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A 6-Day Trip Itinerary through Southwestern Colorado
As a native-born Virginian, I've traveled up and down the East Coast, putting in time in the Midwest and the Southwest, and on the West Coast as well. But even though it's been high on my list for quite awhile, I'd never been to Colorado, so when the opportunity for a trip presented itself this summer, I couldn't help but jump at the chance. The plan was to cover as much ground as humanly possible in a week, starting in Denver and working my way southwest to Durango—and it was a good plan too, according to pretty much everyone but my mother. "How can they just give a New Yorker a car and turn them loose on those mountain roads?! You don't remember how to drive!" she wailed. Even though that was decidedly untrue, not to mention a base slander of my skills behind the wheel, I invited her to come along for the ride and put her mind at ease. Here's how we spent that week on the road. Day 1: Buena Vista We were due in Buena Vista for a lunch-and-whitewater-rafting date shortly after noon, but before we began the two-and-a-half-hour drive south, we made one last stop at Denver Central Market. After avocado and salmon toasts at Izzio Bakery, plus an almond croissant and a chocolate Kouign-Amann for good measure, we got going. And we were making decent time, too—at least until the two-lane US Highway 285 closed one lane for construction, and we sat in place for nearly an hour. The Arkansas River, as seen from the River Runners family float. (Maya Stanton) As it happened, though, the delay didn’t make much difference. I was scheduled for a half-day excursion through Browns Canyon with River Runners, a local operator with a pull-up bar and restaurant, but the Arkansas River was running so high that my guide shifted me to a more mellow family float. I had been looking forward to hitting the rapids, but between the mountain-studded scenery and the quickly moving currents, I was plenty happy with the trip I got. Back on dry land, we headed into town and checked in at the Surf Hotel, a 62-room property with a shared balcony—complete with rocking chairs—directly overlooking a stretch of the Arkansas. A quick change of clothes later and we were in Wesley & Rose, the lobby bar and restaurant, enjoying happy-hour cocktails, a mean cheese-and-charcuterie board, and bluegrass-tinged music from the four-piece band set up in the corner. Dinner from the Buena Viking food truck, parked at Deerhammer Distillery. (Maya Stanton) A full meal there wouldn’t have gone amiss, but we wanted to see more of Buena Vista itself, so we reluctantly closed our tab. Main Street was a 15-minute walk away and spanned just a few blocks; we paused at the Heritage Museum and its woolly mammoth sculpture and meandered past a busy ice cream shop before we reached our destination: Deerhammer Distilling Company, an artisan grain-to-glass operation bottling straight bourbon, corn and single-malt whiskies, and Dutch-style gin. We ordered a couple of drinks—the citrusy, cucumber-heavy Green Grind and a Moscow Mule made with whiskey instead of vodka—and split a cheeseburger and a boatload of tater tots from the onsite food truck. Full but not done yet, we stopped by the Jailhouse for one last pint before calling it a night; there was a chill in the air and the outdoor fire tables were going full blast, and the scene was so cozy it was tough to turn down another round. Home sweet home, just for one night. (Maya Stanton) But we were rewarded for our self-discipline, such as it was, and arrived back at the hotel just in time to catch the band’s closing number. As the small crowd applauded enthusiastically, we headed upstairs to bed, where the soothing sounds of rushing water soon carried us off to sleep. Day 2: Salida For breakfast the next morning, we made a quick stop at the Buena Vista Roastery Cafe for cortados and thick slices of chorizo, cheddar, and green-chile quiche, and then we were back in the car, bound for a cheesemaking class at Mountain Goat Lodge, about 20 miles south. Cheesemaking at Mountain Goat Lodge, a huge draw. (Maya Stanton) I won’t lie: Hanging out with some goats and learning to make cheese was a major motivating factor in planning this trip as a whole, and my class didn’t disappoint—even though I didn't manage to get there early enough to milk a goat beforehand. The B&B’s chief cheesemaker and co-proprietor, Gina Marcell, led our group of five through the process for chèvre and feta (our consensus, selected from a handful of options), offering copious samples along the way and allotting time with the animals towards the end of the morning. By the time we were finished, I was sourcing fresh goat’s milk in Brooklyn and bookmarking the equipment I’d need online, happily envisioning the concoctions I could create from the comfort of my home kitchen. Then it was on to Salida proper, and a 10-minute drive found us in the heart of downtown, a walkable district with small shops, restaurants, yoga studios, art galleries, and the Arkansas River running right through it all. We sat down at Currents for a satisfying yet somewhat incongruous lunch of green chili and tuna poke, then browsed through a few stores, coveting the great leather and home goods at Howl Mercantile & Coffee and scanning the shelves at the Book Haven before stumbling upon what was undoubtedly the find of the day. The varmints of Bungled Jungle. (Maya Stanton) It didn’t look like much at first glance—a stroller with a mannequin-like figure at the handle—but as we approached, we saw a human-sized purple creature with goofy ears and pink-tipped antennae, and within the stroller itself, a green three-headed baby monster that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Men In Black movie. We had come to the Bungled Jungle, the wildly creative world of local artisans Pat Landreth and Suzanne Montano. Regulars on the renaissance fair circuit, the two make Dr. Seuss-meets-Tim Burton–style varmints and kinetic steampunk sculptures from bits and bobs of mechanical detritus, and the showroom is a great repository of their work. (There’s no fee to enter, but the monsters and their people do accept tips for pics.) We barely had time to check in at our evening’s accommodations before dinner. Located a few minutes from downtown, Amigo Motor Lodge was built in 1958 and reopened in 2016 after a complete overhaul. It’s now a modern minimalist’s dream, with white walls, birch bed frames, subway-tiled bathrooms, and ridiculously comfortable Tuft & Needle mattresses. (There are also four Airstream trailers on the premises, if the concept of close quarters floats your boat.) We cleaned up and drove back to Salida’s historic center, managing to score a patio table at the Fritz with just a few minutes’ wait. It wasn’t exactly local fare, but the small plates were an all-around hit, from pickled quail eggs and grilled heads of romaine with dates and manchego to seared ahi wontons with spicy aioli and a heaping bowl of mussels and fries. We were finishing our meal just as the sun went down, and the cotton-candy sky was pretty much the icing on the cake. Day 3: The San Luis Valley and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve One seriously good night’s sleep later (really, those mattresses are no joke), we were up and out the door, on the road by 7:00 am for the 90-minute drive to Zapata Ranch. A 103,000-acre working ranch with a 2,000-bison herd—1,800 free-roaming wild animals, give or take, and 300 cattle—the property is owned by the Nature Conservancy and open to visitors from March through October. Normally, only guests are allowed to take the two-hour bison tour, but we got a special dispensation to tag along, and when the herd crossed right in front of our SUV, it felt like the luckiest morning in recent memory. Cowboys on the move at Zapata Ranch. (Matt DeLorme/@ranchlands) After a simple sack lunch of cold sandwiches, chips, and Arnold Palmers on the ranch deck, we made our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, some 15 minutes away. Designated an International Dark Sky Park in May of this year, this particular protected land is a striking anomaly: a towering stretch of sand, eroded from the mountains over thousands of years, with nary a wave in sight—unless you visit during the summer, that is, and the creeks are flowing in your favor. When there’s been ample snowmelt, the Medano spreads around the base of the dunes into a shallow stream, and the crowds come out to play, swimming, floating, and wading while the water levels hold. But that’s not the park’s only attraction. With hiking, camping, and ranger-led programs like “Great Women of Great Sand Dunes” and after-dark telescope viewing, there’s plenty to see and do year-round. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is a must-see. (Maya Stanton) Water in hand, we trekked out to the creek in the afternoon sun and got our feet wet before moving on to our next stop. The San Luis Valley is home to a number of kitschy roadside attractions, but the UFO Watchtower in Hooper was top of my list. Even before owner Judy Messoline built a viewing platform and opened her property to UFO-chasers back in 2000, the site was reportedly a hotbed of alien activity. According to sign on the premises quoting more than two dozen psychics, that’s thanks to two vortexes—energy-filled openings to a parallel universe—on the east side of the tower. There’s a small garden filled with knickknacks left by visitors hoping to harness some of that extraterrestrial energy, and a gift shop selling alien-themed gear; we paid our $5 entry fee, snapped a few photos, picked up a shot glass, and got back on the road. The yurts at Joyful Journey let you rough it without giving up all creature comforts. (Maya Stanton) Our final destination for the day was Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa, a local hotspot—literally—in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A tranquil setup boasting three mineral-rich, non-sulfuric pools untouched by chlorine or other chemicals, it’s the polar opposite of the state’s more polished commercial springs, with $10 all-day soaks on Tuesdays and clothing-optional Wednesday evenings. It has a lodge, RV sites, tipis, and camping sites, but we opted for a yurt, decked out with a proper bed, a small seating area, and both a fan and a heater for hot days and cold nights. We spent some time hopping from pool to pool, making small talk with our fellow soakers, before grabbing a light supper of homemade soup and salad (complimentary with our stay). With blessedly little else to do, we unplugged and called it a night—until a few hours later, when we had to put on our shoes and venture out to the communal bathhouse. A chilly proposition to be sure, but well worth it for the unbelievable, light-pollution-free galactic display we witnessed on the way. Day 4: Pagosa Springs and Durango The following morning, I woke to the sun shining through our yurt’s domed skylight and a constellation of itchy bug bites covering my legs. As it turns out, standing in a field to take pictures of the sunset in just a robe and a bathing suit is....not a great idea, particularly in peak sand-fly season. But no matter—we had a fairly leisurely day, for a change, and I was determined to make the most of it. The road from Moffat to Pagosa Springs. (Maya Stanton) We set off west for the tiny town of Pagosa Springs, my mother nervously checking her GPS as she directed me through the precarious switchbacks of Highway 160, slowing us to a near-crawl as we approached Wolf Creek Pass, named the state’s most dangerous by the Durango Herald a few years back. Located some 18 miles east of Pagosa, with terrifying 200-foot drop-offs and frequent avalanches during the winter months, the pass isn’t to be attempted by inexperienced drivers when there’s snow on the ground. But we came out the other side of the San Juan Mountains into downtown Pagosa Springs without a scratch, following the curves of the San Juan River to the Springs Resort & Spa. A slick facility overlooking the river, with 23 geothermal pools—the most in the state, fed by the deepest geothermal hot spring in the world—as well as locker rooms, restaurants, bars, and a well-stocked gift shop, the Springs offered a decidedly different experience from what we’d encountered at Joyful Journey the night before. We compared and contrasted the two for a few hours, dipping in and out of pools of varying temperatures, before caving to our lunchtime cravings. Ultimately, we were bound for Durango, and on our way out of town, we stopped at Mee Hmong Cuisine for the midday special—giant chili-garlic shrimp and sweet-savory pork ribs, served with rice, salad or edamame, and vegetable summer rolls for just $12 a pop. It was a welcome change from the fare we’d had thus far, and we cleaned our plates accordingly. Back on 160 for another white-knuckling drive, we pulled into Durango an hour later, adrenaline still pumping as we navigated the city streets. The old Western movie–inspired Rochester Hotel was a sight for sore eyes, with film posters and memorabilia throughout the rooms and halls and a plate of fresh-baked cookies available for the taking. We collapsed in relief for a bit, then rallied for an evening out on the town. Right downstairs, a design store called Artesanos beckoned, all rustic-beamed ceilings and eclectic home furnishings, but luckily for both my bank account and my near-bursting suitcase, they were closing up shop for the day. Instead, we rolled down to Main Avenue, picking up tiny truffles from Animas Chocolate Co. and admiring the elegant paintings and delicate contemporary glass, pottery, jewelry, and sculpture from Karyn Gabaldon’s fine-art gallery. At Buckley Park, a crowd had gathered for the free Thursday-night concert, and the sidewalks were full of folks making the most of the sunny evening. We finally commandeered a table on the picturesque patio at Cyprus Café, right across the street from our hotel, tucking into meze like baba ghanoush, tzatziki, and grape leaves alongside super-cheesy stuffed poblanos in a smoky tomato brodo. Stretching our legs after our meal, we found ourselves outside of a small barbershop a few blocks away. A nattily dressed doorman asked us for the password, and as we uttered the magic words (found on the website a few hours earlier), he led us through a hidden door in a wall of books and into the Bookcase & Barber, a speakeasy with meticulously composed literary-themed craft cocktails. One Faulkner (a mint julep) and one Temple of the Sun (aji amarillo-infused pisco with tequila, guava, lemon, and ginger) later, and we were finally ready to call it a night. Day 5: Silverton and the San Juan Mountains On Friday, we were booked for an 8:00 am ride on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, so we were downstairs for French toast with powdered sugar, honey butter, and raspberry sauce by 7:00 sharp. Onboard, the circa-1880 train moved through town as people waved from balconies and backyards as we slowly but surely barreled past. As we chugged up the mountain, around alpine lakes and federally protected national forest, the best views were out the windows on the right—something to consider when you’re reserving your seats. The engine of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. (Maya Stanton)Forty-five miles and three-and-a-half hours later, we arrived in Silverton, an old mining town with a few blocks of hotels, restaurants, and shops. Our first stop was for spicy pork tacos at Avalanche Brewing Company, followed closely by a visit to K & C Traders, a jewelry store recommended by our train car’s attendant for its impressive array of Astorite, the pink-ore gemstones named for mine owner Jacob Astor IV. With a purchase under our belts, we picked up a snack of pulled pork and cornbread at Thee Pitts Again, a barbecue restaurant that once featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, before venturing down Greene Street to the new Wyman Hotel for a peek at the hipster-cool accommodations. The tiny town of Silverton is a mountain-lover's dream. (Maya Stanton) There, we met a representative from Durango who shuttled us back down the mountain via the the San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway, a 236-mile route that passes through the mountain towns of Telluride and Ouray before looping south to Mesa Verde National Park and Durango. We stopped off for a quick hike at Cascade Creek, a short trail with a sparkling waterfall dropping 150 into a swimming hole below, before hitting Purgatory Resort, a winter destination that transforms ski slopes into hiking and mountain-biking trails in the offseason. Before the park closed, we just managed to fit in a ride on the Inferno mountain coaster, a 4,000-foot-long trip that’s you personally control through a sequence of loops, drops, and switchbacks, all set against a backdrop of incredible mountain scenery. The thrill ride whetted our whistles, and our next stop was Nugget Bar for an après pint. A renovated cabin with fire pits and mountain views, it was just the thing to cap off a busy day—but we weren’t quite done yet. Back in Durango, we had reservations at Primus, a new restaurant on Main with a mouthwatering menu of wild game, fresh seafood, and local produce. Between the smoke-cured egg yolks and the tangy lemon and caper, our bison tartare was impeccable, and a salad with grilled turnips and seasonal berries provided a much-needed dose of green. A beautifully plated duck breast on white-corn and pancetta grits rounded out our meal, and we went to bed full and happy. Day 6: Mancos and Mesa Verde National Park Our final day in Colorado was a race against time. We left Durango at 6:30 am and were parking in front of Absolute Bakery, in the one-stoplight town of Mancos, by the time it opened at 7. We dashed in and grabbed coffee and potato-and-egg strudels (one Greek with tomato, feta, spinach, and kalamata olives, one southwest with cheddar, ham, and green chile) to go, jumping back in the car as quickly as possible. We were rushing to make it to Mesa Verde National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site that served as home to the Ancestral Pueblo people for some 700 years, boasting thousands of archaeological marvels at altitudes of 7,000 to 8,500 feet—for an 8:00 tour, and it was always going to be tight timing, especially given the terrifying, cliff-hugging 45-minute drive from the park entrance to the tour’s departure point at Far View Lodge. But we pulled into the lot with mere minutes to spare, joining our group in a small van for an extensive four-hour deep-dive into the park’s most important historical sites. Led by a National Association for Interpretation guide, the tour proceeded in chronological order from the footprint of a circa-AD 600 Pithouse village—the earliest recorded in human history—to the Pueblo-era cliff dwellings from the 13th century. The crowning moment was the descent to the magnificent Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in the park and a truly stunning site to behold. Mesa Verde's Cliff Palace is simply stunning. (Maya Stanton) After a trip down from the plateau that was just as nail-biting—and thankfully, just as uneventful—as the trip up, we set our sights on the Canyon of the Ancients Museum in Dolores, a little less than 60 miles to the north. Operated by the Bureau of Land Management, with fascinating exhibits on local history and Native American culture as well as two 12th-century sites and a nature trail offering expansive skyline views from its peak, the small archaeological museum made the short detour worthwhile. Our final meal in Colorado. (Maya Stanton) From there, we backtracked to Mancos for a leisurely stroll through the tiny historic downtown district. The sidewalks were deserted and the boutiques and galleries were mostly closed, but we window-shopped our way down the street nonetheless. The highly rated Olio, a gallery-restaurant-wine bar hybrid, was our first-choice dinner option, but the cozy space didn’t have any seats available, so we found our way to the Fenceline Cider taproom and wrapped our trip on a casual note. We would depart from Durango the next morning, so over flights of hard cider and basic, tasty Greek fare—gyros and salads from the food truck stationed at the entrance—we toasted to a most successful journey. It had truly been a heck of a week.
10 Smallest Bars in the World
It's official: Size doesn't matter. At least when it comes to bars, where the make-or-break details aren't the number of stools or the square footage, but how cool the vibe is. With that in mind, we scoured the globe to find the 10 bars that pack the most personality into their tiny spaces, from a London pub with more beers than square footage to a Key West bar that uses coolers instead of taps. 1. SMALLEST BAR Key West, FloridaTucked between two buildings on action-packed Duval Street, this 72-square-foot bar is about "the size of a jail cell," quips its Midwestern-expat manager, Josh—but the vibe is decidedly upbeat and tropical. Walls are painted with palm trees and waves, and there's a bin packed with hollowed-out coconuts and pineapples, which the bartender fills with beach-ready concoctions on demand. If strawberry daiquiris ($7) aren't your drink of choice, the Smallest Bar also stocks bottles of beer in coolers of ice ($4 and up). A colorful collection of hula hoops is stacked along the walls, and impromptu wiggle parties on the sidewalks outside are encouraged—right up until the 4 a.m. closing time.124 Duval St., 305/294-8507. 2. OASIS ROADHOUSE Lynd Junction, North Queensland, AustraliaTwo patrons—nearly the entire population of this remote, three-person North Queensland town—can fit comfortably into this 21-square-foot watering hole. Not surprisingly, Oasis Roadhouse is the tiniest establishment in all of Australia; the bar top itself is only 21 inches wide. The scenery isn't picturesque (it's next to a service station along the Great Inland Way, a dusty two-lane that stretches from the Outback to the Coral Sea), and the decorations are nil, save for a single painted cowboy and some beer logos plastered on the walls. But what it lacks in ambience, it makes up for in convenience: The spot, which serves bottled beer and liquor, isn't named Oasis for nothing—it's the only bar within a 37-mile radius.Kennedy Developmental Rd., Mt. Garnet QLD 4872, 011-61/740-625-291. 3. CLOSE QUARTERS PUB Avon Lake, OhioNestled on a tree-lined, residential street just a block from the shores of Lake Erie, this local dive packs a lot into its 600-square-foot space. Close Quarters Pub is divided among 12 chairs, 11 stools, and prize-worthy collections of sports pennants, vintage postcards, yacht-club flags, and maps of Lake Erie, which wallpaper the walls and ceiling. The chicken wings are extremely popular (and miraculously made on-site, in the tiny kitchen), and the domestic brews on tap, including local favorites from Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing Co., will only set you back $4.50 a pint.31953 Lake Rd., 440/933-5217. 4. MOU VERY Dunedin, New ZealandAt less than six feet wide, New Zealand's smallest bar doesn't even have toilets. What Mou Very lacks in facilities, it more than makes up for with a generous wine-and-beer selection, sinfully rich espresso (roasted in-house by owner—and former Dunedin mayoral candidate—Olivier Lequeux), and freshly pressed paninis ($3). Exposed brick and orange stools add to the bar's cozy feel, but that doesn't mean it's quiet: Every Wednesday and most Fridays after 6 p.m., a DJ drops in to spin funk and soul tunes.357 George St., 011-64/3-477-2180. 5. SLIM'S ELBOW ROOM Cabo San Lucas, MexicoLocated in a crowded Cabo shopping area, this four-stool bar is plastered with signed dollar bills (visitors are encouraged to slap them on the wall) and pictures of tequila-fueled tourists. The signature Mexican spirit is Slims's specialty: There is a wide selection of Jose Cuervo and Hornitos tequilas and even a try-before-you-buy policy. And if you purchase a $10 Slims T-shirt or hat, the bartender gives you a free shot. But be warned: Slims serves only beer and tequila—no mixers—so come prepared to sip your liquor straight. Boulevard Marina, Interior Plaza Mariachis, 143-538, no phone. 6. THE NUTSHELL Suffolk, EnglandThis 105-square-foot pub, which sits on a street built in the Middle Ages, served its first pint in 1867. No more than 20 people can squeeze into the historical hangout, which offers bottled beer plus two ales on tap, including the Suffolk-brewed Greene King IPA ($4.50 a pint). The Nutshell's decor is not for the faint of heart: Stuffed animal heads line the walls and a skeletal mummified cat, believed to be 400 years old, hangs from the ceiling—talk about medieval!The Traverse, Bury St. Edmunds, 011-44/128-476-4867. 7. SMALLEST WHISKY BAR ON EARTH Sta. Maria, Grisons, SwitzerlandDespite its pink walls, low-slung ceilings, and slight 92 square feet, the Smallest Whisky Bar on Earth is mighty. With 204 whiskeys—including Scotch, Irish, and Japanese blends, plus sweet, house-made concoctions like whiskey and cream—its menu packs a punch, and so does its owner, Gunter Sommer. In 2007, he persuaded the Guinness World Records organization to officially change the name of its "Smallest Pub" award to "the Smallest Permanently Licensed Bar in the World"—then promptly snagged the honor himself.7536 Sta. Maria, Val Müstair, Graubünden, 011-41/76-422-0308. 8. PIANO BAR Tokyo, JapanThis skinny, two-story joint is hidden among a cluster of bars beneath the train tracks on Nonbei Yokocho, which aptly translates to "drunkard's alley." But Piano Bar's 32-square-foot size belies its opulence: The interior is modeled after a German castle, decked out with a faux stone fireplace, crystal chandeliers, gold-framed photos of jungle animals, and red velvet walls. You can even drink your beverage—try the sweet rose water and wine cocktail ($10)—out of a glass chalice. And when you want a refill, just ring one of the tiny bells set on every table for service. Editors' note: Though this bar was not directly impacted by the March 11, 2011, earthquake or the subsequent tsunami, we do encourage readers to check the current State Department travel alert for the country before making any travel plans.1-25-10 Shibuya, Tokyo, 154-0002, 011-81/3-5467-0258. 9. 12SQM BAR AND CAFÉ Beijing, ChinaBefore tripling in size to a whopping 484 square feet, 12Sqm held the title of Beijing's smallest bar. Still, the pub-style nook—which can fit over two dozen people—keeps things cozy with dim lighting, cushioned window seats, and a bookshelf lined with Lonely Planet editions (the bar's Australian owner worked as a tour guide). Drinkers can pick from 140 different spirits, including several high-end Scotches and lots of imported beer starting at $3 (a favorite is Coopers, brewed in Adelaide). Hungry patrons might even get lucky: Whenever the owner's feeling generous—which is often—he stocks 12Sqm's shelves with piping-hot meat pies, an Aussie delicacy.Corner of Nanluogu Xiang and Fuxiang Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, 011-86/10-6402-1554. 10. THE RAKE London, EnglandSet at the back of Borough Market near the Thames River, the purple-painted, 91-square-foot Rake is known for two things: being London's smallest pub and hosting one of the most international beer selections in the city. The bar—which was opened in 2006 by the duo behind Utobeer, a popular British beer retailer—offers eight ever-changing drafts and 160 bottled beers from around the world, including obscure picks from Corsica, Indonesia, and Mozambique. Food is limited to bar snacks like nuts and olives, but if you're craving dessert, order a Cookie Beer, which is inspired by a Belgian biscuit recipe. Bonus: If the bar is too cramped, you can head outside to the patio, where you can drink with more elbow room.14 Winchester Walk, SE1 9AG, 011-44/20-7407-0557. SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: 16 Awe-Inspiring American Monuments 6 Essential Items for a Successful Vacation 15 Places Every Kid Should See Before 15 30 Spectacular Images of Our Nation's Parks 10 Most Beautiful Waterfalls
11 Coolest Winter Places in America
Snowstorms used to mean long days spent making snow angels and having snowball fights followed by big mugs of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows. Alas, we're not kids anymore. But that doesn't mean we can't still get outside and play. There are lots of grownup winter activities, like, say, leading a pack of sled dogs across the Maine wilderness or snowshoeing over pathways carved back in the Ice Age (when it was considerably chillier). One thing that hasn't changed? That cup of hot cocoa still hits the spot. CHECK OUT THE WINTER ACTIVITIES! Compete in your own Winter Games Lake Placid, N.Y. Ever watch bobsledders zooming down the track during the Olympics and think, "I could do that?" Well, in Lake Placid, you can. The town has hosted the Winter Games twice (in 1932 and 1980), and now caters to visitors seeking glory. Any reasonably fit person can take a bobsled run (with both a professional driver and a brakeman keeping things safe) at the Olympic Sports Complex. At the nearby Olympic Center, you can pretend you are Apolo Anton Ohno and speed skate around the oval. The center has activities for people of all ages, including a torch run, a snowboarding race, and hockey slap shot contests. 518/946-2223, whiteface.com, prices for activities vary. Get the best view of the Northern Lights Fairbanks, Alaska Thanks to its proximity to the North Pole, and the lack of urban light pollution, this isolated area is one of the best places to take in the Aurora Borealis. The green ribbons of light are caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the earth's atmosphere, and the crystalline skies here, about 360 miles north of Anchorage, come alive (the local university offers forecasts for viewing). If you're looking for some guidance, book a Snow Coach Tour. The trips depart at 10 p.m. from Chena Hot Springs Resort, about 60 miles from downtown Fairbanks. The staff sets up a heated yurt where you can warm up after viewing the lights while sipping hot beverages. 907/451-8104, chenahotsprings.com/winter-activities, $75 per person. Relax with a glass of ice wine Traverse City, Michigan There aren't many places in the U.S. with the appropriate conditions to make ice wine (most of it is produced in Germany and Canada). This town, a four-hour dive from Detroit, is graced with panoramic views of Lake Michigan, and the cold air coming off the lakes is perfect for chilling grapes. The wine makers at Chateau Grand Traverse use Riesling grapes that have been left on the vine after the harvest to freeze in the chilly northern Michigan air. The winery offers free tours and tastings of its other wines, and you can also sample wine made from cherries, the area's other bounty. 12239 Center Rd., 800/283-0247, cgtwines.com. Ski down untouched trails Park City, Utah Park City has three resorts and some of the country's best skiing, but the best way to get off the runs and really experience the countryside is on a snowcat. Small groups of skiers pile into trucks with tracked wheels that can handle the area's diverse terrain and travel to parts of the mountain with "virgin" runs untouched by other skiers. Park City Powder Cats will take you to Thousand Peaks Ranch in the Uinta Mountains for up to 12 runs through quiet bowls and glades. 435/649-6596, pccats.com, from $449 for a day trip. Take a sleigh ride in the wilderness Jackson Hole, Wyoming Jackson Hole may be a premier ski destination, but a much less publicized highlight of a visit to the town is a sleigh ride at the nearby 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge. From mid-December to early April, visitors can enjoy a horse-drawn ride through the park to see thousands of elk. Guides with Bar T5 will also point out the park's other wildlife, such as eagles and trumpeter swans. Free shuttle buses depart from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, 800/772-5386, bart5.com, $18 for adults, $14 for children 5-12. Zoom through America's first national park on a snow coach West Yellowstone, Montana Roads at the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park are not plowed in winter. If you want access to this part of the park, populated by bison, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep, you'll need to rent a snowmobile or book a snow coach tour. Some vehicles come equipped with handlebar warmers and you can even rent cozy layers if you didn't pack enough for the frigid air. The park's abundant animal population doesn't seem to mind the chill. destinationyellowstone.com/play/snow-coach, from $105 for trips not including park fees. Snowshoe the Ice Age Trail Chetek, Wisconsin Don't be intimidated: Snowshoeing on Wisconsin's nearly flat Ice Age National Scenic Trail is totally doable. The state's National Scenic Trail encompasses about 620 miles of marked pathways that feature landscapes left behind when glacial ice carved the earth more than 12,000 years ago. In winter, a section of this trail is open to snowshoers at Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area. Rent your snowshoes from the visitors' center (free, but donations are encouraged) and loop the 6.5-mile trail, studded with frozen mini-lakes and countless five-foot-tall boulders. 13394 County Hwy M, 888/936-7463, dnr.wi.gov. Take the reigns on a dog sledding tour Millinocket, Maine This paper-mill town, a three-hour drive north of Portland, has charm to spare. Among its most popular winter sports is dog sledding, but this isn't just a simple guided ride. Maine Dog Sledding Adventures at Nahmakanta Lake is actually a training program. Here, guests learn how to harness and drive a team of five to six Alaskan huskies. Mush! 207/731-8888, mainedogsledding.com, from $375 for half-day trips for up to four people. Cross-country ski by lantern light Silver City, Michigan The Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, affectionately known as the Porkies, offer 92 square miles of terrain for cross-country skiing. But you haven't really experienced the beauty of this pristine wilderness until you've traveled the trails by lantern light. Every Saturday through February 2012, a mile path will be lit by kerosene lanterns, with a comfort station at the midway point for a warm-up. 906/885-5275, skitheporkies.com, $30 for ski rental. Sled around a high-country hamlet Silverton, Colorado Forget cars. In winter, residents of Silverton prefer to get around on kicksleds (essentially chairs placed on six-foot-long steel runners). The townsfolk are so committed to winter fun that they refrain from plowing after the first bountiful snowfall so that the fresh powder will pack into a perma-crust for smoother sledding. Guests and non-guests can rent sleds (as well as skis, snowshoes, and other equipment) from the Wyman Hotel, and take advantage of the area's average annual snowfall of 150 inches. 1371 Greene St., 970/387-5372, thewyman.com, doubles from $125, kicksled rental $10 for guests and non-guests. See freaky ice formations beneath the earth Lava Beds National Monument, California Winter temps in this part of northern California average in the 40s during the day and the 20s at night. Not chilly enough? Go underground into some of the local caves, where the air hovers at the freezing point year-round. To safely journey into the caves at Lava Beds National Monument, rent a helmet and headlamp from the visitors' center. Then go 100 feet beneath the earth's crust into the Crystal Ice Cave, where freaky ice formations include a 20-foot-high crystal curtain. 530/667-8113, nps.gov/labe, $10 per vehicle for a seven-day entrance. SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: 5 Caribbean Island to Discover Now 25 Dazzling Snow Scenes 15 of America's Favorite Regional Sweets 12 Elevators You Have to See to Believe The Dirty Truth About Hotel Ratings
101 Ways to Blow $100
Everyone needs to waste a little money sometimes, preferably in a self-indulgent manner. The trick is to control it. General splurges The next pages are filled almost entirely with site-specific splurges--tours, train rides, decadent meals. But there are splurges you can do just about anywhere (even at home). Hotel room Flowers can turn a motel into a hotel. Don't pay for an arrangement: Buy cut flowers and use the ice bucket as a vase. Breakfast You have to order a room-service breakfast at least once during your stay--Eat it in bed, or if you're somewhere warm, have it delivered out by the pool. When you rent a room, you're also paying for the grounds--so make the most of the whole place. Nightlife Even better, make the most of a better hotel. Find the hot hotel in town, and sip a glass of champagne in its lobby bar. Marvel at the people wasting $400 a night. Car rental Go for the convertible! Reserve a regular model and when they try to upsell you at the counter, negotiate hard. Luggage Ship your bags ahead. No lugging them through the airport, and no waiting at the carousel. In-flight Airline blankets are scratchy, gross, and endangered. A pashmina is light and warm, and it can do fashion duty as a shawl. Recovery The best cure for the economy-class kinks is a professional massage, even if it's only a half-hour long. Here's a trend your dentist will hate Is dark chocolate your favorite food group? Are Ben & Jerry your closest friends? Well, there's finally a type of restaurant that allows you to skip right to the best part of any meal. "My wife, Chika, and I made a hobby of eating and drinking around the world," says Don Tillman. "To have a dessert that's taken seriously, we had to dine at a fancy restaurant and spend at least $150. So we decided to open a restaurant dedicated to special desserts." The result is the 400-square-foot ChikaLicious in New York City. (Chika is the chef; Don runs the front of the house.) Other dessert-only restaurants are sprouting up everywhere. They're full-fledged sit-down affairs, many of which offer tasting menus, thoughtful wine pairings, and enough variety to satisfy any sugar fix. Atlantic City At Brûlée: The Dessert Experience, the Banana-Nana is flambéed tableside ($18). Three-course dessert menus run $13 to $21. Quarter of the Tropicana, 3rd level, 609/344-4900. Barcelona The three-course dessert menu ($35) at Espai Sucre might feature yogurt cheesecake with rhubarb and lime marmalade and rhubarb ice cream, accompanied by a glass of cava ($4). The five-dessert tasting menu is $42. Calle Princesa 53, 011-34/93-268-16-30, closed Sunday and Monday. Boston The $18 prix fixe menu at Finale includes a small savory "prelude" and one dessert entrée--such as the baked-to-order molten chocolate cake with coffee ice cream and milk-chocolate-covered almonds. If you want dessert after that, you're truly depraved. 1 Columbus Ave., 617/423-3184. Chicago Everything on the dessert menu at Hot Chocolate is around $10. The signature dish is a flight of four hot chocolates and/or milk shakes ($9). 1747 N. Damen Ave., 773/489-1747, closed Mondays. Meanwhile, at Sugar: A Dessert Bar desserts cost $4 to $16. What the high end looks like: Tarzan of the Crepes, crepes with caramelized banana, maple ice cream, and hot fudge ($15). 108 W. Kinzie St., 312/822-9999. New York City The $12 three-course menu at ChikaLicious buys you an amuse bouche, main dessert, and petits fours; an additional dessert wine pairing is $7. One favorite is fresh cherries under a cinnamon macaroon with crème fraîche ice cream ($19). 203 E. 10th St., 212/995-9511, closed Monday and Tuesday. And one of New York's most lauded restaurants, Daniel, has opened Daniel's "Dessert Lounge." Look for the upside-down hot chocolate soufflé ($15). 60 E. 65th St., 212/288-0033, closed Sunday. Urban white water Most white-water rapids are created by Mother Nature. But in a growing number of cities, developers are engineering rapids from scratch by constricting water flow, dropping sculpted humps of concrete into riverbeds, and submerging boulders. In Minneapolis, the goal is to break ground on a new riverside park by the summer of 2007. No river? No problem. Dig a circular channel and pump water into it, as they're doing in Charlotte, N.C. The world's largest man-made white-water park will open there next spring, with guided trips for paddlers starting at $15. In the meantime, here are four white-water courses where you can get your feet wet right now. Denver A 400-foot section of white water built five years ago in the Denver metro area, Clear Creek White Water Park got to be so crowded that it had to be doubled in length two years later, extending it to seven city blocks with 13 Class II--IV rapids. It's one of the few rivers in the country where you can also rent a riverboard, essentially a thick Boogie Board with handles. Ripboard does half-day rentals for $45, with a quick one-on-one tutorial to get you oriented. 866/311-2627, ripboard.com. Fort Worth At Trinity River Whitewater Park, a series of three limestone barriers installed in 2002 create half-mile "chutes" of Class I--III rapids inside Fort Worth's Trinity Park. Guides from Kayak Instruction will meet you at the river with the necessary gear for a full-day lesson. $90, 214/629-4794, kayakinstruct.com. Reno Two white-water routes, separated by an island, can be found in a half-mile stretch of the Truckee River, containing close to a dozen Class II--III rapids. Tackle the river in a raft, a kayak, or even a tube--all within two blocks of the casino district. Wild Sierra Adventures rents inflatable kayaks for $15 an hour; Plexiglas ones cost $4 an hour more. 866/323-8928, wildsierra.com. Richmond And then there are the only natural urban rapids in the U.S. The James River runs through downtown Richmond, Va., and has Class I--V rapids. Kayak for free from public access points in the city's park system or take a guided four-hour raft trip with Richmond Raft Company. 800/222-7238, richmondraft.com, from $54. Cruise Cachet: Intimate dining experiences Specialty restaurants are a welcome option for cruise passengers ready for a break from cavernous dining rooms and assigned seating. Pay a small surcharge and you get a private table, white-glove service, and dishes that aren't available in the main dining room. Reservations are required and should be made upon boarding (because these restaurants fill up quickly). The best of the bunch... Carnival Cruise Lines: Nouveau Supper Club On all Spirit- and Conquest-class ships, $25. Celebrity Cruises: Normandie On the Summit. The Millennium, Infinity, and Constellation have similar dining rooms, named for other ocean liners. $30. Disney Cruise Line: Palo On Magic and Wonder, $10, adults only. Holland America Line: Pinnacle Grill All ships, $20 ($10 on first night at sea). Norwegian Cruise Line: Le Bistro On all ships except the Pride of America and Pride of Aloha, $15. Princess Cruises: Sabatini's Trattoria On all Grand-class ships and the Coral Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, and Tahitian Princess, $20. Royal Caribbean: Chops Grille On all Radiance-class ships, Mariner of the Seas, and Navigator of the Seas, from $20, adults only. Books you'll never read! But so what? Something has to stop your coffee table from floating away. A Beautiful Catastrophe Bruce Gilden has been wandering the streets of New York City since 1981, capturing the weird and wonderful characters you see on every corner. $40, PowerHouse Books. Bordeaux Chateaux A History of the Grands Crus Classés 1855--2005 A peek inside the top winemaking estates in the Bordeaux region of France. $60, Flammarion. Earthsong Unbelievable aerial photographs by Bernhard Edmaier. We've recommended it before, but you still didn't buy it. Don't make us say it again. $60, Phaidon. Hollywood Life The fabulous homes and questionable taste of Old Hollywood--Cecil B. DeMille, Edith Head, and Steve McQueen, among others--as documented by Life photographer Eliot Elisofon in 1969. (It bears noting that the cover is velour.) $65, Greybull Press. The Most Beautiful Gardens in the World: Who are we to argue? Just take a look at the luscious Japanese Garden at Huntington Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, Calif. $60, Abrams. New York: The Photo Atlas Aerial images of every inch of New York City--it's the one view you can't get on your own, and it's fascinating. $60, HarperResource. One Hundred and One Beautiful Small Towns in Italy Check 'em off, one by one. Then start all over again. $45, Rizzoli. 1000 Signs Amusing and confusing signage from around the world, compiled by the folks at Colors magazine. $30, Taschen. The Snow Show Commemorating last year's chilly art-and-architecture exhibit in Finland. $32, Thames & Hudson. Did somebody say, "Calgon, take me away"? The big news in spas is something ancient--thhouse culture, imported from Russia or the Far East. What that tends to mean: You pay an entry fee, and you get access to an entire community of watery goodness, usually a steam room, a dry sauna, a hot tub, a cold plunge pool, and some chaises to rest. (Sweating is hard work!) Contemporary bathhouses have separate areas or times for men and women, communal nudity being an essential part of the experience, though some do offer coed hours. Treatments always cost extra, and kids are discouraged, if allowed at all. Las Vegas Inside Mandalay Bay, there's a new boutique hotel called THEhotel; within that you'll find the Bathhouse. It's chic, minimal, and gorgeous--the executive washroom of your dreams. Plus: free snacks. $35 for non-hotel guests, which includes entry to the gym (fee waived with purchase of a spa service; 25-minute massage $70). 877/632-9636, mandalaybay.com. New York Juvenex Spa is located in Koreatown, but the overall effect is more otherworldly, especially the signature Jade Igloo Sauna. Only women are allowed before 9 p.m.; open to male-female couples thereafter. $65 for 90 minutes, $35 with purchase of a service; 30-minute Express Massage $65. 25 W. 32nd St., 646/733-1330, juvenexspa.com. San Francisco A California take on the Japanese communal bath, Kabuki Springs & Spa also offers complimentary vanity products and sea salts. $16 to $20; 50-minute massage $75 ($85 for access to communal baths, too). 1750 Geary Blvd., 415/922-6000, kabukisprings.com. Seattle Banya 5 is a slick new bathhouse with a parilka, or brick oven, as the centerpiece of its sauna: Temps inside can get as high as 220 degrees. $25; 60-minute massage $65. 217 9th Ave. North, 206/262-1234, banya5.com; inquire for family hours. Family sleepovers Aquariums, zoos, and child-friendly museums around the country now offer occasional family sleepovers that come with behind-the-scenes tours, special lectures and games, and the unique chance to explore your kids' favorite spots without the crowds of daytime. Dinner, breakfast, and a souvenir are often thrown in (but you have to pack your own PJs). Some overnights, such as the Halloween one at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium (from $60, 312/692-3351, sheddaquarium.org), sell out well in advance. Others don't require as much advance planning. At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, you spend the night at an underwater viewing area for stingrays, zebra sharks, and other creepy creatures ($59 to $65; 410/576-3833, aqua.org). Expect to hear the sounds of lions roaring and monkeys howling--but don't expect all that restful a night--the San Diego Zoo ($81 to $110; 619/557-3969, sandiegozoo.org), the Honolulu Zoo Society ($39; 808/926-3191, honoluluzoo.org), and the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago ($65 to $75; 312/742-2053, lpzoo.com). Bunk with the fishes as part of the Family Sleepovers program at SeaWorld Orlando. Reserve an overnight stay in the underwater viewing areas and exhibition spaces, and wake up next to manatees, sharks, and polar bears ($75 per person, including pizza and continental breakfast, for children 6 to 12 accompanied by a parent, 800/432-1178, swbg-adventurecamps.com). Campers play Top Gun in a flight simulator in an overnight "encampment" aboard the battleship New Jersey, on the Delaware River across from Philadelphia ($50; 866/877-6262, ext. 203, battleshipnewjersey.org); or sleep in bunks on the U.S.S. Cobia, a WWII sub in Manitowoc, Wisc. ($30; 866/724-2356, wisconsinmaritime.org). If your family is already booked for summer, sleepovers that somehow make science seem cool are held during the school year at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute Science Museum ($41, 215/448-1114, fi.edu) and at the Dallas Museum of Natural History ($30, 214/421-3466, ext. 308, dallasdino.org). Audio tours: For your listening pleasure It's not the cost of an audio tour ($5 or so) that discourages us from renting one of those headsets's that the tours tend to be unwieldy and dull. Now, however, museums and attractions are making the extra effort to create exciting audio guides, and the technology has improved, so you can hear the information in whichever order you choose. Seven we think are worth the money and effort... Chicago The Art Institute of Chicago $12, gallery audio tour $4. Dallas The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza $10, audio tour $3. London British Museum Free, family audio tour, $6.50. St. Paul's Cathedral $15, audio tour $6.50. Louisville The Speed Art Museum Recommended donation $4, audio tour $3. New York City The Museum of Modern Art $20, audio tour $5. San Francisco Alcatraz $11.50, audio tour $4.50. How would you spend $100 of our money? We asked six readers that question--and then put our money where their mouths are. (Wish we'd included you? Then sign up for our e-mail newsletter! Details are at BudgetTravelOnline.com/newsletters.) New Orleans "Riding a Segway through New Orleans was a blast! The tour started on Decatur Street, where my group of three got a quick lesson. After a few tries it felt like I'd been riding my whole life. Our tour guide was great as we set out along the Mississippi River, then over on the ferry to Algiers Point. It was hard to get anywhere, however, without someone stopping us to talk about our fancy two-wheelers. I got so much attention it was like being queen for a day--and well worth the price." --Carmen Shirkey, Fairfax, Va. City Segway Tours, New Orleans, 877/734-8687, citysegwaytours.com, four-hour tour $65. Dominica "We went on a Caribbean sunset sail. It was 85 degrees, the sea was calm, and the sunset was fantastic. My wife Debbi and I saw sperm whales and baleen whales breaching right next to the boat--both adults and juveniles. Then suddenly the sun dropped from a cloud formation, there was a green flash, and the sun plunged into the ocean." --Larry Lunsk, Philadelphia, Pa. Ken's Hinterland Adventure Tours, 011-767/448-1660, whale and dolphin tour $50 per person. Waco "When we learned that our son would be playing in a baseball tournament in Waco, Tex., we jumped at the chance to turn it into a mini family vacation. We enjoyed viewing 19th-century homes, seeing the Suspension Bridge, and of course, cheering for our son's team. Plus our special dinner at Lake Brazos Steakhouse was delicious. We had fresh-baked rolls, juicy marbled rib eyes, charbroiled shrimp, the works! Despite going 0-for-4 in the baseball tournament, our family declared this vacation a winner!" --Laura Mrachek, San Antonio, Tex. Lake Brazos Steakhouse, 1620 Lake Brazos Dr., Waco, 254/755-7797. New York "My wife and I felt pampered from the moment we arrived at Aureole. Our four-course $35 tasting menu was superb: yellowtail sashimi, ricotta cavatelli with braised short ribs, Hudson Valley duck, and a chocolate and hazelnut pyramid that looked like a work of art. The dining room was elegant, with some of the loveliest flowers I've seen. And the service was outstanding. It was a wonderful experience, and certainly worth splurging." --Bill Wang, San Francisco, Calif. Aureole, 34 E. 61st St., New York, 212/319-1660. Moorea "After a fabulous two weeks in French Polynesia, my husband and I had a fantastic splurge at Te Honu Iti in Moorea. We got a table with great views of the bay, plus a closer look at the stingrays, parrot fish, and eels that swam next to the terrace. Chef Roger's gourmet specialties, paired with the setting, made for an unbeatable combination. While it was sad to think about leaving, we were happy to have our special last-night dinner." --Nancy Cooper, Seattle, Wash. Te Honu Iti, Cook's Bay, Moorea, 011-689/56-19-84. Italy "On vacation in Northern Italy, my husband and I looked forward to driving the Strada delle Dolomiti. The route winds through the Dolomites and we had planned a lovely picnic. The weather, however, didn't cooperate, and we were greeted with snow and heavy rain. We decided that an intimate lunch at the charmingly rustic Antico Pozzo Restaurant and Winery in Bellagio would substitute quite well. After our delicious salads, risotto, and calzone, we were fortified and ready to get on the road. Our splurge may not have gone as planned, but our lunch was still magical and romantic." --Diane Fiero, Castaic, Calif. Antico Pozzo, Salita Mella 26, Bellagio, 011-39/031-952-185. Leaders of the pack London A group called London Walks runs a repertory of over 300 walking tours 365 days a year. Themes include Beachcombing Along the Thames, Darkest Victorian London, the Blitz--erything but Hangouts of Posh and Becks. The tours cost all of $10.50, $8.50 for students and "Super Adults" (people over 65). 011-44/20-7624-3978, walks.com. New York City Richard Ruben, who wrote The Farmer's Market Cookbook, leads a tour of the Union Square Greenmarket that continues at the kitchens of the Institute of Culinary Education, where he shows you how to make lunch with the ingredients purchased that morning. You might learn to make (and get to eat) spicy pheasant sausage smothered in an eggplant, mushroom, and red onion ragout. $95, 212/847-0770, iceculinary.com/recreational/walking_tours.shtml. Oregon For a mix of the spooky and the spiritual, go moonlight canoeing on Hosmer Lake with the folks from Wanderlust Tours. The excursions depart from Bend and Sunriver, take four hours, and only occur on the five nights around each full moon, from June through September. (If you really want to have fun, put on a hockey mask, à la Jason from Friday the 13th.) Includes dessert and hot cider. $60 to $65; 800/962-2862, wanderlusttours.com; no kids 8 and under. Palm Springs Jurassic Expeditions leads four-hour motor coach tours of the San Andreas Fault, with theatrical interludes and a re-creation of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake. The goal: to better understand the land and what it means. "We've had people cry," says founder Tim Moreland. "It's powerful stuff." $68, 888/528-8133, jurassicexpeditions.com, January to March. Paris The tours led by Paris Walks cost $13 (kids $6.50) and tend to cover neighborhoods such as the Marais, the Latin Quarter, and Montmartre. Reflecting the book's popularity, the tour based on The Da Vinci Code is $2.60 more and reservations are required. 011-33/1-48-09-21-40, paris-walks.com. Singapore The City That Never Spits has a straitlaced reputation, but a diverse population. One ethnic group, Peranakans, are a blend of Chinese and Malay cultures. Tour East's 31D2-hour guided tours explore relevant sites in Peranakan neighborhoods. $24, kids $11.50, 011-65/6738-2622, toureast.net. Sydney Sydney is one of the most laid-back of cities--which is no reason not to tear it up on the back of a Hog. Easyrider Motorbike Tours runs 60-minute Harley-Davidson rides around town, including a photo op on Bondi Beach. $85, 011-61/2-9247-2477,easyrider.com.au. How to guarantee a stellar lunch It's no surprise the Michelin Man has a spare tire around his middle. The French tire manufacturer's red Michelin Guide has steered diners to Europe's best restaurants for over a century, and its star ratings are the most coveted award in the business. Initially, three stars meant an establishment merited a special trip, two stars that it deserved a detour, one star that you should stop if it was on your way. They're almost uniformly expensive, but the good news is that many also serve lunch, and for a fraction of what a dinner costs. Menus are typically three courses--limited selection of appetizers, main courses, and desserts--a fixed price. (If you'd like a glass of 1961 Château Lafite Rothschild Grand Cru Classe with your lunch, expect to pay extra.) Here are three notable Michelin-starred restaurants. Reservations are essential. Belgium Chefs Pierre Wynants and son-in-law Lionel Rigolet are the masters behind Comme chez Soi, a three-star Brussels establishment for 25 years. The $84 prix fixe lunch can include ham mousse from the Ardennes; sliced cod with tomato coulis, black salsify, and marjoram, plus a selection from the cheese or dessert menus, perhaps hot soufflé with Roquefort. 23 Place Rouppe; 011-32/2-512-29-21, commechezsoi.be; closed Sunday and Monday, and Wednesday lunch. England A 50-minute train ride from London's Paddington Station, The Fat Duck has earned accolades for chef Heston Blumenthal's brilliant but humble approach to modern French cuisine. (It earned a third star in 2004, which it retained this year.) The $70 lunch features velouté of fennel with lemon balm and oyster, braised pork belly with Savoy cabbage and lardo from Colonnata, and carrot toffee with butternut ice cream and pumpkin seed oil. High Street, Bray, Berkshire; 011-44/1628-580-333, fatduck.co.uk; closed Monday. France Under the direction of twin chefs Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, Le Jardin des Sens wins raves for its Mediterranean flavors and its enchanting garden. On the $64 seasonal menu (available Thursdays and Fridays): an appetizer plate of miniature shrimp brochettes, crusted skate brandade, and seared tuna rolled in herbs; and entrées such as rabbit fillet stuffed with wild mushrooms, hot foie gras jelly, and grated apple. After seven years as a three-star, the Languedoc favorite lost a star in 2005. Only Michelin judges know why. 11 avenue Saint-Lazare, Montpellier; 011-33/4-99-58-38-48, jardindessens.com. When the world really is a stage The natural mix of hills and rock can provide the perfect acoustics and seating arrangement--and there's little for humans to do but set up a stage and start charging for tickets. At these arenas, it honestly doesn't matter who's performing. Australia See ballet, jazz, theater, dance--you name it--in what was originally a limestone quarry (hence the name, Quarry Amphitheatre). The seating is on grass tiers, and you can bring your own picnic. The lights of Perth are visible in the distance. 011-62/8-9355-7144, quarryamphitheatre.com.au; open year-round, performances from November to March. Most tickets available through bocsticketing.com.au. Colorado Just outside Denver, Red Rocks is an amphitheater flanked by jagged 300-foot-high sandstone monoliths. From Easter services to rock and roll. 303/295-4444, redrocksonline.com. Sicily The Teatro Greco-Romano is a 2,300-year-old amphitheater dug into the hillsides of Taormina, with a view of Mount Etna and the sea. Greek drama, dance, and classical and pop music concerts at the annual Taormina Arte festival, from June through August (taormina-arte.com, from $19.50). The weeklong BNL FilmFest also takes place there every June (taorminafilmfest.it/2005, screening tickets about $9). 011-39/0942-21142. Washington State Attracting popular music acts and festivals, The Gorge Amphitheatre holds 20,000 people on a grass-covered terrace among basalt cliffs overlooking the Columbia River in central Washington. hob.com/venues; tickets through Ticketmaster, 509/735-0500, ticketmaster.com. New York shopping Everyone loves browsing at upscale shops; paying is a whole different matter. Even the highest-end boutiques, however, usually have something that's not too splurgy (and as a bonus, you get a chichi shopping bag). Tiffany & Co. America's most famous jewelry store. What we bought: sterling-silver key ring engraved with a registration number in case it goes missing ($90). 727 Fifth Ave., 212/755-8000. Takashimaya A luxurious Japanese emporium of fashion, cosmetics, housewares, and more, with a little tea salon in the basement. What we bought: green butterfly tea in a silver canister ($25), mini copper teapot with brass handle ($65), bamboo mini strainer ($5). 693 Fifth Ave., 212/350-0100. Jeffrey His and hers fashion excess in the Meatpacking District. What we bought: Stella McCartney's Greek-inspired flip-flops, in turquoise ($90). 449 W. 14th St., 212/206-1272. Moss A museum-quality gallery of design. What we bought: the 12-sided World Time desk clock. It adapts to one of 24 global time zones, depending on which side you stand it on ($75). 146 Greene St., 212/204-7100. Pucci The Italian label known for its signature retro patterns. What we bought: silk bandanna ($100). 701 Fifth Ave., 212/230-1135. Sometimes you need extra amusement If your trip to the amusement park just isn't special enough, there are ways to liven it up. Los Angeles Buy used clothing fresh off a Hollywood set at Universal Studios' Wardrobe Dept. store. You might find a Seven for All Mankind jean skirt from Will & Grace ($25) or a Prada T-shirt from Passions ($50). Nothing is more than $150. 800/864-8377, universalstudioshollywood.com. Orlando Ten guests a day are able to rent Segways for a two-hour tour of Epcot Center's World Showcase Lagoon--better yet, it happens before the area opens to the public at 11 a.m. ($80 per person). 407/939-8687, disneyworld.com. San Diego Get a bird's-eye view of the lions and giraffes at San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park: A 15-minute ride on a helium balloon that rises 400 feet--but remains tethered to the ground--is just $15. 760/747-8702, sandiegozoo.org/wap. Tampa Bay Busch Gardens in Florida offers a two-hour off-road safari for $100 per person--where you can get even closer to big game animals like hippos, black rhinos, and elephants. An onboard professional photographer captures the whole thing (photographs cost extra). 813/984-4043, buschgardens.com. Washington, D.C. For a place to rest (and cool your heels in between dunks), rent one of the new four-person cabanas inside the Hurricane Harbor water park at Six Flags America, outside the nation's capital. $55 weekdays, $75 holidays and weekends; additional people $5 each per day. 301/249-1500, sixflags.com/america. Snowboarding is totally 20th century There's more than one way to get down a mountain, and we don't mean rolling--though that's always a risk. California Like a skateboard without wheels, Snowskates have no bindings, and they're normally relegated to terrain parks where you have more freedom. The park at Big Bear in southern California has half-pipes, rails, and jumps (rentals from $5 an hour). Colorado Snow Blades are essentially skis that are barely longer than your boot; perfect for tricks. They're permitted on most mountains, but liability issues stop many resorts from actually renting them. One that does is Keystone, in Colorado ($33 per day). Elsewhere, check the ski shops in town. New Hampshire The Snowscoot is a cross between a freestyle bike and a snowboard that you ride standing up; it's popular with the BMX set. Hold on to the handlebars, stand on the board, and let gravity do the work. A handful of U.S. resorts do rentals, including Loon Mountain ($23 for three hours) and Cranmore ($12 for two hours), both in New Hampshire. Oregon An inflatable bodyboard with side handles, the Airboard was designed for the backcountry and sledding hills. Hoodoo in Oregon allows full mountain access, including terrain parks ($28 for 30-minute lesson and daily rental). At Schweitzer in Idaho and Sugar Bowl in California, you can rent them at night on a lift-served run. Vermont A traditional bike frame with skis in place of wheels, the Ski Bike is popular in Europe; a growing number of North American resorts are opening their slopes to riders. Control the speed by making turns or sticking your heels in the snow. Try them at Sugarbush in Vermont ($40 per day), as well as at Keystone in Colorado and Whistler in British Columbia. To find other resorts that have Ski Bikes, check out ski-bike.org. Amazing trains Nothing captures the waning romance of travel quite like a train, and many lines offer worthwhile trips that allow you to sit back and soak up extraordinary scenery for a few hours. A century ago, trains were the quickest way to get somewhere--and now the best reason to take them is to slow down. These busy days, time is the biggest splurge of all. Alaska On the Coastal Classic, a four-hour-plus voyage from Anchorage and Seward, you'll definitely see glaciers and mountains, and you'll possibly see bears, moose, sheep, and beluga whales. Alaska Railroad hires high-school kids--who've undergone a special 10-week training--as guides. It's a summer job that sure beats flipping burgers. $98 round trip, kids 2 to 11 $49; 800/544-0552, akrr.com. California Built in 1885, Northern California's Skunk Train is now running year-round. There are many different ways to ride it, either from Fort Bragg along Highway 1 or from Willits along Highway 101. The 31D2-hour round trip costs $35 (plus $10 if it's a steam train), $20 kids. Also new this year: A Saturday-night Rail, Ale & Wine trip (two hours, $29). For a real splurgy splurge, kids can ride in the engineer's cab ($100). No matter which trip you take, you'll see mountains, tunnels, the Noyo River Canyon, bridges, and those extraordinary redwoods. 866/457-5865, skunktrain.com. Colorado One of the world's most beautiful train routes, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs between the Colorado towns of Durango and Silverton, along the Animas River. The tracks were laid in 1882, and the locomotives date from the 1920s (and are still coal-fired). The train was historically accurate enough to star in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The round-trip Silverton Summer Excursion is available May 7 to October 29, and takes 31D2 hours to go 45 miles. $62, kids $31; 888/872-4607, durangotrain.com. Massachusetts The Elegant Dinner Train, offered by the Cape Cod Central Railroad, is a three-hour scenic excursion from Hyannis to the Cape Cod Canal and back, during which a five-course dinner is served. Proper dress is required. The best time to go: Friday evenings, when the train crosses the canal on the vertical-lift railroad bridge at Buzzards Bay. $60, cocktails and gratuity not included; 888/797-7245, capetrain.com. Mexico On the Tequila Express, which is run by the Mexican government, mariachis provide a festive soundtrack for the 90-minute ride from Guadalajara through the blue-agave-studded landscape of Jalisco, Mexico's largest tequila-producing state, to the Herradura distillery. Contrary to what the name suggests, it's not a cheesy booze cruise--though there is an open tequila bar for sampling the local specialty. You get a firsthand look at the tequila-making process past and present, from wheel presses once pulled by mule to the steam ovens where the agave is cooked today. Tours are followed by an authentic buffet, and you're back in town by 8 p.m. $69, kids 6 to 12 $36; 011-52/33-3880-9099, tequilaexpress.com.mx. Hot tickets, cool shows Boston Catch the Red Sox from the newest seats in Fenway Park--atop the 37-foot-tall Green Monster in left field. Tickets go on sale via preseason online lottery. Standing room from $25, seats from $80, 617/226-6000, redsox.com. Cancún Celebrate Mexican culture at Xcaret Spectacular Nights--a folklore show at the Xcaret Eco Park in Playa Del Carmen. Kids will love the lacrosse-like game, which is based on a Mayan ritual and played with a flaming ball. Included with $49 park admission, kids $25, 011-52/998-883-3144, xcaret.com. Chicago With alumni named Belushi and Murray, The Second City changed the face of comedy. It all began 45 years ago on its Chicago Mainstage--now one of five companies in the U.S. and Canada. From $18, 312/337-3992, secondcity.com. Las Vegas Kà, at the MGM Grand, is Cirque du Soleil's most ambitious show (and each seat has speakers). Two shows nightly, Friday through Tuesday. From $99, 877/880-0880, cirquedusoleil.com. New York City The cabaret at Feinstein's at the Regency is world-class, with such past performers as Patti LuPone and Chita Rivera. $100, 212/339-4095, feinsteinsattheregency.com, mid-September to mid-June. Did someone say send in the clowns? None of the seats at the Big Apple Circus is more than 50 feet from the action. After its signature engagement every winter in Manhattan, the show tours the East Coast. From $15, 800/899-2775, bigapplecircus.org. San Francisco Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon has wowed crowds for more than 30 years. Recent spoofs include Arnold Schwarzenegger in leather gear. From $25, 415/421-4222, beachblanketbabylon.com; 21 and over for evening performances.
America's 10 Grandest Mansions
Kykuit in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. Built in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller, flush with Standard Oil's real-life Monopoly money. What you'll see With soaring views of the Hudson River Valley toward Manhattan, 25 miles to the South, Kykuit (pronounced kye-cut) is the hilltop centerpiece of Pocantico Hills, the 2,000-acre playground of the Rockefeller dynasty. The house itself is more architectural mishmash than streamlined marvel, with a neoclassical façade and romantic details on the interior. The real treasure is grandson Nelson's extensive modern art collection, including striking wool tapestries by Picasso, as well as important works by David Smith, Louise Nevelson, and Henry Moore, two of whose sculptures adorn formal gardens designed by William Welles Bosworth. Pssst! The books lining one wall of the study are fake. Nelson, vice president in the 1970s, wasn't much of a reader--he preferred to unwind by watching TV shows like All in the Family. Tip The three-hour Estate Life Tour ($34) adds an exploration of the nearby Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s 80-acre preserve of woodlands and sustainable farming (and home to chef Dan Barber's expensive but splurgeworthy Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant). The Hudson Valley website has info on the estate as well as train and boat tickets from Manhattan. Info: 914/631-9491, hudsonvalley.org, $19. The Breakers in Newport, R.I. Built in 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, grandson of railroad tycoon Commodore Vanderbilt. What you'll see During the Gilded Age, Society summered in Newport, leaving behind several glorious mansions. The Breakers is considered the most magnificent, in part due to Cornelius' wife, Alice, trying to one-up her sister-in-law Alva's nearby Marble House. Family architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the 70-room palazzo after those found in 16th-century Genoa. Highlights include a 2,400-square-foot, two-story dining room in alabaster and gilded bronze, and the music room, constructed (furnishings and all) by artisans in Paris and reassembled on site. A behind-the-scenes tour, debuting in August, opens up the labyrinthine basement, among other areas. Pssst! Cornelius died only four years after construction was completed, following a stroke suffered while fighting with one of his sons over money. Tip The Gilded Age Experience ticket includes access to four other properties: The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, and Green Animals Topiary Garden ($31). Info: 401/847-1000, newportmansions.org, $15. Shangri La in Honolulu, Hawaii Built in 1938 by tobacco heiress and surfer girl Doris Duke. What you'll see Oahu's most elaborate Spanish Mediterranean-inspired structure is where Doris Duke, known then as "the richest girl in America," hid from her money-grubbing relatives, and amassed one of America's premier Islamic art collections. Throughout much of her turbulent life, Duke found solace studying the order and symmetry of Near Eastern design (and purchasing it, of course). Highlights among her 3,500 objects: a 13th-century Iranian mihrab, or prayer niche, and an entire wooden room, carved and painted in Syria in the mid-19th century. Pssst! At age 75, Duke adopted a 35-year-old Hare Krishna, Chandi Heffner. The two became estranged when Duke suspected Heffner of poisoning her food. Claiming a toothache, Duke said she was going to the dentist, but instead hopped her 737 to L.A. and had her staff boot Heffner from Shangri La. Tip Opened to the public in 2002, Shangri La is still a tough ticket--advance reservations are a must (the 8:30 a.m. tour is the easiest to book last minute). There's also an extensive one on the website. Info: Tours begin at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, 866/385-3849, shangrilahawaii.org, $25. Fair Lane in Dearborn, Mich. Built in 1915 by Auto baron, curmudgeon, and old-time dance enthusiast Henry Ford. What you'll see The 56-room, prairie style-cum-English Gothic mansion, designed by architect William Van Tine, reveals Ford's taste for rustic hominess with cypress, oak, and walnut walls and staircases. The controversial industrialist retreated here as assembly lines at nearby Highland Park churned off scores of Model Ts every hour, minting him millions. Ford felt most at home in spaces beyond the main house--particularly the Thomas Edison--designed powerhouse, which generated hydroelectric power from the Rouge River and made the property self-sufficient; and of course, the garage, which holds six of Ford's historic car models. Pssst! In his old age, Ford became increasingly eccentric. It's been said that he cultivated rust on old razors in his bathroom sink to use as a hair restorative. Tip The on-site restaurant, in the room that once housed the Fords' 50-foot lap pool, is only open weekdays for lunch. Several dishes include soybeans, a crop Ford was fanatic about. Info: 313/593-5590, henryfordestate.org, $10. Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, S.C. Built in 1817 by John Robinson, a shipping merchant, who sold it to cotton tradesman William Aiken Sr. in 1827. What you'll see The prosperous Aikens clan kept the estate in the family for nearly 150 years. Over the decades, as the family's numbers dwindled, they sealed up rooms they no longer needed, beginning in 1898. Thus, much of the house remained untouched to this day: Faded paints, peeling wallpaper, worn carpets, and gaslight chandeliers all lend a time-capsule aura. Many of the original working outbuildings also survived--including slave quarters, a kitchen, and stables. Pssst! In the first-floor parlors, the spots of gray paint on the walls aren't the result of aging. They're a remnant from the filming of Swamp Thing, Wes Craven's 1982 horror flick, parts of which were shot in the house. Tip The $14 combo ticket also gets you into the nearby Nathaniel Russell House, a grand neoclassical building noted for its flying spiral staircase and elaborate plasterwork. And don't miss Charleston's sprawling Magnolia Cemetery, the final resting place of the Aikens, as well as many other grand families from the area. Info: 48 Elizabeth St., 843/723-1623, historiccharleston.org, $8. Winterthur in Wilmington, Del. Built in 1839 by Jacques and Evelina Bidermann (née du Pont). But the name worth knowing is that of her nephew's son, Henry Francis du Pont. He was born and raised in the house and inherited it when he came into the family's gunpowder fortune. What you'll see Once a modest Greek Revival structure, the house went through several revisions until Henry Francis, an avid gardener and collector of American decorative arts, doubled its size in the 1920s to make room for his collection of 63,000 objects and furnishings. The collection of American decorative arts, dating from 1640 to 1860, now totals 89,000 pieces in 175 period displays. It's so valuable that 26 employees are certified as firefighters. Pssst! Henry was neurotic about maintaining the furniture. In the 1930s, he hosted scores of weekend guests; those he considered careless got lesser-quality linens. And he often told them what couldn't be touched: One visitor was rumored to be so nervous, she slept in the bathtub to avoid disturbing anything. Tip Henry took his flowers seriously; he maintained a weekly list of the ones in the height of bloom at the estate, a practice the gardeners continue today (call 302/888-4856 for updates). The nearby Hagley Museum, site of the family's early gunpowder mill, provides an explanation of how the du Ponts could afford all that art (hagley.org). Info: 5105 Kennett Pike (Rte. 52), 800/448-3883, winterthur.org, $20. Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. Built in 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt II, grandson of railroad tycoon Commodore Vanderbilt (and Cornelius II's brother). What you'll see Lest he land in the shadow of his siblings' palaces in Newport and Manhattan, this Vanderbilt took his share of the family fortune south--and outdid them all. Architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the 250-room French Renaissance--style château, a confection of Indiana limestone that featured early electric lights, indoor plumbing, and water channeled from a reservoir five miles away. Frederick Law Olmsted sculpted 75 acres of gardens. The public has been welcome since 1930, but in July, several rooms--including an observatory--open for the first time. Pssst! Not all of Vanderbilt's guests left bowled over. A visiting Henry James once wrote that the château was "strange, colossal, heartbreaking...in effect, like a gorgeous practical joke." Tip Asheville's AAA branch (800/274-2621) offers members $5 off admission. And the website has discounts--as much as 30 percent off--on the property's Inn on Biltmore Estate (from $179). Info: 1 Approach Rd., off Highway 25, 800/624-1575, biltmore.com, $39. Monticello in Charlottesville, VA Built in 1769 by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. What you'll see Jefferson made filling Monticello--"little mountain," roughly translated--his life project. Construction started in 1769 when he was 26 years old and ended when he was 66. It's the details that are most intriguing: Antlers in the entrance hall were a gift from Lewis and Clark; a bottle-sized dumbwaiter travels from the wine cellar to the dining room; a contraption copies letters as they're being written. Newly restored this year is the 1809 kitchen, an upgrade Jefferson started after returning from the White House. Pssst! Jefferson considered his affair with slave Sally Hemings part of a therapeutic regimen using sex, exercise, and vegetarianism, according to Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello, by University of Tulsa professor Andrew Burstein. Tip The Presidents' Pass ($26) includes admission to Monticello, the 1784 Michie Tavern museum and restaurant, and Ash Lawn-Highland (President James Monroe's home). The pass is available at any of the museums or the local visitors center. Info: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., 434/984-9800, monticello.org, $14. Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif. Built in 1919 by Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, the real-life Citizen Kane. What you'll see The 165-room Mediterranean Revival palace was designed by architect Julia Morgan, and was a work in progress for 28 years. Its proud owner first brought in the world, shipping in European treasures such as Roman tapestries and a 400-year-old Italian carved wood ceiling. Then he brought in the stars, hosting Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, and many others. Pssst! On certain summer nights, after the tourists go home, the estate's employees (and a few of their guests) are given access to swim in the marble-lined, 345,000-gallon Neptune pool. Tip The castle schedules evening tours in spring and fall--docents in period clothing act as though Hearst had invited them. For contrast, visit the nearby town of Cambria, home to the poor man's Hearst Castle. Nitt Witt Ridge, a 51-years-in-the-making hodgepodge of Busch beer cans and other discarded materials, was dreamed up by deceased eccentric Art Beal (805/927-2690). Info: 800/444-4445, hearstcastle.com, $24. Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA. Built in 1839 by J. T. Roman, a sugarcane planter and French Creole socialite, as a wedding gift to his bride, Celina Pilie. What you'll see Two rows of 300-year-old live oaks line the quarter-mile drive from the Mississippi River up to the colonnaded Greek Revival mansion. (You may recall the view from Primary Colors and Interview with the Vampire.) Inside, guides in period dress--hoopskirts, Confederate uniforms--lead a half-hour tour focusing on the Romans' day-to-day doings, their elegant parties, and the courting traditions of the era. Afterward, visitors are invited to purchase mint juleps and relax on the porch and grounds. Pssst! The romance between J.T. and Celina may have been less than steamy. Celina preferred to spend her time at parties in New Orleans, while J.T. stayed home at Oak Alley. He signed many letters, "Kiss the children for me. Your Friend, J.T. Roman." Tip Oak Alley has simple accommodations in the late-1800s outbuildings--no phones or TVs, but there are flashlights for late-night graveyard tours (from $115, with breakfast). Info: 800/442-5539, oakalleyplantation.com, $10. Five more mansions that you may not have heard about Some will recognize the Gamble House in Pasadena, Calif., as the domain of Doc in Back to the Future. But design junkies are far more impressed by the overall American Arts & Crafts style: stained glass, hand-finished oak, Burmese teak. The mansion was built in 1908 for David Gamble (of Procter & ...) by architects Greene & Greene (626/793-3334, gamblehouse.org, $8). In Natchez, Miss., a town rich with antebellum mansions, Longwood rises above, if only for its shape. It's the largest octagonal house in America--a fad in 1860, when it was designed by architect Samuel Sloan for cotton planter Haller Nutt (601/442-5193, $8). Confederate General William Giles Harding inherited his father's Belle Meade Plantation, in Nashville, and built a world-class 1853 Greek Revival mansion. After guided visits through the house, self-guided tours take in the slave quarters and storied stud farm stable (615/356-0501, bellemeadeplantation.com, $11). At Lyndhurst, a romantic 1838 Gothic Revival castle designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, pointed turrets tower over the Hudson River Valley. Three powerful New York families lived there in the 1800s. The most famous resident was railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who preferred to take his yacht from New York City to Tarrytown rather than board a train owned by his nemesis, Cornelius Vanderbilt I (914/631-4481, lyndhurst.org, $10). Captain Frederick Pabst, a steamship captain turned brewmaster, financed the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee in 1892 with proceeds from his company, which at the time was the world's largest manufacturer of lager. The 37-room Flemish Renaissance mansion demonstrates his taste for the finer things--including custom-built Louis XV-style furniture and 19th-century European oil paintings (414/931-0808, pabstmansion.com, $8).
Why Haven't You Heard Of...Yelapa, Mexico?
For years, the tiny fishing village of Yelapa was the refuge of Bob Dylan, Dennis Hopper, and other cosmic caballero types who gathered in search of lonely beaches, cheap tequila, and readily available hallucinogens. Only fairly recently have more mainstream travelers begun looking to the 2,000-person town as a quiet antidote to the condo complexes and American chain stores closing in on Puerto Vallarta, 20 miles to the north. The speedboat ride between Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa, from one end of Banderas Bay to the other, takes 45 minutes. Behind the beach where boats land is a village of steep paths, randomly laid out. Children skitter about in their underwear, some bearing velvety hibiscus blossoms, which they sell for $1 apiece. The only sounds are the surf crashing and the jaunty rhythms of conjunto music pouring from the squat, pastel houses. Because the small town is hemmed in between jungle and ocean, Yelapa has no roads or cars. There are very few phones. And there are no street names or maps. But there's also no need to worry. It's the kind of place where someone will point you in the right direction. Most locals, whether Mexicans or expats, are on a first-name basis. Take Enrico, the handsome French baker who moved to town last year. (His real name is Henri, but no one here can pronounce it.) Enrico has become a regular sight most mornings, wandering about in his white apron, selling miniature fruit pies for $1. A community bulletin board in the middle of town reads TODAY: BANANA MUFFINS AND CINNAMON ROLLS. There's no indication of where to find them. The implication is, if you're in Yelapa, you already know--or someone will be happy to help you. Your first stop should be the Vortex Café, where the friendly owners seem to know everything about Yelapa, in addition to serving great huevos rancheros ($6.50) and strong Mexican coffee. In fact, Yelapa has a few terrific restaurants. Mimi's Café, in the center of the village, is low-key and charming, with a handful of umbrellaed tables in a courtyard, and fiery chile rellenos ($6). Given the town's unpretentious vibe, the sophistication of the menu at La Galería may come as a surprise; Tatiana Moreno Greene concocts Nueva Mexicana dishes such as chicken mole crepes, and plantain cakes filled with goat cheese and peppers ($7). Also unexpected in such a small town: There's something to do at night. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings, the entire expat community takes to the dance floor at the Yacht Club, where DJs spin a rotating mix of salsa, reggae, and hip-hop. By day, the action, such as it is, centers on the beach. Yelapa's one large stretch is divided by an inlet. The Big Beach on the northern end is where day-trippers from Puerto Vallarta go to drink overpriced Coronas at a handful of thatched-roof restaurants. Hotel Lagunita, the more affordable of Yelapa's two bona fide hotels, has whimsical banana-yellow bungalows, morning yoga classes, and a beautifully landscaped pool. Long-term travelers lay their sarongs on the small beach (La Playita), which is far more peaceful, marked only by the Yacht Club. If you've tired of Yelapa's offerings, ask for Sefarino; he'll take you on a day trip to Las Marietas islands, where the beaches are even emptier, save for a colony of blue-footed booby seabirds. And Ramon Díaz is your man for a horseback tour of the jungle; he'll lead the way to wading pools under a waterfall shaded by Jurassic-size ferns. The village of Yelapa, while charming, is no competitor for Mexico's colonial towns, with their gracious churches and town squares. And the beaches aren't exactly world-class. They're narrow and short, and the sand is somewhat rough. To get a taste of what makes this place so alluring, you have to follow the rocky path that runs along the ocean to La Punta ("The Point"). On your way, you'll pass Casa Isabel: four lovely, distinctive palapas, and a main house with a well-stocked library and a collection of Huichol Indian art. The owner, Isabel Jordan, is a longtime Yelapa resident and a self-taught expert on Huichol culture. Further on, other privately owned palapas get more elaborate, almost grand. For $75 and up, you can rent one with two or three stories sporting a view of the ocean that stretches into infinity. There are no concierge services, 300-thread-count sheets, four-star restaurants, or multitiered swimming pools--just the sound of waves crashing somewhere in the dark beneath you, and the sense that although not a thing in this raffish little town has been planned, there is something improbably, haphazardly perfect about it. Transportation Water Taxi Jack Playa de Los Muertos pier, Puerto Vallarta, 011-52/322-209-5022, yelapa.info/jack.html, round trip $18 Lodging Hotel Lagunita 011-52/322-209-5056, hotel-lagunita.com, from $50 Casa Isabel no phone, yelapa.info/isabel.html, from $35 Palapa rentals 011-52/322-209-5096, palapainyelapa.com, from $25 Nightlife Yacht Club on La Playita, no phone
More Places to go
Madison County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,308. Its county seat is Madison.
Charlottesville, colloquially known as C'ville, is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is the county seat of Albemarle County, which surrounds the city, though the two are separate legal entities. It is named after Queen Charlotte. In 2019, an estimated 47,266 people lived within the city limits. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the City of Charlottesville with Albemarle County for statistical purposes, bringing its population to approximately 150,000. Charlottesville is the heart of the Charlottesville metropolitan area, which includes Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, and Nelson counties. Charlottesville was the home of two presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. During their terms as Governor of Virginia, they lived in Charlottesville, and traveled to and from Richmond, along the 71-mile (114 km) historic Three Notch'd Road. Orange, located 26 miles (42 km) northeast of the city, was the hometown of President James Madison. The University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson, straddles the city's southwestern border. Monticello, 3 miles (5 km) southeast of the city, is, along with the University of Virginia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting thousands of tourists every year.
Luray is the county seat of Page County, Virginia, United States, in the Shenandoah Valley in the northern part of the commonwealth. The population was 4,895 at the 2010 census.The town was started by William Staige Marye in 1812, a descendant of a family native to Luray, France. The mayor of the town is Jerry Dofflemyer.
Harrisonburg is an independent city in the Shenandoah Valley region of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. It is also the county seat of the surrounding Rockingham County, although the two are separate jurisdictions. As of the 2010 census, the population was 48,914, with a census-estimated 2019 population of 53,016. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Harrisonburg with Rockingham County for statistical purposes into the Harrisonburg, Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a 2011 estimated population of 126,562.Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University (JMU), a public research university with an enrollment of over 20,000 students, and Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), a private, Mennonite-affiliated liberal arts university. Although the city has no historical association with President James Madison, JMU was nonetheless named in his honor as Madison College in 1938 and renamed as James Madison University in 1977. EMU largely owes its existence to the sizable Mennonite population in the Shenandoah Valley, to which many Pennsylvania Dutch settlers arrived beginning in the mid-18th century in search of rich, unsettled farmland.The city has become a bastion of ethnic and linguistic diversity in recent years. Over 1,900 refugees have been settled in Harrisonburg since 2002. As of 2014, Hispanics or Latinos of any race make up 19% of the city's population. Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) students speak 55 languages in addition to English, with Spanish, Arabic, and Kurdish being the most common languages spoken. Over one-third of HCPS students are English as a second language (ESL) learners. Language learning software company Rosetta Stone was founded in Harrisonburg in 1992, and the multilingual "Welcome Your Neighbors" yard sign originated in Harrisonburg in 2016.