Up

Mission Coffee Co.

Two Dollar Radio Headquarters

WENDY PRAMIK (4); PROVIDED BY BOTTOMS UP

Crimson Cup

that serves drinks inspired by the owners’ travels around the globe and their international friends. Drinks include traditional Yerba Mate from South America, Leche y Leche from the Canary Islands, Moroccan mint tea, Cubano espresso and Somali coffee. The team is made up of two husband and wife couples — Josh and Meghan Boone and Dylan and Minji Hoffman. The four met while traveling, coworking and living together in 12 countries over the course of a year. From that experience, their vision to bring diverse cultures and people together in one space was born. In addition to serving interesting beverages, the team also works with local nonprofits and innovators to reduce infant mortality in the Franklinton neighborhood. Two Dollar Radio Headquarters, which publishes half a dozen independent books a year, serves One Line Coffee, paired with vegan milk options. Fans of Two Dollar include Daniel Han-

Luck Bros’ Coffee

dler, who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events under the pen name Lemony Snicket. He also penned a limerick for Two Dollar Radio’s menu. And there’s significant know-how in the local industry, including longtime Stauf’s president Mark Swanson and Greg Ubert, founder of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, which supplies 775,000 pounds of coffee annually to more than 350 coffeehouses, colleges and universities, food service operations and specialty retail locations around

the country. “The coffee bean itself has more flavor compounds than other food that we consume, more than chocolate or wine,” says Andy Luck, who founded Luck Bros’ Coffee in 2006 with his brother, Ed. “There’s really interesting stuff in there.” In many cases, success builds upon success, and the industry players encourage each other to reach for the crème de la crème. “We have such a surprisingly deep heritage in the specialty coffee business,” says Andy Dehus, who co-founded Columbus Food Adventures with Bethia Woolf. The company also offers a coffee tour that includes stops at Brioso Coffee, Stauf’s and Luck Bros’ Coffee. “Columbus has a lot of independent coffee shops that I believe are putting out specialty coffee drinks at a level of quality that is indistinguishable from cities that are far more acknowledged for their coffee scenes.”

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ALEXANDRA SHIPP’S

Phoenix

For Alexandra Shipp, attending Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix helped shape the artist she is today: “I felt supported to be my best self there.” The X-Men: Dark Phoenix actress shares her favorite spots. — GINA ROBERTS-GREY

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“Red Door Spa holds such great memories for me. Mom and I would treat ourselves to facials, which was a chance to relax, but also connect.”

“I grew up eating at my favorite Chinese food place, Desert Jade. I still go there every time I’m home. The food’s insane. The people who own it make you feel like family, and the almond cookies have been my favorite since I was a kid. It’s also where I’ve had a million birthdays.”

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ATTRACTION “The Phoenix Arts Museum near downtown has always held some of the best art in my opinion. They not only showcase artists from all over the country and world, but they make space for local talent to shine. Supporting the artists in your community is the best way to connect deeper with all the local art lovers.” phxart.org

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— ALEXANDRA SHIPP

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HANG WITH FRIENDS “When I was a teenager, we were always at the (Arizona) Biltmore hotel pool. When I’m (visiting) home, I always hit that waterslide and get my tan on. It’s still a great place where we can relax and eat a burger by the pool. It’s true desert baby happiness.” arizonabiltmore.com

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I have always loved the pizzas and salads at La Grande Orange (Grocery). There’s nothing like getting some good food and fun sodas and pigging out. Plus, there’s a park up the street.”


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Out Cold Button up and enjoy a winter camping experience BY KAREN ASP

E

ven the most adventurous outdoor enthusiasts might draw the line at setting up camp in frigid temps that can reach single digits. “Winter can be intimidating for people, largely because they’re

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afraid of the cold,” says Eric Larsen, renowned polar adventurer and guide. He’s spent more than a decade exploring the Earth’s most remote locations, and his extensive experiences have introduced many to the world of winter travel. He recently took a group of us on a winter camping crash course in

Crested Butte, Colo., teaching us how to layer and what gear to bring — and that it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or unbearable. Larsen starts by teaching the basics. Safety is, of course, key. “In winter, margins for safety are more narrow,” he says. “You’re trying to make calculated moves all of the


MEYVN CREATIVE; GETTY IMAGES

When winter camping, use a four-season tent, keeping the vents open to prevent condensation from freezing to the ceiling. And don’t forget to enjoy the beauty around you.

time so you’re safe.” We are being taught as though we are trekking to the North Pole — though we have only a 2-mile snowshoe hike from the trailhead to Lake Irwin, where we’ll set up camp. It’s easy to stay warm, Larsen explains, if we layer correctly. “There’s no such thing as cold weather — just not enough layers,” he says, adding that he’s more concerned about getting too warm than being too cold. “Sweat is your enemy.” Larsen uses a standard layering system to limit perspiration: Start by putting on your wicking layer first (your thinnest layer, preferably synthetic), insulating layers second (Larsen likes zip-ups so he can vent if he gets warm) and wind protection third. Also, always have a down jacket that you can easily access. “When you notice a change in your body, either heating up or cooling down, do something,” Larsen says. Fortunately, the weather is kind on this November afternoon, as it’s a bluebird day with temperatures in the 30s when we’re dropped at the trailhead. Once there, Larsen equips each of us with a sled that’s connected by a carabiner to our waist — he’s running this as expeditionstyle as possible — onto which we load our food, tents (most of which sleep three), picks, shovels, stoves and gear. (Larsen provides food and some equipment, but not personal gear. Campers are also provided with a list of recommended items to bring.) We step into snowshoes and begin the uphill trek to Lake Irwin. We stop along the way for the view; for every hour of activity, Larsen schedules 10-minute breaks for hydrating and fueling. But I’m honestly in no hurry to leave as I have a frontrow seat to the lake, its backdrop Colorado’s mighty Rockies. At one point, I follow his lead and sip hot soup I made. It hits the spot, providing warm hydration — crucial in winter because you’re more likely to drink less. Once at the site, we’re split into groups of three. After we’ve stomped down the snow to flatten it, we set up our tent, arrange our beds (air mattress under a sleeping bag) and prep for dinner. There’s a stove for each tent, and I’m tasked with looking for clean snow (“no yellow snow,” Larsen says) and shoveling it into a duffel bag, to be kept outside our tent. We fill the stove with snow and wait until it melts; the hot water hydrates our freeze-dried meals. The night ends around the fire — we’ve set up camp just a few feet back from a cliff that spills into a canyon between the mountains. >

NO COLD SHOULDERS By preparing properly, you can set yourself up for a better winter camping trip. Here are five ways to boost your experience, provided by accomplished explorer Eric Larsen:

uChoose a flat campsite that’s sheltered from wind, has lower snow levels and is away from possible avalanche danger.

uWear mittens instead of gloves, and add a glove liner underneath, which should fit snugly but not cut off circulation.

uBring your boots into your tent at night so they don’t freeze. If possible, remove the liners.

uStash a thermos filled with hot water at your feet in your sleeping bag for extra warmth.

uHeed nature’s call, even in the middle of the night. Having extra fluids in your body wastes energy that could be keeping you warm. — Karen Asp

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Campers carefully cross an iced-over lake in Crested Butte, Colo.

There’s no such thing as cold weather — just not enough layers. Sweat is your enemy.” Although I’ve missed watching the sun set, I love watching the mountains light up in the fire’s flames — and I’m hoping I’ll drift off into soundless slumber. Yet I’m a light sleeper, and nature’s stillness amplifies the sounds — especially the snoring — of the other campers. When morning comes, I’m more than ready to get going, save for the intoxicating views that are more energizing than the cup of coffee I’m sipping. The sun is on its way up, and I’m hoping it gets here soon, as I’m cooling down fast now that I’m out of my sleeping bag. The surprise, though? I was so toasty last night that I had to remove some layers (Larsen recommends wearing more, not less, as you slumber, and stripping as you get warm). But once I’m out of the bag, I bundle up. After heating more snow, we’ve got hot water for instant oatmeal. Packing up camp takes little time, and we’re soon snowshoeing downhill to the trailhead. There is a slight detour on the way back, though. Rather than following the trail around the lake as we did yesterday, Larsen decides to infuse a little more adventure into our jaunt by leading us on a trek across the lake. If there were ever a time to walk on water, albeit frozen (Larsen guesses it to be 8 inches deep), while loaded down with gear, it’s with an individual who’s trekked to the North and South Poles and Mount Everest.

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So will I camp again in winter? Let’s just say I haven’t rushed out to do it again. But I now know how to layer for the cold, which fulfills Larsen’s goal of making cold weather camping more appealing to the masses by removing the intimidation factor, hence his mantra of “it’s cool to be cold.” Yet even with my newly gained layering knowledge, I might suggest a slightly edited version: It’s cool to be in the cold. l

TRY IT YOURSELF! Eric Larsen is running winter camping courses through the season. Learn more at ericlarsenexplore.com.

MEYVN CREATIVE; GETTY IMAGES

— ERIC LARSEN


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Breathtaking Beauty Enjoy Utah’s dramatic and exceptional Zion National Park

I

n Southern Utah, Zion National Park and its 229 square miles of towering cliff walls, narrow canyons and absolutely stunning scenery lie about 300 miles from Salt Lake City and 160 miles from Las Vegas. The Southern Paiute and other Native Americans who

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lived in and around the Utah river canyons of Zion found it a spiritual place. Today, it’s difficult not to share the same sense of awe, gazing up at a slit of winnowing sunlight thousands of feet above from inside a slot canyon so narrow a person has to turn sideways to squeeze through.

Originally named Mukuntuweap National Monument, established in 1909, the area became Zion National Park in 1919. The park’s best-known attractions, with names like The Narrows, Angels Landing and Emerald Pools, have become icons of the national park experience, inspiring a

SANDRA SALVAS/UTAH OFFICE OF TOURISM (2)

BY SUSAN B. BARNES


PLAN YOUR TRIP Zion’s plentiful offerings are drawing visitors by the millions to the relatively isolated corner of Utah. Here are six ways to enjoy the park: DIP YOUR TOES If you’re adventurous, and don’t mind getting your feet wet, hike into The Narrows, the section of Zion Canyon where the Virgin River is sometimes just 20 to 30 feet wide. Go for a walk, or spend hours making your way upstream. The water’s cold, and the rocks are slippery, but it makes for an exhilarating experience. DISCOVER THE EMERALD POOLS Three trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty lead hikers to three Emerald Pools — Upper, Middle and Lower. The paths to the Lower and Middle Pools are wide sidewalks, while the path to the Upper Pool is made of uneven rock surfaces and sand. Choose to visit one of the sites or all three, but remember to look but don’t touch: The National Park Service has worked hard to restore the pools to their natural beauty. Zion National Park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

GETTY IMAGES

nps.gov/zion

library of effusive praise by writers like Wallace Stegner and Terry Tempest Williams, drawing in premier athletes for its world-class hiking, rock climbing and canyoneering, and filling the cameras of countless aspiring photographers as they try to frame some of the area’s expansive beauty.

JOIN A RANGER Park rangers offer a variety of programs to help you make the most of your time in the park from April through November. One highlight is the daily twohour shuttle tour that will take you through the park with narration by a ranger. If you’d like to take the shuttle tour, be sure and plan ahead — seats are limited and reservations are free but must be made in-person (up to three days in advance) at the information desk in the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

CLIMB A ROCK The 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs within the park are known around the world for their big wall climbs and are quite popular with experienced climbers (if you’re inexperienced, you may want to opt out). Bouldering is popular within the park, too, and there are two areas within the main canyon that are accessible from the park’s south entrance. Because of the summer heat, the best times to climb are March through May and September through early-November. Also, avoid climbing after rain, when the sandstone may be weaker. SEE ANGELS If you’re not afraid of heights and are up for a challenging hike, make plans to go to Angels Landing. The fourhour hike climbs more than 1,400 feet over 5 miles, and features long drop-offs and a steep, narrow ridge at the summit, but the views from the top are more than worth it. RIDE A BIKE One fantastic way to see the park is by bicycling, which is permitted within the park, but only on the roadways and the Pa’rus Trail. Otherwise, bikes are prohibited on the trails, off-trail or in the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Aside from the 1.75-mile Pa’rus Trail, another recommended place to ride is the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Follow the park’s riding regulations and check out the FAQ section on the webpage.

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Adventure Time Whether you’re into speed, heights or horses, head to Phoenix for outdoor fun BY RINA RAPUANO

I

t’s no accident that Phoenix is often referred to as the Valley of the Sun. Summer temperatures can easily climb above 100 degrees, making midday outdoor activities fairly unpleasant. Winter and early spring are the perfect times to check out this beguiling city, when average highs hover in the high 60s and low 70s, and the desert blooms.

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So, while many of us are bundled up and cursing the cold wind, slippery sleet and 17th snow day, Phoenicians and lucky tourists are living their best lives with days full of outdoor adventure and nights spent enjoying relaxing resorts and world-class cuisine. These three fantastic Phoenix experiences are ones you will want to cross off your bucket list:

Arizona Outdoor Fun’s tours start at $125 per person, depending on the time frame and whether you want to include a stop at the shooting range or a ghost town.

ARIZONA OUTDOOR FUN

WEST | A R IZONA


FLOAT ACROSS THE DESERT Hot Air Expeditions’ balloon rides start at $179 per adult and $129 per child, ages 5-12.

HOT AIR EXPEDITIONS

EXPLORE THE MOUNTAINS If you love driving, spectacular mountain views, Native American ruins and things that go “vroom,” sign up for a trip through the picturesque Bradshaw Mountains in the Sonoran Desert with Arizona Outdoor Fun (arizonaoutdoorfun.com). If you’ve never driven a utility vehicle, commonly called a UTV, think of it as a four-person golf cart on steroids that can seat a driver and three passengers. Those age 16 and older with a driver’s license can get behind the wheel, and because the guide makes stops for water and the opportunity to take in the scenery every 2 to 3 miles, passengers can take turns driving. A highlight of my tour was the stop that required a fairly easy scramble up some rocks that revealed breathtaking vistas surrounding Native American ruins. Our guide told us what is known about the area’s ancient tribes, pointing out plants they used and explaining the elaborate canal system they developed.

A hot air balloon ride is pretty high on most folks’ bucket lists, and tour host and pilot Craig Kennedy says he couldn’t be happier that he traded a career in TV news for the chance to witness everything from marriage proposals to the scattering of loved ones’ ashes while soaring over northern Phoenix. Hot Air Expeditions (hotairexpeditions.com) is one of a few companies that provides the peaceful, yet thrilling experience of hovering over desert, hills, coyotes and javelinas in a festively decorated balloon. After touchdown, the crew sets up tables for an alfresco toast with bubbly and snacks — often with a gorgeous sunset in the distance if you’re taking a tour from November to March, when it’s cool enough to schedule evening flights. Kennedy says even acrophobes can enjoy this experience: “I don’t think I’ve ever met a soul, even if they were afraid of heights, who said, ‘I will never do that again.’” Depending on the day’s conditions, a tour generally runs about an hour, and the balloon can climb 1,000 to 5,000 feet. Kennedy recommends that travelers schedule their ride as early in their trip as possible in case Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. “No one wants to fly more than we do, but we would so much rather break hearts than break parts,” he jokes. “If the weather’s not right, we will always wait for another day.” >

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MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT Pizzeria Bianco, a cozy Neapolitan-style pizza joint from James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco, deserves every bit of its hype. Try the traditional Margherita pie or the Wiseguy topped with wood-roasted onions, smoked mozzarella and sausage. www.pizzeriabianco. com

Fort McDowell Adventures' horseback rides typically cost $40 to $100 per person.

Forget everything you know about horseback-riding excursions with bored horses that have memorized wellworn trails. The experience at Fort McDowell Adventures (fortmcdowelladventures.com) feels more like you’re starring in a Western movie — complete with a splashy walk through the Verde River and sightings of wild horses and roaming calves found among the 25,000 acres of hilly desert located on the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation. You may actually learn a few useful horseback-riding skills, too, such as what to do when your horse takes an unscheduled break to munch on a favorite sprig of foliage. Our tour guide, a colorful character named Biscuit, walked the perfect line between entertaining and instructive. Troy Haviland, owner of the stables at Fort McDowell Adventures, says quirkiness is practically part of the job description. “You have to have a sense of humor to do this — or be a little bit crazy,” he says. The animals also have personality in spades. “It’s a live animal — it’s got a mind of its own,” says Haviland. Horseback rides cost $40 to $100 per person, depending on several factors, such as the length of the ride and season. And there’s rarely trouble unless participants don’t listen carefully. “It’s a high-adventure thing,” Haviland cautions. “I can honestly tell you that 99 percent of problems with any horse is operator error. Very rarely is it just the horses.” l

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The Scott Resort & Spa in Old Town Scottsdale is a Missionstyle boutique hotel that channels a luxe Cuban vibe following its recent $15 million renovation. thescottresort.com Enjoy a stay at The Phoenician in Scottsdale for gorgeous mountain views, easy access to Camelback Mountain, a stunning desert sculpture garden and a pool complex with waterslides and a kids’ zone. thephoenician.com

FORT MCDOWELL ADVENTURES

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Winter Wonder Island In the heart of Texas’ Gulf Coast, Galveston goes big during the holidays

R

BY CONNIE HUM

adiating with Southern charm, a rich history and temperate weather, Galveston, Texas, is a destination unlike any other. With a sprawling beach, a bevy of stunning Victorian mansions, delicious local seafood, and a picturesque pier complete with roller coasters lighting up the night sky, this city island on the balmy Gulf Coast is a treat to visit anytime of year — but during the winter,

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this city transforms itself into a true “Winter Wonder Island” with more than 50 days of holiday festivities and events. Moody Gardens, Galveston’s premier tourist destination, hosts eight distinct holiday attractions to celebrate the season. One of its most popular is Ice Land, a 28,000-square-foot attraction made up of more than 2 million pounds of ice chiseled by an award-winning team of master ice carvers from Harbin, China. The display features


GALVESTON CVB

Moody Gardens

detailed ice sculptures, ice slides and even an ice bar. This year’s theme, Pole-to-Pole, will wow crowds with awe-inspiring sculptures of animals from the North and South Poles. Those feeling too much of a chill inside Ice Land can step out for the Festival of Lights, a mile-long walking trail of more than 100 thrilling sound-enhanced animated light displays made up of more than 1 million lights. Other offerings at Moody Gardens include

an outdoor ice skating rink and immersive 3D holiday film screenings. The seasonal events at Moody Gardens begin Nov. 17 and run through Jan. 6. From Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, Galveston travels through time to a Victorian wonderland with the annual Dickens on the Strand street festival. With parades, costumed vendors peddling Victorian wares and libations, roving musicians and a roster of era-inspired entertainers, attendees >

Ice Land: Pole-to-Pole and the Festival of Lights both run from Nov. 17 to Jan. 6. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit moodygardens.com/ attractions

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Master carvers turn 2 million pounds of ice into festive fun at Moody Garden’s Ice Pole. Attendees can glide down the giant glacier slide and see polar bears and penguins.

“each home has its own style.” The iconic Grand 1894 Opera House celebrates the holiday season with a number of exciting performances, including the annual production of The Nutcracker by the City Ballet of Houston during >

GALVESTON CVB

are transported back to the 19th century. Revelers who come dressed in their best Victorian or Dickensian-esque attire receive a discount on their admission and are encouraged to enter the popular TEXAS costume contest. Austin “The main draw of Dickens on the Strand is to experience a different Galveston time and place,” says Will Wright, director of marketing and special events at the Galveston Historical Foundation. “With Galveston’s historic district as the backdrop with its great architecture and heritage, you can really lose yourself in that moment.” Four gorgeous homes feted in holiday décor in the East End Historical District will open their doors to visitors during the evening on one night, Nov. 30, for the annual Victorian Holiday Homes Tour. In addition to guests marveling at the interior of these architectural beauties, the homeowners and volunteer docents share details on each elegant home’s distinct characteristics. According to Jeff Patterson, president of the East End Historical District Association, the Holiday Homes Tour is special because


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MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT Indulge in fresh baked goods and country-style dishes at the quaint Sunflower Bakery and Cafe. thesunflowerbakeryandcafe.com

Dine alfresco on fresh islandstyle burgers, tacos and po’boys at local favorite The Spot, which boasts panoramic gulf views. thespot.islandfamous.com

the Dec. 15-16 weekend. Ballet enthusiasts are invited to attend “The Nutcracker Afternoon Tea” on Dec. 15 to meet and take photos with the dancers. Other performances include A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, a heartrending retelling of a true event in which Allied troops and German forces laid down their weapons to celebrate Christmas together during World War I. Jolly old Saint Nick invites one and all inside his workshop every Saturday in December for Cheer on the Pier. Santa will be available at the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier between noon and 4 p.m. for photos and holiday-

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Galveston’s historic homes get in the holiday spirit. Visit four on the Victorian Holiday Homes Tour on Nov. 30.

themed activities for the family. Once the sun sets, the Pier hosts holiday movies from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. This year’s lineup includes A Christmas Story and The Muppet Christmas Carol. With so many events and attractions to turn Galveston into a true winter wonder island, this destination should be on top of any traveler’s list this holiday season. l

Experience world-class dining, a gorgeous pool area and beautiful beach-facing rooms at the luxurious San Luis Hotel. sanluisresort.com

Enjoy old-world style and service at the iconic Hotel Galvez, the only historic beachfront hotel on the Texas Gulf Coast. hotelgalvez.com

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Head to the historic downtown district for delicious grilled seafood and steaks with a South American twist at Rudy & Paco, voted one of the Top 100 Restaurants in America by OpenTable users. rudyandpaco.com


BANISH BOREDOM! Moonlit river tours, pickin' on the porch, a state park, a moonshine distillery—we’ve got it all and more in Bastrop, Texas! So, come join the celebration and become a part of our story. We’re sure you’ll come back for more!

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PACIFIC | M Y TOW N

APRIL GARGIULO’S

Napa Valley April Gargiulo might be known for creating the holy grail of skin care products with her Active Botanical Serum, but the founder of Vintner’s Daughter has never wandered far from her California roots. When she’s not at the company’s San Francisco offices, Gargiulo spends as much time as possible at her family’s eponymous vineyard in Napa Valley. — ELIZABETH KENDIG

BEST PLACE FOR A

GLASS OF WINE

pressnapavalley.com

“ BEST LOCAL

HANGOUTS “Yountville (Community) Park for a super sweet and partly shaded park, with lots of grass to run around on and picnic spots as well.” “The Oxbow Public Market. My friend Christina has a shop called Hudson Greens & Goods. They have incredible green juices. My husband and kids get the Christina’s Cuckoo that’s like the best milkshake you’ve ever had.” oxbowpublicmarket.com

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Kelly’s Filling Station (and Wine Shop) for the most delicious lattes and homemade scones.” — APRIL GARGIULO

facebook.com/ KellysFandP

BEST SPA

TREATMENT “Best of Auberge facial at Auberge du Soleil spa. They even finish with a generous application of Active Botanical Serum to leave you glowing.” aubergedusoleil. aubergeresorts.com

BEST WAYS TO

INDULGE

“A day at Indian Springs ‘taking the waters.’ People have been doing this since the late 1800s. It’s the most relaxing time warp.” indianspringscalistoga.com

SARAH PHILLIPS; GETTY IMAGES (2); TRINETTE REED/AUBERGE DU SOLEIL; INDIAN SPRINGS CALISTOGA; OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET

“PRESS (Restaurant), next to Dean & Deluca (so good for picnic supplies). They do a good white negroni, too.”


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OR EG ON | PACIFIC

Tree Climbing Planet

Above It All Spend the night snoozing in the trees BY SARAH SEKULA

STEVE LILLIGREN

C

hances are, you haven’t attempted to climb a tree since childhood. Well, that’s about to change. A few outfitters around the U.S. will teach you to scale the giants, and some even give you the chance to spend the night in the treetops — an experience that offers wonder, tranquility and a new appreciation for Mother Nature.

I’m 75 feet off the ground in a gorgeous tree on a pastoral farm in Oregon City, Ore. I sway gently in my tree boat (aka a hammock that serves as my makeshift bed), surrounded by gnarly branches decked out with fluffy, green moss. This highly coveted quiet time can be tough to come by, and the experience creates one of those moments you want to remember forever. It’s all thanks to Tim Kovar, who’s in the tree boat to my

right. As the founder of Tree Climbing Planet, he’s been teaching people to climb trees for two decades now. You name it, he’s likely climbed it: banyan trees in Maui, redwoods in California and a 275-foot kapok tree in the Amazon rainforest. While climbing, he’s come eyeball to eyeball with eyelash vipers, helped scientists search for king cobras and woken up to noisy howler monkeys. His love for all things arboreal is contagious. >

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So much so, people travel from around the world to learn from him. “I like to think of our form of tree climbing as inspirational tree climbing,” he says. “People are inspired when they get aloft. For some it’s pure joy; for others, it’s a form of therapy.”

LEARNING THE ROPES First things first: How exactly did I end up lounging among the lichen? Pretty easily, believe it or not. I put on a helmet, gloves and “saddle,” which is a cushioned belt contraption with stirrups attached. I step into the loops and Kovar secures the belt and hooks the saddle up to a pair of metal clips. “Ready to branch out?” asks Kovar, who is always armed with a stockpile of tree puns. Truth is, I’ve been ready since about a year ago when I first heard about the unusual pastime of tree climbing. Now that the time has come, I’m goofy with glee. Using a sitstand technique, I inchworm my way up. “Want to do a bat hang?” Kovar asks once I’m about 20 feet off the ground. “Yes!” I respond, enthusiastically. With that, I flip my legs upside down and let my arms dangle. My inner 5-year-old is out in full force, and I realize this whole experience is about allowing yourself to act like a kid again. After about 20 minutes, I reach my tree boat, roll out the sleeping bag and pillow I brought and head back down.

HEADLAMPS AND HAMMOCKS Looking out onto the 150-acre farm from this vantage point could put anyone at ease. The wide-open pasture is bathed in a pale pink light and squiggles of mountains dominate the horizon off to the left.

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“Do you snore?” Kovar asks. “Well, sometimes,” I reply sheepishly. “But it’s really more of a gentle purr.” We both laugh. Kovar says not to worry; he has earplugs. There have been times, he says, when one lone snorer in the group of four has kept a tree full of climbers awake. We chat about global travels until around 10 p.m. when it’s time to head back up into the canopy. I turn off my headlamp and make the ascent in the light of the full moon. I nestle into my hammock and snooze until 2 a.m. when I’m roused by the sound of yapping coyotes. I stare up at the twisting branches and smile. I sure am lucky to be right here, right now. And I cannot wait to convince my 6-year-old niece to try it. Turns out, most anyone can do this. Kovar says he’s taught 5-year-olds to 85-year-olds. With specially designed climbing systems, he even has the abilty to coach paraplegics out of wheelchairs and high into the treetops. While it may look like an extreme sport, it’s quite the opposite. “We climb at a slow, almost methodical pace, so as we climb the tree we are also learning about ourselves and our capabilities,” he explains. “It’s a beautiful thing.” Watching people conquer tree climbing for the first time is quite rewarding, he says. Helping them enjoy nature and reigniting their appreciation for the outdoors is icing on the cake. “The main reason I do what I do is to help reeducate people about the Earth,” he says. “If I can get people to slow down and reconnect with the environment, perhaps they will walk away a little more aware of their impact on the future generations.” l

Tree for All

TREE FOR ALL; VERTICAL VOYAGES

REGION | OR EG ON


TREE TIME In addition to Tree Climbing Planet, which has six locations including Atlanta, Franklin, Tenn., and Oregon City, Ore., these companies will help you climb to new heights: Tree for All Roswell, Alpharetta and Atlanta, Ga. ufunintrees.com Tree Climbing Kansas City Kansas City, Kansas utreeclimbingkansascity. com Vertical Voyages Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis uverticalvoyages.com

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PACIFIC | N EVA DA

Bet High on Vegas Vibrant and bright, Sin City continues to wow BY NADINE JOLIE COURTNEY

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GETTY IMAGES

W

ith nearly 43 million visitors projected by the end of 2018 — up from 42.2 million in 2017 — Vegas draws tourists from around the world. It’s no wonder, the city’s ample dining, entertainment and hospitality options have made it an enduring playground. “There’s always something new to see or experience, whether you’re a first-timer or a repeat visitor,” says Kelly Messina, senior director of leisure sales with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “It’s a thriving city that’s always evolving with some of the top dining and shopping anywhere in the world.” Whatever your pleasure: opulent hotel suites, well-appointed gaming rooms, big-name celebrity restaurants or extravagant nighttime shows, there’s a side to Vegas for every taste and wallet size.


CASINOS

While Vegas continues to expand its number of excellent restaurants, hotels and show offerings, for many, the casinos still rule the roost.

For VIPs

THE TALON CLUB AT THE COSMOPOLITAN

ANTHONY MAIR/PROVIDED BY THE COSMOPOLITAN OF LAS VEGAS; ARIA

A tucked-away 9,500-square-foot gaming parlor that feels exclusive, The Talon Club at the Cosmopolitan is open to all. Featuring seven blackjack tables (the minimum bet is $500 per hand), six mid-Baccarat tables and single-zero roulette, the club provides privacy in an elegant, stylish atmosphere. It also boasts an impressive whiskey selection, a sommelier wine bar, a custom humidor and museum-quality artwork.

For Everyone

ARIA SPIN HIGH-LIMIT ROOM Few forms of gambling can beat the undeniable thrill of winning at slots. For slot lovers, Aria wows. With more than 2,000 slots — some that cost just a penny — the resort is among those with the most machines on the Strip, as well as regular tournaments for enthusiasts. For those wanting to graduate from penny slots, there’s SPIN, a gorgeous high-limit slot room complete with butlers, private bathrooms, full-service dining and machines returning wins of up to $5,000 per pull.

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REGION || N PACIFIC STAT EVAEDA

Home to several of the world’s largest hotels, Vegas’ offerings are amplified, from the size of the suites to the length of the check-in lines.

RESTAURANTS

Helmed by some of the world’s best celebrity chefs, the restaurants in Vegas are just as big of a draw as its casinos and shows.

For VIPS

For VIPS

NOBU VILLA AT NOBU HOTEL CAESARS PALACE

É BY JOSÉ ANDRÉS

The 10,300 square-foot, three-bedroom Nobu Villa at Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace is the height of opulence. Reached via private elevator, the rooftop villa offers exclusive amenities, including a private game and media room. Guests receive 24/7 butler service, limo transportation, a private nighttime helicopter flight over the Strip, and dinner and cocktails for four at Nobu Restaurant, all for a cool $50,000 per night with Nobu Hotel’s fifth anniversary package.

Tucked into a hidden dining room at Jaleo, é by josé andrés provides nine guests with a 20-course dinner tasting menu of chef José’s avant-garde greatest hits, including dishes like a cotton-candy empanada made with foie gras filling. After online reservations are confirmed (made up to three months in advance), a Willy Wonka-style Golden Ticket arrives in the mail, outlining the multicourse chef’s table meal of a lifetime, starting at $275 per person.

For Everyone

For Everyone

PARK MGM

SPAGO

The new Park MGM provides affordable luxury to guests looking for a Vegas experience on a budget. The hotel offers design-forward, artful options such as the 700-square-foot corner suite Nighthawk. There’s also a 5,300-seat theater showcasing Lady Gaga for the next two years, three pools, and Juniper Cocktail Lounge. For foodies, Roy Choi’s original Koreatown-inspired concept and Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s NoMad restaurant are slated to open this fall.

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Opened this year, Wolfgang Puck’s iconic Spago, which innovated the celebrity-chefin-Vegas concept, has moved from Caesar’s Palace to the Bellagio Hotel, where every table has a view of the fountains. “When we told people that (Spago) was coming to Bellagio, this was like a dream come true for everybody,” Puck says. “You look out on the lagoon, and you see the beautiful fountains, the music and everything together — it’s not just a restaurant; it is an experience.”

NOBU VILLA ATOP NOBU HOTEL CAESARS PALACE ; JILL PAIDER; PROVIDED BY SPAGO; PARK MGM

HOTELS


SHOWS

CARLOS LARIOS/PROVIDED BY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL; POWERS IMAGERY; THE GRAND CANAL SHOPPES; ERIK KABIK/PROVIDED BY THE COSMOPOLITAN OF LAS VEGAS

No night out along Las Vegas Boulevard is complete without taking in a show. In its golden era, cabaret and magic reigned. Today, dazzling effects rule.

SHOPPING

You're already spending lots of money, so why not have something to show for it? About threequarters of Vegas visitors shop, says Messina.

For VIPS

For VIPS

“O” BY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL LA GRANDE EXPERIENCE

THE SHOPS AT CRYSTALS

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, aquatic spectacular “O” by Cirque du Soleil is still one of Las Vegas’ most beloved shows. Take it to the next level with the “O” at Bellagio's La Grande Experience, which includes a private preshow Champagne reception, a photo meet-and-greet with cast members, video tour, Godiva chocolates, truffles and strawberries, and commemorative Champagne flute.

For Everyone OPIUM Created by the production company behind Absinthe at Caesars, Opium is a kitschy space adventure inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (tickets from $79). Set aboard a disco-era spaceship, the 18+ show features its fair share of raunch as well as acrobatics, dancing, juggling, sword-swallowing, live music, comedy sketches and more. Make room for preshow “Spocktail” libations, such as the Pop Rocks-garnished “Kiss My Asteroid” or Ciroq coconut and ginger beer “Sputnik Cage.”

For truly ostentatious shopping, there’s nowhere better on the Strip than The Shops at Crystals. Featuring upscale boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermès and Gucci, the shopping center — steps from Aria, Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas and The Cosmopolitan in the CityCenter complex, with a tram stop for easy access to other parts of the Strip — is also home to Mastro’s Ocean Club (boasting those famous dirty martinis and skyhigh seafood towers) for post-shopping provisions.

For Everyone

THE GRAND CANAL SHOPPES AT THE VENETIAN AND THE PALAZZO With more than 160 stores that span Harry Winston to Harley Davidson — including an 85,000-square-foot Barneys and a Tao Nightclub — The Grand Canal Shoppes is a shopper’s paradise. The massive, 875,000-square-foot center also features popular diversions, such as the famed quarter-mile-long Grand Canal for gondola rides, a Madame Tussauds wax museum, Minus 5 ice bar and celebrity-helmed restaurants.

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BE YOUR OWN DARN TRAVEL GUIDE. Know how to make the most of your trip and be the best vacation-taker you can be! Plan the vacation that’s right for you.

Excite your travel bug. Download our free app.


C A L IFOR N I A | PACIFIC

From Rockets to Rosé California’s Central Coast offers rocket launches and some of the state’s finest wineries BY AMY WU

GETTY IMAGES

Y

ou don’t have to be a space fanatic to appreciate viewing a live rocket launch — especially if it later involves wine. On California’s Central Coast, pairing the two is an unforgettable experience. >

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PACIFIC | C A L IFOR N I A

Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 10 miles northwest of Lompoc, Calif., is one of two spaceports in the U.S. that conducts government and commercial rocket launches viewable by the public. But what elevates Vandenberg is its proximity to great wineries. With some careful planning — and a flexible attitude — you can bookend your day with both. Start by visiting the calendar at spaceflightnow.com, which provides updated information on launch scheduling, delays and cancellations. Check often, as mission details and weather dictate launch times. But if a launch is canceled, the rewards of California wines are still a delightful draw. Vandenberg is an 18-mile drive from Santa Maria, a city famous for its wineries and the tri-tip, a seasoned and grilled triangleshaped cut of beef from the bottom sirloin popularized there. My friend, Douglas Stewart, talked me into watching a rocket

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launch in early May. A native Californian, Stewart spent a decade working in the aerospace industry and continues to be drawn to launches: “Each one is a unique story or event. It is the culmination of years of work.” We planned to watch the InSight Mars lander launch aboard an Atlas 5 rocket scheduled for 4:05 a.m. on May 5, heading on a six-month journey to research the Red Planet. Using the charming and historic Santa Maria Inn as our base, we awoke at 3 a.m. to heavy fog. Typically a hindrance to viewing launches, the fog wasn’t stopping us, and we headed out. While there’s no science to picking prime viewing spots, a few miles away is ideal. For launches out of south Vandenberg, the best viewing spot is along Santa Lucia Canyon Road. If you want to be farther out, take Highway 246 west about 5 miles out of Lompoc and watch from that area. For launches out of north

CAN’T MAKE IT TO A ROCKET LAUNCH? USA TODAY created 321 Launch, an app that delivers an augmented reality rocket launch experience. During a live launch, watch a hologram rocket lift off from any surface, mirroring the rocket mission. u 321launch app.com.

Casa Dumetz Wines

Vandenberg, take Highway 1 a mile north of the main gate, then take Firefighter Road east of Highway 1. Roughly a quarter mile up on the left is a large open area with fields and roadsides where you can park and look down on the launch complex. About 5 miles away from the launch pad, we found an area already well-occupied by fellow launch watchers. The base has a public viewing area south of the main gate called the Hawk’s Nest that’s typically open to the public for daytime launches, according to 1st Lt. Amy Rasmussen, a public affairs officer for Vandenberg. Other prime viewing spots include Lompoc Airport, Allan Hancock Community College and along West Ocean Avenue. Even in the predawn hours, you’ll find plenty of company — families with bleary-eyed children in pajamas, college students wrapped in fleece blankets, and space fanatics gripping smartphones tuned to

THE BUBBLE SHACK; CASA DUMETZ WINES

The Bubble Shack


MAKE A TRIP OF IT

SENIOR AIRMAN IAN DUDLEY; SANTA MARIA INN; NATALIE STRICKLIN

Minuteman III missile launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base

live streaming feeds. The countdown started, and the distinct sound of a sizzle could be heard. While heavy fog and early-morning darkness masked the view of the launch, the sound — which lasted less than a minute — was crisp and haunting until it steadily diminished into nothing. Launch-goers remained silently transfixed. Afterward, some of us nodded at each other, shaking our heads, mouthing “wow.” Many lingered behind while the sleep-deprived, including Stewart and myself, headed back to nap at the hotel. Revived, we ventured out in the late morning’s blue sky and bright sun to some of the area’s wineries. You can follow numerous established wine trails, including Santa Maria Valley and Foxen Canyon. “You can literally hit 10 wineries in a 15-mile drive — it’s a beautiful area,” says Ryan Swack, general manager for the Santa Maria Inn. We headed first to Casa

Dumetz Wines, a small production winery in Los Alamos, about a 20-minute drive from the inn. Run by Sonja Magdevski, a highlight was the Feminist Party wine, a blend of grenache, syrah and Mourvèdre that Magdevski created to honor the “fabulous women” and “wonderful men” in her life. The Bubble Shack, in the heart of bustling Los Olivos, was our next stop. In the tasting room, traditional red and white wine offerings divert into bubbly blanc de blancs, brut rosé and blanc de noirs. We loved trying the Sibling Bubblery Sparkling Grenache. Our final stop before calling it a day was the charming Carhartt Vineyard, tucked away inside a tiny shed in Los Olivo’s downtown. This one stood out for being purposefully pintsized — it’s known widely as the “World’s Smallest Tasting Room.” It’s always packed, but sampling the 20 different wines is worth the squeeze. l

Nearly 60 wineries and vineyards surround the historic Santa Maria Inn. Built in 1917, the rooms emanate old-school charm, and numerous celebrity guests, including Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Deitrich, President Herbert Hoover and William Randolph Hearst, have rested their heads there. Among the multiple spots to grab a bite on the premises, we loved The Olde English Tap Room. Built in 1941, it continues to be a regular haunt for locals. Another bonus: The inn is a quick drive to Vandenberg Air Force Base — great for those early-morning space launches.

Consider ending your adventure with a steak meal at The Hitching Post in Casmalia, roughly 23 miles from downtown Los Alamos and 21 miles from Vandenberg AFB. The nostalgic restaurant, made famous by the winedrenched film Sideways, is known for its beef and baby back ribs.

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Feathered Friends Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit offers a splendid birding paradise BY MARK ROGERS

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I

woke up at dawn in my hotel room in San Blas, Mexico — a little blearyeyed — and made my way to the lobby, where I was met by one of the most expert bird guides in the country, Francisco Garcia of Safari San Blas. We drove a few miles to a dock in La Tovara National Park, one of the prime spots for viewing birds in Mexico, and in minutes we had set off in a small boat (called

a panga) along the estuaries through the park’s thick growth of mangroves. I was fully awake now as we drifted along the deserted waterway. The morning haze swirled on the water as we passed clumps of floating spider lilies. We were soon sighting one bird species after another — including boat-billed herons, white ibises and tropical kingbirds. As our boat headed through the mangroves, the

GETTY IMAGES; RIVIERA NAYARIT CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU (6)

MEXICO


CALL OF THE WILD Hundreds of migrating birds can be spotted in Riviera Nayarit:

San Blas jay

Vermilion flycatcher

Black-crowned night heron

Hundreds of bird growth was so dense in the tunnel-like waterways that species thrive in at times we’d have to duck under low-hanging branches. Riviera Nayarit, La Tovara’s 1,606 acres of protected wetlands offer up a including snowy true slice of bird-watching heaven. egrets, great blue Riviera Nayarit — the tourism destination where the herons and park is located — sits along the western migratory route white ibises. for birds flying south from North America. Depending on the time of year, Riviera Nayarit has more than 500 native and migratory bird species. Although birders are, by their nature, a quiet group — they have to be in order to practice their craft — it might come as a surprise that, according to the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, there are approximately 45 million birders in the United States. Birders are travelers, too, with 16.3 million of them having traveled outside the U.S. to add to their >

Painted redstart

Cinnamon-rumped seedeater

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MEXICO

NO SHORTAGE OF ADVENTURE

— Mark Rogers

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The painted bunting is a species in the cardinal family.

bird-watching bucket lists. The area of San Blas has an incredible variety of habitats that shelter birds, including fresh and saltwater marshes, tropical forests, mangrove swamps, farmland, groves, beaches, tropical forests and open water. Garcia says that San Blas has 12 bird-watching routes, making it excellent for a two-week birding getaway. One thing to take into account is the hordes of mosquitoes; do yourself a favor and pack a strong insect repellent. According to Garcia, the optimum months for birding excursions are November through April, with the absolute peak being January through March. Each year, the region mounts a San Blas Christmas Bird Count, which this year took place Jan. 2-7, within a 15-mile radius in San Blas. In 2018, the count’s 30 bird-watchers spotted 16,000 birds and identified 285 species, three of which were viewed in the region for the first time: Bewick’s wren, the flammulated flycatcher and the Mexican whip-poor-will. In addition to sighting myriad birds, there’s always the chance visitors will encounter other residents of La Tovara, including American crocodiles and freshwater turtles sunning themselves on half-submerged mangrove branches. In those moments when birds weren’t in sight, Garcia shared insights about the ecosystem of La Tovara. He pointed at a red mangrove’s scattering of yellow leaves and explained, “Mangroves shed their yellow leaves in an effort to leach salt out of the brackish water of the estuary.” When birders are off the trail, they can explore San Blas, a laid-back and unpretentious beach town. The main street is lined with casual eateries and there are beautiful historic sights, including the 18th-century Fort of San Basilio. l

RIVIERA NAYARIT CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU (2); GETTY IMAGES

The Riviera Nayarit region has 192 miles of coastline and lots of activities to complement a birding trip. Whale-watching is excellent in Banderas Bay during the months of December through March, when migratory humpbacks arrive. Riviera Nayarit is also home to the Huichol Indians, who are renowned for their colorful, visionary art that is inspired in part by peyote ceremonies. Visitors will find lots of opportunities to buy reasonably priced Huichol artwork. Travelers have the option to stay in high style at luxury resorts or seek out budget accommodations in some of the smaller seaside towns. Regional cuisine is also fantastic, with an emphasis on fresh seafood. The Mexican government is investing in Riviera Nayarit as a tourism destination, so infrastructure on the main roads is excellent, making self-drive adventures possible.


WHERE TO STAY IN RIVIERA NAYARIT BY MARK ROGERS

MEXICO

Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit shares the same latitude as Hawaii, and has the same balmy climate, lush vegetation and whitesand beaches. The overarching ambiance of Riviera Nayarit’s coastline is exotic and varied, offering travelers a selection of secluded five-star resorts, boutique beach town hotels or classic Mexican accommodations, including these three options:

Riviera Nayarit Mexico City

MAP ILLUSTRATION: MIRANDA PELLICANO; W PUNTA DE MITA; HOTEL GARZA CANELA; FOUR SEASONS RESORT PUNTA MITA

W PUNTA DE MITA One of the newer resorts in Riviera Nayarit, W Punta de Mita brings the hip W style to the region, and sports the vibrant and whimsical design style of Revolución Del Sueño, a design studio famous for its boutique in the Riviera Nayarit surf-centric town of Sayulita. There’s a spa, an on-site surf school and a huge pool with cabanas and DJ. On the beach are six private cabanas emblazoned with mermaid murals. Dining is a highlight at the resort and includes chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market, inspired by the chef’s travels through Asia; Chevycheria, a beachside eatery fashioned from a 1950s Chevrolet truck; and Mesa1, where the 12-seat table made of a single piece of parota tree trunk offers sea views and extra-attentive service.

HOTEL GARZA CANELA In the historic city of San Blas in northern Riviera Nayarit, Hotel Garza Canela is a good choice for those who want to rise with the sun and get out into the mangroves for primo bird-watching, or for those who want to eat their way through the celebrated menu at the hotel's restaurant El Delfin, overseen by celebrity chef Betty Vasquez, who is also a celebrity judge on the TV show MasterChef Mexico. Visitors can also enjoy a night on the town, where one no-frills restaurant after another beckons with fresh seafood. Part of the charm of a stay at the hotel are the Vázquez González sisters who own and operate the property, and who have a knack for making guests feel like family.

FOUR SEASONS RESORT PUNTA MITA Punta Mita is a 1,500-acre private peninsula in Riviera Nayarit that delivers accommodations at five-star resorts, along with the extra measure of security a limited-access area provides. A standout resort is Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita. During my stay, I was struck by how the Four Seasons brand had loosened up — I can’t imagine that they would have named anything “The Shack” in years past. The Shack is a relaxed beach bar venue where guests can order light snacks and drinks. High-style romantic experiences at the resort include the option for private dinners on a promontory called “The Rock,” guided stargazing and a Hakalo couples’ massage in an open-air spa cabin.

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CANADA

Treasured Island Canada’s Prince Edward County, on the shores of Lake Ontario, is finding its place as a world-class food and wine mecca

P

rince Edward County, an island on Lake Ontario, has long been known for its miles of white sand beaches and crystal-clear water — and enormous crowds — in the summer. But more recently, PEC, or the County, as locals call it, has become a major foodie destination, with scores of wineries, artisanal creameries and farm-to-table restaurants. Vogue magazine, arbiter of all things fashionable, billed it last year as the “Hudson Valley of Canada,” a nod to the renowned food and wine hub north of New York City. Located within a two- to four-hour drive of numerous northern cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Syracuse, N.Y., PEC has become one of the hottest vacation spots in the Lake Ontario region. Which is why autumn — when the harvest is on and the traffic jams of beachgoers have faded — is an ideal time to visit. It’s still warm enough to walk along the beaches at Sandbanks Provincial Park, and the fall bird migration along the enormous dunes is always

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spectacular. A little farther inland, those same sand deposits are what caught the eye of a few enterprising viticulturists, who deduced that the combination of sandy soil and the unusually mild microclimate of the area (PEC is on a peninsula, connected to the mainland of Ontario by a narrow isthmus) was a winning recipe for wine production. It’s a vision that is slowly coming to fruition. “When we first started coming here in the ’80s, we would bring all our food because there was hardly a place to eat lunch or even a decent grocery store,” says Pauline Joicey, whose Redtail Vineyard was an early pioneer in the region. “But there has been an explosion,” says her husband, Gilbert Provost. “When we planted our first grapes in 2004, there were only four other wineries in the area. Today there are over 40.” Chuckling, he adds: “And in the last few years, the foodies have followed the winos.” This is no Napa. New wineproducing regions, like wine itself, take time to mature — decades, if not centuries. You won’t find many PEC wines

on lists of the world’s top vintages (not yet, anyway), but that doesn’t mean you won’t find many a treasured experience along the country lanes of the PEC wine district, which is concentrated in the western end of the county around the hamlet of Hillier. PEC wineries are largely boutique operations, geared more to the wine-tasting experience than to exporting bottles. Redtail, a case in point, is one of just two wineries in North America to be both organic and 100 percent solar-powered, claims Provost. At the County Cider Company, my wife and I dined alfresco on pizza from a wood-fired oven alongside heirloom apple trees. Later

JENNY THOMPSON

BY BRIAN BARTH


LOUISA NICOLAOU; PROVIDED BY PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY TOURISM

Prince Edward County’s Taste Trail touts the area’s breweries and restaurants, including Parsons Brewing Company, far left, and the Drake Devonshire, left. Below, the island offers multiple camping options, including the beach.

that day we sipped rosé while strolling through the hillside vineyard at Waupoos Estates Winery, where we eventually found ourselves at a deck overlooking a bay. There, we befriended a few other couples who were taking in the sunset. Flocks of birds came and went, their silhouettes dancing against the backdrop of a glowing sky. You will find more than just grapes growing along PEC backroads. More than two dozen farms that sell fresh produce on-site, including a number of pick-yourown orchards, are scattered about the hills and hollows. Down one gravel road, we found Prince Edward County

Lavender, a lavender farm complete with a giant “still” for making essential oil; and down another, we visited the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company, a solar-powered, LEED platinum-certified goat and buffalo dairy. We came home loaded with cheese for the fridge and lavenderscented Christmas stocking stuffers.

Before the grapes came along, PEC was known for the production of hops and barley, a bit of agricultural heritage that seems to have sparked a movement to establish craft distilleries and microbreweries in the area. There are now at least two of the former and six of the latter, including Fronterra Farm, which offers a >

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THREE WAYS TO SEE PEC It takes little more than an hour to drive across Prince Edward County, though you could easily spend a week exploring the hidden jewels of each hill and hollow. Here are three fun ways to see the sights:

BUS Wine tours abound in the County. Beyond the Vine (prince-edward-county. com/item/beyond-the-vine) offers much more than basic tastings with a visit to an alpaca farm and food pairings from local chefs and farms at each stop.

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Wineries in Prince Edward County are largely boutique operations, geared more to the winetasting experience than to exporting bottles.

“We try not to overthink the food,” says executive chef Alexandra Feswick, who has forged a close relationship with Honey Wagon Farms and Blue Wheelbarrow Farm, both of which operate roadside stands just down the way. “If you are sourcing such fresh ingredients, you really don’t need to do much to the flavor — it’s already there.” l

CARRIAGE The County Carriage Company (countycarriage. com) is easily the most romantic way to see the countryside. Enjoy horse-drawn tours (including winter sleigh rides) with a variety of destination themes: wineries, pub crawls, culinary destinations, fruit stands, orchards and sunsets.

JOHNN CY LAM; GETTY IAMGES

plow-to-pint experience: Their fields of hops and barley are the source of the distinct terroir of their lagers and IPAs. (Find even more inspiration from Prince Edward County’s Taste Trail (artstastetrail.com), which highlights restaurants, wineries and small shops.) Looking for lodging? Make like an agritourist and rest your head at one of the many farms and wineries that offer accommodations. The lavender farm has its own bed-and-breakfast. And Fronterra Farm offers glamping in conjunction with its “brew camp,” where you’ll learn how to harvest hops — and put them to use. For an urbane, upscale option, try Drake Devonshire in the hamlet of Wellington. The first rural location by Jeff Stober — the immeasurably hip Toronto hotelier, mixologist and food entrepreneur — the Drake Devonshire is comprised of 13 artfully appointed rooms and suites, a creekside massage hut and lakeside lounge with a fire pit for cozy autumn nights. And then there is the restaurant, easily the county’s most haute dining experience, one which rests squarely on the shoulders of local produce, meats and wine.

BIKE If you feel confident in your ability to sample a dozen wines while biking 10 miles over the course of an afternoon, the Sip and Cycle Tour (thecountywine tours.com) is for you.


For your guide to the experience of a lifetime:

1-855-657-3319

INUITADVENTURES.COM


EUROPE | I TA LY

Language program participants stroll through the grounds of the Hotel Abbazia in Venice, Italy.

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Speaking Freely Language-immersion travel offers distinct ways for native English speakers to experience Europe BY RINA RAPUANO

PROVIDED BY SPEAK

W

hen a friend called me from England on a dreary January day to propose that we meet in Italy that March to help Italians improve their conversational English, I didn’t need much convincing. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to unplug for eight days and meet new people in a charming, ancient farmhouse in southern Italy? I was excited to delve deeper into my father’s native country; thrilled for the opportunity to eat and drink my way through Puglia, a region in the heel of Italy’s geographical boot; and, of course, happy to experience a dose of adventure. (The fact that I would experience all of this while only needing to pay the price of transportation to Bari, Italy, and home again was an added bonus.) Despite these admittedly high expectations, the experience still managed to deliver so much more than I had hoped. “A lot of people are very emotional coming out of it, and that’s kind of surprised us,” says Joe Lang, operations manager for Speak, the company that runs this English-immersion program. “It’s very much about human interaction. It literally changes the way you see people

and the world.” The eight-day agenda kicks off with the native English speakers (aka, Anglos) meeting the Speak staff for an evening aperitif in a city near where the program will take place, which might be a former abbey in Tuscany, a farm in Puglia or a hotel built on the ruins of a castle in Piedmont. There’s a welcome breakfast for both the Anglos and Italians the next morning, and then everyone boards a bus to the spectacular home-base location. “There were always new spots to discover, and it was a very relaxing environment where >

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the group felt very welcome, comfortable and extremely well looked-after,” says Jude Evans, a Londoner who works in the wine industry, recalling her stay at the Abbazia di Spineto in Tuscany. “The artworks in every room, and early-morning encounters with deer, were some personal highlights — and that’s before mentioning the amazing food that was served.” For Anglos, it’s a pretty sweet deal. But free room, board and excursions do come with a trade-off: You’ll only have two group excursions off property, and much of your time will be spent talking one-on-one with Italians and participating in group activities — after all, the Italians are paying to improve their English. “It’s not work, but it’s an investment of their time,” Lang says of the Anglo side of things. “It’s an amazing experience, and everyone at the end appreciates it.” In truth, some might find it frustrating that much of their time is accounted for, from breakfast through dinner, with a few hours each day to spend as they wish. But during the one-on-one conversations that last about an hour each, participants are free to do whatever they like — as long as they’re speaking English while doing it. As the program progresses, conversations held over a cappuccino or while wandering through an olive grove naturally turn from the typical “where are you from?” and “what are your hobbies?” to deeper talks about life. It taps into that long-lost, magical feeling of the first week of college, offering a chance to connect with strangers in a way we don’t often do in our adult lives. Lang paraphrases an Italian participant’s comment that sums it up well: “‘It’s the first time in my adult life that I really felt like me,’” he recalls her saying. “The Speak program sort of stripped away (the) shell around her in her everyday life. She wasn’t a mother, an employee — she was just free to be herself and interact with people.” The experience allows those from different backgrounds, who might not have met otherwise, to form a distinct bond. For instance, the Italians hail from all over the country with careers that might include human resources managers, university employees and pediatric brain surgeons. You’ll also meet Anglos from around the world, such as South Africa, Cyprus and Hong Kong, in addition to the U.S. and Great Britain. Regardless of where you’re from, you’re all in the same boat once you disembark from the bus, and that unites the group. “The program is a really big leveler,” observes Lang. “They may enter the program as an important lawyer, but when they get there and their English is under pressure and everyone is in the same position, people are just themselves.” Anglo couples are welcome to apply, but because the company only runs about 10 programs per year with about 15 Anglos needed per session, it’s already tough to land a spot. “Hopefully, in the future we can accept more people,” says

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Speak participants visit the Palazzo Pubblico, a palace in Siena, Tuscany.

Lang. “It’s not that we don’t want them. It’s just a supply-anddemand situation.” For those interested in the experience, though, it’s worth the wait. As Lang points out, most Anglos aren’t impressed with just visiting a small town in Tuscany, so Speak finds off-thebeaten-path attractions. During my visit, we spent a few hours in the nearby town of Ostuni, marveling at the famed whitewashed buildings in the old town; participating in a team scavenger hunt; quaffing aperitivi at a local bar; and eventually heading off to another town, Ceglie Messapica, for a wonderful meal at

PROVIDED BY SPEAK

The experience allows those from different backgrounds, who might not have met otherwise, to form a distinct bond.


Tuscany

ITALY Rome

Ostuni

YEARNING FOR EUROPE Speak has a waiting list for Englishspeaking participants, so you might not get accepted right away. If you have some flexibility on where you go — or you just can’t wait — try your luck with similar programs taking place around Europe: uDiverbo: This company runs English-immersion programs in both Spain and Germany, as well as three-, four- and eight-day Spanishimmersion programs for English speakers aiming to improve their Spanish. diverbo.com Cibus. The restaurant, which is listed in the Michelin Guide, is known for its cheese cave and wine list — and I’ll never forget the truffled burrata appetizer that showed off the very best of what is perhaps Puglia’s most famous cheese. We stayed at Masseria Montenapoleone, a gorgeous farmhouse-turned-inn, and breakfast was an unbelievable spread of freshly made tarts and pastries along with meat, cheese, fruit, yogurt and an espresso bar. The grounds were in full spring bloom, and spending my free time reading in a secluded nook under a warm sun was just the

kind of “me time” that this harried mom needed. Lunches and dinners were three-course affairs that highlighted the best of the region and the season. Local wines were poured in abundance. Naturally, after bonding over meals, activities and conversations, Anglos quickly become invested in the success of their Italian counterparts, resulting in a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction. “The group all made significant progress over a short period of time and, importantly, enjoyed doing so,” says Evans. “I felt proud of what they had all achieved.” l

uVaughanTown: Sign up to speak English for six days in Spain; there’s also a special program for those 18–24 years old. grupovaughan.com uEstación Inglesa: Running multiday programs out of locations that include El Barco de Ávila and Biar in Spain, this company caters both to teens and adults. estacioninglesa.es uAngloville: With locations that include Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Ireland, England and Malta, there’s more variety for these one- to eight-week stints, plus there’s an option of free TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) training. angloville.com

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CARIBBEAN | U. S. V IRGIN ISL A N DS

Just Beachy The U.S. Virgin Islands are your home for fun and food BY PATRICIA KIME

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I

n 1917, the United States struck a real estate deal with Denmark: the Danes got $25 million in gold, and in exchange, the U.S. received a treasure — a tropical trio of Caribbean islands with powder-white beaches, lush rainforests and crystalline turquoise waters, now the U.S. Virgin Islands. The islands — St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas — took a beating in 2017 when back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, but slowly, businesses and attractions are recovering — and the beaches remain as beautiful as ever. “It’s a home away from home (for Americans),” says Alani Henneman-Todman, communications director for the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism department. “We want our visitors to feel like they are a part of us, and when they leave they miss it and must come back.”

PROVIDED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS

Brewers Bay


ST. THOMAS Brewers Bay and lunch on-the-go

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM; GETTY IMAGES

The beach at Brewers Bay, visible to the left of the airport as you land on this tropical paradise, is on the grounds of the University of the Virgin Islands. A popular area favored by locals, Brewers Bay boasts several features that make it a special spot for swimming and dining. You’ll want to bring snorkeling gear; this calm cove’s sandy bottom and no reef means very few fish, but the place is a haven for green turtles, loggerheads and stingrays. You may even spot a rare leatherback turtle. After you’ve exhausted yourself in the waves or scouting for sea glass and shells on the beach, you’ve earned your lunch or dinner, and you can savor the flavor of the island without leaving this tranquil setting. A series of food trucks, at least two and often more, park beyond the sea grapes, selling local favorites such as johnnycakes (deep fried, finger-scalding deliciousness), roti flatbreads and saltfish or beef pate. Wash it all down with a Malta India, a slightly alcoholic soda (.5 ABV) that tastes like Cream of Wheat sweetened with molasses. For less-adventurous eaters, there is the typical fare of chips, burgers and hot dogs and a favorite island picnic food — fried chicken.

Cinnamon Bay

ST. JOHN Tropical fish and fine dining Cinnamon Bay, the island’s longest beach, is tucked within Virgin Islands National Park, a fee-free destination that attracts both locals and visitors. The swimming and snorkeling opportunities are ample — bring fins, floaties or life jackets to maximize time in the water. The small offshore island, Cinnamon Cay, boasts coral, sea grasses, a multitude of fish and the occasional stingray and sea turtle. Topping that is the underwater scenery washed ashore where large flat reef offers myriad hidey-holes for sea creatures to hole up and play. This beach was once one of St. John’s most popular, with concessions, equipment rentals and a campground. Today, you are likely to have few competitors for your spot on the sand — the facilities remain closed in the wake of the storms and show no signs of reopening. Plan to enjoy

the solitude while it lasts, and after a full day of snorkeling, head back to your villa to primp for a luxury dinner. At Cruz Bay, you have a choice of restaurants. For fresh Caribbean fare, try Morgan’s Mango, where you can start your meal with fresh ceviche, followed by lobster plucked from the water that day. Prefer spice? Try the voodoo snapper, grilled with black magic seasoning and refreshing salsa. Chicken, vegetarian and steak options also occupy the menu. The cocktail list in this cozy haunt is extensive, with more than 15 rum-based frozen drinks, including the Hurricane Hugo, crafted with dark and light Cruzan rum, mangoes, oranges, guava juice, strawberries and limes. “We don’t have a Hurricane Irma or Maria (themed cocktail) yet, but we will,” owner Carlos Di Blasi says. “All our energy has gone into rebuilding and getting back.” >

Find U.S. Virgin Islands travel deals and event updates at visitusvi. com

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ST. CROIX

An underwater trail, one of only three in the United States, meanders through the reef off Buck Island, an islet and national park 1.5 miles off the shore of St. Croix. If you don’t have your own boat to reach this snorkeling paradise, take a guided, daylong excursion that includes a cookout on a private beach. The crew at Big Beard’s Adventure Tours has curated a full-day sailing and snorkeling experience that promises to be the highlight of any visit to St. Croix. Embarking on the 42-foot catamaran Renegade, snorkelers head to Buck Island’s Turtle Beach for a warmup in calm waters before sailing to the more challenging lagoon and marked trail. This magical spot boasts up to 250 species of marine life, including squid, young reef, eagle rays and turtles. Following a full morning in the water, the crew will help you back onboard the Renegade, where they will break out the rum punch to sip while sailing toward lunch at Big Beard’s private beach on Coakley Bay. Let your cares fall away as you enjoy sandwiches and chips, washed down with — what else? — rum or fruit punch. You will still have time to explore before sailing back relaxed and sated, past beautiful resorts, homes and the historic Fort Christiansvaern at D. Hamilton Jackson Park. l

Buck Island

WHEN TO GO Now that more airlines are servicing the islands again, the trip is about as hassle-free as it gets. For U.S. residents, there’s no language barrier, no currency exchange and no passport needed. November through March is traditionally the busy season, with vacationers seeking warmer climates as stateside temps fall. January through the end of April are the driest, with average monthly rainfall measuring 2 to 3 inches. August and September are the hottest months, with highs reaching 90, as well as some of the wettest (November, October and May are also rainy), but crowds are thinner and discounted flight and hotel fares may be available.

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GETTY IMAGES (2); U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM (2)

Underwater trail and private beach cookout


Private Playgrounds Cruise line Tauck offers all-inclusive land-and-sea trips BY GENE SLOAN

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A

n elegant reception is underway as Gail Pipal, 61, of Arroyo Grande, Calif., arrives at a gilded hall within Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. The retired architect and her companions on Tauck’s St. Petersburg and the Baltic Sea cruise already have explored the famed St. Petersburg attraction’s ornate public rooms on a private after-hours tour. They also got a peek at its cryptlike basement, which notably was the scene of the 1916 assassination of Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin. Now they’ll kick back with a glass of bubbly while awaiting a private

ballet performance in the palace’s stunning, gold- and fresco-lined home theater. For this one evening, at least, the normally crowded site is their private playground. “This is amazing,” says Pipal, taking in soaring spaces once gazed upon by Russian czars. “This sort of exclusivity is why we chose Tauck.” Long known for its upscale land tours in Europe and other destinations around the world, Connecticut-based Tauck in recent years has been carving out a position at the top of small-ship ocean cruising, too, with combination land-and-sea trips that are more intimate, exclusive and all-inclusive than

PROVIDED BY TAUCK

CRUISES


Every excursion and special event on Tauck trips, along with gratuities and airport transfers, is included in the fare. those offered by most other companies. In addition to private events, such as the ballet performance at Yusupov Palace, Tauck cruise tours are chock-full of highly choreographed excursions that often include special access to sites and unexpected touches. Kicking off with a two-night hotel stay in Stockholm, the 11-night Baltic trip includes a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the city’s majestic Royal Opera House led by an opera singer. In St. Petersburg, Tauck guides take passengers into the famed Hermitage Museum a full 90 minutes before regular visitors are allowed to enter. The visit includes a private display of the museum’s Peacock Clock in operation — something few people ever get to see. “They’re always doing things like that,” says Skip Mixson, 74, a retiree from Lakemont, Ga., who is on his ninth Tauck trip. Pausing to talk near the Hermitage’s ground-floor café, Mixson and his wife, Betsy, 71, bring up another hallmark of Tauck tours: The company arranges every detail of the experience from the moment you land until you depart — something that is rare at even the highest-end cruise lines. Private transfers from the airport, pre- and postcruise hotels, guided tours and almost all meals on and off the ship — it’s all part of the package. As Betsy puts it, “They greet

you at the airport, and then you don’t have to worry about a thing.” Among the unusual aspects of a Multiple stops in Tauck cruise tour is the presence of several Russia include Saint full-time tour directors who serve as guides, Petersburg’s Hermitage problem solvers, organizers and traveling Museum, the secondcompanions. Like other cruise operators, Tauck largest art museum in contracts with local guides to lead tours during the world. most port stops. But the tour directors also accompany passengers on outings, backing up the local guides and assuring a seamless experience. During a walking tour of the historic old town of Tallinn, Estonia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), one of the directors interrupts the local guide to offer everyone a taste of locally roasted almonds, which he had just bought from a local stall. After a morning tour of Copenhagen, Denmark, the same director offers to pay admission to the National Museum for those who want to visit it during afternoon free time. He also offers to walk them there. As is the case with most of Tauck’s small-ship cruise tours, the cruise portion of its Baltic trips takes place on a vessel operated by Ponant, an upscale French line. Tauck doesn’t own its own cruise ships, but instead fully or partially charters vessels from Ponant (or in a few cases, Silversea and Windstar) for departures. On this sailing, the cruise portion of the trip is on Ponant’s Le Soleal, a stylish vessel that holds up to 265 passengers. All-inclusive is the operative phrase for Tauck. Every excursion and special event, along with gratuities and airport transfers, is included in the fare. So are unlimited complimentary beverages including wine, beer and even name-brand spirits — a relative rarity in the cruise world. Fares for Tauck’s Baltic trips start around $750 per person, per day.

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One woman learns the benefits of slowing down while riding fast BY SUE HOLLIS

D

uring my threemonth motorcycle trip across North America, I passed a lot of 18-wheelers. Only once did I come perilously close to getting a fender in the face. I was riding Voodoo — my beautiful BMW S1000RR — through Jackson Hole, Wyo., cruising behind a semitruck. The wind coming off of it was slamming me across the road, and impatiently, I pulled out to

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pass. Another vehicle was coming the other way, so I dropped Voodoo down a couple of gears, hammered the throttle and … nothing. She’d been left in rain mode and had no acceleration, and the gap was closing fast. Thankfully, the semitruck driver saw me just in time, hit the brakes, and I squeezed past. It was the perfect analogy of my life: pushing too hard, going too fast, ignoring the dangers and not being prepared to back down until it almost killed me. I had spent decades prior to The

Sue Hollis is the author of Riding Raw: A Journey From Empty to Full, which chronicles her trip across North America.

PROVIDED BY SUE HOLLIS

Full Speed Ahead

Incident, as my brush with mortality came to be known, needing to be invincible. I was a warrior — shield up, sword sharpened — ready to take on the world. “Toughen up, princess” had always been my motto, but the “princess” was struggling. The pressure of perfection had left me physically exhausted, emotionally drained and spiritually bankrupt. In 2016, I decided to take a sabbatical from TravelEdge, the multimillion-dollar Australian company I co-founded in 2000 with Grant Wilson. Something told me that the first step to healing was to saddle up the fastest production bike on the planet and ride a huge loop from my temporary home in Canada, taking in as much of the Rockies as I could fit in on the way. I knew what I needed to soothe my soul. I wanted adventure and to be surrounded by stunning nature — the cool of the forests, the heat of the deserts and the beauty of the mountains. And above all, I wanted to connect with people from all walks of life — to be a part of their world — even for a few short minutes. My journey helped me heal. It taught me that head success — goals, achievements, financial security — is important, but heart success — being true to yourself — is critical. The Incident taught me I could change my story. The “warrior” had served me well in the past — but it had almost killed me. I took the lesson and chose to leave the warrior behind. It was a relief to put my sword down. And if nothing else, it taught me to slow down ... maybe just a little.


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