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Satisfy Your Thirst in South Carolina

By The Budget Travel Editors
September 5, 2018
Mason jars filled with sweet tea and mint leaves.
Bhofack2/Dreamstime
Take a cool “sip and see” tour of the Palmetto State to enjoy its variety of breweries, distilleries, wineries, and dairy farms, not to mention an ice-cold glass of Sweet Tea.

South Carolina is home to some of the friendliest, most welcoming locals in America. That means whether you’re visiting a vibrant urban center like Charleston or Columbia, a beautiful coastal retreat like Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head, or a cool small town like Beaufort, you are likely to be offered a cold glass of Sweet Tea, a world-class pint of craft beer, a shot of “white lightning” (a.k.a. moonshine), or other distinctly South Carolina libations. In fact, wetting your whistle in the Palmetto State has never been easier, with the help of the free Satisfy Your Thirst Tour app, and a few pointers for getting the most out of your tour.

CRAFT BEER

Coast-Brewing-Co-Distillery.jpg?mtime=20190227102411#asset:104992Coast Brewing Co. in Charleston, SC (Courtesy CoastBrewing.com)

After a busy day seeing some of South Carolina’s historical sites, hitting a beach or golf course, or paddling one of the state’s scenic waterways, nothing refreshes quite like a chilled pint of artisan-crafted lager, pilsner, ale, or stout. And if that sounds just about perfect right now, you’re in luck: South Carolina offers more than 50 craft breweries, many boasting great food, tours, and canned and bottled beers you can’t pick up at the grocery store or bar.

South Carolina’s craft beer scene extends from the coast to the upstate, and its finest products have garnered nationwide attention. Our friends over at Southern Living named Holy City Brewing, in North Charleston, the best in the state, and Beer Advocate gives the thumbs-up to Westbrook Brewing Co., in Mount Pleasant, and Coast Brewing Co., in Charleston.

We’re partial to Conquest Brewing Co., in Columbia, for its variety of textures and mythology-inspired names such as Artemis Blonde and Medusa Stout. And besides loving the name River Rat Brewery, we also admire how the Columbia-based establishment offers affordable brewery tours, great nachos, and evocative names like Twisted Lemon Wheat and American Kolsch Story.

MOONSHINE & COCKTAILS

@cmdistillery-Peach-moon-Shine.jpg?mtime=20190227102927#asset:104993Peach Moonshine at Carolina Moon Distillery (Courtesy @cmdistillery/Instagram)

Not too long ago, producing moonshine in the backwoods of South Carolina was against the law - not just during the Prohibition years, when alcohol production was illegal across the U.S. and illicit distilling could earn a farmer a small fortune in “liquid gold,” but right up until 2009, when state laws finally changed to allow for micro-distilling of the potent spirit known locally as “white lightning” and “corn likker.” These days, there are more than two dozen artisanal stills across the state producing not only classic moonshine but also bourbon, rum, and vodka, making for a lively tasting scene - and some great cocktails.

Dark Corner Distillery, in Greenville, is named for the former bootlegging hotbed “dark corner” of South Carolina, and it produces popular flavored whiskies (butterscotch, maple, and beach to name a few) and offers a tasting flight with a side of regional history. Carolina Moon Distillery, in Edgefield, offers tours of its small-batch operations where vodka, bourbon, and a “high octane” moonshine evocatively dubbed Rabbit Spit are produced. Stop by Palmetto Distillery, with a distillery in the city of Anderson and a shop in Myrtle Beach, both offering fun tours and the brand’s signature moonshine.

Of course, all this talk of spirits is bound to make you want to raise a good cocktail, right. Across South Carolina, restaurants and bars are crafting signature concoctions. We especially love the Charleston restaurant Prohibition, where you’ll find a vast array of mixed drinks and small-batch spirits. Try the Bacon Maple Old Fashioned or the classic Mint Julep. When you’re in Myrtle Beach, hit the Chemist for science-fiction themed cocktails like Thyme Machine (including gin and thyme-infused ice) and Flux Capacitor (with vodka, blackberry syrup, and mint).

WINE

South Carolina’s wine scene is lesser known and ready for the spotlight, with vineyards and wineries producing some outstanding bottles from the coastal regions to upstate. Locally grown grapes include scuppernong and muscadine, used in the great wines produced at Duplin Winery, in Myrtle Beach. And some wineries, such as Island Winery, in Hilton Head, make great use of tasty local fruits like berries and peaches to craft highly rated wines.

Kick back at a South Carolina wine bar such as Wined It Up, in Beaufort, where you’ll enjoy small plates and the flexibility to try a variety of hand-picked wines in 2-, 4-, or 6-ounce glasses perfect for tasting a little bit of everything.

SWEET TEA

On the softer side, but potent in its own way, Sweet Tea is one of the most iconic beverages of South Carolina. For the most authentic, local experience, visit Charleston Tea Plantation, on Wadmalaw Island, where, just like visiting a brewery or winery, you can take a charming tour and savor a variety of teas in an elegant tasting room. And remember that although the name Sweet Tea implies a thick, syrupy experience, you can order it lightly sweetened if you prefer.

MILK

That’s right: Milk. No visit to South Carolina would be complete without a sip or two of the state’s official drink. There’s nothing like a trip to the farmland of upstate South Carolina for a tour of a dairy, such as Happy Cow Creamery, in Pelzer, that kids of all ages will appreciate. And don’t forget one more mouth-watering tasting experience as you try the milk, cheese, and sometimes even ice cream produced at a dairy farm.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE ‘SATISFY YOUR THIRST TOUR’ APP

Ready to satisfy your thirst in South Carolina? Download the free South Carolina Satisfy Your Thirst Tour app for iOS or Android or visit SatisfyYourThirstSC.com to find breweries, distilleries, wineries, tours and sampling locations and learn about upcoming festivals that celebrate the best in sippable South Carolina.

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Inspiration

10 Exquisite Musical Events Worth Traveling to in 2018/19

Whether your idea of “classical music” is a ferocious symphony by Beethoven, the pulsing minimalism of Philip Glass, or a brand-new opera adapted from a Hitchcock thriller (really), the 2018/19 classical music and opera calendar promises to be one of the richest, most diverse ever. Here, 10 noteworthy musical events in travel-worthy destinations across the U.S. 1. Opera Philadelphia’s O18 Festival September 20 - 30, 2018 Opera Philadelphia showed themselves as one of the most interesting companies with last year’s O17 festival. This season’s 018 line-up features "Lucia di Lammermoor" and the world premiere of "Sky on Swings," which brings back the team of composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch, plus a production of Poulenc’s "La Void Humaine" that will include star Patricia Racette singing French art songs. Performances are staged all over, including at the Barnes Foundation art museum and concert (operaphila.org). 2. Daniil Trifonov With the Chicago Symphony October 18 - 20, 2018 Pianist Daniil Trifonov is a legend in the making, and his youth makes that even more exciting—there’s a sense he’s discovering new music and ideas at his every concert. Among many notable performances in North America this season, this appearance with the Chicago Symphony stands out for both his collaborators—the great Chicago Symphony and conductor Marin Alsop—and the material, Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Stick around for the entire concert to hear Copland’s mighty Symphony No. 3 (cso.org). 3. 'Marnie' at the Metropolitan Opera October 19 - November 10, 2018 Five years after composer Nico Muhly’s opera "Two Boys" caused a considerable positive stir at the Met comes "Marnie." Best known as an Alfred Hitchcock film, "Marnie," adapted from a novel by Winston Graham, has the perfect operatic theme of a beautiful young woman who assumes multiple identities. It’s a star turn ripe for the taking by the great mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard. Michael Meyer, who produced the Met’s scintillating "Ratpack Rigoletto," promises an appropriately  cinematic staging (metopera.org). 4. 'Satyagraha' at LA Opera October 20 - November 11, 2018 Composer Philip Glass may be most widely known for his film scores, including most famously "The Hours," but his operas are uniquely beautiful and intriguing. Glass's opera "Satyagraha," about Gandhi, is probably his music beautiful, and for the LA Opera it is the final leg of their stagings of Glass’s opera trilogy on science, religion, and politics. This co-production with the English National Opera and Metropolitan Opera comes from director Phelim McDermott, who has triumphant stagings of Glass's "Einstein on the Beach" and "Akhnaten" under his belt. His "Satyagraha" is a stunning interweaving of evocative settings and history, and features tenor Sean Panikkar in the lead (laopera.org). 5. Yuja Wang Perspectives Series at Carnegie Hall, New York City October 26, 2018 - May 2, 2019 (various dates) The Perspectives Series hands over programming to selected artists, and pianist Yuja Wang’s choices mix expected pleasures with real surprises. Across six concerts, she’ll play Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with the New World Symphony, and premiere a new work from Michael Tilson Thomas (May 1-2); she’ll play duos (Feb. 6 and April 10); and on February 11 she’ll perform with the classical music comedy duo Igudesman & Joo in a concert that will absolutely be something completely different (carnegiehall.org). 6. Celebrating MTT at the San Francisco Symphony November 15, 2018 - June 22, 2019 (various dates) Conductor Micheal Tilson Thomas (a.k.a. MTT) will not be leaving the San Francisco Symphony until the end of the 2020 season, but a long goodbye is in the works for this immensely important musician. Interspersed through the SFS season are signature concerts like MTT’s own "From the Diary of Anne Frank" (Nov 15-18), and ones that feature his special touch with Tchaikovsky, with Symphony No. 4, Feb. 7-9, and Mahler’s glorious Symphony No. 9, June 13-15 (sfsymphony.org). 7. 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at the Cleveland Orchestra January 13, 17 and 19, 2019 The Cleveland Orchestra presents a staged opera performance annually, and for this season it’s "Ariadne auf Naxos," one of Richard Strauss’ most entertaining dramas, combining comedy with beautiful music. A new production made especially for the orchestra comes from opera director Frederic Wake-Walker, and consummate Straussian Franz Welser-Móst will conduct. The terrific young soprano Tamara Wilson, who has a shining, clarion-clear instrument, will sing the dual role of Ariadne and the Diva in the opera within the opera (clevelandorchestra.com). 8. Salonen’s Stravinsky at the Los Angele Philharmonic April 12 - 20, 2019 Among many exciting musical events in Los Angeles, this one stands out for its balance of variety and compactness. Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen brings his distinctive vitality and sense of color to three programs at the Los Angeles Philharmonic devoted to works of the titanic, indispensable 20th century composer Igor Stravinsky: Rituals, Faiths, and Myths. "The Rite of Spring" is there, of course, alongside the astonishing "Agon," there will be great choral works for the Faith program, and Myths presents two beautiful and infrequently heard ballet scores, "Orpheus" and "Perséphone" (laphil.com). 9. Music of Conscience at the New York Philharmonic May 26 - June 8, 2019 Jaap van Zweden begins his first seasons as music director, thus already an exciting year for the New York Philharmonic. Their season culminates with the Music of Conscience festival, which explores composers’ responses to political and social turmoil. Opening with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and featuring John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1—his response to the AIDS epidemic—the two weeks end with the world premiere staging of David Lang’s opera "prisoner of the state," his updating of Beethoven's opera "Fidelio" for the 21st century (nyphil.org).10. Cirque de la Symphonie at the Philadelphia OrchestraJune 13 - 14, 2019Dance has been an intimate partner of classical music since before the courtly menuet and trio became permanently entwined into symphonic form. While that has developed since the 18th century, in 2014 the Philadelphia Orchestra took it a leap, literally, farther, with aerialists and acrobats performing in mid-air above the orchestra. This truly spectacular Cirque de la Symphonie program returns for the coming season, along with contortionists, strongmen, and of course dancers. It’s a singular meeting of music making, entertainment, and feats of daring (philorch.org).

Inspiration

Live Like a Local in the ‘First in Flight’ State

Whether you’re an adventure-seeker in pursuit of an adrenaline-pumping spree of parasailing, cycling, climbing, waterfalls, skydiving, and hot-air ballooning, an American history buff, or a nature lover in search of achingly beautiful beaches, North Carolina is rich with options for the intrepid traveler. The biggest challenge is making the most of your time, so we’ve searched the state and checked in with some locals who maintain some of the most gorgeously trip-inspiring NC-themed Instagram accounts to learn about the standout places to eat, drink, stay, and play during your visit. From the outdoor adventures in Boone to the museums and restaurants of Charlotte to the beaches of the Outer Banks, North Carolina has all the makings of a memorable vacation, regardless of whether it’s your first or tenth time visiting. THE OUTER BANKS Folly Beach near Charleston, South Carolina. (Cvandyke/Dreamstime)When it comes to tried-and-true, the Outer Banks, a 130-mile stretch of barrier islands on the north coast of North Carolina, delivers a wide assortment of vacation opportunities. Magnificent beaches, winery tours, exceptional seafood, and iconic lighthouses are all yours for the taking. And, appropriately enough for the “First in Flight” state, you can savor it all from the sky on a classic biplane tour. Elizabeth Boyette (@elizabeth_boyette on Instagram), an avid traveler and proprietor of Good South, a design firm with offices in Raleigh, NC, and Charleston, SC, suggests the area around Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, the northern end of the “OBX” (local parlance for the area). A longtime resident of Raleigh who recently relocated to Charleston, Boyette just came back from a trip to Duck, in Dare County, and reports that “the Outer Banks is truly something special. ” She notes that equine aficionados in particular should head north to Currituck County while they’re on the islands. “Make sure to take a tour of the wild horses on the beach in Corolla, a one-of-a-kind experience,” she says. BOONE & BLOWING ROCK The jaw-dropping scenery of the Boone region of the Blue Ridge Parkway is reason alone to visit this bucolic town. Along the area’s stretch of highway you’ll find more than 50 hiking trails and over 20 overlooks where you can picnic and take in the landscape. In town, there are sites that showcase and honor the town’s rich history. Check out Hickory Ridge Museum, which features actors in period dress engaged in old-world activities, and more than 200 species of plant varieties at Daniel Boone Native Gardens, named for the trailblazing frontiersman who spent time in the region. While it’s absolutely stunning on the ground, there’s plenty more to be seen from above. At Grandfather Mountain, an international Biosphere Reserve, there’s the Mile High Swinging Bridge, America’s highest suspension bridge since it was built in 1952, which delivers heart-stopping 360-degree views of the Carolina Piedmont. For a more modern thrill, head to the neighboring town of Blowing Rock, where the new Ultimate Adventure park boasts ziplines, a giant swing, and activities for kids ages four and up. And when you’re ready to kick back and chill out, fishing, shopping—including old-timey stores—and an array of relaxing spas await. ASHEVILLE You may have heard that Asheville is one cool little city, and we’d be the first to agree. Budget Travel’s senior editor, Liza Weisstuch, visited recently and is still talking about the imaginative restaurant scene, creative arts, and craft beer. And you can pretty much take your pick of nearby outdoor adventures, including zip-lining, canopy tours, and hot air ballooning. Karie Reinertson and Rob Maddox, who run Shelter Collective (@shelterprotectsyou on Instagram), an architecture and interior design shop in Asheville, share their locals-only secrets: “We love spending a rainy Saturday at Well Played, a board game cafe we designed in downtown. East Fork Pottery is perfect for outfitting an entire home or picking up a quick guest’s gift. OWL is one of our favorite places to grab a coffee and some of the best pastries in town. The best way to spend time in Asheville, though, is outdoors - our favorite hike is Black Balsam, which starts with a beautiful drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway.” RALEIGH-DURHAM-CHAPEL HILL North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Coralimages2020/Dreamstime)North Carolina’s centrally located Piedmont Region boasts some of the most populous cities in the state, and the Triangle offers an urbane alternative to the sun and sand of the coast, thanks in large part to the area’s trifecta of universities (North Carolina State, Duke, and the University of North Carolina). In Raleigh, start with a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art, with a collection spanning more than 5,000 years and includes pieces from Europe, America, and Africa and a sculpture park marrying a three-mile trail system and an outdoor amphitheater with 29 works of art. Follow up with a stop at the Raleigh Farmers Market for a snack, then spend the afternoon winery-hopping. For dinner, try something from chef Ashley Christensen’s local mini-empire. Poole’s Diner is justifiably renowned for its rich, cheesy macaroni au gratin, and anything from the wood-fired oven at Death & Taxes (think: roasted oysters with preserved lemon and chili butter) is bound to be a hit. Over in Durham, there’s a wealth of creative endeavors, from grand museums to funky galleries. Check out the artist studios at historic textile mill Golden Belt, browse the contemporary collection at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art, and get lost in the terraces, gazebos, and Japanese-style walking bridges of Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Break for lunch with a fried chicken, pimento cheese, and bacon biscuit from Rise, and spend the afternoon antiquing before catching a show at the Pinhook, a bastion of the indie-music scene. Get your learning on in Chapel Hill, where the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center offers shows to please all ages, and UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History features a roster of year-round events in keeping with its mission of supporting the critical examination of the African-American diaspora and African cultures. Pick up picnic provisions at Southern Season, then head for the North Carolina Botanical Garden for lunch al fresco. Sample the house-made vodka, gin, and whiskey at Top of the Hill Distillery, treat yourself to shrimp and grits at Crook’s Corner, then take in the symphony at Hill Hall Auditorium on the UNC campus. CHARLOTTE Charlotte, North Carolina’s biggest city, packs the most art, history, music, and food into a visit, including former plantations, Southern cuisine with creative twists, and an array of museums to suit all tastes, like the Levine Museum of the New South, which focuses on post-Civil War life in the region, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a sport that has its roots in the area, thanks to bootlegging outlaws who were constantly trying to outrun the authorities during Prohibition. Somewhat unexpectedly, the central NC area also boasts ample opportunities for skydiving. And if you’d like to make a day trip, Boyette suggests skipping town for Davidson, a lakeside town about 20 miles north. “When you’re around Charlotte, I recommend a stop in Davidson, which has a college-town charm, to eat at Kindred. From the food to the atmosphere, it’s perfection. Two words: milk bread. And the oysters are a must-order.” WILMINGTON & ISLAND BEACHES “My parents had a condo in Wrightsville Beach for years and it really is one of the most quaint, prettiest beaches in the state,” says Boyette. While Wilmington and its beaches were hit especially hard by Hurricane Florence in September, its recovery is well under way and its locals are eager to host travelers. Boyette recommends perusing the beach and checking out the Baja fish tacos at K38 across the bridge in Wilmington. Budget Travel’s associate editor, Maya Stanton, has her own mouthwatering restaurant reviews, including Savorez for tuna tostadas and Catch for crabcakes. If you need a break from seafood and the beach, pencil in a tour through one of the city’s many historic homes or visit the Cameron Art Museum for a glimpse into Wilmington’s culture and history. KINSTON Heading inland a bit, there’s a world of history and authentic NC cuisine to be found in the town of Kinston, in Lenoir County, the site of one of the most significant and hard-fought battles of the Civil War, now commemorated by a historic walking path and tour. In keeping with the vintage trend, look for accommodations at the Mother Earth Motor Lodge, a motel dating to 1963 that, in its previous incarnation, gave shelter to the touring musicians such as James Brown and his band as they passed through town. Local craft-beer brand Mother Earth Brewing took over and gave the property a facelift in 2017, and it now offers 45 upgraded rooms as well as a pool, shuffleboard, and mini-golf. For a dose of star-power, make a reservation for creative regional fare at James Beard award-winner and PBS host Vivian Howard’s Chef & the Farmer, or grab a seat at her more casual sister restaurant, the Boiler Room oyster bar. Crystal Thornton, a photographer who maintains one of the most beautiful NC-themed Instagram accounts out there (@seastarnc), recommends Kinston for “an absolute gem of a BBQ joint by the name of King’s Bar-B-Que and Chicken. It serves a sandwich called the Pig in a Puppy, a North Carolina-style BBQ in a sub-sandwich sized hush puppy.” May we simply add … Yum!

Inspiration

Just Back From: Alaska

There are things that immediately come to mind at the mention of Alaska: Northern Lights, fishing, glaciers, cruise ships. But to go to the state and only see or do those things would be to miss out on a whole lot. In early August, I spent a week and a half traveling from Fairbanks to Anchorage to Juneau, barely covering a fraction of the tremendous state, and learning about some of the many, many things that make it so special. From its rich and entertaining history (see: the fortune-hunters and scoundrels that streamed in during the Gold Rush) to countless incredible stories about how the Native people survived and thrived in the harsh weather to arctic astronomy, here are just a few of the things that might inspire you to take a trip. 1. ALL THE BEAUTIFUL TWILIGHTS Though not something that we in the Lower 48 would typically be aware of unless we work in aviation or astronomy, being in Alaska sort of forces you to learn about times of sunrise, sunset and, most interestingly, twilight, that transitional time of partial light between sunrise and sunset. This is particularly true in Fairbanks, which is a popular destination for viewing the Northern Lights around April. But since I was there in early August when the sun set around 2.30 a.m., I started trying to understand the physics of it all. In the process, I learned there are three different kinds of twilight, each having to do with the tilt of the planet and the position of the sun above or below the horizon. During Civil Twilight, which happens in the morning and evening when the center of the sun is six degrees below the horizon, you can spot the brightest stars and planets but also see objects here on Earth without the help of artificial light. Nautical Twilight gets its name from the fact that sailors could see well-known stars clearly enough to use them for navigation. With the sun 12 degrees below the horizon, artificial light may be needed to see activity on the ground. And during Astronomical Twilight, the sun sits 18 degrees below the horizon, which isn’t visible. The sky appears totally dark, but full darkness only actually occurs once the great ball of fire sinks below 18 degrees. Illuminating, right? 2. SUB-ZERO COUTURE High fashion can be mesmerizingly creative or ridiculous, depending on your perspective. A collection from John-Paul Gaultier in the early 1990s was influenced by the clothing of Hasidic Jews, and one of John Galliano’s collections for Christian Dior took its cues from the tattered garb of the homeless people of Paris, a concept that resulted in controversy, needless to say. But, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and considering the extreme weather Alaska’s Native people faced and the natural resources and materials they had to work with, their inventiveness when it comes to making clothing and accessories is nothing short of mind-bending. In Fairbanks, at the Museum of the North (uaf.edu/museum), which is part of the University of Alaska, I spent a few minutes just staring at a coat made of nearly translucent yet heavy duty fish skin. At the Anchorange Museum (anchoragemuseum.org), in a sprawling exhibit developed with the Smithsonian  (alaska.si.edu) that covers all different aspects of Native culture, I marveled at a “gut parka” made from seal and walrus intestine, a material that's light, strong, and waterproof, and hefty coats made with fur assembled in such unlikely and eye-catching patterns that even a jaded fashionista would stop and stare. But one of the most resourceful items was a pair of snow goggles fashioned from mountain-sheep hooves, strung together with glass trade beads. Talk about visionary. 3. COFFEE CONNECTIONS  While Finland may boast the highest consumption of coffee per person, Anchorage has more places to get coffee than anywhere else in the United States, a statistic that makes a lot of sense considering that temps can reach 70-below here—it's easy to imagine that your organs would freeze if you didn't have a constant intake of warm liquids. A large number of those places are coffee huts, funky little drive-throughs that sell all the specialty drinks you’d find at a familiar coffee shop. In summer, it’s a convenience or, if you’re a tourist, a novelty. In the winter, however, they’re a necessity. 4. A BEACH LIKE NO OTHER A beach is just a beach...unless you’re in Juneau, where the coastline has a highly unusual origin story. Douglas is a city neighborhood located on an island of its own and accessible from downtown via a single 620-foot pedestrian-friendly bridge. The island’s eastern shore is directly across a channel from downtown and the cruise port. It’s a quiet bedroom community, but it wasn’t always. During the Gold Rush that lasted from about 1881 to 1922, the island’s Treadwell Mine was the source of three million ounces of gold. Hundreds of stamp machines, giant and exceptionally noisy pieces of industrial equipment used to smash boulders, were operating 363 days a year—every day except Fourth of July and Christmas Day, when it was so eerily quiet that, as legend has it, nobody slept. Those stamps pulverized stone for decades, long enough to produce massive amounts of sand-like material that makes for a seemingly natural looking shoreline. All this took shape on top of land that was shaped by glacier movement several thousand years ago. 5. DOG DAYS  Iditarod is the Wimbledon of dog racing. And like any world class competition, this one has its celebrities and legends. Susan Butcher is the Serena Williams of dog racing, or mushing, as it’s known in the state. Butcher won three years in a row, from 1986 to 1988, then again in 1990. But those victories are hardly her only accomplishment. In 1979, she was also the first to reach the top of Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak, with a dog team. She passed away of leukemia in 2006, but her legacy is alive and well on the Chena River in Fairbanks. On a riverboat cruise (riverboatdiscovery.com), not only did I learn the details of the punishing race (1,150 miles from Anchorage to Nome, extreme temperatures, etcetera), but I came to understand that Butcher’s impact on the sport, one of the few in the world where men and women compete against each other as equals, goes beyond her racing skills. She was revolutionary in the way she trained and treated her animals, and her husband carries out her legacy, training dogs at a sprawling outdoor kennel and giving lively demos of what goes into making a pup a champion.

Inspiration

Just Back From: New Hampshire

Thanks to its soaring mountain ranges and northeast weather patterns, the Granite State is a well-known destination for skiiers, snowboarders, and winter-sports enthusiasts of all stripes, but there’s plenty to draw summer vacationers here as well, from the famed Lake Winnipesaukee to the lush White Mountains. I spent a few days exploring the state’s lakes, peaks, and valleys, seeing stunning landscapes, hiking beautiful trails, and eating as much lobster as humanly possible. Here’s how I did it. Day 1: Wolfeboro and Lake Winnipesaukee The drive from Massachusetts to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region via I-93 isn’t a particularly scenic or relaxing one, and yet, after two and a half long hours, when I pulled up to Lake Opechee Inn & Spa (opecheeinn.com) in Laconia, I might as well have been a world away. The family-owned and -run lakefront property has 34 country-quaint rooms with cozy lounge seating anchored by gas fireplaces, a kitchen and bar cranking out delicious plates and marvelous martinis, and a pair of fluffy, friendly golden-retriever overseers patrolling the place. I checked in and headed out to explore. About 30 miles east on the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee is Wolfeboro, billed as the oldest summer resort in the country. The one-time farming community features sandy beaches, green parks, multi-use trails, and museums of all sorts, from natural history to historic homes. Nautical types should paddle over to the New Hampshire Boat Museum (nhbm.org), an experiential nonprofit that examines the role of the state’s 900-plus lakes in the lives of its residents, while architecture buffs should allot time for a visit to Lucknow, the Arts and Crafts–style mountaintop estate known as Castle in the Clouds (castleintheclouds.org). Built between 1913 and 1914 and opened to the public in 1959, it's a striking tribute to the movement’s ethos of living in harmony with nature.  A display at the Wright Museum of World War II. (Maya Stanton) With time for one stop, I decided on the Wright Museum of World War II (wrightmuseum.org), where a permanent collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and operational military vehicles show the impact of the “war to end all wars.” Check out the full-scale tableau-style recreations of public spaces and private interiors circa the 1940s, the room filled with jeeps, tanks, and planes that saw action during the war, and outside, the museum’s very own victory garden, as well as special exhibits dedicated to subjects like World War I propaganda posters and the lively, slice-of-life sketches that soldier Charles J. Miller produced during his time in the South Pacific. Heading back to Lake Opechee, I was making good time until I passed Shibley’s Drive-In (facebook.com/shibleysdrivein), a small roadside joint hawking fried seafood, ice cream, and 24 flavors of soft serve in Lake Winnipesaukee’s Alton Bay. I u-turned when I saw the ice-cream sign and didn’t regret my pre-dinner cone even a little bit. I still made it back to the inn in time to catch the sunset from my room’s balcony. Too exhausted to get back in the car, I popped down to the hotel's restaurant, O Steaks & Seafood (magicfoodsrestaurantgroup.com/osteaks). It was Friday, nearly 9:00 p.m., as I settled into an Adirondack chair on the lawn, sipped a perfectly spicy, dirty martini, and waited for a table. I had modest hopes for the meal, but local oysters on the half-shell and an expertly cooked salmon filet with kale pesto and cauliflower and asparagus risotto far exceeded expectations. Bleary-eyed and satisfied, I knew I was sufficiently fueled for tomorrow.  Day 2: Zip Lines and Wine It felt like no time had passed when my alarm went off the next morning, but no matter—I was on my way to Gunstock Mountain Resort (gunstock.com) for some outdoor adventure. First developed as a recreation area as part of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration and originally featuring a chair lift, rope tows, hiking and cross-country trails, and a show-stopping lodge, the complex now known as Gunstock has grown well beyond its initial purview.  Learning the ropes at Gunstock Mountain Resort. (Maya Stanton) A popular skiing destination in the winter, it now boasts options for the om-seeker and the adrenaline junkie alike, from scenic lift rides, mountaintop yoga, and off-road Segway tours to a treetop ropes course, a mountain coaster, and one of the longest canopy zip lines in the continental U.S. As a zip-line newbie, I opted for 90 minutes in the clouds, and after a brief training session with my fellow adventurers (and a nerve-calming chat with the operators about how often the equipment is tested and vetted for safety), we hopped on the lift to the summit. The ride down is split into a couple of legs, and each time, stepping off those platforms was terrifying and exhilarating and didn’t get any less so with experience. After I’d soared the full 1.6 miles, though, I was ready to do it again. Make a full day of it here if you can. Once I caught my breath, I drove north to Weirs Beach (weirsbeach.com). Situated on Lake Winnipesaukee, this family-friendly destination features a boardwalk with mountain and lake views, mini golf and go-karts, kitschy beach-town shops, and, of course, swimming, boating, and picnicking. There's a plethora of places to stop for grub, like Lobster in the Rough (weathervaneseafoods.com), where vacationers were hunkered down for lobster rolls, and for a sweet treat, the Ice Cream Parlor Car on board the scenic lakefront railway.   Fruit-based wines are the name of the game at Meredith's Hermit Woods Winery. (Maya Stanton) Later that day, I drove up to Meredith, a busy little town in the heart of the Lakes Region, about 10 miles from the hotel. I parked by the marina and wandered through the waterfront Sculpture Walk, an annual, juried selection of works from sculptors around the northeast. By the time I finished, it was just about happy hour, and luckily, Hermit Woods Winery (hermitwoods.com) was only a few steps away. Named to Food & Wine’s 2017 guide to the 500 best wineries in America, Hermit’s wines are made from local whole fruit, resulting in beautifully balanced options, from a dry white blend of peaches, rhubarb, quince, and rosehips to a medium-dry strawberry rhubarb to a sweet blueberry dessert wine. Taste six varietals for $10, and take home your glass as a souvenir. For waterfront libations, Town Docks Restaurant (thecman.com) comes highly recommended. Enjoy breezes off the lake while sipping a watermelon cooler or a cucumber-basil smash, and try the mayo-dressed or hot-butter-poached lobster roll—just for comparison's sake, of course.  Day 3: Into the Mountains I couldn’t say goodbye to the Lakes Region without getting out on the water, so I booked an early-morning boat ride with EKAL Activity Center (ekalactivitycenter.com). A 28-foot antique Chris Craft that once belonged to royalty, the Miss Meredith seats up to seven, but at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday, I had the whole thing to myself. Lake Winnipesaukee was quiet too, and as we zipped around the calm, glassy lake, it felt like a window into a simpler, more peaceful time. The 87-year-old Miss Meredith looks great for her age. (Maya Stanton) But that zen feeling was short-lived. Before long, I was back in the car, northward bound for the White Mountains. Forty-five minutes later, I arrived at the Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery (woodstockinnnh.com) in North Woodstock, just in time to watch the World Cup final with a pint of seasonal craft pale ale in hand. If you don’t want to waste your precious hours on such things, hit the Peaked Moon Market (peakedmoonfarm.com) in nearby Lincoln for sandwiches and other provisions, then drive west until you reach the kid-friendly Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves (lostrivergorge.com). A natural choose-your-own-adventure-style obstacle course, Lost River features a warren of caves that are open for exploration and perfectly sized for pint-sized pathfinders. A wooden boardwalk winds its way down into the gorge, past a waterfall, across a suspension bridge, and up to a treehouse with life-sized animal carvings. Pause to take in the views of Kinsman Notch, and watch the kids do their thing. Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves. (Maya Stanton) From there, I headed back east, then north to Franconia Notch State Park (nhstateparks.org) and Flume Gorge, a natural gorge at the foot of Mount Liberty, with smooth granite walls standing 90 feet high and as little as 12 feet apart. The boardwalk winds through and up to the top for a view of Avalanche Falls, the 45-foot waterfall at the heart of the Flume. There's quite a bit of foot traffic, but peaceful nooks and crannies are easy to find along the way. Cannon Mountain's easy Rim Trail offers great vistas, but the heights aren't for the faint of heart. (Maya Stanton) Further into the park, you’ll want to queue up for the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway (cannonmt.com)—unless you’re afraid of heights. Sure, you could hike to the top, but if you're short on time or energy or will, the cable car will get you to the summit in no time, and the perspective from 4,000 feet is spectacular. On the August day I visited, it was a breezy 61 degrees, and visibility was 20 miles in every direction. Take a spin around the rim trail while you’re up there, and hit the observation deck for the full 360. Then, it was east through Franconia Notch to North Conway, my base of operations for the next two nights. Be sure to allow time for a leisurely drive—the park is so rich with photo ops that I got adept at pulling over on short notice and whipping out the camera. I would've stopped more, but I had a reservation at the Christmas Farm Inn (christmasfarminn.com), an 18th-century Cape Cod-style farmhouse just outside of town in Jackson. After the Great Recession, a father gave the property to his daughter as a holiday gift, and its next owner converted it to an inn, welcoming the first guests in the winter of 1946. Today, it’s owned by a German-American couple who racked up years of globe-trotting experience in the hospitality industry before settling down in rural New Hampshire. Their expertise shows in the inn's welcoming environment, from the friendly greeting at the door to the communal fire pit on the front lawn. Hole up in the cozy pub, order a glass of wine, and dig into copious servings of dishes like steamed mussels and chorizo in an addictive tomato-garlic-wine broth and hearty, creamy cannelini beans with prosciutto, caramelized onions, Parmesan, and garlic bread. Unable to manage another bite, I drove back to North Conway and tucked myself in at the Merrill Farm Inn (merrillfarminn.com).  Day 4: Lobster and Leisure Time I was still stuffed from the feast the night before, so on my last full day in-state, I skipped the complimentary breakfast and had a leisurely morning and a light lunch before diving into the afternoon’s full slate of activities. I rolled up to the Lobster Trap (lobstertraprestaurant.com), a North Conway institution since 1958, and placed an order for a final lobster roll. Unlike most spots with seafood rolls on the menu, this one was customizable, and as an avowed celery-hater, I was thrilled to be able to omit it from the proceedings. It wasn’t the best version I’ve ever had, but the meat was fresh and sweet, and at $15 for a roll and a salad, it was definitely the most cost-effective. A customized lobster roll (no celery!) at North Conway's Lobster Trap. (Maya Stanton) Fueled up and ready to go, it was time for some action. Mount Washington Valley is home to several adventure parks, from Cranmore Mountain Resort (cranmore.com), which features giant swings, tubing, bouncy houses, and a bungy trampoline, to Attitash Mountain Resort (attitash.com), with the longest zip line east of the Rockies, a mountain coaster, water slides, an airbag jump, and a climbing wall, to Wildcat Mountain (skiwildcat.com), where you can take a gondola ride to the summit or play 18 holes of alpine disc golf. Take your pick, based on geography, experience, and age levels—you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The view from the top of Mt. Washington. (Maya Stanton) Next stop, Mount Washington itself, the highest peak in the northeast and one with a fair bit of history. Dating to 1861, the Mt. Washington Auto Road (mtwashingtonautoroad.com) is the country’s oldest man-made attraction, while the Mount Washington Cog Railway (thecog.com) is the world’s first mountain-climbing cog-driven train. At $78 per adult and $41 per child roundtrip, the Cog is a steep ride (pun intended), but one that train buffs may find worth the expenditure. For me, the auto road was more than sufficient. I opted for a guided tour, and as my intrepid driver navigated the narrow turns, often one-handed to point out the landmarks, I tried not to think about how close we were to the edge, and how glad I was not to be behind the wheel myself. Diana's Baths draws crowds during the day, but in the early evening, it's a peaceful retreat. (Maya Stanton)Before dinner, I had one more place to check off my list: Diana’s Baths, just outside of North Conway. A half-mile through the woods on a flat, easy trail, with picturesque pools and cascading falls, it looks like something out of a fairy tale. Go early or late to cool off without the crowds, bring a fiver for the self-service pay station, and beware of mosquitoes—they're brutal along the way. For my final Granite State meal, I went out with a bang at The Wild Rose Restaurant at Stonehurst Manor (stonehurstmanor.com), an old-school estate with mountain views and seafood from the Maine coast. Summer guests love the baked lobster, but I branched out from my all-seafood diet and tried the prime rib. A hulking cut of medium-rare beef served with chunky mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli, it was, like that antique boat ride, retro in the most satisfying way. For something a little less refined but just as meaty, Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing Co. (moatmountain.com) is right across the street and serves a wide-ranging menu of burgers, barbecue, and wood-grilled pizzas, sourced from local suppliers whenever possible. Day 5: Back to Reality With what promised to be a huge storm incoming, I got an early start back to Boston's Logan Airport, taking the Kancamagus Highway (kancamagushighway.com), an American Scenic Byway, in hopes of squeezing in a bit more sightseeing. But that hope was dashed when the skies opened up. When I got to the airport, I learned the weather seriously delayed my flight. Normally, I’d be beside myself with frustration, but in this case, it gave me the chance to have one last seafood roll for the road. This time around, I went with an overflowing crab-stuffed version, and it couldn’t have tasted better. Until next time, New England.

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