Spring Food Festivals You Must Taste to Believe
Admit it. The words food and festival make your mouth water.
I know, I know. You're picturing yourself balancing a plate of, say, gulf shrimp with a nice cool glass of local chardonnay. Add a balmy Southern breeze in your hair and you've pretty much got a perfect afternoon. Here, four of our favorite American food festivals coming up in May, served with a heaping side order of affordable hotels.
Bloomin' Barbecue & Bluegrass (May 17 to 18). Sevierville, TN, has a lot going for it. Located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and a short drive from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Dollywood, the town is also host to an annual BBQ and bluegrass blast. Here, you'll meet barbeque cook teams who have been featured on the Food Network, free bluegrass concerts (including the Mountain Soul Vocal Competition featuring finalists from around the U.S. competing for a Nashville recording session), and witness an epic cook-off involving more than 2,800 pounds of meat that includes pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and ribs. Where to stay: La Quinta Inn & Suites Sevierville (2428 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Sevierville, TN, lq.com, doubles from $89) is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, and offers a free breakfast.
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (May 22 to 25). You already know this town knows how to throw a party. Now celebrating its 21st year, the NOWFF will include wine dinners hosted by more than 30 NOLA restaurants, the Royal Street Stroll through the French Quarter, and wine tastings from more than 175 wineries (including food pairings from local chefs). The event will also include the 7th annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, whose winner will represent the state in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, plus seminars about international cuisine. Where to stay: Holiday Inn French Quarter—Chateau Lemoyne Hotel (301 Rue Dauphine, holidayinn.com, doubles from $167) has a prime central location near Bourbon Street.
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (May 30 to June 2). The organizers of this fest in Midtown Atlanta like to say "the South never tasted so good," and you'll catch their enthusiasm quickly when you immerse yourself in a lavish extended weekend of learning experiences (cooking and cocktail demos, tasting seminars, and panel discussions), tasting experiences (chef-curated tasting tents serving Southern meals, snacks, sweets, sandwiches, and wines and spirits), plus evening dinners and other events. With an advisory council of more than 60 award-winning food pros from 14 Southern states and the District of Columbia, this festival has an additional "southern" angle—it celebrates the food of other southern regions of the world, including Southern Europe, South Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. Where to stay: Westin Peachtree Plaza (210 Peachtree Street, starwoodhotels.com, doubles from $173) is in central Atlanta, near its Museum of Design, Centennial Olympic Park, and a short distance from the outstanding Georgia Aquarium.
Taste of Cincinnati (May 25 to 27). America's longest-running culinary festival, dating back to 1979, this Memorial Day weekend bash celebrates the Cincinnati area's great restaurants and attracts 500,000 foodies each year. More than 40 locals restaurants typically participate, and in the weeks leading up to the event there is a Best of Taste Awards competition in which menu items are previewed and judged. This year's offerings are in the works, but last year's winners included Shrimp & Crab Dumpling with Noodle (deemed "Best Damn Dish" of the year), Fried Peanut Butter & Jelly, and Banana Cream Pie. Where to stay: Wingate by Wyndham Cincinnati (4320 Glendale Milford Road, wingatehotels.com, doubles from $92) is located in the Blue Ash business district.
TALK TO US! We want to know: What's your favorite food festival?
Boston Is Open in Wake of Marathon Explosions
Following the explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line yesterday, the city of Boston is open for business (including Amtrak train service and flights to Logan International Airport). However, those of you currently visiting Boston, or with imminent travel plans to visit, will, of course, be directly affected by the explosions, which killed three people and injured at least 140. While the safety and well-being of everyone affected by yesterday's events is of greater importance than anyone's vacation plans, we do want you to know: The area around Copley Square is a crime scene and will likely be closed to visitors for several days, according to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. That means no access to Copley Station, the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, the Shops at the Prudential Center, the Copley Place mall, the Hynes Convention Center, and the Boston Common garage. (USA Today reports, however, that drivers will be able to retrieve parked cars from the garage.) Boston Common is now a staging area for law enforcement. Many airlines are waiving flight-change fees for Boston travel, and many local hotels are waiving cancellation fees—contact airlines and hotels directly for more information. If you are in Boston for the Marathon and are without lodging, visit Boston.com for a Google doc to match visitors with available places to stay. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston and everyone affected by yesterday's events.
Where to Find Free Yoga This Summer
Yoga classes can really add up—I've seen prices as high as $35 per class here in New York City. Luckily, there are a number of free events that take place in cities around the country every summer to help everyone take a breather. If you happen to be in the New York City area on Friday, June 21st, don't miss Solstice in Times Square: Athleta Mind Over Madness Yoga. Join thousands of other flexible friends in an enormous crowd of New Yorkers and visitors alike, all trying to find their inner peace in one of the busiest, loudest, most crowded places on earth. The event takes place all day and you can score freebies like gift bags and yoga mats (given to the first 1,500 participants). Stick around between classes for soothing musical performances, free giveaways, raffles, and a fashion show by popular yoga clothing company, Athleta. Wanderlust: Yoga In The City, an annual event stretching across four U.S. cities this year, is hosted in popular parks and other areas with beautiful views to look at while you practice your poses. San Francisco: Sunday, May 12th, at Little Marina Green from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.Register online for the 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., or 3:30 p.m. class. Chicago: Sunday, June 2nd, at Butler Field in Grant Park from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.Register online for the 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. class. New York City: Sunday, June 9th, at Pier 63 in Hudson River Park from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.Register online for the 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. class. Los Angeles: Sunday, June 30th, at Santa Monica Pier from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.Register online for the 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. class. If all else fails, wait for September when it's National Yoga Month, and the Yoga Health Foundation offers one free week of classes at your choice of more than 2,200 participating studios around the country. Register online this year starting August 1st, and redeem your certificate anytime between September 1st and October 30th. Please note that while these events are free and open to the public, you do need to register for a spot through the appropriate website. Space at the Wanderlust: Yoga In The City events is limited to the first 1,000 people who sign up, while more may be accepted for Solstice in Times Square. Remember to wear sunscreen, bring your own yoga mat, and pack plenty of water.
5 Unforgettable Summer Getaways to Book Now
Say the word summer. What comes to mind? The chilly Atlantic caressing a New England beach? Pacific waves breaking over the rocks? Kids of all ages skipping stones along a quiet lakeshore? Or maybe you'd prefer to head to the far north to watch glaciers break into pieces, or lounge in a rain-forest resort where you don't have to reach for your wallet for a week? Whatever your taste, we've rounded up five spectacular summer trips you can afford—if you book them now. SEE 16 SUMMER HOTSPOTS FOR FAMILIES! MONTEREY, CA California's Central Coast has been called the most perfect meeting of land and sea on earth. Most visitors see it on their way up or down the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but you can spend a week—or even a lifetime—exploring the cliffs, tide pools, redwood forests, and culture of this unique region. Fly into San Francisco (about $400 to $500 airfare from New York) and head down the coast. See the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, near the top of Monterey Bay, before settling into Monterey. In this historic seaport made world-famous by John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row, you'll find a working fishing wharf that also boasts what may be the best clam chowder on the planet, the Monterey Bay Aquarium (dedicated to the sea life of the Monterey Bay), and a number of sites associated with the early days of California state history. Monterey is a short drive from scene Pacific Grove, chic Carmel, and the mind-blowing cliffs of Big Sur. Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Monterey is surrounded by Monterey Pines and live oaks, just minutes from the action on Fisherman's Wharf and the waterfront. (hiltongarden3.hilton.com, from $144) ALASKA If you prefer stunning natural beauty served with, say, English high tea, an Alaska Inside Passage cruise just might be your dream trip. Princess Cruises will set off from Seattle and make stops in the historic capitol, Juneau, the frontier towns of Skagway and Ketchikan, and explore Glacier Bay National Park, where naturalists will provide color commentary and background as you witness firsthand the sparkling remnants of the last ice age as they grind away—and sometimes break into massive pieces right before your eyes. And if you find yourself itching for civilization, you'll have the chance to quaff a pint or scarf a crumpet in Victoria, British Columbia, before returning to Seattle. (princess.com, seven days from $949) DOOR COUNTY, WI Door County's nickname—the Cape Cod of the Midwest—doesn't really begin to do it justice. This unique Wisconsin destination between Green Bay and Lake Michigan is beyond comparison and has been drawing families, and drawing them back again year after year, for generations. Miles of quiet lakeshore, piles of fresh Bing cherries (Door County is also known as Cherryland, USA), and a thriving art gallery scene make it a magnet for vacationers escaping Chicago and Milwaukee for the summer. (Airfare from New York City to nearby Green Bay, WI, is about $450.) Peninsula State Park offers 3,700 acres of forest, shoreline, and campgrounds, not to mention American Folklore Theatre, which performs original shows in a Broadway-size space among the evergreens. Stay: Lodgings at Pioneer Lane is a handsome inn in Ephraim, offering comfortable rooms and suites. (lodgingatpioneerlane.com, rooms from $80, suites from $109) CAPE ANN, MA For authentic New England without the throngs, Gloucester, MA, a tight-knit fishing community on Cape Ann, just 45 minutes north of Boston, is a good place to start. Expansive beaches, frothy seas, wonderfully old-fashioned Main Streets, historic lighthouses, and some of the freshest locally sourced meals around make this "other cape" a reason to bypass the better known—and infinitely pricier—beach destinations along the Massachusetts coast. Hit Gloucester's Good Harbor Beach, a wide stretch of fine, white sand edged by dunes and a gurgling creek leading into a refreshingly chilly pocket of the Atlantic, and Rocky Neck artists' colony, where you can soak up some of the sumptuous light that has drawn artists including Milton Avery, Edward Hopper, and Winslow Homer. Stay: Blue Shutters Beachside Inn has comfortable rooms with beach views and a welcoming living room with a fireplace that's surprisingly welcome even on summer evenings. (blueshuttersbeachside.com, from $125) COSTA RICA Do you crave privacy and having your every need met in advance? An all-inclusive resort on the beach, surrounded by rain forests and a national park, fits the bill. The low-key Barcelo Langosta Beach Resort, near Tamarindo, Costa Rica, includes one buffet restaurant and one a la carte restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine, one bar, a small casino, and an amphitheater with daily entertainment. The rooms have views of either the Pacific Ocean or Las Baulas, an estuary that's part of the national park. Airfare from New York City to San Jose, Costa Rica, is around $530. And that phrase "all-inclusive" really sinks in when you realize that even tipping for the staff is included in the rate—so you may never have to reach for your wallet! (barcelo.com, from $180 per person per night)
Insider Secrets of Rome
Heaping plates of light-as-air pasta. Art by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini. Some of the most entertaining people-watching on the planet. Rome is a city like no other. But as welcoming as it can be, to the first-time visitor Rome can also feel a little like an upscale hazing ritual, with winding ticket lines, expensive meals, and crowds, crowds, crowds. With the help of actual Romans and some well-traveled BT editors, we've put together some can't-miss tips for making yourself at home in the Eternal City. SEE 25 BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS OF ROME! Eat Like a Local It's easy to eat great in Rome, but keeping the tab reasonable is another story. We turned to Rome resident Elizabeth Minchilli, author of the bestselling app Eat Rome and host of the blog Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome, for affordable restaurant recommendations. Her picks: Forno dei Campo dei Fiori. "This outpost of the famous bakery sells one thing only: Panini," says Minchilli. "The bread is actually the bakery's much-loved pizza Bianca and filling includes mortadella, mozzarella and tomatoes, and frittata." (Vicolo del Gallo 14) Enoteca Corsi. This wine shop also does a brisk business as a working-class restaurant. "The real action is in back," says Minchilli. "Paper-topped tables and wooden chairs are all original. A daily menu is thrown on the table, with dozens of Roman specialties like meat-stuffed zucchini, osso buco, and thick and delicious faro soup. Don't miss the gnocchi on Thursdays!" (Via del Gesu 87) L'Asino d'Oro. With creative riffs on traditional Umbrian and central Italian cuisine, this restaurant is jammed and pricey at night. "But at lunchtime, the fixed menu is one of the best deals in town at $17," says Minchilli. "Three full courses, plus wine and water, but it's cash-only at lunch and make sure you reserve ahead." (Via del Boschetto 73) See the Vatican After-Hours With one of the greatest art collections on earth, it's no surprise that the Vatican Museums are packed during the day. Time was you needed to hand over hundreds of extra euros for a less-crowded tour during the evening. But each Friday between May 3 and July 26, and September 6 and October 25, the Vatican Museums will be open from 7p.m. to 11 p.m., with the last entrance at 9:30 p.m. For $21 at mv.vatican.va, you can enjoy relative peace and quiet on a self-guided tour of the Pio Clementino collection; Raphael Rooms, the galleries of the Candelabra, Tapestries, and Maps; and the Sistine Chapel. Bring binoculars to view Michelangelo's paintings on the Chapel's ceiling, but remember that photography is not allowed (the company that funded the chapel's recent renovation was given rights to the iconic images and does not allow them to be photographed by visitors). Beat the Lines at the Colosseum The most famous site in Rome is remaining open to the public during a $30 million, 2+ year renovation that will create an underground visitors' center and expand access to underground tunnels. While the amphitheater has been thrilling visitors for 2,000 years, that doesn't mean you should have to wait for centuries at the back of a seemingly endless ticket line. Instead, buy your tickets (about $14) to the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill at the Palatine box office on Via di S. Gregorio 30. Then, you can proceed right past the line to the entrance turnstiles. (If you have visited Rome over the past 10 years or so, you may recall that the Forum was once free, but now tickets are required.) Get Into the Galleria Borghese Don't make the rookie mistake of showing up at the popular Galleria Borghese without tickets. Only 360 visitors are admitted every two hours (at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m.), and advance tickets (about $14) are required before you can see the heartbreakingly beautiful works here, including those by Titian and Bernini. You can drop by a day or two in advance to make your reservation for a specific date and time, or reserve at galleriaborghese.it. Then, collect your tickets in person at least 30 minutes before your scheduled admission time. Don't Eat Ice Cream on the Spanish Steps! Sure, Roman Holiday may be the most, well, romantic movie ever, and the sight of Audrey Hepburn eating gelato on the Spanish Steps is indelible. But if you try parking on the steps—or any other public space—to chow down these days, you may end up being slapped with a fine. Last year, Rome's mayor was horrified when he saw the city's historic landmarks jammed with people scarfing pizza and panini and licking ice cream cones. A new ordinance forbids eating and drinking anywhere in Rome with "particular historic, artistic, architectonic, and cultural value" (yeah, that's pretty much everywhere). And we're not talking about a minor traffic ticket here—fines can total up to more than $600.