Locals Know Best: Healdsburg, California

By Liza Weisstuch
January 12, 2022
Cities Towns Healdsburg Plaza Sonoma County 038
There's no better guide to a city than someone who lives there, so we asked chef and restaurateur Dustin Valette, a native son, for his tips on where to eat, bike, and hangout in and around the town he calls home.

Before it was one of California’s premier tourism destinations, Sonoma County was just home to Dustin Valette. The young chef, who was born 1980, has been working in kitchens since the week after his 13th birthday and he cooked around the world—from Italy to Hawaii to New York to France—before moving to Healdsburg, less than ten minutes from quaint Geyserville, where he grew up, in 2008. After working Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen for several years, he and his brother Aaron Garzini opened Valette on the site where their great grandfather's bakery once stood, in 2015. The rustic yet elegant restaurant quickly garnered attention for its focus on Sonoma County purveyors. To this day, lots of locals, particularly noted winemakers, are among its habitues. We checked in with Dustin for some guidance on what to do, see, and eat around his glorious hometown. His answers had us working really hard to hold back on an impulse to book a flight to California.

“You look at a place like Lyon, France. Lyon screams food and wine," says Dustin. "But in Sonoma County you get the vibes of food, wine, agriculture and family. It feels wholesome, authentic, and real. That’s what Sonoma County is to me: home.”


There’s no better source for dining direction than a local chef and indeed, Dustin has lots to recommend. First up, Diavola in Geyserville, which specializes in pizzas from a wood-burning stove. The menu is impressive enough, but Dustin’s go-to is an off-menu selection: the Bambino. It's chef Dino’s twist on Chicago-style pizza. “It’s deeper dish than Chicago, though, and it has this amazing homemade sausage. It’s roasted longer, so the dough gets caramelized on the outside,” he describes. Hungry yet?

In Healdsburg, the place to go is Bravas, a Spanish tapas restaurant, which he loves because you can go for an elegant splurge or you could just hang out on the terrace and order wine and exquisite Spanish snacks.  

One of the fun things about a hard-core culinary destination like Sonoma County is that there are incredible dining experiences to be had beyond the restaurants. You can thank local shop-owners for that. Dustin is a fan of Jimtown Store. Styled like an old-timey country store, it's about eight minutes outside of Healdsburg on the way to the wineries in Knight’s Valley. Pick up a few of their excellent sandwiches and sundry gourmet eats—charcuterie, cheese, creative salads—and you have yourself the making of a divine picnic. Alternatively (or additionally!) the Dry Creek General Store is about ten minutes northwest of Healdsburg on the way to the world-class Rafanelli Winery. their provisions, which include everything from classic breakfast fare to hearty salads to baked goods, are made in-house. Dry Creek is also a must for anyone with shopping in mind. Their wine-country-related home décor and knickknacks are made with barrel staves and other objects from the wineries.  


And, of course, you can’t go wrong at Dustin’s restaurant. Like Bravas, it’s an excellent option for a splurge, but it’s also perfectly encouraged to grab a seat at the bar (there are only 13 seats, so be patient) and indulge.


There are more than 200 tasting rooms in the area and over 500 wineries and the drive to each one is even more scenic than the last. Many tasting rooms, in fact, don't charge for the sampling. Sometimes, though, even in Wine Country you might crave a change of pace. Dustin frequents Duke's, a cocktail bar on Healdsburg's main square, for its fantastic negroni and plenty of other meticulously crafted cocktails. One of the owners, Tara Heffernon, loves to make up custom drinks on the fly. "You just tell her the ingredients you like and she’ll create a drink right then and there for you." Dustin explains. 

If you need further break from vino, Bear Republic Brewing is in the heart of town. It’s the original brewery/restaurant in the area—opened in 1994, and I think they led the way for microbrewery scene in the area. Red Rocket, one of their standby brews, is his go-to.  


Thanks to all the twisting and turning roads, Healdsburg has a reputation for being one of the best bicycling areas in the USA. The biking is such a draw that there are three bike rental operations in the small town. “People literally come from everywhere to bike here,” Dustin marvels. “You can go through the majestic Redwoods and the coast is only about 15 miles away. It’s just such majestic and beautiful scenery.

It’s also one of those bucket-list towns for runners. Dustin urges any and all roadrunners to pop into Healdsburg Running Company not just for attire and sporty paraphernalia, but to visit with Skip, who he calls the “running guru,” what with his unparalleled insight and direction on the myriad running paths throughout the area.

Or, of course, you could just see the scenery from the car. Healdsburg is a 25 minute drive to the ocean. Dustin recommends heading out on Westside Road, along which you'll pass several of Healdsburg's finest wineries, like Williams Selyem and Arista and Thomas George Estates. You can even hit the renowned Korbel en route to the sea. There are several cute hotels and restaurants along the coast. Hog Island Oyster Co. is among the chef's favorites for indulging in bivalves that are "literally harvested fresh out of the water," he marvels.



With so much talk about NorCal’s countless wineries and high-end restaurants, it’s easy to forget that it’s an excellent family destination, and Dustin is the perfect one to reassure that, as he has two daughters, each under two years. 

Santa Rosa, just 15 minutes south of Healdsburg, is where Charles Shulz of Peanuts fame is from. There’s an ice skating rink that Dustin likes to go to with his young daughters. Make a day of it and visit the nearby Children’s Museum of Sonoma County or the Charles M. Shulz Museum, a shrine to all things Linus/Lucy/Charlie Brown/Snoopy, or head back to town for a bike ride with the kids.

“Wine Country really is a beautiful place to bring kids to. They can enjoy the views and there’s not a lot of trouble they can get into, like running into the ocean or something. There’s no crazy or extreme place here. Wine country isn’t like Vegas or Chicago, it’s really more like a holistic family place. Plus a lot of wineries are family-friendly.”


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Locals Know Best: Baltimore

John Waters, arguably Baltimore’s most famous native son since Babe Ruth, said of his hometown: “You can look far and wide, but you'll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It's as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay.” Indeed, between its creative eateries, vibrant public spaces, a multitude of free city-wide events, not to mention the historic sites, Baltimore has a character that’s very much its own. We connected to with Kathy Horning, who directs Artscape, the largest free art festival in the US, the Baltimore Book Festival, and more to learn more about the extravaganzas she oversees and get her guidance on where to eat, drink, explore, and just hang out in the city she calls home.    CULTURE! GET YOUR CULTURE HERE! As Festivals Director for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, Kathy knows a thing or two about making sure people get the most out of her hometown. A giant outdoor arts festival is as good a way as any to take in an all-embracing, all-at-once understanding of a city and its people. Artscape, which takes place every third weekend in July, is a three-day extravaganza that lays claim to being the largest free arts festival in the US. Over a 16-block stretch, there are visual art displays as well as dance shows, films, and even concerts with national headline performers. Best of all: everything is free. Same goes with the Baltimore Book Festival, which started in 1996 on the heels of Kurt Schmoke, the mayor of Baltimore in the eary 1990s, declaring Baltimore the City That Reads.  These are all well and good and exciting for anyone who loves the sunshine, but take heart, night owls, you get a festival all to yourself. Light City Baltimore, America’s first and largest international light festival, debuted in 2016 on the 200th anniversary of Baltimore becoming the first US city to illuminate its streets with gas lanterns. The event features 22 giant light art installations, 50 concerts and 150 performances, including plenty for kids. But there’s plenty to do year-round too. Kathy says the American Visionary Art Museum, is not to be missed. One of those institutions that uniquely Baltimorean, it spotlights artwork created entirely by self-taught visionaries. Paintings and anything with a classical flavor don’t distract from the creative innovation on display in the exhibit spaces as well as in Sideshow the funky, off-beat gift shop. And if you're there in the summer, join the hundreds of locals who gather outside on Thursday nights for Flicks from the Hill, free movies projected on a giant screen outside the museum.  BEYOND CRABCAKES Food halls, those hip, sprawling spaces with food options galore, are popping up in all kinds of once-industrial spacious in American cities of all sizes, but Baltimore lays claim to the first. And Lexington Market, in the heart of the city, dates all the way back to the 1780s. The 101 vendors dish out everything from the classic crabcakes, peeled shrimp, and plenty of BBQ options, but there’s also Malaysian food, Cajun eats, and craft beer served in. “I’m a history geek and I love the juxtaposition of historical aspects with new contemporary things,” Kathy says. The hipster-meets-history vibe is unmissable. Kathy describes R. House as a food hall for millennials, what with its strong focus on artisanal. Located in a former body shop in Remington, an artsy district, ten chefs occupy the vast space and it serves as an incubator before they go on to open their own restaurants. The craft cocktail bar in the center of the 350-seat marketspace is a lively and popular nighttime hangout.   PARK IT Patterson Park is Baltimore’s answer to Central Park. The sprawling landscape in East Baltimore has views of the harbor and a history that spans 300 years. Head over in the warm weather and space is a constellation of people picnicking and laying out on blankets. There’s an Asian-style pagoda constructed in the Victorian era and in the summer it’s the site of a free concert series and family activities. Kathy also notes that there’s a large Latino population in East Baltimore and many families have homey mom’n’pop eateries in the area. “They don’t really have formal names,” she warns. “They’re just spots on the corner and I love their authenticity.” Getting to the park—or anywhere in the city for that matter—is a breeze. Yes, Baltimore is very walkable, but there’s also the Charm City Circulator, a free public bus that gets you all around the city. Also, over the past year, the there’s been a big step up around town when it comes to bike infrastructure with the addition of central bike lanes in the business district and up by the college and university. Even out-of-towners can see easily the city on two wheels, what with Baltimore Bike Share, which was established in October 2016. But if you want another scenic route to the park, Kathy suggests the water taxi to the Fell's Point neighborhood. The main boulevard, Thames Street, is a cobblestone gaslight district that runs parallel to the water. It's home to about 50 bars and restaurants. It’s hard to choose, but Kathy recommends Barcocina, a nouveau Mexican spot with outdoor seating overlooking the water. And brewhounds, take note: Fell's Point's Max's Taphouse, which has over 100 taps and nearly 1000 beers in bottles, is regularly rated one of the top beer bars in the world. The neighborhood's streets are lined with funky indie shops, like The Sound Garden, a store with new and used CDs and vinyl, and Hats in the Belfry, a fancy milliner shop for hats of all styles. Other storefronts house antique stores, book stores, coffee shops.    THE REST IS HISTORY Virginia, DC, and Massachusetts get lots of love from history buffs, but Maryland has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sites imbued with historical and even literary significance. Edgar Allan Poe was famously born in Massachusetts, but he died at the young age of 40 in Baltimore and he’s buried at Westminster Cemetery, which is open daily. (Tours are offered.). His life is memorialized at the Edgar Allan Poe House, his home and workspace for about four years. It recently reopened after being shuttered many years, it gives you a close-up snapshot of the legendary writer. “The entire width of the house is maybe six feet across. You really get the sense of how miserable and cramped his living conditions were and insight as to why he created such macabre work. You can really put yourself in his shoes.” A bit better known, perhaps, is Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key penned the Star Spangled Banner as he watched the British bombard the city during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. To get there today you pass through the bucolic Locust Point, a peninsular neighborhood that’s been home to various immigrant communities over the past century and a half. But it was once the site of much more mayhem. “Citizens branded together to stop the British navy. Had they succeeded, it’s regarded that they would have gone on to New York and the experiment of 13 colonies having democracy would have been crushed. It incredible—the citizens made bombs, tricked the British," she marvels. "It’s not something the city is particularly well known for, but it should be. I like to say ‘We’ve been stopping bullies since 1812.’”


Locals Know Best: Buffalo

You could easily make the case that Leslie Zemsky has the best job title in Buffalo: Director of Fun for Larkin Square. The longtime Buffalo resident, who's also an artists and patron of the arts, oversees a range of activities at Larkin Square, a cluster of once-industrial warehouse buildings from the 1890s that have been revitalized as office buildings and restaurants. It’s also a community gathering point. What started as a smattering of four or five food trucks in 2012 has become Food Truck Tuesdays, a regular Tuesday night event from April through October, with up to 50 food trucks on location, a cozy family dinner vibe, and free parking. Then on Wednesdays in the summertime there are free concerts from local musicians and, of course, plenty of food trucks.  Larkin Square is just one example of how Buffalo is undergoing a massive renaissance, even to the point that it’s attracting artists and entrepreneurs from bigger urban centers, who can go upstate and start businesses or rent studios in ways they can’t in pricier cities like Manhattan and Boston. We caught up with the mistress of fun to get the lowdown on all there is to see, do, eat, drink, shop, and eat again around her vibrant city. EAT YOUR HEART OUT It seems like creativity runs in the Zemsky family. Leslie’s son Harry owns Hydraulic Hearth, a beer garden-style brewpub in Larkin Square, and collaboration seems to be his modus operandi. On Food Truck Tuesdays, locals can bring their food-truck fare into the restaurant and order local beer to go along with it. Harry has collaborative brunch with Breadhive, a bakery coop on the West Side. From September through early May, Hydraulic hosts Bagels and Booze, which features Breadhive’s bagels cooked in the restaurant’s pizza oven. Black Sheep, a hip restaurant that bills itself as serving “global nomad cuisine,” stops by to do a pig roast at the restaurant during Sunday Gospel Brunches.  Bagels are indeed one of the signatures of Breadhive, which features a café as part of the popular bakery. In addition to their daily sourdough, they make a different loaf each day of the week. Their full roster of sandwiches includes creations like the Bjork (tempe bacon, kimchi, avocado, sprouts, and more.)  But far be it from locals to be content with your run-of-the-mill sandwich, even if it is creative. That’s where Five Points Bakery comes in. Their specialty is toasts and offerings run the gamut from sweet to savory.  Leslie’s son is also venturing into the sandwich realm: this spring he’s teaming up with another restauranteur to open Angelica Tea Room, where the focus is on classic British tea sandwiches as well as artisanal tea. They’re also planning a serious cocktail program. Buffalo, in fact, has staked its own claim in the craft cocktail renaissance that has swept the United States in the past few years. Key players in town are Buffalo Proper, which is known for its small plates and drinks like the Night in Tunesia (light rum, dark rum, Campari, almond, pineapple, lime). Another go-to is The Dapper Goose, a farm-to-table specialist in a minimalist yet cozy space. With drinks that are as creative as the seasonal dishes, Leslie deems it the best restaurant of “New Buffalo.”   STATE OF THE ART  With its vast collection of iconic artwork, including Picasso, Frida Khalo, and Georgia O'Keeffe, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is the crowning jewel of Buffalo’s culture scene and it’s free on the first Friday of every month. That’s also the night of the Allentown Gallery Walk, a lively open studio event. Another one of the city's cultural gems is Burchfield Penney Arts Center, which is located on the SUNY Buffalo campus and houses the largest collection of watercolor by Charles Burchfield as well as works by variety of Western New York-connected artists. On the second Friday of each month they host an array of happenings, from concerts and screenings to happy hours. With so much creative energy in Buffalo, it was inevitable that artists, culinary types, and entrepreneurs would team up to maximize their resources and, of course, their impact. The result? Multiple emporium-style establishments that serve as markets, hip food courts, and incubators. Leslie lists them off: West Side Bazaar on the emerging West Side features an assortment of artisans and entrepreneurs, many of them immigrants and refugees, who sell things like jewelry, clothing, skincare, and crafts, as well as a commissary kitchen out of which various culinary types run stall-like businesses. Buffalo, Leslie explains, has a history of being immigrant-friendly and supportive, so you’ll find quite a few operations specializing in ethnic cuisine. She calls out the Burmese food purveyors in particular. The Expo Market is new to downtown and, like West Side Bazaar, it serves as an incubator for new business owners. From build-your-own burritos to creative salads and even a bar and from crafts to jewelry to baked goods (artisan dog biscuits, anyone?), the calling card here is local, local, local. There’s also the Horsefeathers Building, which houses a variety of permanent vendors, including Lait Cru Brasserie, a laidback general-store-chic eatery which is known for its French-inspired eats and selection of grilled cheese sandwiches (we told you—Buffalo is obsessed with sandwiches!), and Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile, Leslie’s stop for all kinds of global cheeses and delicious specialty items, like housemade hot chocolate mixes. The building also houses a seasonal craft and food Winter Market. TESTING THE WATERS To hear Leslie talk about the abundant watersports in Buffalo, you’d think she was talking about the California coast or the Colorado River. “One of my favorite things to do when visitors come to town is go kayaking on the Buffalo River,” she says, launching into an enthusiastic explanation of Canalside, downtown waterfront. The state has been focused on and investing in developing the area and cleaning up the river. It shows. These days there are free concerts on Thursdays throughout the summer and the riverside is home to the largest outdoor artificial ice rink in New York State. (Skating there will only put you out $5.) There’s also free fitness classes and lightshows projected on the massive grain elevators, remnants of the industrial past. Leslie suggests BFLO Harbor Kayak as a convenient place on the waterfront to rent kayaks.  In just and hour of paddling, you can glide down Elevator Alley, a stretch of the river that runs between huge grain elevators on both sides. If kayaking isn’t your thing, there’s paddleboards as well as inventive water bikes you can rent from BFLO that are so innovative that they’ve been recently patented. And landlubbers, don’t despair. There’s a few miles of trails nearby and Reddy Bikeshare, a bike-share program that allows you to cruise the city on two wheels. MAKE A DAY OF IT New York City is, of course, a town where pedestrians rule. Cities upstate, however, are more sprawling, but that’s not to say there aren’t walking districts. Elmwood Village seems almost designed for strolling. The Albright-Knox Museum sits at the north end of the neighborhood. From there, Leslie suggests heading down Elmwood Avenue and pop into Lexington Co-Op, which offers a king’s ransom worth of local goods and sustainable organic fare. Grab one of the mean coffee drinks at the café to take on your way. Continue along to Talking Leaves, a bookstore that opened in 1971 and bills itself as “Independent and Idiosyncratic.” (Leslie collaborates with them on an author series at Larkin Square.) After you browse the stacks, hit the adjacent Aroma Café, a cozy spot that does triple-duty as a café, a wine bar, and a trattoria. There are plenty of cute boutiques to weave your way through, like Half and Half, which opened in 2016 and sells stylish threads for men and women as well as quirky home goods. Fern Croft Floral, which is loaded with creative arrangements, neat gift items, and planters made by a local potter. It is, Leslie declares, very different from any kind of flower shop you know. Apparently people in the Elmwood Village are really into gardening. To wit: Garden Walk Buffalo, biggest garden festival in the state where you can wander through people's backyards and enjoy their blossoms, happens each July.   But to hear Leslie tell it, the pièce de résistance of the neighborhood is yet to come. Hotel Henry is slated to open this April in the Richardson-Olmsted Complex. The now Landmark building housed the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane when it was completed in the late 1800s on a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The building underwent a $100 million renovation to retrofit it for the ultra-hip boutique hotel. The featured farm-to-table restaurant will use food grown on the grounds. “In a year, I think it’ll be like a museum because of all the architecture,” says Leslie. “They’re pricing it well because they want it to be an affordable experience. I think people will come to Buffalo just for Hotel Henry.”


Locals Know Best: Myrtle Beach

After more than a decade and a half in Miami, Larry Bond relocated to Myrtle Beach to help his mother with health issues in 2007. Might seem like quite a switch. After all, Miami is typically thought of as a hub of cool, from its design to the bacchanalian clubs to its classic beachfronts. Myrtle Beach, which can see up to 17 million vacationers each year, is not. But that’s changing. And Larry is a torchbearer in that renaissance. Today he owns two restaurants—The Chemist, an ultra-cool hangout with an attention-grabbing cocktail program that involves all kinds of slights of hand (think: liquid nitrogen, from-scratch syrups, essential oil extractions) and ART Burger Sushi Bar, which you might call a nouvelle gallery eatery. The works by local artists change up regularly and it's all for sale, with proceeds going entirely to the creators.) Part of being an excellent restaurateur means knowing your community, and know it he does. We checked in with Larry to get the lowdown on where to eat, drink, and play far beyond the well-trod path of beach vacationers. EAT YOUR HEART OUT The Myrtle Beach Pavilion was once the beating heart of this seaside town. It was long home to an amusement park which, like Coney Island, featured pay-per-ride roller coasters and more. But the park closed in 2006 and the area became a desolate lot, but today it's in the throes of a galvanizing renaissance, and Larry has been a driving force of that renewal. After the success of ART and the Chemist, he opened the festive Gordo's Tacos & Tequila in 2016 and is in the conceptual phase of another eatery, The Edge. The restaurants are all within three blocks of one another in this downtown hub. (His other spot, The Noizy Oyster, is about seven blocks away on a main thoroughfare.)  When the snowbirds arrive for their warm weather escape, chances are high that there’ll be a wait for a table on a Tuesday at the local surf’n’turf spot. But there’s a roster of eateries dishing out creative or authentic fare. You just have to know where to look. Larry is a fan of Rioz, a classic Brazilian steakhouse, complete with table-side carving ritual, that offers a blockbuster meal for $36.95. Not bad considering there’s a choice of up to 15 different meats. Larry deems it “as good as anything you find in Sao Paulo.”READ: "Locals Know Best: Cleveland" If he’s looking for a quiet meal away from the maddening crowd (and table-side theatrics), he goes to Jerusalem. It's the ultimate family affair, as a mother and son team in the kitchen turn out kabbabs, hummus platters, tabbouleh, and a roster of other Middle Eastern staples. The restaurant's setting is super-chill, but there's a separate room where lively belly dancing takes place several times a week.  Running a restaurant in a tourist destination—or anywhere, for that matter—can be punishing work. When industry folks wrap up for the night, you can find lots of them hanging out in North Myrtle Beach. The Office, one of the late-night hotspots, is a draw for its from-scratch American-Italian fare, not to mention the $2 well drinks and $3 wines. About two minutes away from there is 39th Avenue, a remarkable sushi and steak joint located in an unremarkable shopping center. Don't miss the excellent live music or the happy hour from 4PM to 7PM, when prices are a steal. There are also late-night specials and live music. Larry trained as a sushi chef in Tokyo for before he opened ART, so we really trust his judgement.   MAKE A DAY OF IT The Hot Fish Club specializes in lobster pot pie, but otherwise the menu changes regularly, so little wonder that Larry makes frequent appearances there. Of course, that’s to say nothing of the happy hour (Beers for $2.50? We’ll take it?), live music, and a delightful gazebo that overlooks the marsh. When he has the time, he’ll hit the nearby Brookgreen Gardens, a green space, cultural center, and National Historic Landmark offering all sorts of stuff to do. There's a zoo, activities for kids, and the world's largest sculpture garden, featuring over 1,400 sculptures by 350 artists, including some that date back to the early 19th century. It's worth noting that there's a concert series throughout the summer months as well as an art show featuring local artists in June in July. In December, it’s the site of the Festival of Lights/Night of 1000 Candles. Whatever the season, though, Larry's key to making it a perfect day off is a stop at Frank's Restaurant & Bar, which offers modern seafood dishes in a space that evokes a vintage chophouse. Instead of plunking yourself inside, Larry recommends you go around the side and through a small arrangement of trees until you encounter a hostess greeting you to Frank’s Outback. A deck, a canopy of trees, and water fountains make for a relaxed hangout. Larry’s keen on going with a bunch of friends and ordering appetizers, from lamb chops to crab cakes, to share. READ: "Locals Know Best: Portland, Oregon" THE PLAY’S THE THING If you’ve never thought of Myrtle Beach as a destination for adrenaline junkies, think again. First, there’s the water sports. Mytle Beach Watersports is a go-to for all sorts of cruises and, more importantly,  jet ski rentals and such. All it takes is a 30-minute safety presentation before you can jump on a jet ski or pontoon. Larry waxes enthusiastic about cruising down the waterway, which curves around into jetties, for about ten minutes to Bird Island, home to 1200 acres of salt marshes and tidal creeks. It's one of ten sites that make up North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve. Park your vehicle and zen out at the ultra-chill beach. It's home to a whimsical American treasure: the fabled Kindred Spirit mailbox in which you'll find notebooks. Join the ranks of countless travelers and locals that have written their hopes and wishes in the books for nearly 40 years.   Daredevils are further suited at the Myrtle Beach Speedway. The venue plays hosts to Monster Truck rallies, concerts, NASCAR races, and other marquee events, but on the down days, there’s the opportunity to take a class on NASCAR driving then accelerate on the track. Larry says he’s reached 101 mph.  On a bit of a mellower note, 710 is a funky new bowling alley that Larry describes as a latter day Dave & Busters, the arcade-style burger chain. A much hipper attitude prevails here, where aside from the bowling, everything--shuffleboard, pool, cornhole, etc.—is free.  


3 Affordable Weekend Escapes for Spring

If hopping in your car and hitting the highway is your idea of a perfect weekend, we suggest you start with these easy escapes that offer a sweet blend of natural beauty, culture, and cuisine. 1. EXPLORE HISTORY IN NORTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA An easy escape from the New York and Philadelphia metro areas, Lackawanna County, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, combines the natural beauty of lakes and mountains with unique museums celebrating American history: Kids of all ages will love Steamtown National Historic Site (above), where you can see steam-powered trains going back to the 19th century and even take a guided train tour; the Anthracite Heritage Museum traces the history of coal mining in the area - my kids discovered that it’s way more fun than that might sound, with “living history” exhibits you can walk right into. Coney Island Lunch in downtown Scranton is a friendly old-timey lunch counter with superb comfort food. We loved our stay at the friendly and affordable Holiday Inn Express in Dickson City, PA. Learn more about Lackawanna County at 2. HAVE A MUSICAL WEEKEND ON THE MISSISSIPPI BLUES TRAIL The Mississippi Blues Trail attracts visitors from all over the world, but it’s especially accessible for road trippers in the Deep South. Stops along the trail include historic Clarksdale, the BB King Museum, the Mississippi Grammy Museum, and restored juke joints, such as Club Ebony, where blues music is still king. Musical Mississippi also boasts the grave of the great bluesman Robert Johnson and the birthplace of Elvis Presley, in Tupelo. Learn more about Mississippi at 3. GET WILD ON THE VENTURA COUNTY COAST, CALIFORNIA When Los Angelenos need a break from their big, beautiful city, they head just a few miles up the coast to the Ventura County Coast. The star here is Channel Islands National Park for ferry tours and kayaking the gentle inlets - plus bragging rights when you get back home! The whole Ventura County coastal region is buzzing with up-and-coming wineries, innovative restaurants, beautiful missions, and of course miles of sunny California beaches. Learn more about the Ventura County Coast at