In 1922, a man named Ralph Samuelson created and experimented with the first ever set of water-skis. He got the idea from a pair of snow-skis he had just purchased, and wondered if the same technology could be transferred to the water. From that day on, a favorite American pastime sport was born. Now water skiing is one of the most popular spring and summer seasonal activities, and is competed in across the globe. Many different variations of water skiing now exist, from trick skiing to slalom skiing.
"Yellowstone in May? Isn't it under two feet of snow?" That's what I responded when my husband first suggested going to Yellowstone for Mother's Day. Luckily, he persevered and we packed up our four kids along with my in-laws, for one of the most memorable trips we've taken. Amazing animal sightings, crisp clear vistas, and a wonderful feeling of solitude were our reward.
Every year I set out to pick apples. This year I thought I'd be very highbrow about it and try to learn some history while I gathered fruit. So I set out to find a historic apple orchard. My search led to Boston, New York, Indiana, and Oregon.
I vaguely remembered that American apples originated somewhere in New England. The historical record tells us that there were apple trees planted from British seeds in Plymouth. It also places an early orchard on Beacon Hill in Boston. To my surprise and delight, a little research on Google Maps shows that there is still an Apple store in that area today! I packed my girls into the car and drove two hours to Boston, anticipating the fun of picking apples at their American genesis. When I arrived, I realized I'd made a slight mistake. There was no orchard on Beacon Hill, but I picked up a shiny new red Apple iPod to commemorate my misstep. It's fabulous.
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This year, I'm recommending that everyone head to Michigan's Upper Peninsula in late September or early October for a spectacular view of the Earth in autumn splendor. The peninsula is heavily forested so any road you take will be a treat, but I'm going to offer up some ideas of things to see while you bask in the glory of the leaves. Specific driving routes can also be found at www.michigan.org.
Late August is a perfect time to take a drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and stay in Asheville, North Carolina. This city, with its folk music, Southern hospitality, and location in the gorgeous and romantic Blue Ridge Mountains is bound to enchant. In fact, go ahead and play some fiddle tunes while you read the rest of this post: music.
My parents, Jeff and Silvia, love to travel. When I'm looking for a new place to visit I sometimes call them to get ideas. While staying with them this week we ended up talking about one of their favorite places in the U.S., an area they've been to three times in the last ten years: Williamsburg, Virginia. They tend to favor sites that are either historic or naturally beautiful and consider Williamsburg, in Tidewater Virginia to be both.
The number one attraction there is Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg was the original capital of the Virginia Colony and when the capital was moved to Richmond, it became a backwater that did not grow. Lots of original buildings remain such as the House of the Burgesses, taverns, old homes, stables, stores, and inns. Fortunately for us today, the lack of economic progress in the area left it unchanged, which in turn made preservation and restoration of historical sites easier.
Summer is in full swing, and more than likely, you are planning a weekend or vacation getaway somewhere that involves a coast line and eating seafood. If that's the case, be sure to include a crab festival on your itinerary.
There's a reason people are willing to sit in horrific traffic to reach the far eastern end of Long Island - it has beautiful beaches, picturesque towns, and world-class shopping, dining, and nightlife. Somehow the Hamptons manage to be both charmingly quaint and extraordinarily sophisticated.
If you've watched enough television, you've caught glimpses of life out there - manicured lawns, posh boutiques, privacy hedges, perfectly groomed people. The whole place may seem inaccessible and even uninteresting to anyone who doesn't have a hefty trust fund or a seven-figure annual income. That is not the case! This is a part of New York you do not want to miss.
The other day, after being out in a freezing cold New England wind, I got curious to know who in the world is worse off than me. So I Googled "world's worst weather." I had to laugh when I saw that a place not far from home claims to have the World's worst weather: Mount Washington in New Hampshire. For many years it held the record for the fastest wind gust ever recorded: 231 mph. (This may be why the observatory at the top is actually chained to the ground.) I was also kind of excited to see that it's a place I've been. The great thing about this peak is that just about anyone can make it to the top. If you haven't been there yet, you really should put it on your list - and when you go, be prepared for any weather!
Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast. Elevation at the summit is 6,288 feet. Visitors usually go between May and October, which is also when the cog rail operates, weather permitting. The actual mountain is in a state park, which is in turn surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. The area is easily accessible from the Best Western White Mountain Resort.
Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival and believe it or not, it's a family event! While many people think of the revelry on Bourbon Street when they think of Mardi Gras, there is actually so much more that goes on in New Orleans during the entire carnival season and on Fat Tuesday! Kids love to see the elaborate Mardi Gras floats, and they especially love to catch throws - beads, stuffed animals, and other trinkets and toys. Here's the skinny on the history of Mardi Gras and how to find family friendly parades and activities.
The winter holiday season has come and gone and I'm already reflecting on my fondest memories. One thing I noticed this year, during my three visits to the Rockefeller Center, was the enthusiasm of all those who were down on the skating rink. I watched people who were obviously experienced skaters as they effortlessly glided across the ice, twirling a partner or teaching a child. Then there were those who spent most of their time falling down and laughing. Everyone was having so much fun! I found myself wishing that I wasn't eight months pregnant and an inexperienced skater, bound to take a tumble.
Skating at the Rockefeller Center is one of those things that visitors try to do when they travel to New York City in the winter. One night, I saw determined tourists standing in line in the rain, waiting for their turn to hit the ice! Although the skating rink at the Rockefeller Center is probably the most iconic in the country, you don't have to travel to New York City to enjoy some ice time in a romantic setting. There are rinks all over the country - wherever you decide to travel this winter, consider taking a turn or two around a local rink. Where can you find them?
When the Brothers Grimm compiled German fairy tales and came across the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the gingerbread house was modernized and romanticized. It seems only natural that children and adults alike would become enchanted with the idea of a sweetly edible home. My two-year-old has a couple of Jan Brett books about a Gingerbread Baby, and her favorite part of both stories is the house he lives in - all covered in candy and so incredibly delicious. Germany already had a tradition of making ginger cookies or cakes to be sold at festivals, and the popularity of this story started a tradition of making Lebkuchen, or "witches houses." The German Lebkuchen tend to be simple cottages, but in the United States, where making houses out of gingerbread has caught on more than anywhere else, they are often very elaborate Victorian homes and buildings laden with confections.
I recently made my annual trip to see New York City at its holiday best, in miniature, at the New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show. Now through January 10, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory houses replicas of New York landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, Penn Station and Yankee Stadium with model trains zooming along behind and in front of them on more than a quarter mile of track.
The replicas are made from natural materials like twigs, leaves, acorns, and pomegranates. Historic New York homes are carefully landscaped with moss and other tiny greenery. Visitors get to walk under the Brooklyn Bridge, built from sugar pinecones and lit with tiny lights - I'm not sure if it's more romantic to walk on the actual bridge or under this replica.
There are so many great traditions that surround the celebration of Thanksgiving Day. Of course, there's the gathering of family, and all the food we eat. There's also football and going to the movies. Let's not forget that since 1924, Americans have been gathering along the streets of Manhattan, braving the weather in the early morning, to see the floats and balloons that make up the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
A fun alternative or addition to this 85-year tradition is to go see the parade's main characters, the balloons, while they are being inflated. These famous individuals begin to come to life at 4 PM on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving right next to the Museum of Natural History on 77th and 81st Streets.
Thousands of years ago, the Celts celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter with bonfires, costumes, and parades. They believed that in the late autumn, the line between the worlds of the living and the dead was less distinct. In places where the seasons are marked, it's easy to imagine this to be true as we experience warm sunny days followed by cold nights, see living green leaves alongside brown and dead ones, and as the whole natural world transitions into a long slumber, almost a death. It really does seem to be a time when the worlds of the living and the dead mingle.
People today appear to have the same desire as the ancient Celts did to celebrate this time of year. Some of these celebrations are nothing more than a goodbye to the bounty of the summer - we visit farms and run through corn mazes, take wild hayrides, and drink apple cider. Other activities are more eerie - we carve sinister looking jack-o-lanterns; decorate our homes with spiders, cobwebs, black cats, and witches; or visit haunted spots, both real and make-believe.
In the spirit of these fall festivities, I'm devoting this post to corn mazes, hayrides, and haunted spots.
Every September, when the air starts to feel nippy and the leaves are just barely starting to turn, I'm reminded that it's time to drive out to an orchard to pick some of my own apples. Even my farmer's market can't compete with the fresh taste of an apple right off the tree on an early fall day!
This year, my friends and I decided to go to one of the area's most easily accessible orchards at Silverman's Farm in Easton, Connecticut. When we arrived, the kids were excited to jump into a complementary wagon to ride from the parking lot to the store across the street. In no time, we had picked up our half bushel bags and caught a tractor-pulled wagon for a ride into the trees. My 19 month old was fascinated to be bouncing along with the wind in her hair, behind a real tractor. She squealed and clapped the whole way up the hill into the orchard. I even heard a "Bravo!" or two. The friendly driver took us right to the rows that were open for picking that day and gave us a brief set of instructions, then turned us loose on rows of Gala's, Cortland's, and Macouns. I was perfectly happy with this selection since I was looking for apples that I could use to eat, bake and make applesauce.
With the onset of cool weather comes one of Mother Nature's greatest treats, the change in the color of leaves as trees prepare to bear the cold of winter. Many people set aside a weekend in late September or early October to get away to a place where they can really soak in all the beauty that the change of season offers. Perhaps in some way, this ritual prepares us for the barrenness of winter. This year, when planning your fall foliage tour, consider visiting New York's Hudson River Valley.
This valley appeals to me for so many reasons. It's rich with history, it's easily accessible from the New York metro area by rail, boat, car, or even bicycle, and it's full of charming little towns, excellent restaurants, historic homes, and stunning views. To top this off, the valley offers a magnificent display of reds, golds, and browns beginning in late September and through the month of October.
There are many ways to experience the Hudson River Valley in the fall. Here are a few suggestions:
This week there are attractive and athletic people all over Manhattan handing out fliers inviting passersby to attend one of the world's premier sporting events, the US Open. Should they go? My answer is a definitive and resounding yes... and so should you if you can. In no particular order, here are the reasons why.
Roger Federer, considered the greatest tennis player of all time after winning 15 majors, is going after his 6th consecutive US Open title this year.
Inside Arthur Ashe Stadium you can experience first hand the intensity of a sport that elicits complete silence from a crowd of 22,000.
There's just something exciting about watching people compete to win a piece of a $21 million purse.
September is just around the corner and I'm looking forward to The Norwalk Oyster Festival at Veterans Memorial Park, right on the water, in Norwalk, Connecticut. This year, the festivities begin on September 11th and go through the 13th. The festival is always delicious, and this year promises to be no different with the spotlight event being The Bar-B-Q Pit. New England's grill masters will be competing for some pretty serious prizes while the rest of us walk around watching people and licking sauce off our fingers.
Since Boston's Frederic Tudor, known as the Ice King, began introducing people around the world to ice from New England ponds, we have enjoyed cold drinks, ice-cream, and other chilled foods. We also began developing amazing recipes and products that rely on cold or frozen ingredients. Soon, almost every home, and certainly every bar and restaurant had an icebox. Today, we've traded in the icebox for the freezer and refrigerator and we can make ice almost anywhere and enjoy icy products year round.
A few weeks ago, my sister and my dad drove across the country. I talked to them while they were in Chicago, eating at the original Uno, where the Chicago deep dish pizza was born. They were duly impressed by the mass and flavor that each slice was offering. A few days later, their trip complete, we stopped in at Modern Apizza, a beloved restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut. While he was wolfing down an Italian Bomb and a White Clam Casino, my dad said: "Chicago does a great pie, but I don't think it beats this." His comment got me thinking about the different styles of pizza around the country and the various cities and restaurants that claim to make the best pizza. I also started thinking about planning vacations around pizza. My husband, who loves pizza above all other food, would be thrilled if this were a new motivation behind my travel planning madness.
Maybe you've already been to all the major U.S. cities or perhaps you're just itching to take advantage of one of those great deals the airlines are offering to small cities all over the country. No matter the reason, you will not be disappointed in a visit to any one of these three cities.
Hershey, Pennsylvania may very well be the perfect family town that Milton S. Hershey intended it to be. Of course it's heaven for chocolate lovers (read Moms), but there is great fun to be had there even for those rare individuals, like my niece, who do not even care for chocolate.
The last time I visited Washington D.C., my plane arrived at dusk. On the way to meet friends for dinner, my host recommended we stop by the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which I had never seen. It was a humid night and it was just beginning to sprinkle. The cicadas were out. I quietly walked through the field, looking into the faces of the soldiers all around me. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion and I regretted knowing so little about this conflict or what the experience was like for those who fought in Korea. I pledged to learn more.
We all travel for different reasons and even the reasons why we're traveling change all the time. Sometimes we travel because we want a change of scenery. Other times we travel because we feel compelled to see something of note, like a famous building, a rock formation, or a piece of art. Some of us want to know how other people live - what do they eat? Where do they gather? What are their traditions?
In today's environment, travel can also be a healthy form of escape from gloomy economic forecasts. And it doesn't have to be a huge financial endeavor. Staying relatively close to home (within a day's drive) can still provide the escape of travel, without the time and budget constraints. But where can you find these close to home escapes? It largely depends on where you live. Which leads me to my question: What destinations close to your home (within a day's drive) make great travel escapes?
Key West, Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, the Jersey Shore, the Texas country, and Maine - all of these destinations have hosted vacationing Presidents. In the spirit of the current holiday, here's some information on who went where and what they did to relax.
Ulysses S. Grant was the first president to decide he needed some time off from Washington D.C. His family had a cottage on the Jersey shore, at Long Branch, and they headed up there every summer. Their favorite activities included dancing, driving on the beach, checking out the horse races, and sailing.
Teddy Roosevelt's Summer White House was Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, on the fashionable north shore of Long Island, New York. While at Sagamore Hill, the president fished, sailed, and hiked. Today, you can actually tour Sagamore Hill, since it's a National Forest Service park. Teddy Roosevelt is also known for having spent a lot of time out west, ranching. He made it popular for wealthy Easterners to pay western ranchers with names like Curly for the opportunity to ride a horse all day, sleep under the stars, and learn to rope cattle.
It's freezing in Connecticut. My skin is looking pasty. My lips feel dry. I'm sick of bundling my daughter and myself every time I want to step outside. I went into Manhattan the other day to try to lose my winter blues in the sights and sounds of the city. However, stripped of holiday lights and magical window displays, the city just felt cold and windy.
On the way home that night, I started daydreaming about a hot and sunny city with a lot of color. I haven't been to Miami in years, but it immediately came to mind.
Since the idea came up, I've spent some time doing my diligence on this location - I even found Will Smith's song on an old CD. The catchy tune and fun lyrics put the bounce back in my step...
Party in the city where the heat is on
All night on the beach till the break of dawn
Welcome to Miami (bienvenido a Miami)
... and here's what I've come up with in terms of lodging and things to do:
Spend two or three nights in Miami Beach, at the Best Western Atlantic Beach Resort. This new hotel will put you right on the water and within walking distance of: the famous Art Deco District, where you can check out Miami's classic architecture; Lincoln Road Mall, where you can do some high end or bargain shopping and try to catch a glimpse of J. Lo or Paris Hilton; the Bass Museum of Art, in case you decide to check out Flemish tapestries or modern Latin American art.
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
The holidays are over and I'm not going to hear that song playing anymore...but listening to it really got me thinking about how much fun it can be to get out of the house and into the snow!
The winter can lose some of its charm when the holidays fade and you are facing just the snowy months ahead, so to get us all excited for January, February and more snow, I'm going to suggest a few places in the U.S. that offer amazing terrain for winter walks - on snowshoes or skis! Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are, perhaps, less popular activities than snowboarding or downhill skiing, but they can be a great escape. You can enjoy nature, see the real beauty of winter and get an unforgettable workout. If you have ever tried either snowshoeing or cross-country skiing you quickly learn that you are using every muscle in your body. Enjoy these winter wonderlands:
There is so much to do in Boston! I've been there a few times, so friends and family often ask me what to do when they visit this historic city. I decided I'd create a list of my favorite experiences to share with them, and then ask them to add to the list if they discover something new! Here's my list:
1. I never thought I'd recommend a line on the sidewalk as a must-do, but one of the coolest things I've ever done is to follow such a line from Boston Common to Bunker Hill. This two-and-a-half mile path is Boston's Freedom Trail, and it's worth going to Boston just to experience it, which is why it's at the top of my list (the rest of the list is not in rank order). Here's a sample of what lies along the trail:
Park Street Church, where the song "America" was sung in public for the first time
The final resting places of Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams
The site of the first public school
Old South Meetinghouse, where Samuel Adams gave the signal that it was time to dump the tea into the harbor
The birthplace of Ben Franklin at 17 Milk Street
Boston Harbor, where rebellious colonials hosted what is probably the most famous tea party in history
Quincy Market, where you still go to buy food, although these days its take-out restaurant food
The Oyster House, where Daniel Webster regularly sat down to eat about three-dozen oysters, washed down by six glasses of brandy
Italian restaurants and bakeries in the North End
Paul Revere's home and Old North church, where his lanterns shone to warn that the British were coming by sea
The site of a molasses flood
The U.S.S. Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides"
Bunker Hill, the site of the first real battle of the Revolutionary War
I was rummaging in a closet last night when I saw my ski jacket, helmet, goggles, and mittens. I only used them one winter--it was the last one I spent in Utah, when I finally decided to pay for ski lessons and find out what all the fuss was about. I loved it and was looking forward to getting a season pass to my local ski resort again the next winter. I was also determined to become a proficient enough skier to keep up with my husband for a few runs--he's been skiing almost as long as he's been walking.
Then we moved to the Northeast and I haven't skied again. The first year we were here, I was holding out for a trip back west so I could practice on familiar snow--the trip happened, but the skiing didn't. Then last winter, I was in the third trimester of pregnancy...so downhill skiing was not really an option.
"Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo." - Paul Simon
A few years ago, while in Orlando for a conference, I decided to check out Disney's Animal Kingdom. I hadn't been to a zoo since I was a kid and was a little worried the experience wouldn't be as wonderful for the adult me as it had always been for the child me. As it turns out, there was no need to worry - I spent at least thirty minutes just watching the hippos leap and twirl underwater and found out that the zoo is delightful no matter how old you are.
Whether you're driving across the plains or in the mountains, for two hours or for eighteen, music is an essential element of a road trip. It's a time to plug in the iPod and listen to all our favorite bands. However, let's not forget about the unique opportunity a road trip provides us to turn the stereo OFF and sing what can only be described as cheesy travel songs.
In my experience, singing Cheesy Travel Songs during a road trip is a great way to teach children some great American folk songs. Additionally, they serve one of two very important purposes: 1) to express common excitement and joy, or 2) to make the children in the car stop bickering or complaining.
Every October, I plan an excursion that will allow me to enjoy the glory of the changing of the leaves. It's also the one time of year when, in honor of Halloween, I actually watch scary movies. This week, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow arrived in my mailbox, inspiring the perfect idea for a last-minute October excursion: a weekend getaway to the Hudson River Valley.
I was excited about this destination for three reasons:
a. It's within driving distance of my home
b. There are interesting historical sites and amazing views
c. In the fall, much of what there is to do and see is outdoors, which will keep my 8 month old happy
Every year great travel publications and travel writers write up a list of the best sights to see and experience. With the launch of this new blog, we couldn't resist and came up with a list of our own. Here is our MUST SEE TRAVEL SIGHTS in NORTH AMERICA (to start, because taking on the whole world is a bit ambitious for our first round of posts). Here's what's top on our list, in no particular order, submit your own list and we will expand it over the next few weeks.
Golden Gate Bridge and Bay in San Francisco
The Grand Canyon in Arizona
Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Skyline in New York City
Three Sister Mountains near Canmore, Alberta - Canada
Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii
Tulum Ruins, Mayan Ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico
St. Louis Arch and the Mighty Mississippi in St. Louis, Missouri
Big Sur Coast line in Southern California
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico
What else should be included on the list? Let us know.
We know it is a big world out there with lots of places to see and experience.
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