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    Harrison,

    Arkansas

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    Harrison is a city in Boone County, Arkansas, United States. It is the county seat of Boone County. It is named after General Marcus LaRue Harrison, a surveyor who laid out the city along Crooked Creek at Stifler Springs. According to 2019 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city was 13,080, up from 12,943 at the 2010 census and it is the 30th largest city in Arkansas based on official 2019 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Harrison is the principal city of the Harrison Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Boone and Newton counties. The town received widespread media attention in 2020, when a filmmaker named Rob Bliss held out a Black Lives Matter sign and recorded the reaction of multiple residents, which were predominantly negative.The predominantly white community is noted for its history of racism: two race riots in the early 20th century and an influx of white supremacist organizations during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Because of this, a number of sources have called it the most racist town in America.
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    Harrison Articles

    Inspiration

    The Beatles Tour of Liverpool: Penny Lane to Cavern Club

    The Beatles had a worldwide influence, and there’s no shortage of places to follow in the footsteps of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Hamburg’s Reeperbahn is where the Fab Four honed their skills; New York has the Ed Sullivan Theater; and of course, London has Abbey Road Studios and its iconic crosswalk. This itinerary takes in all the top sites, exploring the birth places of John, Paul, George and Ringo. "There are places I’ll remember…" John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are celebrated all over the city, but perhaps nowhere as much as the banks of the River Mersey. Start your tour on the waterfront, where a larger-than-life-size statue of the lads is nestled in the shadow of the iconic Royal Liver building, between the Titanic Memorial and Museum of Liverpool. From there, it’s just a few hundred feet to the Royal Albert Dock. This UNESCO World Heritage site is now an immensely popular multi-use tourist attraction which includes the Fab4 Store, the Fab4Cafe and the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. But the biggest attraction is The Beatles Story, perhaps the best Beatles-only exhibition in the world. The museum is chock full of objects and memorabilia, as well as a children’s discovery zone. It’s the perfect place to start your exploration. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images "Get back to where you once belonged…" The Beatles grew up in separate parts of Liverpool, so you’ll want to take a bus to do most of your touring. Ringo grew up at 10 Admiral Grove in the Dingle area, in a row house that was slated for demolition a few years ago until the public outcry put an end to those plans. George was the only Beatle who wasn’t born in a hospital—he was born in his childhood home at 12 Arnold Grove (a name he used as a pseudonym later in life) in Wavertree. Paul’s musical family lived at 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton. When the guys skipped school to play, they sometimes practiced at John’s house "Mendips," located at 251 Menlove Ave. in the Woolton area. John’s guardian, his Aunt Mimi, didn’t like it much ("The guitar’s all right for a hobby, John, but you’ll never make a living at it," she once said). Still, the semi-detached house with the sunny entryway was centrally located and probably the nicest of all the houses. Now it’s an English Heritage site. In fact it was close to Mendips—at St. Peter’s Church, on Church Road—where John’s skiffle band The Quarrymen was playing when he was introduced to Paul McCartney on July 6, 1957. Paul was a better musician than most of the guys in the group, and it wasn’t long before John invited him to join. A short time later, they changed their name to the Beatles. Speaking of names, there’s a gravestone in the churchyard with the name Eleanor Rigby. Inspiration, or coincidence? Mirrorpix / Getty Images "Listen to the music playing in your head…" The Beatles played all over the city before hitting the big time. The Casbah Club (tours available by appointment) was a coffee shop in the basement of original drummer Pete Best’s house at 8 Hayman’s Green in West Derby, and a frequent haunt for the band. The "Rainbow Stage" they played on there was little more than a nook. It’s a far cry from the Litherland Town Hall, where Beatlemania probably began. Now it’s a health center on Hatton Hill Road, but in 1961 it was where the band played its first gigs after returning from Hamburg—and quickly established they were the best draw in the city. Of course, the most iconic site—indeed, it could very well be the most important and famous music venue in the world—is the Cavern Club. The Beatles played the stifling cellar at 10 Mathew Street a staggering 292 times and it was here they were discovered by manager Brian Epstein. In fact, Mathew Street is the center of the Beatles experience for any visitor to Liverpool. In addition to The Cavern, there’s a statue of John Lennon, a couple of Beatles-themed bars, gift shops and tours, as well as The Grapes—the pub where the boys drank between sets at the alcohol-free Cavern. Jim Dyson / Getty Images "Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…" You don’t have to dig too deep to find the places that had the most direct inspiration on The Beatles’ music—they’re name-checked in some of the band’s most famous songs. For instance, Penny Lane is a real street in Liverpool. Where it meets Smithdown Road, there really is a roundabout with a bus stop shelter in the middle (in fact until recently the "shelter in the middle of the roundabout" was a Beatles-themed bistro). There’s even a barber shop on one side of the square. If "Penny Lane" was Paul’s typically rose-colored look back at the places and people who filled his Liverpool childhood, for John it was bittersweet nostalgia inspiring "Strawberry Fields Forever." The song was named for a Salvation Army orphanage in Beaconsfield Road—just around the corner from Mendips. John and his friends would play in the wooded grounds, and they became a place of freedom and imagination. The old building is long gone, but the wrought-iron gates are still there and have been attracting Beatles fans for generations. Jim Dyson / Getty Images Make the Beatles tour of Liverpool happen It doesn’t get much better for a Beatles fan than Hard Day’s Night Hotel, with sculptures of the lads on every corner of the façade and more than 100 individually-designed rooms (all with Beatles themes, naturally). It backs directly up to Mathew Street, for easy access to the Cavern and other sites. The YHA Albert Dock hostel is a budget-friendly option with a Beatles theme as well. To get around, pick up a reloadable Walrus Card from Merseytravel for easy and inexpensive bus access. If you want to leave the planning to someone else, try the Beatles Fab Four Taxi Tour.

    Budget Travel Lists

    8 Historic American Homes You Can Tour

    Coast to coast, the United States boasts a blend of architectural styles and influences, and historical homes contribute an extra layer of flavor and context to the mix. Our favorites—think: a rock star’s lux Midwestern estate, a horror writer’s tiny cottage in the Bronx, a legendary performer's Tennessee retreat—combine the voyeuristic thrill of peeking inside a private abode with elements of culture and history, and in our humble opinion, they’re all well worth a visit. 1. Paisley Park: Chanhassen, Minnesota Paisley Park (Courtesy The Prince Estate-Paisley Park) The site of rollicking dance parties and a recording complex where the Purple One turned out cultural touchstones like Diamonds & Pearls, Sign o’ the Times, and Emancipation, Prince’s estate at Paisley Park has been the stuff of legend since its first bricks were laid back in the ‘80s. Somewhat incongruously, the notoriously private superstar hoped to turn his home into a museum one day, going so far as to install some of the exhibits currently on display himself, and six months after his untimely death in 2016, the $10 million, 65,000-square-foot property opened to the public. General-admission tours include Prince’s recording studios, private music club, and the soundstage and concert hall where he threw his fabled soirees. For a more in-depth look at the property, VIP tours are longer and more extensive, offering peeks at additional artifacts, video-editing suites, and rehearsal rooms as well as an opportunity to have your picture taken in one of the studios (cameras and cellphones are prohibited and locked down upon entry). But if you want to feel like you’re really on the guest list, book a Saturday night tour and stay for Paisley Park After Dark, an after-hours DJ-driven dance party held twice a month. General admission, $45 (no children under age 5); Paisley Park After Dark, $60 (Saturdays only); VIP tour, $85 (no children under age 10); Ultimate Experience tour, $160 (no children under age 10). All tours are wheelchair accessible. Closed Wednesday. 2. Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum: Atchison, Kansas Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum (Courtesy Atchison Chamber of Commerce) The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, the first to make a solo round-trip flight across the United States, and the first to receive the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, Amelia Earhart was a pioneering badass. But before the aviator earned her wings, she spent her formative years in Atchison, Kansas, where her childhood home still stands. The circa-1860s Gothic Revival cottage is open daily for self-guided tours, and devotees can wander to their hearts’ content, from the original kitchen on the first floor to Amelia’s own bedroom on the second. You'll see personal belongings like her desk, hope chest, and linens, as well as family heirlooms, period pieces, and a set of official Amelia Earhart luggage, the result of a Nike-style endorsement deal that gave her the funds she needed to take to the skies. Adults, $8 (Ages 13 and up); seniors $6; military personnel $4; children (ages 5 to 12) $4. Open Tuesday - Saturday; reservations for tours are required 3. Abiquiú Home & Studio: Abiquiú, New Mexico The Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe is a small, well-curated space, with collections comprising some of the painter’s most recognizable works. But to get a real feel for her life and process, venture 60 miles northwest to her clifftop home and studio in the village of Abiquí, where she lived and worked, on and off, for 35 years. (She moved to New Mexico permanently in 1949 and split her time between Abiquí and Ghost Ranch, also north of Santa Fe; the Ghost Ranch home isn’t open for tours, but in its current incarnation as a retreat center, it does host tours and special events.) Highlights of the 5,000-square-foot adobe compound include the artist’s studio, with unparalleled views of the Chama River Valley and the cottonwood trees that featured in many of her paintings; her beloved patio with its striking wooden door, also the subject of multiple works; and a substantial vegetable garden, planted and harvested by O’Keeffe herself and currently under restoration by a team of student interns. Adults, from $20; members and students ages 6-18, free. Tours available from 10 -4 pm Thursday to Monday; Entry times are available every half hour, until sold out, reservations and masks for tours are required (as of July 2021) 4. Harriet Tubman Home: Auburn, New York Harriet Tubman House (Debra Millet/Dreamstime) Whether or not Harriet Tubman will take her rightful place on the $20 bill remains to be seen, but while we wait for a decision from the Treasury Department, the abolitionist hero’s home in central New York is open for visitors. Born in slavery in 1820s Maryland, she escaped to Pennsylvania—and emancipation—in 1849 and helped hundreds of slaves follow suit, guiding them along the Underground Railroad to Canada and the North. The Moses of her people bought her house in Auburn from soon-to-be Secretary of State William Seward in 1859; nearly 40 years later, she purchased the adjacent 25 acres and, with the help of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, opened her doors to shelter the needy and elderly. Though the property was designated a National Historical Park in 2017, her personal residence is viewable from the outside only, but guests can still learn about her life and legacy via guided tours of the visitors’ center and the Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negroes. Adults, $5; seniors ages 65 and up, $3; children ages 6-17, $2. Closed Sunday and Monday; harriettubmanhome.com. 5. Edgar Allan Poe Cottage: Bronx, New York Edgar Allan Poe Cottage (Courtesy Edgar Allan Poe Cottage) Born in Baltimore and raised in Richmond, Edgar Allan Poe spent his adulthood shuttling between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and there are house museums dedicated to the peripatetic author in Virginia and Maryland. But just off the D train in the Bronx, there’s a lesser-known monument that deserves some attention: the tiny farmhouse that served as final home to Poe and his wife (also, famously, his cousin) before their deaths in 1849 and 1847, respectively. It’s here that he wrote two of his most famous poems, “The Bells” and “Annabel Lee.” Designated a New York City landmark in 1966, the home earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and today the spartan museum offers visitors a look at both the pre-urban Bronx and an enigmatic public figure, including a bust and a daguerreotype of the author as well as some of his original furnishings. (Pro tip: True to its time, the museum doesn't have running water, so don't forget to stop for a bathroom break before you hit the front steps.) Adults, $5; students, children, and seniors, $3. Open Thursday to Sunday; As of July 2021 this location is temporarily closed - please check their website for updates 6. Edward Gorey House: Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts The beloved author and illustrator of goth-tinged books for macabre-loving children and adults alike, Edward Gorey lived on Cape Cod in a former sea captain’s home from 1986 until his death in 2000, when the 200-year-old property became a museum dedicated to his life’s work, his teeming collections of flea-market finds and yard-sale ephemera, and his overriding passion for animal welfare. Open seasonally from April through December, the museum’s exhibits change each year, but items from his closet and artifacts from his time as a Broadway costume designer are always on display. The house also hosts children's events and literary programs for all ages, with proceeds going to causes promoting animal rights and literacy. Adults, $8; students and seniors 65 and up, $5; children ages 6-12, $2; children under 6, free. Opening hours vary by season. 7. Storytellers Museum: Bon Aqua, Tennessee Johnny Cash's one-piece-at-a-time Cadillac (Courtesy of Storytellers Hide Away Farm and Museum)Johnny Cash may have acquired his 107-acre Tennessee retreat thanks to employee malfeasance, but that didn’t impact his enjoyment of it in the slightest. Purchased by his accountant with funds stolen from Cash himself, the Man in Black took possession of the farm in the ‘70s, and from that point on, it served as a much-beloved refuge from the touring grind. Fans of the singer-songwriter bought the property in 2016, restoring and opening it to the public that same year. The visitor experience includes a concert by in-house musicians and self-guided tours of both the Storytellers Museum (formerly a 19th-century general store that his song-catalog manager transformed into a performance venue) and the Cash family farmhouse, where details of the American legend’s life are on display. Adults, $25; military and seniors 60 and up, $22; students 11 and up, $18; children under 12, free. Only open Saturdays 10am - 2pm for general admission, Exclusive VIP tours are available Mon - Sun for $180 for up to six guests; call 931.996.4336. 8. Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center: East Hampton, New York Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center (Courtesy Helen A. Harrison) We love a good writer’s study or presidential library, but there’s nothing like the creativity and originality of a visual artist’s home—and when it’s home to two artists, all bets are off. Painters Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner moved into their modest 19th-century house in November 1945 and bought the property the following spring, over the years making changes both cosmetic (a coat of white paint for the clapboard exterior, a coat of blue for the shutters) and intensive (removing walls, adding indoor plumbing and central heating). After Krasner passed away in 1984 (Jackson predeceased her by nearly 30 years), it was deeded to Stony Brook University’s private, non-profit affiliate, opening as a museum in 1988. Inside, it’s like traveling back in time, with items like Jackson’s record player and jazz albums on display. But the main attraction lies under foot. As the museum was being prepped for visitors, the top layer of pressed wood was removed from the floors of Jackson’s barn studio, and the original surface was discovered. Splattered with the paint he used to make some of his most notable works, it offers a first-hand testament to the methods of a creative genius. Adults, $15; children ages 12 and under, $10. Open to the public from May through October with tours Thurs - Sun by advanced reservation only; during the off-season, call a week or two in advance to inquire about arranging a visit.

    News

    Travel News: Fitness on the Road, the Great American Family Vacation, and the ASPCA’s Best Pet-Safety Tips.

    As travelers gear up to take spring trips and finalize summer plans, we're seeing some cool trends that may inspire your next booking, and some important advice about flying with pets. FITNESS ON THE ROAD According to a new study by Hostelworld (hostelworld.com), Americans, especially younger ones, are just as focused on fitness on vacation as they are at home. The hostel-booking platform asked 2,500-plus men and women ages 18-65 about their exercise habits while on holiday, and a whopping 74% said they work out just as much—if not more—when they're out of office. Millennials take their routines especially seriously, listing fitness and outdoor activity as a higher priority than access to bars and nightlife, with some 40% of those surveyed saying they always get in at least one workout while they're away—and that easy access to fitness facilities is a must when booking accommodations. FAMILY VACATIONS: BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER Research from AAA Travel (aaa.com) says that 88 million Americans plan to take family vacations this year. “No matter their age, families are going on not just one, but  multiple vacations throughout the year to revisit favorite destinations and experiences new places,” says BIll Sutherland, AA senior vice president of Travel and Publishing. AAA is also seeing international family travel as a growing trend, with 35 percent of vacationing families reporting that they will travel outside the U.S. (that’s up 9% over the past two years). Popular international family hotspots include Cancun, Punta Cana, Montego Bay, Rome, and Dublin. A TRIP YOU’LL DIG Speaking of family travel, the budding paleontologists in your brood may really love a trip to Indiana Caverns (indianacaverns.com), the spectacular cave system in Corydon, IN (about 20 miles from Louisville, KY), where a team from the Indiana State Museum and Historic Site will start unearthing the remains of prehistoric animals on April. The dig will include an observation deck for visitors to witness the action, and the team will bring buckets of excavated sediment and bones up to the observation deck to show visitors what they’ve found and explain its importance. “This groundbreaking fieldwork being conducted by Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites experts offers our guests and extraordinary opportunity to be there and watch as history is being discovered,” says Jeremy Yackle, Harrison County Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director. PET-SAFETY TIPS FROM THE ASPCA Love traveling with your pet? Dr. Kristen Frank, Medical Director, ASPCA Animal Hospital, DVM, DACVIM (aspca.org), offers some easy, common-sense tips for pet safety during air travel: * Pets in the cabin of an airplane should be contained in a well-ventilated carrier, which should never be placed in an overhead bin. * Pets should have access to circulating air and to water; a toy, treat, or blanket may also help to keep them relaxed in transit. * Pet owners should always consult with their pet’s veterinarian when considering travel to determine what is safe for the individual animal based on trip duration, age, species, breed, and other factors. * Pet owners should travel with a pet kit containing any necessities, including proof of vaccinations. * Medications should be given only on a case-by-case basis with veterinary approval. * Check with individual airlines to discuss fees or restrictions such as those on carriers, breeds, or species. * Always exercise caution and consider all available options when traveling with a pet.

    Travel Tips

    Let a local show you how locals live

    The idea took root when Sarah Winters and Shawn Ward, a longtime marketer and entrepreneur respectively, were vacationing with friends in the Hamptons. They wanted to go to a club but it was sort of exclusive and there was a line. One of the friends they were with was much more connected in town; he had a few words with the doorman, who quickly whisked the group inside. That’s when it occurred to them: how cool would it be if anyone could hangout with a local while traveling? It affords you dependable advice about local haunts and hidden gems overlooked by guidebooks and, if you work it right, access to places that might otherwise be exclusive and inaccessible. And with that, Gibby Road was formed. “It’s not that you’re told where to go. You don't get a curated list of places to check out. It’s just a chance to go around with someone—whether you know the person or not—and it’s like having a friend of a friend who’s an expert," explains Winters. "There’s this idea of ‘come with me’ infused throughout the whole Gibby Road concept.” The site went live in in August with more than 100 local “gibbies” in three states. The guides sign up, explain the experience they offer, and provide a bio and their contact information on the website so that you can get in touch with them directly while deciding on whether to hire them. Fees are variable and range between $5 and $250. But the coolest thing about the site—and others like it—is that each individual offers highly specified tours, usually around a particular theme. You can go on a food tour in Brooklyn or San Francisco for instance, but there’s plenty that are more eccentric featuring places and things you likely didn’t know were a thing. In Detroit, for instance, you can go on a music tour with a longtime Detriot dweller and music industry vet. In Joshua Tree, CA, there’s a “surreal” art crawl with a local film producer featuring little known installations in the desert and a visit to Junk Dadaist, an outdoor museum. In Palos Verdes, CA, an adventure-loving ski instructor takes you to test drive a Tesla along the coast. Detroit’s every growing hipster haunts are the focus of a tour of the Motor City's increasingly vibrant Downtown.  “Going local trend that everybody is obsessed with. You even hear it from hotels that say ‘don’t be a tourist, live like a local,’ but that’s just four walls and a bed,” says co-founder Rachel Harrison. “What really allows you to be a local is actually interacting with and spending time with locals.” Gibby Road is very much a product of our time. After all, that “come with me” ethos that Ward describes is increasingly infused throughout most of the way we travel, from AirB&B to Uber and other rideshare services. In fact, thematic local-led tours are a growing trend.  Viator is the elder statesman of destination tourism, having launched in Sydney in 1995. It’s a bit more slick and glossy than the newer indie start-ups, having been acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014. It’s a network of more than 3,000 tour operators around the planet and its site is available in ten languages.  Vestigo, which launched in 2015, focuses on outdoor activities, from yoga to hiking to mountain biking. It’s largely offered in Georgia, where it was founded, and surrounding states.  Your Local Cousin is much broader in scope. Like Gibby Road, locals sign up to offer tourists tips and insight when they travel. There are over 1200 “cousins” in 250 cities in 110 countries. Unlike Gibby Road, it is not a marketplace for purchasing hours’ or days’ worth of time with a guide. (Many of its cousins are independent tour operators, though, so the connection could end up with the option of a private tour.) YLC's network of cousins is pretty broad and eccentric. There’s a fishing expert in Victoria Falls, Zambia, for instance, and an Olympic silver medalist in field hockey offering tips in Amsterdam, to name a few. YLC’s services are communication-based, allowing you to pick someone’s brain and answer your specific questions. You can connect with a Cousin over text (20 questions for $15) or communicate through the YLC platform (3 questions for $10). Have a phone conversation with a local to help you plan your trip (30 minutes for $15), or get a custom designed itinerary for one to 11 days ($25 to $60) to use as a guide as you explore a city on your own. “The best source of information is always a network of friends and family,” says co-founder Aarti Kanodia. “We have a family of 1200 locals who really help you explore the way you should. They're a way to get a deep dive in the city.” 

    Family

    12 Awe-Inspiring American Castles

    Who doesn't go a bit giddy at the sight of a castle? The good news is that you don't have to head to Europe for honest-to-goodness ones of the Cinderella variety—we have plenty right here in our own backyard. Railroad barons commissioned most of these estates, but at least one housed a legitimate king and queen (bet you didn't know this country had its own history of royalty!). Each is an engineering wonder in its own right, with some even constructed out of old-world castles that were shipped across the ocean. And each is open to tours should you decide to make a trip (a select few will even let you spend the night). Read this and you might just discover a side of America you never knew existed. SEE THE 12 AWE-INSPIRING CASTLES 1. GREY TOWERS CASTLE  Most colleges contend to be fortresses of learning, but Arcadia University in the suburbs north of Philadelphia can back it up with battlements acquired in 1929. Grey Towers was built by eclectic sugar refiner William Welsh Harrison between 1893 and 1898 and modeled after Northumberland's Alnwick Castle (a.k.a. the most archetypal expression of the medieval style). The 40 rooms wowed with gilded ceilings, tapestries, ornamental paintings, and hand-carved walnut and mahogany woodwork in styles from French Renaissance to Louis XV—and of course a Mirror Room—while secret passages behind fireplaces and underground tunnels. Self-guided tours of public areas are possible while classes are in session (the building now contains dorm rooms and administration offices). Free brochures outline the history. 450 South Easton Rd., Glenside, PA, 215/572-2900, arcadia.edu. 2.'IOLANI PALACE  Other properties on this list may be bigger and more lavish, but the 'Iolani Palace has one thing above them all: legitimacy. America's only true palace—as in, royalty resided here—was built from 1879 to 1882 by King Kalakua and Queen Kapi'olani. The goal was to enhance the prestige of modern Hawaii in a kind of Victorian-era keeping up with the Joneses. (The palace had electricity and a telephone even before the White House.) Stone-faced with plenty of koa wood inside, the two-floor American Florentine–style building includes a throne room, grand hall, and private suites, including the upstairs room where the queen was imprisoned for five months following the 1895 coup. Today, concerted efforts are underway to find artifacts and furniture (like the king's ebony and gilt bedroom set) that were auctioned off by the post-coup Provisional Government. 364 South King St., Honolulu, HI, 808/522-0832, iolanipalace.org. Admission $12, guided tour $20. 3. HAMMOND CASTLE  Like a modern-day Frankenstein's castle on Massachusetts's rocky Atlantic shore, Abbadia Mare (Abbey by the Sea) served as both home and laboratory for prolific inventor John Hayes Hammond Jr. after it was completed in 1929. Hammond is largely credited as the "Father of the Radio Control," as in tanks and planes and remote-controlled cars. He was also a lover of medieval art, and the castle was designed to showcase his collection. The building itself is a blend of 15th-, 16th-, and 18th-century styles, including a great hall with elaborate rose windows and pipe organ plus a courtyard featuring a two-story meat market/wine merchant's house brought over from southern France. And, yes, like any proper mad scientist, he made sure there were secret passageways. Self-guided tours are available along with annual Renaissance Faire fund-raisers, psychic gatherings, and spooky Halloween events. 80 Hesperus Ave., Gloucester, MA, 978/283-2080, hammondcastle.org. Admission $10. 4. FONTHILL CASTLE  Celebrating its centennial in 2012, the former home of industrialist-turned-archaeologist Henry Mercer is an ode to artisanship: All 44 rooms (10 bathrooms, five bedrooms, and 200 windows), 32 stairwells, 18 fireplaces, and 21 chimneys are hewn from hand-mixed reinforced concrete in a mishmash of medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine styles. Thousands of handcrafted ceramic tiles were inset throughout, including Mercer's own Moravian-style tiles plus Persian, Chinese, Spanish, and Dutch productions he collected. Today, the 60-acre Bucks County estate serves as a museum to pre-industrial life, with 900 American and European prints at Fonthill and even more artifacts (like a whale boat and Conestoga wagon) in its sister building, the Mercer Museum, a fun house–like six-story castle in its own right. East Court St. and Rt. 313, Doylestown, PA, 215/348-9461, mercermuseum.org. Admission $12. 5. CASTELLO DI AMOROSA  Word to the wise: Imbibe the cabernet sauvignon and pinot grigio at the Castello di Amorosa winery carefully, because somewhere in the 121,000-square-foot, 107-room, eight-level complex there's a dungeon with a functional Renaissance-era iron maiden. It took 14 years to construct the castle using historically accurate medieval building techniques. The end result is an "authentic" 12th- and 13th-century Tuscan castle with drawbridge and moat. The frescoes in the Great Hall and Knights' Chamber are hand-painted, some 8,000 tons of Napa Valley stone hand-chiseled, the Hapsburg-era bricks, hand-forged nails and chandeliers, and 500-year-old fireplace all tediously imported from Europe. That sense of awe? Very modern. 4045 N. St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA, 707/967-6272, castellodiamorosa.com. Admission $18, including wine tasting. 6. BOLDT CASTLE  What do you do when you come across a heart-shaped isle while vacationing with your wife in the Thousand Islands? If you're upstart industrialist George Boldt, you buy it and hire 300 stonemasons, carpenters, and artists to build a six-story, 120-room testament to your love. There were Italian gardens, a dove-cote, and a turreted powerhouse, plus all the imported Italian marble, French silks, and Oriental rugs money could buy. But when his wife Louise died in 1904, the heartbroken Boldt ceased construction on the Rhineland-style Taj Mahal and left it to the elements for 73 years. Today, tourists can visit from May to October for self-guided tours—or book a wedding in the stone gazebo. +44° 20' 40.29" N, -75° 55' 21.27" W, Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY, 315/482-9724, boldtcastle.com. Admission $8. 7. GILLETTE CASTLE  It's elementary: Get famous (and rich) by playing Sherlock Holmes on the stage; build your own Baskerville Hall. Pet project of campy eccentric William Hooker Gillette, the 24-room castle was completed in 1919 by a crew of 20 men over five years using the actor/playwright's own drafts and designs. It's also the focal point of his 184-acre Seventh Sister estate, a forested bluff overlooking the Connecticut River. Outside, the local fieldstone reads like crumbling medieval; inside, the built-in couches, curious detailing, and inventive hand-carved southern white oak woodwork is all arts and crafts. As for cat images? There are 60. (Gillette had 17 feline friends.) Gillette Castle State Park, 67 River Rd., East Haddam, CT, 860/526-2336, ct.gov. Grounds open year-round; interior tours available Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Admission $6. 8. OHEKA CASTLE  Second behind Asheville's Biltmore as the largest private estate in the nation, OHEKA—an acronym of Otto Herman Kahn, its millionaire financier original owner—ended up abandoned in the late 1970s and sustained extensive damage from fires, vandals, and neglect. After a 20-year renovation, it's back in form and is now a 32-room luxury hotel. Think Downton Abbey just an hour from Manhattan (themed packages available), or for that matter, Citizen Kane (photos of it were used in the film). Originally set on 443 acres, massive tons of earth were moved to make the hilltop location of the 127-room, 109,000-square-foot manse the highest point in Long Island. The Olmsted Brothers planned the formal gardens, the Grand Staircase was inspired by Fontainebleau's famous exterior one, and 126 servants tended to the six-person family when they came for weekends and summers. The 1919 price tag: $11 million. That's $110 million in today's money. Sounds about right for a man whose likeness inspired Mr. Monopoly. 135 West Gate Dr., Huntington, NY, 631/659-1400, oheka.com. Admission $25. Double rooms from $395 per night. Guided tours available. 9. BISHOP'S PALACE  Of all the Gilded Age Victorians built by Nicholas Clayton along Galveston's Gulf Coast, the Bishop's Palace (née Gresham Castle, 1893, after its original owner, Santa Fe railroad magnate Walther Gresham) remains the grandest—and not just because its steel and stone hulk survived the Great Storm of 1900. Its small lot and oversized proportions with château-esque detailing of steeply peaked rooflines and sculptural chimneys still dominate the street, while inside the 14-foot coffered ceilings, 40-foot octagonal mahogany stairwell, stained glass, plaster carvings, and Sienna marble columns exude richness. Keep a lookout for the bronze dragon sculptures. After serving as a Catholic bishop's residence for 50 years, the house is now open for tours. Book a private guide to see the usually off-limits third floor. 1402 Broadway, Galveston, TX, 409/762-2475, galveston.com. Admission $10, private tours from $50. 10. CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS  Location, location, location—as important in castles to fending off conquers as forgetting Gilded Age woes. And for millionaire shoe baron Thomas Plant, that meant setting his 1914 Lucknow Estate (named after the Indian city he loved) on the rim of an extinct caldera high in the Ossipee Mountains with unbroken views over 6,300 private acres of woods and lakes. The mansion by comparison is relatively subdued: A mere 16 rooms, it's practically minuscule compared to the other castles on this list. Throughout, the arts and crafts philosophy of artisanship and living in harmony with nature is expressed in the stone walls, inventive handiwork like the jigsaw floor in the kitchen, and functional decor that eschews ostentation—all planned at Plant's 5-foot-4 height—plus a few technological innovations like a needle shower, self-cleaning oven, brine fridge, and central-vacuuming system. Much remains wholly preserved today. Route 171, 455 Old Mountain Rd., Moultonborough, NH, 603/476-5900, castleintheclouds.org. Admission $16. 11. THORNEWOOD CASTLE  It's not every day Stephen King chooses your luxury B&B as setting for his haunted-house TV miniseries Rose Red. Then again it's not every day that a 400-year-old Elizabethan manor house is dismantled brick-by-brick and shipped round Cape Horn to be incorporated into an English Tudor Gothic castle in the Pacific Northwest, as Thornewood was from 1908 to 1911. The property was a gift from Chester Thorne, one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma, to his wife and apropos of its origin, the 54-room castle is now a prime wedding venue, with antiques and artwork galore plus an Olmsted Brothers–designed garden and three acres of fir-dotted grounds overlooking American Lake. Book a room to get an inside look at the building; there are also tours and events that are occasionally open to the public. 8601 N. Thorne Lane Southwest, Lakewood, WA, 253/584-4393, thornewoodcastle.com. Double rooms from $300 per night. 12. HEARST CASTLE  Understatement of the millennium: William Randolph Hearst's 1919 directive to architect Julia Morgan to "build a little something" on his ranch in San Simeon. Then again, a 115-room "Casa Grande" inspired by a Spanish cathedral is a relatively modest proposition compared to the 250,000 acres and the 13 miles of coastline it's set on. It's when you add in the three additional Mediterranean Revival guesthouses (46 more rooms total), 127 acres of gardens, the Neptune pool with authentic Roman temple pediment, the zoo with roaming reindeer and zebra, Egyptian Sekhmet statues on the terraces, and the private airstrip that things get a bit over-the-top. Magnificent doesn't begin to describe the museum-quality artwork, which drove the architecture as much as anything, from Renaissance statuary to Gothic tapestries and entire ceilings, nor the palatial scale of the publishing magnate's vision for "La Cuesta Encantada" (The Enchanted Hill)—still unfinished upon his death in 1951. 750 Hearst Castle Rd., San Simeon, CA, 800/444-4445, hearstcastle.org. Admission from $25.

    Adventure

    12 Most Extreme Places in America

    The United States has always been a land of extremes. European explorers were staggered by the sheer vastness of the land, and generations of immigrants have arrived here with the biggest dreams imaginable. We decided to dig in and explore America's highest highs, lowest lows, and a number of other extremes (quick: how many people live in America's smallest town?). Here, a dozen of our favorite points that embody our nation's capacity for wonder—plus tips for actually getting to these amazing destinations, some of which can require a plane trip and a rental car. SEE THE EXTREMES! 1. HOTTEST COMMUNITY: LAKE HAVASU CITY, ARIZONA  Death Valley may be the most scorching spot in America, with temperatures that can reach 130 degrees F, but Lake Havasu City in Arizona earns the gold star for the hottest place where lots of people actually live. The town is home to more than 50,000 residents, all of whom have found a way to survive summer temperatures that regularly top 100 degrees F and can reach as high as the 120s. What keeps folks here is what also draws thousands of visitors, including 45 miles of lakefront for boating, fishing (blue gill and crappie are anglers' favorites here), and hiking amid volcanic rock, sparkling geodes, and other desert formations. Lake Havasu also boasts two unexpected attractions: It is home to more than a dozen 1/3 scale miniature lighthouses that dot the lake's shores, and London Bridge, purchased in 1968 from the City of London for more than $2 million, shipped more than 5,000 miles, and reassembled in Arizona. The bridge is now the second-most-popular tourist site in the state, after the Grand Canyon. Get there: Las Vegas is the nearest major airport, about 150 miles from Lake Havasu City; round-trip flights on Delta from New York City start at $338. London Bridge Resort offers condo-style suites, three restaurants, a beach bar, and a pool (1477 Queens Bay, Lake Havasu City, londonbridgeresort.com, doubles from $95). 2. EASTERNMOST POINT: ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS  United States territories are surprisingly globe-spanning, and the nod for easternmost point goes not to the Maine coast but to tiny St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That means that, without a passport, you can immerse yourself in a culture that blends Caribbean, Dutch, French, British, Spanish, and Danish influences all in a package less than 23 miles long and eight miles wide. With all the expected to-dos you associate with an island paradise (swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, fine dining, and golf), St. Croix also offers the old-world architecture of Christiansted, with homes dating back to the 18th century, and a "rain forest" near the western shore. (It's not technically a rain forest, but private land open to visitors, with a bounty of tropical flora and colorful hummingbirds, warblers, and other birds.) Get there: Round-trip flights on American Airlines from New York City start at $359. Hotel Caravelle is near Christiansted's historical sites and has a restaurant, bar, outdoor pool, and spa onsite (44A Queen Cross St., Christiansted, hotelcaravelle.com, doubles from $136). 3. COLDEST COMMUNITY: FAIRBANKS, ARKANSAS  With average winter temperatures below -5 and highs only in the mid-40s, you may wonder what draws visitors to Fairbanks. Sure, the city's population is warm and welcoming and its gold rush history is still tangible in sites such as the Pioneer Museum, with its dioramas and murals. But most tourists are here to see the Aurora Borealis. Also known as the Northern Lights, the aurora will be at its peak in 2013 due to heavy sunspot activity at the end of an 11-year cycle, producing the appearance of crackling skies filled with bright blue, green, and red patterns for more than 200 nights over the course of the year. August through April is primetime for aurora-viewing, and if you spend three nights in Fairbanks you have about an 80 percent chance of a clear night. Ask your hotel if it offers middle-of-the-night wake-up calls to rouse you in time to see a display. Get there: Round-trip flights on Alaska Airlines from San Francisco start at $937. When you're ready to warm up in the "great indoors," the Hampton Inn and Suites offers welcome amenities like Cloud Nine beds, complimentary breakfast, and a pool and fitness center (433 Harold Bentley Ave., hamptoninn.hilton.com, doubles from $104). 4. WESTERNMOST POINT: AMERICAN SAMOA  Most of us are stunned to realize that the U.S. territories extend west of French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Easy to miss on the globe, American Samoa rewards those who are intrepid enough to make the trip with towering mountains, gentle waters, and friendly locals who will actually serenade you (and invite you to sing along) on their buses. With a population of fewer than 65,000, you'll also find elbow room on white-sand beaches such as the 2.5-mile-long Ofu Beach, the 5,000-plus-acre National Park of American Samoa and its rain forest birds, and the major town, Pago Pago. Visit during the dry season, May through October, and, because the only direct flights to American Samoa are from Samoa and Honolulu, consider making this destination just one stop on a South Pacific excursion. Get there: Round-trip flights on Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu start at $937. The Tradewinds Hotel in Pago Pago offers access to sites such as the iconic Leone Church and Mount Alava. Guests can also enjoy the onsite pool and fitness center, coffee shop, and complimentary breakfast (Main Road, Pago Pago, tradewinds.as, doubles from $140). 5. HIGHEST POINT: MOUNT MCKINLEY, DENALI NATIONAL PARK, ARKANSAS  Denali National Park would be an extraordinary destination even if weren't home to the tallest peak in North America, 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. The park comprises 6 million acres that most visitors navigate via 92-mile-long Park Road, which parallels the stunning Alaska Range and allows access to a number of visitors' centers and six campgrounds. The park even has its own Big Five, a North American variation on the popular African safari hit list: If you're lucky, you'll spot moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. Although the park is open year-round, most people visit from mid-May to mid-September, when most visitors' centers are open, offering ranger talks and other interactive education programs.  Summer bus tours are a convenient way to experience highlights of the park, including interpretive trails, scenic overlooks, and education programs. More ambitious travelers can learn about backpacking, dogsledding, and mountaineering opportunities at nps.gov/denali. Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from San Francisco to Anchorage (about 150 miles from Denali National Park) start at $540. The Denali Perch Resort is located 13 miles outside the park (for Alaskans, that's next door) and offers two restaurants, a free area shuttle service, assistance with tours and tickets, and rooms have either river or mountain views (Mile 224 George Parks Highway, 907/683-2523, doubles from $125). 6. LOWEST PLACE: DEATH VALLEY, CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA  Death Valley is not only the lowest point in the United States—its Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level—but also the hottest and the driest. This stretch of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in California and Nevada is known for temperatures in the 100s for five months out of the year (the record high was 134 degrees, in 1913), unexpected deluges that bring fields of wildflowers, and, in winter, snow that can be seen dusting the higher peaks surrounding the valley. That's not to say it isn't a popular tourist destination. On the contrary, unique (and wildly diverse) attractions such as hikers' mecca Golden Canyon and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes make Death Valley a one-of-a-kind destination that's totally worth the trek. Explore Death Valley National Park via nps.gov/deva before you arrive—it's an excellent site that will help you choose among the varied offerings of this forbidding but beautiful place. Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from New York to Las Vegas, about 130 miles from Death Valley, start at $338. Stovepipe Wells Village offers basic rooms with air-conditioning (vital here!) and an onsite restaurant (Highway 190, Death Valley National Park, escapetodeathvalley.com, doubles from $95). 7. OLDEST COMMUNITY: ACOMA, NEW MEXICO Here in the U.S., we run the risk of applying the word tradition to institutions, such as the Super Bowl, that are less than 50 years old. So Acoma, NM, comes as a surprise to many. This community, which was originally settled by Native Americans, dates back to 1150, placing it squarely in the company of some of the oldest of old-world sites, such as medieval European cathedrals. About an hour's drive from Albuquerque, visit the Sky City Cultural Center for guided tours of an ancient pueblo on a sandstone bluff, explore the Acoma Pueblo Indian Museum, shop for traditional Native American crafts at the tribal-operated Gaits'I Gallery, and if gaming is your thing drop by the Sky City Casino Hotel for slots and table games. Get there: Round-trip flights on American Airlines from Chicago to Albuquerque start at $450. Sky City Casino and Hotel has an onsite restaurant, fitness facility, and spa (Acoma Village, skycitycasino.com, doubles from $84). 8. BIGGEST CITY: NEW YORK CITY  New York has been the most populous city in the U.S. since the first census was taken in 1790, but it wasn't until the inauguration of the Erie Canal in 1825 that its numbers really took off, nearly tripling by 1840. By connecting the Hudson River to Lake Erie, the waterway ushered in a new era in trade that rocketed the city to the economic preeminence it enjoys to this day. For visitors, that prosperity translates into unparalleled art collections, theater, music, and cuisine. And while world-class museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim can come with a hefty suggested donation, New York also offers some of the choicest low-cost—or free— attractions anywhere in the world, including holiday department-store displays, the immense Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and public skating rinks in several locations, including cozy Bryant Park, right in Midtown. Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from Atlanta start at $254. The Jane Hotel is right on the Hudson River in the bustling, vibrant West Village; its bunk-bed "cabin" room is incredibly reasonable by NYC standards (113 Jane St., thejanenyc.com, doubles from $125). 9. SMALLEST TOWN: BUFORD, WYOMING  It doesn't get any smaller than Buford. Why? Because the town has only one resident, Don Simmons, the proprietor of The Buford Trading Post, a gas station and convenience store. If you're making a cross-country road trip on Interstate 80, it's worth stopping in Buford (between Cheyenne and Laramie) just to say hi, and to tell the folks back home that you've seen it. And since the town was purchased in an auction in September, it's not clear how long it will hold its title. Looking to do more than just pass through Buford? Nearby Vedauwoo State Park offers a breathtaking mountain landscape that flatlanders back east would die for. Get there: Well, you're not going to fly to Wyoming just to see little Buford, but round-trip flights on Frontier from San Francisco to Cheyenne, about 30 miles away, start at $478. Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites Cheyenne has an indoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and is near the historic Wyoming State Capitol (1741 Fleischli Parkway, hiexpress.com, doubles from $109). 10. BIRTHPLACE OF MOST PRESIDENTS: VIRGINIA  While most grade-school students know that four of the first five presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe) were born in Virginia, the list goes on: Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson also entered the world in the Old Dominion. That historical density is reflected in the variety of amazing attractions you can find in Virginia, including historic downtown Richmond, the re-created colonial town of Williamsburg, Washington's estate at Mount Vernon, the home Jefferson designed for himself at Monticello, the National Cemetery at Arlington (on the grounds of what was once Confederate General Robert E. Lee's estate), and such Civil War battlefields as Manassas and Fredericksburg. Get there: Round-trip flights on United AirTran from St. Louis to Norfolk (near Colonial Williamsburg) start at $491. Crowne Plaza Williamsburg was built on the Fort Magruder battleground and is walking distance to Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement; indoor and outdoor pools provide a welcome break from theme-park and historic-site frenzy (6945 Pocahontas Trail, crowneplaza.com, doubles from $99). 11. BIGGEST LAKE: LAKE SUPERIOR  With an area of nearly 32,000 square miles, Lake Superior is not only the largest lake in the United States but also the largest freshwater lake in the world. Bounded by Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this northernmost and westernmost of the Great Lakes was carved by glaciers 10,000 years ago and is so big (roughly the size of South Carolina) that it has its own climate, more akin to a coastal region than one so far inland. Among many beautiful parks and beaches along the lake's shores, Isle Royale National Park is perhaps the standout, with world-class canoe and kayak routes, hiking, and even scuba diving the lake's depths. Visit nps.gov/isro to start planning your visit. Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from New York to Detroit, start at $288. Rock Island Lodge is a bit of a splurge, but it's inside the Isle Royale National Park and offers unparalleled access to the park's activities (Isle Royale, reachable by ferry from Houghton, MI, rockharborlodge.com, cottages from $223). 12. BIGGEST RIVER: MISSISSIPPI RIVER At 2,320 miles long, the Mississippi flows from Lake Itasca, in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, passing through or bordering 10 states and draining water from 31 between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Range. While there are a number of major cities along the river, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis, and Memphis, if you have to choose just one Mississippi River destination, head down to the river's mouth, to New Orleans, for authentic jazz at Preservation Hall, a ride on one of the city's historic streetcars, the unique cuisine and party scene in the French Quarter, and, this winter, the Super Bowl. Get there: Round-trip flights on United AirTran from Los Angeles start at $423. The French Market Inn is walking distance from Bourbon Street and includes an onsite coffee shop (501 Decatur St., frenchmarketinn.com, doubles from $132).

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