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10 wild and tasty North American food trails
Eating locally is a delicious way to enjoy your travels. But some corners of the United States and Canada offer more direct routes to falling for regional fare: food trails. Sure, there are food trails that are familiar for their states. (We’re looking at you, Wisconsin Cheese Tour and New York’s Buffalo Wing Trail!) This list, on the other hand, will direct you to 10 food-loving paths where eccentric and scrumptious tastes converge. 1. Cajun Boudin Trail, Louisiana Southern Louisiana serves up several culinary-trail choices, which take travelers along the I-10 and LA-90 corridors for specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, alligator, and crawfish. But even more homegrown is the Cajun Boudin Trail, centered around Lafayette. Pronounced “boo-dan,” boudin is a sausage filled with meat, rice, and herbs that’s served across bayou country. The boudin trail will lead you to markets and restaurants to taste the best locally made links – plus other savories like fried boudin balls, cracklin (fried pork skin), smoked meats, and more. Bonus: Visit in October and fill up at Lafayette’s annual Boudin Cookoff. 2. Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, New Mexico You may wonder what’s so special about a burger topped with cheese and chiles that it’s earned its own food trail. One bite of this juicy New Mexican specialty, however, should answer your question. When it comes to the magical flavor formula of salt, fat, acid, and heat, the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail has it all (including plenty of other chile-licious dishes). Navigate with the state-wide interactive map to tickle your taste buds with green-chile burgers from Taos down to Las Cruces. 3. Country Ham Trail, Kentucky You wouldn’t be wrong to think of Kentucky for its Bourbon Trail or even its Fried-Chicken Trail. But the simply delicious Country Ham Trail is the state’s showcase for producers who have been curing ham for more than a century (sometimes inside bourbon rickhouses, for even more local flavor). Better still, visit the trail in September as it leads to Marion County’s annual Country Ham Days food and music festival. 4. Nova Scotia Chowder Trail, Canada Atlantic Canada is easily one of the continent’s best seafood regions. And while the Lobster Trail is sure to impress travelers, Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail leads to nearly 60 unforgettable chowder houses across the province. Let the interactive map guide you to the best bowls from Halifax to Cape Breton and beyond, and don’t forget your “chowder passport” to earn stamps along the way. 5. Tehama Trail, California Northern California is famous for wine. But drive north towards Redding and Shasta Cascade to discover the riches of the Northern Sacramento Valley along the Tehama Trail – where olives and olive oil are beautifully cultivated. Starting from the town of Corning, the trail leads to some of America’s best olive farms, many of them with tasting rooms to sample artisanal oils, vinegars, and all manner of olives. Don’t miss the region’s honeys, pies, fresh produce, and, of course, spectacular wines. 6. Lowcountry Oyster Trail, South Carolina Come for the scenery, stay for the sea-to-fork riches. The famous bivalves of South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry region anchor this oyster trail, where travelers can sample every type of preparation – from fried to Oysters Rockefeller to raw on the half-shell. Find a handy map with suggested itineraries on the Lowcountry Oyster Trail site, covering oyster farms, shucking facilities, and oh-so-many great seafood restaurants, some serving oyster-loving craft-beer and wine pairings. 7. Richmond Dumpling Trail, British Columbia, Canada Neighboring Vancouver is the city of Richmond, where Asian cuisine is abundant, and so delicious it may be the best on this side of the Pacific. Dumplings stand out in particular, making the official Richmond Dumpling Trail one of British Columbia’s gastronomic highlights. With the help of the trail website, you’ll learn about types of dumplings, best times of day to enjoy dim sum, and which restaurant-crawl itinerary is going to lead to the most satisfying dumplings for your eager chopsticks. 8. Fruit Loop, Oregon For 35 miles, travelers to Hood River County can get loopy tasting the natural bounty of 17 farm stands, 10 wineries, three cideries, six berry farms, and two lavender farms. They’re all on the Fruit Loop, which marks its 27th anniversary in 2020. Download a map for easy touring by car or bike, then plan to take in the seasonal produce and year-round bites and beverages found only in central Oregon. Pick up a brochure at any site, get stamped at 14 farm stands, and get a Fruit Loop bag to help tote your edible souvenirs. 9. Tenderloin Trail, Indiana Save your calories for this Hamilton County food trail, showcasing a mighty indulgent staple of the Hoosier State. Behold the tenderloin sandwich, composed of an oversized slice of pork that’s been pounded, breaded, and deep fried, and usually served on a comically small bun with burger fixings. (You can try grilled too, but why would you?) With the help of the trail’s online map, you can try more than 50 restaurants serving up this Indianan classic, and print your own Tenderloin Trail passport for July’s annual Tenderloin Tuesday specials. 10. A to Z Foodie Trail, Iowa Pella, Iowa, may be a small town, but its bursting with tasty delights. So many that the region offers an A-to-Z Foodie Trail to showcase 26 different dishes and drinks unique to Marion and Mahaska Counties (southeast of Des Moines). The trail is a top tourist activity, guiding hungry travelers to sample a bevy of local foods, from apple pie at Pella Nursery and gouda cheese curds at Frisian Farms; to pigs in the blanket at Vander Pleog Bakery and Yoga Poser Pale Ale at Nocoast Beer Co.
6 Great Places for Cool Winter Fun
From skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing, tubing, and fat-tire biking, America's winter athletes are spoiled for choice, while those who prefer a less intense approach are often left out in the cold. Well, no more. We’ve found some great ways to enjoy the season without breaking too much of a sweat—and all of our picks have the usual options too, so we've got you covered, whether you’re looking to take a break from the slopes or build a trip around something a bit more unconventional. Either way, you’ll earn that hot chocolate. 1. Colorado (Courtesy Ice Castles LLC) Areas like Aspen and Vail get lots of love from the ski-bum contingent, but there’s more to Colorado than its primo powder. The adventurous can learn a new sport here, like ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park (ourayicepark.com), while cautious travelers can enjoy activities like a snowcat adventure at Breckenridge Nordic Center (breckenridgenordic.com), an evening excursion that lets you take in the scenery from the vehicle's heated glass cabin, with a stop for s’mores and hot chocolate along the way. If you don't mind the cold, the town of Dillon’s Ice Castles (icecastles.com) are not to be missed. A frozen phenomenon hand-made by a team of professional ice artists, the castles feature everything from LED-lit sculptures to ice-carved tunnels, slides, fountains, and frozen thrones. Open seasonally, each castle takes about two months to make and utilizes anywhere from 5,0000 to 12,000 icicles; the finished structure covers an entire acre, weighing in at more than 25 million pounds. 2. Utah (Courtesy Sundance Mountain Resort) With its glorious national parks and a stunning array of premiere skiing destinations, it’s no wonder the Beehive State has one of the best sports-participation rates in the country. Like-minded visitors will find no shortage of opportunities to jump into the fray, and there’s low-key fun to be had as well. At Sundance Mountain Resort (sundanceresort.com), take in nearly 4,000 feet of scenery from the zip line, do some fly-fishing on the Provo River, or, for something unique, sign up for a Night Owling session. Under the guidance of a wildlife expert, you’ll meet live owls and learn about the local flora and fauna, then take a snowshoe tour around Mount Timpanogos to call and track down those wise creatures in the wild. At the Park City resort (parkcitymountain.com), guests can check out the state’s largest alpine coaster, a thrill-a-minute ride that winds through snow banks at speeds of up to 30 mph, or stick with the simple pleasures and cozy up under a blanket for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Visit on the weekend to enjoy an après ski concert and, on the first Friday of the month, a gorgeous alpine fireworks display. In Ogden, tour the New World Distillery (newworlddistillery.com) and sample the small-batch gin, vodka, and agave spirits (the tart-cherry liquor is especially tempting), and get out some aggression with an axe-throwing outing (socialaxethrowing.com)—though please, not in that order. Explore the nearby dark-sky park, one of 12 in the state, via bike, snowshoes, or cross-country skis, or opt for an even closer look. As of January, stargazers can take in the cosmos at the Compass Rose Lodge (compassroselodge.com), a 15-room boutique property that doubles as an observatory, thanks to a 16-inch aperture Ritchey-Chretien-style telescope that allows guests to sneak a peek at Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s moons, not to mention galaxies, nebulae, and globular clusters. 3. Alaska (Joe Sohm/Dreamstime) When it comes to traditional winter fun, the 49th state is hard to beat. Action-oriented specialty tours abound—think: fat-bike excursions in Willow, from operators like Snowhook Adventure Guides and Alaska Trail Guides; guided snowmobile tours in the Glacier View area, from Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours and Sheep Mountain Lodge; and biologist-led nature hikes and snowshoe tours on the outskirts of Fairbanks, from Leaf Out Nature Guides—but for our money, the northern lights are where it’s at. Explore Denali by day and book in at Tonglen Lake Lodge (tonglenlake.com) for evenings of unfiltered aurora borealis views from the communal deck, or head to the interior for a more private scene, courtesy of Borealis Basecamp (borealisbasecamp.net), where the igloo-style accommodations come with clear ceilings so you can watch the show from the comfort of your bed. Before you head out into the wilderness, learn to capture the night sky for posterity with a photography workshop from Aurora Bear (aurora-bear.com), near Fairbanks, then head south to toast to your newfound talents at Arctic Harvest (akgrownspirits.com), a farm-to-bottle distillery outside of North Pole that offers tours, tastings, cocktails, and more on its family-run farm. 4. Big Sky, Montana (Courtesy Big Sky Resort) Given its location in the mountains of Montana, just an hour northwest of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky's (bigskyresort.com) great skiing isn’t a surprise, but the resort’s lesser-known pursuits are a happy discovery. For a bird’s-eye view, strap on the snowshoes and trek up to the nature zipline, where you’ll traverse a bucolic, snow-covered gully from heights of 30 to 50 feet. Other ways to achieve lift-off include a second zipline, which is faster and longer, as well as a bungee trampoline and a giant swing. For more grounded options, look off-property, where you can enjoy an old-fashioned sleigh ride, strap in behind a team of huskies for a dog-sledding excursion, or arrange for a snowmobile tour of Yellowstone’s highlights, including Old Faithful, through a third-party operator. Closer to home, you can spend a Saturday evening around the campfire as the slopes close, scarfing down s’mores and watching the ski-patrol rescue dogs show off their skills. (Pro-tip: If you are planning on getting in a few runs while you're here, be sure to get your lift passes in advance—you'll get the best rates if you buy early.) 5. Redding, California (Courtesy National Park Service) If you enjoy the great outdoors, summertime in the Shasta Cascades is pretty much paradise, with hiking, fishing, and water sports galore. But it’s just as magical in December, when its snow-covered peaks offer access to skiing, snowtubing, and snowmobiling. Intrepid explorers should visit Lassen Volcanic National Park (nps.gov/lavo), where they can go backcountry skiing (proper avalanche gear required) or take a ranger-led snowshoe tour on the park’s active volcano. Still on the strenuous side but slightly lower impact, the ice-cave tour at Lava Beds National Monument (nps.gov/labe) is a weekly, three-hour outing that shows off the Cristal Ice Cave’s most dazzling formations (above). You’ll have to haul yourself up a sheer, sloped, icy floor by a rope, pull yourself through a tight hole, and navigate shaky, rocky floors with patches of ice, but if you can make it through, the payoff is well worth it. 6. White Mountains, New Hampshire (Courtesy Sarah Miller/Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel) Skiers and snowboarders know to hit New Hampshire’s White Mountains for fresh powder and challenging runs, but there’s plenty here to keep everyone else occupied too. The Mt. Washington Auto Road (mtwashingtonautoroad.com) reaches breathtaking heights at any time of year; hitch a ride to the treeline for a glimpse of the wintery wonderland at 4,200 feet. Try Great Glen Trails (greatglentrails.com) for snow tubing and miles of snowshoeing, check in at Loon Mountain Adventure Center (loonmtn.com) for ziplining and ice skating, or take a guided snowmobile tour with an operator like SledVentures, Northeast Snowmobile, or Northern Extremes Snowmobiling. But the real showstopper here has four legs: Muddy Paw Dog Sled Kennel (dogslednh.com) offers dog sledding, with proceeds going toward the care and upkeep of the organization’s 80-plus canines. Take a guided tour and interact with the pups, getting them ready for the trail, hooking them up to the sleds, and giving them some love afterwards—belly rubs most definitely welcome.
9 California Food & Beverage Makers to Visit in 2019
We live in an era practically defined by entrepreneurship, and as we see it, some of the most exciting businesses are popping up in the food-and-beverage sector. While we love going to see where and how some of America's most iconic food brands are produced, we appreciate the personal touches that make independent creators so special, and California in particular is an embarrassment of riches. Here are some of our favorite destination-worthy small-batch producers in the state. 1. Lucero Olive Oil: Corning (Maya Stanton) In northern California, a straight shot south of Redding on I-5, you’ll find Corning, a small rural community where olives are the name of the game. The largest table-olive producer and the largest ripe-olive processor in the country, Bell-Carter Foods, is based here, but so is Lucero, a small, highly decorated operation turning out some of the best extra-virgin olive oil this side of the Mediterranean. Stop in for a look at the factory floor, and stay for a tasting and sample the wares (they import and flavor balsamic vinegars from Modena as well, traditional and fruit-flavored). You can choose from a basic introductory tour ($5), held twice daily; an hour-long Explorer Tour ($20; book in advance) that digs deeper into the olive-oil-making process and includes food pairings; and the two-hour Connoisseur Experience ($50; book in advance), which offers a peek at the olive mill as well as extensive pairing options. But no matter which you choose, hit the shop afterwards. With a wall of dispensers providing even more tastes of the merchandise, a selection of olive-wood tableware and accessories, and a plethora of carry-on-size bottles for purchase, you won’t be leaving empty-handed. 2120 Loleta Avenue, Corning; 877-330-2190; lucerooliveoil.com. 2. Journeyman Meat Co.: Healdsburg (Courtesy Richard Knapp) When Sonoma County winemaker Pete Seghesio gave up his vineyard and turned his attention to artisanal salumi, he wasn’t going in with his eyes closed. The grandson of 19th-century Italian immigrants, the meat business was in his blood: A great-grandfather was a butcher, and his father taught him to make fresh sausage and cured meats from the family’s farm-raised hogs at a young age. He got serious about the craft in 2012, spending time in Tuscany training under renowned butcher Dario Cecchini before opening Journeyman Meat Co. five years later. Today, you can buy Seghesio’s masterful finocchiona, soppressata, and chorizo online, but if you’re in the area, the butchery, salumeria, and wine tasting shop in Healdsburg is worth a visit. Set inside a retrofitted post office just north of the town’s main square, it features a rotating menu of wood-fired pizzas, house-made sausages and hot dogs, and, of course, an array of salumi boards, all paired with local Sonoma County wines. 404 Center Street, Healdsburg; 707-395-6328; journeymanmeat.com. 3. La Zamorana Candy Co.: Los Angeles Since 1957, the La Zamorana Candy Company has been turning out traditional Mexican candy using generations-old recipes in a small kitchen in East L.A. The family-owned-and-run business is known for its tarugos (sugar-coated tamarind-pulp candies), cocadas horneadas (baked macaroon-like coconut candies), milk fudge, and more. The candy is sold in Latin markets throughout the area, but to get a glimpse at traditional Mexican candy-making methods, visit the factory, which doubles as a shrine to old-time confectionery and clever modern-day resourcefulness. (A hand-operated slicer, for instance, was built with steel guitar strings that serve as blades.) Stop by and watch the magic happen. 7100 Wilson Ave, Los Angeles; 323-261-1817; zamoranacandy.com 4. Saltroot Café: San Francisco (Courtesy Saltroot Café) When John Goyert and Juliana Okada moved from Brazil to San Francisco a few years ago, they brought something delicious with them: a recipe for pão de queijo, that cheesy, chewy popover that could unofficially be considered the country’s national snack. The husband-and-wife team set up shop in the Outer Sunset neighborhood and opened their tiny cafe in 2017. In addition to stand-out pão de queijo in varieties both traditional (Parmesan) and non (guava), they serve a stellar selection of empanadas, green juices, coffee, and tea. Order a drink and watch them work while you wait; the production table and bread warmer are visible from the register, and the owners welcome the chance to talk about their craft. You’ll get a complimentary pão de queijo with your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, but they’re also available to purchase individually or by the bag, frozen, to take away and bake yourself. 2960 Clement Street, San Francisco; 415-663-6226; saltroot.com. 5. The Heart & Trotter: San Diego What began as two carnivorous friends’ Kickstarter campaign in 2013 has become a San Diego go-to for meats and a variety of gourmet provisions, primarily locally made food like jerky, mustard, and pickles and dairy items like cheese and butter. Since it opened in 2015, The Heart & Trotter has specialized in antibiotic- and hormone-free local meats and eggs. It’s a whole-animal butchery, so expect to find house-made sausages, paté, and rillettes alongside unconventional cuts (to wit, bavette, which is close to a hanger steak in terms of where it sits on the animal’s body, but less pricey). For lessons in how to put nose-to-tail practices into play, they offer demos and classes. Or just stop by for a generously stacked sandwich or charcuterie plate. Pro tip: the meat arrives from local farms in the morning, so if you get there early enough, you can catch the butchering in action. 2855 El Cajon Boulevard #1, San Diego; 619-564-8976; theheartandtrotter.com 6. California Cheese Trail: Compton to Crescent City (Courtesy Mike Larson/StepladdderCreamery.com) There are so many cheesemakers in California that it’d be impossible to pick just one—and luckily, you don’t have to. Discover the state’s dairy delights with the California Cheese Trail (cheesetrail.org), a self-guided tour created by Petaluma resident Vivien Straus, a cheese enthusiast who co-owns and manages a family dairy in Marshall. Choose from a suggested itinerary, or create your own, selecting a region and hitting the locations that are open for tours and tastings. In Marin County, Straus recommends Ramini Mozzarella (raminimozzarella.com), one of the only water-buffalo dairies in the country. The mozz is the draw, but animal-loving visitors can also get hands-on with the livestock: Water buffaloes, as it turns out, love to be groomed. “They literally curl their tails when brushed, then collapse in ecstasy,” Straus says. “It’s such a bizarre thing to see. Quite unique.” Further south, in Cambria on the Central Coast, Stepladder Creamery (stepladdercreamery.com) keeps a herd of LaMancha goats for its small-scale cheeses, alongside heritage pigs, black Angus cattle, and rows of Hass avocado trees on a third-generation family ranch. The creamery is open for tours by appointment, and not only are the cheeses available for purchase, you can also take home the farm’s honey, beef, pork, and avocados. “Delicious cheese!” says Straus. 7. Le Marcel Dog Bakery: San Francisco (Courtesy lemarceldogbakery.com) Canine travel companions deserve special treats, too! Established in 1998, dog bakery Le Marcel makes everything on its shelves from scratch—think pastries like “pupcakes” and “terrier-misu” and cookies shaped like cats and fetching sticks. If they've been especially good puppers, order ahead for a peanut butter special-occasion cake, and pick up a bag or two of packaged treats ("muttaroons," anyone?) for the road while you’re at it. Go ahead, throw that dog a bone. 2066 Union Street, San Francisco; 877-349-9199; lemarceldogbakery.com. 8. Chocovivo: Los Angeles (Courtesy Chocovivo) “Farm to table” and “grape to glass” have become part of the lingua franca for restaurants, food producers, and curious diners. Now “bean to bar” is becoming a more recognized term when it comes to chocolate-making. Choco Vivo, an airy, rustic-chic café with communal tables, features a chocolate-making facility specializing in bean-to-bar items, offering only dark-chocolate bars (no milk powder, soy lecithin, or any other additives or preservatives) and other simply made treats. Owner and chocolatier Patricia Tsai sources her beans directly from a particular grower in Mexico and roasts and stone-grinds them on an ancient Aztec stone grinder. At the shop, she sells chocolate sauce and hot-chocolate mix alongside her popular single-origin and blended chocolate bars. In 2014, she added hair and skin products to the lineup. There’s a calendar of events like chocolate tastings and tutorials in pairing chocolate with spirits or wine, so if you're in search of an education, options here are a sweet choice. 12469 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles; 310-845-6259; chocovivo.com. 9. Henry's House of Coffee: San Francisco Before Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks, and long before “third wave coffee” was a thing, there was Henry’s House of Coffee, a San Francisco institution. Since the 1960s, Henry Kalebjian, son of an Armenian immigrant who now runs the business with his son Hrag, has been micro-roasting mindfully sourced beans in what can now be considered a vintage twelve-kilogram San Franciscan brand roaster as patrons look on. As legend has it, sight and touch are his main means of measuring, which is little surprise considering he's been in the biz since childhood. Henry, the story goes, learned the craft from his father on old-world equipment that required tending a fire and hand-cranking a drum. Today, regulars are legion, visiting the shop as much to say hi to the Kalebjians as they do for the coffee—though, needless to say, tourists always get a warm welcome too. The space, which includes something of a gallery of artisanal provisions and coffee-making gizmos and cups, blends modern elements (blond wood accents, a sleek seating area, cold brew) with old world accents (that majestic roasting equipment, Henry himself.) Order a strong cup of their Armenian-style coffee, and you'll feel like a regular in no time. 1618 Noriega St, San Francisco; 415-681-9363; henryshouseofcoffee.com.
Travel News: Cruise Bookings Are Up, a Blowout Day of the Dead Celebration in San Antonio, and California's Wildfires Rage On
Got a hankering for adventure? So do millions of other travelers, which is giving a big lift to the cruise industry, a new report shows. In this edition of Travel News, we have the details on the study, an update on the ravaging wildfires, and a not-so-subtle reminder that it’s never to early to start planning fall travel, especially if you’re interested in the country’s biggest Day of the Dead celebration. CRUISES GROW IN POPULARITY AMONG ADVENTURE-HUNGRY AMERICANS More than 27 million people board cruise ships each year and that number is on the rise. According to a recent report from the Cruise Lines International Association, 62 percent of agents surveyed report a spike in cruises booked to Alaska, which now ranks the fastest growing destination in the cruise industry. The Caribbean/Bermuda/Mexico, Mediterranean Europe, and Canada/New England are also seeing popularity growth by 41 percent, 36 percent, and 36 percent, respectively. Most agents cite more vacationers with an itch for adventure as the driving force, a major reason for Alaska’s popularity. It makes sense, then, that the report found younger travelers taking more cruises. Over the past two years, bookings by travelers ages 40 to 49 have increased by 39 percent and by individuals aged 30 to 39 by 43 percent. The enthusiasm has also played out in consumers’ willingness to spend more, shelling out cash to add land-based excursions to their trip. IN TRUE TEXAN STYLE, SAN ANTONIO GOES BIG TO CELEBRATE DAY OF THE DEAD THIS FALL New Orleans has Mardi Gras, Boston has its St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and San Antonio has Día de Muertos. The ancient traditional Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, is a commemoration of those who have passed away. It’s so historic that it was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008. This year, as San Antonio celebrates its Tricentennial, it’s pulling out all the stops for the three-day holiday, holding 20 events from October 20 through November 3. Free music and cultural performances will take place pop-up-style in the city's public spaces. Plus there are various festival-esque events like Muerto Fest, a free festivity with traditional open-air alters, parades, live poetry and a remarkable range of live music. Local youth steal the spotlight on November 2 and 3 for Say Si Muerititos, a community event where students showcase their art as local dancers and musicians perform throughout the day. And restaurants around San Antonio are pitching in with specials throughout the two weeks. In short, if you haven’t arranged your travels to this city to celebrate its centuries-long heritage, you can double-down on the revelry if you start planning now. WEST COAST WILDFIRES CONTINUE TO BURN With 16 active blazes in the state and one just over the border in Oregon, California’s first responders are putting out fires on multiple fronts, from the Ferguson Fire, which forced parts of Yosemite National Park to close for the first time in nearly three decades, to the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in the state’s history. In northern California, outside of Redding in Shasta County, firefighters continue to battle the Carr fire, the state’s sixth-most destructive of all time. As of Friday morning, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is reporting that the Carr fire is 51 percent contained, but it’s burned 181,496 acres and claimed eight victims so far, with a red-flag warning in effect through Saturday night due to hot, dry conditions and gusty winds. While the Whiskeytown recreation area has been evacuated and is closed to visitors until further notice, some of the region’s notable attractions remain open, including McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, the museum at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Lake Shasta Caverns, and Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge. “We have been so impressed by the tremendous efforts and sacrifices made by emergency services personnel, and we are so proud of this community,” says Laurie Baker, CEO for the Redding CVB and general manager of the SCWA.
9 Gorgeous Things to See in Shasta Cascade, California
Way up north in California, not far from the Oregon state line, the Shasta Cascade region boasts a stunning array of mountains, lakes, rivers, and redwoods that provide a backdrop for everything from river-rafting, kayaking, and paddleboarding to fishing, camping, and hiking. There’s a Pacific Crest Trail access point nearby, among others, but you don’t have to be an experienced outdoor enthusiast to enjoy the area’s grandeur—if you’re not quite ready for your own personal Wild moment, there are plenty ways to keep it low-impact without skimping on the scenery. Here’s our guide to the natural (and man-made!) wonders in this beautiful corner of the world. Travel Over Water and Under Stone A cloudy day on Lake Shasta. (Maya Stanton) Thirty minutes north of Redding via narrow roads rife with switchbacks and tight curves, you'll find Lake Shasta Caverns National Landmark (lakeshastacaverns.com). The two-hour group tour of these 200-million-year-old limestone caves ($28 for adults, $16 for kids ages 3-15) begins with a catamaran ride across Lake Shasta, California’s biggest reservoir, which plays host to fish like bass, catfish, and sturgeon. It's also houseboat heaven, with plenty of marinas dotting the 370 miles of wildlife-rich shoreline. Keep an eye out for bald eagles—there were 67 in the vicinity at last count. Tour guide Maria Diane Jensen (right) leads a group through Lake Shasta Caverns. (Maya Stanton) After you dock at the other side, a mini-bus takes you up a steep mountain road to the cave entrance. (En route, your driver will rattle off fun facts and historical tidbits to distract from your proximity to the cliff’s edge, but if you’re nervous about heights, avoid the window seat.) A guide will meet you at the top and take you into the mountain, pointing out the perfectly preserved formations, from stalactites dating to the 1700s to flowstone resembling strips of bacon. Pro-tip: If you end up with the hyper-talented Maria Diane Jensen as your guide, be sure to ask for an aria. You won’t soon forget the sound of her classically trained voice bouncing around the 125-foot-tall cathedral room. Embrace the Sun America only has two Santiago Calatrava bridges, one of which is in Redding. (Maya Stanton) Redding’s newly opened Sheraton is just a few minutes from famed architect Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge, a cantilevered structure that spans the Sacramento River, with an opaque glass walkway that lights up at night and a 217-foot cable-stayed pylon that’s actually the largest working sundial in the world. It links the two campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park (turtlebay.org), a 300-acre urban escape featuring botanical gardens, a forestry and wildlife center, and more. The bridge is also an access point for the Sacramento River Trail, a paved path with gorgeous river and mountain views. Walk or bike the entire stretch, or connect to the Sacramento River Rail Trail, an 11-mile trek that runs between two dams: the 157-foot-high Keswick and the 602-foot-high Shasta, the masterpiece of engineering that created Lake Shasta. Take a free tour of the facility (usbr.gov/mp/ncao/dam-tours.html), or take in the scenery on your own. See Some Volcanoes Serene Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park. (Maya Stanton) From Redding, it's an hour's drive east to Lassen Volcanic National Park ($20 park pass required; nps.gov/lavo), reportedly the only place on earth to see each different type of volcano—who knew there were four kinds?—as well as hydrothermal phenomena like boiling hot springs and burbling mud pots. Lassen Peak is the 106,372-acre park’s centerpiece and the world’s largest plug dome volcano; it's active, but hasn’t erupted since 1915. Get up close and personal with a hike to the summit (five miles round-trip through steep, rocky terrain), or admire it from afar as you mosey around peaceful Manzanita Lake on the easy 1.5-mile trail. Go Waterfall-Chasing A hundred million gallons of water flow through spring-fed Burney Falls each day. (Maya Stanton) Once you're in Lassen, you're perfectly positioned for a trip to waterfall country. Just under an hour north, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park ($8 entry fee; parks.ca.gov/?page_id=455) is home to a cascade so impressive that Teddy Roosevelt once called it the eighth wonder of the world. You can hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail here, or book a campsite or a cabin for an overnight stay, but the main attraction is the 129-foot-high falls. Walk the short paved loop from the overlook to the pool at the base, then grab a soft-serve cone from the camp store before getting back on the road. Beware of wild beasts around Lower McCloud Falls. (Maya Stanton) Your next destination, McCloud River, is another 40-some miles to the north. The site's three stellar sets of falls are each accessible by car or trail, but either way, you’ll want to start at Lower McCloud, where you can park and walk to the falls or take the easy-to-moderate path that leads upriver to the other two. The middle set of McCloud River falls. (Maya Stanton) At 120 feet wide, with rushing water that drops 40 feet into a picture-perfect (but super-cold!) swimming hole, Middle McCloud makes the strongest impression, but the taller Upper McCloud is beautiful as well. Cool off at Hedge Creek Falls. (Maya Stanton) From there, it’s on to Hedge Creek Falls, the final stop on the loop. A smaller-scale enterprise with a cave behind and prime swimming spots in front, Hedge Creek feels like a hidden treasure, but really, it’s a not-so-well-kept secret. On warm sunny days, get there early to avoid the crowds. Relax Like a Local Get out on the water at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. (Maya Stanton) If the rest of the region weren’t so well-endowed in the natural-splendor department, you’d want to spend all your time at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area ($20 entry fee for cars; nps.gov/whis), a 39,000-acre playground with breathtaking lake and mountain vistas, 70 miles of hiking trails, and even more waterfalls. Book a free ranger-led kayak or paddleboard tour through the park, or sign up for a complimentary Friday-night social paddle with Headwaters Adventure Company (headwatersadventure.com); take a dip in the pristine mountain waters; and explore the falls of your choice. The 3.4-mile hike to Whiskeytown Falls is arduous, but the trail to Lower Crystal Creek is ADA-accessible, and the payoff far outweighs the effort you'll expend getting there. On the drive back to town, pull over in Old Shasta for a peek at the remains of a circa-1860s Gold Rush town, then make a pitstop at La Cocina de Chuy (lacocinadechuy.com), a tiny local gem slinging handmade tortillas and righteous carnitas in decidedly down-home digs behind a gas station. After a day spent in the sun and on the water, not much tastes better than a round of tacos. The Details By car, Redding is about 160 miles from Sacramento, 215 miles from San Francisco, and 315 miles from Eugene, Oregon. Flights connect in San Francisco via United Express, which runs daily service between SFO and Redding Municipal Airport. Once you land, you’ll need a car to get around, and rental agencies such as Enterprise offer airport pick-up and drop-off within business hours. I used these driving directions for the waterfall loop. Opening hours for national and state parks vary seasonally and are subject to change, so check online for trail closures and warnings before heading out. It’s a good idea to bring cash for the entry fees, especially in the off-season when toll booths are often unmanned and reliant upon an honor system. Local accommodations range from rustic campsites and cabins to tricked-out houseboat rentals, but if sleeping under the stars isn’t your thing, the Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge is a convenient pick and will run you less than $200 a night. Downtown, the Thunderbird Lodge is a revamped mid-century motel with great vintage signage and even better rates, walking distance to bars and restaurants. Plan your trip around the annual Redding Rodeo (reddingrodeo.com) in mid-May, or visit year-round for outdoor exploration of all sorts.
Hotel We Love: Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA
At the top of the Sacramento Valley in the northernmost part of California, the small city of Redding (population 90,000, give or take) is just a short drive from Sacramento and San Francisco, but it might as well be a world away. Surrounded by no fewer than seven national forests, offering easy access to jaw-dropping lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and redwoods, Redding is the jumping-off point for adventures of all kinds, from kayaking and hiking to olive-oil tasting and winery-hopping. The downtown area has plenty to recommend it, but if you'll be heading north to Lake Shasta Caverns, west to take in the waterfall loop, or putting in time at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the new Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge is a good choice, offering comfort and convenience at a fair price. THE STORY In January 2018, after a decade of planning and construction, the smallest Sheraton property in the country officially opened for business. According to the Record Searchlight, the hotel acquired its parcel of land from Turtle Bay Exploration Park in an effort to help the non-profit generate enough revenue to remain afloat, and so far, the plan seems to be working. The hotel was bustling when I visited, with families, couples, and business travelers traversing the lobby, bellying up to the bar, and enjoying the amenities. THE QUARTERS The brand-new accommodations comprise 124 rooms and 6 suites, all of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows, warm wood paneling, and crisp white linens, not to mention walk-in showers or tubs, 48-inch flat-screen TVs, portable work spaces, in-room safes, and mini-fridges. Traditional rooms sleep four, with two queen beds or one king; the deluxe patio rooms are a step up and offer the same bed configurations, plus a private, topiary-screened outdoor sitting area. Book a club room for access to the lounge and its free breakfast, all-day snacks and beverages, and cocktail-hour wine and hors d’oeuvres, or go all out with one of the cushy suites. THE NEIGHBORHOOD From its perch on the northern edge of town, the Sheraton is a five-minute walk from the Sacramento River and, as the name implies, Santiago Calatrava’s stunning Sundial Bridge. With opaque blue glass under foot and a 217-foot cable-stayed pylon creating a de facto sundial overhead, this cantilevered contraption is one of only two Calatrava bridges in America, and it’s well worth a visit. The bridge connects Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s two campuses, which span 300 acres and boast playgrounds, botanical gardens, a forestry and wildlife center, and hands-on educational activities, like the opportunity to feed beplumed birds at the Parrot Playhouse or a North American beaver on a behind-the-scenes tour. By car, the hotel is just off state route 44 and a few minutes from the I-5 on-ramp, so it's easily accessible from the highway and a quick half-hour drive north to Lake Shasta Caverns. THE FOOD On the premises is Mosaic, a beautiful room that nods to the area's natural splendor, pairing the wood that lines floors, walls, and ceilings with luxe-industrial elements like a granite bar, exposed ductwork, a wood-fired pizza oven, and Edison bulbs galore. Have breakfast here before setting off for Turtle Bay or one of the area’s many state or national parks; try the berries and granola with vanilla yogurt for a light (albeit sweet) start, or an omelet with fennel sausage, caramelized onions, smoked Gouda, and potatoes for something a bit heartier. The pizzas also earn rave reviews. On the way back from Lake Shasta Caverns, stop off at Moseley Family Cellars, a small winery that puts the state’s grapes to good use, and treat yourself to a nice glass of red, then dial it back a notch with a casual dinner. Less than 10 minutes away by car, Guadalajara delivers solid Mexican fare in a kaleidoscopically colorful dining room, where the waitstaff is super-friendly and the portions are huge and reasonably priced. The mole enchiladas, filled with shredded beef and served with rice, refried beans, a smattering of iceberg, and a wedge of tomato alongside a basket of complimentary chips and salsa, taste great after a day on the road—and run just $14.50. ALL THE REST In addition to the usual perks—pool, 24-hour fitness center, free WiFi—the Sheraton Redding is dog-friendly, providing beds and other amenities for an extra $45 per night. Mosaic restaurant even offers a special menu for your canine companion, with entrées like The Charlie, a burger patty with rice and diced apple, and the Max, grilled chicken with kale and carrots, if you choose to eat outside on the patio. Parking is $10 a day if you’re handling it yourself and $12 a day to valet. Tours of Turtle Bay that include meet-and-greets with animal ambassadors are available for $75 per person, but if that’s not in the budget, you can chat with a Turtle Bay trainer and one of their creatures for free on Friday and Saturday mornings in the hotel lobby. For your little ones who can’t get enough of the camping thing, Sheraton staff will set up both tent and sleeping bags in the comfort of your own room. A s’mores package is available for purchase, with marshmallows and all the fixins for roasting by the on-site fire pits. You can also rent kids’ fishing poles at the front desk. RATES & DEETS Starting at $119. Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge820 Sundial Bridge DriveRedding, CA530.364.2800sheratonredding.com
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