Cambria is Great Base for California Pacific Highway 1 Roadtrip

The Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas is an exciting, accessible and must-see wildlife experience along California’s Pacific Highway 1 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin with Eric Leiberman, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas, the Piedras Blancas Light Station,  Old San Simeon Village, Moonstone Beach and Ragged Point are among the attractions and experiences from Cambria, on famously scenic (and fragile) California’s Pacific Highway 1.

From the opulent Hearst Castle, we drive back down the hill, to the coastal Old San Simeon Village. A whaling village in the 1800s, William Randolph Hearst turned it into a village for his workers who, over the 28 years, constructed his “Enchanted Hill.”

Sebastian’s General Store on San Simeon Bay really encapsulates the history and heritage of the village. Built in 1852 at the peak of the whaling industry, the Sebastian Brothers supplied whalers, fishermen, miners, and neighboring ranches.  Sebastian Brothers General Merchandise was the significant shipping point for whale oil, cheese, butter and other commodities on the Central Coast. Old San Simeon Village boomed with two hotels (the first-class Bay View Hotel built in 1878 had among its famous guests Thomas A. Edison, Winston Churchill and Calvin Coolidge), saloons, a blacksmith, a livery stable, a butcher, schools, a depot for a stage travel to Cambria and a telegraph line to San Luis Obispo.

The town flourished until 1910 and then declined (Hearst began building his castle in 1919), but Sebastian’s General Store has survived – there are even remnants of its post office. The Sebastian family bought the building in 1914 and operated the store for almost 100 years. Today, Sebastian’s offers an absolutely marvelous café (fabulous sandwiches and shop, and is a wine-tasting venue; the Hearst Winery is just across the street). (https://highway1roadtrip.com/things-to-do/sebastian-s-general-store-old-san-simeon-village/)

Old San Simeon, with its historic school house, horse pasture, and the Hearst Castle way up the hillside, make for a striking scene for our picnic lunch at Sebastian’s General Store © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The setting is adjacent to a gorgeous field filled with wildflowers, surrounding the historic school house, even more picturesque as horses wander through the field, with the Hearst Castle on hilltop in background completing the scene, as we enjoy our picnic lunch.

Eric keeps an appropriate distance when he comes upon a dejected male elephant seal at Hearst Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We wander across the road and find Hearst Beach where we happen upon a couple of dejected young male elephant seals. Guides are here to keep people an appropriate distance away from them. The guide explains they are young males which were pretty much beaten up by the older more aggressive males, and came here to “sulk” and recuperate. He tells us that almost 25,000 elephant seals are mating, birthing and nursing here along this 8 mile coastal rookery.

The Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas is an exciting, accessible and must-see wildlife experience along California’s Pacific Highway 1 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From here, we drive five miles further north on Pacific Highway 1 to the Elephant Seal viewing area at Piedras Blancas (“White Rocks”), a narrow strip of rocky beach where thousands of elephant seals—the West Coast’s largest pinnipeds—are massed. It is widely considered one of the best wildlife experiences in California (and free!), and happens adjacent to the Pacific Highway. President Barack Obama made this site part of the California Coastal National Monument in 2017.

We walk along a boardwalk for amazing views of the scene, where helpful docents from Friends of the Elephant Seal answer our endless stream of questions.

The Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas is an exciting, accessible and must-see wildlife experience along California’s Pacific Highway 1 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is fascinating to watch the huge marine mammals unabashedly breed, birth, molt, nurse and rest. Giant bulls, some as big as 16 feet long and weighing 4,000 pounds, inflate their trunk-like snouts to create a roaring bellow. The smaller females lie about as their pups nurse or just hang out.

The Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas is an exciting, accessible and must-see wildlife experience along California’s Pacific Highway 1 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is astonishing to learn from the guide that the elephant seals don’t eat at all for the weeks they are here – losing as much as 2000 pounds of their weight. Twice a year, the males swim to Alaska, Aleutian Islands, stay in the ocean where they eat, while the females, interestingly, swim to Hawaii, diving 3000 ft. deep to eat. They only come to the Piedras Blancas rookery to mate, give birth and nurse their pup before the process starts all over again.

The Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas is an exciting, accessible and must-see wildlife experience along California’s Pacific Highway 1 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We watch males fending off each other; even mating behavior (not at all romantic); and mothers nursing. We see what looks like family groups, but the guide says that while the mother knows her pup (and may nurse a second pup), the male has no relationship at all with a mate or a family.  That gets me thinking why the young males who got beaten up would bother to risk getting beaten up again, why don’t they just hang out on their own? He tells me the urge to propagate is too strong.

Once thought to be on the verge of extinction, elephant seals have rebounded and the Piedras Blancas Rookery has one of the greatest concentrations on the West Coast, with nearly 25,000 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What we see here is all the more remarkable because elephant seals, I learn, were thought to be on the verge of extinction, but have made a dramatic recovery over the last century, bounding back from fewer than 100 to an estimated 210,000-239,000 animals. The rookery of elephant seals at Piedras Blancas has become one of the largest on the west coast with a population estimated at 23,320.

Peak season is December through May though smaller numbers of seals may be seen during other months (https://elephantseal.org/).

The Piedras Blancas Light Station can be seen from the elephant seal rookery viewing area © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Off in the distance you can see the 70-foot tall Piedras Blancas Light Station. Built in 1875 and still in operation today, you can take a 2-hour tour of the interior and grounds, year-round. (Access to the light station grounds is by guided tour only.)

The Moonstone Beach boardwalk is an absolute delight © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We return to Moonstone Beach, which we explored a bit in the morning, to more fully enjoy this enchanting place. Named for the smooth stones with intricate patterns polished by the tides, Moonstone Beach is considered one of the Central Coast’s best beaches. You feel so completely at peace here. The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, extending some 1 ½ miles, affords visitors stunning views of the beach from bluffs and is itself artfully constructed to provide gorgeous scenes as you walk. In the north section, you can take paths down to the rocky seashore and tidepools (considered some of the best tidepools on the Central Coast), where you can look for crabs, sea anemones, urchin, sea slugs, and see seals resting on the rocks, especially from the Seal View Beach Deck.

The Moonstone Beach boardwalk has viewing areas to spot seals as well as whales © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

At Shamel Park, on the eastern edge of Moonstone Beach, an interpretive sign from the Whale Trail national organization identifies the lookout from Moonstone Beach as one of the best viewing spots for gray whales, white-sided dolphins, elephant seals, seabirds and sea otters. There are also sections of the beach popular for surfing, which also provides for entertaining viewing.

The Moonstone Beach boardwalk is an absolute delight © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After spending more time on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, we head out for our next experience – at Ragged Point which we try to time for the late afternoon light – passing the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse which is gated off – but a short distance beyond, we find a pull-in that gives a view of the lighthouse, as well as many more of the elephant seals on this stretch of beach.

A turnoff where you can get a view of the Piedras Blancas Light Station also provides close-up views of elephant seals on the rocky beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ragged Point is 11 miles further north along Pacific Highway 1, which actually is at the southern tip of Big Sur (Gorda, about 20 more miles further, was as far north as you could go on Pacific Highway 1 from this direction, before the highway was closed). Here, we are back in the land of high, steep cliffs that make for such dramatic vistas. It is late afternoon, and we find a stunning turn off to take in the view.

Driving on California’s Pacific Highway 1 from Cambria to Ragged Point, you get views of the coast and the hills © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At Ragged Point Resort, where we will be having dinner, there is a trail that goes down to the beach to a high waterfall. Eric goes down (it is fairly steep, muddy and close to sunset and I don’t want to hold him back), but I walk along the edge of the resort where there is a partial view of the waterfall, and a great view of the open ocean and sunset.

The view of steep cliffs and ocean along the Pacific Highway 1 at Ragged Point, at the southern edge of Big Sur © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We enjoy our dinner at the restaurant – the mushroom bisque is delicious, the rib eye served with bourbon and almond demi-glaze is done perfectly, with wonderful flavor. The chef seems to enjoy interesting flavor combinations. (Ragged Point Inn & Resort, 19019 CA-1, Ragged Point, CA, 888-584-6374, www.raggedpointinn.com).

Driving back to Cambria from Ragged Point, we stop for stargazing just around Hearst Ranch and hear the cacophony, the roar, of the elephant seals. There are breaks in the cloud cover, just clear enough to see constellations.

Sunset from Ragged Point Inn and Resort © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is more to see around Cambria, that unfortunately, we did not have time for since we were continuing on our way down the Pacific Highway:

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is home to a number of endangered species and species of special concern. The Ranch is bordered by a riparian habitat that encompasses tidal effect zones, seasonal freshwater marshes, and wetlands filled with birds. A dramatic ocean bluff that runs more than a mile along the shoreline of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where you can view migrating whales, elephant seals, and other ocean mammals. The Ranch features eight trails that meander through 437 acres of protected forest, riparian habitat, and grasslands. The benches located along the trails are each unique pieces of art that offer stunning ocean views. (604 Main Street Trail access at 2799, Bluff Trail, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-927-2856, https://www.fiscaliniranchpreserve.org/)

Covell’s California Clydesdales: 100 Clydesdale horses roam 2000 acres of pristine Monterey Pine forest and rolling pastures with an exquisite view of the ocean. Much of the forest of Cambria Pines by the Sea Ranch is protected in a nature conservation easement (Cambria Pines by the Sea, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-975-7332, https://www.covellsclydesdaleranch.com/)

Linn’s (for ollaliberry pie!). Since 1989, this little red brick restaurant in Cambria’s historic East Village. has been serving hearty breakfasts, lunches and dinners, but is famous for its ollaliberry pie and treats. (https://highway1roadtrip.com/where-to-eat/linn-s-restaurant/)  

Stepladder Creamery was founded in 1871 and has been family-owned and operated for three generations. As a farmstead creamery, they raise goats on the farm and make cheese from their milk, allowing them to manage every aspect of the cheese production. Their delicious, mild and creamy fresh Chèvre is the ultimate representation of spring cheesemaking. Group creamery tours are available.  (4450 San Simeon-onterey Creek Road, Cambria, CA 93428, https://www.stepladdercreamery.com/)

Morning mist rises from Moonstone Beach, Cambria © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Back at the Castle Inn we enjoy the heated pool and hot tub. The motel is perfect for our stay in Cambria, with a refrigerator, free wifi, continental breakfast, across street from Moonstone Beach boardwalk, 10 minutes drive to Hearst Castle, 15 minutes to Elephant Seal Vista Point. (6620 Moonstone Beach Dr, Cambria, CA, 93428, 805-927-8605, castle-inn-cambria.hotelsone.com)

We set out again on the Pacific Highway 1, bound for Redondo Beach.

More information: visitcambriaca.com

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

California Pacific Highway Roadtrip: Cambria is Enchanting Base to Visit Hearst’s ‘Enchanted Hill’ 

The view of William Randolph Hearst’s “Enchanted Hill” – Hearst Castle – an architectural and engineering triumph of Hearst and his architect/engineer Julia Morgan.  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin with Eric Leiberman, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s a dark night when we pull into our hotel in Cambria, on California’s famous (and fragile) Pacific Highway 1, so it isn’t until I awake in the morning to a moist mist rising after a rain, that I realize what is just across the road from the picturesque Moonstone Beach and a magnificent boardwalk that extends 1 ½ miles over the fragile seagrass, the ocean crashing against the rocky shore just beyond, where a few seals are resting, the sun making a gorgeous sparkling light,

We’ve driven down from the north, starting at San Francisco, to Monterey (made famous by John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” and now with a world renowned Aquarium); following the Pacific Highway 1 as much as possible as it hugs the cliffs to Big Sur. We pull over frequently to take in those breathtaking views that look like the edge of the Continent just fell into the ocean. We spend a couple of days hiking and exploring, overnighting at the utterly enchanting and historic Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn (www.deejens.org, 831-667-2377), then have to backtrack to Monterey, driving inland three hours on Highway 101 to come into Cambria.

Moonstone Beach, Cambria, across from our hotel, the Castle Inn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cambria is an outstanding base to experience not only its own charms, but to explore Hearst Castle, San Simeon, the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, and even driving north on the Pacific Highway, to Ragged Point, just at the southern end of Big Sur where you can get those dramatic sheer-cliff/crashing waves against the rocky shore views.

Castle Inn, which I found on hotels.com, is a delightful motel that is absolutely perfect for our purpose – the room is spacious and has a beachy (ocean) feel; the motel serves coffee, scones, apples, muffins, oatmeal for breakfast. Later, we will take advantage of its pool and hot tub under the stars, and is so close by to all the things we want to explore – especially having the Moonstone Beach and boardwalk just across the road. (6620 Moonstone Beach Dr, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-927-8605, castle-inn-cambria.hotelsone.com)

We grab coffee and muffins and immediately head out to Hearst Castle just eight minutes up the coastal road from Cambria in San Simeon.

We have to be at the Hearst Castle’s visitor center by 8:40 am for our pre-booked 9 am Grand Rooms tour  – the most popular of a selection of tours you can take and the best if you have never visited before (others include “Hearst and Hollywood” “Designing the Dream” “Art of San Simeon,” “Julia Morgan”, “Cottages & Kitchen tour” “Upstairs Suites Tour”, also accessible tours and private tours.)

We get our wristbands and go to “gate” for the bus that takes guests up to the mansion along the long winding road – just as William Randolph Hearst intended his visitors to experience his “Enchanted Hill.”

The view of William Randolph Hearst’s “Enchanted Hill” – Hearst Castle – an architectural and engineering triumph of Hearst and his architect/engineer Julia Morgan.  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The tour starts immediately on the bus, with an excellent narration giving the background – history, architecture, biography – and pointing out the sights along the way, accompanied by music of the 1930s and 1940s.

Hearst Castle is so much more than a magnificent mansion home (one of the most spectacular in the world), even more than an architectural jewel and a breathtaking art collection. It is the story of a fascinating man (love him or hate him or something in between, you still have to give the man credit for what he accomplished) who you come to know because everything about Hearst Castle is so personal to him. It is the story of an age – the coming of age of America, the coming of age of Hollywood and ascendancy of American culture. Everything you see is mind-blowing and breath-taking. And this mansion (he called it his country home), which has come to be known as Hearst Castle, is his personal artistic creation – the architecture and the art collection.

The tour is extremely well organized – it manages to be efficient and yet personal (I’m betting the earlier you can visit the better) – you feel as so many of Hearst’s guests must have felt the first time they were invited.

The entrance to Casa Grande. William Randolph Hearst was inspired to build his castle from his European tour with his mother when he was 10 years old © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You realize that even if you think you know who Hearst was (and so many imagine Hearst to be the character of “Citizen Kane” but he is only a piece of that fictional character, and Marion Davies, his companion, was a smart, savvy and accomplished woman and quite a fine actress, not at all like the character of Kane’s), you come away with newfound respect and interest – in fact, as compelling a real-life story as the fictional Citizen Kane. (“Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz was one of Hearst’s guests here.)

You also come to learn – and admire – Hearst’s architect for his castle: Julia Morgan was one of the first female engineering majors at the University of California, Berkeley, the first woman to pass the entrance exam in architecture and graduate the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris  – the preeminent architectural school of the time – and was the first licensed woman architect in California. (In 2014, Morgan was posthumously awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal in recognition of her pioneering career and dynamic buildings, the first woman to be awarded the medal in its 107-year history, https://pioneeringwomen.bwaf.org/julia-morgan/)

The grand dining room at Hearst Castle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hearst was inspired to build his castle and collect art when he took the grand tour of Europe when 10 with his mother. And his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. a philanthropist and advocate for women, introduced him to Julia Morgan. Phoebe began a lifelong interest in Morgan’s career when the two women’s paths crossed in Paris. The films and photos you get to see of Morgan, presiding over the dynamiting to level the summit and build the road, reviewing plans with Hearst, are fascinating.

Even though you are walking through the mansion with a tour group, you actually feel like you were one of Hearst’s guests arriving for the weekend – the home is set out as it would have been – most remarkably, in the grand dining room (it may well have inspired Harry Potter’s Hogwarts dining room, and interestingly, the banners on display refer to an Italian horserace), there are bottles of ketchup and mustard because Hearst himself, for all the spectacular grandeur of the art and architecture, wanted a homey feel to his country home.

Ketchup and mustard on the table in the grand dining room at Hearst Castle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The art is breathtaking – Hearst collected the pieces himself, and drawing from his European travels with his mother when he was 10 years old, are predominantly Gothic and medieval – a lot of religious art which Hearst appreciated for the art and the period, not the religious significance, the guide tells me.

The oldest work of art at Hearst Castle is an Egyptian statue, 3200-3600 years old, of Sekmet, daughter of Ra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the entrance to the Casa Grande – the 68,300 sq ft grand house – we stop in front of the oldest work of art here, an Egyptian statue,  3200-3600 years old of Sekmet, daughter of Ra –with a  hieroglyph that translates “Good God, Lord of Two Lands.” The entrance to Casa Grande –  has real gold gilding on the door, 1500-year old mosaic tiles, a 600 year old statue.

The Assembly Room of Hearst Castle gives you your first taste of the opulence and art collection © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are ushered into the grand Assembly Room – 15th century church pews, tapestries, line the wall, and the Venus Italica, one of Hearst Castle’s greatest masterpieces, created by Antonio Canova (1757-1822).

In 1935 his collections were valued at more than $20 million (in the height of the Great Depression!), but then he fell into near bankruptcy, and at the age of 75, and had to sell off two-thirds of his collection, estimated at $15 million, at “fire sale” prices. (Marion Davies, by then extremely wealthy in her own right with movies and real estate investments in places like Palm Springs, lent him $1 million so he could keep Hearst Castle; when she died, her estate was worth $8 million; when he died, she gave the Hearst Company shares he left her back to his family and they promptly kicked her out and refused to let her come to his funeral.)

The Assembly Room of Hearst Castle gives you your first taste of the opulence and art collection © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can easily picture who Hearst, Davies and Morgan were, and the glorious celebrity life they lived because there are home movies, photos!. It is thrilling to sit in Hearst’s own theater and watch Charlie Chaplin mug for the camera. (Definitely take advantage of the outstanding 40-minute documentary about Hearst’s life in the five-story theater before or after the tour.)

In many ways, William followed in his father’s footsteps.

George was a self-made millionaire, starting as a prospector – he owned interest in three of the largest mines in the U.S., including the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota and the Anaconda copper mine in Montana, plus the Ontario silver mine in Utah, then acquired large portions of land throughout the United States, especially in California and the West. One acquisition was 48,000 acre Piedra Blanca Rancho at San Simeon in 1865, when William was two-years old. He later purchased the adjoining Santa Rosa and San Simeon Ranchos – amassing 250,000 acres. This place became a retreat for lavish family camping trips.

Only a small portion of the vast estate – once 250,000 acres – assembled by Hearst © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Late in his life George Hearst served as United States Senator from California from 1887 until his death in 1891. It was during this time that he acquired the small San Francisco Examiner as a repayment for a gambling debt. Although he had little interest in the publishing business and wanted his only son, William, to take over the family’s mining and ranching holdings, William wanted to run the newspaper.

The newspaper business was William’s passion, and he ultimately amassed a huge publishing empire, and even when he was living at this remote castle in San Simeon, he would get the pages each night by teletype by 1 am, and make editorial changes by phone, well into the night.

William Hearst is probably best known for “yellow journalism” which pressured President McKinley into the Spanish-American War (that also made Theodore Roosevelt’s reputation with his Rough Riders.

And following in his father’s footsteps, he was elected to Congress but unsuccessfully ran for Governor and for President.

In 1919 when he inherited the estate, William Hearst, then 56 years old, hired architect Julia Morgan telling her, “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.”

For the next 28 years, the project that we know as Hearst Castle became his life’s work, his creation and hers and unbelievably, was never actually finished, even though the mansion and villas now comprise 165 rooms atop the 1600 ft. high summit of a hill. Hearst, they say, was never as happy as when he was on his “Enchanted Hill.”

Once this pasture would have held the largest private zoo in America © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From the bus, we look out over the vast lands where Hearst had assembled exotic animals from around the world, ultimately creating the largest private zoo in America – you would have seen African and Asian antelope, zebras, giraffes, camels, sambar deer from India, red deer from Europe, axis deer from Asia, llamas, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, Barbary sheep, Alaskan big horned sheep, musk oxen and yaks. Though most of the animals were removed by 1937 (when Hearst was near bankrupt during the Great Depression), some that remain are descendents of the original herds, like the Oudads, and get still have 200 head of cattle on the ranch.

We drive the winding road that Julia Morgan designed so that the castle appears, disappears and reappears as you drive around the bends, climbing higher and higher to the hilltop.

Hearst’s guests would have come by private train, but some of Hearst’s guests – like the Vanderbilts, who flew in on a private plane in 1935 to an airstrip below, then would have been driven up these roads.

Hearst created a mile-long pergola of fruit trees, and would ride on horseback through the canopy, “the longest pergola in captivity” Morgan would joke. The fruit trees including oranges and pomegranates, yield 2000 lbs of citrus that are donated to local food bank.

All the food the castle used was produced on site; water was piped in, so the castle was completely self-sufficient.

As we get off the bus, our guide, Gregory Anderson, encourages us to take photos as we see them, because the tour goes in one direction  But to a really excellent degree, what we see is what it would have been like to visit in Hearst’s time.

One of the three villas at Hearst Castle where movie stars, industrial moguls, and political leaders would have stayed © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We stop in front of the first villa, Casa del Sol, “medium sized” at 3600 sq ft., built for a sunset view, Bob and Delores Hope honeymooned here; Edward Hubble, who originated the Big Bang Theory, stayed here; Actor Cary Grant requested a different room every time stayed (came 40 times)

We come to the 2500 sq. ft Casa del Mar cottage, where David Niven (“The Pink Panther) and Winston Churchill stayed (in 1929). Up until 1976, this was the villa that Hearst family members would stay. (William had five sons between 1904-1918, and there are some 70 descendents today and the family – the 20th wealthiest in the US – now when they come, they stay at the Senator’s House which the Hearst Corporation still owns).

King Vidor, Howard Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, buster Keaton, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Harpo Marx, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo were among the celebrities who came.

Hearst loved to take his guests on grueling horseback rides – delighted in seeing how silver screen cowboys would handle real horse.

Our guide tells us that Hearst Castle was Morgan’s 503rd of 700 projects and was one of the few architects who knew how to work with steel reinforced concrete (important for earthquakes).

Notably, she designed a new Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, still an architectural jewel, which opened within a year after the 1906 earthquake, and propelled her career and her own practice.

Morgan had already designed the block-long Spanish Mission Revival Hearst Examiner Building (1913–15) in Los Angeles. In 1919, following his mother’s death, Hearst inherited the full Hearst estate and decided to build a “modest bungalow” on the hilltop of the ranch at San Simeon – which evolved into the castle. 

I find it interesting that Morgan negotiated her commission from 6 percent for architectural services to 8.5 percent to cover the costs of “running the job.” She was providing what today would be called “design-build” services and was responsible for managing workmen, artisans, material suppliers, and warehouses of artifacts – it is fascinating to see the “home videos” of her directing the workers.

The magnificent Neptune Pool. Julia Morgan had to design and build it three times © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The most spellbinding features of the estate are the two pools – the Neptune Pool which has Grecian feel, is actually the third incarnation: 104 feet long, 58 feet wide and 95 feet wide at the alcove. It is 3.5 feet deep at the west end, 10 feet at the drains, and holds 345,000 gallons of water. Other notable aspects of the Neptune Pool include the oil-burning heating system, the Vermont marble that lines the basin, gutters, and alcove, and four Italian relief sculptures on the sides of the colonnades.

The magnificent Roman Pool in Hearst Castle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The indoor Roman Pool tiled indoor pool decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes. The pool appears to be styled after an ancient Roman bath such as the Baths of Caracalla in Rome c. 211-17 CE.

Be sure to make time to see the “Building the Dream” biopic in the 5 story theater (plays every 45 minutes) about William Randolph Hearst’s childhood, his travels to Europe, construction of the castle estate, and his architectural collaboration with Morgan. “They built castle but also created legacy.”

Hearst Castle, which first opened for tours in 1958 and gets 600,000-700,000 tourists/year (in the 1980s, its heyday, a million tourists would come each year), is now a California state park.

There are no individual visits to Hearst Castle – you must be registered for a tour. Ticket prices start at $30/adults, $15 children (5-12). (https://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/daily-tours/). Reserve tickets online up to 60 days in advance; Reserve online (https://www.reservecalifornia.com/Web/Activities/HearstCastleTours.aspx)

Every year from the end of November through the end of December, Hearst Castle offers a “Holiday Twilight Tour” to experience the estate as Hearst’s guests enjoyed it during the 1920s and 1930s during the Christmas season.  

Hearst Castle, 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA 93452-9741, 800-444-4445 (8 am-6 pm PT), hearstcastle.org.

More visitor information: visitcambriaca.com.

Next: Cambria is Great Base for Pacific Highway Roadtrip

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Gearing Up for Summer Travel

Hiking in Death Valley National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whether you are adventuring or beach going, cycling or sightseeing, travelers need gear that is flexible, light, durable, portable, packable and as much as possible, versatile and multi-purpose. The right gear can make such a difference in a safe, memorable travel experience.

Here are some that have come to my attention, some of which I was able to sample:

Travel in Comfort

Coalatree’s Trailhead Pants ($99, Affiliated with ShareASale/SkimlinksImpactAvantLinkAmazon). I really liked Coalatree’s waterproof, tear-resistant and antimicrobial Trailhead Pants.  Versatile and flattering, you can wear them whether you are hiking, exploring the city, or on the plane. Coalatree strives to use sustainable materials throughout the production process – even recycled coffee grounds.

Core Tee by Forme ($178, ShareASale/Skimlinks) Avoid neck and back pain from slumping over in those low-quality seats in Economy. The eco-friendly made Core Tee by Forme® is an FDA-registered patented posture activewear thatimproves your alignment and effectively rehabs neck, back, and shoulder pain commonly associated with poor posture and spinal disorders. Made from eco-friendly Tencel fabric, the Core Tee is constructed of different materials and thin layers that are stitched together. The Forme tech inner layer is fused across the shoulder blades, creating an elastic-band sensation.When you put the Core tee on, the fused section wants to remain tight no matter how broad you are across the shoulders. This makes your shoulders pull back to their natural position, teaching your body and diaphragm to open.

CEO Active  (Racer Back Top: $30, Flare Legging: $45): If you are looking for a travel day outfit that is more trendy and comfy, check out CEO Active’s Artemis Set which combines functionality and style. The Artemis Flare Legging in green is a tribute to the goddess of the hunt and wild nature.

COR Surf – Huakai Travel Jacket ($99.99):I always travel with an extra layer and COR Surf, maker of outdoor gear and accessories, has designed a jacket that is comfortable, functional, great in almost any weather condition and very packable in my backpack.  It is constructed with lightweight, 10K, PFC-free DWR water-resistant microstretch fabric that gives you freedom of movement and comfort; great for layering in cold and warm weather; has hidden pockets on the sleeve for credit cards; has a large hidden pocket on the back for passport or money (this pocket is velcro so that it will be louder and harder to access for a pick-pocket); two inside chest pockets that are designed to fit a cell phone; and exterior chest pocket that easily holds a large cell phone with a water-resistant zipper. It also comes with a carrying pouch.

NEW Ankle Guard Socks by Forme ($35, ShareASale/Skimlinks)  Reduce strain, tension, and pressure on your ankle joints from long flights with the new Ankle Guard Socks by Forme®. These patent-pending high socks just launched on January 12th and are made with biofeedback technology designed to align and stabilize the ankle and foot muscles for reduced pain and inflammation.

Protalus – Green T-100 Elite ($64.95/pair, Amazon): Protalus insoles are designed to promote proper whole-body alignment when traveling for long periods of time. The T-100 Elite is constructed with patented rebound foam & patented alignment technology. This insole provides superior relief by allowing your body to distribute pressure properly by keeping your ankle aligned and in a safe range of motion.

TheraICE *NEW* Sleep Mask + Cooling Gel ($29.95,Amazon): Great for the plane ride, block out sunlight and overhead reading lights with TheraICE’s new Sleep Mask with a 3D bucket blindfold design. It is made to provide both cooling relief and comforting warmth and weighted to provide a gentle, soothing pressure that aids in faster sleep induction and better sleep quality. Made with premium materials, it provides a plush, soft rest for your eyes, ensuring maximum comfort throughout your rest period.

Hiking, Camping, Outdoors

Deckers X Lab’s ENDURO MAX ($199-$249,  Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink): Deckers X Lab’s ENDURO MAX is engineered for speed, comfort and fluidity on the trail. Featuring a V-shaped carbon plate, a Vibram® Litebase outsole, ​ a nitro-infused shell, and a heel-to-toe rocker, the ENDURO MAX offers durability and agility to excel on rugged terrain and light enough to turn a hike into a trail run.

Nocs Provisions Standard Issue Binoculars ($95, Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink): Nocs Provision’s Standard Issue 8×25 Waterproof Binoculars offers 8x magnification a completely waterproof seal and compact design for easy and lightweight transport. The high-impact rubber grip and the fog-proof, nitrogen-filled internal chambers are optimal for when the weather turns and it’s time to eye alternative routes.

Knog Bilby 400 Headlamp ($64.95, Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink) is designed from for serious outdoor adventure and is powerfully bright, tough, and intuitive, casting a powerful beam up to 100 meters and a boost mode.

Mission Workshop Speedwell ($335, Avantlink / Skimlinks / ViglinkThe fully weatherproof Mission Workshop Speedwell is a versatile backpack utilizes the same breathable floating harness system used on the MW hydration packs to provide generous airflow, stability and comfort in the most adverse conditions and features the ASP pocket system for efficient storage and ease of use.

Tees

ARTILECT Sprint Tee ($85, ARTILECT) is made with Nuyarn 115gsm Speed-Lite, one of the world’s lightest-weight merino fabrics. This fabric features superfine 18-micron merino wool with a high-performance nylon filament carrier for performance and comfort. With reflective tape embedded in the side seams, the Sprint offers a level of safety for early morning and evening workouts.

Odlo -X-Alp Performance Wool 115 trail running t-shirt – Men’s and Women’s ($75): Natural performance made for the mountains. Lighter, stronger and faster drying than traditional merino, the ODLO X-Alp Performance Wool 115 trail running t-shirt is a modern, high performance merino that’s unlike any other. Crafted from Performance Wool powered by Nuyarn® – a wool blend that closely mimics wool’s natural performance characteristics – this tee is naturally temperature regulating (keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool) and naturally antimicrobial (which cuts down on scents). Sourced from non-mulesed merino wool, the fabric dries 5 times faster, perfect on long runs in the mountains. Features a stylish micro-stripe.

ORNOT Men’s Merino Tech Shirt ($72, Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink): A mix of Australian RWS-certified Merino Wool and provides a soft hand that keeps you cool while drying quickly. The contoured back panel for coverage while in a riding position. Superior temperature regulation and odor control. Stretchy and soft against the skin. Made in California using renewable fibers and Certified with the Responsible Wool Standard, pre-shrunk, 42.5% 19 Micron Merino Wool 42.5% Tencel 10% Nylon 5% Elastane.

Black Diamond – Women’s Rhythm T-Shirt ($90): Built for freedom and mobility, the Rhythm tee features Nuyarn merino wool technology making it significantly lighter than other wool shirts, while increasing performance, dries five times faster than standard merino, while providing 35% more stretch. Certified non-mulesed Australian Merino Wool. Machine washable. Slim. 95g.

KUIU -Active Merino 105 SS Crew-T ($69): This high-performance active tee leverages Nuyarn® Merino Wool for unmatched stretch, rapid recovery, fast wicking, quick drying, and odor resistance. Reflective print logo. Raglan sleeve for unrestricted mobility and comfort. Flat-lock sleeves for no chaffing. Nuyarn Merino Wool (55% merino wool / 35 % Polyester / 10% Nylon).

Trew – Men’s Lightweight Nuyarn Merino Basic T ($69): Nuyarn enhances the natural benefits of merino by innovating the construction of the yarn, allowing Trew to build garments that are stronger, lighter, warmer, stretchier and quicker to dry.120 gsm Nuyarn Merino Wool. 70% merino wool / 30% nylon (core filament). 100% certified non-mulesed wool. Open range sheep shorn annually. Spun in Bluesign and Oeko-tek 100 certified facilities.

Socks are really important no matter what kind of travel pursuit you pursue – hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle. Our favorites: Bombas (https://bombas.com/) and Darn Tough (www.darntough.com).

Shades

Hiking Shades from adidas Sport eyewear: No hiking outfit is complete without a pair of performance sunglasses. offers Engineered to withstand the rigors of the trail, adidas Sport eyewear offer durability and protection against the elements. The sleek design ensures a comfortable fit, while the high-performance lenses provide exceptional clarity, so you can see with enhanced contrast and vividness:

adidas Sport ACTV SP0083 ($65.38, Eyeons): The adidas Sport ACTV SP0083 is a squared injected sunglasses with a dynamic, sporty design. This easy-to-wear style has functional elements to optimize comfort and performance, including a ventilation system on the front and temples and maximum grip temple tips. Safety and fit are combined with great protection guaranteed by the option of mirrored or polarized lenses.

adidas Sport eyewear CMPT Ultralight Shield, SP0077 ($99, REI.com): The adidas Sport CMPT Ultralight Shield is a rimless shape with a bold line and sophisticated design. This versatile, easy-to-wear sunglass is characterized by exceptional lightness and a large transparent lens. Contoured temples feature the adidas Sport logo and rubber tips improve comfort and grip.

Skincare

Visor Skincare ($19) I confess I am pretty bad about putting on sunscreen, but I really love Visor – it may be the only 100% clear sunscreen that is oil-free, alcohol-free and fragrance-free.It goes on so easily and feels light and cool.  Visor has 80 minutes of sun protection compared to Goop’s 40 minute; Is a fraction of the cost ($19 compared to $38 with Goop); Infused with anti-aging and skin-brightening ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C; Is actually clear (Goop’s is cloudy) making it inclusive to all skin tones.The tube is also packable, at under the 3oz limit for air travel.

Wholesome Hippy – Lemon-Aid Whipped Wonder Balm with Limonene 2oz ($16.99) No need to pack a multitude of creams and ointments in your first aid kit. This wonder balm is a versatile remedy for sunburns to real burns. This 2oz wonder balm ingredients include Lemon Essential Oil, Lime Peel Oil, Soybean Oil, and Medium Chain Triglycerides, creating a nourishing foundation for skin health.

Reveka Skincare’s Tea Tree + Peppermint Body Bar ( 4 Pack/$38.97, Available on Amazon) This3-in-1 body bar has a rich lather and can be used as shampoo, soap, and shaving cream. It’s made with tea tree, peppermint and shea butter to best hydrate your skin. Made with Magnesium Chloride from the Ancient Zechstein Seabed, Reveka’s soap is one of the best topical magnesiums to promote new tissue growth; soothe the skin and makes it glow; and alleviate common skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis & acne. Reveka is a new woman and veteran-owned business. Their products are crafted with clean ingredients with no preservatives or dyes and are 100% made in the U.S. The soap bar is a bit hefty and would be ideal to stock your vacation home or cabin.

Timeless Glow Bundle by Sun Chlorella ($92.99,Available on Amazon and Walmart): After an airline trip, your skin can feel really dry. Revitalize with Sun Chlorella’s Astarella Primetime Skin Cream. It contains Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), an ingredient that helps to even out skin tone. Sun Chlorella Cream combines CGF with other ingredients like clove and grapefruit seed extract to promote healthy-looking skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and retain moisture. TimelessGlow bundle comes with 2 bottles of their Astarella Primetime Skin Cream so you can leave one at home and bring the other while you travel, and a complimentary compact mirror. 

NOMATIC’s Toiletry Bag 2.0 ($39.99):Hold all of these toiletries in NOMATIC’s hanging toiletry bag.Madewith durable, water-resistant materials and zippers to ensure there are no leaks and your toiletries stay protected. An optional hanging strap and dedicated toothbrush pocket are a few of the many features that make these the most functional toiletry bags ever.

One-Stop Shopping

Camping in Watkins Glen State Park, New York © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I love REI for all things active and outdoors – I am a member of the coop and constantly get great offers (you join once and are a member for life), discount coupons. REI offers excellent quality, selection for all the activities you want; in-store service is superb and so is their online customer service. You can purchase in the store or online and have a whole year to return. Returns and exchanges have been excellent. Love my tent , my hiking boots, my headlamp; and the outfits I purchased for my Incan Trail hike. I like to search in their sales and outlet listings. I find it easy to purchase from the catalog and online, but also at their retail store which is nearby.  REI also has an amazing catalog of adventure travel trips. (REI.com)

I love LL Bean for the quality and selection (they also tend to have a great selection of petite sizes which is rare) for all things active. I tend to shop online with them because they do not have an outlet near me, but I have been happy with everything they have, especially the hiking pants purchased. They have excellent quality but tend to be a bit pricey, so I take advantage of sales and end-of-season promotions. (llbean.com)

For brands that I like, great selection, decent prices and good promotional deals and sales: Academy Sports + Outdoors (academy.com, chat; free shipping available).

Also: Sun & Ski, sunandski.com, 866-786-3869; Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com; Tennis Express (TennisExpress.com), Bass Pro Shops, www.basspro.com; Patagonia (Patagonia.com); Paragon Sports (paragonsports.com).

Photo gear: What trip doesn’t involve photos! B&H consistently has best inventory, prices and specials, efficient delivery, excellent customer service, delivery and return policies on all sorts of camera and video gear and electronics,especially if specialty gear is needed (like waterproof camera for that snorkeling trip): www.bhphotovideo.com, 800.606.6969212.444.6615).

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Summer Travel: Explore Your Wild Side

Explore your wild side in Letchworth State Park. New York State parks are celebrating 100th anniversary with a Centennial Challenge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Edited by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Summer family vacation travel is defined by being active outdoors. Here are some ideas:

A Bakers’ Dozen of Best Campsites in New York State

Camping at Letchworth State Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State offers some of the most incredible camping experiences anywhere in the country. Marta Zielinska, the Managing Editor of ILOVENY.com, has provided this list of a dozen of her favorites across the state, to which I would add Watkins Glen State Park:

Scaroon Manor Campground & Day Use Area (Adirondacks): Once an upscale summer resort for the big city’s high society and a filming location for 1957’s Marjorie Morningstar starring Gene Kelly and Natalie Wood, this tranquil campground on the banks of Schroon Lake now makes for a more down to earth Adirondacks retreat. Hike, lounge on the beach, rent a canoe or kayak, go fishing (lake trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, bullhead, and pickerel. Nearby visit   Natural Stone Bridge and Caves Park, the largest marble cave entrance in the eastern U.S.; 30 minutes away Gore Mountain offers scenic gondola rides, hiking, and mountain biking.  Scaroon Manor offers 60 sites (two with tent platforms) at $25/night.

Moreau Lake (Capital-Saratoga): Woodsy campgrounds that have both tent and trailer sites. nature trails, a boat launch, fishing holes, and a sandy swimming beach on the tranquil lake. Saratoga Springs, located just 20 minutes away, offers cultural attractions, mineral waters at Saratoga Spa State Park, horseracing and museum at Saratoga Race CourseMoreau Lake offers 145 campsites from $18 to $22 a night. Cabins and cottages are also available starting at $300 per week.

Camping in Watkins Glen State Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kenneth L. Wilson Campground & Day Use Area, Mt. Tremper (Catskills) offers hiking, mountain biking, fishing and paddling about the scenic lake in a canoe or kayak. Venture off-site to explore the quaint villages of Woodstock and Phoenicia, where there’s golfing, shopping, and great eating to be had (a trip to Phoenicia Diner is a must!) and the historic city of Kingston, New York’s first capital, is 30 minutes away. Kenneth L. Wilson offers 76 tent and trailer sites at $22/night.

Verona Beach (Central New York): Located on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake, with 11 sites boasting views of the water, Verona Beach State is where you can hike the wondrous “Woods and Wetland” nature trail. The lake, Black Creek, cattail marshes, and bottomland hardwood swamps also give Verona Beach one of the most diverse aquatic habitats in the area. Just 30 minutes away, marvel at nature’s beauty as you gaze upon a 167-foot waterfall that formed 10,000 years ago at the 194-acre Chittenango Falls State ParkVerona Beach offers 46 campsites ranging from $18-$43 a night.

Cooperstown Shadow Brook Campground (Central New York): Camp on 20 acres surrounded by mountains and farmland in the home of baseball. On-site is a fully-stocked three-acre catch and release fishing pond, heated pool, arcade, rec center, general store and weekly activities. Visit the National Baseball Hall of FameThe Farmers’ MuseumBrewery Ommegang, the Fenimore Art MuseumCooperstown Shadow Brook Campground offers tent sites ranging from $40 to $50 ($60 during Baseball Hall of Fame Induction), with cabins, cottages, and trailers available at varying rates.

Allegany State Park (Chautauqua-Allegheny): With over 65,000 acres of primitive forested valleys, Allegany State Park is the largest state park in New York State. It offers two sandy beaches, miles of paved bikeways, picnic areas, fishing piers, lakes, and two museums, Camp at Red House and Quaker. The park is only 40 minutes from the National Comedy Center and Rock City Park.  Allegany State Park offers more than 300 campsites ranging from $18 to $31 per night (cabin and cottage rates vary).

Keuka Lake State Park (Finger Lakes): Located in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country with breathtaking views of vineyard-covered slopes, glimmering water, and clear blue sky, the campground offers swimming at the beach, boating, fishing, and hiking, Explore the six family-owned wineries along the Keuka Lake Wine Trail, visit  the Finger Lakes Boating Museum and Glenn H. Curtiss MuseumKeuka Lake State Park offers 153 tent and trailer sites from $18 to $30 a night.

Green Lakes (Finger Lakes): Two glacial lakes surrounded by upland forest make up this picturesque state park where you can set up camp on grassy and wooded sites before heading to the lakeshore for fishing and swimming in crystal-clear water. Kayak and rowboat rentals are available. Play golf on the park’s scenic 18-hole golf course. Located just 15 minutes from Syracuse, where you can visit Dinosaur Bar-B-QueMuseum of Science and Technology (MOST)Destiny USA. Plan your trip around the Great New York State Fair (August 21-September 2) for food, fun, rides, and great live entertainment. Green Lakes has 135 campsites ranging from $18 to $37 a night; seven cabins also available for booking.

Letchworth State Park is nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Letchworth State Park (Finger Lakes): The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs as high as 600 feet in some places surrounded by lush forest, earning it the nickname, the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Experience it whitewater rafting through the canyon or go for a real splurge with a hot air balloon ride (shared basket: $425/person; private flight: $2,150/couple). With 66 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, a special one-mile loop Autism Nature Trail, a nature center, museum, swimming pool, and guided walks, you’ll never want to leave. Sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the historic Glen Iris Inn and soak in the views of the Middle Falls. Letchworth offers 257 campsites ranging from $27 to $30 a night, plus cabins $132-$568 per week.

Watkins Glen State Park (Finger Lakes) Walking the Gorge Trail in Watkins Glen State Park in New York’s Finger Lakes is, in a word, spellbinding. The centerpiece of the 778-acre Watkins Glen State Park is a 400-foot deep, narrow gorge cut by the Glen Creek that was left “hanging” when glaciers of the last continental glaciation, some 12,000 years ago, deepened the Seneca valley, creating rapids and waterfalls through layers of hard rock. Six Nations Campground is set amid beautiful trees, excellent restroom facilities, and affords access to a glorious Olympic-sized pool.(276 campsites, 9 cabins).

One of our favorite places in New York State for a summer family adventure is Watkins Glen State Park. New York State is celebrating the centennial of the park system with a Centennial Challenge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Four Mile Creek (Greater Niagara) is special for offering 10 coveted waterfront sites with spectacular panoramic views of Lake Ontario, hiking trails that wind along densely wooded bluffs, and a marsh that’s home to great blue herons and white-tailed deer, plus biking and fishing. It is just 15 minutes north of the mighty Niagara Falls, and offers discounted tickets to the Maid of the Mist boat tours and Cave of the Winds. Other nearby attractions include a two-hour cruise past historic sights and the five original Lockport Locks, historical reenactments at Old Fort Niagara, and racing at Ransomville Speedway. Hop aboard the Discover Niagara Shuttle to catch a free ride from Four Mile Creek to Old Fort Niagara, Niagara Falls, and several points in between (available Friday-Sunday)! Four Mile Creek offers 260 campsites with prices ranging from $23 to $36 a night. Brand new yurts are also available starting at $83.75 per day.

Cranberry Lake Campground & Day Use Area (Thousand Islands-Seaway) is located in the Adirondack Mountains in one of the largest remote areas in all of New York State with thousands of acres of unbroken forest nearby. It offers a sandy beach, hiking trails with scenic vistas, fishing spots, and access to miles of unencumbered scenic waters to explore. About 40 minutes away in Tupper Lake, experience the beauty and wonder of the night sky at The Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory  and the Wild Center where you can walk along the treetops on the Wild Walk, a unique elevated trail that includes a four-story treehouse, swinging bridges, and a giant bald eagle’s nest offering a rare view of the Adirondack forest. Cranberry Lake offers 165 campsites at $20/night.

Wildwood State Park (Long Island): Swim and fish on two miles of beachfront along the Long Island Sound, hike along 12 miles of marked trails; at night activities include watching movies under the stars and square and line dancing. With 600 acres of undeveloped hardwood forest terminating on a high bluff overlooking the Sound, it’s also the perfect setting to take in a stunning sunset. Explore Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard and Long Island Aquarium. Wildwood offers 314 campsites for $18-$35 a night, plus 10 cottages starting at $175/night.

New York State Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s campsites can be booked through ReserveAmerica.com. New York State also has a multitude of privately-owned campgrounds perfect for all your camping needs.

More info on New York State tourism at iloveny.com.

Under Canvas, Backroads Adventure Experiences in National Parks

After first establishing a relationship with trips in Montana’s West Yellowstone and glamping tours in Tennessee and South Dakota, Under Canvas and Backroads are expanding to offer 185 scheduled trips through 2025. The expanded line-up this year includes an all-new, glamping-only itinerary in Southwestern Utah with stays at Under Canvas Bryce Canyon and Under Canvas Zion. From the scenic beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota to the dramatic red rock and hoodoo vistas of Southwest Utah, to the ancient Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, guests enjoy a Backroads active adventure by day and immerse themselves in nature with Under Canvas’ upscale glamping retreats by night.

Backroads trips staying at Under Canvas properties in 2024 include:

Utah’s Bryce & Zion Glamping Multi-Adventure Tour for Couples, Friends, and Solos, featuring accommodations at Under Canvas Bryce Canyon and Under Canvas Zion.

Badlands, South Dakota © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Black Hills & Badlands National Park Multi-Adventure Tour for Couples, Friends, Solos, and Families with Teens and Kids (aged 9+), featuring accommodations at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore.

Great Smoky Mountains Multi-Adventure Tour for Families with Teens and Kids (aged 9+), featuring accommodations at Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains.

Yellowstone, Tetons & Big Sky Multi-Adventure Tour for Couples, Friends, Solos, Families with Teens and Kids (aged 9+) and Families with Older Teens and 20-somethings, featuring accommodations at Bar N Ranch with access to Under Canvas complimentary programming.

For more information, visit backroads.com or call 800-462-2848.

Campspot: Surprising Camping Destinations on the Rise

Campspot looked into trending camping destinations that have seen the most significant year-over-year increase in reservations, some of which are pretty surprising:

Filer, Idaho is a small town that offers campers access to the famous attractions of the Magic Valley area, including the nearby Shoshone Falls (known as the “Niagara of the West”), Snake River, and the majestic Sawtooth Mountains. Hiking trails offer views of the Snake River Canyon, Perrine Bridge, Pillar Falls, and Shoshone Falls. Twin Falls 93 RV Park, five miles from Twin Falls, offers comfortable accommodations and proximity to attractions like Shoshone Falls, the Perrine Bridge, and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, you can be confident in your choice of camping near Filer, ID. 

Twin Falls 93 RV Park in Idaho, one of the camping destinations rising in popularity for Fourth of July, is near to Craters of the Moon National Monument © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Watertown, South Dakota is home to the Redlin Art Center, which houses the original paintings of wildlife and Americana by renowned artist Terry Redlin. Watertown’s Bramble Park Zoo spans 15 acres and has around 500 animals. The scenic shores of Lake Kampeska offer fishing, boating, and water sports. Memorial Park Campground stretches over 90 acres on the northwest shores of Lake Kampeska with . tent sites and RV spots, , a large picnic area with a playground, horseshoes, swimming, boat launch, and hiking trails. 

Cuddebackville, New York offers a peaceful retreat on the Neversink Reservoir with opportunities for fishing and boating, while the Neversink Gorge Trail provides stunning views of waterfalls and rugged terrain. History enthusiasts can explore the D&H Canal Historical Society and Museum. Neversink River Resort is an award-winning campground bordering the Neversink River, with amenities including open playing fields, a pool, a swing set, a jumping pillow and cruiser bikes. 

High Point, North Carolina—known as the “Furniture Capital of the World”—offers cultural heritage, outdoor recreation, and vibrant community life. At the High Point Museum, exhibits detail the region’s history, from its early settlement to its prominence in the furniture industry. Head to High Point City Lake Park for hiking, kayaking, paddle boating, mini golf, and pontoon boating. Oak Hollow Campgroundis open year-round within the 1,550-acre Oak Hollow Park in High Point, with 100 RV sites and 13 tent sites bordering the lake for serene views. Amenities include the camp store, fishing, pool, and playground. 

Bergton, Virginia in the heart of Shenandoah Valley where campers can hike the scenic trails of the nearby George Washington National Forest, go fishing or tubing down the Shenandoah River, explore Lost River State Park, and enjoy the bike trails, golf course, beaches, and more at Bryce Resort, a sports and recreation resort. River’s Edge Campground offers RV sites, tent sites, glamping tents, and cabins with views of the magnificent mountain ranges and access to two miles of the North Fork Shenandoah River, Capon Run stream, and a two-acre private pond for more fishing. 

Exeter, New Hampshire is nestled along the banks of the Squamscott River. Explore the town’s rich colonial heritage at the American Independent and nearby coast. Enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding along the Squamscott River, hiking the trails of Gilman Park and Swasey Parkway, touring the Squamscott River. Winding River Campground offers RV sites, cozy cabins, or primitive tent camping. The park hosts activities, games, live music, and special events; amenities include waterslide, hot tub, playgrounds, arcade, and restaurant. 

Glamping in Montana © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hungry Horse, Montana’s proximity to one of the top national parks and other outdoor excursions secures its spot on our list of trending camping destinations. Surrounded by the spectacular mountains of Western Montana, Hungry Horse is close to Glacier National Park and located on the edge of Hungry Horse Reservoir and Hungry Horse Dam, Montana’s highest dam and the 11th largest concrete dam in the U.S.Columbia Falls RV Park, five miles from the town of Columbia Falls, is 15 minutes from Glacier National Park. It offers year-round RV sites near multiple local restaurants and attractions (like Big Sky Water Park, Meadow Life Golf Resort, and Glacier Ziplines. 

Saint Helen, Michigan, located in the heart of Michigan’s picturesque northern region, offers hiking, biking, and horseback riding along the trails of the nearby Huron National Forest, fishing and canoeing down the Au Sable River. Beaver Trail Campground, in Ogemaw County, offers riding off-road vehicles (ORV), snowmobiling, hunting, and fishing. Choose a tent or RV site and relax on the beach, play in the playground, swim, kayak, or paddle.

Tillamook, Oregon will have you experiencing the best of the Oregon Coast. One of the city’s main draws is the Tillamook Creamery, where visitors can tour the cheese-making facilities and taste its cheeses and ice cream. It offers natural beauty, of the coastal wetlands at Sitka Sedge State Park, the Three Capes Scenic Route, the shop, and Rockaway Beach. Kelly’s Brighton Marina is in Nehalem Bay, a beautiful crabbing bay in Tillamook County. If you’re looking for fun and adventure, set up camp and jump straight into learning how to crab.

More ideas at https://www.campspot.com/.

Another excellent source to find campgrounds and camping resorts is KOA, https://koa.com/

Experience the Great Age of Sail on Historic Maine Windjammer Cruise

A Maine windjammer cruise is as much about experiencing the thrill of the Great Age of Sail, when these mighty schooners sailed with the wind and waves to bring the timber, building stones and raw materials that built the nation – literally engines of the economy – as it is about reconnecting with the joys of simple pleasures as basic as conversation and song. It’s just a tad rustic – the equivalent of camping on the water – only adding to the delight of the experience.

Maine Windjammers Great Schooner Race. Maine has the largest concentration of historic sailing ships in North America, seven of which are members of the Maine Windjammer Association © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Maine has the largest concentration of these historic sailing ships in North America, seven of which are members of the Maine Windjammer Association, sailing out of Rockland and Camden. Each has its own story, its own character. And each sailing is different, even on the same ship – the product of the serendipity and alchemy of people (passengers as well as captain and crew), weather (which often provides the drama, whether because of fog or squall), and where you wind up anchoring. There is no fixed itinerary. The captain sets course following the wind, weather and whimsy. While every windjammer cruise is different, there are certain constants – the feeling of being transported back into this Golden Age of Sail and the traditional lobster dinner that will spoil you from having lobster anywhere else.

The Maine Windjammer Association  fleet: Windjammer Angelique, Schooner American Eagle, Schooner Grace Bailey, Schooner Heritage, Schooner J. & E. Riggin, Schooner Ladona, Schooner Lewis R. French, Schooner Mary Day, Schooner Stephen Taber

Maine Windjammer Association, P.O. Box 1083, Rockland, Maine 04841, 1-800-807-9463, www.sailmainecoast.com.

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us atfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Summer Vacation Travel in NYS: Come for the Fireworks, Stay for So Much More

 Be spellbound as you walk the two-mile trail through Watkins Glen gorge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Edited by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State offers some of the best destinations for summer family vacations, with Independence Day festivities providing an added spark:

If a staycation is your cup of tea, enjoy the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks (New York City)  over the Hudson River starting at 8pm or Jones Beach State Park, where, after a day enjoying the beach, boardwalk, surfing, fishing, miniature golf, and adventure center, stay for 9:30 pm The Jovia Financial Credit Union Fireworks Spectacular at Jones Beach when 8,000 fireworks blaze through the sky accompanied by patriotic songs.

But there is so much to explore in New York State this summer:

Capital-Saratoga

Albany’s 4th of July Celebration : Celebrate the holiday with 20,000 other revelers at Empire State Plaza . The 4th of July Celebration takes place from 5-10 pm with live performances, food and fireworks. Watch the sky over The Egg, the New York State Capitol, and Corning Tower

Saratoga Springs is famous for horse racing, where you can visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Wake up early and you might see the horses being worked out © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Saratoga Springs exudes small town character and charm and is near where the famous Battles of Saratoga took place in 1777, marking the turning point of the Revolutionary War in favor of American Independence. Commemorate America’s independence in Saratoga Springs with annual events including the 18th annual Firecracker4 Road Race, the longest and largest Independence Day race in the Northeast. StaySaratoga Arms Hotel, a historic 31-room boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Saratoga Springs. Originally built in 1870, Saratoga Arms is a classic, Second Empire-style building that evokes old-world charm with a grand wraparound porch.

Saratoga Springs is famous for horse racing, where you can visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Wake up early and you might see the horses being worked out © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While in Saratoga: Saratoga Race Course offers summer race days, from watching the thrilling horse races to exploring the historic facilities and grounds which date to 1863 (you can get to the rail early and watch workouts and there is an outstanding Racing Hall of Fame). The summer season officially runs July 11–September 2 with popular races like Travers Day on August 24. Saratoga Spa State Park is the place to go for swimming, golfing, hiking, biking, and fishing. The park is also home to a resort and spa,  performing arts center, as well as a museum dedicated to automobiles.

Hudson Valley

LEGOLAND New York Resort in Goshen is a theme park destination for kids ages 2–12, with 50 rides, shows, and attractions on 150 acres it’s the largest LEGOLAND theme park in the world, is hosting Red, White & BOOM at LEGOLAND (included with the cost of regular admission). Also in the area: hike the trails along the waterfalls of Neversink Gorge.

Walkway Over the Hudson, one of the longest pedestrian/cycling bridges in the world, is an ideal platform for viewing the City of Poughkeepsie’s fireworks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walkway Over the Hudson’s Fireworks SpectacularWalkway Over the Hudson, one of the longest pedestrian/cycling bridges in the world, is an ideal platform for viewing the City of Poughkeepsie’s fireworks. The New York State historic park will hold a ticketed event 6:30-10 PM (fireworks begin after 9 PM). See website for tickets. 

4th of July in Dutchess County: Head to the home of the minor league baseball team, the Hudson Valley Renegades. Fireworks displays will take place at Dutchess Stadium for three nights  (July 4-6) after their games against the Brooklyn Cyclones. Enjoy the Hyde Park Independence Day Parade

Catskills

4th of July at Windham Mountain: The annual parade at Windham Mountain begins at 7 PM on Route 296, through Main Street, followed by fireworks beginning at dusk. 

The Catskills also affords a new experience: camp at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on days when you attend concerts. (Bethel Woods was the site of the legendary Woodstock music festival). For the 2024 summer concert season (May-October), concert-goers can pitch their own tent, glamp in style, or roll into Best Road Campground with an RV.

The Catskills inspired America’s first native school of art, the Hudson River School, and artists like Frederic Edwin Church who built Olana. His 250 acre estate is one of the most intact artist-created landscapes in America, and one of the most intact artist residences of its age in the world © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Finger Lakes

Genesee Country Village & Museum Independence Day Celebration: This family-friendly daytime celebration will feature games, picnics, a pie-eating contest, patriotic tunes, and a swearing-in of new U.S. citizens. The Genesee Country Village & Museum is hosting its grand 19th-century style parade and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. July 4, $23 for adults, $20 for senior citizens, $20 for students 13-18, free for children 12 and younger.

Cortland County Independence Day Spectacular has a day-long celebration at Dwyer Memorial Park in Preble with live music (starting at 2 pm), food vendors, and a beer and wine garden, and fireworks from 9-10 PM. July 6, free, $5 parking per car starting at 8PM.

A stellar Finger Lakes destination is Watkins Glen State Park where you are kept spellbound as you walk the two miles trail along the stream that descends 400 feet passing 200-foot cliffs, creating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. The park is a sensational place for camping (Olympic-size pool, tours the gorge), or stay in the charming village, on Seneca Lake. (To book NYS Park campsites, https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/)

 Be spellbound as you walk the two-mile trail through Watkins Glen gorge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Got a need for speed? Head to Watkins Glen International, the famous auto race track where you can experience world-class racing and events throughout the season. You can even drive your own car around the track on Drive the Glen days. Visit Sunset View Creamery, 10 minutes from Watkins Glen, for refreshing ice cream and some “cow cuddling,” a 30-minute experience that recognizes the calming influence of these docile creatures. Unwind with a Captain Bill’s cruise on Seneca Lake. Head northeast to Taughannock Falls, one of the highest falls east of the Rockies, where the water drops 215 feet and you can swim, camp, and picnic.

On the western edge of the Finger Lakes, campers looking for adventure can seek out the scenically magnificent Letchworth State Park, nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of the East,” for its massive gorge with three major waterfalls between cliffs as high as 600 feet. Letchworth also offers 66 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, a special one-mile loop Autism Nature Trail, nature center, museum, swimming pool and guided walks. There is whitewater rafting through the canyon as well as hot air balloon rides (shared basket: $425/person; private flight: $2,150/couple).  Sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the historic Glen Iris Inn and soak in the views of the Middle Falls. Letchworth offers 257 campsites ranging from $27 to $30 a night, plus cabins $132-$568 per week. (https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/)

Letchworth State Park is nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chautauqua-Allegheny

Mayville July 4th Celebration: The village of Mayville’s festivities include a Grand Parade, live music and entertainment including magic, comedy, variety and stunt shows, finishing with a fireworks display. July 4, free.

Panoramic Parks Scenic Park lets you experience 15 acres of the Paleozoic ocean floor at this scenic park established in 1885. Natural attractions to explore include towering rocks 60 feet high and cavernous dens. You can hike the trails around the rocks and navigate through the nooks, crevices, and caves, and the park includes informational signs that explain the geology, as well as an educational treasure hunt for the kids, and picnic tables for lunch.

A short drive away, the famous Chautauqua Institution, a preeminent exemplar of lifelong learning, is where for nine weeks each summer you can experience a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, programs, classes and community events for all ages, within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village (tickets and accommodations.chq.org, 800-836-2787)

Greater Niagara

Independence Night Celebration at the Ballpark: The Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Red Wings face off at Sahlen Field. After the game, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will entertain, followed by the largest fireworks show of the season Game starts at 6:05 PM. Tickets cost $30.10 each

Thousand Islands-Seaway

Fireworks over Boldt Castle: Alexandria Bay’s Independence Day celebration uses the stunning backdrop of the St. Lawrence River and Boldt Castle for its fireworks display. Picnic along the shoreline or rent a boat to view from the water. The fireworks begin at dusk, this far north estimated at 9:45 pm.

Adirondacks

Best 4th in the North 2024 Celebration: This festival taking place from July 1-4 at Bicentennial Park in Ticonderoga is jam-packed with a grand fireworks display, parade, live music, craft and food vendors, kid’s activities, a reading of the Declaration of Independence. July 1-4, free.

Ticonderoga 250th Throughout 2024, Fort Ticonderoga commemorates 250 years since the battle for independence. The region along the Lake Champlain shoreline, at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, was critical to American victory in the Revolution.

4th of July in Lake Placid: You can begin the day at the Lake Placid Horse Show starting at 8am ($10), swim at the Lake Placid Public Beach, stroll around Mirror Lake, browse the shops, enjoy live music from 1-4 pm. At 5 pm, a July 4 gala parade will feature Olympic athletes and special guests, floats, classic cars and the fireworks extravaganza over Mirror Lake starts at 9:30 pm.

Great place to stay: High Peak Resort’s summer family package features family-friendly activities like face painting Fridays, educational wildlife experiences Saturdays, water aerobics Tuesdays and Thursdays, evening live music on Thursday, guided nature explorations on Saturdays (www.highpeaksresort.com/packages/adirondack-experience).

More to do: bike the first 10 miles of the new Adirondack Rail Trail connecting Lake Placid to Saranac Lake (when finished, the trail will stretch 34 miles between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, see Bike Adirondacks for updates).

Meanwhile, The Adirondack Experience Museum on Blue Mountain Lake is celebrating the centennial of the 138-mile long Northville-Placid Trail (oldest in the state) with a new exhibit about the history of the trail and the team who built it. There are guided overnight hikes (via Adirondack Hamlets to Huts). (www.npt100.com)  

High Falls Gorge offers an exciting, accessible adventure in Wilmington, just outside Lake Placid, NY © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For more natural awe, visit High Falls Gorge, 22-acre nature park features waterfalls, hiking/walking trails and glass-floor walkways (4761 NY-86, Wilmington, NY 12997, www.highfallsgorge.com) and the awesome Ausable Chasm, where you walk along the Cliffside trail, do mountain biking and river rafting (2144 US-9, Ausable Chasm, NY 12911, 518-834-7454, www.ausablechasm.com).

Ausable Chasm in the Adirondacks offers exciting hikes along the cliffs, river rafting and mountain biking © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For a great all-day outdoor experience, head to Tupper Lake and the 115-acre Wild Center & Wild Walk to explore trails, take guided canoe trips on the river, and meet staff ready to show you around and answer questions about the wild world of the region. The star of the Center’s outdoor experience is Wild Walk, with more than 1,000 feet of bridges and platforms rising over the top of an Adirondack forest, a four-story treehouse, swinging bridges, a spider’s web where people can hang out, and a giant-sized bald eagle’s nest for a rare point of view of the Adirondacks.

New York State’s Challenge

Hiking Chimney Mountain, in the Adirondacks. New York State is celebrating the centennial of its parks system with a Challenge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State is in the middle of a year-long challenge which began January 1, 2024, celebrating the centennial of the state’s park system. The New York State Parks Centennial Challenge includes 100 missions that can be completed at various state parks and historic sites – the challenge is to complete 24 missions of them during the course of the year. (More information on the New York State Park Centennial, visit https://www.parks.ny.gov/100/challenge.)

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which saw a record 84 million visits in 2023. For more information, visit parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518-474-0456.

More information on New York State travel at www.iloveny.com

July 4th Festivities Around the USA

The Jefferson DC, Washington, D.C.  Festivities: There may be no more iconic city to celebrate the 4th of July than Washington, D.C. The National Mall is the most popular place to watch the fireworks display with the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial among the scenic spots to celebrate. Stay: A jewel among historic hotels in Washington, D.C., The Jefferson DC started life as a luxury apartment block in 1923. The 99-room hotel enjoys one of D.C.’s most prestigious and strategic locations, just four blocks from the White House and within a short walk of museums, monuments and embassies. Take advantage of walking tours crafted by in-house historian Susan Barnes and be sure to check out the historical memorabilia that decorates the hotel, echoing the patriotism of the holiday. 

The Newbury Boston, Boston, MA Festivities: It doesn’t get much more Americana than Boston, which not only played an integral role in the American Revolution, but was also one of the first cities to light fireworks on the 4th of July, dating back to 1777. Not to mention, the state of Massachusetts was the first state to recognize the 4th of July as a holiday. Unsurprisingly, Boston puts on one of the country’s largest celebrations with an annual Boston Harborfest Celebration. Taking place July 1-4, 2024, the family-friendly event includes historical reenactments, live music, parades, and a fireworks display over Boston Harbor. Stay: Situated directly across from The Public Garden in Back Bay, The Newbury Boston is conveniently located close enough to the action – within 2 miles of the Harborfest and Fireworks Spectacular – but is a calm and comfortable sanctuary to retreat back to following the fun. The hotel is ideal for families with special kids amenities and pet-friendly accommodations. 

Hilton San Diego Bayfront, San Diego, CA: Festivities: One of the best spots to see the spectacular Big Bay Boom Fireworks show is Hilton San Diego Bayfront from its Bayfront Park lawn or Hudson & Nash waterfront kitchen during the 7:30 p.m. seating (to make a reservation, visit OpenTable). Stay: Rising above San Diego Bay and steps from Gaslamp Quarter, Petco Park, and Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, Hilton San Diego Bayfront is the signature SoCal resort.

Backland Luxury Camping, Williams, AZ: Festivities: Celebrate 4th of July with a spectacular patriotic parade and fireworks in Williams and Flagstaff, Arizona, touted as a “Top 10 Small Town Fourth of July Celebrations.” Stay: Backland Luxury Camping a luxury eco resort featuring 10 glamping tents, on-site dining and a wellness focused spa tent.

Hotel 1000, Seattle, WA: Festivities: Don’t miss the 75th annual Seafair 4th of July – one of the best ways to celebrate Independence Day in the Pacific Northwest – featuring a choreographed fireworks display set to music over Lake Union, family-friendly activities, food vendors, live music, a glow-in-the-dark dance party, and more. Catch the spectacular fireworks show with concert-quality sound from Gas Works Park at the north end of Lake Union or South Lake Union Park. Stay: The 120-room Hotel 1000, LXR Hotels & Resorts is a luxurious gem walking distance of Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Residential-like guest rooms and suites are well-appointed with plush Frette linens, pedestal bathtubs in every room, and oversized windows to take in the stunning city views. Over Independence Day weekend, sports fans can also catch a Seattle Mariners game at T-Mobile Park just one mile from Hotel 1000.

July 4th Fireworks in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Coeur d’Alene Resort, Coeur d’Alene, ID: Festivities: 4th of July kicks off in downtown Coeur d’Alene with the American Heroes Parade. This year’s theme is America the Beautiful where the town will commemorate the bravery and dedication of veterans and active-duty service members. Following the parade, venture to Coeur d’Alene Resort for the 4th Fest, a family-friendly event that includes dinner buffet. After dinner, enjoy live entertainment followed by a spectacular fireworks display on the Front Lawn to top off the night. Stay: The famed Coeur d’Alene Resort offers families a premier lakefront vacation, with a spa and restaurant remodel, and resort pool updates. The newer One Lakeside offers quintessential Northwestern charm with stunning views of Lake Coeur d’Alene and proximity to rivers, mountains, trails, and lakes for exploration.

The Valley Hotel, Homewood Birmingham, AL: Festivities: Vulcan Park hosts its annual “Thunder on the Mountain” fireworks show on July 4th. Located less than a mile from The Valley Hotel, the fireworks utilize the Vulcan statue as the backdrop, which is visible from Ironwood’s patio, the second floor Terrace Bar patio, as well as outside the hotel’s front entrance. StayThe Valley Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton™, is a 129-room hotel in Homewood, a bucolic neighborhood known for its picturesque tree-filled landscape, charming shops, restaurants, bars and galleries.

See also:

DRIVEABLE ADVENTURES: HIKING/CAMPING IN THE ‘GRAND CANYON OF THE EAST’ – NY’S LETCHWORTH STATE PARK

NEW YORK’S WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK IS SPELLBINDING

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Governors Island: a Destination, a Getaway, a Retreat from/in New York City

Enjoy biking or pedaling around Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Governors Island has become a destination all its own, where just 8 minute ferry ride away from Battery Park or Brooklyn, New Yorkers can feel as if they have traveled far, far away in both time and place.Just 800 yards off the southern tip of Manhattan, the 172-acre island is a world away.

Governors Island, a short ferry ride from Manhattan or Brooklyn, affords the best views of Manhattan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can rent bikes, pedal coaches, visit the 200-year old Castle Williams, a 22-acre National Monument managed by the National Park Service and learn its history (it helped save New York from British Invasion during the War of 1812 and was used as a prison during the Civil War and Fort Jay. The island had been a military base – my father was based there during World War II, and now is a Coast Guard headquarters).  Biking around the island, you have the best view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

Tour the 200-year old Castle Williams, a 22-acre National Monument managed by the National Park Service and learn its history on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Governors Island was originally an egg-shaped rock covered in nut trees, utilized as a fishing and ground for the Lenape tribe and early New York settlers. Governors Island’s long military history began when the colonial militia constructed an earthen-work fort, later to become Fort Jay, in 1775. Castle Williams, the second of three historic forts on the Island, was built in 1811, and with the other two forts that defended New York’s Harbor, successfully discouraged the British from invading during the War of 1812.

The island is in the midst of a transformation from an abandoned former military base to a year-round destination for recreation, culture and innovation.

Volunteers maintain the gardens on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Today, Governors Island has been revitalized as an award-winning park and laboratory for sustainability and cultural enrichment, with year-round edu­ca­tion­al and cul­tur­al facil­i­ties and programming.

A key area is The Hills, rising 70 feet above sea-level, offering breathtaking – and never-before-seen – views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor.

Governors Island, just off the tip of Manhattan, affords the best views of the Statue of Liberty © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Slide Hill, rising 40 feet, has four slides, including New York City’s longest slide at 57 feet. Grassy Hill, rising 25 feet, offers gentle slopes and views overlooking 30 acres of the new park. Discovery Hill, rising 40 feet, features ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as Cabin, a permanent site-specific installation by acclaimed British artist Rachel Whiteread, commissioned through Governors Island Arts. Outlook Hill, rising 70 feet, offers both a winding, accessible path to a plaza at its summit, and a granite ‘scramble’ for those who seek a quicker ascent, and be rewarded with 360-degree views of the Statue of Liberty, New York harbor, Verrazano-Narrows bridge and city skyline.

Governors Island, just off the tip of Manhattan, affords the best views of the Statue of Liberty © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Collective Retreats Glamping on Governors Island

And now you can even stay on the island and turn the adventure into a real getaway.

Collective Retreats offers a variety of luxury glamping accommodations on Governors Island including tents and tiny houses © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Collective Retreats, based in Colorado, operates a luxury glamping retreat with tents and tiny-home-style accommodations, enhanced with  morning yoga; spa offerings at QC NY (located adjacent to Retreat); live music every evening; cocktail hour on the sunset terrace; chef-driven farm-to-table dining; and Historic Governor’s island adventuring by bike.

Accommodations have everything you’d expect from a five-star hotel: from plush beds with high thread count linens to bathrooms with luxury bath amenities. Daily continental breakfast baskets, filled with yogurt, fresh fruit, pastries, juice, and protein bar is delivered to your tent, and farm-to-table, wood-fired dinners are available every evening at its Three Peaks restaurant.

Collective Retreats offers a variety of luxury glamping accommodations on Governors Island including tents and tiny houses © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The retreat features a variety of accommodations: Summit Tents, with king-size bed or two single beds made up with high-thread-count linens, private en-suite bathrooms, plush towels, boutique bathroom amenities, and private decks with Adirondack chairs; smaller Journey Tents with king or two twin configuration, fine linens, plush towels, various in-tent amenities and communal bathrooms; Outlook Shelters, which are like tiny homes  fully sheltered from the elements with climate control, with bedroom,  en suite bathroom with luxury spa soaking tub, a living/lounge space with coffee table, as well as mini bar / mini fridge and two private decks with Adirondack chairs.

Collective Retreats offers a variety of luxury glamping accommodations on Governors Island including tents and tiny houses © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Both overnight and non-overnight guests are invited to enjoy its Wood-Fire Grill menu and a la carte menus in addition to an extensive selection of specialty beer, classic cocktails, and wine offerings. Walk-ins are welcomed for dinner. Pair any dining option with a classic cocktail, wine, or beer from The Sunset Terrace Bar.

More info: https://www.collectiveretreats.com/governors-island/

You can see massive restoration going on all around the island, with a goal to expand year-round pub­lic access by enliven­ing it with trans­for­ma­tive pub­lic art and cul­ture, extra­or­di­nary recre­ation­al and open space, and research and edu­ca­tion ded­i­cat­ed to address­ing the glob­al cli­mate cri­sis. 

Once lodgings for military officers, Governors Island houses are being restored to house art , cultural and educational programs © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Governors Island is open to the public daily year-round (pay attention to the ferry schedule). From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, the Island is open from 7am-10pm Sunday through Thursday and 7am-11pm Friday and Saturday, with the South Island Park (including Picnic Point, the Hills, Hammock Grove, and the Play Lawns) closing at 6pm every day. All other times, the Island is open daily from 7am-6pm.

From Manhattan: Ferries operated by the Trust for Governors Island run daily from the Battery Maritime Building, located at 10 South Street in Lower Manhattan. Click here for schedules and tickets. Evening ferries are available for Governors Island tenants and guests, which includes visitors to QC NY, Island Oyster, Taco Vista, and Gitano. Tickets to evening ferries can only be purchased in person at the Battery Maritime Building.

From Brooklyn: Seasonal ferries operated by the Trust for Governors Island run Saturdays, Sundays, and Holiday Mondays from May 25-September 2, 2024 from two Brooklyn locations: Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Red Hook/Atlantic Basin. Click here for schedules and tickets.

The Trust for Governors Island operates theseferries, and you can purchase tickets on the Governors Island website https://www.govisland.com/plan-your-visit/ferry.

NYC Ferry, the City’s public ferry service, also serves Governors Island daily year-round,with stops on the Lower East Side, Wall Street, and along the Brooklyn waterfront..For to the NYC NYC Ferry site (click here) for NYC Ferry information, ticketing, and schedules.

For more information, www.govisland.com, [email protected].

See also:

SUMMER IN THE CITY: JAZZ AGE LAWN PARTY ON GOVERNORS ISLAND IS ESCAPE BACK TO ROARING ‘20S

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Summer in the City: Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island is Escape Back to Roaring ‘20s

Ann Votaw shows why she was the winner of the Charleston dance contest at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, hosted by Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hop the ferry and within 10 minutes, you are transported in time and place. It’s the Gatsby era,with 1920s hot-jazz, flappers and sheiks. It’s the 19th Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island. The first took place June 8-9, but if you missed it, you have another chance at this delightful escape back to the zeitgeist of the Roaring ‘20s on August 10-11.

Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra host the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra sets the mood with music Arenella has transcribed from original recordings of the Jazz era. Arenella re-creates the role of a Big Band leader, taking on the inflection and look, and telling anecdotes about the music and the musicians as if it were happening today, when this music was all the rage and radio was a new (and dangerous) cultural phenomenon. Within moments, you are transported back to the romance and joie de vive of that time, leaving behind for these precious hours the hubbub of modern times. The only piercing of the illusion are the ubiquitous cell phones.

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, hosted by Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The entertainment throughout the day is topnotch: Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers  consistently wow with fanciful costumes and choreography; Queen Esther, an award-winning vocalist sets her own standard of Jazz Great while paying tribute to jazz royalty of yore with her jazz quintet The Hot Five (Queen-Esther.com); Peter Mintun, “world’s greatest piano man,” Charlie Roman Casteluzzo, specializing in hot jazz guitar from the 1930s, featuring his rare collection of popular music from the golden years of jazz, and Charlie Roman and the Glad Rags Orchestra (charlieromanjazz.com).

Roddy Caravella’s Canarsie Wobblers entertain at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are special attractions, as well, starting with lessons in Charleston or the Peabody by Roddy Caravella and his wife, Gretchen (who is also the costumer for the Canarsie Wobblers); dance competition (in Charleston or Peabody (this year, an actual prize of two tickets to the “Gatsby” show on Broadway!); a “High Court of Pie” contest (pre-register at [email protected]) ; Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade (Sundays, to enter email: [email protected]), and some Kidland carnival games.

Roddy Caravella and his wife Gretchen demonstrate the Charleston during the dance lesson that kicks off the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Scores of vintage vendors add to the atmosphere – if you didn’t have your own vintage outfit, you can rent or buy, and if you didn’t have your own picnic blanket, you could purchase from the General Store. You can have your portrait taken with vintage cameras or sitting on a Paper Moon, or with a 1920s motor car.

Governors Island is transformed back to the 1920s for the jazz Age Lawn Party © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Taste France Magazine offers VIP picnic baskets and a pop-up French market, featuring Centre-Loire wines, Citadelle gin, Lactalis cheeses, and many more gastronomic delights. A selection of refreshing, ice cold cocktails is on offer from Brooklyn’s very own Social Hour – a line of canned craft cocktails founded by bartending veterans Julie Reiner and Tom Macy. 

Governors Island is transformed back to the 1920s for the jazz Age Lawn Party © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Sip on the delightfully fizzy G&T made with New York Distilling Company’s Dorothy Parker Gin, or the Pacific Spritz made with a combination of house made Italian aperitivo and Rosé wine; for whiskey lovers the fiery Whiskey Mule made with New York Distilling Company’s Ragtime Rye will be sure to please.

There are also a selection of food trucks featuring picnicking fare, sweet treats, ice cream and old-time snacks.

Ferry is Magic Carpet to Bygone Era

The enchantment begins as you board the ferry from South Street, Manhattan (next door to the Staten Island ferry terminal) or from Brooklyn for the short ride to Governors Island. You think you have stepped back to the 1920s – crowds of giddy people cram the ferry, dressed in flapper dresses and linen suits, caps and suspender, and dancing shoes, hauling elaborate picnic baskets and paraphernalia..

Corrine Hart-Rood and Carl Rood from Massapequa Park, Long Island, get into the spirit of the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are back in the Jazz Age, and the setting is perfect, a vast lawn set off by an arbor of trees, surrounded by historic buildings and forts that date back to the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War II when Governors Island was used as a military base and prison.

People come and set out sprawling picnics – some with elaborate fixings like candelabras and crystal wine glasses.

Dancing to Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The atmosphere is infectious. Fellows seem more civilized. Gals seem more sassy. And the good feeling just percolates to the beat from Michael Arenella’s Dreamland Orchestra, as this fantastical community defying time forms.

Dancing to Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The unquestioned star of the day long festival is Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra, one of the world’s great Jazz Age dance bands, specializing in the Hot-Jazz of the 1920s. “Conductor, composer, musician and singer Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure.” (Michael Arenalla also can be heard at the Clover Club, Smith Street in Brooklyn and at the Red Room, 85 E 4th St, NYC, see www.dreamlandorchestra.com)

Queen Esther performs her  own standard of Jazz Great while paying tribute to jazz royalty of yore with her jazz quintet The Hot Five at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Arenella sits in with his trombone with Queen Esther, and with the really excellent Charlie Roman and the Glad Rags Orchestra, playing at a second dance floor

Michael Arenella sits in with Charlie Roman and the Glad Rags Orchestra at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It isn’t hard to believe you have returned to the Jazz Age because of the authenticity and attention to detail. Arenella “transcribes by hand their entire repertoire from period recordings. Their delivery, as well as their instruments, attire, and equipment — are faithfully accurate. Arenella’s strong yet vulnerable baritone lacks pretense or sarcasm. He treasures each lyric, and has faith in the songs he sings. Even the most optimistic Tin Pan Alley tune has a disarming quality in his hands.”

Dancing to Charlie Roman and the Glad Rags Orchestra at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now in its 19th year (there is a gofundme project to raise money for a 20th anniversary book), the Jazz Age Lawn Party has built a history of its own. It started in 2005 as a small gathering of about 50 friends and fans of Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra and their version of prohibition-era music and fun. Not too many years after, it was drawing thousands of fans who revel in the music and zeitgeist of the 1920s and 1930s and has become what is arguably the world’s largest outdoor musical celebration of the Jazz Age, but is undoubtedly one of the highlights in a crammed calendar of summer happenings in New York City.

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, hosted by Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are also plans for a week-long transatlantic cruise from Southampton to NYC on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Sept 25, 2025  with Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra, with1920s and 30s village dress, dance, danceclasses,and a pre-voyage trip to the birthplace ofArt Deco, Paris, hosted bytheArt Deco Society of Paris; Ahoy Vintage Cruises, www.ahoyvintagecruises.com, 214-761-1968.)

Dancing to Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

If you missed the June 8 & 9 event, there’s still time to purchase tickets for August 10 and 11.

Ticket sales are live at https://jazzagelawnparty.com and available exclusively through Fever, a global live-entertainment discovery platform. (Book your ferry ticket, https://www.govisland.com/plan-your-visit/ferry)

For more information, visit: JazzAgeLawnParty.com.

Here are more photo highlights:

The Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island has become a family affair © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enthusiastic participation in the Charleston dance lesson at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island has become a family affair © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Getting into the spirit of the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, hosted by Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island has become a family affair © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dancing to Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Michael Arenella revives the music and spirit of the Roaring 20s at the 19th Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Roddy Caravella judges the Charleston contest at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enthusiastic participation in the Charleston dance lesson at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Posing for a portrait on a Paper Moon at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Votes for Women! at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Queen Esther poses with her band at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

See also:

GOVERNORS ISLAND: A DESTINATION, A GETAWAY, A RETREAT FROM/IN NEW YORK CITY

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Summer in the City: New York Philharmonic Free Concerts in the Parks is Cherished Summer Tradition

The New York Philharmonic is conducted by Thomas Wilkins in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks Presented by Didi and Oscar Schaefer series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks Presented by Didi and Oscar Schaefer is an extraordinary gift to New Yorkers and visitors. For almost 60 years, this world-famous orchestra has presented these free performances in parks in all five boroughs bringing “priceless music, absolutely free” to communities and reinforcing the bond that exists between New York’s hometown orchestra and its people. In the process, the orchestra brings people together in shared joy.

The New York Philharmonic is conducted by Thomas Wilkins in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series which featured violin soloist Randall Goosby © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The world renowned orchestra has offered these free summer concerts in the parks since 1965 – since 2007, presented by Didi and Oscar Schaefer – and over that time, have brought “priceless music, absolutely free” to 15 million music lovers.

This year’s program included Beethoven’s Egmont Overture; Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, featuring Randall Goosby — who made his NY Phil debut on a Young People’s Concert at age 13 — as soloist; Elgar’s Wand of Youth Overture; the New York Premiere of Carlos Simon’s Four Black American Dances; Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol.  

Conductor Thomas Wilkins gives fascinating, folksy notes for the musical selections in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Conductor Thomas Wilkins, who is the principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, introduced the pieces. About Mendelssohn’s exquisite Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 64 (1844), with the virtuoso violinist Randall Goosby who so exquisitely brought out the melodic sweetness, Wilkins said, “it is so magical – one of the few where the movements are all connected. At the end of the first, there is one B-Natural hanging in the air – the bassoonist is not done – that says ‘follow me into the second.’ There is more impact between the second and third movements – no break but one note of silence, like a ball in the air that hangs until the soloist enters.”

Violin soloist Randall Goosby, an alum of the Lincoln Center Young People’s Orchestra program, performs the exquisite Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilkins loves to engage with the audience, and makes the music so accessible with his folksy anecdotes that make your ears perk up at key portions with new appreciation. We get to preview Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2023), which will be part of the orchestra’s fall repertoire, in the concerts he returns to the NY Phil to conduct, October 17 and 19,and learn how the four dances span Black American heritage – the first, recasting a traditional dance of enslaved Blacks into the voice of the orchestra including shuffling feet and clapping hands; the second, a waltz depicting how young Black girls in the 1930s would have their “coming out” parties, then a tap dance, and finally, we are taken to church for a “holy dance” with the instruments evoking the murmurings and exultations of a church service. And then, we get to meet the composer who comes on stage.

“Four Black American Dances composer Carlos Simon joins Conductor Thomas Wilkins on stage. The piece will also be featured in October © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For the past several years, the concerts have also provided a platform and a showcase for young composers who absolutely astonish with their talent (most astonishing: they not only compose the piece but do the orchestration). It is like seeing a young Mozart, or Elgar, whose Overture from the Wand of Youth (Music to a Child’s Play) Suite No.1, Op.1a, written when Elgar was just eight years old (he later expanded it), and imagining where these prodigies will be in 20 years.

This year, 16-year old Dalya Shaman’s “Floating in the Stars” and 10-year old David Wright’s “Tarzan’s Rage” dazzled the audience.

16-year old Dalya Shaman’s stunning tone-poem, “Floating in the Stars,” is performed as part of the Young Composers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dalya Shaman, a tenth grader at NEST+m High School, has been composing music for six years and plays the cello. She described the inspiration for her tone-poem, “Floating in the Stars” which uses harp and orchestra bells to evoke the whimsy and wonder of star gazing and the sensation of drifting among the stars, as the artwork of VYC students Vivian and Odette Iannetta.

Conductor Thomas Wilkins congratulates 10-year old composer David Wright after performing his “Tarzan’s Rage.”© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

David Wright, a fifth grader at PS 11 in Brooklyn who is also an accomplished baseball player, said his work, “Tarzan’s Rage” also was inspired by the Iannettas art, and seeing a man jumping which he imagined as Tarzan and the contrast of dark and light colors as a war, which is how he came to “Tarzan’s Rage.” The music is thrilling, and one can imagine David composing movie scores.

Conductor Thomas Wilkins leads the New York Philharmonic in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilkins’ conducting style is very relaxed, with minimal movement and theatrics. He is a joy to watch. He likes the music to be well punctuated, defined, the complex seemingly more simple and elemental than it is, so it is more accessible and can be better appreciated in such an open setting. You immediately appreciate why he is also the Boston Symphony’s artistic adviser for Education and Community Engagement, professor of orchestral conducting at Indiana University, and is actively engaged with the NY Phil’s Young People’s Concerts, begun 100 years ago and popularized by Leonard Bernstein.

Violin soloist Randall Goosby with conductor Thomas Wilkins and concertmaster Frank Huang and the New York Philharmonic performing Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“At this stage of my life,” Wilkins reflects in the festival program, “I just want to invite the orchestra that is in front of me to experience what it means to be in love with music.”

“He remains devout in his belief in assuring access to the infinitely renewable power of music,” Mark Burford reports. ‘Who else deserves to experience beauty for the first time? Who else needs to find wonder?’”

Conductor Thomas Wilkins leads the New York Philharmonic in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The evening concludes with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol Op. 34, which flows immediately into Santore’s World Famous Fireworks display, putting just the right crescendo on the evening.

The span and diversity of the pieces is enlightening and exciting, especially with such a focus on Simon’s 2023 composition and the young composers.

The New York Philharmonic is conducted by Thomas Wilkins in this summer’s Concerts in the Parks series which featured violin soloist Randall Goosby © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic is performing these summer concerts in all five boroughs: Central Park, Cunningham Park concert in Queens, Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, and Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Then, musicians from NY Phil perform a free Indoor Concert, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer,on Sunday, June 16, 2024, at 4:00 p.m., at St. George Theatre in Staten Island; the program includes Clarke’s Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale for clarinet and viola; Mozart’s Oboe Quartet; and Prokofiev’s Quintet (tickets need to be reserved). 

“It is a joy to see tens of thousands of New Yorkers turn out to enjoy free concerts under the stars, creating a sense of community and shared experience that is rare and vital,” said New York Philharmonic President & CEO Gary Ginstling. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The New York Philharmonic’s annual Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, are always a highlight of our year,” New York Philharmonic President & CEO Gary Ginstling said. “It is a joy to see tens of thousands of New Yorkers turn out to enjoy free concerts under the stars, creating a sense of community and shared experience that is rare and vital. We are deeply grateful to Didi and Oscar, the visionary and generous couple whose love of music and of New York City’s parks is essential to making possible the ambitious tour of our hometown.”

Fireworks provide a crescendo to the New York Philharmonic’s concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The free summer concerts provide a wonderful taste of the cultural treasure that awaits at the Philharmonic’s concert venue, Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, that makes you want more.

The New York Philharmonic has announced updates to its 2024–25 season:

Updates to the Orchestra’s concerts:

• Augusta Read Thomas’s new work, commissioned by the NY Phil, is titled Bebop Kaleidoscope — Homage to Duke Ellington. Ken-David Masur, in his NY Phil subscription debut, will conduct its World Premiere on September 19 and 21, 2024, part of the program curated by NY Phil musicians — who serve as the first of the 2024–25 season’s Artistic Partners — that explores the Orchestra’s past and future.

• The Opening Gala concert on September 24, 2024 — conducted by Manfred Honeck — will include Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture and Puccini’s Turandot Suite, and will feature vocalist Cynthia Erivo making her NY Phil debut in selections from Broadway and the popular songbook.

In October, Thomas Wilkins will conduct NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism when Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2003) will be presented © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

• Nathalie Joachim’s new work is titled Had To Be and receives its New York Premiere on October 17 and 18, 2024 — on concerts that are part of the NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism — conducted by Thomas Wilkins, with cellist Seth Parker Woods (NY Phil debut) as soloist. The piece is co-commissioned by the NY Phil, Spoleto Festival USA, Orchestre Métropolitain, and Chautauqua Institution.

• Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten has been added as the opening work in the November 14 and 16, 2024, subscription concerts, conducted by John Adams, one of the 2024–25 season’s Artistic Partners.

• Tenor Kieran White will make his NY Phil debut in Handel’s Messiah, Presented by Gary W. Parr, December 11–14, 2024. Ton Koopman conducts.

In October, Thomas Wilkins will conduct NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism when Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2003) will be presented © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

• Baritone Leon Košavić (NY Phil debut) will perform J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 56, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, and soprano Talise Trevigne (NY Phil debut) will perform the same composer’s Cantata BWV 51, Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, on the Free Concert at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, January 17, 2025, joining conductor and 2024–25 season Artistic Partner Nathalie Stutzmann and Members of the New York Philharmonic. Additional repertoire will be announced at a later date.

• Justin Jay Hines will co-host the Young People’s Concerts for Schools on February 5–7, 2025, as well as the Young People’s Concert: The Future Is Innovation, on February 8, 2025, alongside Jerry Hou, who also conducts.

• The Lunar New Year Gala concert on February 11, 2025 — conducted by Tianyi Lu (NY Phil debut) — will include Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture; Unsuk Chin’s The Mad Tea Party, from Alice in Wonderland; Casella’s La donna serpente, Suite No. 1; Chen Yi’s Chinese Folk Dance Suite, featuring violinist Inmo Yang (NY Phil debut) as soloist; and Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1.

• The performances of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert, June 11–14, 2025 — part of The Art of the Score — will be conducted by Sarah Hicks (NY Phil conducting debut).

Updates to NY Phil presentations:

• Details of the season’s Kravis Nightcap series — featuring New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck as dancer and choreographer, as well as Musicians from the NY Phil — are announced. In the first, on September 21, 2024, Peck will collaborate with NY Phil Musicians, the first of the season’s Artistic Partners; on January 25, 2025, Peck will be joined by pianist Yuja Wang, the 2024–25 season Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence; and on February 27, 2025, Peck will reunite with violinist Hilary Hahn, with whom she performed on a Kravis Nightcap in January 2024. All three performances will take place at the Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall.

• The season’s six New York Philharmonic Ensembles at Merkin Hall concerts, featuring Musicians from the NY Phil, will take place on September 29, November 3, and November 24, 2024, and January 12, February 16, and May 4, 2025.

In October, Thomas Wilkins will conduct NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism when Carlos Simon’s “Four Black American Dances” (2003) will be presented © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

• The Sound On presentation Composing While Black, Volume II, featuring Artistic Partner International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) — part of the NY Phil’s exploration of Afromodernism — will now take place on October 25, 2024. The location and time will be announced at a later date.

• The Sound On presentation on November 17, 2024 — curated and conducted by Artistic Partner John Adams and featuring Members of the NY Phil — will take place at The Museum of Modern Art, and will include Dylan Mattingly’s Sunt Lacrimae Rerum and Gabriella Smith’s Maré. Additional repertoire will be announced at a later date.

• The season’s series of Very Young People’s Concerts (VYPCs) — titled Philharmonic Playground — will be held in Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center, and will take place on February 22, 2025 (“Allegro and Adagio”); March 22, 2025 (“Forte and Piano”); and June 7, 2025 (“Treble and Bass”). The series will feature Associate Principal Viola Rebecca Young as host and Musicians from the New York Philharmonic.

New York Philharmonic, David Geffen Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023-6970, 212) 875-5656, www.nyphil.org.

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Coast to Coast, Canada’s Heritage, Culture, Wilderness Beckon Ecotourists in Summer

Celebrating a birthday at Salmon n’Bannock, Vancouver’s original indigenous restaurant © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Edited by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

From coast to coast, Canada’s heritage, culture, wilderness beckon ecotourists this summer.

Experience Indigenous Cultures in British Columbia

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, culminating in National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, but all summer long, British Columbia offers any number of ways to experience histories, traditions and values of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Indigenous tourism encourages visitors to understand and respect different perspectives of the world, and to experience histories, traditions, and values in an authentic and unfiltered way.  

British Columbia has the greatest diversity of Indigenous cultures in Canada: of the 12 unique Indigenous language families in the country, seven are located exclusively in BC. Together, there are 204 unique Indigenous communities in BC. Here are 11 ways to engage in Indigenous experiences in British Columbia this summer. 

A Three-Hour Song, Dance & Cultural Experience  During festivals, weddings, and potlatches, the Tla-o-qui-aht People come together to share a wholesome meal while exchanging wisdom and stories, with the belief that good food facilitates an easier reception to teachings. Visitors can join the tradition at the Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort in Tofino, where the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation will host naaʔuu (which means “feast” in the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation language), an immersive experience taking place on select dates in June. The three-hour experience tells stories from the Nation’s history through song, dance, and traditional carvings, presented during a symphony of cultural delicacies and foraged ingredients. Proceeds go back to the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation to support language and cultural resurgence. Tickets start at $199 per person and can be purchased here. (Get there: From Vancouver, fly into Tofino-Long Beach Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines, or right into Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo or Comox and drive approximately 3.5 hours to Tofino).

naaʔuu expereince at Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort in Tofino (photo: Indigenous Tourism BC/Melissa Renwick) 

Indigenous tour operators lead visitors into their traditional territory, providing a new perspective of local wildlife, plants, and waters:

Guided nature adventures led by the local Nation – Explore Ahousaht territory with Ahous Adventures, which is owned by a nation that has stewarded the lands and waters of Vancouver Island since time immemorial. The popular hot springs tour cruises the coast and inlets of Clayoquot Sound, with guides pointing out wildlife along the way. Once onshore, guests take a 30-minute walk via wooden boardwalk through old-growth rainforest, leading to the healing mineral waters of the hot springs. Throughout the journey, guides will discuss the history and cultural significance of Hot Springs Cove, a site that has been used for centuries by the Ahousat Nation for medicinal and spiritual benefits. Dates: Tours are available throughout summer and beyond. 

Cruise an Island Archipelago – Sidney Whale Watching, serving Sidney (just 30 minutes from Victoria, BC) and the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island, is owned and operated by the Tsawout First Nation, with whale-watching experiences taking place on the traditional territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation. The three-hour whale watching tour cruises through the Gulf Island Archipelago, winding past orcas, sea lions, and bald eagles hunting for salmon. Sidney Whale Watching has a 95% whale-sighting rate throughout the year; if guests don’t spot a whale, they are welcome to join another tour free of charge, anytime. Dates: Whale-watching tours take place daily between March and October. 

A group with Takaya Tours, rowing a traditional First Nations canoe in Deep Cove (photo: Destination BC/Hubert Kang)


Take a cultural tour in a 35′ canoe – Takaya Tours, based in Whey-ah-wichen, or Cates Park, in North Vancouver, leads guests through the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Guests can paddle the protected waters of Indian Arm in replica ocean-going canoes, while guides share songs and stories of ancient villages. There’s also an option to add a rainforest walking tour to your paddling adventure. Dates: The Cates Park location is open between May and September for guided tours, as well as rentals of kayak, surf-skis, and stand-up paddleboards. 

BC Tourism Industry Awards Best Indigenous Tourism Operator Winner 2024 – Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours, which stewards the grizzly bear population in Bute Inlet—the ancestral home of the Homalco Nation—welcomes visitors to discover the area’s longstanding cultural and historical significance. The company’s full-day bear-watching and cultural tour leads guests to viewing areas that showcase grizzlies feeding on spawning salmon, along with plenty of opportunities to whale watch and bird watch. Guests can also wander through Aupe, an uninhabited Homalco village site. Dates: Tours are offered between August and October.

2023 Yelp Travelers Choice – Sea Wolf Adventures, which leads tours in the Broughton Archipelago and the Great Bear Rainforest, on Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Nation territory, combines cultural experiences with grizzly- and whale-watching safaris. The Grizzly Bears of the Wild tour connects guests with the iconic grizzly inhabitants of the Great Bear Rainforest, with bonus viewings of Pacific white-sided dolphins, eagles, orcas, and other wildlife. The full-day tour departs from Port McNeill, and includes Indigenous interpretations of local landscapes, as well as stories about the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw People. Dates: Tours run from May 31 through October. 

Skwachays Lodge, Canada’s first aboriginal art hotel, affords the nearest thing to staying in a First Nations community you might find in a major modern city © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Try Plant Medicine Lemonade  Opened in February 2024, The Ancestor Café in Fort Langley brings traditional Indigenous nourishment to locals and visitors while supporting Indigenous food sovereignty. The eatery is owned by Chef Sarah Meconse Mierau, a member of the Sayisi Dene Nation. On the menu: bison and elk Bannock tacos, handcrafted plant-medicine jams and lattes, and other delicacies made with traditional Indigenous ingredients. Beyond the food, the café features a fair-trade gallery displaying works by local Indigenous artists and brands. 

Indigenous-owned and operated accommodation welcome visitors come into their community to experience warm hospitality alongside stories and culture—all with a deep-rooted respect for nature: 

Gorge Harbour Marina Resort – One of the most desirable cruising destinations in BC – Located at the edge of Desolation Sound, on Klahoose Nation land, Gorge Harbour Marina Resort offers an idyllic home base for adventurers eager to explore the sound, Cortes Island, and the Discovery Islands. The resort offers a multitude of overnight options, including a rustic lodge with four rooms, a cottage enclosed by lush gardens, and two self-contained trailers. Summer-specific options include 21 full-service RV sites, six glamping domes, and six tent sites—open for the season now. Summer activities span live music on the waterfront, yoga at the harbour, family movie nights, as well as whale-watching tours offered between May 1 and October 15. (Get there: Take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo, then drive 1 hour and 45 minutes to Campbell River. From here, take a 10-minute ferry to Quadra Island, then a 45-minute boat trip to Cortes Island. You can also fly direct to the resort from Campbell River, Vancouver, or Seattle, Washington.)   

Nemiah Valley Lodge – Off-grid & highly requested – Open year round, Nemiah Valley Lodge is located in the Chilcotin region, on Tŝilhqot’in Nation land. Here, guests are immersed in the food, history, and traditions of the Xeni Gwet’in community through local events, cultural experiences, and wildlife viewing. The all-inclusive packages include lodge activities such as lakeside yoga and meditation, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, archery. Note: Nemiah Valley is taking bookings for 2025. (Get there: The lodge is a 30-minute floatplane ride from Whistler. Alternatively, take a flight from Vancouver International Airport to Williams Lake (available throughout the summer), and drive 2.5 hours to your destination. The lodge also offers a transfer from Williams Lake.) 

Talaysay Walking Indigenous Tours experience in Stanley Park in Vancouver (photo: Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout)

Tsawaak RV Resort – A 2024 Indigenous Tourism Award Winner – Whether you’re seeking a cozy wilderness cabin or a place to park your RV, Tsawaak RV Resort— located in Tofino, on Tla-o-qui-aht Nation land—offers a tranquil space for rest and rejuvenation. Guests can choose from 34 RV sites and 13 longhouse-style cedar cabins—all situated close to Mackenzie Beach and a 30-minute walk from town. The central amenities building offers laundry facilities and vending machines, while the visitor center houses an art gallery and retail shop. The resort provides easy access to Tofino’s most popular adventures, including surfing, hot springs, and hiking. (Get there: From Vancouver, fly into Tofino-Long Beach Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines, or right into Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo or Comox and drive approximately 3.5 hours to Tofino.)

Spirit Bear Lodge – Located in the largest, temperate coastal rainforest in the world – Wildlife viewing and cultural experiences take centre stage at Spirit Bear Lodge, located in Klemtu, on Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation land. The lodge’s all-inclusive adventures are anchored by visits to cultural sites of the Kitasoo Xai’xai People, who have lived for thousands of years in the Great Bear Rainforest—the largest temperate coastal rainforest in the world. Guests can search for the elusive Spirit bear, watch grizzlies roam lush estuaries, see whales and other marine life, and explore the remnants of ancient villages. Open from August to October, with limited reservations available. (Get there: Board a flight at Vancouver International Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines to Bella Bella. You’ll be met by Spirit Bear Lodge staff and shuttled to the dock, where a lodge boat will take you on the two-hour journey to Klemtu.)

Wildlife viewing experience at Spirit Bear Lodge (photo: Indigenous Tourism BC)

For more authentic Indigenous experiences in British Columbia visit www.indigenousbc.com

Nova Scotia Hosts Worldwide Celebration of Acadian Heritage

This August 10-18, Nova Scotia will host the Congrés mondial acadien (CMA), a worldwide celebration that takes place every five years and brings together the Acadian diaspora from around the world for musical events, culinary and cultural attractions and family gatherings. Several major outdoor concerts featuring noted Acadian artists are scheduled, including Canada’s National Acadian Day on August 15. From the brightly painted houses of Yarmouth and picturesque views of seaside villages like Belliveau Cove and Pointe-de-l’Eglise, visitors will find vivid reminders of the French settlers who first claimed Nova Scotia as their home in the early 1600s. The CMA reunites and welcomes communities, families, and visitors to the province to honor Acadian history and to commemorate the thousands displaced in 1755 when the Acadian people were expelled from the province by the British for not taking a vow of loyalty to King George III. (https://cma2024.ca/en/).   

Throughout the summer, there are important Acadian historic sites to visit in Nova Scotia:

Grand Pré National Historic Site: Open from May 17 to October 14, the Grand Pré National Historic Site is a powerful way to discover the history of l’Acadie (a historical Acadian village in Nova Scotia settled from 1682 to 1755), its people and its culture. The location is a monument that unites the Acadian people, and for many, it is the heart of their ancestral homeland. Guided tours lead visitors through the center of this Acadian settlement and where they can learn about the history of the mass deportation of the Acadians, “Le Grand Derangement,” that began in 1755. This tragic event continues to shape the vibrant culture of modern-day Acadians across the globe. Tours are available in July and August. 

Explore the oldest Acadian region still inhabited by descendants of its founder in Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle Ecosse.

Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse: Explore the oldest Acadian region still inhabited by descendants of its founder in Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Founded in 1653 by Sieur Philippe Mius-d’Entremont, the village is a breathtaking, 17-acre space overlooking Pubnico Harbour. Attractions include historical buildings and original 19th century wooden homes like Duon House and Maximin d’Entremont House, a lighthouse and local cemetery, nature trails with natural fauna and flora indigenous to the area, and opportunities to learn about the historic Acadian fishing and farming traditions.  

Rendez-vous de la Baie Visitor Centre: Open year-round and located on the campus of Université Sainte-Anne in Clare, Rendez-vous de la Baie Visitor Centre is an Acadian cultural and interpretive center. Attractions include an artist-run gallery, a souvenir boutique, a 263-seat performance theatre, and an outdoor performance area. Travelers can experience the interpretive center and museum which delve into the Acadian peoples’ history through multimedia displays of music and language with free guided tours available. The venue is also a trailhead for a three-mile network of walking trails leading to the breathtaking Nova Scotian coast (guided walking tours available). 

More information: Nova Scotia, www.novascotia.com  

New Brunswick’s Acadian Heritage and new Travel Experiences

Another place to experience Acadian heritage is in New Brunswick, just across the strait from Nova Scotia:

Historic Acadien Village is an open air living history museum with costumed (fully bilingual) interpreters who recreate the roles of real people. What makes this place so extraordinary, though, is that you walk a 2.2 km circuit through 200 years of history – the 40 buildings represent a different time, the oldest from 1773 up to 1895, then, you walk through a covered bridge built in 1900 into the 20th century village where the buildings date from 1905 to 1949. As you walk about, you literally feel yourself stepping across the threshold back in time.

You not only visit but can actually book a room to stay at the Hotel Chateau Albert (1910). Albert opened hotel in 1870 but had financial problems from the beginning and was put out of business by Canadian Pacific railroad.. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1955, and restored using the original plans. It now offers 14 rooms (with bathrooms) that you actually can book to stay overnight. (hotelchateaualbert.com, 506-726-2600).

Historique Acadien Village, 5 rue du Pont, Bertrand, NB, 1-0877-721-2200, [email protected]villagehistoriqueacadien.com  

Metepenagiag Heritage Center displays how the Mi’kmaq would have lived, season by season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Also in New Brunswick, Metepenagiag is an active archaeological site and research center where artifacts unearthed have provided proof the Mi’kmaq have been occupying this land for at least 3,000 years. When you first walk into the exhibition building, you can look into the lab where researchers examine artifacts. Some of the items, like a 1200-year old Earthenware pot, arrowheads and other items are on display.

What is more, you can overnight in a tipi (glamping), cabin or lodge, have a First Nations dining experience, storytelling and be immersed in the 3,000-year heritage around a campfire. Or take part in “A Taste of Metepenagiag” and learn about foods and cooking techniques. New experiences are also being developed.The Mi’kmaq operate SP First Nations Outdoor Tours, authentic indigenous experiences that begin with a traditional welcome, a river tour by canoe or kayak, storytelling; and authentic First Nations dining and accommodations (56 Shore Road, Red Bank NB, Metepenagiag, 506-626-2718).

Metepenagiag Heritage Park, 2156 Micmac Road, Red Bank NB, 506-836-6118, [email protected] 1-888-380-3555, metpark.ca.

In 2024, New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canadian province just over the Maine border, unveils novel experiences for visitors including new ways to explore the capital city of Fredericton, dining the bottom of the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy, a revitalization of a favorite gathering spot in Canada’s oldest city, Saint John, and 60th anniversary celebrations of the FDR International Park on Campobello Island.  

Visitors to Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park this year can not only observe the natural phenomenon of low and high tides alternating as much as 40-plus feet, they can also dine on the ocean floor © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dining on the Ocean Floor: Visitors to Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park this year can not only observe the natural phenomenon of low and high tides alternating as much as 40-plus feet, they can also dine on the ocean floor. In 2024, Hopewell Rocks will offer its new culinary adventure: “Dining on the ocean floor”. Travelers will relish in the magic of dining among some of the most extraordinary rock formations in the world with a private, locally sourced three-course meal and specialties served from Magnetic Hill Winery in Moncton. After enjoying cuisine by the sea, park-goers can return the next day at no additional admission cost, which starts at $15.85 CAD, to behold both high and low tides. For more information about Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park and updates about dining on the ocean floor, visit https://www.thehopewellrocks.ca/.  

Coffee Connoisseur Tour with Barista Brian: Home to top attractions like Odell Park, Boyce Farmers Market, and Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick, is also an ideal location for coffee lovers wishing to expand their knowledge and taste buds. For a new way to explore the city, visitors can join internationally celebrated latte artist Barista Brian on the new “Coffee Connoisseur” walking tour. Brian has earned his title while decorating lattes for attendees of the Sundance and Toronto International film festivals and for multiple Hollywood celebrities. Participants will sip, savor, and learn about locally roasted coffee at four independent coffee shops in the capital. Barista Brian is famous for his renowned latte art creations and has produced multiple latte portraits of celebrities including Meryl Streep, Conan O’Brien, Jennifer Lopez, Kristen Stewart, and more. While touring, Brian will provide education about everything from single origin beans to sustainable coffee, the history of coffee, and how to properly taste. Attendees will enjoy tastings of several coffee drinks such as a blend, delicious espresso, single roast, and will finish off with a latte displaying the handcrafted art of Brian. For more information about Barista Brian and his work, head to https://www.baristabrian.com/. To purchase tour tickets and view available dates,  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/coffee-connoisseur-tour-with-barista-brian-tickets-764462898107.  

Campobello Island’s FDR International Park Celebrates 60th Anniversary: A symbol of international cooperation, the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Park on Campobello Island is jointly administered, staffed, and funded by the people of Canada and the United States. In 2024, the landmark is celebrating its 60th year standing as a representation of global collaboration. Throughout the month of July, special anniversary festivities will unfold amidst the breathtaking views of the New Brunswick Island connected to Maine by bridge. The former U.S. president and his family would spend their summers on Campobello Island, and visitors can now experience the former 34-room summer mansion firsthand. Given as a wedding gift to Franklin and Eleanor in 1908 by Franklin’s mother Sara Roosevelt, the cottage quickly became a key piece of the couple’s beloved island. Activities include “Tea with Eleanor” in the backyard and guided tours. For further details and event updates, visit https://www.rooseveltcampobello.org/.  

Market Square Boardwalk Revitalization: In Uptown Saint John, Canada’s oldest incorporated city, the Market Square Boardwalk will show off a new look in 2024. It is now known as Ihtoli-maqahamok (The Gathering Space), chosen through a community process between Saint John citizens, the Civic Commemoration Committee, Common Council, City of Saint John staff, and consultation with First Nations’ leaders from The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick. The boardwalk has undergone a rejuvenation that includes a larger 360-degree stage with increased public space for live performances, tidal steps leading to the Bay of Fundy, and the installation of a winter outdoor skating surface that will convert to a verdant green space in the summer. The restaurants of Market square were also upgraded with glass-panel installations, creating patios with year-round dining. Ihtoli-magahamok (The Gathering Space) draws its design inspiration from the three foundations of Saint John: its people, the water, and the rugged rocks that define the city’s character. To learn more about the reimagined Market Square Boardwalk, head to https://saintjohn.ca/en/parks-and-recreation/ihtoli-maqahamok-gathering-space

Travel planning assistance from Tourism New Brunswick, 800-561-0123www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

Summer is a 5 Sensory Season in Newfoundland and Labrador

From the rolling waves lapping off the coastline to the colorful clotheslines dancing in the ocean breeze, Newfoundland and Labrador is home to the slow way of life, especially when the seasons change. As spring rolls into summer, regular visitors to the province return, including the whales, birds and icebergs that heighten all senses. Visitors can experience the first sunrise in North America, witness the migration and play of whale species that return to the shores each year, and taste food foraged from land and sea. For relaxation, guests can soak in the bounty of the ocean in a bath with seaweed gathered off the coast of Grates Cove, go for a cold-water dip in the many outdoor locations including the North Atlantic Ocean, or sit and listen to the push and pull of the beach rocks as they roll with the waves. 

Sea of Whales Adventures: The Atlantic Ocean surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador boasts as many as 22 diverse whale species. Just off the Bonavista Peninsula, travelers will smell the ocean breeze and be humbled by the spectacle of whale species like humpbacks, sperm, orcas, feeding, migrating, and playing on Sea of Whales Adventures whale watching boat tours. Family owned and operated since 2009, Sea of Whales Adventures offers three-hour whale watching tours daily from May 15 to October 14 and two-hour tours daily from June 15 to September 3. The two-hour tour rates start at $90 CAD for adults and $60 CAD for children, while the three-hour tour rates start at $110 CAD for adults and $80 for children.  

Family owned and operated since 2009, Sea of Whales Adventures offers three-hour whale watching tours daily

Preserving the Dark Sky: Terra Nova National Park, the first designated Dark Sky Preserve in the province, allows travelers to gaze into the cosmos untouched by light pollution. Under the Dark Sky Preserve Program, the park is committed to protecting and improving nocturnal ecology by adjusting, retrofitting, or eliminating light fixtures while delivering new educational and interpretive programs on astronomy and various dark sky themes. The most popular viewing locations include Sandy Pond, rated to have the darkest skies in the park, Ochre Hill, historically used as a fire-watch station, Blue Hill, the highest point in the park putting guests among the stars, and Visitor Centre, with the starlit sky reflected across the water. New in 2024, UNESCO World Heritage Site Gros Morne National Park is applying to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for designation as a Dark Sky Preserve, offering visitors even more unaltered space to bask in the celestial views. 

Wild Island Kitchen: Open year round, Wild Island Kitchen offers travelers the chance to dine aside breathtaking seascapes listening to the crashing waves while wild and sustainably caught seafood is cooked over an open fire. The locally owned tour and culinary group provides menus that change daily based on what is foraged and discovered each day, with guides teaching guests how to cook and prepare the cuisine. The “From Sea to Plate” Tour features sustainable, high-quality seafood cooked with water from the sea and cooked over an open fire, and guests can expect four to five courses over a three-hour period. For a shorter, one-hour experience, visitors can book the “Mug-Up” Tour which typically departs at 10 a.m. and includes a trip down the cove for a cup of tea or coffee and an interpretative food journey inspired by traditional coastal delights. Tour rates start at $175 CAD, but guests are encouraged to email [email protected] for specific pricing per tour. Pre-booking is required for both culinary experiences. 

Grates Cove Seaweed Baths: In the northernmost part of Newfoundland and Labrador, weary travelers can soak in a seaweed bath at Grates Cave Co. Known for its healing and rejuvenating properties, seaweed is harvested off the coast of Grates Cove and transformed into 7 Fathoms skincare, producing a high-quality, highly bioactive brown seaweed extract suited for personal care. Grates Cove Co. uses the product, densely packed with essential nutrients and minerals, for the fresh seaweed baths in the comfort of the bathhouse overlooking the North Atlantic. The bathhouse is bookable from Monday to Sunday for two-hour time slots from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2-4 p.m., and 5-7 p.m., and the price per couple is $110 CAD + HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). 

More information: Newfoundland and Labrador,  www.newfoundlandlabrador.com  

See also:

ON THE TRAIL TO DISCOVER VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

WALKING TOURS, DINING EXPERIENCES REVEAL VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

TRAIL TO DISCOVER BRITISH COLUMBIA’S INDIGENOUS HERITAGE WEAVES THROUGH WHISTLER-BLACKCOMB

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: EXPLORING FRENCH ACADIA’S CULTURE, HERITAGE BY BIKE!

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: METEPENAGIAG HERITAGE CENTER HIGHLIGHTS MIRAMICHI VISIT

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Best Bike Trips for This Summer’s Travel

Fondest memories of travel are from bike tours like BoatBikeTour’s Bruges-Amsterdam trip, with this memorable scene of biking passed windmills after a rain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Biking is my favorite form of travel – I love the perfect pace – not to fast, not too slow to be able to really be in the moment – being outside with no window or barrier, going through villages and neighborhoods you would not likely see traveling by car, bus or train, being able to stop and admire the view. And I love at the end of the day, feeling both physically accomplished and exhilarated, with the endorphins sparking. You feel you are an active participant in your surroundings, not a mere spectator. All your senses are activated.

The end of our self-guided bike trip along the Danube Bike Trail from Passau to Vienna © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In decades of travel, the experiences I cherish most include riding the biketours.com’s self-guided Danube Bike Trail trip from Passau to Vienna with my sons; being transformed seeing people and villages in Albania (e-bike recommended); the exhilaration of reaching the top of Cadillac Mountain on Discovery Bicycle’s Maine Coast tour; and the warm feeling after a hot shower, wrapped in a lush bathrobe in a historic inn after a hilly, rainy ride on a hybrid bike (e-bike available)  on Discovery’s Eastern Quebec Townships trip; the sheer delight of biking from Bruges to Amsterdam and sailing on a boat with Boat Bike Tours.

Bike trips have become so popular, they have veered far from the humdrum into the heretofore unimaginable. There is hardly any place in the world where you cannot explore on two-wheels (hybrid, road bikes, gravel bikes, e-bikes), where there are not guided trips, or self-guided trips (where you rent the bike, have vouchers for accommodations, and your luggage is picked up and magically appears at the next inn, much easier now with Ride GPS and similar apps). Also, e-bikes have opened a world and extended your years in the saddle – you no longer have to be afraid when the ride is rated a 4, with major hills.

Jubilant to have made it to the top of Cadillac Mountain, a five-mile ascent (with a hybrid!), a wonderful option on Discovery Bicycle’s Coastal Maine trip© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, whether you are a family, a couple, a group of friends, or traveling solo (as I do), bike tours are ideal. Here are some recommendations:

Biking the award-winning Mickelson rail trail on Wilderness Voyageurs’ Badlands and Black Hills trip through South Dakota © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilderness Voyageurs has a huge selection of offerings, especially trips that take advantage of rail-trails (the company is based along the Great Allegheny Passage in Ohiopyle, PA).They have trips on 30 rail-trails across the USA (11 are in the Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame), and have been the operator of RTC’s Sojourn trips on the GAP. They offer a marvelous selection of trips on New York’s Erie Canalway, on the new Empire Trail Network (from Battery Park up to Albany, but the trail network actually goes all the way up to Canada), as well as Missouri’s KATY Trail (longest rail trail in the USA), C&O Canal and Mickelson Rail Trail in South Dakota (I thoroughly enjoyed its Badlands & Black Hills tour). The trip I am looking to do next is the Coeur d’Alene & Hiawatha Trail in Idaho – two Rail-to-Trail Conservancy Hall of Famers, with 10 tunnels including the famous “Taft Tunnel” at 8771 feet long, 7 steel trestles, one 220 feet high). The company has an extensive selection of road bike tours in Michigan, Texas, Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, Gettysburg & the civil War, Shenandoah & Skyline Drive, Kentucky Bike & Bourbon, Colorado, New York’s Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks and a new offering on the Maine Coast & Acadia (I am eying the San Juan Islands, Washington, six-day trip covering San Juan, Lopez and Orcas Islands). It also offers gravel bike tours and two itineraries in Cuba. The trips are well marked for their ability, and the guides, accommodations and meals are superb. (Wilderness-Voyageurs.com, 855-550-7705).-

Feeling tired but exhilarated at the end of a challenging ride (on a hybrid) on Discovery Bicycle’s Eastern Quebec Townships trip © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Discovery Bicycle Tours has actually added departures on four otherwise sold out itineraries this year: GAP Trail Getaway, ride the full Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail in 4 days, from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, PA (Level 1), new departures Sept. 14-17, Sept. 19-22; six days of carefree riding on the P’tit Train du Nord, one of the most scenic rail trails in the lovely province of Quebec, just over the border in Canada (take your passport! Level 2-easier to intermediate, new departure Sept. 17-22); a four-day Appalachian Rail Trails, one of Discovery’s newest tours, offers some of the best trail riding in the Virginia-West Virginia region; new departure Oct. 6-11); and a four-day New York Finger Lakes Getaway trip where you unpack once, stay in a high-end inn, and spin through New York State’s famed winery region filled with delightful farms and villages and perhaps spot Amish buggies (easier-intermediate, departure Sept. 22-25). Discovery Bicycle Tours offers cycling vacations through the US, Canada, New Zealand, Europe,
Chile, Cambodia, and Vietnam. They are already taking bookings for 2025 for its 8-day Bike & Barge Netherlands North tour; 8-day Moselle River Bike & Barge; 8-day E-bike & Cruise Croatia. Discovery Bicycle Tours, which I traveled with on their marvelous Maine Coast and their Eastern Quebec Townships trips, provides excellent value for what is high luxury (inns, dining) – including bike rentals, even e-bikes, in the cost. (800-257-2226, 802-457-3553, [email protected], discoverybicycletours.com).

Catching up to our boat hotel, Royal Princess, as we bike on the path to Kinderdijk on the Bruges to Amsterdam trip with BoatBikeTours © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Netherlands-based Boat Bike Tours, which I traveled with on their fabulous Bruges-to-Amsterdam tour (by boat), has special offers for this summer, with up to 200 Euro savings per person on select tours: Sail & Bike Ijsselmeer & National Parks- 100 euro discount per person, on an elegant three-masted sailing ship, Elizabeth, cycling through dune landscapes, peaceful pastureland and historic fishing villages. In France, get 200 Euro discount per person: Taste Champagne (and brie!) in Champagne (Paris-Eparnay or Eparnay-Paris on the Zwaantje); or visit the best winemakers in Northern Burgundy (on the Zwaantje); the Paris-Montargis tour for beautiful medieval towns and royal history on the Fleur. There is also a 100 Euro discount pp on its Croatia/Greece programs; cycle through ancient landscapes as you explore the Aegean or Ionian islands of Greece, experience the layered history of the Croatian coastline or island-hop the gorgeous Croatian islands. (https://www.boatbiketours.com/all-offers/, boatbiketours.com, NL: +31 20 72 35 400, USA: +1 203 814 1249).

Discover Slovenia’s attractions, like Predjama Castle with Backroads © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Backroads, a pioneer in biking trips since its founding in 1979 by Tom Hale, has branched out to all manner of active, multi-sport programs, and from its California origins, to span the world. It still offers one of the most extensive opportunities for biking – in fact, 143 different itineraries this year, including all the major US destinations (California, New York, Kentucky, Vermont), plus a huge selection of international destinations. Among them: 6-day Bordeaux & Dordogne Bike Tour; Brittany & Normandy Bike Tour; 6-day Tuscany by the Sea Bike Tour; and  Croatia & Slovenia Bike, and eight-day Vietnam & Cambodia Bike Tour, and the trip I am eyeing, eight-day Japan Bike Tour featuring Nikko National Park to Kyoto (https://www.backroads.com/trips/BJNI/japan-bike-tour). (backroads.com, 800-462-2848).

Among DuVine Cycling’s favorite itineraries for first-timers is the Douro Valley of Portugal © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There’s still time for DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co.’s offer to first-time Duvine travelers to take $250 off any 2024 scheduled departure tour booked by June 9. Among the favorites for first timers: Bordeaux, France; Douro Valley, Portugal; Tuscany, Italy; Costa Brava, Spain; Greek Isles Yacht & Bike Tour. Its catalog of all-inclusive, luxury cycling vacations spans the United States, Europe, Latin America and Africa and include family, adventure, challenge, cycle & sail, specialty, villas, private tours, and, of course, classic itineraries. BTW, 2025 tour dates are live on duvine.com to take advantage of best rates and dates—especially for destinations that sold out fast in 2024: tulip season in Holland, new departures in Norway, and its popular hiking and biking tour in the Italian Dolomites (duvine.com, 888 396 5383)

Butterfield & Robinson offers such exotic cycling trips such as Ultimate Morocco, The Sahara to Marrakech Biking © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The high-end operator, Butterfield & Robinson, offers such exotic cycling trips as Ultimate Morocco, The Sahara to Marrakech Biking (with time spent in bustling souks, historic Kasbahs and indigenous Berber camps hidden among the Sahara’s silky dunes) and Vietnam biking Expedition through lush rice paddies and local villages, discover ancient cities, enjoying delicious Vietnamese cuisine and culture. B&R has released its 2025 offerings, including a new Bali Multi-Active; Japan Tayoma biking. It’s new, limited edition Sri Lanka: Cultural Triangle to South Coast Biking, February 9 – 16, 2025  is an eight-day sojourn that takes you from the port city of Negombo to the sacred city of Kandy, concluding in Galle Fort, and visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites like Sigiriya Rock. (butterfield.com, 866-551-9090)

VBT Bicycling Vacations’ Prague to Budapest tour is available as an 11-day air-inclusive © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

VBT Bicycling Vacations, an early pioneer in bike trips through Vermont, has long ago spread wings to far-flung destinations, to the far reaches of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. One trip that has caught my eye is a six-day Utah: Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks (rated easy/moderate, bike included, offered September to October) and Maryland: Eastern Shore & Chesapeake Bay (easy, bike included, offered June-October), Among the Europe itineraries is an eight-day Danube Bike & River Cruise: Prague to Budapest, available as an 11-day air-inclusive. More exotic: South Africa: Cape Town & the Garden Route, easy/moderate, bike included, available as an 11-day air-inclusive package, or 9-day land-only; New Zealand: The South island, 12-days,Jan 6-17, 2025,air included.(vbt.com, 877-774-1942, 855-443-0719) 

Looking for more hard core?

Biking in Sonoma, California’s wine country, one of Trek Travel’s most romantic bike tours of 2024 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Trek Travel’s trending trips include: Andalucia bike tour (breathtaking views, savor exquisite tapas, taste classic wines, and experience warm hospitality set to the rhythm of passionate music.); Norway bike tour (Pedal past the Nigardsbreen and Bergset glaciers and conquer Sognefjellet Mountain Pass, northern Europe’s highest); Shenandoah Valley Gravel Bike Tour (pedal along pristine unpaved roads nestled in the valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains). Cycle through Tuscany, or Explore Coastal Charm of Croatia. Looking for romance on your bike trip? Its top “Romantic Bike Tours in 2024” include Mallorca Island; Loire Valley; Andalucia; Santa Barbara Wine Country; California Wine Country. Trek Travel is also a leader in gravel bike trips, the newest trend in cycling. (There may still be time to take advantage of a $250 discount: use code EXPLORE250 at checkout. trektravel.com, 866-464-8735)

Escape Adventures has a bike tour along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Prominent in active travel, Escape Adventures has a wonderful selection of rides through national parks, including Glacier National park Road Bike tour; Canyonlands National Park; North Rim of the Grand Canyon; Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon Road Bike Tour; Canyonlands, Arches & Moab by Mountain Bike. More exotic: a road bike Tour de France Experience; Vuelta a Espana Experience; New Zealand road trip. With 100 destinations, Escape Adventures caters to the full spectrum of active travelers, respective to fitness level and activity type. From road cyclist to mountain biker to electric biker, hiker, and multi-sport enthusiast, and from first timer to friends and family groups of all ability levels. Escape Adventures is introducing a guided “bikepacking” 5-day camping and mountain biking trip along the 144-mile-long Maah Daah Hey Trail System (MDH). Majestic plateaus, jagged peaks and valleys, large expanses of rolling prairie, and rivers intertwine to offer the adventurous outdoors enthusiast a taste of pure, unadulterated badlands. Located adjacent to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the MDH is one of the lengthiest stretches of continuous trail in America. Hailed as an IMBA epic, the MDH unfolds on 95% singletrack. The guided tour starts at $1,499 per person double. (https://escapeadventures.com/tour/maah-daah-hey-singletrack-mountain-bike-tour/ https://escapeadventures.com/, 800-596-2953)

Discover France is offering cycling trips that combine the exploration of iconic mountain pass and Tour de France routes with daily luxury accommodations and local gastronomy. Available in the Alps, Provence Mont Ventoux, the Pyrenees and the French Riviera, these prestigious cycling adventures lets you discover charming regions while taking on a sporting challenge. Its trip through the Dordogne region lets you ride and discover charming villages, stroll through the narrow streets of medieval towns built on cliffs, such as Rocamadour, experience its rich gastronomy, such as the famous black truffle and finish the trip with an escapade in the Lascaux Caves, one of the many prehistoric sites of the region. Its “Tour de France: Dolomites & Grand Departure Adventure,” is an 8-day VIP Bike Tour that includes a ride through the famous Dolomites and a stop in Florence(Italy) for the grand departure of the Tour de France. During the first few days you will challenge yourself by riding in the Italian mountains. Then enjoy VIP access to the Tour’s historic start in Florence. Riding on the official road of the Tour and crossing the finish line in Bologna will end this adventure on a high note. (DISCOVER FRANCE 427 Rue Hélène Boucher Mauguio 34130 France, discoverfrance.com).

Biketours.com pioneered biking in Albania © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For excellent value in bike tours, my go-to is BikeTours.com – basically a broker of programs in just about every country in Europe, even Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Estonia (I took a fabulous boat/bike trip through Greek Islands), plus Japan and South Africa and the United States. They basically represent local operators, so offer much the same itinerary as the high-end offerings, but with more choice of accommodations and opportunities for lower cost. They also offer perhaps the best selection of self-guided trips, which can be 30-50 percent cheaper than guided tours (we’ve done their self-guided Danube Bike Tour Passau-Vienna, and self-guided Venice-Croatia and guided Greek Isles boat/bike trip, and a guided Slovenia trip). The company, under its previous owner and founder, Jim Johnson, opened Albania for biking, which I experienced the trip with Johnson. You appreciate how significant biking is to really understanding a country and its people, when you ride through villages (e-bike recommended). Albania is perhaps Europe’s best kept secret. We were impressed by Albania’s diverse landscapes—snow-capped mountains, deep forests and beaches—its rich heritage and culture and how people in rural areas were actually excited and curious to see visitors in their villages, especially those traveling by bicycle. This also has to be one of the best values in European cycling: experience the 9-day “UNESCO Sites of Albania” guided 1190E or self-guided from 950E. (biketours.com, 833-216-0635, 215-613-0874)

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