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Exploring Virginia's Chesapeake Bay

By Laura MacNeil
January 12, 2022
Tangier Island, Virginia
David Kay / Dreamstime.com
This quiet Virginia peninsula is the Chesapeake that you fantasize about—friendly towns, crab aplenty, and history at every third mile marker.

What you'll find in this article: trip planning advice, restaurant recommendations, hotels, driving directions, and other activities near Chesapeake Bay, Virginia

Day 1: Richmond to Reedville

My friend Sam and I land in Richmond just after noon and head northeast. The Northern Neck was named after its shape: It's a long, narrow peninsula that looks somewhat like a chicken's wobbly throat. Bordered by the Potomac River to the north, the Rappahannock River to the south, and Chesapeake Bay to the east, the Northern Neck has been well preserved, thanks to dedicated conservation. We cross over the Rappahannock on a simple two-lane bridge, leaving behind strip malls and tract houses for wide expanses of farmland. It feels as though we've traveled much farther than 50 miles from Richmond.

Virginia is proud of its history, and vocal about it, too. Markers along the side of Route 3 declare it historyland highway. The Historic Christ Church, a 1735 Georgian church outside of Irvington, has a particularly interesting story. The man responsible for building it, Robert "King" Carter, was a busy guy, as we learn in a museum next door. Carter was a member of the House of Burgesses (Virginia's colonial assembly); acting Governor of Virginia; and ancestor of "three signers of the Declaration of Independence, two presidents, eight Virginia governors, a Supreme Court chief justice, and Robert E. Lee." The list grows every day; in fact, a guestbook asks if visitors are Carter descendants.

An increasing number of people from Richmond and D.C. are buying second homes in the Northern Neck. To furnish them, they go to the antiques stores in the town of Kilmarnock. We arrive just before 5 p.m. and race to the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery before it shuts for the day. Gallery is an understatement. The large warehouse has dozens of stalls selling everything from costume jewelry to antique oyster plates. I pick up a set of 1950s anodized aluminum ice-cream cups for my mom.

GrandView, our B&B for the night, is about 20 miles up the road. The large house sits on the Great Wicomico River, and water laps against sand in the backyard. Inside, an earnest but precariously cute aesthetic prevails. My bedside lamp is in the shape of a lighthouse, and a plaque on the wall reads a boat is a wood-lined hole in the water in which you pour money. The owners, Chris and Sandye Mills, bought the property in 1984 and spent weekends sleeping in an old Richmond city bus that came with the land. "Eventually we decided it was too cold in the winters and too hot in the summers," says Chris. So they ditched the bus and built a B&B in its place. After checking in, Sam and I play fetch on the beach with the Mills's enthusiastic mutt, Survivor.

We go to dinner in Reedville. The town was founded in 1874, and it did well for itself thanks to a small, oily, bony fish called menhaden. (It's used in the manufacturing of everything from animal feed to lipstick to bread.) The catch made sea captains so wealthy that they built Edwardian-style mansions, many of which still line Main Street. At the Crazy Crab on Reedville's marina, I introduce Sam, a Connecticut Yankee, to the Southern goodness of hush puppies (deep-fried balls of seasoned cornmeal) while we sit on the deck and watch the sun set over the water. Our night ends at another marina, Great Wicomico, where we toast locals with $2 Buds at the Boathouse Lounge.

Lodging

  • GrandView B&B114 Riverside Ln., Reedville, 804/453-3890, from $80 Food
  • Crazy CrabReedville Marina, Reedville, 804/453-6789, crab cake dinner $16
  • Boathouse LoungeGreat Wicomico Marina, Burgess, 804/453-3351

Activities

  • Historic Christ Church420 Christ Church Rd., outside Irvington, 804/438-6855
  • Kilmarnock Antique Gallery144 School St., Kilmarnock, 800/497-0083

Resources

Day 2: Reedville to Kinsale

After the B&B's breakfast of homemade coffee cake and scrambled eggs, we drive back into town to go to the Fishermen's Museum. Before this trip I'd never heard of the menhaden, and now I can't stop hearing about the bony little fish. We learn that they're still very much alive and swimming. "This is a success story!" crows the narrator of a video presentation about the menhaden fishing industry. A house at the museum was restored to reflect the daily life of an average 1900s local fisherman. Our docent, Bob Matthews, says he and his wife, Natalie, are originally from the Boston area. "We're come-heres," he says. It's clear from the looks on our faces that Sam and I don't understand, so Bob explains. "There are born-heres, come-heres, brought-heres (such as kids or spouses), and come-back-heres. Reedville, itself, is named after a come-here, Elijah Reed, a sea captain from Maine." After the tour, we don't have much time to linger--we've got a ferry to Tangier Island to catch.

Two things make Tangier Island tick: soft-shell crabs and tourists. Three ferry services bring about 20,000 visitors each year to the self-proclaimed soft-shell capital of the world (quite a title for what's all of three square miles). A display between souvenir shops shows live crabs in tubs with placards explaining the industry. Fishermen set traps, keep an eye out for crabs about to molt--the edges of the paddle fins turn dark red--and place them in holding pens until they shed their shells. Once they're soft-shell crabs, they have to be removed immediately or their hard-shelled neighbors will eat them right up.

The island has a days-gone-by charm: Clapboard houses with white-picket-fenced yards line the shore. Golf carts are the main vehicles used to get around, though locals drive them like they're sports cars. We hop on a cart waiting by the dock for a tour by Tangier Island native Sylvia Parks of Parks Tours, a guide for 31 years. "There aren't many secrets here," Sylvia says, lead-footing it around the narrow dirt roads. "Everyone knows everyone and everything." Locals don't even pretend they're not watching your every move. Later, as Sam pets a dog, two men on a golf cart pass by and, without stopping, shout, "The dog's name is Milli--as in Milli Vanilli."

We have lunch at the Fisherman's Corner restaurant, run by three fishermen's wives. "They can be sure their catch is fresh," says the hostess. "It comes directly from their husbands, after all." I have my first-ever soft-shell crab sandwich. The two deep-fried crabs, wedged between slices of Wonder bread, look and taste as though they crawled straight from the bay into the fryer.

Sam and I walk past crab traps on the piers and stop at a bulletin board. A handwritten sign reads $1 for 10 tangier island recipes, and there's a bucket for money tacked to the frame. (Aunt Nellie's Crabmeat Casserole and Mom's Coleslaw both require generous amounts of mayo.) The Reedville ferry, which usually makes only one trip a day to Tangier, departs soon. It's a 90-minute ride to the mainland, and we get back around 7 p.m. Since things close early on the Neck, we have to make good time to get to Kinsale, 45 minutes away, in time for dinner.

Transportation

  • Tangier Island FerryBuzzard's Point Marina, Reedville, 804/453-2628, tangiercruise.com, round trip $25

Food

  • Fisherman's Corner4419 Long Bridge Rd., Tangier Island, 757/891-2900, soft-shell crab sandwich $9

Activities

  • Parks ToursTangier Island, 757/891-2261, $5
  • Reedville Fishermen's Museum504 Main St., Reedville, 804/453-6529, $5

Day 3: Kinsale to Westmoreland Park

Sam and I have signed up in advance for the 10 a.m. departure of a kayaking tour on the Potomac, at Westmoreland State Park. Our destination is Horsehead Cliffs, a section of the coast that used to be under a prehistoric sea. The area was popular with sharks, and the predators' fossilized teeth can be found in the sand. When we arrive at Fossil Beach, visitors are sifting the sand through screens and pocketing their discoveries. Park policy, surprisingly, is that you can keep whatever teeth you find--which would've been cool, if we'd found anything.

Westmoreland Berry Farm, about 15 minutes away, has a similar keep-what-you-find policy. In addition to u-pick strawberry and blueberry patches, there's a petting zoo and barn with fruit preserves and berries for sale. Instead of picking, Sam and I opt for a tour around the property on the kiddie train, which is pulled by a tractor. Sam tries to bail mid-route, claiming his spine is going to snap from all the bumps, but by the time he's about to jump off the train, the eight-minute ride is already over. A slice of fresh-baked berry pie à la mode helps speed his recovery.

On the other side of Westmoreland Park, Stratford Hall Plantation was home to several generations of Lees, the most famous being Robert E. At the visitors center, photographs and excerpts of the family's personal correspondence highlight the accomplishments of a litany of Lees, but the plantation history itself also grabs me. Stratford Hall was built after another house burned down, killing a servant. (The fire is believed to have been set by indentured servants.) We're staying the night on the property: Our simple guesthouse has Northern Neck ginger ale in the vending machine and a back patio overlooking the woods.

Before the trip, I'd heard good things about the Driftwood, a restaurant in Coles Point, 25 miles away. I order the fried oysters and a chardonnay from a local vineyard, Ingleside. I'm rewarded on both counts. The wine is sharp and satisfying, and the lightly breaded oysters from the Chesapeake are salty and slick. After coffee, Sam and I retire to the back patio of the Stratford Hall guesthouse to stargaze.

Good Eats Café is a gourmet restaurant in a former gas station outside Kinsale, and it's more great than good. Star lanterns hang in the windows, and bright ceramic suns are mounted on the yellow walls. Most of the decorations are souvenirs from regulars' travels. I understand why the place inspires such affection when I taste my dinner: pan-seared scallops and potatoes baked with rosemary and Parmesan. Sam has pork loin in Thai basil sauce with broccoli, pecans, and cranberries. We're so full that dessert is doomed.

Lodging

  • Stratford Hall Plantation483 Great House Rd., Stratford, 804/493-8038, stratfordhall.org, from $115, house tour $10

Food

  • Driftwood StateRte. 612, Coles Point, 804/472-3892, oysters $19
  • Good Eats Cafe , 12720 Cople Hwy, 804/472-4385, goodeatscafe.net

Activities

  • Westmoreland State Park1650 State Park Rd., near Montross, 804/493-8821, car fee $4, two-hour tandem kayak tour $22
  • Westmoreland Berry Farm1235 Berry Farm Lane, Oak Grove, 804/224-9171, pie à la mode $2.50, train $1

Day 4: Westmoreland Park to Richmond

We're the only ones at breakfast in the plantation's dining hall. It looks like a mess hall from summer camp, but the buttery biscuits, moist corn bread, and strawberry preserves, all made on the premises, are anything but camp quality.

Maybe 11 a.m. is a little early for a wine tasting, but when we pass a turnoff for Ingleside Vineyards, in Oak Grove, I remember last night's chardonnay and decide to go for it. During a tasting of eight varietals, our guide explains that Virginia's conditions are ideal for grape cultivation. The Petit Verdot grapes thrive more on the Northern Neck than in either California or France.

Even the vineyards in Virginia can claim historical significance. During the Civil War, Union soldiers used Ingleside's property as a fort. At the winery museum, displays show how the local roadways follow routes of old Native American trails. My wine buzz wears off around the same time I read about how Pocahontas was supposedly kidnapped from this very area.

On our way to Richmond, we stop at Goolrick's Pharmacy in Fredericksburg. The decor hasn't changed much since the '40s.

Aluminum stools are lined up along a Formica counter, and vintage Coca-Cola signs hang on the walls. The menu hasn't changed either: The soda fountain has always served rich milk shakes in only one size (large). Sam orders a large coffee shake. I ask for a small nonfat vanilla. Sam sighs, and the waitress looks at me blankly.

I quickly amend my order to a large chocolate. In these parts, tradition is to be respected.

Food

  • Goolrick's Pharmacy901 Caroline St., Fredericksburg, 540/373-9878, milk shake $3.50

Activities

  • Ingleside Vineyards5872 Leedstown Rd., Oak Grove, 804/224-8687, wine tasting $2.50

Finding your way

The Northern Neck is a seasonal destination: Many restaurants and services have reduced hours or close completely October through April, so call ahead before visiting. The ferry from Reedville to Tangier Island begins its summer service May 15. As for the driving, the main roads around the Northern Neck are Routes 3, 200, and 360. The best scenery, however, is on the side roads, such as Routes 649, 644, and 657--all in the tip of the Neck around Reedville. You can pick up free detailed maps of the area at the Crazy Crab in Reedville and many other local businesses.

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Inspiration

Contrarian Tours of Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Houston, and New York City

Gross National Product's Scandal Tours Members of the comedy troupe GNP expose the Capitol's seamier side by regaling tour-goers with cheeky, costumed impersonations and sordid tales of politicians from George Washington to George W. Bush. First on the bus route is the Watergate Hotel, naturally, followed by the Kennedy Center (a easy segue to extramarital affairs and conspiracy theories), the Vista International Hotel where former D.C. mayor Marion Barry was arrested on drug charges, the Willard Hotel where Ulysses S. Grant dubbed those pestering him in the lobby "lobbyists", and more sights that are prime fodder for poking bi-partisan fun. "There's a constant supply of new material," quips GNP member John Simmons. Gross National Product, 202/783-7212, gnpcomedy.com/scandaltours; $30, $20 for students and seniors; reservations required; Saturdays at 1 P.M. Hurricane Katrina: America's Worst Catastrophe; City Disaster Tour In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, tourism-starved New Orleans has spawned two narrated bus tours of its ravaged neighborhoods and the uncomfortable concept of disaster tourism. The operators, Gray Line New Orleans and Tours by Isabelle, were driven largely by the need to revive their businesses and to inform visitors. The three-hour Gray Line tour passes a breached levee, the Superdome, Canal Street, the New Orleans Convention Center and the Lakeview area, where the company's vice president Greg Hoffman and many others lost homes. Isabelle Cossart's "City Disaster Tour" is slightly longer and more expensive. It begins in the French Quarter, and covers many of the same sights along with the badly hit St. Bernard and New Orleans East districts. Both highlight the area's history and development, and offer personal takes on the hurricane's timeline. (Passsengers are not allowed to exit the Gray Line motorcoach during the tour, and photography is discouraged.) Gray Line New Orleans, 800/535-7786, graylineneworleans.com; $35, children 6-12 years of age, $28; $3 donated to one of five local non-profit organizations; 9 A.M. and 1 P.M. daily. Tours by Isabelle, 877/665-8687, toursbyisabelle.com; $49 per person; 8:30 A.M. and 1 P.M. daily, provided there are at least four passengers Lifestyles of Houston's Rich and Infamous: The Enron Tour Yankee Sandra Lord has been leading tours of her adopted Houston since 1988, and the latest riffs on its greatest homegrown scandal: the rise and meteoric fall of Enron. While founder Kenneth Lay and chief executive Jeffrey Skilling pass the time on trial for fraud at a local courthouse, the curious can hop a bus for a five-hour, lighthearted look at offices, churches, restaurants, and jails they and other employees have frequented. Lord weaves together facts, anecdotes, biographical information, and historical precedent—a view of the 1928 Kirby Mansion calls for a quick lesson on Houston's first tycoon, John Henry Kirby, an oil man who went down in a high-profile bankruptcy. Discover Houston Tours, 713/222-9255, discoverhoustontours.com ; $30; public tours in Mar.-Apr. 2006, ongoing private tours available Surveillance Camera Walking Tours Each of the Surveillance Camera Players' walks begins with a general introduction on the workings and evolution of surveillance cameras, and then zeroes in to identify numerous often-discreet cameras in a single Manhattan neighborhood—some have close to 400! Far from spouting a left-wing screed, the Players present their findings and encourage healthy debate over the pros and cons of our increasingly public lives. Take a peek at their hand-scrawled online maps of cameras in Times Square and other neighborhoods. Surveillance Camera Players, 212/561-0106, notbored.org; free; Sundays at 2 P.M.

Inspiration

Save Big in Europe's "Second Cities"

Europe's most famous metropolises tend to also be its largest: London, Paris, Rome, and Berlin spring to mind, of course. But dig just a little deeper into European history and culture and you can discover another world. Europe's "second cities," those that, you guessed it, come in second place for population size, often pack a second-to-none punch when it comes to great food, art, cultural sites, and affordable lodging. Here, six of our favorite second cities, where you can have a great European vacation without busting your budget. 1. BIRMINGHAM, U.K. A foodie destination in England's heartland Anybody visiting a city from which both J.R.R. Tolkien and Ozzy Osbourne sprang should be prepared for a dose of cognitive dissonance, and Birmingham (or "Brum," as it's affectionately known in the U.K.) delivers, with canals (yup, they surprised us, too), more contemporary architecture than you might expect from a sixth-century city, and a foodie scene that has earned more Michelin stars than any U.K. city other than London. WHY BIRMINGHAM IS SECOND TO NONE. In a word, food. But we don't mean nearby Cadbury World (though we have a fondness for any tour that hands out free chocolate!) or that justifiably popular Birmingham fixture, the Custard Factory. These days, this town is more about innovative cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. The Balti style of cooking Kashmiri curries—in small, artisanal batches rather than in one enormous pot—was developed here in the 1970s, and an entire district, the Balti Triangle, serves up tasty varieties at bargain prices at restaurants such as Al Frash. Celeb chef Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italian dishes out heaping plates of wild-rabbit tagliolini and crab spaghettini. And for contemporary riffs on classic English dishes, there's a lot to love about, well, Loves; Steve and Claire Love's waterfront restaurant has been wowing U.K. food critics with dishes like (vegetarians, avert your eyes) Warwickshire venison and Gloucestershire pig's head. MUST-SEE SIGHTS. The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery offers one of the world's most acclaimed collections of pre-Raphaelite paintings, including the iconic, otherworldly work of 19th-century Birmingham native Edward Burne Jones. Speaking of other worlds, Lord of the Rings fans must spend time at Sarehole Mill, said to have inspired the locale of Tolkien's trilogy. And no trip to Brum is complete without dropping by the Bull Ring Open Market, which is at once a throwback to England's agrarian past and a forward-looking source of local fruits and vegetables at great prices. The nabe is also known for its Rag Market (not as dismal as it sounds—think eye-popping fabrics, vintage clothing, household goods, and treats like mince pie and pickled chile peppers for a song). GET THERE. Birmingham is 117 miles northwest of London, a two-hour drive or a three-hour bus ride. 2. ANTWERP, BELGIUM (Regien Paassen/Dreamstime) An inland port with a world-class sense of style Antwerp's playfulness is evident everywhere you look—whether it's the quirkily dressed local in a public square, a fashion model in the city's historic district, or the mind-blowing design of its Museum Aan de Stroom. Located on the docks that have made Antwerp Europe's second biggest port (after Rotterdam), the museum's exterior mimics giant packing crates stacked on one another. WHY ANTWERP IS SECOND TO NONE. Stroll down any Antwerp street and you'll see it—style. Whether you're looking for imaginative architecture, the most inspiring new art galleries, or a great selection of vintage and second-hand clothing, Antwerp will pleasantly shake up your expectations and likely send you home with something surprising. MUST-SEE SIGHTS. The Zuid ("south") district is the place for art lovers; here, you'll find the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (featuring an exquisite collection of paintings by Baroque-era Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, such as "The Adoration of the Magi"), galleries of contemporary art, and a thriving cafe culture. Running north from the square in front of the museum, Kloosterstraat offers a stretch of cool antique shops that often boast mid-century design finds alongside older pieces. (On Sundays, the shops open for business at 2 p.m., so plan to visit after, not before, the museum.) Ready to cleanse your palate of modernism? Het Steen ("old fort") was originally built in the early Middle Ages to defend against—wait for it—marauding Vikings; it has been made over many times since those days and basically looks like a child's fantasy of a castle. GET THERE. Antwerp is 28 miles north of Brussels, a 40-minute drive or a 40-minute train ride. 3. PORTO, PORTUGAL (Freesurf69/Dreamstime) Raise a glass to the next great wine region Most discussions of Porto begin with some kind of comparison with Lisbon, its hustle-bustle big-city neighbor. But we love Porto just for being, well, Porto. (Of all the gorgeous images of Europe we had to choose from, we picked Porto, with its elegantly meandering Douro River, for our September/October tablet edition cover!) The city that gave Portugal its name, this place has been making waves these days with some exciting new buildings, great public markets, and a thriving art scene. WHY PORTO IS SECOND TO NONE. If you're thinking "What about the Port wine?" You're on the right track. But Porto is about more than just the rich red digestif that bears the city's name. You might say the town is a bit vino-crazed at the moment, with the Douro River region finally getting its due as a world-class wine producer—and one of the most beautiful wine regions on the planet. Here, you will find not only delicious Ports (start with a tour—and tasting!—of the classic Sandeman winery, or a tasting at Vinologia) but also excellent red table wines. And you'll also be delighted by Porto's sense of humor, with wine- and cork-inspired designs and products popping up all over this fun, friendly town. MUST-SEE SIGHTS. Porto's Casa da Musica is eye candy of the highest order. The concert hall, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is home to Porto's three symphony orchestras and was inaugurated by rocker Lou Reed in 2005. If the casa's quirky design inspires your inner hipster, head down to Porto's Ribeira neighborhood, with its popular cafe and bar scene. If you lose your way on the winding medieval streets leading to the harbor, ask for directions to the statue of Porto native Henry the Navigator. The city is ideal for strolling and shopping. Don't miss the Mercado do Bolhão public market and the contemporary art galleries arrayed along Rua Miguel Bombarda. But the coolest sourvenir of all may be a pair of shoes made of cork from the distinctive shop Porto Signs. GET THERE. Porto is 195 miles north of Lisbon, a three-hour drive or about two-and-a-half hours by train. 4. MILAN, ITALY Bargain shopping in the world's fashion capital Ah, Italy! A country where a city that's a fashion capital and home to arguably the world's greatest opera company and Leonardo's second most famous painting can be considered a "second city." But Milan, with a population second only to Rome, often gets missed by tourists who try to cram the Eternal City, Florence, and Venice into one trip. Well, we're here to tell you it's time to head back to Italy and spend some time in Milan. WHY MILAN IS SECOND TO NONE. Sure, you know that Milan is the epicenter of the fashion world, with its Fashion Weeks inspiring—and sometimes dictating—what will be the hip new colors or fabrics for a season. But like its fashion-centric sister city, New York, Milan is also a place to find incredible shopping bargains if you know where to look. Go ahead and ogle the designer duds at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, but duck out and hit the outlet stores on the same street to find deep discounts. Natives swear by Il Salvagente ("the lifesaver"), which offers three floors of bargains at Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16. MUST-SEE SIGHTS. Art lovers and spiritual travelers visit Milan just to see Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Don't miss it, but you should also drop into the Duomo, a Gothic cathedral that can hold 40,0000 congregants. Unwind in lovely Parco Sempione, which is also home to the imposing Castello Sforzeso. This stylish city's artsiest residents hang out in the Navigli district, a center of design and culture and home to Milan's annual flower show. GET THERE. Milan is 167 miles west of Venice, a two-and-a-half-hour drive or two hours and 15 minutes by train. 5. SPLIT, CROATIA (Emicristea/Dreamstime) History comes alive on the Mediterranean You don't have to remember the name Diocletian to have a blast in Split, a city of more than 250,000, but you can thank him for pioneering the notion of Split as a lesser-known Mediterranean getaway. A Roman emperor who abdicated his position in the face of rival claims, Diocletian built an amazing palace here, completed in A.D. 305, and to this day the city has one of Europe's finest collections of Roman ruins. WHY SPLIT IS SECOND TO NONE. From Diocletian's day to the present, Split has done an exceptional job of preserving its past, making it a first-rate destination for immersing yourself in living history—even in the face of the civil war that rocked Croatia in the 1990s. This UNESCO World Heritage Site invites you to balance your beach-going and nightlife with visits to its Roman ruins, medieval forts, Romanesque churches dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, plus Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque palaces and other noteworthy buildings; a historic district, archeological museum, and of course the ruins of Diocletian's palace round out the historical offerings. MUST-SEE SIGHTS. When you yearn to return to the land of the living, drop yourself on Bacvice beach, a crescent-shaped stretch of sand that rivals any of the tonier—and pricier—Mediterranean beaches. We won't tell if all you want to do is stretch out on a blanket and soak up some rays. But when the sun goes down, dip a toe into Split's lively bar scene, with popular "crawls" around the neighborhood of the Roman palace ruins. In the morning, get classy again with a trip to the Metrovic Gallery, spotlighting the work of Croatia's best-known sculpture, Ivan Mestrovic. GET THERE. Split is 140 miles northwest of Dubrovnik, Croatia, a three-hour drive. 6. HAMBURG, GERMANY Europe's greenest city Hamburg's location on the Elbe river less than 70 miles from the North Sea has made it a vital port for centuries, but it's seldom visited by American tourists. Duck into the sketchy Reeperbahn or check out the bustling fischmarkt and you'll experience one Hamburg. Kick back in one of its exceptional green spaces and you'll experience quite another. Devastated by bombings during WWII, and the place where four lads from Liverpool first became international stars, Hamburg is ready for its close-up. WHY HAMBURG IS SECOND TO NONE. We love the fact that gritty Hamburg is also a shining example of green living—half of the city is given over to parks, woodlands, gardens, and water. Devote a day to a park such as Planten un Blomen ("plants and flowers"), in the center of the city, or check out HafenCity, a 388-acre redevelopment-in-progress (the most ambitious in Europe) on the harbor that has created an entirely new residential and business district, featuring bold new buildings by some of the world's "starchitects." MUST-SEE SIGHTS. While we don't recommend the Reeperbahn (the city's red-light district) in general, Beatles fans should consider taking a guided tour devoted to the band's history and its early-'60s performances here. Or, if you want to party like its 1897, savor the Rathaus, or city hall, located on gorgeous Binnenalster lake. The Kunsthalle museum boasts a collection ranging from Old Masters to modern art, with rotating exhibitions dedicated to contemporary paintings, photography, and mixed media. GET THERE. Hamburg is 180 miles northwest of Berlin, a three-hour drive or 90 minutes by train.

Inspiration

Yes, These 10 Theaters Are Haunted!

We go to the theater for all kinds of thrills—suspense, romance, and unexpected plot twists. But the theaters themselves, with their long histories of players, staff, and audience members coming and going, are often the stuff of legend. Maybe it's just because the buildings are old and creaky, maybe it's because we expect our emotions to get cranked up to 11 when we walk into a performance space, but these 10 theaters all come with at least one resident spirit. Belasco Theatre New York City David Belasco was one of the most colorful of the early 20th-century Broadway producers, known both for being a lady's man and, in a move that was oddly flamboyant even for a theater producer, dressing in a monk's flowing robes. His ghost is said to haunt this theater-district gem. Originally named the Stuyvesant when it opened in 1907, the theater featured a duplex apartment for the producer. The Belasco has played host to some of the greatest Broadway productions, including Clifford Odets's play Awake and Sing in 1935, the nude review Oh, Calcutta! In 1971, and a revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone in 2009 that was attended by President and Mrs. Obama. But theater pedigree has not kept the space from some unsettling sightings. David Belasco's robe-clad figure has been reported in the office space that now occupies his old apartment and in the theater's balcony. Some women have even reported feeling a mysterious ghostly pinch, which theater folk attribute to (who else?) the randy producer. Palace Theatre New York City Many ghosts lay claim to the title "famous," but the Palace is home to the spirit of a superstar, Judy Garland, who blew audiences away in her 1960s comeback performances here with heart-stopping renditions of hits like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "The Man That Got Away" before descending back into the addictions that would take her life. The theater started as a vaudeville house in 1913 and "playing the Palace" was regarded as the pinnacle for touring singers, dancers, and comics. The stage has been graced by Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, Ethel Merman, and other stars, and has played host to groundbreaking musicals, including Man of La Mancha, La Cage aux Folles, and Beauty and the Beast. But musicians playing in the orchestra pit may not feel as lucky as audience members: Legend has it that a special door was built in the pit for Garland's entrances and exits, and that the ghostly figure of the troubled star is sometimes seen in the doorway. Paris Opera Paris Yup, the Phantom of the Opera is rooted in legend. In the early 20th century a mysterious apartment (and, by some accounts, a male corpse) were found in the opera theater, the Palais Garnier, inspiring the 1910 novel that in turn inspired a silent film and the smash Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The theater, which has been renovated several times since the 19th century, acquired a reputation for lavish productions and sets. But, curiously, although the well-known Phantom has brought the Paris Opera worldwide fame, there are no serious Phantom sightings on record. (A chandelier did fall in 1896, killing a construction worker and supplying the famous scene in the novel.) The theater's resident ghost is an older woman who committed suicide in the 19th century and is said to roam the streets outside the opera house searching for the man who jilted her. Palace Theatre Los Angeles The oldest movie theater in L.A., the Palace has a "third balcony" that was once closed off from the rest of the theater for racial segregation and became legendary as the site of ghost sightings, with onstage performers seeing mysterious figures in the balcony when locked doors should have prevented anyone from appearing up there. The Palace, known until 1926 as the Orpheum, was once one of the premier theaters on the famed "Orpheum circuit" of vaudeville houses and saw its share of live performances before transforming itself into a silent-movie venue. Over the years, audience members and theater staff reported the figure of a woman dressed in white lace crossing the stage during performances, then disappearing into the wings, never to be seen again. Theatre Royal Drury Lane London Standing on a spot that's been occupied by three previous theaters since 1663, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (known as "Drury Lane" to Londoners), should be one of the likeliest spots for a spook. Sure enough, one of London's most famous ghosts, the "man in gray," is regularly reported here, wearing riding boots, a powdered wig, and tricorn hat. The story goes that the apparition is the spirit of the fellow whose skeletal remains were found in a walled-up passageway here in the late 19th century. Kind of makes you wonder what else might be lurking in the walls, no? On a much more positive note, the Drury Lane is where Rodgers and Hammerstein's golden-age musicals had their London premieres, including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The King and I. Orpheum Theatre Memphis, Tenn. Sure, most of the seats at Memphis's Orpheum are good ones. But you might want to steer clear of C-5. That's where "Mary," a see-through apparition, has been seen enjoying rehearsals and performances at this former vaudeville venue. Built as the Grand Opera House at the corner of Main and Beale streets in 1890, the theater joined the "Orpheum circuit" in 1907 but burned in 1923. The new Orpheum was built on the site of the Grand, at twice the size. It was converted into a movie theater in the 1940s, then began hosting touring productions and concerts in the '70s. In 1984, a refurbished Orpheum reopened and has seen productions as big as The Phantom of the Opera nad Les Miserables and acts as intimate as Jerry Seinfeld and Tony Bennet. St. James Theatre Wellington, New Zealand It's curious that the "haunted theater" phenomenon is found mostly in European and Euro-centric cities, and even in New Zealand, thousands of miles from the lights of Broadway and the West End, a theater teems with alleged paranormal activity. The St. James Theater was built in 1913 and was initially a venue for silent movies. Throughout the 20th century, the theater was home to film, live theater (ranging in quality from Shakespeare to minstrel shows), and other entertainments. But perhaps no single theater has such a wide array of freaky sightings. "Yuri," a Russian acrobat who supposedly fell to his death during a performance, is often credited for the theaters lights turning on and off. The "wailing woman" was, the story goes, an actress who was booed off the stage and consequently did herself in; she is now blamed not only for mysterious cries heard in the space but also for a series of calamities that have befallen actresses at the St. James, including falls, sprains, and performance-endangering head colds. Another legend has it that during World War II, a boys choir sang its last concert at the St. James before departing New Zealand on a ship that was never seen again. The boys' ghostly singing is now heard by stagehands and others. Adelphi Theatre London The present-day Adelphi is a relative kid among London playhouses, built in 1930, but theaters have stood on this site since the early 19th century, and the place has a paranormal pedigree to match its age. The ghost of actor William Terriss, who was stabbed to death at the stage door in 1897, is said to haunt the Adelphi. According to legend, Terriss's understudy had a dream the night before the actor's murder in which Terriss lay bleeding on his dressing room floor. The theater was home to Noel Coward's Words and Music in 1932 and hosted the London premiere of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music in 1975. Grauman's Chinese Theatre Los Angeles In a story that would fit right into a film noir classic such as Sunset Boulevard or Double Indemnity, Hollywood lore says that actor Victor Killian walks the forecourt of this iconic L.A. landmark, searching for the man who beat him to death outside the theater, which has been the site of lavish movie openings since Tinseltown's early days. You can do some searching of your own outside the theater, where the cement handprints, footprints, and signatures of Hollywood stars have adorned the sidewalk for decades. The theater was the site of the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1944, 1945, and 1946, and is next door to the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars celebration is currently held each year. Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ashland, Ore. From royal ghosts traipsing through Macbeth and Hamlet to the knavish sprite Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream and the mysterious, magical Ariel in The Tempest, William Shakespeare provided the world with a small army of supernatural supporting roles. But the Bard of Avon's work is seldom as downright terrifying as the grounds of Lithia Park, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which offers a mix of indoor and outdoor theater spaces. The ghost of a young girl murdered in the 19th century is said to walk the grounds of the park. Not impressed? Visitors to the park have told local police that the girl is surrounded by a mysterious blue light that enshrouds onlookers and drives them to hysterical fright. 

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Last-Minute Foliage Getaways for Under $150!

Connecticut Stay: Arts & Crafts A-Frame Lake House, Ashford (vacation rental) Cost: From $140/night Cool property feature: A spiral staircase corkscrews up to a loft with skylights; downstairs, you'll find a wood-burning stove and a yoga/meditation space. Must-see spot to leaf peep: Natchaug State Forest—take Route 44 for maximum beauty. Ctvisit.com outlines more driving tours farther south. Maine Stay: Owls Head Village Post Office, Owls Head (vacation rental) Cost: From $140/night Cool property feature: Yes, it's an actual converted post office! Sweeping views and the ocean are visible from the cupola up top. Must-see spot to leaf peep: Motor from Rockland to Augusta up Route 17 to soak up the scenery. Maine's dedicated foliage site, mainefoliage.com, can help you plan scenic hikes and drives. Michigan Stay: Quaint Cottage on Lake Independence, Marquette (vacation rental) Cost: From $125/night Cool property feature: Right next to the lake, this cozy home has a boat dock, four-season porch, and a fireplace, plus lake views from several rooms. Must-see spot to leaf peep: Driving M-28 to County Road 550, right along Lake Superior's shore, is a good bet for a beautiful fall show. For more color tours, plus ATV trails, michigan.org has you covered. Missouri Stay: Chateau on the Lake, Branson Cost: From $139/night Cool property feature: Mountain-view rooms showcase the area's peaks, and lakefront rooms overlook Table Rock Lake; miles of trails on property offer a chance to see deer and wild turkeys along with the leaves. Must-see spot to leaf peep: The Ozark Mountains. Get insider info on bike trails and driving tours (both back roads and main highways) at ozarkmtns.com. New Hampshire Stay: Cabernet Inn, North Conway Cost: From $97/night via booking.com Cool property feature: This 1872 cottage serves a free made-to-order "full country breakfast": Maple walnut stuffed French toast and greek omelets are specialties. Must-see spot to leaf peep: White Mountain National Forest. New Hampshire's Foliage Tracker will help you follow the action. New York Stay: Rustic Lakefront Camp on Quiet Lane, Lake George (vacation rental) Cost: From $79/night Cool property feature: You want charm? You got it with this whimsical A-frame, equipped with a gas fireplace and screened-in porch with loungers for gazing at the lake. Two kayaks with paddles serve as nature's entertainment—the property has no TV, phone, or internet. Must-see spot to leaf peep: Adirondack Park. Read the scoop at lakegeorge.com. North Carolina Stay: Asheville Cottage, Asheville (vacation rental) Cost: From $145/night Cool property feature: A picture window with a spectacular view of Mount Mitchell, a shade garden with gazebo, a private creek, and a barbecue area take full advantage of the great outdoors. Must-see spot to leaf peep: Pisgah National Forest—take Route 276, south of Asheville, for eye-popping color. Find more recommendations at exploreasheville.com. Tennessee Stay: Gatlinburg Cabin, Gatlinburg (vacation rental) Cost: From $125/night Cool property feature: A rustic covered deck with sweeping mountain views includes a porch swing, rocking chair, and hot tub. Must-see spot to leaf peep: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Get all the details at gatlinburg.com.