5 Things to Do in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Situated directly north of Maine on the eastern seaboard, Atlantic Canada’s Maritime provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island—are perhaps best known for picturesque coastlines rife with lighthouses and fishing boats, to say nothing of the legendary seafood. The capital of Nova Scotia, Halifax is a walkable city with an active waterfront, five-star dining, and artisan culture galore. It’s also a quick two-hour flight from New York and an even shorter hop from Boston, making it an easy weekend escape for Yanks yearning for a change of scenery. Here’s what to do when you arrive in town.
1. Wander the Waterfront
(Debbie Ann Powell/Dreamstime)
Nearly two miles of boardwalk wind along the Halifax Harbor, and while it’s an activity better suited for sunny summer days, the brisk winds off the water make for an invigorating winter stroll. Spend some time at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (more on that below), then work your way north: Across the street, the Designer Craft Shop (craftnovascotia.ca) carries beautiful pottery, jewelry, and other pieces from local artisans, and down the block, Garrison Brewing Company (garrisonbrewing.com) is good for a pitstop. Book an evening brewery tour for $15, or simply sample the wares in the dog-friendly tap room. Nearby, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market (halifaxfarmersmarket.com) is an all-season venture. In addition to the produce, there's a solid selection of local liquors, spice blends, jams, pickles, and more, making it a great place to pick up souvenirs for your food-loving friends. From there, it’s a short jaunt up to NovaScotian Crystal (novascotiancrystal.com), purveyors of heirloom-quality crystal at prices to match. Even if you’re not shopping for mouth-blown, hand-cut investment pieces, the showroom is worth a stop—if you’re lucky, you’ll catch the makers in action. Around the corner is the Halifax Ferry Terminal, and at less than $2 USD, a boat trip is an ideal way to cap off your walk. Take in the skyline and explore hipster-central Dartmouth while you’re across the harbor...and if you manage to time your ride to sunset, all the better.
2. Warm Up With Local Spirits
As the home of Scottish expat Alexander Keith, a three-time mayor and mid-1800s brewer whose facility is still in operation today (albeit under the umbrella of Anheuser-Busch InBev), it’s no surprise that Halifax has craft breweries aplenty—to date, there are 12 and counting. But Atlantic Canada's history is also steeped in bootlegging and rum-running, and Nova Scotians have embraced that heritage with a vengeance, making rum one of the most popular tipples in town. Centrally located near the waterfront, Halifax Distilling Co. (halifaxdistillingco.ca) pours tastes of its J.D. Shore rums. Distiller Julie Shore is descended from a 19th-century whiskey-distilling family in North Carolina, and those generations of experience show; her light-bodied black rum is supremely drinkable, with rich caramel notes, and we can vouch for the rum cream, a Bailey’s stand-in that might just be better than its whiskey-based cousin. Belly up to the bar for a drink and a snack, catch some live music, or pop in for a tour on a Saturday afternoon.
3. Get Cultured
For a small municipality (around 403,000 people at last estimate), Nova Scotia’s capital boasts a wealth of cultural destinations. On the waterfront at Pier 21, an Ellis Island equivalent for a million transplants from the late 1920s through the early '70s, the Canadian Museum of Immigration (above; pier21.ca) traces the immigrant experience from decade to decade, with interactive exhibits, replica ships’ cabins, and steamer trunks filled with clothing and treasured belongings from children who immigrated over the years. At the family history center, staff members are standing by to help track down immigration documents, ship information, and genealogical data by request. A 15-minute walk along the water’s edge is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca), devoted to the region’s marine history, from its ship-building days to naval battles to disasters like the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Don’t miss the model ships on the second floor, or the Titanic exhibit, a highly detailed accounting of the ship’s history, its sinking, and Halifax’s role in the rescue and recovery operation. (Titanic buffs should also make a detour to Fairview Lawn Cemetery on the north end of town: Halifax was the closest port when the liner went down, and more than 100 victims are buried there, their headstones arranged in a configuration resembling a ship’s helm.) A few blocks over, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (artgalleryofnovascotia.ca) celebrates the work of artists with ties to the region. The jewel of the collection is the Maud Lewis gallery, featuring the self-taught folk artist’s work as well as her lovingly restored, hand-painted tiny house—just 12-½ by 14-½ feet! The museum has extended hours on Thursday nights, with free entry and tours available. On the other side of the city's circa-1749 citadel, the Museum of Natural History (naturalhistory.novascotia.ca) has all the whale skeletons, animal models, rock and mineral samples, and, through April, animatronic dinosaurs needed to keep the little ones busy and engaged.
4. Break for Coffee (and Great Views)
Built in 2014 as a replacement for a mid-century building the city had long since outgrown, the award-winning Halifax Central Library (halifaxpubliclibraries.ca) is a feat of contemporary design. Reportedly “the first piece of modern architecture to be built in Halifax in decades,” the $57.6 million project is an LEED Gold-certified cultural center in the heart of downtown. Check out the displays dedicated to First Nations, African Nova Scotian, Acadian, and Francophone cultures, as well as veterans’ memorials and local-history research materials. The cantilevered-glass exterior resembles a stack of books, and the interior is peaceful and light-filled, with a top-floor café offering expansive views of the harbor and citadel alongside cups of excellent, fair-trade organic drip coffee and from-scratch pastries.
5. Eat Your Heart Out
In keeping with its maritime location, Nova Scotia is a haven for seafood lovers, and from Digby scallops and freshwater mussels to the unparalleled lobster of the South Shore, Halifax receives more than its fair share of the bounty. Obladee Wine Bar (obladee.ca) touts flights of Nova Scotian wines and Sober Island oysters, while Little Fish Oyster Bar (littlefishoysterbar.ca) does an all-day happy hour with a selection of local bivalves at US$1.50 a pop. We loved the ones from Cabot, and those from Pristine Bay were true to their name. Upstairs is the Five Fishermen (fivefishermen.com), a sister restaurant serving refined plates. Fortunately, the upscale dining room, a handsomely restored funeral home, shows no signs of its more gruesome days, but a creamy bowl of chowder and a smoked old-fashioned should chase away any lingering ghosts. The city's dining isn't all fins and gills, though. Land-based options include the donair, a uniquely Halifax offering that’s akin to the Greek gyro, Middle Eastern shawarma, and Mexican al pastor, with spiced, spit-roasted meat topped with raw tomatoes and onions, doused with a sweet white sauce, and wrapped in a pita. It’s a messy but glorious concoction, and you can sample it downtown at Johnny K’s, or further afield at King of Donair (kingofdonairquinpool.ca), where the dish originated back in 1973. For a stellar steak tartare and a reasonably priced glass of wine, seek out Bistro le Coq (bistrocoq.ca), then have a nightcap at the Stubborn Goat (stubborngoat.ca), a gastropub with a tempting cocktail list; when it’s on the menu, the Moving To the Country is a dangerously delicious blend of bourbon, peach, and mint. Looking to splurge? With a menu ranging from steamed mussels and house charcuterie to expertly rendered Nova Scotia scallops and luscious lamb pappardelle, Gio Restaurant (above; giohalifax.com) at the Prince George Hotel is one of the best bets in town.
Meet Our Favorite Hotel Pets
From rescue pups and fluffy cats to talkative parrots and a family of penguins, adorable animals are doing double duty at hotels around the country. Not only do they make guests smile with free cuddles, many of them are also hotel "employees," fulfilling duties like leading guests on hikes, ringing the bell at the front desk, and leading philanthropic efforts in their communities. An added bonus? Research shows pets can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and isolation, which is good for hotel staff and guests alike. Get to know some of the cutest hotel pets out there, guaranteed to put a smile on your face the moment they greet you. Oreo at the Armstrong Hotel: Fort Collins, Colorado (Courtesy the Armstrong Hotel) The grand hostess of the Armstrong Hotel (thearmstronghotel.com), a historic property in Fort Collins that will reopen this April following a renovation, can often be found curled up in a window seat in the lobby or stretched out on the front desk. Adopted as a kitten 14 years ago, majestic Oreo is as popular with hotel guests as she is with locals. She has many friends who live in the area and come to visit her each week, and as such, she’s developed a few tricks to keep them entertained, like raising her paw for a high-five (for treats, of course). During winters in Colorado, Oreo tends to get a little stir crazy; come spring, you can find her sprawled out on the sidewalk enjoying the sunshine, much to the delight of Mugs Coffee Lounge visitors next door. Sasha at Bobby Hotel: Nashville, Tennessee (Courtesy Bobby Hotel) Adopted from a local shelter, Sasha arrived at the Bobby Hotel (bobbyhotel.com) in Nashville when it opened in April 2018. As the resident hotel dog (not to mention Instagram star, @ahoteldog), she takes her welcoming duties very seriously—greeting guests as they enter the lobby, playing fetch, and ringing her own gold bellman's bell. Though she’s been in her "forever home" less than a year, she’s already doing her part to give back to other animals who need rescuing: Towels in each guest room embroidered with Sasha’s face are available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the Country Road Animal Rescue, from which she was adopted. She was overjoyed to accompany the hotel team in bringing the shelter a check—along with much-needed items like dog beds, toys and food—after the holidays last year. Sunshine and Chance at The Palms Hotel & Spa: Miami Beach, Florida (Courtesy the Palms Hotel & Spa) These two birds might be the longest-standing residents of the Palms Hotel & Spa (thepalmshotel.com) in Miami Beach. Macaw parrots Sunshine, 18, and Chance, 29, first arrived at the resort as rescue animals 16 years ago, and have since become the property’s sociable mascots. They spend their days in the shade of the Little Gazebo, engaging in friendly conversation (Sunshine often says, “Hola!” in response to a greeting) and posing for selfies with guests passing by on their way for a swim. On at least one occasion, their proximity to the pool has led to the parrots engaging in a game of Marco Polo with kids, chiming in with a “polo!” call of their own. The lovable duo plan on enjoying many more years at the Palms, as the average life expectancy of macaws is about 50 years. Oreo, Nahu, Buddah, Zen, Mai, Tai, and Momi at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa: Maui, Hawaii (Courtesy Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa) You might not expect to find penguins in Hawaii, but this unlikely group is living their best life in the tropical climate at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa (hyatt.com). African black-footed penguins, an endangered species, began their tenure on the island in 1985, when the wildlife team at the property rescued George, Waddles, and Oreo. The only remaining resident is Oreo—he’s outlived the average life expectancy of his species (roughly 10 to 20 years in the wild or 30 in captivity), though he now has a large ʻohana --that's Hawaiian for family--to keep him company. Guests can visit them any time in the atrium lobby, though the 9:30 a.m. feedings are a must-see. (Just watch out for Buddah, the bossy one). The resort also has parrots, swans, flamingos, ducks, and African-crowned cranes on the property and offers wildlife tours around the grounds three times a week. Katie and Betsy at the Betsy Hotel: South Beach, Florida (Courtesy the Betsy Hotel) Brought to their home at the Betsy Hotel (thebetsyhotel.com) as puppies by their owners, the Plutzik family, these beautiful golden retrievers (Katie, 14, and Betsy, 3) have become a bedrock of the community there. Officially dubbed Canine Executive Officers, the pair can almost always be found hanging out in the corner of the lobby, especially on Friday afternoons, when they engage with guests during a formal meet-and-greet called “CEO Cocktails with Katie and Betsy.” Both dogs keep a busy social calendar, making regular appearances at corporate meetings the hotel hosts, as well as philanthropic events around the community. Older and wiser, Katie is quite the muse; she even inspired a poem by award-winning poet Gerald Stern when he was a guest at the hotel. Hamlet at the Algonquin Hotel: New York City (Courtesy Algonquin Hotel) Though he’s been at New York City's Algonquin Hotel (algonquinhotel.com) for less than two years, this calm, playful ginger is already a celebrity, surveying the lobby's happenings from his "treehouse” perch atop the front desk. He particularly delights guests when he hops down for a personal greeting while they’re checking in. For a feline, he’s quite the patient little guy, allowing children to pet him, going nose-to-nose with visiting dogs, and occasionally flopping over for a belly rub. But it's not all play: Hamlet puts in long hours as the official DirectFurr of Public Relations for the hotel, a role that includes cohosting an annual cat fashion show for charity in August. Lucky for him, he’s handsomely rewarded for his work—guests frequently send him gifts like cards and toys. Cupcake at Salamander Resort and Spa: Middleburg, Virginia (Courtesy Salamander Resort & Spa) She's only 32 inches tall, but what this miniature pony lacks in size, she more than makes up for in personality. As the equine ambassador for Salamander Resort & Spa (salamanderresort.com) in Middleburg, which has an on-site equestrian center, she’s a star and she knows it. Find her in the lobby Friday and Saturday afternoons, clad in a blue rhinestone halter to welcome guests to the hotel. That’s only the start of her responsibilities, however: She’s in high demand for appearances at conferences and birthday parties (complete with custom cupcakes from the in-house pastry team) held on the property, and she even visits individual guest rooms upon request. In keeping with her diva status, Cupcake has a diva-caliber wardrobe for every occasion—think: red, white, and blue tutus for the Fourth of July, shamrock barrettes for St. Patrick’s Day, and red bows for Christmas. Mr. Nutkin at Deer Path Inn: Lake Forest, Illinois (Courtesy Deer Path Inn) Deer Path Inn (deerpathinn.com) has celebrated the legend of its resident squirrel for nearly 90 years, since the English-inspired manor first opened in Lake Forest. (Don’t worry, the little guy stays outside, though squirrel figurines are scattered throughout the interiors in his honor). Adventurous, curious, and amiable, the current Mr. Nutkin often greets guests at the entrance, standing guard like a British soldier. He's so well-known throughout the community that locals pop by in the hopes of spotting him through the windows of the English Room during afternoon tea service. “His warm and fuzzy presence completes the Deer Path Inn family,” says innkeeper Matt Barba. Notorious for having a full belly, especially in preparation for a Chicago winter, Mr. Nutkin once inspired a turndown snack of chocolate acorns. Zoey at Cloud Camp: Colorado Springs, Colorado (Courtesy Cloud Camp) Ever since she arrived at Cloud Camp (broadmore.com/cloud-camp), a lodge perched 3,000 feet above The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, in summer 2017, 6-year-old Zoey has started her day at 5:00 a.m. Her duties begin with the raising of the flag, followed by leading guests on hikes and welcoming visitors. Trained as a bird dog, she’s incredibly obedient, yet also very nurturing. Zoe once showed her softer side when a woman who was terrified of dogs arrived at the lodge; sensing that she needed special attention, the sweet pup spent time with her each day, gently helping her overcome her fear. The woman called it a life-changing experience, says Cloud Camp staff. When she’s not on duty, Zoey’s been known to mingle with royals. She once had her photo taken with the Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps of Belgium, the great-great-granddaughter of hotel's founders.
Live Like a Local in Kentucky
When it comes to a room with a view, an array of cultural offerings that includes folk art and bluegrass music, and a culinary legacy that dates back centuries, we love all that Kentucky has to offer. Consider this a taste of your next great vacation. Cultural Heritage Say the words culture and Kentucky and, of course, Louisville springs to mind, with its justly renowned Louisville Ballet and Actors Theatre of Louisville each drawing devoted audiences for its world-class performances. But in Kentucky, culture is as varied and welcoming as the state itself. When it comes to folk art, travelers must include a stop in Berea, the “arts and crafts capital of Kentucky,” for exceptional pottery, weaving, art galleries, and even hand-made musical instruments (more about Kentucky music a little later). The vibrant city of Paducah, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a City of Crafts and Folk Art, is another must see. Speaking of crafts, no trip to Kentucky would be complete without exploring the craft of distilling distinctive, local bourbon, not to mention sipping a traditional Old Fashioned cocktail, invented in Louisville. Stop by some (or all!) of Kentucky’s thirteen major distilleries by taking the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Road Trip. Or dive into Louisville’s own special distilling scene on the Urban Bourbon Trail®, or get to know small-batch distillers along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®. Whichever bourbon experience (and Budget Travel’s editors recommend exploring at least a bit of each while visiting Bourbon Country), you’ll return home with a sense of history, craft, and, almost certainly, a taste for Kentucky’s famous libation. Kentucky’s history doesn’t stop at art and spirits, of course. After all, this is where Abraham Lincoln was born, and you can visit the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, in Hodgenville. The state is also home to significant Civil War forts and battlefields, sites dedicated to African American and Native American history and culture, and opportunities to learn about Kentucky’s importance to the coal industry, both past and present. Wherever you happen to be on your Kentucky trip, you’re never far from vibrant small towns where U.S. history rubs elbows with cutting-edge imagination and creativity. The horse lovers in your brood (and that certainly includes all of us at Budget Travel) will want to spend some time getting to know the equine side of Kentucky. Make a “pilgrimage” to Keeneland, in Lexington, or Churchill Downs, in Louisville, or visit one of the state’s many horse farms open to visitors. The Kentucky Horse Park may be the best place to immerse yourself in Horse Country, where you can tour the Hall of Champions, visit the International Museum of the Horse and attend various events and shows. Music While Kentucky was nicknamed the Bluegrass State for the lush, thick grass that grows in its north central regions, the name bluegrass naturally also calls to mind music, and this is one state where you’ll find toe-tapping music traditions alive and well anywhere you turn. Bluegrass music is an incredible musical melting pot of European folk, gospel, and jazz traditions, and you can revel in the music and its history at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, in Owensboro, and visit the birthplace of the “father of bluegrass,” Bill Monroe, who first gave the music its name and helped bring it to a nationwide audience. Drive the Country Music Highway, along U.S. 23 in eastern Kentucky, to visit the birthplaces of several significant musical luminaries, including Loretta Lynn, the Judds, and Ricky Scaggs; and don’t forget to stop at the Country Music Highway Museum, in Paintsville, and the Country Music Hall of Fame, in Renfro Valley. While we’re on the subject of music, Kentucky’s nightlife extends far beyond bluegrass and country music. If you’re looking for up-and-coming musical acts, drop by a college town like Lexington. For live theater, classical, and jazz, spend an evening out on the town in Louisville, Paducah, or Bowling Green. Eat You know Kentucky will feed you well, and the latest season of Top Chef, “Better in the Bluegrass,” confirms it, with the popular TV cooking contest held right here in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky food varies from region to region, and, in our experience, taking a food tour of as many regions as possible is the best way to savor it all. Kentucky’s Bluegrass, Blues & Barbecue region is home to a thriving BBQ scene, including the International BBQ Bar-B-Q Festival each May in Owensboro, the “BBQ Capital of the World.” Treat yourself to “beer cheese” while visiting legendary horse farms in the Bluegrass, Horses, Bourbon & Boone region; this region’s combination of beer and cheese is a tasty dip for chips or crackers, and we’ve even seen locals eat it with a spoon. When visiting Daniel Boone Country, named for the famous pioneer who inspired the Disney TV show, you must try Apple Stack Cake, one of the best-known and best-loved desserts in the Appalachians. Play Thought you may never tire of exploring culture, music, and food in Kentucky, we also recommend that you spend plenty of time outdoors. The Bluegrass State boasts some of America’s finest parkland and other natural attractions, including: Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world, with more than 400 explored miles; Cumberland Falls State Park with its jaw-dropping waterfalls and the incredible “moon-bow” that inspires nighttime visits when the moon is full and the sky is clear; Daniel Boone National Forest, the Red River Gorge, and a vast array of lakes and trails make for nearly infinite opportunities for unforgettable outdoor recreation. Stay Whether your “lodging personality” tends toward a super-comfortable hotel stay with all your needs seen to, a rustic cabin by a secluded lake, an apartment rental in a cool small town, or resort living that makes balancing outdoor adventures with great food and drink as easy as possible, Kentucky has something to fit the bill. Learn more about Kentucky’s cultural heritage, music, food, natural wonders, and lodging at kentuckytourism.com.
5 Fun Ways to Enjoy an Offseason Weekend in Wilmington, NC
With average temps hovering around 50 degrees from December to March, an offseason escape to Wilmington, North Carolina, won’t necessarily get you a tan, but there’s more to this coastal enclave than its beachy reputation would have you believe. Though it's still dealing with the damage wrought by Hurricane Florence in the fall, the community is well on its way to recovery, and now's a great time to visit. From riverside walks to history lessons to artsy outings to five-star dining, here’s how to while away a winter weekend in the Port City. 1. Get Outside Airlie Gardens. (Maya Stanton) It might not be warm enough for sunbathing, but even at less-than-optimal temperatures, Wrightsville Beach is a prime destination for seashell collecting and long walks in the sand, especially at sunrise. Plus, parking is free from November 1 to March 1. (To take full advantage of those ocean breezes, book a room at the Blockade Runner, a water-facing Hotel We Love that recently reopened after the hurricane; accommodations there are a steal during the winter months.) Just over the causeway, the vast Airlie Gardens (airliegardens.org) are an oasis of calm, with ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and a sculpture garden paying tribute to the fascinating work of Minnie Evans, a prolific, self-taught African-American visionary artist who didn’t begin drawing or painting until age 43. Don’t miss the Bottle Chapel, a a 3D representation of Minnie’s paintings, built with cement, metal, and colorful glass bottles. Downtown, pop into Pineapple Studios (lovepineapplestudios.com) for a pottery lesson or a yoga class, pause for a pint at Front Street Brewery (frontstreetbrewery.com) or the local outpost of Pour Taphouse (pourtaproom.com), and wander along the Riverwalk, 1.75 miles of walking paths along the Cape Fear River comprising shops, restaurants, and water views. 2. Take a History Lesson Incorporated in 1739, the city of Wilmington has seen its fair share of action, from Revolutionary War battles to Civil War blockades to World War II shipbuilding. A trio of historic homes, each open for walk-throughs, showcases what the 18th and mid-19th centuries were like for moneyed white folks and the slaves they kept. Dating to 1770, the Burgwin-Wright (bwhg.memberclicks.net), for one, is a Georgian home built directly on top of the former jail, and the only colonial-era building in the city that’s accessible to the public. Peek inside the original kitchen and the old cells, then take a breather in the terraced garden, which are free to explore. Completed in 1852, the Latimer House (latimerhouse.org) was the Victorian-era estate of a wealthy merchant's family—and, before emancipation, the 11 enslaved people who served them. A guided tour offers a vivid sense of life at the time, while a tour of the circa-1861 Bellamy Mansion (bellamymansion.org), built primarily by enslaved laborers, reveals a restored carriage house and the original slave quarters. A few minutes outside of town, across the causeway in Wrightsville Beach, is the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History (wbmuseumofhistory.com), housed in a cottage built in 1909, with displays outlining the swimsuit’s backstory and a model of the beach, complete with a miniature working trolley. (One caveat: The offseason is a popular time for maintenance, repairs, and private events, so be sure to call ahead or check opening times online for all of the above.) 3. Walk and Talk Wilmington offers a variety of walking tours to help you see the sights. Run by Beverly Tetterton, a former research librarian and long-serving member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, alongside tech guru Dan Camancho, Wilmington.tours (wilmington.tours) has four app tours, three of which focus on the city’s general past and the Civil War era, plus one pub crawl dishing the dirt on 13 watering holes—though covering the entire baker’s dozen in one night is not recommended. (The site warns: “Wilmington.tours is not responsible for hangovers or regrettable behavior. We also do not guarantee impressing your friends & dates. If they are not impressed, you did something wrong, or have dumb friends, or both.”) On the less scientific end of the spectrum, Haunted Wilmington (hauntedwilmington.com) leads one of our favorite ghost walks in the U.S., a spooky stroll through the historic downtown area. Gothy guides customize itineraries for each outing, but stops may include the graveyard at St. James Episcopal Church, where an unfortunate young man was reputedly buried alive, and the aforementioned Latimer House, where five of the family’s nine children didn’t make it to adulthood. The company also offers a Hollywood location walk of spots you'll likely recognize from movies and teen dramas. (Spoiler alert: Dawson’s Creek and Cape Fear were both filmed here.) 4. Eat Your Heart Out Manna's Homard Simpson, a buttered lobster tail with sugar-snap peas and shiitakes. (Maya Stanton) For a smaller city, Wilmington has some stellar dining options, and even the Food Network has taken note—last year, Guy Fieri shot an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives here, creating quite the stir. It confirmed what locals have known for ages: This is a town that loves to eat. With creative Southern-inspired takes on standard fare (think: hummus made with North Carolina butterbeans in lieu of chickpeas, topped with tangy green tomatoes), PinPoint (pinpointrestaurant.com) offers some of the best bites in town. Between the fun Latin fare at Savorez (savorez.com), the modern plates from Top Chef alum Keith Rhodes at Catch (catchwilmington.com), and the special-occasion, pun-loving menu at Manna (mannaavenue.com), seafood enthusiasts will find no shortage of options here. And what’s a day at the beach without an ice cream cone? At both of its locations, including one downtown, the family-run Boombalatti’s (boombalattis.com) serves homemade ice cream with milk from grass-fed cows, and the flavors are out of this world—the key-lime pie in particular. 5. Embrace Your Artistic Side (Maya Stanton) College towns often foster a creative environment, and with its first-rate galleries, studios, and performance spaces, Wilmington is no exception. On the fourth Friday of each month (artscouncilofwilmington.org/four-fridays), a selection of art spaces open their doors after hours, offering up drinks, snacks, entertainment, and opportunities to chat with the artists themselves. Art in Bloom Gallery (aibgallery.com) features a mix of fine photography, paintings, mobiles, and stunning blown-glass pieces, while New Elements Gallery (newelementsgallery.com) boasts canvases and crafts from local and regional talents. theArtWorks (theartworks.co), a warren of studios and galleries housed in a former factory, also participates in Fourth Fridays, but its 45-plus studios keep regular open hours as well, so you can pop in on a weekend and visit artists as they work. Performance-wise, Thalian Hall (thalianhall.org) has been in near-continuous use since it opened in 1858, hosting everyone from Buffalo Bill Cody to Beatles cover bands. Today it's a go-to for theatrical revivals, contemporary movies, and one-offs like the Bluegrass Bash and Mutts Gone Nuts, a “comedy dog spectacular” promoting rescue adoptions. And over at the Wilson Center (cfcc.edu/capefearstage), a soaring hall affiliated with the Cape Fear Community College, not only do touring Broadway shows, contemporary dance troupes, and musicians as varied as Air Supply and Chick Corea take center stage, an outreach initiative also provides free tickets to underserved communities, so kids from all backgrounds can experience the arts.
4 Charming Bavarian Towns You’ll Love
To ring in 2019, we made an affordable escape to Europe and visited several small towns in Bavaria, the iconic southern region of Germany. The history, architecture, and culture of medieval and Renaissance Bavaria are preserved in several impossibly cute town centers, and it was a wonderful place to welcome the new year. And of course, the beer everywhere was wunderbar. Bavarian food, in particular, is perfect for cold weather - hot and hearty and delicious. Most travelers visit Europe in the summer; but those who venture to visit somewhere like Bavaria in the off-season are rewarded with picturesque vistas, lower prices and, best of all, far fewer crowds. Here, four towns we fell for—and you will too. 1. Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Irakite/Dreamstime) Rothenburg is remarkable for (among other unique features) the 13th-century wall that surrounds much of the town’s medieval center. Visitors can walk the two miles of covered ramparts, looking down over the roofs and streets or through the “archers’ slits” to the countryside. Seventy watchtowers appear along the wall, some of which overlook the lovely expanse of the Tauber river valley far below. Steps lead down from the wall every hundred yards or so, enabling visitors to stroll along the fairy-tale streets and visit beer gardens, churches, shops, and museums, including the cheery Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Museum and the grim Museum of Medieval Crime and Punishment. Most of the current wall dates from the 13th century, but a sizeable portion of it (and the part of the town within the wall) was destroyed in World War II. Allied soldiers then convinced a German commander to surrender the town, defying Hitler’s orders but saving the rest of the town from destruction. The town square sports a 17th-century clock with a mechanized drinker that commemorates the time during the 30 Years War when the town was saved from being destroyed by an attacking army because its mayor, essentially on a dare from the conquering general, quaffed a tankard of wine - almost a gallon! - in a matter of minutes. 2. Bamberg (Jan Kranendonk/Dreamstime) The historic center of Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its well-preserved medieval architecture and city layout. Its many old bridges crossing the Regnitz River add to its charm. The city grew up over centuries around seven hills, like Rome, leading to the nickname "the Bavarian Rome." Bavarians, though, like to reverse this, instead wryly referring to Rome as the "Italian Bamberg." Bamberg is also known as one of the prime sources for the much-sought-after Rauchbier ("smoked beer"), made with beechwood-smoked malts. This type of beer is an acquired taste - be sure to acquire some! 3. Regensburg (Snicol24/Dreamstime) Regensburg sits where the River Regen joins the Danube, and as such arose as a center of commerce and culture since Roman times. The old town was fortunate to avoid bombing in the Second World War; consequently, its medieval center earns it a place on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Among its many river crossings is an iconic 12th-century stone bridge with 16 arches. At one end of the bridge is the equally old Historic Sausage Kitchen, a restaurant founded in the mid 1100s and operated by the same family since the early 1800s. Grilled sausages are their specialty of course, and they’re delicious. The cathedral here is monumental, displaying the vast wealth and influence that the town enjoyed since the 13th century. The exterior face contains countless ornate sculptures depicting fantastic beasts and biblical figures as well as actual monarchs and church leaders throughout the centuries. The interior is a yawning vault of towering stained glass windows, titanic stone columns, and walls full of carved statuary. Down an unremarkable alley a block away, a modest marker (on a house now owned by a local architect) commemorates the industrialist Oskar Schindler, whose subversive efforts saved the lives of more than a thousand Jews during the Holocaust. After the war, Schindler lived in Regensburg for a time. 4. Landshut (Luisa Vallon Fumi/Dreamstime)Though close to the sprawling metropolis of Munich, the bustling town of Landshut retains a medieval charm. Its cobbled center street is a vast car-free zone, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy many blocks of shops and historic sights without concern for motor traffic. Just up the hill overlooking the town, the walls and towers of Trausnitz Castle have flexed the muscles of Bavarian aristocracy since the 1200s. Amid the charming pastel-colored houses on Landshut's streets, the massive brick spire of Saint Martin's Cathedral looms large. Completed in 1500, it is the tallest church in Bavaria, and it is the largest brick church in the world. Inside, a 16-foot-tall Gothic crucifix hangs high from the vaulted roof in front of the altar, and the colorful stained glass windows in the nave depict figures from the Bible and lively scenes of real life in Bavaria. Landshut is worth visiting under any circumstance, but it is especially convenient as a last stop before leaving Germany from Munich’s airport, an easy half-hour drive away.