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Travel by Train: 7 Awesome Routes for Seeing the U.S.A.
When you're not in a rush to get to your destination, there's no better way to travel than by the slow, steady pace of a train. Though often associated with a European vacation, there are plenty of scenic and adventurous rail routes that you can take right here in—and across—the United States. Train travel offers an up-close look at your very own backyard, whether you're chugging along through the mountains or unhurriedly making your way through the scenic Northeast—all for a price that's often lower than a flight. Ready to see the country by rail? Here are seven train trips that can’t be beat. 1. Adirondack: An International Journey, With Landscape Views Take the stress out of an international flight and climb aboard Amtrak’s Adirondack (amtrak.com/adirondack-train), which takes leaves from Manhattan’s Penn Station and arrives in Montreal less than 11 hours later. The train winds its way through the Hudson Valley’s wine country and the farms of Albany and the Adirondack Mountains. It’s an especially popular route for leaf peepers during the fall, as the already breathtaking scenery is painted in glorious shades of orange, red and brown. (For prime views, make your way up to the dome car.) And pro tip: Since this is an international route, be sure to pack your passport. One-way tickets start at $70. 2. Pacific Surfliner: California Dreaming Surf the coast by rail on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (pacificsurfliner.com), which takes you through 351 miles of beautiful southern California. The golden coast journey starts in San Diego and ends in San Luis Obispo, stopping in SoCal hotspots like Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carpinteria, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Juan Capistrano. The train tracks hug the Pacific coast and riders can often spot dolphins, California sea lions, and even whales—right from the comfort of their seats. The Pacific Surfliner includes a café car—with plenty of wine options—as well as a bike rack, so you can easily take your wheels and hit the trails as soon as you hop off the train. One-way tickets start at $61.25. 3. Sunset Limited: Watch the Dynamic Southwest Change Before Your Eyes Amtrak’s southern-most route, Sunset Limited (amtrak.com/sunset-limited-train), takes riders on a 48-hour scenic journey of the American southwest, from New Orleans all the way to Los Angeles. From the bayou to the canyons of southwestern Texas to the California mountains, pass through scenery that’s largely inaccessible by car, so have your camera out and be ready to capture it from your seat. Though this route doesn’t take you to into the national parks, the train will stop at their doorsteps. As part of a partnership between the National Parks Service and Amtrak, a national parks guide will often be on board to explain the changing vistas and landscapes as you slowly make your way through, which is all part of a partnership between Amtrak and the National Parks Service. One-way tickets start at $314. 4. Grand Canyon Railway: An American Natural Wonder Awaits Avoid the traffic of Grand Canyon National Park and ride to the iconic destination in style on the Grand Canyon Railway (thetrain.com). The round-trip train route, which takes a little over two hours, begins in Williams, Arizona, and arrives inside Grand Canyon National Park, giving riders plenty of time to explore before heading back in the afternoon. On the journey, riders are lucky enough to get magnificent views of the Ponderosa Pine Forest in Williams, the wide-open prairies, and the San Francisco peaks, all while marveling at (and feeling) the change in elevation. Travelers can also often catch glimpses of wildlife such as elk, mountain lions, and bald eagle throughout the trip. Round-trip ticket prices from $70 to $226. 5. Napa Valley Wine Train: A Toast to the Vineyards of California Just when you think that being in Napa Valley couldn’t get more elegant, the Napa Valley Wine Train (winetrain.com)—a beautifully restored 100-year-old railcar—makes any visit to wine country even more indulgent. The train’s route is short—just 30 miles from downtown Napa to St. Helena—but it’s an unforgettable way to view the vineyards as you ride through California farmland, all while holding a glass of wine in your hand. You can choose between a three- or six-hour trip, depending on whether you want a tasting tour, or a gourmet, multi-course meal served on board during your journey. And of course, there is plenty of wine tasting to be had while you’re chugging along. Ticket packages start at around $200. 6. Vermonter: A Breathtaking Trip Along the Eastern Seaboard Watch the New England landscape shift from big cities to beautiful pastoral scenes on Amtrak’s Vemonter train (amtrak.com/vermonter-train), which runs daily service between Washington D.C. and St. Albans, a small town in northern Vermont. The trip, which clocks in at just under 14 hours, winds through all the east coast highlights: the big metropolises of New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and the quaint countryside of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The Vermonter not only provides unbelievable views out your passenger window of skyscrapers, farmland, beautiful churches, and sweeping valleys, but it’s also a great source of transportation for skiers, as it provides easy access to resorts like Bolton Valley and Sugarbush. One-way tickets start at $74. 7. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: A Vintage Steam-Powered Journey Through Colorado Step back in time and experience Colorado’s beauty on the coal-fired, steam-powered Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train (durangotrain.com), which offers service between the two mountain towns. The train trip, 3.5 hours each way, allows passengers to eat lunch and explore the former mining town for a couple of hours before heading back to Durango. Along the way, riders can glimpse canyons along the Animas River and the plentiful spruces of the San Juan National Forest as the train steadily chugs along through the changing elevation levels. Riders can also opt to be dropped off to fish and hike at secluded locations that are inaccessible by car. Round-trip tickest start at $89.
Historic Wineries Near You: From Napa to New York
Thomas Jefferson, America’s founding oenophile, was onto something when he tried to plant vitis vinifera—the European grape vines of which he was so fond—in Virginia. But he wasn’t the only one to make a go of grape-growing in the United States. While today, you can find producers growing grapes and making vino in every single state of the union, there are a few that have been doing it as far back as the early 19th century. Next time you’re thirsty for a little history, pop into one of these seven wineries where they pour out the past as well as the pinot. 1. Brotherhood Winery: Washingtonville, New York Although it didn’t start labeling wines under the Brotherhood name until the 1890s, original owner, Jean Jacques, first began producing wine from vines on his duo of Hudson Valley estates in 1839. Brotherhood marks that date as its launch into the world, making it the oldest continuously operating winery in the U.S., a designation that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historical Places. Book a tour through the hand-excavated cellars—some of the largest and most elaborate in the country—to hear about all the underground secrets stashed away here. Learn more about Jacques and the second owners, the Emersons, who kept the winery alive during Prohibition via sacramental wine. Or simply sip a glass of Brotherhood bubbly on the stone patio and take in the stately old stone buildings and beauty of the Hudson Valley. 2. Wente Vineyards: Livermore, California If Brotherhood gets the nod for oldest continuously operated winery, Wente wins for being the oldest continuously operated winery owned by the same family, now in its 5th generation. Carl Heinrich Wente came to America seeking his fortune in 1880, got a job working for another vine-minded German immigrant, Charles Krug (see below), and by 1883 bought land in Livermore, establishing the Wente Bros. Winery. Like Brotherhood, the family kept the operation going with sacramental wine during Prohibition. But what you really need to know about Wente is that they make spectacular chardonnay—so good that in the early 20th century, the vineyard cultivated its own award-winning clone (that is, a vine re-created over and over from the cuttings of grapevines that have particularly alluring qualities, be they anything from hardiness to aromatics). In 1936, Wente became the first winery in the United States to put the name of a grape variety on its labels—meaning that today, when you buy a bottle of sauvignon blanc or cabernet at your local store, you have Wente to thank because before that, it was just “wine”—which is not so conducive to figuring out what goes best with your wild-caught salmon or Tomahawk steak. 3. Charles Krug, St. Helena, California (Courtesy Charles Krug) Napa Valley is famed for its highfalutin wineries (and equally nose-bleed inducing prices), but once upon a time it was just lots of land and acres upon acres of pioneering spirit. Like that of Charles Krug, a German-born newspaper man who became so entranced by California’s “purple gold” (you know, grapes) that he founded his eponymous winery here in 1861 on land from the dowry of his American wife, Carolina Bale. His much-renowned Bordeaux-inspired reds earned him an unofficial but well-deserved title, the Father of Napa Wine, and he was a marketing visionary as well, establishing the first tasting room in California wine country. Today, Charles Krug is owned by the Napa wine giant, C. Mondavi & Family, and it’s become a posh and popular stop on the Napa wine circuit. The original buildings that Charles Krug constructed are listed with the National Register of Historical Places, and well worth a visit. 4. Val Verde Winery, Del Rio, Texas (Courtesy Val Verde Winery) Frank Qualia didn’t mean to stay in Del Rio, Texas, a few miles from the border of Mexico. But in 1881, as he made his way from Milan, Italy, he happened upon a plot of land where some Lenoir grapes were growing by the San Felipe Springs-fed creek. By 1883, Qualia officially established his 14-acre Val Verde Winery, marked by its foot-deep adobe walls and strong Italian winemaking traditions. Now, some 130 years later, his original plot of land is still the site of Val Verde’s Texas-grown (they never substitute grapes from out-of-state places) winery and tasting room. Today, the spot is run by Frank’s grandson, Thomas, whose own son, Michael, has learned the trade himself, and is primed to take on the family mantel. Be sure to pay close attention to the cool photos and heirlooms, like Frank’s passport and naturalization papers, and even some old winemaking gear. (Serious wine geeks will want to pop into to the nearby Whitehead Memorial Museum to see some of Qualia’s original equipment). For a taste of the past, check out the Val Verde Sweet Red, a blend similar to the sacramental wine that got the company through Prohibition. 5. Renault Winery: Egg Harbor City, New Jersey Necessity is the mother of invention, or certainly the father of New Jersey “champagne.” Hailing from the famed Reims area of the Champagne region of France, Joseph Renault fled the storied home of bubbly in the mid-19th century after a nasty little aphid known as phylloxera wiped out almost all of Europe’s vineyards. Precious vine clippings in tow, he sought out the warm, sunny growing conditions of California, but phylloxera was there, too. Word of problem-resistant native vines on the East Coast lured him 3,000 miles back to the Garden State, where the winery he established in 1864 would go on to become the largest distributor of American sparkling wine in the country. Although it’s remained in business continuously, Renault has been bought and sold numerous times over the years, and now the winery has become a resort destination complete with a hotel, spa, 18-hole golf course, and 5-mile hiking trail through the New Jersey Pine Barrens. 6. Buena Vista, Sonoma, California (Courtesy Buena Vista) If you can make it in Sonoma, you can make it anywhere—even if you have to embellish your family's ties to aristocracy to do so. “Count” Agoston Haraszthy immigrated from Hungary in the 1840s, seeking thrills and fortune in the great American West, and though he had no real claims to royalty, his fake-it-‘til-you-make-it attitude landed him a multitude of diverse roles, among them: self-titled Count (he actually had no ties to royalty); founder of Wisconsin’s Sauk City, the state’s first official town; sheriff of San Diego; ore analyst for the U.S. Mint. He also pioneered Sonoma winemaking with the establishment of Buena Vista Winery in 1857, which quickly became one of California’s largest land-owning wineries. But grander and grander ambitions, trouble with the law, money-making schemes, and financial issues infused Haraszthy’s life in Sonoma with such turmoil, that he left (some say fled) to Nicaragua with his family in tow, apparently in search of prosperity in the rum business, before disappearing without a trace. The mark he left on Buena Vista, one of California’s most important wineries, however, endures. And what a tour it makes for. 7. Adam Puchta Winery: Hermann, Missouri Hailing from the Bavarian city of Oberkotzau, Adam Puchta was only 7-years-old when he and his family emigrated to Missouri in 1839, dreaming of fertile lands and Gold Rush riches. Fourteen years later, thanks to a stint in California, the latter helped Adam earn enough to get serious about winemaking. He returned to Missouri and bought a portion of the family’s then 80-acre farm and get serious about winemaking, establishing his namesake winery in 1855, and growing wine grapes and other crops to keep the money flowing. His kids managed to keep the winery in the black after Puchta died in 1904, but they couldn’t withstand the pressures of Prohibition, which put the Show Me State’s prolific producer out of business—but not for good. In 1990, Adam’s grandson and great-grandson re-established the Adam Putcha Winery, adding a tasting room for visitors, and realizing Puchta’s dream of becoming one of the most important wineries in Missouri. For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.
8 Things to Do in Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff, Canada, has been a haven for adventurous travelers for more than 125 years. The earliest visitors came via the Canadian Pacific Railway to explore the newly minted Banff National Park, the first national park in Canada and third in the world. These days, the area is a reasonable 90-minute drive along the Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary’s International Airport. Lured by the rugged natural beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, backpackers, ski bums, camera-toting tourists, and royals alike have checked the Bow Valley town off their bucket lists, and iconic images of snow-capped peaks with the promise of expert skiing terrain should convince anyone to follow suit. The UNESCO World Heritage Site’s magnificent mountain panoramas and pristine glacial lakes will likely surpass even the most jaded traveler's sky-high expectations. Rolling into town, Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay, and Cascade Mountain are so close you can almost touch them—and that's just the first impression. Here are eight ways to get away from the crowds and bask in the wilderness of Banff, one of the most beautiful natural playgrounds on earth. 1. Linger Around a Lake Moraine Lake is one of several bodies of water not far from Banff. (Jtbob168/Dreamstime) Moraine Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Vermilion Lakes, and Lake Louise are all within a one-hour drive of the town of Banff. Whichever you choose, plan to arrive early to get a moment of quiet reflection and capture sunrise before the masses descend and parking spots disappear. Minnewanka is a prime spot to catch the Northern Lights, so check the aurora forecast (@aurorawatch on Twitter) to plan a late-night viewing, or cruise along the bike path that skirts the Vermilion Lakes—just make sure to keep an eye out for the moose, black bears, and elk that frequent this corridor. 2. Take a Hike or Two On Sulphur Mountain, a boardwalk connects to the gondola landing. (John6863373/Dreamstime) It’s not an insult—it’s expert advice, and the best way to get acquainted with the park and find solitude. There are more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails throughout Banff National Park, but most visitors stick to a handful of crowded routes. The longer—and yes, more strenuous—trails like Cory Pass and Mount Edith or Aylmer Lookout have less foot traffic, with beautiful unobstructed views as rewards for the exertion. As an alternative, Sulphur Mountain, right on the edge of town, boasts a renovated summit area complete with boardwalks and 360-degree panoramas. Consider giving your tired feet a rest and paying for the scenic Banff Gondola (banffjaspercollection.com/attractions/banff-gondola/experience) ride to the top. 3. Go Deeper with Guided Tours Ice climbing in Banff. (Franky/Dreamstime) Banff National Park’s wonderful hikes and vistas are available to all, but local tour operators open up the wilderness for a safe and memorable experience. For an adrenaline rush, ice-climbing trips with Banff Alpine Guides (banffalpineguides.com) in winter and Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata (banffnorquay.com) assisted-climbing excursions in summer don’t disappoint. Both come with expert instruction and all the necessary safety gear, no experience required. Additionally, canoeing along the Bow River with The Banff Canoe Club (banffcanoeclub.com) seamlessly combines a history lesson and a leisurely journey. 4. Hit the Slopes in Spring Skiing near Lake Louise, Banff. (Sburel/Dreamstime) If you ask any local, they will recommend spring for skiing and snowboarding. Come April, there’s no shortage of fresh powder, the temperatures rise, and accommodations are plentiful and reasonably priced. Banff National Park is home to three ski resorts, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mount Norquay (us.skibig3.com), with ample terrain for every ability. The Canadian Rockies may be famous for heli-skiing and adrenaline-packed expert-only lines, but leisurely runs still afford spectacular views of the peaks. 5. Sip a Distinctive Après Ski or Hike Drink Hit the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise's Lakeview Lounge for post-hike refreshments. (Helena Bilkova/Dreamstime) All that activity is bound to make you thirsty, and Banff has a reputation as a party town, with lively drinking scenes on rooftop patios and alfresco tables. Your beverage comes with at least one mountain backdrop and, if you time it right, the sunset. The Bison Restaurant + Terrace (thebison.ca) has a carefully curated selection of British Columbian wines by the glass and by the bottle. When it comes to suds, a flight from Banff Ave. Brewing Co. (banffavebrewingco.ca) is a great way to sample the local craft scene. For teetotalers, Nourish Bistro (nourishbistro.com) offers kombucha on tap with flavors changing daily, and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’s Lakeview Lounge (fairmont.com) uses Seedlip’s non-alcoholic distilled spirits for mix-and-match mocktails. 6. Savor Local Flavors Picturesque downtown Banff is home to restaurants and shops alike. (Helena Bilkova/Dreamstime) Thanks to the work-to-live regulations in Banff, locally owned restaurants flourish and have fueled adventurers for years. Start your day at Wild Flour (wildflourbakery.ca) with fresh-baked bread and pastries, local coffees, and lunch to go. Don’t leave without perusing the “vintage” basket, which holds day-old goodies like focaccia and scones, ideal trail snacks at $1 (Canadian) each. Its sister location, Little Wild Coffee (littlewildcoffee.ca), has an unbeatable daily happy hour with $1 drip coffees from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. In addition to a local wine list, The Bison Restaurant + Terrace serves elevated Canadian cuisine with dishes like elk tartare and bison short ribs. A map on the menu notes the origin of every ingredient, three walls of windows offer mountain views, and chefs cook in a copper-accented open-concept kitchen. For more casual fare, head downstairs to The Bear Street Tavern, a local favorite for pizza and homemade sauces. Down the street, Nourish Bistro manages to make meat-eaters crave its raw, vegan, and vegetarian fare, and its colossal veggie burger requires a knife and fork to conquer. 7. Recover in Mountain Style A thermal pool inside Banff's Cave and Basin National Historic Site. (Jairo Rene Leiva/Dreamstime) Banff was founded after three railroad workers discovered natural hot springs at the site now known as Cave and Basin. Today, the healing waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs and other local pools remain popular antidotes to mountain adventures. Try a soak in the mineral pool at the Grotto Spa at Delta Hotels Banff Royal Canadian Lodge (deltahotels.com), or one of the rooftop pools at the Moose Hotel & Suites (moosehotelandsuites.com) or Mount Royal Hotel (banffjaspercollection.com). 8. Get Cultured Indoors If the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s not a total loss. Make the most of a stormy day with a visit to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (whyte.org), Banff Park Museum (pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ab/banff), and Banff Centre (banffcentre.ca). The museums chronicle the fascinating cultural and natural history of the Rockies, and the Banff Centre brings it to life through art, performances, and an annual film festival. The Details Accommodations range from campsites and hostels to luxurious rooms with exquisite views. Summer is high season, with the most visitors coming in July and August. As a result, late winter and early fall are the best bets for scoring a deal, while nearby Canmore has even more budget-friendly lodging.
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.
Summer in Big Sky Country
Splashes, shrieks, giggles, and grins. My family and I wade delicately, as suburbanites do, into a Montana creek after a long plane ride from New York. Even in late summer, the water is cold. TAKE A MONTANA TOUR! And it's easy to see why—early snow has dusted the distant peaks. Didactic Dad gestures toward the mountains and reminds his daughters that they're basically standing in melted snow. They're not listening—and why should they? Clara, my seven-year-old, is collecting the most colorful rocks she's ever seen (and couldn't care less that they've been deposited here over eons by the glaciers that give this park its name). Rosalie, just turned two, is simply delighted to be standing in water that's swirling and burbling around her. My wife, Michele, and I share a moment beyond words as we watch our girls discover Glacier National Park, nicknamed the Crown of the Continent for its stunning array of Rocky Mountain peaks, a place she and I have come to treasure as our favorite spot on the planet. For the next two days, we'll happily skip rocks, paddle canoes, and hike gentle, family-friendly trails in the company of mountain goats, bald eagles, and fellow awed humans. DAYS 1 AND 2 Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road 64 miles Arriving at Glacier International Airport in Kalispell, Mont., is nothing like "deplaning" at a cookie-cutter airport. Steps from the tarmac we're greeted by wildlife replicas like mountain goats and loons. Within minutes we're in a rental car and zipping up the winding roads into the mountains toward Glacier National Park (West Glacier, Mont., nps.gov/glac, $25 per car). We load up on provisions at a supermarket in Columbia Falls, then we enter the national park world—where the day's schedule is established gently by the rising and falling of the sun, the turning of the stars, and the puffy clouds in the Big Sky. We check in at Apgar Village Lodge (Apgar Village, Glacier National Park, Mont., westglacier.com, cabins with kitchens from $176), essentially a motel made up of individual cabins equipped with bathrooms and kitchens. We've reserved Cabin 22, right along the shores of McDonald Creek and a few steps from Lake McDonald, the biggest lake in the park. We drop our bags and head right for the creek's gin-clear water, washing big-city anxiety from our bodies. The mountains of the Continental Divide are reflected perfectly in the lake. Yes, our cabin has a kitchen, and over the course of our two days in the park we'll put it to good use flipping pancakes and burgers. But on our first evening in Apgar Village, we want someone else to do the cooking. Eddie's Café (Apgar Village, Glacier National Park, Mont., eddiescafegifts.com, ale-battered fish-and-chips $13.99) is the only game in "town," and it's just what we're looking for, with local trout and exceptional beef on the menu for decent prices. We tuck into excellent Redhook Ale-battered fish-and-chips and, for dessert, wild huckleberry ice cream by the lake. First thing in the morning, we hit the ultimate highway—with an emphasis on "high." As thoroughfares go, there's really no place like Glacier's Going-to-the-Sun Road. Completed in 1932, it hugs the sides of mountains as it snakes 53 miles across the park, up to the Continental Divide at Logan Pass then down to East Glacier. Along the way you can spend happy moments—or even hours—exploring the easy, .6-mile Trail of the Cedars, boulder-strewn Avalanche Creek, and jaw-dropping turnouts with views of the pine-studded valleys far below. Once you reach Logan Pass, 32 miles from Apgar, with a visitors center that includes the highest souvenir shop I've ever shopped at, plan on hiking a ways on a boardwalk that was built especially to preserve the delicate alpine flora that grow here during the brief summers. You can follow the boardwalk uphill to a platform overlooking Hidden Lake (if your legs survive the hike, you'll understand how the lake got its name!) and you're almost guaranteed to see mountain goats—white-haired, horned relatives of antelopes that live only at exceptionally high altitudes—clomping along the boardwalk up there. Back at Apgar that evening, we attend one of Glacier's evening ranger talks, this one on Native American folk tales. At our cabin, we drift off to sleep while the night sky is still a little orange in the west. You can spend days in Glacier, and I recommend taking Going-to-the-Sun Road all the way to the east side of the park, where you can explore the area around Saint Mary's Lake, Many Glacier, and other spots. For this trip, though, we've allotted just two days to the park and now we're headed for Bigfork. DAY 3 Glacier National Park to Bigfork 41 miles Bigfork, on the shores of Flathead Lake, hasn't yet made Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns list, but it certainly has a shot. It boasts a thriving main street (with the '80s-evoking moniker Electric Avenue) complete with a great book store, jewelry shops that specialize in local sapphires, art galleries, and no-nonsense eateries that will load you up with quality sandwiches. After "roughing it" in Glacier for two nights, the lure of Eva Gates's wild-huckleberry preserves is strong for us (456 Electric Ave., Bigfork, Mont., evagates.com, three jars of wild huckleberry preserves $35). We grab some snacks and also buy some syrups and preserves to mail back to New York, where the flavor of Montana huckleberries will remind us of this trip for months. We spend the night at a "stylish steal," the Swan River Inn (360 Grand Ave., Bigfork, Mont., swanriverinn.com, $195), ready to set out first thing in the morning for Montana's dinosaur country to the south. DAY 4 Bigfork to Bozeman 289 miles Today's ride is relatively short by Montana standards, but can stretch out as long as you like depending on how willing you are to stop and explore the "chain of lakes" that follow the Clearwater River down the Swan mountain range along the Bob Marshall National Wilderness. We stop at Rainy Lake for a short hike and hear the unforgettable cries of loons across the water. Next, we make a left at the giant cow. Well, it's actually a bull, the mascot of a convenience store at Clearwater Junction where we turn east on our way to Bozeman. With a collection of dinosaur fossils that rivals those of much larger museums in much larger cities, Bozeman's Museum of the Rockies (300 West Kagy Blvd., Bozeman, Mont., museumoftherockies.org, two-day admission $14) represents some of the bounty discovered by dinosaur hunters such as Jack Horner, and you can sign up for a dig yourself. (Be prepared for a long, hot day of digging and, possibly, disappointment.) We take our time strolling through a timeline of Montana history, including artifacts from Native Americans and early American settlers. There's also an exceptional planetarium and the Living History Farm, an original homestead reconstructed on the grounds of the museum to show visitors how a farming family lived more than a century ago. In the farm's kitchen, volunteers have been known to cook up a fresh feast using fruits and vegetables grown right on the grounds, and a cookbook of traditional (and yummy) recipes is available at the museum's bookshop. Our dinner is decidedly more contemporary—immense submarine sandwiches from the Pickle Barrel (809 West College St., Bozeman, Mont., picklebarrelmt.com, The Big Sky sandwich $7.40), an affordable favorite of Montana State University students here. Try The Big Sky, piled high with bacon, turkey, and cheddar cheese. With our amazingly tasty sandwiches in hand, we check in to a cozy home away from home—Homewood Suites by Hilton (1023 Baxter Lane, Bozeman, Mont., homewoodsuites.com, suites from $169). DAY 5 Bozeman to Helena 97 miles Bozeman can be your gateway to Yellowstone National Park if you've got the time, but on this trip, Helena, the state capital, is next. Though Helena feels like the big city at this point, it is still defined, as all these Montana destinations are, by the wildness just outside its borders. As we approach the city, peaks rise before us and the kids are delighted with the Sleeping Giant—mountains that look like an immense dude asleep on the horizon. Helena's Last Chance Gulch is a throwback to 19th-century prospecting days, though nowadays the only panning you'll be doing is for antiques and western art. We love the burgers at the Windbag Saloon (19 South Last Chance Gulch, Helena, Mont., 406/443-9669, burgers from $11). Shhh!—don't tell my kids this was the site of Helena's last bordello. Then we embark on a two-hour guided boat tour of a stretch of the Missouri River dubbed the Gates of the Mountains by Lewis and Clark for its towering cliffs (3131 Gates of the Mountains Rd., Helena, Mont., gatesofthemountains.com, 2-hour cruise $16). A night at the Red Lion Colonial Hotel (2301 Colonial Dr., Helena, Mont., redlion.com, from $115) and we're ready—well, not really—to fly back to New York. Standing on a crowded Manhattan street corner and realizing you're literally seeing more people at one time than you saw in an entire day at Glacier is a back-to-reality moment that comes all too soon.
Evoking Hong Kong: Q&A with the author of 'The Piano Teacher'
In her first novel, a high stakes love story, Janice Y.K. Lee keenly describes the expat social whirl and everyday flavor of Hong Kong, shifting between 1952 and the tumultuous Japanese invasion in late 1941. Out on January 13, The Piano Teacher has already won praise from big names like Gary Shteyngart (Absurdistan) and Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love). Flipping through a review copy at work, I found myself immediately swept up—in part because of a personal connection. I've been to Hong Kong repeatedly as my husband, like Lee, grew up there in a non-Chinese family. I e-mailed Lee, curious about where to find traces of the old Hong Kong she depicts, how the expat community has changed, and what she makes of the local cultural scene. Read on for Lee's perspective and a video of her discussing the novel… How did you go about researching the Hong Kong of the '40s and '50s? I read a lot of memoirs by people who had been in the camps and who had lived in Hong Kong at the time. I really loved the feel of the writing of the time, which gave me immediate insight into how people talked and how they had parties, and how they related to each other, etc. I also watched a lot of movies like Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Anything that was set in the '40s or '50s I would watch with a heightened interest for the details, like what kind of coat or dress they were wearing, what they ate at restaurants, or what kind of car they were driving. Where can travelers go to find traces of old Hong Kong, particularly from the period of the Japanese occupation? Unfortunately, there are not a lot of old buildings left in Hong Kong. In the middle of Central, Statue Square is still there, pretty much unchanged, and the Legco [Legislative Council] Building is in the old traditional style, a wide, large, gracious building surrounded by skyscrapers. The Helena May is still around; it's a women's club with dining and lodging facilities and it's very colonial in feel and look still, but it's a private club. Tea at The Peninsula is fun, but it's pretty modern now. Still, it's nice to go and have a proper English tea. Are there other places you would suggest readers visit if they make it to Hong Kong? The Repulse Bay is a large arcade that overlooks the beach. In it, there is a restaurant called The Verandah that I remember visiting as a child in the 1970s for its Sunday brunches. If you squint your eyes very, very hard, you can imagine you are back in the '50s! I live close by so I'm always there for the supermarket, coffee shop, and also a restaurant called Spices that I love. Visitors to Hong Kong always go to The Peak but I fail to see the attraction, although the view is pretty spectacular. How do you think the current expat scene in Hong Kong compares to that of the novel? In many ways, it can feel very similar. Many an afternoon, I'm sitting at a table at a club with other women watching our children play on the lawn. There is still a languorous, non-American feel to much of life. Of course, the pace is more frenetic and it's very international, but many women are not working and their husbands are working a lot, and you form your own community. The expats are still the privileged minority, although attitudes have changed for the better. This is a very specific type I'm describing though. Of course, there are many sorts of expats: young, hard-driving expats, older people who have been here for ages, etc. Hong Kong initially struck me as thriving, chaotic, and shopping-crazed (not unlike NYC), but I've wondered about the cultural scene. How do you find it to be living there as a writer? Are there local organizations or events that you'd recommend? People always complain about the cultural scene in Hong Kong. And they're not wrong. Although there has been an effort to bring culture into Hong Kong, more often than not it seems a bit forced. The Arts Festival is a several-week event that highlights many different performances, many of which are good, but what ends up happening is that you have to cram all your "culture" into a few weeks, which is a bit hard to digest. The Literary Festival is good for book nuts like me. Having lived in New York, where culture was an enormous smorgasbord you could pick from any night of the week, it's odd to have comparatively little to choose from here. There are often productions that come into town but there's that…and often nothing else (I'm talking about a Western taste here). I don't speak Cantonese so I can't speak to the local scene. As a writer, it's been good, actually! I just read books and stay at home and write! In the three-minute video clip below, Lee shares more about the book and the city—including her love of Hong Kong's quieter, greener side and the long-time phenomenon of people washing up there to reinvent themselves. thSetupPlayerShell("pg_jlee_piano"); More on Literary Travel DESTINATION INSPIRATION A Family Trip to Hong Kong Fresh Air: Hong Kong Gets Green
More Places to go
Butte is the county seat of Silver Bow County, Montana, United States. In 1977, the city and county governments consolidated to form the sole entity of Butte-Silver Bow. The city covers 718 square miles (1,860 km2), and, according to the 2010 census, has a population of 33,503, making it Montana's fifth largest city. It is served by Bert Mooney Airport with airport code BTM. The city used to be home to many mines, especially copper, mines, such as the Anaconda Copper Mine. Established in 1864 as a mining camp in the northern Rocky Mountains on the Continental Divide, Butte experienced rapid development in the late-nineteenth century, and was Montana's first major industrial city. In its heyday between the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, it was one of the largest copper boomtowns in the American West. Employment opportunities in the mines attracted surges of Asian and European immigrants, particularly the Irish; as of 2017, Butte has the largest population of Irish Americans per capita of any city in the United States.Butte was also the site of various historical events involving its mining industry and active labor unions and Socialist politics, the most famous of which was the labor riot of 1914. Despite the dominance of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, Butte was never a company town. Other major events in the city's history include the 1917 Speculator Mine disaster, the largest hard rock mining disaster in world history. Over the course of its history, Butte's mining and smelting operations generated in excess of $48 billion worth of ore, but also resulted in numerous environmental implications for the city: The upper Clark Fork River, with headwaters at Butte, is the largest Superfund site in the United States, and the city is also home to the Berkeley Pit. In the late-twentieth century, cleanup efforts from the EPA were instated, and the Butte Citizens Technical Environmental Committee was established in 1984. In the 21st century, efforts at interpreting and preserving Butte's heritage are addressing both the town's historical significance and the continuing importance of mining to its economy and culture. The city's Uptown Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States, containing nearly 6,000 contributing properties. The city is also home to Montana Technological University, a public engineering and technical university.
Anaconda, county seat of Deer Lodge County, which has a consolidated city-county government, is located in southwestern Montana, United States. Located at the foot of the Anaconda Range (known locally as the "Pintlers"), the Continental Divide passes within 8 mi (13 km) south of the community. As of the 2010 census the population of the consolidated city-county was 9,298, with a per capita personal income of $20,462 and a median household income of $34,716. It had earlier peaks of population in 1930 and 1980, based on the mining industry. As a consolidated city-county area, it ranks as the ninth most populous city in Montana, but as only a city is far smaller. Central Anaconda is 5,335 ft (1,626 m) above sea level, and is surrounded by the communities of Opportunity and West Valley. The county area is 741 square miles (1,920 km2), characterized by densely timbered forestlands, lakes, mountains and recreation grounds. The county has common borders with Beaverhead, Butte-Silver Bow, Granite, Jefferson and Powell counties.
Philipsburg is a town in and the county seat of Granite County, Montana, United States. The population was 820 at the 2010 census. The town was named after the famous mining engineer Philip Deidesheimer, who designed and supervised the construction of the ore smelter around which the town originally formed. He platted the townsite in 1867.
Great Falls is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Montana and the county seat of Cascade County. The population was 58,505 according to the 2010 census, and was estimated at 58,434 on July 1, 2019. The city covers an area of 22.9 square miles (59 km2) and is the principal city of the Great Falls, Montana, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Cascade County. The county’s population stood at 81,327 in the 2010 census. A cultural, commercial and financial center in the central part of the state, Great Falls is located just east of the Rocky Mountains and is bisected by the Missouri River. It is 180 miles (290 km) from the east entrance to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, and 264 miles (425 km) from Yellowstone National Park in southern Montana and northern Wyoming. A north–south federal highway, Interstate 15, serves the city.Great Falls is named for a series of five waterfalls located on the Missouri River north and east of the city. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805–1806 was forced to portage around a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of the river in order to bypass the falls; the company spent 31 days in the area, performing arduous labor to make the portage. Three of the waterfalls, known as Black Eagle, Rainbow and the Great Falls (or the Big Falls), are among the sites of five hydroelectric dams in the area, giving the city its moniker, “The Electric City”. Other nicknames for Great Falls include “The River City” and “Western Art Capital of the World”. The city is also home to two military installations: Malmstrom Air Force Base east of the city, which is the community’s largest employer; and the Montana Air National Guard to the west, adjacent to Great Falls International Airport.Great Falls is a popular tourist destination in Montana, with one million overnight visitors annually, who spend an estimated $185 million while visiting, according to the Great Falls Montana Tourism group. Among Montana cities, Great Falls boasts the greatest number of museums, with 10, including the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Giant Springs and the C. M. Russell Museum and Original Log Cabin Studio on the city’s north side. Great Falls was the largest city in Montana from 1950 to 1970, when it was eclipsed by Billings in the 1970 census; Missoula assumed second place in 2000, and Great Falls is ranked third as of 2021.