5 Best Southern Food Cities You Haven't Tasted Yet
If you’re thinking of planning a trip to the South in search of great regional food, popular ports of call like New Orleans, Charleston, and Nashville probably come to mind. Yet a bevy of all-too-often overlooked destinations—smaller cities, in particular—are stepping up their game in the culinary department, serving up Southern dishes with a twist alongside globally inspired flavors. Whether you’re into fancy tasting menus or more down-home plates like pimento-cheese fritters and Elvis-inspired desserts, these five unexpected cities have something to suit every taste. Plus, skipping the crowded tourist spots means it’s easier to get a reservation—though you can probably pop into any of these joints and be welcomed with that true Southern hospitality.
1. TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI
Chef Mitchell McCamey of Tupelo's King Chicken Fillin' Station. (Courtesy King Chicken Fillin')
Graceland may be in Memphis, but Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis—and this town of 38,000 people boasts some pretty delicious offerings that tie back to the King himself. Take, for example, King Chicken Fillin’ Station (kingchickentupelo.com). Opened by renowned local chef and butcher Mitchell McCamey in March inside a converted gas station with a still-operating convenience store, it's quickly become a local favorite, thanks to its epic fried chicken and smoked burgers. Continuing the theme of building reuse, Clay’s House of Pig hatched inside a bait-and-tackle shop, where people come from miles around for the pulled-pork baked potato topped with queso, slaw, and jalapeños. For something a bit more upscale, visit Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen (kermitsoutlawkitchen.com), one of the area’s first true farm-to-table restaurants. Also run by McCamey, it’s housed in a 140-year-old brick building with a chef’s counter downstairs and a cocktail bar on the second level. If you’re dining with a group, order the Butcher Picnic, packed with braised brisket, a half chicken, homemade tortillas, and more. Just be sure to save room for Elvis S’mores for dessert.
2. ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA
The fried-chicken sandwich from Holmes in Alpharetta. (Courtesy Awesome Alpharetta)
Once an unassuming suburb 25 miles north of Atlanta, Alpharetta has become a destination in its own right in the last few years. Restaurants and a hotel at the mixed-use development Avalon, which opened in 2014, make for a convenient weekend escape from Atlanta, and the area’s best chefs have taken notice. Ford Fry, who owns 11 restaurants in Georgia, was among the first to head north, opening his Tex-Mex hit The El Felix Avalon; there are now more than a dozen upscale dining spots there. A new development, Alpharetta City Center, is also home to restaurants from top toques. Chef Taylor Neary, of Atlanta favorites Marcel and St. Cecilia, opened Holmes (restaurantholmes.com) this summer, with the area’s freshest vegetables playing a starring role on the menu, and sommelier Phillip Cooper debuted Citizen Soul (citizensoul.com) in October, marrying upscale pub fare with artisanal cocktails. Finally, chef Todd Hogan, a well-known name in the local food scene, is on track to open Prairie American Kitchen in a historic Alpharetta building early next year. Southern comfort foods with a twist, like crawfish potpie, will be on the menu.
3. GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA
Greenville's Husk, an outpost of chef Sean Brock's beloved Charleston original. (Courtesy VisitGreenvilleSC)
The food scene in this city of 68,000 people started coming up about 20 years ago, when local personality Carl Sobocinski decided to open a restaurant called Soby’s New South Cuisine (sobys.com) in the seedy downtown area. Fittingly, it was located nearly on the exact spot the town was founded two centuries before, and as people began to venture back downtown for dinner, businesses started to reinvest in the area. Today, Greenville ranks among the best downtowns in the country, according to Southern Living. Indeed, it feels a bit magical wandering down Main Street at night, with twinkling lights strung through the trees and the smells of many different cuisines wafting out the doors of nearly 125 restaurants within walking distance of the main drag. Spots like the aforementioned Soby’s (don’t miss Sunday brunch), the Lazy Goat (get the fried goat cheese), and Pomegranate (feast on spectacular Persian cuisine) are standbys, while newcomers like Anchorage (theanchoragerestaurant.com), showcasing the area’s Upcountry’s produce bounty, and Husk (huskgreenville.com), a spinoff of chef Sean Brock's beloved spots in Charleston, Nashville, and Savannah, are fresh reasons to visit.
4. FLORENCE, ALABAMA
Big Bad Breakfast is a culinary destination at the hip Striklin Hotel. (Courtesy Visit Florence, AL)
This Northern Alabama town went from sleepy to trendy nearly overnight, thanks to investment in the local hospitality industry. One of three towns making up the area known as The Shoals, Florence has gained two boutique hotels within the last year or so, along with a burgeoning culinary scene. Downtown, the 10-room GunRunner (gunrunnerhotel.com) features a hipster coffee shop on the main floor that brought acai bowls and matcha lattes to a town that’d never heard of them. Down the street, The Striklin Hotel (thestriklin.com) opened this year on the second and third floors of a 1940s building, with Big Bad Breakfast on the ground level. The brainchild of James Beard award-winning chef John Currence, a native of New Orleans, this morning-meal-focused restaurant known for its house-cured Tabasco brown-sugar bacon debuted its fifth Southern location to much fanfare. Early 2019 will see the opening of Taco Garage, a down-home spot for creative takes on Mexican street food. And, of course, there's the OG local-dining pioneer. While visitors and residents alike have embraced these newcomers, the farm-to-table spot Odette (odettealabama.com)—hugely popular for its craft cocktails and great wine list—kicked off the trend in back in 2011.
5. LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY
While you can find classic Southern fare around town, Lexington's dining scene presents a range of international restaurants. (Courtesy VisitLex)
You might not expect to find world-class Japanese food in the bourbon capital of the world, but that’s exactly what awaits in Lexington. It all started back in the ’80s when Toyota opened a plant in nearby Georgetown. At the time, there were less than five Japanese companies in the state; today, there are more than 200. Along with the growth of the Japanese population working here came many new restaurants and markets showcasing their home cuisine, with Tachibana (tachibanarestaurant.com) among the first to open some 25 years ago. This summer, Japan natives Hidenori and Shima Yamaguchi opened Standing Room Only, a Tokyo-inspired cocktail bar serving Japanese-style tapas, in the up-and-coming neighborhood of North Limestone (NoLi). And last year marked the debut of Kentucky’s first food hall, the Barn (thesummitatfritzfarm.com/the-barn), with an all-local lineup of restaurants serving dishes from Japanese ramen to Greek street food to shrimp Po'Boys. That wide-ranging variety has made the food hall a popular, lively destination.
How to Drink Your Way Across Alaska
There are few better places to get a genuine, unfiltered sense of a city than its bars. There’s a reason people call them their “local,” after all. And in a place like Alaska, where cities and towns are remote and the urge to hunker down for a long session with friends is hard to resist, bars can sometimes seem like a stand-in for the local community center. The idea of a bar, however, has extended far beyond a slab of mahogany. These days, as creative entrepreneurs open breweries and distilleries, they’ve made a bar a central aspect of their business, providing not just a place to hang out but a place to showcase the fruits—and grains—of their labors. Like wine, spirits and beer can express terroir, a term used to refer to a sense of place—a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. Here are eight spots along Alaska's south coast and in the Interior where you can drop in and soak up local flavor. 1. Alaska Brewing: Juneau Before “craft brewing” was part of every bartender’s lingua franca, there was Alaskan Brewing Company (alaskanbeer.com). This Juneau company was founded in 1986 by Geoff and Marcy Larson, a chemical engineer and a bush pilot, respectively. They still run it today, and over the past several decades, they’ve established themselves as solid trailblazers, racking up piles of awards (they’re the most award-winning brewery at the popular Great American Beer Festival), not to mention a robust cult following that snaps up their limited-edition brews each year. A tour of the brewery reveals the brewing process, gives a peek into how their creative beers come to be, and offers a rundown of the company's interesting history. Of course, you don’t have to go on a tour to hang out in the tasting room, where their flagship beers and a few limited edition ones, too, are available to sample. 2. Amalga Distillery: Juneau Purple Basil Gimlet at Alamga Distillery (Courtesy @amalgadistillery/Instagram) The American craft distilling industry has been growing at a steady clip, with the number of distilleries, as of September 2018, clocking in at 1,835 and counting. Juneau’s entrant, Amalga Distillery (amalgadistillery.com), is a destination for spirits aficionados and pretty much anyone who likes a well-made cocktail. Husband and wife Brandon Howard and Maura Selenak are at the helm, doing everything from distilling the spirits to serving the drinks in the vibrant bar room, a bright, downtown Juneau hangout with floor-to-ceiling windows and a mighty yet elegant still anchoring the space. While their whiskey ages, the gin, made with a variety of local botanicals, takes center stage, with gin cocktails that keep the crowd lively. Be sure to check out the shop so you can bring a bottle or two home with you. 3. Double Shovel Cider: Anchorage (Kate Bishop) While drink-loving entrepreneurs around the United States open breweries and distilleries, Galen Jones, Jerry Lau, and Jack Lau, three engineers and childhood friends from Anchorage, saw a need—or at least a gap—for something else. They opened Double Shovel, a hard cidery, in 2016, and it’s been going strong since. At the laid-back industrial-chic tasting room, you can sample a range of their ciders and get a great crash course in production from the knowledgeable barkeeps while you’re at it. Lesson number 1: Cider is naturally gluten-free. Seasonal options are on tap, and a recent summer visit offered pineapple, grapefruit lavender, and blackcurrant sour in addition to the regular options, like extra-dry and hopped. 4. Big Swig Tours: Anchorage King Street Brewing Co. is one of several Anchorage breweries on Big Swig Tours's swing through town. (Liza Weisstuch) Bryan Caenepeel and his wife know and love Anchorage beer. More importantly, though, they are very skilled at sharing the love. With their company, Big Swig Tours (bigswigtours.com), the husband-and-wife team takes visitors on a brewery—and brewpub—crawl, offering a behind-the-scenes look at each. Brewers are typically on hand at each stop to explain their particular beers and personal philosophies, as well as their breweri' history. And, of course, samples and snacks are offered at each stop to ensure you walk away with a complete understanding of their work. Whether you're a beer geek who likes to talk about yeast and water quality or just a committed appreciator, the afternoon is worth its weight in grain, particularly because most Alaskan beers are not available outside the state. 5. Fiori D'Italia: Anchorage Fiori D’Italia (fioriak.com) is an unremarkable compound-like building that sits at the end of a parking lot in a residential neighborhood, far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Anchorage. To call it a “hidden gem,” however, would be a huge understatement. This old-school Italian red-sauce joint looks like something out of a Scorsese movie and serves pasta dishes, lasagna, steak, and all the other classics you’d expect, but what’s more of a surprise is the massive selection of whisky—mostly single-malt Scotch—available at the bar. The restaurant is a family affair, with husband and wife Ulber and Urime, natives of the former Yugoslavia, helming the kitchen and front-of-house, respectively, and their son, Ylli, running the impressive bar. Let him make a recommendation based on what you know you like or trust him to make his own suggestion. Or just ask for the balsamic martini, a house specialty. 6. Chilkoot Charlie’s: Anchorage It’s hard to describe Chilkoot Charlie's (koots.com), a roadside attraction that looks like a huge log cabin from the outside and nothing like a log cabin from the inside. The building contains a warren of ten bars, including, but not limited to: the Show Bar, decked out with Berlin Wall and Soviet memorabilia; the 1940s-themed Swing Bar, which features DJs, a dance floor, and many martinis; and the rustic North Long, which delivers live music every night and a remarkable steak-dinner deal on Wednesdays. There are live performance spaces and dance floors too. You will, however, want to make your way back to the jukebox-equipped Bird Cage, where, most nights, you’ll find octogenarian (and Alabama native) Wanda Price perched behind the slanted, weathered bar serving drinks and wisecracks. A software salesperson turned bouncer turned salty barkeep, Wanda runs the show here. Just whatever you do, don’t ask her why there are so many unmentionables hanging on the ceiling rafters. You might end up finding out for yourself. And, for lack of a better word, regretting it. 7. Howling Dog: Fairbanks The Howling Dog Saloon tells a history of Fairbanks. (Liza Weisstuch) Howling Dog Saloon (howlingdogsaloonak.com) is the kind of place that you want to stay for long stretches of time. It’s not the drinks—they’re everything you’d expect from a dive bar—or the familiar pub grub that the kitchen cranks out. It’s everything else: the chatty bartenders, the history (it was established in the mid-1970s, and Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan dropped in during their historic 1984 meeting in Fairbanks), the décor, which tells the story of a community, and the live music, from blues to funk to country, a regular weekend affair. Oh, and there’s the sandpit in the back for beach volleyball in the warmer months. (And yes, though temps in Fairbanks can sink pretty low into the negative realm in the winter, summertime brings plenty of sun and even steamy heat.) Owner Ralph Glasgow, who’s run the place since he bought it in 2003, is often found roaming the floor, checking in with the many regulars. Ask him about rogues' gallery of locals whose portraits hang on the walls. There’s a rich story behind each character. 8. Hoodog Brewing: Fairbanks HooDoo Brewery is known for its commitment to classic-style beers. (Liza Weisstuch) In their comprehensive book, Beers of the North: A field Guide to Alaska and the Yukon, Clint J. Farr and Colleen Mondor note that a German Kolsch and American IPA are HooDoo Brewing Company's (hoodoobrew.com) most popular beers. “The German Kolsch is a testament to simplicity, tradition, and quality. Wilken uses the same hops, malt, and process found in Cologne, the beer’s birthplace,” they write. That authenticity is part of what draws crowds to this airy Fairbanks taproom. Alaskan Brewing Company alum Bobby Wilken opened the brewery in 2012 after extensive travels and brewery-hopping in Europe, which explains his mastery of German-style beer. It also explains the biergarten-style patio, which has the feel of a neighborhood gathering spot in the warmer months. Free tours are offered every Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
Celebrate 400 Years of Women's History in Virginia
It’s often said that well-behaved women seldom make history. But now, one exhibit is aiming to give some well-mannered women—and a few defiant ones, too—their due tribute. Running through January 2020 at the Jamestown Settlement (historyisfun.org), a living-history museum dedicated to 17th-century Virginia history and culture, Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia highlights women whose stories have been lost to history, although their contributions to society live on. “We want the show to get a visitor to realize that women of the 17th century struggle with the same things that women did in the 19th or 21st century," says Kate Gruber, special exhibition curator at Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. "We pulled the collective threads together in the gallery.” Telling All Women's Stories It sounds like a pretty impossible feat, but the curatorial staff at the Settlement sifted through 400 years of history in search of determined, accomplished, yet little-known women to spotlight in the show: women who defied their husbands, women who challenged the status quo in order to be treated as average citizens, and women like Amelia Bloomer, who, in her pursuit to popularize less restrictive clothing for women, created the garment that bears her name today. “For all the women we know about, there are hundreds more we don’t know,” Kate says. “Men who made Virginia history always got in history books. There are women whose names we have, and that’s it. Women were always a footnote, but if you really dig down in, they’re the ones who were driving the narrative and helping determine how we got here and who we are as nation today.” Years of Research Centuries-old tomes of court documents, census records, and letters written by the few literate women of the time were all used to learn about the people who populated the Jamestown settlement and beyond. But here’s where things get really interesting: When you think about the era, an influx of British women comes to mind, but the early 1600s brought the arrival of the first Africans, and, of course, indigenous women had always been in the region. “It’s not just a story of the English women,” Kate notes. “It’s inclusive, it follows the personal stories. If we know about women, we’ll have maybe a record of their birth, death, marriage or maybe of their arrival in Virginia, but only if we’re very, very lucky, if they did something wrong and there’s a court case.” What's on View The intention of the exhibition, Kate explained, is to draw a connective thread through history, using objects to examine the accomplishments of women. grouped here into five themes: occupation, citizenship, marriage, education, and healthcare. Jamestown Settlement is a fully accredited museum, but for this exhibition, they borrowed items from 22 other national and international institutions—places like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of London, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the National Archives. From the V&A, for instance, they borrowed a bloomer outfit inspired by the aforementioned Amelia Bloomer. There are also pieces of furniture and other objects of daily life, as well as documents like census information, which survives in England’s National Archives because it’s part of their colonial history. Some items are coming to the US for the first time to be part of the exhibition, like the Ferrar Papers, which document 56 women who arrived to the Virginia colony in 1621. It's on loan from Master and Fellows of Magdalene College Cambridge, UK, and it will be rotated every 46 days because of the fragility of the paper, they need breaks from the light exposure, a “period of rest.” Get Involved It’s safe to say that, at one point or another, most people have had a woman in their life with a magnificent story to tell. Well, now's the time. One of several interactive offerings, the Legacy Wall is a touch screen that presents the stories of women, both contemporary and centuries old, from those who lived in early Virginia through 20th-century icons like Sally Ride. But the exhibit's selected figures barely skim the surface of a history rife with women who made a lasting impact, still felt today, so visitors are invited to add to the roster with stories of influential women they personally know. Kate says that as the finishing touches were being put on the show, she was preoccupied with all the women who could have been put on the timeline. “Once we got going, we couldn’t just draw a line. That’s the most amazing thing we want people to get out of the exhibition. Once you open the door, it’s kind of a Pandora’s box of these themes. Once you start going down the road of women in what would become United States, you see each one build off the experiences of women before them."
6 Things to Do in Portland, Oregon
Portland is at once small town and urban center, rugged yet elegant, zany yet sincere. It blends self-awareness and entrepreneurial grit with a happy-go-lucky sense of fun. Oregon’s biggest small city (the population is under 65,000) has become a focal point in past years for its culinary scene, its vibrant makers’ community, and its quick growth as a city. It often gets high ratings when it comes to quality of life, thanks in no small part to its incredible dining, its many bike paths, and its proximity to gorgeous outdoor landscapes. You could dedicate a week to just eating or just drinking or just hiking and biking, but if you want to get a taste of it all, here are a few ideas for how to navigate this bastion of Pacific Northwest cool. 1. Coffee City Portland's coffee house culture is easily one of the country's best known. (Liza Weisstuch) Seattle has Starbucks, San Francisco has Blue Bottle, and Portland has Stumptown—and, well, everything else. (Little-known fact: Portland was home to the first Starbucks outside Seattle, which opened in 1989.) It’s estimated that Portlandians individually consume 26 pounds of coffee annually and there are more than 60 people or companies roasting coffee within the city limits. And that’s to say nothing of the beans' journey to get to Oregon. Lora Woodruff, founder and tour guide of Third Wave Coffee Tours (thirdwavecoffeetours.com), says that coffee goes through up to 15 sets of hands before it arrives in your cup. That’s just one of the incredible facts I learned on her tour, which hits five coffee houses and roasters over three caffeine-fueled hours. The morning is a triple-shot dose of coffee knowledge: Lora and the baristas and roasters along the way go through the basics of Fair Trade sourcing, the different qualities that various growth elevations impart on the beans, the physics of the pour-over, the chemistry of roasting, what it takes to be a competition-winning barista, and the steps a coffee judge takes to hone her palate. Between that, a workshop in cupping (the professional method for tasting coffee), and the many samples at every stop, the tour is eye-opening in all sorts of ways. 2. Craft Beer Is Everywhere Cascade Brewing Barrel House is famous for its various sour beers. (Liza Weisstuch) Around the mid-1980s, before every bar and restaurant boasted of having “craft beer” on tap and the term wasn't as common as “sparkling wine” or “London dry gin,” Portland wasn’t simply a city with lots of breweries making beers on a small scale. It was building the groundwork for the craft-beer movement, which only seems to gain momentum as the years go by. Back when most Americans were knocking back Miller Lite and Budweiser, creative brewers in Oregon knew there was much more to beer than watery lagers. Many call 1984 the starting point. That's when BridgePort Brewing started cooking up uncommon beers, and its IPA remains a staple around the city. Widmer Brothers followed fast on its heels, making its name with its Hefeweizen, still an essential on many local taps. Both have come a long way, and visits to their breweries offer more experimental brews that show it. McMenamins is further proof that Portland is ground zero for the craft-beer movement. Since opening its first brewpub in 1985, the company has expanded to more than 65 locations around Oregon and Washington, each of which dispenses longtime cult favorites alongside one-off special releases. With dozens of breweries within the city limits—and that’s to say nothing of beer bars—you could easily spend a week here just on a beer crawl. Locals know this, so some have started companies to help navigate the scene—and the vocabulary. With more breweries continually cropping up, beer-makers are increasingly trying new styles to differentiate themselves, so brewery or pub visits will give you options like Bavarian helles (check out the ones from Wayfinder Beer) and hazy IPAs from Great Notion Brewing. If you’re one of the increasing number of beer drinkers who’s found a new calling with sour beers, Cascade Brew House is your Shangri-La. Just look out for the ones the bartenders describes as "jaw-rattling." 3. Scary Fun at the Peculiarium Upon arriving at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum (peculiarium.com), a modest storefront on a quiet Nob Hill street lined with nondescript shops, a large beer store/bar, and triple-story homes, I realized that the most peculiar thing about it is how few locals seem to know it exists. On my walk over, I asked directions a few times and got blank stares in return. One bearded young man thought it was a beer bar he hadn’t heard of. This is particularly astonishing given that creepy set pieces—an old man slouched over in a wheelchair, a zombie of some sort—greet you on the sidewalk. The compact museum is a repository of bizarre, hair-raising stuff including, but not limited to a towering life-size Big Foot, all sorts of ghastly monsters (and yes, you can even sit on a lap or two for a photo), a grisly interactive alien heist scene, and the most elaborate, epic, blood-splattered mini crime scene you’d ever imagine could fit inside in a dollhouse. There are also original character models and assorted props from classic horror films. The stuffed-to-the-brim museum features everything a freak-show fanatic needs to enhance their collection of bizarre bric-a-brac: insect candies, macabre oil paintings and other artwork, comic books, and plenty more, including pieces from an artist and special-effects pro who worked on Mars Attacks and other Tim Burton flicks. Admission is free, but it might cost you a few nights of restful sleep. 4. Take a Tranquil Walk in the Japanese Garden The Portland Japanese Garden showcases five different garden styles.(Nyker1/Dreamstime) Spread out over 12.4 acres, the Portland Japanese Garden (japanesegarden.org) is said to be the most authentic outside of Japan, and it's a marvel for many reasons, the fact that it's made up of five distinct garden styles not least among them. You could easily spend hours moseying about the flat garden, the strolling garden pond, the tea garden, the natural garden, and the sand and stone garden. Each area is distinct and a work of art in its own right. More than just landscape design, each garden has a sculptural element to it. (Tours are available year-round, but it’s recommended to check the schedule before you visit, as they’re subject to volunteers' availability.) Away from the rush of the city, it's easy to get lost gazing at the trees, moss, fountains, bridges, and stone arrangements, but there's actually more to do. Once you’ve hiked up the main hill, there’s a collection of traditional buildings known as the Cultural Village. It’s made up of a cultural center, where demonstrations of traditional Japanese rituals are performed, a gallery that houses shows focused on design, and the Umami Café, which serves small bites and green tea. Try to make a day of it. Rushing through a visit here defeats the whole purpose. I left feeling like I’d just spent hours at a spa. A spa for the soul. 5. Make Time for Tea Steven Smith Teamaker's Southeast Tasting Room offers all the company's teas, which is bagged on the premises. (Liza Weisstuch) There are other ways to enjoy tea after your visit to the Japanese Garden's cafe. The Steven Smith Teamaker Southeast Tasting Room (smithtea.com/pages/locations), which sits on a nondescript stretch of the Central Eastside Industrial District, is also the factory of this locally based tea company. With Persian-style carpets, handsome furniture, and small Asian sculptures spread about, the space is a comfy, easygoing sanctuary in an refurbished industrial building. Sit at the bar, order a sampler, and watch as the various leaves and flowers, which arrive by the sack from far-flung corners of the world, are blended and sealed in teabags. Body, mouthfeel, and acidity are just a few of the qualities that the baristas here encourage you to consider as you taste through their various offerings. They'll explain how the current blender travels the world to inspect the ingredients at the source and why hibiscus is considered the cabernet of tea, amid other neat insider tidbits. They have a retail store, so be sure to stock up. 6. Portland Saturday Market The PSM is the largest continuously operating open-air arts and crafts market in the country. (Andreykr/Dreamstime) The most important thing to know about the Portland Saturday Market is that as you mosey the labyrinth of stalls that make up the riverside craft bazaar, you need to be on the lookout for the Fun Police. These young men in ludicrously ill-fitting uniforms are armed with brightly colored toy weapons and a ticket pad, and they will write you a citation if they see the slightest bit of boredom or gloom in your expression. Also, they will also happily pose for a selfie if you ask them. Thing is, it’s hard to be bummed out when you’re surrounded by all manner of beautiful hand-crafted art, edibles, and curios; plus, the variety of food stands and engaging street performers do their part in keeping the mood up. Started in 1973 and laying claim to the title of largest continuously operating open-air arts and crafts market in the United States, the PSM is open on Saturdays and Sundays (despite its name) from March through Christmas Eve. The locally crafted wares run a dazzling gamut: baked goods, elegant handmade instruments, micro-batch cider and beer, fragrant soap, delicate pottery, intricate illustrations, clothing, jewelry, bags, belts, wraps, and more clothing and more jewelry. I made off with a paneled wraparound skirt made by a women who uses all “upcycled” fabric, a colorful, playful cape for my niece, and macaroons. I was particularly enchanted with a reserved vendor who goes by Spoonman, presiding over a wide selection of jewelry, kitchenware, clocks, and more, made of stainless-steel flatware. He was nonchalantly wearing a headband that made it look as though an ax went in one side of his skull and out the other, and offered many other versions (cleaver, scissors, arrow) as part of his inventory—perhaps typifying Portland’s “weird” factor at its most glorious.
9 Spooky Ghost Walks Across the U.S.
Halloween comes just once a year, but the spirit world never sleeps. From coast to coast, America is full of spectral sightings and unexplained phenomena, and we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite ways to take it all in. Suspend those skeptical tendencies, summon up a sense of humor, and strap in for an otherworldly ride. 1. Ohio State Reformatory Ghost Walk: Mansfield, Ohio Ohio State Reformatory (Sandra Foyt/Dreamstime) Seventy miles northeast of Columbus, in the county seat of Mansfield, the Ohio State Reformatory offers a full slate of preternatural programming, from spectral tours and ghost hunts to private courses in paranormal investigation. As the former site of the state penitentiary, the Romanesque Revival building is a fount of ghostly activity, and its two-hour evening tours cover the institution’s long, gruesome history with aplomb. (Fun fact: As the stand-in for the titular prison in 1994’s Shawshank Redemption, the Reformatory is a stop on the so-called Shawshank Trail, and it also offers a History Meets Hollywood tour for fans of the film looking for a less spooky time.) Dress warmly, as the 19th-century building isn’t heated, and be sure to book in advance, as spots fill up quickly. In October, the tour schedule is set aside in favor of a month-long haunted house, so make your Halloween plans accordingly. Guided tours are held from April to September with the occasional offering in November. $25 per person; children under the age of 13 not permitted; ohiostatereformatory.org 2. Spirited Stroll: Brooklyn, NY Green-Wood Cemetery (Elzbieta Sekowska/Dreamstime) A lush, tree-lined oasis of calm in middle of bustling Brooklyn, Green-Wood Cemetery covers 478 acres, and as the site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, its history is a bloody one, with nearly 400 casualties on both sides of the line. And that’s not to mention its roster of permanent residents: More than half a million dearly departed are interred here, from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein to Boss Tweed and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Wander the spirit-soaked grounds with the cemetery’s cult-favorite event, a two-and-a-half-hour, historian-led excursion that hits all the gory high notes, with a stop in the super-creepy catacombs—normally off limits—for good measure. Tours are held annually on Halloween weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday (weather permitting). $25 per person; green-wood.com. 3. White House Pub Tour: Washington, D.C. America's capital is arguably the capital of scandal and misconduct, so it’d be an understatement to say there are lots of skeletons in the proverbial closets of Washington D.C. Nightly Spirits’s White House Pub Tour introduces you to some of them. On the two-and-a-half-hour pub crawl, stops include three or four historic pubs and buildings. You'll get stories about the allegedly resident spirits and, well, spirits. (The drinkable kind, that is) There’s a specific beverage at each site to accompany the storytelling session. Tours take place Thursday through Saturday at 8:30 p.m. $25, not including drinks, 21-plus only; nightlyspirits.com/dc-tours/white-house-tours/ 4. Killers and Thrillers: New Orleans French Quarter, New Orleans (Wangkun Jia/Dreamstime) New Orleans—city of jazz, Mardi Gras, the two-foot drinking vessel, and voodoo. Few cities can claim a voodoo priestess as one of its primary historic personalities, but that’s just what Marie Laveau is. Her former home—and site of many legendary voodoo rituals—is just one stop on Ghost City Tours’s Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned, one of the options that falls under the company’s Killers and Thrillers duo. This 90-minute walkabout highlights the devilish deeds of the city’s ferocious women throughout history. Another option is the company’s Killers and Thrillers West, which visits the sites where vicious crimes took place and hauntings are said to linger as reminders. Both tours are so seriously scary that they’re adults-only. Both tours take place nightly year-round; $29.95 per person, children under the age of 16 not admitted; ghostcitytours.com/new-orleans/ 5. Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington: Wilmington, North Carolina Once a fire-prone, tar-and-wood-filled community, not to mention a significant player in the slave trade, the port city of Wilmington has seen its fair share of heartache. But academic tours have you covered on that front—you won't get a serious deep-dive into the nature of such atrocities on your ghost walk. For a frothier take on historic tragedy, sign up for a ramble through the old downtown area, led by a costumed guide who customizes each excursion with stops at his or her favorite haunts (an unassuming alley, an impressive mansion, a tiny graveyard alongside a circa-1840 church) for story time. The tall tales are told in broad strokes with most of the bloody details omitted, so it’s suitable for small fry...as long as they’re not nightmare-prone. Tours are held nightly from March 1 to November 30 and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from December 1 to February 29. Adults, $13; seniors, students, and military, $11; children ages 6 and under, free; hauntedwilmington.com. 6. The Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour: Granbury, Texas Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the history. And, so legend has it, the ghosts. San Antonio is getting a lot of attention this year with its various 300th anniversary celebrations, but Granbury, a historic city that doesn't tend to get as much attention as Texas’s major metropolises, should not be overlooked. The Granbury Ghosts and Legends tour is an hour-long guided walk through the historic Downtown Square, where it’s said that the spirits of notorious figures with names like the Faceless Girl and Lady and Red still roam, trapped in another dimension. The costumed guide will share all their spooky stories and more along the way, including a bit about Jesse James's connections to the town. Tours are held year-round on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.; $10 per person, $7 for kids 12; undergranburytours.com 7. Night Spirit Tour: Estes Park, Colorado The Stanley Hotel (Coljh09/Dreamstime) Its facade won’t be familiar to fans of the Kubrick masterpiece, but Colorado’s Stanley Hotel played a vital role in The Shining. After an overnight in suite 217, Stephen King was inspired to write the book upon which the film was based, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, the century-old property remains home to an abundance of paranormal activity, and its nightly tours explore the nooks and crannies that ghosts have been known to frequent. (Be forewarned: As a disclaimer, the hotel won’t guarantee any interactions “due to the fact that spirits are not on payroll.”) For a more in-depth experience, check into one of the “Spirited” rooms, a collection of quarters—including the suite where King laid his head—with a history of supernatural sightings. Nightly tours are held year-round. Adults, $28; hotel guests, military, AAA, and seniors ages 55 and up, $25; children under the age of 10 not permitted; stanleyhotel.com/night-spirit-tour.html. 8. Spooked in Seattle: Seattle Pike Place Market, Seattle (Minacarson/Dreamstime) Spooked in Seattle promises “real ghost stories by real ghost hunters” on its tours. Sightings, however, don't carry a guarantee. The most popular offering is the 90-minute Pioneer Square Ghost Tour, which covers all sorts of locations in the city’s oldest neighborhood, from a hotel to Seattle’s oldest restaurant. You'll get the low-down from your lively tour guide about the the ghostly guests that reside in each place. There’s also a venture down into an underground area with only a flashlight—and the trusted tour guide—to steer you. Another offering is the Pioneer Square Haunted Pub Tour, a bar crawl that explores the seedy doings that went down in the city and a look at the paranormal activity that’s allegedly caused by the spirits of the people who suffered the consequences. Guided Pioneer Square Ghost Tour is offered nightly. $17 per person, $15 students and seniors; spookedinseattle.squarespace.com/tour 9. The Original Santa Fe Ghost Tour: Santa Fe, New Mexico As the second-oldest city in the country, it’d be shocking if there weren’t an abundance of restless souls in Santa Fe. Get to know them under the expert tutelage of Peter Sinclaire, a local who’s been communing with the area’s ghosts for 25 years. The tour winds through the streets of Santa Fe, where eagle-eyed participants might spot La Llarona, an eerie specter mourning the children she drowned in the Santa Fe River, or rub elbows with the city’s most celebrated spirit, Julia Staab, a high-society dame who loved the familial manse—now a luxury property called La Posada de Santa Fe—so much that even now, more than 130 years later, she refuses to move on. She’s been known to hang out in the men’s washroom on the ground floor, so be sure to down some liquid courage at her namesake bar before venturing in. Tours are held on Friday and Saturday nights from March to November and Saturday nights from December to February. $16 per person; theoriginalsantafeghosttour.weebly.com.