Leaf Peeping and Art Gazing: the Beauty of the Hudson Valley
Burnt sienna. Honey yellow. Salamander orange. Chestnut brown. The hills of New York's Hudson Valley become an arboreal art show every autumn when fall's foliage turns the landscape kaleidoscopic. This limited-time exhibit isn't the only exemplary art in the area, however. From outdoor sculpture gardens to historic houses overlooking the landscape, contemporary artwork blends with the surrounding countryside to serve up an unmissable art/nature combo platter for peak leaf-peeping season. All easy day trips from New York City, it's worth hopping on a train or renting a car to check out these six outdoor - or nature-adjacent - offerings for yourself.
Storm King Art Center
Storm King is the crowning jewel of the Hudson Valley art scene. Mammoth works by modern art heavyweights like Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein seem to grow from the ground around every corner, blurring the line between nature and art. Autumn is a picture-perfect time to visit - the rusted red leaves of black gum trees mimic the weathered steel of sculptures like Menashe Kadishman’s gravity-defying Suspended.
The 500-acre grounds can be a lot to cover in a day, but checking out Museum Hill’s panoramic views is a must. The art center is an hour-and-a-half drive from New York City. There’s a free shuttle bus from the Beacon train station on weekends and holiday Mondays.
Art Omi's sculpture and architecture park is the Storm King no one told you about. It's worth spending a couple hours wandering the site's 300 acres of fields and forests to find the psychedelic structures sprinkled among the flora. Look out for Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley’s ReActor, a glass apartment precariously perched on a concrete column that sways in the breeze, and Tony Tasset’s 12-foot fiber-glass deer that guards the park’s entrance.
Checking out Omi's 60-plus art pieces is free; the grounds are open from dawn until dusk. The site is a fifteen-minute drive from the hip town of Hudson and about two hours from New York City.
untitled (to a man, George McGovern) 2 - Dan Flavin at Dia:Beacon © John Garry / Budget Travel
Dia:Beacon is a contemporary art museum housed in a former Nabisco box printing factory. Located on 31 acres along the Hudson River, the nearly 300,000 sq-ft industrial complex is home to art installations that can't help but comment on the vast spaces they occupy. Richard Serra effectively conjures the Grand Canyon in his Torqued Ellipses, minimalist Dan Flavin bathes bare brick rooms in soft fluorescent lights, and Louise Bourgeois’s Crouching Spider takes up an area the size of a West Village apartment. This boastful use of space is a breath of fresh air for New York urbanites used to living small.
The 80-minute train ride from Manhattan to Beacon is equally enchanting. For Hudson River views, grab a seat on the left side of the train while heading north from Grand Central Terminal.
Sculptor Harvey Fite (1903 - 1976) spent 37 years transforming an abandoned quarry near Woodstock, NY, into a 6.5-acre masterpiece of swirling bluestone. Fite cut and placed every stone by hand using ancient Mayan building techniques. Tucked between Overlook and Roundtop Mountain in the heart of the Catskills, the site is a peaceful homage to his astounding achievement in masonry.
You can explore the monument’s labyrinthine walkways, see Fite’s other sculptures showcased around the 70-acre property, and learn about the history of quarrying in the Quarryman’s Museum. Opus 40 is a two-hour drive from New York City.
Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Thomas Cole (1801-1848), famous for painting romantic landscapes of the American wilderness, founded the Hudson River School and inspired the country's earliest artistic movement. The Federal-style house and barn where he lived and worked has been a National Historic Site since 1999. Visiting the museum is magically meta - expansive views from the house's veranda showcase the same Catskill Mountain scenery depicted in his paintings.
Be sure to check out the Hudson River Skywalk, a 3.2-mile trail that crosses Rip Van Winkle Bridge and connects to Olana State Historic Site, the place his protégé Frederic Edwin Church called home. The site is a two-hour drive from New York City, and accessible by a two-hour train ride and ten-minute taxi from the train station in Hudson.
Olana State Historic Site
Olana’s palatial hilltop home is an architectural anomaly on 250 acres of prime Hudson River real estate. Designed by owner Frederic Edwin Church (1826 - 1900) and architect Calvert Vaux, the 19th-century structure pairs Arabian Nights drama with Victorian opulence. The grounds are nothing to scoff at, either. An artistic environmentalist from the Hudson River School, Church meticulously sculpted the meadows and woodlands, and even created an artificial lake, with the same attention to detail exhibited in his landscape paintings.
A five-mile carriage road snakes through the property and ends at the pièce de résistance, Church’s house. Inside you’ll find the Church family’s extensive art collection. Head up to the belltower for unparalleled views of the Catskill Mountains undulating below. This National Historic Landmark is a 10-minute drive from Hudson.
A 6-Day Trip Itinerary through Southwestern Colorado
As a native-born Virginian, I've traveled up and down the East Coast, putting in time in the Midwest and the Southwest, and on the West Coast as well. But even though it's been high on my list for quite awhile, I'd never been to Colorado, so when the opportunity for a trip presented itself this summer, I couldn't help but jump at the chance. The plan was to cover as much ground as humanly possible in a week, starting in Denver and working my way southwest to Durango—and it was a good plan too, according to pretty much everyone but my mother. "How can they just give a New Yorker a car and turn them loose on those mountain roads?! You don't remember how to drive!" she wailed. Even though that was decidedly untrue, not to mention a base slander of my skills behind the wheel, I invited her to come along for the ride and put her mind at ease. Here's how we spent that week on the road. Day 1: Buena Vista We were due in Buena Vista for a lunch-and-whitewater-rafting date shortly after noon, but before we began the two-and-a-half-hour drive south, we made one last stop at Denver Central Market. After avocado and salmon toasts at Izzio Bakery, plus an almond croissant and a chocolate Kouign-Amann for good measure, we got going. And we were making decent time, too—at least until the two-lane US Highway 285 closed one lane for construction, and we sat in place for nearly an hour. The Arkansas River, as seen from the River Runners family float. (Maya Stanton) As it happened, though, the delay didn’t make much difference. I was scheduled for a half-day excursion through Browns Canyon with River Runners, a local operator with a pull-up bar and restaurant, but the Arkansas River was running so high that my guide shifted me to a more mellow family float. I had been looking forward to hitting the rapids, but between the mountain-studded scenery and the quickly moving currents, I was plenty happy with the trip I got. Back on dry land, we headed into town and checked in at the Surf Hotel, a 62-room property with a shared balcony—complete with rocking chairs—directly overlooking a stretch of the Arkansas. A quick change of clothes later and we were in Wesley & Rose, the lobby bar and restaurant, enjoying happy-hour cocktails, a mean cheese-and-charcuterie board, and bluegrass-tinged music from the four-piece band set up in the corner. Dinner from the Buena Viking food truck, parked at Deerhammer Distillery. (Maya Stanton) A full meal there wouldn’t have gone amiss, but we wanted to see more of Buena Vista itself, so we reluctantly closed our tab. Main Street was a 15-minute walk away and spanned just a few blocks; we paused at the Heritage Museum and its woolly mammoth sculpture and meandered past a busy ice cream shop before we reached our destination: Deerhammer Distilling Company, an artisan grain-to-glass operation bottling straight bourbon, corn and single-malt whiskies, and Dutch-style gin. We ordered a couple of drinks—the citrusy, cucumber-heavy Green Grind and a Moscow Mule made with whiskey instead of vodka—and split a cheeseburger and a boatload of tater tots from the onsite food truck. Full but not done yet, we stopped by the Jailhouse for one last pint before calling it a night; there was a chill in the air and the outdoor fire tables were going full blast, and the scene was so cozy it was tough to turn down another round. Home sweet home, just for one night. (Maya Stanton) But we were rewarded for our self-discipline, such as it was, and arrived back at the hotel just in time to catch the band’s closing number. As the small crowd applauded enthusiastically, we headed upstairs to bed, where the soothing sounds of rushing water soon carried us off to sleep. Day 2: Salida For breakfast the next morning, we made a quick stop at the Buena Vista Roastery Cafe for cortados and thick slices of chorizo, cheddar, and green-chile quiche, and then we were back in the car, bound for a cheesemaking class at Mountain Goat Lodge, about 20 miles south. Cheesemaking at Mountain Goat Lodge, a huge draw. (Maya Stanton) I won’t lie: Hanging out with some goats and learning to make cheese was a major motivating factor in planning this trip as a whole, and my class didn’t disappoint—even though I didn't manage to get there early enough to milk a goat beforehand. The B&B’s chief cheesemaker and co-proprietor, Gina Marcell, led our group of five through the process for chèvre and feta (our consensus, selected from a handful of options), offering copious samples along the way and allotting time with the animals towards the end of the morning. By the time we were finished, I was sourcing fresh goat’s milk in Brooklyn and bookmarking the equipment I’d need online, happily envisioning the concoctions I could create from the comfort of my home kitchen. Then it was on to Salida proper, and a 10-minute drive found us in the heart of downtown, a walkable district with small shops, restaurants, yoga studios, art galleries, and the Arkansas River running right through it all. We sat down at Currents for a satisfying yet somewhat incongruous lunch of green chili and tuna poke, then browsed through a few stores, coveting the great leather and home goods at Howl Mercantile & Coffee and scanning the shelves at the Book Haven before stumbling upon what was undoubtedly the find of the day. The varmints of Bungled Jungle. (Maya Stanton) It didn’t look like much at first glance—a stroller with a mannequin-like figure at the handle—but as we approached, we saw a human-sized purple creature with goofy ears and pink-tipped antennae, and within the stroller itself, a green three-headed baby monster that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Men In Black movie. We had come to the Bungled Jungle, the wildly creative world of local artisans Pat Landreth and Suzanne Montano. Regulars on the renaissance fair circuit, the two make Dr. Seuss-meets-Tim Burton–style varmints and kinetic steampunk sculptures from bits and bobs of mechanical detritus, and the showroom is a great repository of their work. (There’s no fee to enter, but the monsters and their people do accept tips for pics.) We barely had time to check in at our evening’s accommodations before dinner. Located a few minutes from downtown, Amigo Motor Lodge was built in 1958 and reopened in 2016 after a complete overhaul. It’s now a modern minimalist’s dream, with white walls, birch bed frames, subway-tiled bathrooms, and ridiculously comfortable Tuft & Needle mattresses. (There are also four Airstream trailers on the premises, if the concept of close quarters floats your boat.) We cleaned up and drove back to Salida’s historic center, managing to score a patio table at the Fritz with just a few minutes’ wait. It wasn’t exactly local fare, but the small plates were an all-around hit, from pickled quail eggs and grilled heads of romaine with dates and manchego to seared ahi wontons with spicy aioli and a heaping bowl of mussels and fries. We were finishing our meal just as the sun went down, and the cotton-candy sky was pretty much the icing on the cake. Day 3: The San Luis Valley and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve One seriously good night’s sleep later (really, those mattresses are no joke), we were up and out the door, on the road by 7:00 am for the 90-minute drive to Zapata Ranch. A 103,000-acre working ranch with a 2,000-bison herd—1,800 free-roaming wild animals, give or take, and 300 cattle—the property is owned by the Nature Conservancy and open to visitors from March through October. Normally, only guests are allowed to take the two-hour bison tour, but we got a special dispensation to tag along, and when the herd crossed right in front of our SUV, it felt like the luckiest morning in recent memory. Cowboys on the move at Zapata Ranch. (Matt DeLorme/@ranchlands) After a simple sack lunch of cold sandwiches, chips, and Arnold Palmers on the ranch deck, we made our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, some 15 minutes away. Designated an International Dark Sky Park in May of this year, this particular protected land is a striking anomaly: a towering stretch of sand, eroded from the mountains over thousands of years, with nary a wave in sight—unless you visit during the summer, that is, and the creeks are flowing in your favor. When there’s been ample snowmelt, the Medano spreads around the base of the dunes into a shallow stream, and the crowds come out to play, swimming, floating, and wading while the water levels hold. But that’s not the park’s only attraction. With hiking, camping, and ranger-led programs like “Great Women of Great Sand Dunes” and after-dark telescope viewing, there’s plenty to see and do year-round. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is a must-see. (Maya Stanton) Water in hand, we trekked out to the creek in the afternoon sun and got our feet wet before moving on to our next stop. The San Luis Valley is home to a number of kitschy roadside attractions, but the UFO Watchtower in Hooper was top of my list. Even before owner Judy Messoline built a viewing platform and opened her property to UFO-chasers back in 2000, the site was reportedly a hotbed of alien activity. According to sign on the premises quoting more than two dozen psychics, that’s thanks to two vortexes—energy-filled openings to a parallel universe—on the east side of the tower. There’s a small garden filled with knickknacks left by visitors hoping to harness some of that extraterrestrial energy, and a gift shop selling alien-themed gear; we paid our $5 entry fee, snapped a few photos, picked up a shot glass, and got back on the road. The yurts at Joyful Journey let you rough it without giving up all creature comforts. (Maya Stanton) Our final destination for the day was Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa, a local hotspot—literally—in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A tranquil setup boasting three mineral-rich, non-sulfuric pools untouched by chlorine or other chemicals, it’s the polar opposite of the state’s more polished commercial springs, with $10 all-day soaks on Tuesdays and clothing-optional Wednesday evenings. It has a lodge, RV sites, tipis, and camping sites, but we opted for a yurt, decked out with a proper bed, a small seating area, and both a fan and a heater for hot days and cold nights. We spent some time hopping from pool to pool, making small talk with our fellow soakers, before grabbing a light supper of homemade soup and salad (complimentary with our stay). With blessedly little else to do, we unplugged and called it a night—until a few hours later, when we had to put on our shoes and venture out to the communal bathhouse. A chilly proposition to be sure, but well worth it for the unbelievable, light-pollution-free galactic display we witnessed on the way. Day 4: Pagosa Springs and Durango The following morning, I woke to the sun shining through our yurt’s domed skylight and a constellation of itchy bug bites covering my legs. As it turns out, standing in a field to take pictures of the sunset in just a robe and a bathing suit is....not a great idea, particularly in peak sand-fly season. But no matter—we had a fairly leisurely day, for a change, and I was determined to make the most of it. The road from Moffat to Pagosa Springs. (Maya Stanton) We set off west for the tiny town of Pagosa Springs, my mother nervously checking her GPS as she directed me through the precarious switchbacks of Highway 160, slowing us to a near-crawl as we approached Wolf Creek Pass, named the state’s most dangerous by the Durango Herald a few years back. Located some 18 miles east of Pagosa, with terrifying 200-foot drop-offs and frequent avalanches during the winter months, the pass isn’t to be attempted by inexperienced drivers when there’s snow on the ground. But we came out the other side of the San Juan Mountains into downtown Pagosa Springs without a scratch, following the curves of the San Juan River to the Springs Resort & Spa. A slick facility overlooking the river, with 23 geothermal pools—the most in the state, fed by the deepest geothermal hot spring in the world—as well as locker rooms, restaurants, bars, and a well-stocked gift shop, the Springs offered a decidedly different experience from what we’d encountered at Joyful Journey the night before. We compared and contrasted the two for a few hours, dipping in and out of pools of varying temperatures, before caving to our lunchtime cravings. Ultimately, we were bound for Durango, and on our way out of town, we stopped at Mee Hmong Cuisine for the midday special—giant chili-garlic shrimp and sweet-savory pork ribs, served with rice, salad or edamame, and vegetable summer rolls for just $12 a pop. It was a welcome change from the fare we’d had thus far, and we cleaned our plates accordingly. Back on 160 for another white-knuckling drive, we pulled into Durango an hour later, adrenaline still pumping as we navigated the city streets. The old Western movie–inspired Rochester Hotel was a sight for sore eyes, with film posters and memorabilia throughout the rooms and halls and a plate of fresh-baked cookies available for the taking. We collapsed in relief for a bit, then rallied for an evening out on the town. Right downstairs, a design store called Artesanos beckoned, all rustic-beamed ceilings and eclectic home furnishings, but luckily for both my bank account and my near-bursting suitcase, they were closing up shop for the day. Instead, we rolled down to Main Avenue, picking up tiny truffles from Animas Chocolate Co. and admiring the elegant paintings and delicate contemporary glass, pottery, jewelry, and sculpture from Karyn Gabaldon’s fine-art gallery. At Buckley Park, a crowd had gathered for the free Thursday-night concert, and the sidewalks were full of folks making the most of the sunny evening. We finally commandeered a table on the picturesque patio at Cyprus Café, right across the street from our hotel, tucking into meze like baba ghanoush, tzatziki, and grape leaves alongside super-cheesy stuffed poblanos in a smoky tomato brodo. Stretching our legs after our meal, we found ourselves outside of a small barbershop a few blocks away. A nattily dressed doorman asked us for the password, and as we uttered the magic words (found on the website a few hours earlier), he led us through a hidden door in a wall of books and into the Bookcase & Barber, a speakeasy with meticulously composed literary-themed craft cocktails. One Faulkner (a mint julep) and one Temple of the Sun (aji amarillo-infused pisco with tequila, guava, lemon, and ginger) later, and we were finally ready to call it a night. Day 5: Silverton and the San Juan Mountains On Friday, we were booked for an 8:00 am ride on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, so we were downstairs for French toast with powdered sugar, honey butter, and raspberry sauce by 7:00 sharp. Onboard, the circa-1880 train moved through town as people waved from balconies and backyards as we slowly but surely barreled past. As we chugged up the mountain, around alpine lakes and federally protected national forest, the best views were out the windows on the right—something to consider when you’re reserving your seats. The engine of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. (Maya Stanton)Forty-five miles and three-and-a-half hours later, we arrived in Silverton, an old mining town with a few blocks of hotels, restaurants, and shops. Our first stop was for spicy pork tacos at Avalanche Brewing Company, followed closely by a visit to K & C Traders, a jewelry store recommended by our train car’s attendant for its impressive array of Astorite, the pink-ore gemstones named for mine owner Jacob Astor IV. With a purchase under our belts, we picked up a snack of pulled pork and cornbread at Thee Pitts Again, a barbecue restaurant that once featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, before venturing down Greene Street to the new Wyman Hotel for a peek at the hipster-cool accommodations. The tiny town of Silverton is a mountain-lover's dream. (Maya Stanton) There, we met a representative from Durango who shuttled us back down the mountain via the the San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway, a 236-mile route that passes through the mountain towns of Telluride and Ouray before looping south to Mesa Verde National Park and Durango. We stopped off for a quick hike at Cascade Creek, a short trail with a sparkling waterfall dropping 150 into a swimming hole below, before hitting Purgatory Resort, a winter destination that transforms ski slopes into hiking and mountain-biking trails in the offseason. Before the park closed, we just managed to fit in a ride on the Inferno mountain coaster, a 4,000-foot-long trip that’s you personally control through a sequence of loops, drops, and switchbacks, all set against a backdrop of incredible mountain scenery. The thrill ride whetted our whistles, and our next stop was Nugget Bar for an après pint. A renovated cabin with fire pits and mountain views, it was just the thing to cap off a busy day—but we weren’t quite done yet. Back in Durango, we had reservations at Primus, a new restaurant on Main with a mouthwatering menu of wild game, fresh seafood, and local produce. Between the smoke-cured egg yolks and the tangy lemon and caper, our bison tartare was impeccable, and a salad with grilled turnips and seasonal berries provided a much-needed dose of green. A beautifully plated duck breast on white-corn and pancetta grits rounded out our meal, and we went to bed full and happy. Day 6: Mancos and Mesa Verde National Park Our final day in Colorado was a race against time. We left Durango at 6:30 am and were parking in front of Absolute Bakery, in the one-stoplight town of Mancos, by the time it opened at 7. We dashed in and grabbed coffee and potato-and-egg strudels (one Greek with tomato, feta, spinach, and kalamata olives, one southwest with cheddar, ham, and green chile) to go, jumping back in the car as quickly as possible. We were rushing to make it to Mesa Verde National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site that served as home to the Ancestral Pueblo people for some 700 years, boasting thousands of archaeological marvels at altitudes of 7,000 to 8,500 feet—for an 8:00 tour, and it was always going to be tight timing, especially given the terrifying, cliff-hugging 45-minute drive from the park entrance to the tour’s departure point at Far View Lodge. But we pulled into the lot with mere minutes to spare, joining our group in a small van for an extensive four-hour deep-dive into the park’s most important historical sites. Led by a National Association for Interpretation guide, the tour proceeded in chronological order from the footprint of a circa-AD 600 Pithouse village—the earliest recorded in human history—to the Pueblo-era cliff dwellings from the 13th century. The crowning moment was the descent to the magnificent Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in the park and a truly stunning site to behold. Mesa Verde's Cliff Palace is simply stunning. (Maya Stanton) After a trip down from the plateau that was just as nail-biting—and thankfully, just as uneventful—as the trip up, we set our sights on the Canyon of the Ancients Museum in Dolores, a little less than 60 miles to the north. Operated by the Bureau of Land Management, with fascinating exhibits on local history and Native American culture as well as two 12th-century sites and a nature trail offering expansive skyline views from its peak, the small archaeological museum made the short detour worthwhile. Our final meal in Colorado. (Maya Stanton) From there, we backtracked to Mancos for a leisurely stroll through the tiny historic downtown district. The sidewalks were deserted and the boutiques and galleries were mostly closed, but we window-shopped our way down the street nonetheless. The highly rated Olio, a gallery-restaurant-wine bar hybrid, was our first-choice dinner option, but the cozy space didn’t have any seats available, so we found our way to the Fenceline Cider taproom and wrapped our trip on a casual note. We would depart from Durango the next morning, so over flights of hard cider and basic, tasty Greek fare—gyros and salads from the food truck stationed at the entrance—we toasted to a most successful journey. It had truly been a heck of a week.
The United States is renowned for its plethora of jaw-droppingly beautiful stretches of highway. In fact, for many travelers, the very word "America" conjures images not of bustling cities or world-class museums (though the US offers no shortage of them) but of iconic roads such as California’s Highway 1, the Southeast’s Blue Ridge Parkway, and Montana’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. But what about the lesser-known American drives? The ones that aren’t necessarily jam-packed with road trip enthusiasts but nevertheless offer gorgeous scenery, family-friendly fun, education, and even cultural enlightenment? Here, six outstanding “secret” drives that travelers will love to boast about “discovering.” Big Bend, Texas Big Bend National Park, along the Texas border with Mexico, is often overshadowed by its more famous fellow parks like Yosemite and Grand Canyon. But a road trip through this gorgeous environment, with its limestone cliffs, scenic overlooks, and Rio Grande River, is a unique way to experience the American landscape. As with many US national parks, Big Bend includes small “villages” that can serve as handy milestones in planning a drive. One option is the Panther Junction-to-Rio Grande Village drive, about 21 miles (34km) passing ancient limestone, scenic overlooks, and opportunities for stopping for a short hike at Boquillas Canyon or the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. Cherokee Hills, Oklahoma This is a lesser-known road trip that provides a healthy dose of cultural education as well. The Cherokee Hills Scenic Byway, in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in eastern Oklahoma, runs about 84 miles (135km), so set aside at least two hours for the drive. But the best approach is to make many stops along the way. You’ll see some of the oldest buildings west of the Mississippi River, many predating the state of Oklahoma itself; five small towns; the Cherokee Heritage Center, where visitors learn about the painful history of the Trail of Tears but also about the modern-day initiatives of the Cherokee Nation; and natural wonders including Lake Tenkiller and Natural Falls State Park. Door County, Wisconsin The Door County peninsula, sometimes called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” is a narrow, beautiful stretch of land between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Its Coastal Byway (Highway 42/57) is a Wisconsin Scenic Byway, covering more than 60 miles (97km) passing through the towns of Sturgeon Bay and Northport. Here, visitors discover the natural beauty and relaxing pace of this prized corner of Wisconsin – including farms known for their fresh cherries, a summer theater festival, and charming communities that hug the lakeshore, offering great food (including house-made ice cream), unique shopping, and forests perfect for easy hikes. Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway Sure, Delaware is one of the smallest states in the US, but it packs plenty of history and natural beauty. The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway, in northern Delaware, takes visitors past sights as diverse as the city of Wilmington and the beautiful countryside. Officially only 12 miles (19km) along the Kennett Pike and Montchanin Road, the byway focuses on the 300-year history of the Brandywine Valley and its role in the industrial revolution and the growth of transportation across the early United States. Consider the byway as your introduction to the larger Brandywine Valley region, which stretches into Pennsylvania and includes an array of important historical homes with great art collections, such as the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library; the Nemours Mansion and Garden; the Brandywine River Museum; and the Delaware Museum of Art. Beartooth Highway, Wyoming & Montana Warning: once you’ve driven the Beartooth Highway, which adjoins Yellowstone National Park and is surrounded by national forests and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, you may be spoiled forever. The highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, is a winding route up into the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains – achieving an elevation over 10,000ft (3,000 meters) at its zenith, it’s the highest highway in the northern Rocky Mountains – with peerless scenic overlooks, glacial lakes, waterfalls, and, before you ascend back down, a high alpine plateau above the treeline. Set aside a few hours to truly enjoy the 67 miles (108km) of highway, and get to know one of the gateway communities such as Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, or Cody, Wyoming. Mississippi Blues Trail, Mississippi For an immersion in one of America’s original art forms, the blues, head to Clarksdale, Mississippi, gateway to the Mississippi Blues Trail. Although you’ll see the beautiful sights of the legendary Mississippi Delta along the way, the Blues Trail is not primarily a scenic drive but rather a set of interpretive markers and cultural institutions that visitors can navigate to create their own personalized road trip devoted to Mississippi’s incredible musical legacy. The trip’s mileage and time frame are entirely up to you. Highlights include Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Museum (where you’ll learn about local luminaries Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson) and Ground Zero Blues Cafe; Indianola’s B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center and Club Ebony (for blues music and soul food); and Greenwood’s Blues Heritage Gallery and excellent restaurants in the historic downtown district.
Ultimate Arkansas Road Trip
Road trip season is on its way, and we can’t think of a better way to enjoy the open road than to head to Arkansas, within driving distance from much of America’s heartland and boasting endless opportunities to savor American history, culture, food, and natural wonders. Here, some of the highlights of the ultimate road trip from the capital, Little Rock, to the wild beauty of the Ozark Mountains. Culture & Food in Little Rock Little Rock is one of America’s affordable gems, a bustling metropolis packed with natural beauty, culture, and great food. Hit the River Market District to sample classic southern comfort food, distinctive regional fare, and imaginative culinary fusion from local chefs—and you can get to the River Market District via METRO Streetcar. History buffs will want to spend some time getting to know the Clinton Presidential Center & Park, beautifully designed with an eye toward limiting environmental impact. Many visitors to Little Rock are surprised to find nature at every turn, and the Central Arkansas Nature Center and Clinton Presidential Park Wetlands allow for wildlife viewing and quiet moments right in the middle of town. Every well-traveled kid should see the Museum of Discovery with its hands-on learning activities for all ages. The Delights of Eureka Springs Visitors to Arkansas will savor a stop in Eureka Springs, a town truly like no other. Here, classic Victorian homes are situated along winding mountainside streets; downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts award-winning restaurants and exceptional shopping featuring unique, local items at boutiques, art galleries and studios, and craft shops. (Public art is also on display all around town, spotlighting the community’s commitment to creativity.) But Eureka Springs’s charms don’t end in town—situated in the heart of the Ozarks, there are ample opportunities for fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and much more. And those looking for a relaxing spa experience will find a number of local hotels that offer access to soothing springs. History & Art in Bentonville Here in the foothills of the Ozarks, the town of Bentonville may be best known as the headquarters of Walmart (you can even visit the original Walmart 5&10 from 1950), but the relatively small community packs much more into a tidy package. Don’t miss the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, covering five centuries of American art from colonial days to the present. Art fans will want to continue exploring Bentonville at 21c Museum and Hotel, which combines more than 12,000 square feet of art galleries with an adjacent 100+ room boutique hotel. Kids of all ages will relish an afternoon at Scott Family Amazeum, where you’ll never hear the words “don’t touch”—it’s all about playing and learning. And you mustn’t depart Bentonville without immersing yourself in one of the south’s most significant collections of Native American artifacts at the Museum of Native American History. Folk Music & Crafts in the Ozarks We love that music can be heard just about everywhere you go in Mountain View. Here, locals join visiting musicians to entertain crowds—and one another—with traditional mountain music in the town square during the warm months (which, here in Mountain View, go from mid-April through late November). Founded in the 1870s, Mountain View has become a major center of traditional Ozark culture and music. The epicenter of folk music and crafts here is the Ozark Folk Center, where you’ll experience demonstrations of a range of crafts such as pottery-making and blacksmithing, not to mention traditional music—you can get lessons on a classic mountain instrument such as the autoharp or dulcimer, and even learn to dance a jig. Easy Outdoor Adventures in St. Francis National Forest Quick: Where’s the only National Forest that includes Mississippi River shoreline? It’s Arkansas’s own St. Francis National Forest, on the east central region of the state. Covering more than 20,000 acres, the hardwood forest is a mecca for wildlife observers. Here, the woods are teeming with turkey, rabbit, whitetail deer, and a plethora of waterfowl. Abundant game fishing includes striped and largemouth bass and, of course, catfish. St. Francis National Forest is a place to enjoy low-impact, low-stress outdoor adventures. Bear Creek Lake offers opportunities for swimming, boating, and camping. More adventurous visitors may enjoy four-season pursuits in the St. Francis and Ozark National Forests, where cycling, canoeing, horseback riding, and even ATV rides are popular. The Ozark and St. Francis National Forests offer such an abundance of natural beauty, in fact, that they are crossed by six U.S. Scenic Byways. Don’t Miss These Natural Wonders There’s a reason that Arkansas is nicknamed The Natural State. Here, an array of parks, forests, mountains, and more attract road trippers from across the U.S. Some don’t-miss natural highlights include lakes and rivers situated in more than 20 state parks. As mentioned above, the Ozark and St. Francis National Forests boast a number of lakes just waiting for vacationers. Natural springs abound in Hot Springs, Eureka Springs, and other “hotspots.” And be sure to have your camera or smartphone at the ready for the Instagrammable mountain ranges, waterfalls, natural bridges, flowers, and wildlife you’ll encounter along the route of your ultimate road trip! To learn more and plan your road trip, visit arkansas.com.
Travel News: Rent an RV From $10/Day, Travel the World for Free, and Were You Exposed to Radiation at the Grand Canyon?
From a very cool way to save big money on your next RV adventure to some tips for traipsing around the world for free (yes, free), plus a heads-up about years of uranium exposure at the Grand Canyon, this week’s travel news is all about getting you the inside scoop to make you a smarter globetrotter. Rent an RV From $10/Day We’ve been getting to know RVShare, the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace (translation: it’s like Airbnb for RV rentals), and we want to put it on the radar of Budget Travelers as they plan their 2019 adventures. If you’re looking to explore, say, the national parks of the American west this summer but don’t especially feel the need to own an RV year-round, RVShare offers rentals from as low as $10/day. If you already happen to own an RV but don’t use it on a regular basis (and 93 percent of RV owners use their vehicles for only about five weeks each year), RVShare offers the opportunity to make some money along with the more than 60,000 other RV owners who currently participate. RVShare also offers one-way rentals starting this spring, and has just launched the Historic Route 66 Road Trip Sweepstakes, which will deliver a 10-day RV trip from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, to Las Vegas. Visit RVShare.com to learn more. Travel the World for Free The word free always gets our attention, and when our friends at the financial comparison site MyBankTracker.com compiled a list of options for seeing the world for nothing, it caught our eye. Some hacks you should consider: Swap houses with someone in your vacation destination. Volunteer for a worthwhile cause via Idealist or Workaway, or volunteer on a farm via World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms in exchange for food, lodging, and training. SIgn up for a cultural exchange program like GlobalFreeloaders or BeWelcome. Apply for scholarships or fellowships.Crowd-fund a travel project you feel passionate about via platforms such as Indiegogo. Offer freelance work or barter in exchange for accommodations.And MyBankTracker.com suggests opening an online banking account before you travel abroad to enjoy lower fees or no fees at all when you use partner ATMs for cash.Were You Exposed to Radiation at the Grand Canyon? Well, not all travel news is good news. CNN has reported that uranium stored at Grand Canyon National Park’s museum caused elevated levels of radiation exposure for visitors and employees for more than 18 years, according to Grand Canyon’s safety, health, and wellness manager. Elston Stephenson told CNN that he began asking questions last year and in early February he emailed Grand Canyon park staff warning that workers and visitors who were in the park’s Museum Collections Building between the year 2000 and June 18, 2018, were exposed to uranium according to the definition of exposure used by OSHA. The good news is the exposure levels were not high enough to be considered dangerous, just high enough to warrant a heads-up.