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Everyone knows that New York City is famous for its New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, but for those looking for something a little more unique and symbolic to ring in 2022, these towns are hosting slightly weird yet totally “on-brand” drops on December 31. MoonPie Drop , Mobile, Alabama Photo by Joseph Brooke / Flickr Creative Commons Mobile’s mantra is “Born to Celebrate,” which makes New Year’s Eve a pretty exciting time around here. At midnight, you can witness a 600-pound electric MoonPie drop from the sky, complete with fireworks and a laser light show. Mobile’s big claim to fame is that it’s home to America’s original Mardi Gras. In the mid-1900s, locals started tossing sticky-sweet (but still-wrapped!) MoonPies from their Mardi Gras floats. Spectators went crazy for them and today an estimated half-million pies get tossed during an average Carnival season. Since Mobile loves a good party – and consumes more MoonPies per capita than anywhere else (including the pies’ hometown of Chattanooga) – its citizens decided to create the world’s largest electric MoonPie to help them usher in each new year. Mushroom Drop, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is part of the Brandywine Valley, is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” because more than 60% of all the mushrooms in the United States are grown here. Celebrate their nickname – and their favorite crop -- by dropping a 700-pound lighted mushroom on New Year’s Eve during the annual Midnight in the Square event. The mushroom will be raised right before 9 p.m. and the drop will be live-streamed across social media at midnight. Marlin Drop, Orange Beach, Alabama Gulf Shores Reelin' in the New Year at The Wharf The Wharf, a popular dining, shopping and entertainment district in the town of Orange Beach, is hosting Reelin’ in The New Year from 5 p.m. to midnight on December 31. The highlight of this event is the Marlin Drop, a fishy nod to one of the many outdoor activities that draw visitors here year round. It’s free admission for the drop, and the whole family can come and ring in the new year Gulf Coast-style. Apple Drop, Winchester, Virginia To celebrate the arrival of the new year, a 400-pound apple is dropped more than 100 feet during the First Night Winchester event. First Night Winchester has been a tradition in the Northern Shenandoah Valley since 1987. Winchester is known as the “Apple Capital” because it’s the largest apple-producing area in all of Virginia and home to countless apple orchards. Giant Acorn Drop, Raleigh, N.C. Courtesy firstnightraleigh.com Each December 31 a giant copper acorn, the official monument commemorating the bicentennial of “the City of Oaks,” is transported from Raleigh’s Moore Square to the roof of the Civic Center where it’s dropped to celebrate the New Year - First Night Raleigh. Clam Drop, Yarmouth, Maine On December 31, Yarmouth's First Universalist Church lowers a giant clam named Steamer 25 feet from the bell tower. The Clam Drop includes music, cookies and cocoa to stay warm. Giant Potato Drop, Boise, Idaho Courtesy mrfood.com This year will be the 9th annual Idaho Potato Drop in Boise, Idaho. From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., ring in the new year with food trucks, a beer garden, fireworks, and of course, the potato drop in front of the Idaho State Capitol.
New York State Kicks Off Winter Season
New York State welcomes travelers this winter season with new events like the 75th Anniversary Celebration of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” one-of-a-kind activities including riding the only Olympic bobsled east of the Rockies and top-notch skiing and snowboarding whether you are a beginner or pro. Travelers will find outdoor adventure options to mix up their ski mountain fun, miles of trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and a diverse mix of restaurants and craft beverage spots for the well-deserved après-ski. Family friendly events include Ice Castles in Lake George, Westchester’s Winter Wonderland Drive-Thru Holiday Light Extravaganza and Zoo New York’s Winter Wonderlights that will leave adults and kids in the right magical winter mindset. The cold weather turns New York into a winter wonderland, making it the perfect destination for a quick getaway or an extended break from hibernation. Here's a sampling of new experiences in New York State this winter: Hit the Slopes! Pack your bags and grab your skis or board for an amazing getaway at one of over 50 ski areas across the state. Remember: third and fourth graders ski free at many of these mountains, and be sure to check the latest Ski Association of New York Snow Report for the most up-to-date conditions. · Windham Mountain invested more than $4 million in capital improvements, including snowmaking upgrades, an environmentally friendly groomer, the redevelopment of the Children's Learning Center and a new "Magic Carpet" conveyor lift. · Holiday Valley in Ellicottville installed the Yodeler Express, a high-speed detachable quad chairlift that helps beginners, allowing for increased efficiency - transporting 2,400 people per hour to the 2,000-foot summit. · Catamount Mountain Resort in Hillsdale made significant upgrades to their snowmaking system, installed two new chairlifts and added new food and beverage options to the base area. · Whiteface in Wilmington has a new SkyTrac quad, continued into phase II of their three-phase snowmaking improvement project (including almost 30,000 feet of replacement snowmaking pipe) and finished renovating their Cloudsplitter Gondola. · Bristol Mountain in Canandaigua added a new trail called Polaris to their Galaxy Lift Pod, improved their snowmaking capabilities and installed Axess Smart Gates on all lifts so skiers and riders can access the mountain with their Bristol Gateway Cards. · Oak Mountain in Speculator doubled their snowmaking capacity, replaced their Bunny Hill T-Bar with a Sunkid surface lift, and added new skis and snowboards to their "Rossignol Rental fleet." Celebrate Winter and History Winter festivals are some of the most popular annual events across New York State. This year, there is no better place to celebrate the season with commemorations and events. · Celebrate Harriet Tubman's 200th birthday by visiting her home in Auburn, along with the surrounding communities in Cayuga County. Special activities during Harriet Tubman Week, scheduled for March 10-15, 2022, will be held at various sites, including her home at the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, Seward House Museum, and Fort Hill Cemetery where she is buried. More commemorations will be announced. · In Seneca Falls, join the 75th Anniversary Celebration of "It's a Wonderful Life" from December 8-12 where many of the cast members will reunite, including the Bailey children and their friends. · Ice Castles comes to New York State for the first time, featuring ice displays with LED lights and colors at the Festival Commons at Charles Wood Park in Lake George. This new winter event is expected to be open from early January to early March, depending on weather. Also in Lake George, Lake George Winterfest is held mid-December to March, and the Lake George Winter Carnival is held every Saturday and Sunday in February. · LuminoCity Festival is coming to Long Island for the first time this winter. The immersive light display will be at Whitney Pond Park in Manhasset through January 9. Also on Long Island, the Shimmering Solstice will take place at Old Westbury Gardens through January 9, transforming the grounds into stunning light displays with music. This new seasonal event is ideal for the whole family. · The Holiday Market, a new series of outdoor community events, will take place on the grounds of Gallery North and the Three Village Historical Society in Setauket on Saturdays from November 27 to December 18. · Zoo New York, the "only zoo dedicated to the animals of New York State," is hosting Winter Wonderlights on weekend evenings from November 26 to January 2. Explore the zoo at night to see it illuminated with multicolored lights. · See even more lights, holiday animations and new displays at Westchester's Winter Wonderland Drive-Thru Holiday Light Extravaganza at Kensico Dam Plaza, November 26 - January 2. Cozy Eateries & Craft Beverage Spots Enjoy comfort food, taste classic New York bites and sip locally produced craft beverages this winter season. · Southern Tier Brewing Company opened a new location in the Harborcenter in Buffalo, offering a full tasting room and a "beer-inspired" food menu. · Brick & Ivy is a newly opened BIPOC-owned restaurant in Rochester that features a unique mix of dishes, such as fried cauliflower, jerk seared salmon, and confit duck leg. · Embrace the chilly temperatures at one of Lake George's ice bars, including The Sagamore's famous Glacier Ice Bar, Adirondack Pub & Brewery's Funky Ice Fest and Winterfest at Erlowest. · Newly opened Willa's Bakery in Catskill offers a wide variety of scratch-made baked goods, along with seasonal breakfast and lunch dishes made using locally sourced ingredients. · DisBatch Brewing Company, slated to open this December in Macedon, is Wayne County's first brewery. It was started by first responders who wanted to provide the community with a place to gather and relax. · In Albany, Skinny Pancake, scheduled to open soon, plans to feature various crepe dishes that utilize local ingredients. · Recently opened Nova Kitchen & Bar in Blauvelt, Rockland County, uses locally sourced seasonal ingredients to create innovative daily specials and is the brainchild of a couple that worked their way up in the industry from busgirl and dishwasher to manager and head chef. Exciting New and Recently Opened Attractions With both indoor and outdoor attractions, visitors of all ages can participate in seasonal excitement. · Schenectady's Mohawk Harbor is hosting a new winter experience featuring a 60x100 foot ice skating rink, Holiday Pop-Up Shop by Beekman 1802, and food options from Druthers Brewing Company, Shaker & Vine and the restaurants at Rivers Casino & Resort. · Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery will feature the Renaissance Impressions: Sixteenth-Century Master Prints from the Kirk Edward Long Collection exhibit until February 6. The exhibit includes 82 masterworks by diverse artists, highlighting the visual culture of the Renaissance. · Lark Hall in Albany was recently restored and repurposed as a concert venue, hosting a diverse mix of bands and performers. · The Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail system in Gerry, Chautauqua County, expanded in 2021 and features more than three miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. · At Niagara Falls State Park, witness the splendor of the frosted Falls from all angles. For a unique perspective, Cave of the Winds takes visitors down an elevator into the Niagara Gorge to get an up close and personal view of Falls from one of the two open observation decks. On the Horizon Mark your calendars for this exciting upcoming event. · The FISU World University Games will be held in Lake Placid and the surrounding communities from January 12-22, 2023, featuring competition among exceptional international collegiate athletes. It is the second largest multi-sport winter event in the world. For those inspired by the upcoming Winter Olympics, they can head to Lake Placid to experience Olympic history at the Olympic Museum, the recently opened Cliffside Coaster or ride the only Olympic bobsled east of the Rockies. For more information on new developments and other happenings in New York State, visit iloveny.com.
Tarrytown, New York - Coolest Small Towns 2022
On the shores of New York’s Hudson River, just 16 miles from the Bronx border, Tarrytown combines history, natural beauty, and a range of small businesses that make for a truly unique small-town experience. Margo Timmins, lead singer of the alt-country band Cowboy Junkies, recently announced from the stage of the Tarrytown Music Hall that the venue, on the town’s scenic Main Street, is one of her favorite places to perform because there is a great coffeehouse on one side and the yarn shop on the other. That would be Coffee Labs, purveyors of exquisite artisanal java (there will be a line, possibly out the door, but it’s worth the wait), and Flying Fingers, a favorite of Martha Stewart’s, boasting a giant sheep sculpture adorned with brightly colored yarn right outside the front door. You could spend your entire day combing Main Street for world cuisine — Lefteris’s Greek fare and Tarry Tavern’s upscale comfort food are just two wildly popular examples — or galleries, thrift shops, and musical instruments. But set aside some time to explore beautiful historic sites such as Sunnyside (once home to Washington Irving, the first man of American letters and the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) and Lyndhurst (a 19th century mansion whose riverside grounds now play host to craft fairs, kennel shows, and jazz concerts). No visit to this region is complete without traversing RiverWalk, a scenic trail through the woods along the eastern shore of the Hudson, and the many winding trails in Rockefeller State Park and Preserve. More about Tarrytown Tarrytown, NY A trip to Tarrytown offers visitors the perfect complement of history, dining, shopping and nature -- not to mention entertainment and first class lodging. Keep Reading... Meet Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns for 2022: Content presented by Have Fun Do Good Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) is on a mission to provide adventure seekers with a unique experience that allows them to travel while giving back to the community through volunteering. Learn more at https://havefundogood.co/Presented by Have Fun Do Good
The best books to read in every state in America
As soon as coronavirus arrived in New York City last winter, my brain became a tangle of anxious thoughts, pounding down on my already overtaxed amygdala. I had one salvation: a three-by-two map of America hanging in my living room. While most of my friends set their sights on the Balis and Bermudas of the world, my only travel goal has long been to visit every state in America. Ostensibly, this map’s point was to be the canvas for a smattering of pins until I created a multi-hued distribution upon all 50 sates. In actuality, the point was to accomplish something, to wrangle up America into a palm of pastel thumbtacks, to live a life full of stories. Stories from a life of zigzagging our great terrain this past year, it turned out, would not be in the cards as travel restrictions and lockdowns made all too clear from the outset of this mess. But as I squinted once again at the pin-less sweep of real estate on my wall somewhere between Minnesota and Oregon early last spring, I realized I could still get to work on these travels, if I got a little creative. Thus, my 50 states book project was born, where I embarked on a challenge to read a tome set in every state in the union. I still met people and places and things and disasters and triumphs, but I didn’t rent a car, or hop on a plane, or even scour the internet high and low for Clorox wipes to sanitize my hotel room. Instead, I let William Least Heat-Moon, Bill Bryson, and Paul Theroux lead me on road trips, I hung out with that guy who walked across America, Peter Jenkins, I chased redbirds in Kentucky with Sharon Creech, listened to crawdads singing in North Carolina, and I went on one hell of a bender with Hunter S. Thompson in Vegas. I spent a grand total of $233.96 buying used books on Amazon—less than an average one-night hotel stay in Chicago, mind you. I read classic texts and obscure novels, fiction and nonfiction, humorous and heartbreaking, and it completely changed the way I think about travel. For one thing, given the titles I read, I can now unequivocally say the best adventures are the outdoors ones. My nationwide literary adventure had me walking around my own little nook of a park, Sutton Place Park in Midtown Manhattan, like I was a Thoreauvian naturalist (I’m not sure how he’d feel about the giant neon Pepsi Cola sign across the East River). In lockdowns, these books gave me inspiration to find meaning in the toughest of days knowing that This Too Shall Pass, and the road awaited me. It even helped me feel a little less pissed when my well-intentioned best friend would send me gorgeous mountain-y snapshots from her quarantine castle in the Hudson Valley. After all, I had just gotten back from a whirlwind stint in Iowa. Perhaps counterintuitively, surveying a book from every state in America blurred the lines of my much-loved pushpin map. Alaska was Alabama was Kentucky was Kansas. On page 18 of my Michigan selection, The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers, I came across this passage: “The great American anarchist Edward Abbey is probably not a terrific role model for mature relatedness—by all reports, he had prickly relationships with other people and, like Henry David Thoreau, needed the solitude he so extolled. But in Desert Solitaire Abbey addressed that need to confront our position vis-à-vis the nonhuman world…” In a quick swoop of the pen, my Michigan author had referenced my Maine essayist and my Utah wordsmith. We’re all independent, yet linked. Separate, yet dependent. Alone in the woods, yet with your friends on the forest floor. Alaska is Alabama is Kentucky is Kansas. Alabama Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep Cep does a deep dive into Harper Lee’s true-crime book about reverend Willie Maxwell, an alleged serial murderer that never was finished and published. Her portrait of To Kill a Mockingbird’s scribe, Harper Lee, is just as fascinating as the unreal story of Maxwell. Alaska Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer There’s hardly a stretch of 10 pages in this book without creased corners and underlining, in this enthralling account of a renegade college grad who abandons the conventions of traditional life on Alaska’s harsh frontiers. Arizona Arizona Then and Now: People and Places by Karl Mondon By the time I got to my Arizona selection, my eyes had glazed over from so. much. text. Thankfully, this assortment of archival photos from the Jeremy Rowe Collection juxtaposed with modern-day photography from Mondon was exactly what I needed. Nothing will beat the heavenly Grand Canyon, but the main street photos of towns like Bisbee and Winslow really made me nostalgic for wandering a new teeny town’s downtown for the first time. Arkansas Hipbillies: Deep Revolution in the Arkansas Ozarks by Jared M. Phillips Hippies of the Haight-Ashbury variety + backwoods hillbillies = “Hipbillies.” A fascinating perspective on this Southern counterculture from the 1960s and ‘70s, I was intrigued to learn about these back-to-the-landers’ incredible impact on the future of the Ozarks. California The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan Head to San Francisco in this award-winning gem from Tan that also brings you along to China in stories of immigrant Americans, the lives and pain they left behind, and the chapters they’ve built anew. Colorado The Voyeur's Motel by Gay Talese A journalist uncovers a heck of a world after receiving an anonymous letter from a peeping Tom who owns a hotel in Aurora and spies on unknowing guests. It’s creepy, it’s can’t-put-down, and it will definitely have you look around extra carefully after you check into a hotel room. Honorable mention: Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson by Juan Thompson Connecticut The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin Well, guess I need to see the 2004 movie starring Nicole Kidman now. Because, wow, what a book: When Joanna arrives in Fairfield County with her husband and kiddos from New York City an American horror classic ensues, from the same author as Rosemary’s Baby. Delaware And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer by Ann Rule This book has something for every kind of reader, true crime, politics, superb research, psychological nuances...the list goes on and on. You’ll stay up way past your bedtime finishing this one. Florida Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh Woman decamps from her busy life and heads to Captiva Island, off the coast of Fort Myers. Woman picks up various seashells and uses them as metaphors to reflect on life: work, relationships, struggles, joys. Turns out said woman is married to a Nazi (see: New Jersey), which ruins this poetic, rhythmic philosophical missive for me. Georgia Between Georgia Torn between two families, a husband and a best friend love interest, the tension is palpable in this Southern Drama with a capital D. As one reader referenced in the Amazon reviews, the saying "We don't hide crazy in this family. We sit it down on the front porch and give it a cocktail” was just made for this book. Hawaii The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings You know a book is that good, when the George Clooney movie version doesn’t even hold a candle to it. There’s a wife in a coma and her extramarital affair, a husband forced to reckon with raising his two daughters alone and being heir to a ton of primo real estate, and so much more that will leave you unable to think about anything else for a couple of days. Idaho Idaho by Emily Ruskovich I’ll be the first to admit I picked this book up for the eye-catching floral design on the cover, but I couldn’t put it down for the pathos bleeding through every page. When a mother kills her child, so much more crumbles and is lost, but the beauty here is in all that is found, practically, philosophically, and otherwise. Illinois Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond When I was an editor at Men’s Journal in 2016, I sat in the cubicle next to Mr. Diamond (remember these things called offices) and this book encpatures so much of who he is: wise, writerly, idiosyncratic, and a touch grumpy. Enjoy the ride as he commences a quest for the filmmaker behind Home Alone, Sixteen Candles, and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Indiana The Fault In Our Stars by John Green I’m still crying, but to be fair, how could you not be crying after reading this novel about two kids who love like there are thousands of tomorrows despite the terminal cancer diagnoses with which they’re both reckoning. Iowa The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson 1950s-era Iowa is brought to life in this oft humorous memoir from the beloved travel writer. It really made this New York City kid feel like she was missing out on a quintessential childhood experience by never having attended a county fair. Kansas In Cold Blood by Truman Capote A true crime classic that revolves around the brutal slaying of four family members in a small town in Western Kansas and the detective work that ensues. The book was praised for utilizing novelistic techniques to describe the characters and their feelings, a trailblazer for the nonfiction genre. Kentucky Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech Lockdowns have had me returning to tween books (don’t judge me), and I don’t regret the walk down memory lane in the least, especially in the company of the protagonist Zinny. The industrious youngster sets out into the woods and grapples with grief, blossoming love interests, and frustrating family dynamics along the way. Don’t we all? Louisiana Magic City by Yusef Komunyakaa Step inside 1950s Louisiana in Komunyakaa’s hometown of rural Bogalusa in this harrowing collection of poems. Within, the talented poet tackles racism, sexuality, and economic inequalities with a swift, vivid hand. Maine The Maine Woods by Henry Thoreau What I would give to escape this city jungle and take a walk in the Maine woods right about now. Thankfully, Thoreau’s quintessential naturalist account of three trips into the rugged woods with philosophical musings intertwined with the detailed physical descriptions of all that Thoreau witnesses. Pretty foreboding for the mid1800s: “the mission of men there seems to be, like so many busy demons, to drive the forest out of the country.” Maryland Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler Admittedly, I picked up this book because there was a tantalizing slice of pie on the cover. But I’m glad I did: Follow along for all that unfolds as one grieving Baltimore family learn about long-hidden truths and struggles to cope. Massachusetts Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom I mean, what can I say about Tuesdays with Morrie? In this blockbuster memoir-cum-biography, a journalist visits his beloved former college professor at home as he dies of ALS. A five-star book (albeit, with some four-star writing). A beautiful biography of a life well lived, and a workaholic writer who’s outlook is changed because of his inspiring teacher’s example. Michigan The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers It was easy to fall in love with Kuipers’ elegant prose in a story about an estranged father and his three sons and what happens when said absent dad tries to make amends after buying 100 acres of hunting property in middle-of-nowhere Michigan. It’s a memoir I know I’ll be recommending for years to come. Minnesota Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich I had picked this book up because I was supposed to gather with a crowd of hundreds to see Erdrich speak at the 92nd Street Y this past month. Needless to say, that blessed packed auditorium never came to fruition, but I’m glad I still devoured this spooky, powerful account of a pregnant woman in a world where expecting mothers are held captive in hospitals. Honorable mentions: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; The Good Girl by Mary Kubica Mississippi The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner I did it. I read a full Faulkner book. And while I probably would have understood more about this Deep South family and Dilsey, their black servant, had I read the SparkNotes, if only for the occasional heart-stopping quote like “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” Missouri The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States by Walter Johnson This Missouri native and now Harvard professor captures the oft overlooked history of St. Louis, tracing the city from Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition to modern times, with moving examples in each chapter. It’s a tough look at racism in our country from centuries past to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, but a look well worth taking. Montana A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean So far, I’ve lost one friend to Big Sky Country since lockdowns commenced, and I can now totally appreciate why. Penned by a retired English professor who commenced his fiction career at 70, this novella and accompanying short stories will have you eager to fly-cast and play cribbage amidst a backdrop of trout streams, drunkards, and whores (maybe not the whores). Nebraska The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert Venture to the 1898 Omaha World's Fair – filled with sinners and saints – as one ventriloquist stumbles upon a new love. The book has burlesque dancers, snake oil salesmen, and plenty of wild west drama and romance. In these strange times, what more could you want? Nevada Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson Like The Plot Against America (see: New Jersey) I didn’t think this stream of conscious book would be for me, so I was amazed that I polished it off in three evening reading sessions. Vegas is wild, life is wild, and it’s all gravy baby in this fast-paced (psychedelic) trip. New Hampshire Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving If this doesn’t make you want to traipse around New Hampshire (minus an accidental murder and an unfortunate sheriff), I don’t know what will. The inventive novel takes detours to Iowa, Vermont, and more, as you get to know three generations of men and a rotating cast of women and feel particularly drawn to say goodbye to your smartphone for a while and retreat to 1950s Coos County, New Hampshire. New Jersey The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth In this lengthy novel, Roth reimagines a world in which Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh is President, creating fantasized historical fiction that has striking parallels to today’s dystopian America. The book focuses on Philip’s upbringing in Newark in the 1940s in a tight-knit Jewish community, with a brother desperate to leave and a cousin returning home from World War II missing a leg. Overall, this book a nice reminder for me that reading beyond your typical wheelhouse pays dividends. Check out the miniseries on HBO Max after you’re done. Honorable mention: Shore Stories: An Anthology Of The Jersey Shore by Richard Youmans (Editor) New Mexico House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday After I told a friend in California about my little project, I was touched when this book arrived in my mailbox a few days later. This Pulitzer Prize novel by esteemed Kiowa journalist moved me in all the right ways during such a time of turmoil with the unforgettable Abel, a Native American man who returns to his reservation after fighting in World War II. New York The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger In a time when it was easy to forget New York City’s boisterous splendor, it was comfort food to cavort around famed landmarks and reconvene with old Phoebs, Holden, and even pimply Ackley. As for “those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South,” I’m pleased to report they appear to be COVID-free and frolicking about even as hell and temperatures freeze over. Honorable mentions: A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin; Here Is New York by E.B. White; Manhattan’45 by Jan Morris; An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena; The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto North Carolina Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens A haunting murder story with unforgettable characters, a moving love story, and evocative descriptions of nature’s wonders, all set in the marshlands of the Old North State. North Dakota The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown by Blaire Briody Part culture analysis, part travelogue, this book about the oil biz delivers on the premise of its title — especially on the wild front. Ohio Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance From page one to the end, try putting this book down as it simply yet poignantly captures the realities of growing up in a family riddled with addiction and drama. P.S. If you watched the stekkar new Netflix flick, you’ll definitely appreciate reading the original memoir. Oklahoma A Map of Tulsa by Benjamin Lytal Dubbed “a love letter to a classic American city,” this love story in a Tulsa that straddles the line between dusty and sparkling is unlike any other you’ve ever read. Oregon Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed Okay, so it also covers California and Washington, but since the author lives in Portland, we’ll give this unique, achingly beautiful memoir to her stomping grounds. Chronicling one woman’s quest to hike the PCT in the cradle of grief, this memoir will change your outlook on everything from nature to family. P.S. Reese Witherspoon stars in the 2014 movie adaptation. Pennsylvania Rabbit, Run by John Updike This was the first Updike book I read, but it won’t be the last. I think one Goodreads reviewer nailed it: “Have you ever seen something noted because it is a representation of a specific thing? For example, a building might be marked with a plaque as a perfect representation of a type of architecture. Well, this book should be marked with a plaque as a perfect prose example of America in the late 50s/early 60s.” It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t progressive in its treatment of women, but man was it enthralling. Rhode Island The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore Get to know Anthony, Joy, and Lu, three strangers whose lives become intertwined on Little Rhody’s picturesque Block Island. They may call it a summer beach read, but I call it cozy quarantine perfection. South Carolina The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank Set in Georgia and South Carolina, its a low-country love story that will leave you feeling Hallmark movie good. Also, the descriptions of towering trees, Sullivan’s Island, and Charleston restaurants, will help you indulge the armchair traveling spirit we all need right now. South Dakota Deadwood by Pete Dexter When the going gets tough, the tough head to Deadwood...at least in the 1870s if you’re Wild Bill Hickok or Calamity Jane. Expect searing grit. Booze, sex, betrayal, and murder in an action-packed work of fiction you won’t soon forget. Tennessee Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver A searing fictional narrative that grapples with the effects of climate change and draws you into the world of a young woman living on a farm in an isolated sliver of Tennessee. If you’re a lover of the mystical monarch butterflies, this is definitely for you. Texas God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright Diverse chapters covering everything from hurricanes and guns to music and Texan heroes, get a taste of this big, beautiful, and oft contradictory state. (Which, by the way, is so much more than Austin) Utah Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey This best-seller reminded me of the understated, almost eerie grandeur of Utah (I once took a SUP yoga class in thermal waters within the Homestead Crater, a 10,000-year-old crater, about a half-hour outside of Park City, if that’s not enough trendy activities rolled int one) — and had me itching to return. Through Abbey’s elegiac prose, sourced from journals and reflections of his time spent as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, you’ll yearn for the day when you can visit all of the natural wonders he describes for yourself, and with new eyes. Vermont Stranger in the Kingdom by Frank Mosher It’s a real treat to get lost in fictional Kingdom County, Vermont, in this tale that centers around a small town, a murder, and life in New England. Dealing with difficult themes like racism, Mosher manages to weave in humor and moral lessons without being preachy. Virginia The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark What happens when a married couple who are partners in law in a small Virginia town encounter a mysterious death of their most eccentric clients will leave you surprised at each twist and turn. One of my first quarantine reads last spring, it’s a veritable page-turner and welcome distraction from the relentless news cycle. Washington Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (Spoiler alert!) The last line of this courtroom drama regarding a case of a drowned fisherman on remote San Piedro Island was well worth slogging through the entire book for me: “Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” West Virginia Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life by Chuck Kinder This Goodreads review just about summed it up: “At turns uproariously funny and break-my-goddamn-heart sad, Last Mountain Dancer started off good and ended even better, set in a world where Hank Williams occupies the same spiritual space as the ubiquitous Jaaaaaysus.” Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the day when I get to visit these country roads for myself. Wisconsin Population: 485 — Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry I’ve visited my fair share small towns in Wisconsin like outdoorsy Door County’s fly-speck gem, Sister Bay, and Elkhorn to see the Dave Matthews Band play the much-hyped amphitheater that is Alpine Valley, but I’ve never ventured to one quite like Perry’s hometown of New Auburn, rendered beautifully in this unforgettable memoir. Wyoming Wrapped and Strapped by Lorelei James I like Harlequin romance novels, so shoot me. Hippie vegetarian meets hunky cattle farmer in a raunchy stint at the ole Split Rock Ranch and Resort in this “Blacktop Cowboys” series mass market paperback hit. Now I definitely want to visit Wyoming for the, um, scenery.
Spend the night at FAO Schwarz via Airbnb
Airbnb is coming to the rescue for one very lucky New York City-based family to create a magical holiday season for their little ones during this strange time. For just $25 (plus taxes and fees) you can create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your children by sleeping over at the most iconic toy store on Earth, FAO Schwarz in Manhattan. The winners will have private access to the gigantic store’s many entertaining vignettes as well as endless toys and games to play with during the overnight stay on Monday, December 21st thanks to Airbnb. New York City residents can request to book a holiday sleepover at FAO Schwarz starting on December 15th at noon EST for the chance to make your kiddos’ holiday wishes come true. Be sure to pack your most comfortable footie pajamas as you're bound to spend hours exploring the mega toy store’s many attractions during the unforgettable evening. A real-life FAO Schwarz’s toy soldier will guide you through one of the world’s oldest toy stores. There will be a larger-than-life music lesson on the store’s iconic Giant Dance On Piano, a Build-A-Bear workshop session to create a new plush holiday friend, an opportunity to build your own remote-controlled car that you can race to your heart's desire down the halls of FAO Schwarz, and a breathtaking science experiment guided by FAO Schwarz’s Professor Atlas. Of course, no trip to FAO Schwarz is complete without a shopping spree at the two-story, 20,000-square-foot toy wonderland. There are countless toys and games in every corner of the shop making it easy for Santa to pick out perfect gifts for your kids from plush teddy bears to race cars thanks to a complimentary store credit included in the package. Have fun as you shop by using your imagination to play in the store’s rocket ship and other memorable play areas. Your family will be treated to a fantastic holiday feast joined by a troupe of teddy bears, extra-large candy canes, a toy train, and a sweet winter wonderland themed table setting. Unwind in the family room and snuggle by the electric fireplace with plush toys and admire the 75-foot holiday tree glowing outside your window in Rockefeller Plaza. Parents will tuck in for the night to sleep in a sleigh bed. Kiddos will love the bunk beds complete with a slide. A gigantic red teddy bear will be there to provide comfort to your little ones, but you're all sure to dream sweetly while surrounded by so much magic. The entire evening, including the guided tour, will adhere to social distancing regulations of remaining six feet apart and everyone will wear masks in order to keep your family and staff safe. Prior to your visit, the store will be cleaned in accordance with the CDC guidelines. Should it become necessary to cancel the stay, Airbnb will offer the winner a $1,000 USD Airbnb coupon and FAO Schwarz store credit. In the holiday spirit of giving back, Airbnb will make a one-time donation to the FAO Schwarz nonprofit partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The National Cancer Institute is the only designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the country devoted solely to children battling cancer. Non-NYC residents can still partake in the holiday cheer through Airbnb’s Online Experiences with FAO Schwarz including a magic lesson hosted by FAO Schwarz’s Professor Abracadabra where hopeful mystical practitioners can learn new illusion tricks. FAO Schwarz’s Professor Atlas will host a crash-course in chemistry, teaching guests how to make glow-in-in-the-dark slime at home. There will also be a holiday story read by an FAO Schwarz toy soldier. These family-friendly Airbnb Online Experiences can be booked through airbnb.com/happyholidays and enjoyed throughout the holiday season.
6 best day trips from New York City
Within two hours of the city, you can find a complete change of scenery: unplug in some nature, soothe your serotonin levels in the sand, or get cultured in upstate museums. Here’s our pick of the best day trips from NYC. Editor's note: please check the latest travel restrictions and opening hours before booking any trip and always follow government health advice. 1. Woodstock, NY Why go: Although the infamous concert actually took place in Bethel, NY, there is still tie-dye to be found in Woodstock, NY, a town filled with arts and nature. A ban on chain stores keeps this town feeling free-spirited. What to do: Get back to nature by taking a local hike up Overlook Mountain and take in the picturesque views from the top. Also, Tinker Street, Woodstock’s main drag, entices with unique gift stores and cafes. Where to eat: There are a plethora of restaurant choices in the town of Woodstock, but for an extra special breakfast, you’ll want to take a 20-minute drive to the Phoenicia Diner, an elevated diner known for unbelievable pancakes and a recently released cookbook. How to get there: The car is the fastest way to get to Woodstock, NY. Or from Port Authority, take a bus directly to Woodstock, NY. Travel time: 2 hours by car; 2 hours and 45 minutes by bus. 2. Bedford- Katonah, NY Bedford-Katonah in upstate New York make for a peaceful getaway © Andrea Thompson / Getty Images Why go: This part of Westchester is known for its rolling green hills and quaint hamlets with sleepy downtowns. It’s perfect for recharging on a wellness-focused day trip. What to do: Start at the Katonah Art Museum, known for showing up-and-coming and established modern artists in a small but innovative setting. Afterward, an eight-minute uber ride will take you to the Richard Gere-owned Bedford Post, an 8-room luxury inn that hosts daily yoga classes in the sun-drenched barn. Where to eat: The Barn, one of the two restaurants on the Bedford Post property is a casual, yet charming, wood-beamed room with a lovely porch for eating al fresco. How to get there: Take the Metro-North Harlem Line to Katonah Station. Take a short taxi ride to the Katonah Art Museum. Travel Time: The trip takes about 1 hour by train. 3. Asbury Park, NJ Asbury Park, New Jersey is transformed Jersey Shore beach town © Image Source / Getty Images Why go: With a multi-million dollar renovation, the Jersey Shore beach town of Asbury Park, most synonymous with Bruce Springsteen, has transformed into a destination with boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, and unique shops – while maintaining its funky edge. What to do: Spend time relaxing on the beach but don’t miss the Wooden Walls Project, a public art initiative started in 2015 consisting of large-scale murals. Shop the quirky beachside boardwalk boutiques and don’t forget to book tickets for a show at the legendary rock venue, Stone Pony (reopens 2021). Where to eat: The restaurant credited with transforming the food scene in Asbury Park is Porta, an upscale pizza spot in a breezy and lively location close to the beach. How to get there: The quickest way to get to Asbury Park is by car, but it is also possible to take a subway and bus. Travel Time: 1 hour 15 mins by car; 3 hours by subway and bus. Follow our New York City Trail Follow our New York City Trail 4. Beacon, NY Why go: A hotbed of creativity in a historical blue-collar town; Beacon has art, fine dining, and shopping all along the Hudson River. What to do: A stop at the Dia: Beacon is a must when day-tripping to Beacon. The light-filled 300,000 square-foot gallery space in a converted factory hosts conceptual large-scale art by Gerard Richter, Louise Bourgeois, and Richard Serra. Also, Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre outdoor sculpture garden, is a short drive away, bringing together fine art and fresh air. Where to eat: The most charming setting to eat is Roundhouse, a farm-to-table restaurant overlooking a waterfall. Inventive favorites like Spicy Lobster Mac n’ Cheese pair nicely with a signature cocktail or a glass of wine. How to get there: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Beacon Station. Travel time: The trip takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes by train. 5. New Hope, PA Float the Delaware River and relax in New Hope © Blasius Erlinger / Getty Images Why go: New Hope might be one of the most progressive small towns in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with a giant yearly LGBT festival, late-night bar scene, and artistic stores. What to do: Shop ‘til you drop on Main Street or to take advantage of the scenery, rent a tube and drift down the Delaware River (reopens 2021) letting your urban stress melt away. Where to eat: You won’t go wrong with Salt House, a charming gastropub located in a historical building built in 1751. Eat chowder by the fire in the tavern, steak frites in the upstairs library or oysters on the half shell “al fresco” on the stone patio. How to get there: From Port Authority, take a direct bus to New Hope. Travel time: 1 hour and 30 mins by car; 2 hours by bus, depending on schedule. 6. Rockaways, Queens Rhe NYC skyline against the beach of the Rockaways ©Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images Why go: For a hip surf scene that is reachable by subway, grab your swimsuit and catch the A train to the Rockaways. Technically still in New York City (it’s in Queens), you’ll feel like you’re in a seaside town, but without the unbearable traffic. What to do: Before you go, reserve your umbrella and beach lounge chair through Lido Beach Butlers (currently closed) at Jacob Riis Beach, and arrive to find everything set up for maximum relaxation. For a unique experience in the summer, book a tent at Camp Rockaway, a seasonal “glampground” located mere steps from the ocean, where the sounds of the surf will lull you to sleep. Where to eat: The Riis Park Beach Bazaar concession stands have updated seaside fare including a weekly lobster boil at Rockaway Clam Bar (reopens 2021). Grab a picnic table on the boardwalk, crack open a beer, and groove to the live music playing most summer nights. How to get there: Take the NYC ferry directly to Jacob Riis Beach or the A train to a shuttle bus. Travel Time: The trip takes about 45 minutes.
More Places to go
Ogunquit ( oh-GUN-kwit) is a town in York County, Maine. As of the 2010 census, its population was 892. The summer resort's name means "beautiful place by the sea" in the Abenaki Native American language. Ogunquit is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 21,233, and in 2019 the estimated population was 21,927. A historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination on the Piscataqua River bordering the state of Maine, Portsmouth was formerly the home of the Strategic Air Command's Pease Air Force Base, since converted to Portsmouth International Airport at Pease.
Kennebunk is a town in York County, Maine, United States. The population was 10,798 at the 2010 census (The population does not include Kennebunkport, a separate town). Kennebunk is home to several beaches, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, the 1799 Kennebunk Inn, many historic shipbuilders' homes, the Brick Store Museum and the Nature Conservancy Kennebunk Plains (known locally as the Blueberry Plains), with 1,500 acres (6 km2) of nature trails and blueberry fields. The municipality includes the constituent villages of Kennebunk Village (Town), the Lower Village (Lower Kennebunk), Kennebunk Landing (the Landing), Bartlett Mills, West Kennebunk, Kennebunk Beach, Lords Point, Coopers Corner Crossing, Sea Roads Crossing, Webahennet Grove, and Vinegarhill, Cheshire Commons, Kennebunk Meadows, and various newer neighborhoods.
Hampton Beach is a village district, census-designated place, and beach resort in the town of Hampton, New Hampshire, United States, along the Atlantic Ocean. Its population at the 2010 census was 2,275. Hampton Beach is in Rockingham County, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Portsmouth. The community is a popular tourist destination and the busiest beach community in New Hampshire. Ocean Boulevard, the main street along the beach, includes a boardwalk, many shops and businesses, several seasonal hotels, and the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, which hosts national acts in the summer. Hampton Beach State Park was named one of four "Superstar" beaches in the United States in 2011, for having had perfect water-quality testing results in each of the previous three years.