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  • Tacoma, Washington
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    Tacoma,

    Washington

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    Tacoma ( tə-KOH-mə) is a mid-sized urban port city and the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington's Puget Sound, 32 miles (51 km) southwest of Seattle (of which it is the largest satellite city), 31 miles (50 km) northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and 58 miles (93 km) northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 191,704, according to the 2010 census. Tacoma is the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and the third-largest in the state. Tacoma also serves as the center of business activity for the South Sound region, which has a population of around 1 million. Tacoma adopted its name after the nearby Mount Rainier, originally and locally called Takhoma or Tahoma. It is locally known as the "City of Destiny" because the area was chosen to be the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the late 19th century. The decision of the railroad was influenced by Tacoma's neighboring deep-water harbor, Commencement Bay. By connecting the bay with the railroad, Tacoma's motto became "When rails meet sails". Commencement Bay serves the Port of Tacoma, a center of international trade on the Pacific Coast and Washington's largest port. The city gained notoriety in 1940 for the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which earned the nickname "Galloping Gertie". Like most industrial cities, Tacoma suffered a prolonged decline in the mid-20th century as a result of suburbanization and divestment. Since the 1990s, downtown Tacoma has experienced a period of revitalization. Developments in the downtown include the University of Washington Tacoma; Line T (formerly Tacoma Link), the first modern electric light rail service in the state; the state's highest density of art and history museums; and a restored urban waterfront, the Thea Foss Waterway.
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    Inspiration

    Love Beer? Here's How to Sleep at a Brewery (Really)

    Europe is spilling over with taverns—the suds flow downstairs while travelers tuck in for the night upstairs. Although that tradition sailed the Atlantic and found an early foothold in the United States, it nearly went the way of the black rhinoceros during Prohibition. These days, though, the craft beer craze is rekindling this custom, with "bed-and-brews" offering accommodations steps away from a great pint. Here are a few places to stay on your next U.S. beer-centric vacation. 1. Fredericksburg Brewing Company: Fredericksburg, Texas (Courtesy Fredericksburg Brewing Company) At this bed-and-brew, the restaurant host doubles as front-desk staff for the dozen guestrooms in the building. The Fredericksburg Brewing Company founders established the brewpub in 1994—shortly after Texas legislation allowed them to do so—and followed it later that year with a bed-and-brew, which makes this inn the granddaddy on this list. The tavern-style lodgings, housed in a restored 1890s building, fit right in with Fredericksburg’s German roots. Most of the guest rooms branch off a central hallway just like the boarding houses of yesteryear. Upon check-in, guests get a token for a pint of beer in the pub for each night’s stay. From $99; yourbrewery.com. 2. The Source Hotel: Denver, Colorado (Courtesy Stephan Werk Media) The influential New Belgium Brewing Company, an early name in craft brewing, usually brews from its Rocky Mountains perch in Fort Collins, Colorado, but in the fall of 2018, it opened its inaugural Denver brewery at the Source Hotel, where guests can help themselves to a complimentary craft beer at check-in. There’s a tap at the front desk, which has a perfect view of the brewery’s 10-barrel system. But most of the pints are poured upstairs at the hotel’s eighth-story restaurant and bar, The Woods, which also houses New Belgium’s barrel-aging program. Most menu items—both the food and cocktails—feature New Belgium beers as an ingredient. And even if they're not beer-infused, all the dishes here are designed to pair with the house brews. That thoughtful attention to craft extends far beyond the brewpub. The hotel sits adjacent to The Source, an 1880s foundry building that now houses an artisan market. From $249; thesourcehotel.com. 3. McMenamins Brewery: Portland, Oregon; Troutdale, Oregon; Bend, Oregon; Bothell, Washington; Kalama, Washington (Courtesy McMenamins Brewery) With 26 breweries dotted across Oregon and Washington, McMenamins is a bold-faced name in the Pacific Northwest’s crowded brewing scene. It also operates a dozen hotels, seven of which have breweries on site. (And look out for a new one opening April 2019 in Tacoma, Washington). The hotels offer Beer 101 Overnight packages, which include two taster trays of guests’ choice of handcrafted ales plus a growler filled with their favorite to take home. Brewery tours are also available, but guests may prefer to spend their free time wrapped in a bathrobe, pint in hand, roaming the eccentric properties. Each McMenamins hotel has a unique past life. The Kennedy School in Portland, for instance, once housed an elementary school, and the Elks Temple in Tacoma, Washington, is a former lodge for that fraternal order. From $70; mcmenamins.com. 4. Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery: North Woodstock, New Hampshire Guests get the full North Country experience at this property that includes a brewery, the Main Bar brewpub, which sometimes features live music, and 40 unique rooms and suites located across six buildings on the property. The accommodations are outfitted with cozy quilts and stone fireplaces, and all lie within easy walking distance of the brewery, which offers daily tours that end with a sampling session. From $96; woodstockinnbrewery.com. 5. Brewery Creek Inn: Mineral Point, Wisconsin (Courtesy Brewery Creek) Guests may sample Brewery Creek’s farmhouse ales at check-in before climbing the stairs to one of five homey rooms above the brewery. The brewery/inn building dates to 1854, when Mineral Point was an industry town and the limestone building housed mining materials—a far cry from the working brewery of today. During their stays, guests can sample beers and schedule a personal tour from the brewer/proprietor, who lives on site. This year, the inn plans to start offering tours to other regional breweries and award-winning cheese makers, too. (It is Wisconsin, after all). From $112; brewerycreek.com. 6. Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery: Calistoga, California (Courtesy Calistoga Inn) Even in the heart of Napa Valley wine country, beer is top of mind for some travelers. This turn-of-the-century European-style hotel has all the charm of Napa Valley, with a micro-brewery (Napa Valley Brewing Company) on site. Seventeen guest rooms are arranged on four floors above the ground-floor pub and there’s a private cottage located behind the hotel. The proprietors are also constructing a second bar to serve guests on the popular patio and beer garden during the height of summer. Lodging packages include tastings of the breweries four house beers and seasonal creations. From $129; calistogainn.com. 7. Norwich Inn: Norwich, Vermont Established in 1797, the Norwich Inn has welcomed some esteemed guests throughout its storied past, including President James Monroe, who is said to have dined there in 1817 during a tour of frontier New England. The inn brewed small-batch beers on the premises even then, but the most recent chapter in its beer history dates to 1993 when Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse, the inn's present-day eatery, began producing English-style ales. The alehouse now brews in a historic adjacent livery building, then pumps the suds underground to its taps. The menu items here pair with house-made beers like the signature Whistling Pig Red Ale. The inn is comprised of three buildings and the main one evokes its 1890s beginnings with Victorian-style furnishings. From $144; norwichinn.com. 8. 1777 Americana Inn: Ephrata, Pennsylvania Set in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, this inn has, during its 240-year history, been a military shop, stagecoach stop, hotel, restaurant, and doctor’s office. Today, the Colonial-era building is a rather traditional bed and breakfast — complete with four-poster beds — but it also has another “b” in its backyard: the Black Forest Brewery, known for its tavern-style ales. The brewery lodging package includes Black Forest Brewery logo pint glasses and a growler, a tasting-room credit, and a county-wide brewery trail guide. From $125; 1777americanainn.com. 9. BrewDogs DogHouse: Columbus, Ohio At BrewDog’s hotel, aromas of fermenting sour beer rouse guests in the morning. The Scottish beer company has such a solid base of committed fans that they funded the construction of the Columbus hotel through crowdfunding. The 32 guest rooms are inside the brewery building—and select rooms overlook BrewDog’s sour beer facility, BrewDog OverWorks. Lodgers can head downstairs for breakfast dishes paired with beer. If they opt to stay in, beer is still close at hand via in-room BrewDog taps. (There’s a fee for the drafts). The hotel also stocks room fridges with BrewDog’s founders' favorite beers. If that wasn’t enough already, guests can also shower with locally made craft beer soap. That’s taking suds to a whole different level. From $182; brewdog.com. 10. Dogfish Inn: Lewes, Delaware Dogfish Head Brewery is one of the beer industry’s best examples of the trajectory that countless brewers dream of: scrappy upstart to cool corporate darling. The company established a basecamp for beer lovers when it opened its own inn less than seven miles from the brewery in 2014. The inn’s 16 rooms have the brewery’s signature off-beat approach—and its dedication to craft creations, including a signature coffee that blends Columbian beans, chicory, and dark-malted brewers barley and is available only at the inn. An inclusive lodging package grants guests a private tour of the brewhouse, the barrel-aging room, and bottling line, as well as a VIP tasting and priority seating at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats for lunch. From $169; dogfish.com.

    Family

    12 Awe-Inspiring American Castles

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

    National Parks

    Mount Rainier and the North Cascades

    Washington State's Mount Rainier National Park is a rugged landscape of waterfalls, glaciers, and lakes. The upper slope of its highest peak, Mount Rainier, a 14,410-foot-high volcano in the Cascade mountain range, is covered with 26 glaciers and scores of snowfields. Together they total 35 square miles, making it the country's largest single-mountain ice mass outside of Alaska. And that holds true even in summer, when hikers find ample ammunition for snowball fights after only 20 minutes of climbing up any number of trails. A four-day, 600-mile-loop drive out of Seattle is the ideal way to take in Mount Rainier, along with its national park neighbor, North Cascades National Park; an Old West mining town that's working hard to preserve its history; a bustling lake resort; and a curious village with Bavarian aspirations. Day one: Seattle to Winthrop The drive got under way inauspiciously as my wife, Sandy, and I negotiated the traffic on I-5/I-405 north out of Seattle's urban clutter. But as soon as we exited east onto the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20), the road opened up, and a seemingly impenetrable wall of soaring peaks loomed ahead. The Cascade mountain range is a 700-mile-long chain stretching from northern California into British Columbia. Within it, North Cascades National Park has the sheerest, most rugged peaks. More than a dozen soar above 8,000 feet; even the most experienced hikers can find them intimidating. Drenched by Pacific storms, the western slopes are covered in a dense, eerily dark forest dripping with moss. And on the high cliffs, hundreds of waterfalls cascade down--which is how the range got its name. We stopped briefly in Newhalem, where the National Park Service operates a visitor center, and picked up a free guide to day hikes. A mile beyond, we entered a misty forest on the gentle Trail of the Cedars. Following the racing Skagit River, the path makes a short loop among giant Douglas firs and western red cedars, which rival the California redwood for size and beauty. Signs along the way introduced us to the region's plants and trees; I started my informal education on how to tell the difference between firs and cedars. (Though both trees have reddish brown bark, cedars have scale-like leaves, while firs have needles.) After our hike, we picnicked at the trailhead, buying bread and a sharp cheddar at the Skagit General Store, which is right in the parking lot. East of Newhalem, the highway climbs through a spectacular gorge, edging high above a trio of slender lakes resembling the fjords of Norway. Gorge and Diablo lakes appeared bright green; Ross Lake, shimmering in the sun, reflected the deep blue of the sky. Checking our guidebook, we kept an eye out for the trail to Rainy Lake. The trail is just a mile long (one way), and it leads to what we agreed was one of the prettiest views in the Cascades. The path plunges into a forest of spruce, fir, and mountain hemlock. We crossed two bridged streams that splash down the mountainside. Then we found a place where suddenly the trees give way to a small turquoise lake, with evergreens lining the shore and a wall of rock towering above. Three thread-like waterfalls pour down. The road reaches its highest point at Washington Pass, at 5,477 feet. From a viewing area, we spotted climbers inching up 7,740-foot Liberty Bell, a massive rock that resembles the Philadelphia landmark. A ranger next to us watched the climbers' slow progress through her telescope. The highway descends gradually through a winding canyon to the town of Winthrop, on the sunnier, drier eastern foothills of the Cascades. The old mining outpost has worked vigorously to preserve its frontier look. Balconies hang over wooden sidewalks, creating a main street that looks like it could be a Gunsmoke set. Old Schoolhouse Brewery now occupies the town's little red schoolhouse--a fake frontier structure that was actually built in the 1970s--and serves the award-winning Ruud Awakening. In addition to refurbishing some old buildings, the town also built new ones in an Old West style. In search of a decidedly more authentic experience, we walked a block off the main road, Riverside Avenue, to the multibuilding Shafer Museum. The weathered collection of historical structures outlines the town's mining past. At the end of Riverside Avenue, the new 29-room Hotel Rio Vista lived up to its name; our room had a terrific view of the Methow River. For dinner, we took a two-minute walk down the street to the Riverside Grill, where I had a generous platter of excellent barbecued ribs. Day one Lodging   Hotel Rio Vista 285 Riverside Ave., Winthrop, 800/398-0911, hotelriovista.com, from $60 Food   Riverside Grill 162 Riverside Ave., Winthrop, 509/996-2444, barbecued rib platter $13   Old Schoolhouse Brewery 155 Riverside Ave., Winthrop, 509/996-3183, pint $3.50 Attractions   Visitor Center, North Cascades National Park Newhalem, 206/386-4495, nps.gov/noca Day two: Winthrop to Yakima Before leaving town, we stopped in at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery to learn about efforts to boost the number of chinook, steelhead, and coho salmon spawning in the waters here. The chinook and steelhead are officially listed as endangered species, and the coho is in even more serious trouble. Since the 1940s, the hatchery has been raising salmon, releasing almost 1 million youngsters annually on a 600-mile journey to the Pacific Ocean past nine dams, where the salmon live for an average of two to three years before returning to spawn. Annual returns number in the low hundreds. Due to the hatchery's efforts, the salmon are surviving, though certainly not thriving yet. This area has been plagued by summer forest fires, and the 66-year-old North Cascades Smokejumper Base, just outside downtown Winthrop, is the "birthplace of smoke jumping." Sandy relaxed in the room while I took a free 60-minute tour. An on-duty smoke jumper showed me the crew's parachute rigging room and led me aboard the two-engine plane waiting on the runway for the next fire call. Next up was Chelan, a busy resort town on a large lake. It was a little cold for a swim, so we enjoyed the views from the banks. Lake Chelan was carved by a glacier and cuts a thin swath into the heart of the Cascades. Passenger ferries cross the lake, which is 50 miles long, but we arrived too late to catch the 8:30 a.m. round trip on the Lady Express. For the next 40 miles to Wenatchee, U.S. 97 south runs along the Columbia River and the massive Lake Entiat, formed by a river dam. We stopped at one of the many roadside fruit stands to purchase a small box of golden Rainier cherries, fresh-picked and luscious, before briefly detouring west into the mountains to the curious little Bavarian-inspired village of Leavenworth. Taking a cue from their Alps-like setting, the local folk--who are not necessarily of German descent--decided to revitalize their once-failing community by creating an ersatz Bavarian village. Shopkeepers and restaurant crews are decked out in lederhosen.  Yakima is an agriculturally rich city, noted in particular for its cherries, apples, and very good wines. It's possible to taste for free at 46 Yakima Valley wineries, many of which are clustered south of town.  Day two Attractions   Winthrop National Fish Hatchery Winthrop, 509/996-2424   North Cascades Smokejumper Base Winthrop, 509/997-2031   Lady Express Operated by Lake Chelan Boat Company, Chelan, 509/682-4584, ladyofthelake.com, 8:30 a.m. cruise $47   Yakima Valley wineries 800/258-7270, wineyakimavalley.com Day three: Yakima to Mount Rainier National Park We kept jackets and sweaters close at hand as we headed back to the high country. Even in midsummer, daytime temperatures can drop as low as 30 degrees, and lingering snowbanks line the road. On the way out of town, we stopped at a grocery store and picked up cheese, crackers, cherries, and cookies and packed them in a cooler in the car. Our winding ascent began just outside Yakima. Initially we passed through the slender canyon of the Naches River, and then at Chinook Pass (elevation 5,432 feet), we entered Mount Rainier National Park. At the first sight of snow, Sandy and I pulled off the road to toss snowballs, each of us scoring a direct hit. Though it's not America's highest peak, Rainier is the most awesome I've ever seen, because of both its massive bulk and easy accessibility. You can drive almost up to the edge of some of the glaciers. Practically filling the sky, the mountain towers in solitary glory above neighboring Cascade peaks like the statuesque ruler of a mystical ice kingdom. Our first stop in the park, requiring a round-trip detour of 40 miles, was Sunrise, which, at 6,400 feet, is the highest point reachable by car. We got a close-up view of Emmons, the largest (at 4.3 square miles) of Rainier's 26 glaciers, before stopping to pull out our cooler contents and picnic along the White River. It has its name for a reason: It appears white in color, a result of the silt--crushed rock called "glacial flour"--that is carried by glacial melt. Doubling back, we headed west to Paradise, which is the park's hub. The mini-village has a visitor center, a restaurant, trailheads to the summit, and a climbing school. Rainier's last major eruption was more than 500 years ago, but it could spout off again at any time. There are signs pointing the way to evacuation routes in the park, should you be on hand for the next eruption. Needless to say, I found the warnings a bit unnerving. The best way to view Rainier, a ranger told us, is to hike one of the well-marked trails at the edge of Nisqually Glacier. A low portion of the Skyline Trail led us through fields thick with wildflowers. A side trail took us up to a point where snow started. Not too far past that, the snow was so high it blocked our path, and we were forced to return to the original trail. That night, we stayed in Paradise, at the Paradise Inn. Built in 1917, it's a handsome wooden structure. In the grand lobby, the furniture is made of hand-hewn cedar. And upstairs, the rooms are tiny; a double bed all but fills one, leaving space for only a nightstand and--if you're lucky enough to get one of the bigger rooms--a chair and desk. But rates are reasonable, and the views in every direction qualify as luxury-class. It's the best place to stay in the park, and for that reason, it tends to book up months in advance. Day three Lodging   Paradise Inn Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park, 360/569-2275, guestservices.com/rainier, from $92 Food Paradise Inn Dining Room bourbon buffalo meat loaf, $15.50 Attractions   Mount Rainier National Park 360/569-2211, nps.gov/mora, $10 per car, valid for one week On our way out of the park, we stopped at Narada Falls. The magnificent waterfall spills over a cliff's edge in a roar and hits a huge rock; the water is then dispersed, spreading wide in a flow that seems as delicate as a Spanish fan. At the base of the falls, we picked up the 93-mile-long Wonderland Trail, which encircles Mount Rainier. We hiked for an hour and then turned around. But it led us into a quieter side of Rainier, with shadowy forests where the peace is broken only by the splashing of a stream. Before returning to Seattle, we caught a last glimpse of Rainier's glaciers out of the car's rear window. Just the memory of the ice seemed to keep us cooler for the rest of the summer. Finding your way At least five discount airlines serve Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: America West, American Trans Air, Southwest, Frontier, and JetBlue. You should be able to rent a car with unlimited mileage for under $140 a week. Keep in mind that snow in both North Cascades and Mount Rainier national parks can close parts of this route from November to May. If you go during any season other than summer, it's wise to check ahead about road conditions. Even in summer, on the western slopes of the Cascades you'll need a jacket, and it's possible that you'll also need a poncho or other rain gear. On the sunny eastern slopes, shorts and T-shirts should be sufficient. Temperatures reach 80 degrees. 1. Seattle Airport to Winthrop, 200 miles From the airport, take I-5/I-405 north to Route 20 east (North Cascades Highway) to Winthrop. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the drive; after leaving the interstates, the road becomes narrow and windy, and its edges are sheer drop-offs. 2. Winthrop to Yakima, 190 miles Take Route 20 south via Twisp to Route 153 south. At Pateros, continue south on U.S. 97, detouring four miles west into Leavenworth on U.S. 2. Return to U.S. 97 south to Ellensburg, picking up I-82 south into Yakima. 3. Yakima to Mount Rainier National Park (Paradise), 125 miles Take U.S. 12 west, picking up Route 410 into Mount Rainier National Park. Once in the park, detour north to get to Sunrise. To reach Paradise, you'll have to double back the way you came. 4. Paradise to Seattle airport, 95 miles Follow the park road to the Nisqually entrance. Pick up Route 706 west to Elbe, connecting to Route 7 and then to I-5 north. From the park, the drive to the airport should take about two and a half hours.

    Inspiration

    10 Awesome Celebrity-Narrated Audio Tours

    We talked with the creative geniuses behind several big-deal celebrity audio tours for the scoop on how the stars were involved and what to know before you go. You can listen to four of the tours right now! In the meantime, we're holding out hope for an aviation museum tour featuring audio by Samuel L. Jackson. 1. Steve Buscemi: Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia Believe it or not, the audio tour for the eerie, once-abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary—famous for locking up Al Capone—was recorded a full seven years before Steve Buscemi nabbed the role of mobster Knucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire (LISTEN TO THE TOUR!). As director of public programming Sean Kelley tells it, Buscemi himself volunteered to help the museum while scouting a movie at Eastern State more than a decade ago. Kelley took him up on the offer, and Buscemi recorded the tour in four hours at Carnegie Hall, after taking the subway into Manhattan from his place in Brooklyn. "He couldn't have been nicer," Kelley says. Now that Boardwalk Empire has gained so much traction, the penitentiary advertises Buscemi's tour prominently on its brochure, the website, and in the building itself. Want to hear something uncanny? When Capone was arrested and subsequently thrown into the slammer at Eastern State, he was driving from Atlantic City to Chicago, presumably after a meeting with the real-life inspiration for Knucky Thompson. What to know: The audio tour is three hours long, so allow enough time to hear it and visit the entire property. Photography buffs, bring your smartphone and your camera. There are so many bizarre artifacts and historic nooks to shoot here (including the dilapidated prison hospital and Capone's cell, complete with oriental rug), you'll rule Instagram for the day. Professionals, consider paying the $10 tripod fee, valid all season (admission $14, easternstate.org). 2. Sarah Jessica Parker, Naomi Campbell, Shalom Harlow: Victoria and Albert Museum, London The massively popular exhibit Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty has hopped across the pond from New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The show, which celebrates the late fashion designer's dramatic, imaginative clothes, debuts March 14. In the original audio tour, "Sarah Jessica Parker revealed how she was in awe of the designer during fittings for a custom piece, and when the two of them rode together to the Met’s ball, they remained respectively shy of one another," says Blaire Moskowitz, marketing manager for Antenna International, the company that produced the McQueen audio tour and several others on this list. What to know: The exhibit runs through August 2, but buy your tickets now: Tickets are sold by timeslot, and some are nearly full (admission about $27, vam.ac.uk). 3. Clint Eastwood: Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA The brand-new American Western Art wing of the Tacoma Art Museum has a familiar voice. Clint Eastwood's gravelly tamber narrates classic imagery of the west, including bucolic landscapes, mountain men, prairie animals, and cowboys immortalized by painters and sculptors like Thomas Moran and Alexander Phimister Proctor, plus contemporary works from Georgia O'Keeffe and Native American artists including Kevin Red Star.  What to know: After you've seen the art indoors, take the free Dale Chihuly mobile walking tour, which guides you through downtown Tacoma to visit the artist's glass installations. Just call 888-411-4220 on your cellphone and listen; Chihuly himself narrates part of it (LISTEN TO THE TOUR!) (admission $14, tacomaartmuseum.org). 4. Angélica Aragón: Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico While recording the audio tour for the bright-blue Frida Kahlo Museum, popular Mexican actress Angélica Aragón mentioned to the sound engineer that her grandmother used to be part of Kahlo's small circle of friends years ago. The museum hadn't known that! Aragon was initially hired for her gravitas and dignified voice that felt perfect for Kahlo's story—now even more so. What to know: Complement your visit to Kahlo's museum with a trip to the Anahuacalli Museum, also in Mexico City (admission about $4), which houses pieces from Diego Rivera's large pre-Hispanic art collection (admission about $6, museofridakahlo.org.mx). 5. Jeremy Irons: Westminster Abbey, London Oscar winner Jeremy Irons has the distinction of narrating the English-language audio tour for Westminster Abbey. Fitting, considering Irons played Pope Alexander VI on Showtime's The Borgias (LISTEN TO THE TOUR!). Travelers also have good things to say about the 90-minute verger-led tours of the abbey's notable spots, including the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor, Poets' Corner (Chaucer and Dickens are buried there), the Cloisters, and the Nave. If you'd rather worship at the abbey than tour it, there is never a fee for that. What to know: Prep for your visit by downloading the abbey's free podcasts (itunes.com), which range from recordings of choral concerts to lectures (worship is free, admission about $30, verger tours about $8, westminster-abbey.org). 6. Dolly Parton: Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, TN Would you expect anything less than vocals from Dolly Parton herself at the Country Music Hall of Fame? Step into the Hall of Fame Rotunda, a skylighted room emblazoned with bronze plaques for each member of the Hall of Fame, and you'll hear her voice on the audio tour. As Dolly says, "This special room is round, to ensure that every Hall of Fame member has a place of equal importance, and the members’ plaques are placed randomly around the room—except for the newest members, whose plaques can be found alongside the painting." The painting she speaks of is Thomas Hart Benton's The Sources of Country Music, a canvas depicting fantasy musicians ranging from gospel singers to hoedown dancers, commissioned in 1973. What to know: Along with the must-do rotunda portion of the museum, 2015's lineup includes separate exhibits featuring the careers of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap, Alan Jackson, and Kenny Rogers (admission plus audio tour $27, countrymusichalloffame.org). 7. Jerry Seinfeld, Scarlett Johannson, and more: Central Park, New York City Name your favorite NYC-affiliated personality (Susan Sarandon! Anne Hathaway! Pat Kiernan!), and chances are he or she narrates one of the 41 locations on Central Park's newly updated audio tour, accessible from your cellphone via the Official Central Park App or by dialing the guide's phone number (LISTEN TO THE TOUR!). The most-accessed parts of the tour are the sculpture of Balto the sled dog (John Stoessel), Bethesda Terrace (George C. Wolfe), and the bronze Alice in Wonderland statue (Whoopi Goldberg)—but they're perennially popular locales, guide or no guide. Still, it can't hurt to have Brooklyn's own Oda Mae Brown on your side. Fun fact: All of the celebrities recorded the tour pro bono. What to know: When you download the Central Park app for the tour, you'll also get interactive location-based maps of the park, event listings (many of them free), a souvenir shop, and an index of points of interest with photos (free app, free entrance to the park, 646-862-0997, centralparknyc.org). 8. Jamie Lee Curtis: World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Honolulu, Hawaii Adding a very personal touch to the Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Jamie Lee Curtis reveals during the 75-minute USS Arizona Memorial audio tour that her father fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II. In her own words: "In 1945, he witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay from the signal bridge of his submarine tender, USS Proteus." What to know: Head to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center first; from there, you can walk to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and take the Ford Island shuttle to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Walk-in tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early to boost your chances of getting in on the spur of the moment (free admission to the monument, audio tour is $7.50, nps.gov). 9. Joanna Lumley, Alan Rickman, David Nighy, and more: St. Mary's Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire, England Last year, after St. Mary's Church introduced its two-hour audio tour featuring a slew of famous UK actors like Joanna Lumley and Hayley Mills, attendance doubled to 75 people per day, all eager to hear the celebrities describe the church's vibrant Medieval stained-glass windows in detail. (Rumor has it Sir Ian McKellan declined, as he's an atheist.) Churchwarden Mike Godsal says Lumley's portion of the audio guide is the most popular. Of course, that could be due to the fact that she voices the tour's introduction, but we like to think it's because everyone wants to hear booze aficionado Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous talk about church. What to know: All 28 windows date from 1501 to 1515, making St. Mary's the only church in the UK to boast a complete set. If you'd like a personal guided tour, contact the church office by phone or email (free admission, 01285-712611, stmaryschurchfairford.org.uk). 10. Kevin Bacon: NY Skyride, Empire State Building, New York City Okay, yes, NY Skyride, on the second floor of the Empire State Building, has only one Yelp star and is rated as a "terrible" "scam" on TripAdvisor, but die-hard Kevin Bacon fans who have $42 to blow are in for a treat. Take a seat in front of an 18-foot screen, and Bacon—or his voice, anyway—"flies" you around New York City in a "virtual tour simulator" contraption for half an hour. Worth the cash? Probably not. But if it this sounds like a blast to you, we won't judge. What to know: Buyer beware. This ride is not affiliated with the Empire State Building Observation Deck, so try it at your own risk. Many travelers say they were suckered into buying a combination ticket by a street vendor outside the building's entrance, so understand what you're getting into before handing over any cash (admission $42, skyride.com).

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