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America’s Most Unusual Museums

  July 18, 2016  |    David Abolafia

Today, people tend to associate the word “museum” with a stodgy assortment of paintings, sculpture, dinosaurs or historic artifacts. However, strictly speaking, a museum is defined as “a building or place where works of art, scientific specimens or other objects of permanent value are kept and displayed.” And in playing upon on the idea of “one man’s trash” being “another man’s treasure,” there are many unique items that are considered valuable to the people who collect them. Hence, America is filled with museums with far-flung subjects and unique inventory. Here are some of our favorites, listed alphabetically.

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For three weeks each October, the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix transforms into a spectacular community celebration with all the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors you crave. From grandstand events to concerts, entries competitions to livestock, and all the thrills of the midway, make the fair the backdrop of your most vibrant memories.

A popular family event, the Arizona State Fair is one of the Top 20 Arizona USA Events and Festivals and one of the top five state fairs in the country. It attracts over 1 million residents from all over the “Grand Canyon State” and beyond, who come to enjoy the traditional and new entertainment including national concerts, as well as rodeos, racing, livestock, homemaking arts, rides, and tasty treats at numerous food booths. Popular regular and new events are the Arizona State Fair 5k Fun Run/Walk, United States Armwrestling Championships, and more.

The Fair was first held in 1884 (back when Arizona was still a territory), when residents organized the Arizona Territorial Fair to provide family entertainment. The fair was held near the banks of the Salt River; entertainment included horse, pony and mule races, while agriculture, cattle and home economics were the common exhibits. Due to flooding, the Great Depression, World War II and other events, it didn’t become a regular annual event until 1946.

Today, the fair typically has roughly 75 amusement rides – including La Grande Wheel, the largest transportable Ferris wheel in the World – 110 food booths and 300 commercial sales booths. In addition, the Fair will also host an impressive array of concerts, featuring chart-topping artists across various musical genres.

The Arizona State Fair runs Wednesdays through Sundays, October 7-30. For information on planning a trip to Phoenix to take part in the festivities, drop us a line at or visit To learn more about our other destinations and various travel deals, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

For the differently abled, travel can be a challenge. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped make many businesses and attractions more accessible, it’s important to know before you go – so that you can choose destinations that can accommodate special needs, and make the most of your vacation. Here are some of our top spots for travelers with disabilities:

  • Orlando – This Central Florida city is great for the disabled because of its mild weather. The modern wheelchair accessible construction, combined with its wonderful transit system, make Orlando one of the most disability friendly cities around. Plus, there is virtually an unlimited amount of entertainment in the area. Every hotel and motel in Florida is required by law to have a special room or rooms equipped for wheelchairs, often with wheel-in showers. Many attractions at the parks, especially the newer ones, are designed to be accessible to a wide variety of guests. People with wheelchairs and their parties are often given preferential treatment so they can avoid lines. The assistance available is outlined in the guide maps you get as you enter the parks. Wheelchair and electric cart rentals are available at most major attractions, but you’ll be most comfortable in your chair or cart from home if you can bring it. Keep in mind, however, that wheelchairs wider than two feet may be difficult to navigate through some attractions.
  • Portland – The city has many different transit options including, bus, light rail and even streetcars – all of which accommodate wheelchairs. However, the TriMet’s transportation system has a Lift service that provides riders with more than 250 minibuses and over a dozen cars that will take them anywhere in the city. Many of the area’s attractions are either accessible, or make appropriate accommodations. These include Rex Hill Vineyards, Argyle Winery, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail and, in the Columbia River Gorge, the Skamania Lodge Zip Tour and the Vista House.
  • Reno – This vibrant city has wheelchair-accessible buses and rapid transit systems that offer discounted fares for those with a disability. The access to a quality transit systems helps to make the city feel small. Plus they provide paratransit services within the city and to some outlying areas as well. Most of the casinos, shows and restaurants are wheelchair accessible because the city has many tourists from all over the world. This is a place where one will never get bored, and besides the great nightlife, the city has many handicapped accessible parks to enjoy.
  • Seattle – Even with boatloads of rain and numerous hilly areas, Seattle makes this list because of its modern transit system. The city offers handicap-accessible buses and light rail lines that are discounted to wheelchair users. There is also a paratransit van service that will take a user anywhere within the large city. There is a rideshare program for the handicapped and maps that show downtown routes that are accessible to those with disabilities. This helps to make a notoriously tough city easy to access. (Key reasons Seattle is ranked #1 by as the most wheelchair accessible city in the United States.) While some of the older parts of the city present obstacles – including steeply angled sidewalks and ineffective curb cuts – most people find the city’s culture and overall livability are worth a few challenges. Most modern buildings and facilities are readily navigable, including the Space Needle observation deck, Boeing airplane factory, Puget Sound harbor cruise, Seattle Aquarium and the Experience Music Project Museum.
  • Madison – Madison has been investing heavily in good mass transit for 25 years, and its ridership per capita almost rivals big cities. All the fixed-route buses are 100 percent accessible on weekends and holidays, and mostly accessible during the week, depending on what routes you use. All of Madison’s parks have accessible parking and paved pathways. Numerous area attraction, including the Kenosha Civil War Museum, Bristol Renaissance Faire and the Jelly Belly Center have received positive reviews on JJ’s List, a website devoted to meeting the needs of consumers with disabilities.
  • San Antonio – Though known for its history, the Texas city is ultra-modern in its accessibility. For instance, it’s home to Morgan’s Wonderland – the only large-scale theme park in the world dedicated to those with special needs (and their families). The “ultra-accessible” park offers numerous rides and attractions… and entry is free for special-needs children and adults. Meanwhile, Six Flags Fiesta is considered one of the most ADA-accessible theme parks in the nation. Sea World is also plenty inclusive for the wheelchair set, with rides like Shamu Express and Journey to Atlantis. River Walk – the state’s top tourist attraction – is brimming with shops, bar, restaurants, museums and special events, and there are plenty of elevators and ramps to transport people down, one story below the heart of the city. Finally, San Antonio Missions Historical Park, which preserves four of the city’s five Spanish frontier missions, offers several activities for people with disabilities.

To learn more about all of our accessible destinations, drop us a line at or visit To receive additional information, including travel specials, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Seattle is a city that’s long been recognized for its rich musical legacy – a history that is constantly being rewritten with continued contributions to the artistic canon. And for much of the time that Seattle’s been on the musical map, there’s been an annual event that’s helped the city stake its claim on the soundscape.

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When searching for a vacation destination that’s right for every member of your family – including the tail-wagging types – it can help to make sure you’re barking up the right tree. Some cities go out of their way to provide an inviting atmosphere for man’s best friend; here are a few of our favorites, in alphabetical order.

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Visitors to Kennebunk and nearby Kennebunkport, Maine, quickly discover what New Englanders have known for ages: This coastal community is one of the most charming year-round travel destinations, with a rich history, scenic landscape and fascinating attractions that make it an ideal spot for a quintessential family vacation.

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Great Places to Stay Up Late

  June 3, 2016  |    David Abolafia

Are you a night owl? Do you enjoy burning the midnight oil and venturing out into a city that never sleeps? While much of the world is tucked into bed before the witching hour, the dedicated corps of insomniacs and party people knows where to go for fun, food and excitement. Here are a few of our favorite “up late” places, listed alphabetically.

  • Austin – Got a song in your heart that can’t be contained? Austin Karaoke is open nightly ‘til 4 a.m. (Fridays and Saturdays ‘til 5). Up for gawking at some architecture? The grounds of the state capitol are well-lit and secure, or eyeball the skyline off the Pfluger pedestrian bridge. Two of the city’s most beloved breakfast-friendly restaurants—Magnolia Café and Kerbey Lane Café—stay open all night. Even when it’s after midnight, you can still find a whole world of possibilities, including French (Justine’s Brasserie), burgers (Casino El Camino), hot dogs (Frank), Vietnames (888), sandwiches (Easy Tiger), baked goods (Mrs. Johnson’s), Thai (East Side King), Tex-Mex (Las Cazuelas) and Texas chili (Texas Chili Parlor). On Fridays and Saturdays, even more eateries cater to the late-night crowd.
  • Las Vegas – More and more, the only sin in Sin City is going to bed early! Thanks to the never-closed action of the city’s casinos (in itself enough to sustain many overnighters), more bars and restaurants are doing “reverse happy hours.” For example, SushiSamba at the Palazzo has a discounted Samba Hour, starting at 11 p.m.! Vegas is also the perfect place to go people-watching, whether you’re sipping the bubbly at Fizz – the champagne lounge at Caesars Palace, open until 4 a.m. – or chowing down on steak and eggs at The Peppermill, a 24-hour, Rat Pack-era diner.
  • New Orleans – No matter what day the calendar claims it is, the Crescent City (pictured) offers a wild weekend atmosphere. A great example: HUSTLE, the legendary no-cover dance party, every Saturday night at Hi-Ho Lounge. DJ Soul Sister spins underground disco, rare groove, true school hip-hop, fusion jazz movers and more until 3:30 a.m. Movie mavens can get their midnight fix at the Prytania Theatre, which does the tradition proud with BYOB showings on Friday and Saturday nights. For live music that’s in concert with the city’s rich heritage, Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse does midnight shows on weekends.
  • Portland – Leave it to Portland to kick karaoke up a notch or three. For instance, every Monday night at Dante’s, Karaoke from Hell gives you the opportunity to sing from its 500+ song list, backed by a live band, until 2 a.m. Ambassador Restaurant & Lounge, meanwhile, lets you perform karaoke until 2:30, with a fog machine to provide an ‘80s music video vibe. Plenty of the city’s great food carts stay open late, too, such as sandwich truck Pressed – open on weekends ‘til 2:30 a.m.. And if you’re jonesing for a Cap’n Crunch-encrusted pastry at 5 a.m., just head on over to the 24-hour pastry paradise that is Voodoo Doughnut.
  • San Diego – In a beach town like San Diego, surfers often find that the best way to hit the waves early is to simply not go to sleep! So while you’re waiting for dawn to break, you can bowl a few frames at the East Village Tavern and Bowl, which does their own version of a reverse happy hour, with bowling just $3 a game from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Meanwhile, the Tavern is a terrific spot to savor the city’s acclaimed craft beer scene.) And to fuel up before searching for swells, La Posta de Acapulco – a 24-hour taqueria – starts serving huevos rancheros and other breakfast items at 2 a.m.
  • Savannah – In the cloak of darkness, Savannah gets spooky… and fun! Savannah Ghost Walks offers a late-night walking tour of the city’s most notable ghosts, hidden burial grounds, and exorcisms. Meanwhile, many of the local haunts stay open until 3 a.m. If it’s vittles you crave, Waffle House is open 24 hours, or you can stock up on everything from cheese grits to European chocolate at the open-all-night Parker’s Market Urban Gourmet. After all, as Johnny Mercer wrote, you’ve got to “ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive.”
  • Seattle – In the city where coffee culture was forever changed, people are often up past a sensible bedtime. Bauhaus Books and Coffee keeps its espresso machines cranking until 1 a.m., while Anchors Down serves java-infused cocktails—like a Stumptown-and-stout martini—until 2 a.m. on weekends. For a classic snack, head to one of the Dick’s Drive-Ins, where burgers start at $1.35 and doors stay open until 2 a.m.

For an after-hours glimpse at any of our caffeine-fueled destinations, visit our website at If you have questions, drop us a line at To explore and get additional information about all of late-night spots, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

It has often been said that “getting there is half the fun.” While that old adage may be true, it does leave out a key distinction: The journey doesn’t necessarily stop once you arrive. If you’re a fan of road trips and hitting the highway, then your destination is just another starting point — for an adventure on wheels. America is criss-crossed by an amazing tapestry of paved roads; some traverse the distance between cities, others seem to follow a dreamer’s path – one where scenic marvels are more important than miles. It is on these beautiful byways where you can get wonderfully lost, even if you know exactly where you are. Here are a few spots that, with their proximity to romantic ribbons of asphalt, will definitely get your motor running:

  • Bluebonnet Trail (Austin/Houston). Between the two lies the Lone Star State’s most beautiful scenery, especially from March to May when the wild bluebonnets are in bloom. From Austin, you’ll pass a chain of seven interconnected lakes on the Colorado River, including Lake Buchanan, a wilderness resort area popular with fishermen and artists. To admire even more of the state’s native flowers, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, named for the First Lady who made national beautification a priority.
  • Olympic Peninsula Loop (Seattle). Highway 101 loops around the largest road-free area in the continental U.S. Starting in Seattle, head northwest to climb into the Hoh River rainforest, dominated by ancient Sitka spruce and western hemlock. You can spy the San Juan Islands from the top of Hurricane Ridge, and at low tide, the pools on Olympic beaches are rife with starfish, sand dollars, and crabs. While out this way, you can take a break at the spooky logging town of Forks, a must for fans of the “Twilight” books and movies.
  • Great River Road (New Orleans). There are tons of entry and exit points along the Great River Road, which follows both sides of the Mississippi through 10 states. But when it hits Louisiana, the road offers a special peek into the world of antebellum southern living. Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, drive under broad oak canopies and forests dripping with kudzu to view the colonnaded, plantation-era “Big Houses.” On Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, you can take a tour of Oak Alley to hear “The Colonel” recount the effects of the Civil War on the lives of plantation families.
  • Cades Cove Drive (Gatlinburg). An 11-mile, one-lane scenic loop around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Free and open to the public, from sunrise through sunset, the drive brings riders deep into a region where bears and deer roam free. Along the paved road, you’ll pass deserted yet well-preserved cabins, stores, barns and mills that dot the way. Pick up the guidebook at the beginning of the loop for an informed tour as you cruise along. As you go through the loop, keep your speed in check – somewhere around 10 mph is recommended – to optimize wildlife sightings.
  • Red Rock Scenic Byway (Sedona). This highly acclaimed National Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 179, earned the distinction as Arizona’s first All-American Road. It begins shortly after you exit off Interstate 17 and winds through the evergreen pinion-covered Coconino National Forest, with several scenic pullouts. You can also discover the extraordinary, prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking and all levels of hiking and biking trails. Although it’s only 7.5 miles long, the byway is home to three public golf courses, as well as the largest petroglyph site in the Verde Valley. So much to see and do!
  • Las Vegas Strip (Las Vegas). A different kind of beauty can be seen in the neon phenomenon that lights up the night. The Strip – which, technically, isn’t in Las Vegas, but rather the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester – is a 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South. Most of it has been designated an All-American Road, and it is considered a scenic route at night. One of the most visible aspects of Las Vegas’ cityscape is its use of dramatic architecture and lights. The rapidly evolving skyline and constant modernization of hotels, casinos, restaurants, residential high-rises and entertainment offerings have established the Strip as one of the most popular travel destinations in the United States.

To educate yourself on the many picturesque destinations – around which you can create your own road trips, visit our website at If you have questions, drop us a line at To explore and get additional information about all of our road-worthy vacation spots, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

By definition, a “college town” is a community that is dominated by its university population. The university may be large, or there may be several smaller institutions clustered within its confines, but the key element is how the schools impact the area’s economic and social life. One way in which colleges and universities can affect interest in their home cities is through a different kind of sightseeing – “edu-tourism,” if you will. And in this season of graduations, it’s a perfect time to look at some of the nation’s most beautiful campuses, which – with their breathtaking architecture and grounds – can inspire anyone to want to go back to school. Here are a few of our favorites, listed alphabetically:

College of William & Mary (Williamsburg) – The second oldest college in the United States, William & Mary is truly a historic spot in the center of the colonial city. The magnificent Wren Building – the work of acclaimed British architect Christopher Wren – is one of the architectural highlights. Completed in 1700, it is the oldest academic building to have been used uninterruptedly in the U.S. One of the campus’ most attractive spots was nearly scuttled in the “drawing board” stage. The Sunken Garden – a beautiful expanse of grass across the center of the school’s Old Campus – was designed in the early 1920s, but its development was delayed due to cost concerns. Fortunately, it got the go-ahead in the early 1930s and was finished in 1936. Crim Dell pond, with its trademark bridge, is another lovely green space that brings prettiness to the 1,200-acre grounds.

Lewis & Clark College (Portland) – Set at the top of a hill and surrounded by plentiful woods, the campus has a lot of beautiful scenery packed into its 137 acres. The school is focused around the rustic-looking Frank Manor House, originally completed in 1924 as a mansion with 35 rooms. The college purchased the surrounding estate in 1942; today, the Tudor-style manor house acts as a stunning campus cornerstone, with a waterfall and reflection pool on the rear terrace. Originally founded in 1867 as Albany Collegiate Institute (in Albany, Oregon), the school moved to Portland in 1938.

Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego) – As well as offering gorgeous ocean vistas, this relatively tiny (just 90 acres) campus has an intriguing past: It was previously the site of a Theosophical commune named Lomaland. Many of the architectural elements date back to that time, including a stunning Greek theater – the first of its kind in North America, constructed in 1901. Completed that same year, the unusually shaped Mieras Hall acts as an eye-catching focal point, blending Victorian timber design with antiquated touches like a Corinthian-style column and an amethyst dome. Established as the Pacific Bible College in 1902, and undergoing various name changes during its history, the institute took over the Lomaland estate in 1973.

Rice University (Houston) – What the campus of Rice University lacks in size, it more than makes up for in lush green expanses and stunning wooded areas. Threaded through the grounds is the Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum, a collection of more than 4,000 shrubs and trees that presents an idyllic backdrop for those who love to bask in the beauty of nature. As for its edifices, Rice has a number of splendid buildings, such as its iconic Lovett Hall, constructed in 1911. This Mediterranean-inspired stone and brick structure is named for Edgar Odell Lovett, who guided the creation of the university – carrying on the dream of entrepreneur William Marsh Rice. It was crafted to be a statement for the nascent institution – a bold assertion that Rice would be a serious intellectual and cultural force in Houston.

Southern Methodist University (Dallas) – According to its official website, Southern Methodist University “offers the tranquility of a 164-acre suburban campus with Neo-Georgian architecture, spacious lawns and tree-lined walkways.” Though the school was chartered in 1911, classes didn’t begin until 1915; its inaugural building, Dallas Hall, was dedicated around the same time. The grand Georgian style of the design was based on the historic – and equally beautiful – rotunda at the University of Virginia. Today, the hall remains a chief landmark of the school’s main campus in Dallas’ University Park.

Tulane University (New Orleans) – Tulane’s pretty campus in New Orleans has been on the National Register of Historic Places for more than 35 years – and it’s easy to see why: Graceful buildings in various different styles mix with beautiful green spaces like Gibson Quad. Grand oak trees can be seen in abundance. One of the most stunning architectural features is Gibson Hall – the first building on the school’s current location – completed in 1894 (the institution had been established as the Medical College of Louisiana 60 years earlier). Built in Richardsonian Romanesque style, Gibson Hall was named for confederate general Randall Lee Gibson. Today, it houses most of the senior level administration as well as the Office of Undergraduate Admission and the School of Continuing Studies.

University of Houston (Houston) – School’s been in since 1939 at the University of Houston’s beautiful 667-acre campus (though the institution was founded 12 years earlier as Houston Junior College, initially operating out of San Jacinto High School). Generations of students have been wowed by the leafy, sculpture-adorned grounds and the striking Art Deco-style Ezekiel W. Cullen Building. Completed in 1950, the building is made even more awe-inspiring by the surrounding Cullen Family Plaza. This outside space, which includes a fountain and reflecting pool, was dedicated in 1972. Another entrancing campus feature is Jim Sanborn’s sculpture, A Comma A, which features cut-out text from various literary sources, in different languages. At night, its text is projected onto the adjacent M.D. Anderson Library.

University of San Diego (San Diego) – A school that is both small (180 acres) and young (established in 1949), USD still has its share of architectural marvels. Chief among these is the magnificent Immaculata Church, a masterpiece of grandeur and beauty. Constructed by the Diocese of San Diego and receiving its dedication in 1959, it is truly something to admire, for people of any faith. Particularly noteworthy are the church’s opulent entrance – which boasts a door made out of solid bronze – and the Spanish-inspired touches, from the red-tiled roof to the mosaic-tiled dome. Many of the other buildings on campus also have a European flavor, thanks largely to a Spanish Renaissance architectural style that’s a living throwback to the 16th century.

University of Washington (Seattle) – Forbes says of the University of Washington’s Seattle campus: “Snow-capped mountain views in an urban setting is already a sweet deal. And in Seattle, the University of Washington offers this, and more.” While being able to see both the Olympic Mountains and Cascade Range from its 703-acre grounds is certainly a draw, there is beauty all over the site – from the cherry blossoms that grace the Quad in spring, to the imposing Tenino sandstone Denny Hall, designed in the French Renaissance Revival style. Opened for classes in 1895, Denny Hall acted as the hub of the new campus after it moved from downtown Seattle that same year. The school was originally established as the Territorial University of Washington in 1861.

University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison) – For those who like sailing, windsurfing or wakeboarding, this campus is ideally placed – on 936 acres between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Fans of elegant architecture can also get their fill with the likes of Bascom Hill – the main quad that combines Romanesque and Gothic elements. The quad is overlooked by Bascom Hall, a structure that opened its doors in 1859 and was described at the time by the Board of Regents as “the best building for educational purposes that has yet been erected in the West.” A botanic garden also adds a burst of natural splendor to the grounds, with more than 500 species of shrubs, trees and plants.

To educate yourself on the many scenic college towns you can explore, visit our website at If you have questions, drop us a line at To explore and get additional information about all of our A+ destinations, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

With warm weather just around the corner and children finishing up their school years, many families have begun planning their summer vacations. Here are some of the top places to spend a few days in the sun, with plenty of activities and attractions for everyone to enjoy:

  • San Antonio – In recent years, Alamo City has been working to overturn its sleepy stereotype. For instance, the historic St. Anthony Hotel downtown opened after a multimillion-dollar renovation. This overhaul follows an epic project that converted the River Walk into 15 miles of trails that connect the city’s Spanish missions (just named a World Heritage site) to The Pearl up north. The Pearl, once a 23-acre brewery complex, is now a neighborhood brimming with locally owned shops and acclaimed restaurants, in addition to a Culinary Institute of America campus. At Hotel Emma, an independent boutique inside the former 1894 brewhouse, you can see the Roman & Williams aesthetic in the lobby – where ammonia tanks once used to cool Pearl beer sit. The hotel has two restaurants: Supper, which specializes in grilled meats; and Larder, for grab-and-go baked goods, flowers and beer.
  • Kelowna – Lying between two mountain ranges, the geography varies from the desert-like conditions in the south to the green plateau of the Naramata Bench and Okanagan Lake’s sandy beaches. While the area’s stark beauty and hot, dry summers have always drawn outdoorsy types, there’s now an increasingly sophisticated scene revolving around food and local wine. Wine-focused restaurants like the Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl and Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Winery serve up spectacular views and farm-to-table specialties, along with Pinot Gris and Meritage. It’s easy to spend a few days roaming around the countryside, hopping from winery to winery (there are more than 130), but one place in particular is worth a special trip: the exquisitely modern Black Hills tasting room, where you can sample a glass of Nota Bene, one of the area’s big reds. Last year was even hotter than usual, which is good news for those planning a visit: many of the 2015 vintage wines, predicted to be the best in a century, will be ready for tasting this summer.
  • Seattle – The Seattle streetcar system is adding a line to connect people to Capitol Hill, an up-and-coming culinary destination. Likewise, Link, the light rail, is building a line to take visitors right from the SeaTac airport to Capitol Hill. The most in-demand tables there include Lionhead, a Sichuan-inspired spot by Jerry Traunfeld (former chef at the Herbfarm), and Soi, a husband-and-wife team serving Thai food from the Isaan region. Don’t miss the new Capitol Hill Hot Cakes; though it sounds like a brunch destination, it’s actually a “molten chocolate cakery” nighttime spot that also has soft-serve you can top with potato chips and roast-your-own marshmallows for s’mores. In addition, the news expands past the city proper: 16 miles northeast is the McMenamins Anderson School, a 1931 Art Deco-style former junior high school in the town of Bothell that’s now a hotel. The classrooms and ball fields are gone, replaced with three restaurants, two bars, a brewery, movie theater, indoor pool, and outdoor fire pits.
  • Madison – This lovely lake-filled city is vibrant in summer when most of its residents and visitors are getting in the water. There are 12 beaches where you can enjoy freshwater swimming. Rent canoes, kayaks, or rowboats, or fish for crappies, bass, northern pike, and more (just be sure to obtain a fishing permit if you’re heading out on your own). After a day of water-play, choose one of the many waterfront restaurants and sip a cocktail with a lake view. For mountain bikers of any skill level, Kettle Moraine State Forest boasts five loops of various lengths and difficulties. The more technically difficult Blue Mound State Park should only be attempted by seasoned bikers, but offers exciting terrain and views. If you’d rather stay on the pavement, head to the Capital City Trail, nine miles of which run through the wild Capital Springs Recreation Center. During the summer months, Madison plays host to various summer concert series, including Concerts on the Rooftop during June and July.
  • Portland – You can literally taste summer in this northwestern city: top-ranked farmers’ markets bursting with berries, fresh-caught salmon at inventive cafés and plenty of cool summer drinks. The city also gets top marks for its microbrews. The wholesome cuisine will make you want to get active, too, whether you’re bicycling around town or hiking near the waterfalls outside the city limits.
  • San Diego – There’s a lot to love in San Diego, from the year-round beach weather to the good-looking locals – even if June can be cool and gray. Summer also brings the kooky ComicCon convention and events at the Del Mar racetrack, an old-Hollywood star magnet. And the city’s zoo, SeaWorld and Legoland are a natural draw for families on summer vacation.

To learn more about our many terrific spots for a summer trip, visit our website at If you have questions, drop us a line at To explore and get additional information about all of our remarkable destinations, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

For many people, Memorial Day is the first true holiday – as in, a work holiday – since January. A few lucky folks get off for President’s Day, but even so, it’s been months. So now that you’re heading into a three-day weekend, the question is not just “What do you want to do?” but also “Where do you want to go?” Here are a few suggestions for great places to enjoy the last weekend in May.

  • Las Vegas – Memorial Day is one of the year’s busiest weekends on the Strip. Many of the casino hotels have parties and other activities to draw in people – both those who are staying in the city and tourists who are on their way to nearby attractions, such as the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon or Zion. Pool parties on the Strip will be a priority for many visitors, but there are also countless clubs, restaurants, bar and shows to attend. If music is your thing, a number of hitmakers will be performing in town this year, including Wiz Khalifa, the Black Eyed Peas, Ludacris, Questlove and Chris Brown, along with DJs Diplo, David Guetta and Skrillex.
  • Palm Springs – A resort city in the middle of the California desert, Palm Springs is an exceptional place to check out for some quality relaxation. There is an abundance of natural beauty, with sweeping mountain vistas and plenty of places to explore the desert landscape. You can hike through Indian Canyons and visit ancient Native American sites. There are numerous ways to unwind, be it golf, browsing through art galleries or simply sunbathing poolside. And on Monday, May 30, be sure not to miss the Air Museum’s Annual Memorial Day Flower Drop, during which 3,000 red and white carnations are dropped from a B-25 bomber in dedication to America’s servicemen.
  • New Orleans – The Big Easy is a great spot for those who want a fun-packed weekend – but want to avoid the crush of Mardi Gras. Expect the weather to be warm but not sticky, with plenty to do. For instance, the annual New Orleans Greek Fest – now in its fifth decade – celebrates the heritage of the city’s Greek-American population with food, entertainment and family activities. Also taking place that weekend is the annual New Orleans Food and Wine Experience, which attracts upwards of 10,000 visitors to savor the vintages and vittles for which the Crescent City is known.
  • Austin – A rapidly evolving yet mellowed-out metropolis, Austin draws a diverse crowd – from inked artists to chic urban entrepreneurs. With its recent revitalization and growth, Austin gives visitors a little bit of everything: political hot spots such as the Governor’s mansion and the State Capitol (pictured), over 193 miles of scenic walking trails, a lively nightlife, tasty restaurants and hip coffee pubs congregated along Sixth Street. Visitors should also check out Austin’s Lake Travis this Memorial Day weekend, where boating season is officially in full swing.
  • Williamsburg – In the Revolutionary City, where so many lost their lives in our nation’s earliest days, a number of truly inspiring Memorial Day ceremonies will be held. In Yorktown, events will be held at historic York Hall, Grace Episcopal Church and the Yorktown Battlefield. And in Colonial Williamsburg, a modern service with fife and drum will be held at the Governor’s Palace.

To learn more about our many desirable destinations for a holiday getaway, visit our website at If you have questions, drop us a line at To explore and get additional information about all of our memorable destinations, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Calling All Patriots

  May 2, 2016  |    Stacy Sternberg

We all know what it’s like to live in the really-real world, but once in a while, it’s appealing to entertain the idea of being in a world where you actually can step back in time. In Colonial Williamsburg, you are going Back to the Future, but you won’t have to worry about Biff bullying your father, Doc dying, or whether you’ll cease to exist if your parents don’t fall in love. Instead you’ll be landing in the 18th century, where you can Read More

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