Gift of Travel: Put a Bow Around Wanderlust

Gift of Travel: Give experiences, like a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The gift of travel is the gift of life-enhancing even life-changing experience, lifelong memories, connection with family, friends and new friends. There are lots of ways to give the gift of travel:

Gift of Travel Experiences:

Gift experiences that come to mind include pre-arranging special experiences:

Arrange a cooking class for a couple going to Paris (cooknwithclass.com)

Arrange a cooking class in Paris (cooknwithclass.com) © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A hot-air balloon experience over Cappadocia, Turkey (see tripadvisor.com)

Visit to museum exhibit (some now require pre-purchased tickets), attractions, like the recently opened world premiere of Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru, on its first stop of a worldwide tour at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, through March 6, 2022 (A/$29.95 C/$19.95, VIP Access: $100 https://bocamuseum.org/art/machu-picchu-and-golden-empires-peru).

The world premiere of the traveling “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” exhibit is at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida, through March 6, 2022. Capacity is limited and  tickets need to be pre-purchased.
 

Organize a spa/wellness visit (SpaFinder.com has a compendium of resorts and day spas and offers gift certificates)

The Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Manalapan on Palm Beach Island, Florida. You can book spa resorts and day-spas on SpaFinder.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Set up a walking tour (Context Travel provides private or small group immersive tours for travelers who love to learn, in 60 cities globally, contexttravel.com) or arrange for a local guide (https://www.toursbylocals.com/find_guide has access to 4,488 guides in 193 countries; also offers gift certificates)

Context Travel guide leads a private walking tour of Athens  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Book a rock climbing experience to get your special someone out of the gym and onto the real rocks (A day in the Gunks of the Mohonk Preserve, $350 for two for a full day program, 9 am to 4:30 pm, High Xposure Adventures, 800-777-CLIMB, high-xposure.com; Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School, acadiamountainguides.com, 888-232-9559)

Prearrange a food tour (Private Street Food Tour by motorbike with local students, Saigon Back Alley Tours, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam).

Schedule a sea kayak nature tour in Van Damme State Park, Mendocino, (www.kayakmendocino.com) or Bar Harbor, Maine ( National Park Sea Kayak Tours, https://acadiakayak.com) or Albania.

Sea kayaking excursion in Albania © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tripadvisor.com and viator.com are excellent sources for finding and booking visits to local attractions, sightseeing.

Arrange a bike ride (Visiting San Francisco? Blazing Saddles, blazingsaddles.com) or in Budapest.

Rent a bike to see Budapest © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pre-arrange special zoo and theme park experiences like Wild Encounters at the Bronx Zoo and Animal Encounters at Busch Gardens Tampa including Keeper for a Day tours, Australia Insider Tour and Gorilla Insider Tour (https://buschgardens.com/tampa/tours/).  Book an animal interaction at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to “Winter” of “Dolphin Tale” fame: Dolphin Encounter (you work alongside a trainer during a training and feeding session), Trainer for a Day (where you shadow a trainer), Feed Rufus (the actual movie star!), and Shark Encounter (SeaWinter.com, 727-441-1790).

Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of “Winter” offers special dolphin encounters and behind-the-scenes experiences © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Get tickets to iconic holiday experiences like the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker (30 performances from Nov. 27-Dec. 26, washingtonballet.org); George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker by New York City Ballet, November 26–January 2 (www.nycballet.com/the-nutcracker/tickets, 212-496-0600; or the Philadelphia Ballet, at the Academy of Music Dec. 10-31, https://philadelphiaballet.org/2021-2022-season/nutcracker/0

Give the experience of special holiday events, such as the New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Can’t get to the wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa? You can still join their wine clubs and ship wine selections, for example, Imagery Wine, which we visited recently (877-550-4278, www.imagerywinery.com/store) and its sister winery Benziger (benziger.com).  Find more on sonomawine.com and napavintners.com.

You can gift favorite wines enjoyed at a wine tasting, like Imagery in Sonoma, which makes it easy to ship © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Arrange for a private chef to prepare a special meal in your home in New York City (Chef Omakase, 646-612-7790, info@chefomakase.com, www.chefomakase.com).

Memberships Have Benefits

These days, with capacity restrictions and advance-purchase ticketing requirements at major museums, zoos, preserves, conservancies, sites, attractions, ski areas, and organizations think about gifting pre-purchased tickets or better yet, memberships or season passes – these have the advantage of not only making the recipient happy, provide discounts and special access to events and experiences (campout!), but also do good by supporting important and worthy organizations.

Membership gives a sense of “ownership” and engagement, and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits including magazines and discounts on gear and experiences and members-only events and access to their catalogs.

Not able to visit? Many of the great museums and iconic institutions of the world offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their mission by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials, discounts). For example:

The Smithsonian Institution (si.edu),which just introduced Galactic gifts from its new  FUTURES exhibition in the Arts & Industries Building, “for all your past, present, and future needs” (https://aib.si.edu/futures/ — Shop Now, Smithsonianstore.com).  

Also, Sierra Club (they produce a catalog of trips, sierraclub.org); Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (also check out the trail shop for gear like jerseys, trail guides and such, railstotrails.org), Parks & Trail NY (ptny.org), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA.org); The Nature Conservancy (nature.org) National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org) which offers  Great Experiences & Tours, (nationaltrusttours.com); and its sister organization Historic Hotels of America, with some of most interesting and iconic hotels (www.historichotels.org).

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy celebrates opening of the Jim Thorpe bridge, linking the Delaware-Lehigh Trail. Programs, memberships and purchases of cycle gear support the mission of organizations like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which is working to repurpose obsolete rail trails into recreational trails, and ultimately connect 3,700 miles of trails to create the Great American Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Members of the American Museum of Natural History enjoy free admission, special access with limited-capacity Member hours, exclusive previews of new exhibitions and galleries, and more. Get $20 off when you use promo code MEM21. (www.amnh.orghttps://shop.amnh.org/featured/holiday-gift-ideas). 

T. rex The Ultimate Predator at American Museum of Natural History, NYC. Members have benefits. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Membership at the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art brings free entry for members and one to four guests, private access to exhibitions outside of public hours and discounts on dining and store purchases (www.metmuseum.org).

Membership has benefits at iconic institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, like after-hours visits © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wildlife Conservation Society members get free admission to Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Prospect Park Zoo; other memberships add in the NY Aquarium, free parking and other special benefits like guest passes (https://bronxzoo.com/shop/catalogs/memberships; most popular is Family Zoos Plus Aquarium: $210 (2 adults, 4 children, 1 guest). You can also purchase gift certificates for Wild Encounters – in-person and virtual behind-the-scenes look at the Bronx Zoo and Bronx Zoo gift ticket vouchers ($39.95/adult, $29.95/child).

Zoos, aquariums and special attractions are fantastic to shop at, especially for kids: The Palm Beach Zoo (www.palmbeachzoo.org), for example, has eco-friendly items. There are also Adopt-an-Animal programs. The Bronx Zoo has similar programs and an online store (www.bronxzoostore.com). And you don’t have to visit the Kennedy Space Center, to get space-related items (www.thespaceshop.com), though visiting offers incomparable experiences.

Retail sales, memberships, special events sustain the mission of the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

National Wildlife Federation has a whole catalog of gifts you can buy (30% off with promo code 938800, but you can also make a donation to a particular cause that is symbolized by a stuffed animal or some other acknowledgement: Holiday Gift Guide (https://www.shopnwf.org/collections/shop-specialty-shops-holiday-gift-guide); Sustainable holiday gifts (https://www.shopnwf.org/collections/shop-cards-and-gifts-gifts-sustainable-products); Create a sustainable garden (www.shopnwf.org/collections/Shop-Home-and-Garden-Garden-for-Wildlife), You can give the “gift of nature” and sponsor a forest with Trees for Wildlife program, in which NWF partners with schools, local government and nonprofit organizations to plant trees (https://www.shopnwf.org/category/Shop-Cards-and-Gifts-Tree-Gifts-Trees-for-Wildlife).

Similarly, World Wildlife Federation has a great selection of gifts that support the organization’s conservation efforts: Gifts.worldwidlife.org/gift-center/gifts/.

Stocking Stuffers, Gift Cards, Travel Gear

Hotels, resorts, tour companies even cruise companies offer gift cards (great stocking stuffers) which can be used to pay toward stays or amenities and experiences (some, like Catania Hospitality give extra discounts during holiday sales and some give the giver a special gift as well), and can be purchased on line.

Xanterra Travel Collection, for the first time, is offering Xanterra Travel Collection Gift Cards redeemable across all its properties and brands for accommodations, tours, experiences, and retail purchases (Xanterra.com/GiftCard).

You can purchase gift certificates for Xanterra Travel Collection iconic lodgings in national parks such as Grand Canyon’s crown jewel, the El Tovar, and experiences such as the historic Grand Canyon Railway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can purchase actual tickets or gift certificates for Broadway theater at Broadway.com. Gift certificates can be redeemed for tickets to any Broadway or Off-Broadway show currently playing in New York City. (www.broadway.com/gift-certificates)

You can purchase actual tickets or gift certificates for Broadway theater at broadway.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

SpaFinder has gift certificates for resorts, hotels, wellness centers and day spas (www.spafinder.com/best-of/resorts-and-hotel-spas), as well as gift cards can be used to buy gift sets (spafinder.com).

Skiers, snowboarders will really appreciate lift tickets (get discounted rates at liftopia.com; also EpicPass.com, IKONPass.com, Ski New York’s Ski3 pass, iskiny.com) or pre-paid lessons and rentals. Or if you feel really ambitious, purchase the season pass.

Skiers, snowboarders will really appreciate lift tickets or a lesson or rental, or even a season pass. I Ski NY offers the Ski3 which includes Gore Mountain as well as Whiteface Mountain and Belleayre com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For stocking stuffers there’s no better than actual socks, so crucial for walking tours, hiking, biking, skiing, and packing, like Darn Tough (www.darntough.com) and Bombas (which come with a promise to donate a pair for every pair purchased, https://bombas.com/).

Darn Tough socks make great stocking stuffers and are really appreciated by travelers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then you get into clothes, jackets and specialized gear and equipment for every interest imaginable: camping, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, fishing, outdoor stuff. Among our favorites (especially when you catch sales and closeouts):

REI operates as a co-op, and members have access to really excellent sales and discounts, plus earn credit toward future purchases. REI products have excellent quality (we love our tents) and allow no-questions asked returns for a year. Excellent customer service. Free shipping on $50 (including skis and snowboards). Also, when you make a purchase with a REI Co-op World Elite Mastercard®, REI makes a donation to the REI Cooperative Action Fund, which directly supports organizations that promote justice, equity and belonging in the outdoors, this year, REI will donate up to $1 million (www.rei.com/s/gifts-for-travelers, 800-426-4840).

REI makes it really easy to outfit for a camping trip or any outdoors activity © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Patagonia also has excellent selections, free shipping over $75, and has “Patagonia Action Works” to facilitate donations to worthy causes, contributing 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. You can also buy used, trade-in and fix your gear through Worn Wear (WornWear.com), and can purchase gift cards. (Patagonia.com);

Also: Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com;  LL Bean, 888-610-2326, llbean.com; Sun & Ski, 866-786-3869, sunandski.com; Tennis ExpressTennisExpress.com; Bass Pro Shopswww.basspro.com. And of course, luggage (ebags.comLuggageonline.com).

As for travel wardrobe, baggage fees have presented a challenge for travelers to confine all their packing to carry-on luggage, and people like me who have trouble finding pants to fit poses an additional challenge. Red Thread makes clothes to order that are comfortable, versatile, stylish, and pack well (pants, the essential black dress,  jackets etc) and are tailored specifically to your measurements using 3D technology from your phone, and delivered within two weeks, and have a lifetime guarantee if they need to be re-sized to fit. I loved the Red Thread resort pants–with a Saint Tropez stylish flare (redthreadcollection.com, hi@redthreadcollection.com 800-710-0835).

 Photography & Camera Gear

What trip doesn’t involve photos! Yes, everyone has their cell phones but they don’t do for safaris, kayaking, biking, wildlife (though there are lens kits for cell phones which would make great gifts).

Cameras and photography gear are big on the wish list for travelers, with size and functionality among the key criteria. Some of the new smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras have as much functionality as the larger, heavier digital SLRs and use interchangeable lenses but tend to be fairly costly (over $1000). Take advantage of sales to purchase slightly outdated models that have great reviews (I love my newest acquisition, full-frame mirrorless Nikon Z5 with 24-200 mm lens for $1696; Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Digital with 18-150 mm lens for $449, light and compact enough to use for hiking and travel, and for wet or harsh conditions, Olympus Tough TG6, which is very small, rugged, water, shock, dust and crashproof, and has a sensational macro feature and good zoom range, 25-100mm (now $50 off at $399). B&H consistently has best inventory, prices, and holiday specials, plus excellent customer service, delivery and return policies, www.bhphotovideo.com, 800-606-6969212-444-6615).

Photos rank high on travelers’ list of essentials. Cell phones only take you so far. For special trips like wildlife safaris, bird-watching, kayaking, more ambitious camera equipment would be appreciated © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are endless opportunities to satisfy photographer’s wish list, from memory cards (great stocking stuffer) and external hard drives, to backpacks, lenses (you can even get lenses for cell phones), lighting, the list goes on and on.

Another idea is to gift a photo album (Milkbooks, based in New Zealand, does an excellent job of reproducing high-quality photo albums and books, has excellent customer service and frequent sales, milkbooks.com.) Or consider high-quality professional printing and framing a photo that is particularly meaningful and memorable from their travels (bayphoto.com).

Or more spectacularly, what about a photosafari or a trip led by a master photographer, such as offered by Photo Workshop Adventures (150 carefully curated small group photo tours in 150 countries with “The Art of Seeing” approach” (www.photoworkshopadventures.com); Photo Safaris (www.photosafaris.com‎); National Geographic (www.nationalgeographic.com); ‎Back Country Journeys (https://explore.backcountryjourneys.com/photography-tours-workshops-safaris/landscape-wildlife/gs-l1); Lindblad Expeditions (www.expeditions.com/plan/expedition-photography); and Nomad Photo Expeditions (www.nomadphotoexpeditions.com).

I couldn’t get this photo of tigers in India’s tiger preserve in Khana without long lenses (300 mm) and an SLR (Nikon D500) which could accommodate the long distance, fast exposure and low-light of dusk conditions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gifts to Inspire

Give gifts that last the year, bring the world and the planet into their world and inspire wanderlust. For example:

National Geographic Kids magazine for 6-9 year olds ( $20/yr for 10 issues) and or National Geographic Little Kids designed especially for children ages 3-6 ($20/yr for 6 bi-monthly issues).

National Wildlife Federation produces Ranger Rick (age 7+), Ranger Rick Jr., (407) Ranger Rick Cub (0-4); Zoo books (7+); Zootles (4-7), and Zoodinos (5+); for holiday promotion, any title $12 – 76% savings. (rangerrick.org/magazines/)

For adults: Smithsonian Magazine is a treasure and also provides membership benefits and access to gifts. Subscribe for $34 and get a free gift subscription to share with someone else (smithsonianmag.com).

Another great source: PBS, which supports public television, which offers gift catalog and gift certificates (I’m loving the Mona Lisa “Women’s Fine Art” socks, $8) (https://shop.pbs.org/gifts, 833-565-0292).

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Travel Industry Unwraps Holiday Sales Putting Bucket List Experiences Within Reach

Grand Canyon, hiking the South Kaibab Trail. Xanterra Travel Collection is among the travel companies offering holiday sales that put bucket list experiences within reach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take advantage of the travel industry’s cyber holiday sales this season to put your bucket list experiences within reach.

“With supply chains being strained worldwide, why not bypass the mail system and stuff your loved one’s stocking with the gift of travel?” asks Ben Perlo, managing director for G Adventures in the US and Latin America, which is offering its biggest sale of the year, extending through Dec. 3. “Givers and recipients alike will feel good knowing that each G Adventures trip helps support local communities that rely on tourism.”

These travel sales provide an added incentive for travelers at a time when the conditions are just right for booking for holiday travel and beyond, to secure coveted dates, destinations and experiences.

Here is just a tip of the iceberg of offerings, but check in with your favorite tour company, cruise line, resort and destination to uncover gifts worthy of a Secret Santa. Many travel companies, such as Xanterra, offer gift cards:

G ADVENTURES OFFERS UP TO 30% SAVINGS

Tour the dunes from atop a camel for an authentic way to experience the Sahara, explore high-walled kasbahs and wander the labyrinthine alleys of Fès and Marrakech on G Adventures Morocco Kasbahs and Desert trip and get 20% off when booking during the holiday sale © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

G Adventures is offering up to 30 percent off on more than 500 tours departing before October 31, 2022 with its biggest sale of the year, from November 10 through December 3, 2021. With the launch of the Cyber Sale, the small group adventure operator and community tourism pioneer is rewarding travelers who are eager to get back out there with discounts on more than 500 itineraries across the company’s selection of Active, Classic, Active, Marine, Family, Local Living and 18-to-30-Somethings travel styles.

Tours that are on sale and depart before March 31, 2022 offer travelers up to 30 percent off; additional departures before October 31, 2022 feature savings of up to 20 percent off the original price. 

GAdventures’s flexible Book with Confidence policy allows travelers to cancel and rebook their tour with no added cost; it also offers Vaccinated-Only and Travel Ready tour options.

Sample itineraries in this year’s Cyber Sale include 30% off eight day Macchu Picchu Adventure; 30% off nine-day Colombia Express, 20% off Costa Rica Active Adventure and 20% off Morocco Kasbahs and Desert. For more information or to book, visit www.gadventures.com/cyber-sale/

EF GO AHEAD TOURS DISCOUNTS BUCKET LIST WORTHY TRIPS

Solo travelers get a holiday discount on EF Go Ahead Tours:  Get 16% off Portugal for Solo Travelers © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

EF Go Ahead Tours, a leading provider of immersive, small group travel, is running its Black Friday sale through Nov. 26 offering steep 2021 discounts on 2022 and 2023 “bucket list” itineraries, likely the lowest rates these future tours will ever be, with prices locked in and flexible payment plans available. Get up to $600 off per person /$1,200 off per couple – with many of the most in-demand itineraries discounted by 20% or more.

From Nov. 19-25: Bucket List Worthy to Iceland, Egypt Kenya, Costa Rica, Galapagos such as Egypt & the Nile 20% off / $600 off, discounted at $2,399; A Week in Egypt: Giza, Nile River Cruise & Cairo 19% off / $500 off, discounted at $2,159; Kenya Wildlife Safari 4/8/22 departure. 13% off / $600 off, discounted at $3,919.

On Black Friday, get “Special Lightning Deals!” on what is left,up to $600 off on worldwide tours plus a doorbuster on Black Friday day!

Traveling solo within group travel is discounted too. Get an extra $100 off for private rooms on top of the sales, which could equate to a free single room!  Just one of many examples of a bucket list solo trip: Portugal for Solo Travelers 16% off / $500 off, discounted at $2,539

EF Go Ahead experts navigate travel and health and safety guidelines and plan fully refundable trips with no change fees Only $99 down secures a spot when you enroll in AutoPay. Book before November 30th and if you have to change plans, receive a refund of all money paid for that tour, including the deposit, through February 1, 2022. Change tour date or destination without a rebooking fee up until the Final Payment Date. EF offers Covid Care Promise, a comprehensive offering that supports travelers, at no additional expense through unforeseen on-tour quarantines or hospitalizations. EF Go Ahead Tours, 800, 590-1161, www.goaheadtours.com.

GRAB A BOGO DEAL FROM TRIPS BY CULTURE TRIP

Vietnam is one of the destinations offered by Culture Trip © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

TRIPS by Culture Trip is offering a BOGO deal from Nov. 22-Dec. 3, 2021: book a spot on one of their trips and bring someone along for free to places like Scotland, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Italy, Nepal and 20 more destinations.

Travel must take place before May 31, 2022 (and the Iceland itinerary in Jan. 2022 is excluded).  All trips available are on a first booked, first served basis. Space is limited and certain conditions apply.

TRIPS by Culture Trip are unique small-group adventures that help people experience extraordinary destinations in unexpected ways, together with other culturally curious travelers. Curated by travel experts and led by Local Insiders, the multi-day adventures offer exciting itineraries that combine immersive activities, hyper-local experiences and unique places to stay. Thoughtfully planned with ample free time to unwind or explore, the itineraries offer the right balance of exploration, action, and relaxation.

TRIPS by Culture Trip offers over 30 itineraries in some of the world’s most captivating and off-the-grid places, with new itineraries added regularly. TRIPS range from four to 13 days, welcoming a maximum of up to 18 travelers aged 25 and over who can join solo or with friends. With a focus beyond mass-market offerings, the itineraries often put local people at the centre and avoid areas of over tourism as well as unethical activities or wildlife interactions that aren’t in the best interest of the animals.
 
TRIPS by Culture Trip offers its Ultimate Covid Booking Guarantee, so if Covid regulations change a customer’s plans, they can rebook for free (valid for bookings made by Nov. 30, 2021 for travel before Feb. 28, 2022). For bookings outside these dates, no change or cancellation fees are imposed and customers can get a full refund should they need to postpone or cancel a trip up to 30 days prior to departure. All trips have Covid safety measures in place.

Full terms and conditions can be found at:  https://theculturetrip.com/bookable/booking-terms-and-conditions/

To book a TRIPS by Culture Trip Black Friday deal visit culturetrip.com/trips or contact tripssupport@theculturetrip.com or +1 (678) 967-4965.

XANTERRA ‘BOOK YOUR BUCKET LIST SALE’ FOR NATIONAL PARKS, CRUISES, TOURS

Take advantage of Xanterra Travel Collection’s week-long annual sale to lock in 50% off roundtrip tickets on the historic Grand Canyon Railway and 20% off in-park lodging at the Grand Canyon’s crown jewel, the El Tovar on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Xanterra Travel Collection, an award-winning globally diversified travel company offering unforgettable experiences in some of the most Beautiful Places on Earth®, announced its highly anticipated annual “Book Your Bucket List Sale” from Tuesday, Nov. 23 – Tuesday, Nov. 30. This year’s sale will last a full week beginning the Tuesday before Black Friday and running through Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday. Xanterra owns or operates the lodges in Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier, Death Valley and Grand Canyon South Rim; Windstar Cruises, The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, The Oasis at Death Valley, Holiday Vacations, Country Walkers and VBT Bicycling Tours. The affiliated legendary Five-Star, Five-Diamond Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and the longest-running Five-Star award-winning Sea Island Resort in Georgia are also participating in the sale.

And now, for the first time, Xanterra is offering an unparalleled gift of discovery and wanderlust with Xanterra Travel Collection Gift Cards. Redeemable across all Xanterra Travel Collection properties and brands for accommodations, tours, experiences, and retail purchases, recipients can choose their adventure with this gift of A World of Unforgettable Experiences. All new and available starting Nov. 16 at Xanterra.com/GiftCard.

Preview and plan now. Then book during the Book Your Bucket List one-week sale (Tuesday, Nov. 23 through Tuesday, Nov. 30) at Xanterra.com/BucketListSale. Highlights include:

National Parks

The Oasis at Death Valley – 30% off hotel stays at the beautifully renovated historic AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Death Valley and newly revitalized, family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley. Valid for select overnight stays between Dec. 2021 and Feb. 2022.

Historic Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel – 50% off roundtrip train tickets on an entertaining journey to the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim when booking a two-night Getaway Package over select dates between Dec. 1, 2021 and March 10, 2022.

Grand Canyon South Rim – 20% off in-park lodging at Kachina Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Maswik Lodge, and the crown jewel, El Tovar, during select dates Dec. 1, 2021 to March 3, 2022.

The Grand Hotel – 30% off at the only AAA Three-Diamond hotel near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (just one mile from the South Rim entrance) on select dates between Dec. 2021 and March 2022.

Zion Lodge – 30% off overnight stays inside the park at Zion National Park Lodge on select dates between Dec. 2021 and Feb. 2022.

Cedar Creek Lodge, at the gateway to Glacier National Park – 30% off room rates on select dates from Dec. 2021 through April 2022.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel – Save 25% off hotel stays at the charming and historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, located inside the park on select dates during May 2022.

​​Luxury Hotels

The Broadmoor – Rates as low as $249 per night for select dates, up to 25% off published suite rates, and 10% off the all-inclusive Wilderness Properties (The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp).

Sea Island – In honor of its Quarter Century Club (team members with at least 25 years of service to the resort), book a stay in December, January, or February and receive the third night for only $25. Plus, receive a $250 resort credit per stay at The Cloister and The Lodge. In addition, Sea Island will donate $25 per stay to the Sea Island Legacy Fund, which assists team members experiencing economic hardship.

Guided Travel/Tours

Bicycling Tours – Receive $200 off any spring VBT Bicycling Tours Guided Italy tour departing between April 1, 2022 and June 30, 2022.

Walking Adventures – Receive $200 off any spring Country Walkers Guided Italy tour departing between April 1, 2022 and June 30, 2022.

Holiday Vacations – Save $250 per person on the Holland in Bloom featuring the Floriade tour departing on April 15, 2022.

Cruising

Windstar Cruises – Save on 2022 yacht-style cruises with fewer than 350 guests. Enjoy a $100 onboard credit per guest to use on shore excursions, spa treatments, alcoholic beverages and more. Low fares start from $1,399 per guest.

For a complete list and to take advantage of Xanterra and its affiliates’ Book Your Bucket List offers, visit Xanterra.com/BucketListSale. For the newly available gift cards, visit Xanterra.com/GiftCard.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HOLIDAY DEALS TO LOCK IN LUXE ESCAPES

Take advantage of these Black Friday resort deals to lock in luxe escapes for 2022:

Cayo Espanto, Belize: Cayo Espanto, a barefoot luxe private island resort off the coast of Belize, is offering guests a free airfare credit (up to $750 per person) with the booking of a seven night stay this Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Travelers looking to take advantage of this offer must complete their booking online at aprivateisland.com between Friday, November 26 – Monday, November 29, 2021. Booking code is not required, all reservations made during this timeframe will receive airfare credit with confirmation.

Coco Collection, Maldives boutique island resorts, Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kohlhu,  a discounted rate of 50% off on bookings made between Friday, November 26 – Monday, November 29 for stays taking place between May 1, 2022 to July 31, 2022. No minimum booking necessary, blackout dates apply. Use code BLACKFRIDAY when booking this special offer on www.cococollection.com.

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun all-suite resort located along a private beach in Puerto Morelos has extended the traditionally Black Friday through Cyber Monday travel offer to be available for bookings made now through December 6, 2021 © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Grand Residences, Puerto Morelos, Mexico: Through Dec. 6, save up to 25% off stays through Dec. 16, 2022. Complimentary airport transfer included on all bookings and children under the age of 12 stay free. Book online, grandresidencesrivieracancun.com, or call 1.855.381.4340, use promo code ZW-21–23

Saba Rock, North Sound, British Virgin Islands: Save up to 40% on a three-night stay or more stay for bookings made Nov. 26-29 for stays Nov. 30, 2021 through February 15, 2022 at the new  resort destination in the British Virgin Islands with onsite amenities like snuba, diving, kiteboarding, island tours, spa. Book at www.sabarock.com using promo code BLKFRI.

Ocean Club Resorts, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos: Travelers who book a seven night stay or more at Ocean Club (the East location) will receive 10% off the total stay for new bookings only made between Friday, Nov. 26 – Monday, Nov. 29, 2021 for stays March 5 – 31, 2022. The promotional offer must be booked online (www.oceanclubresorts.com), use promo code BFCM21.

Mount Cinnamon Resort – Grenada: Tucked away on the hillside atop Grand Anse Beach, Mount Cinnamon is an eco-luxe hideaway with an enclave of 37 luxury villas and suites, each with their own veranda with sweeping views. Book Nov. 26-29 to receive 20% savings on stays between April 1 and December 20, 2022 of 5 or more nights. Also included: one complimentary Cinnamon Signature Massage and a complimentary Grenada rum tasting session.  Book at  www.mountcinnamongrenadahotel.com using booking code MC-CYBER21.

Fairmont Mayakoba – Riveria Maya, Mexico is offering up to 30% off daily rates from November 22-29 for travel dates through March 31, 2022 (blackout dates may apply). Book at https://www.fairmont.com/mayakoba-riviera-maya/offers/blackfriday/

Royal Uno® All Inclusive Resort & Spa, Cancun, Mexico: One of the newest family-friendly resorts to open in Cancun 2022, the 540 all-suite Royal Uno® All Inclusive Resort & Spa is offering guests 30% off its all-inclusive accommodations and$500 in resort credit and airport transportation. Set to open in February 2022, the promotion is valid for any 4-night minimum stay from February 28, 2022 to January 06, 2023.  To book, visit https://royalunoresort.com/special-deals/black-friday-cyber-week. .

Casa Kimberly, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: one of Mexico’s premier hideaways and the former secret love nest of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, is offering 50% in savings on stays booked using code CYBERCK during the Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale for stays between December 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022.

The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort – Riviera Pacifica, Panama: Guests who book the new Stay Longer, Save More offer save 30 percent on room rates, starting at $199/night (three-night minimum stay). The promotion includes 20 percent off 60-minute spa treatments, along with daily breakfast, and complimentary use of bicycles, stand up paddle boards, kayaks, tennis and volleyball courts; wireless internet and free parking.  The resort is home to a world-famous Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole championship golf course (the only course of its kind in Central America), an on-site conservationist’s zoo, seven dining options, ten pools, and a sports club. To book the special, visit https://hotel-deals.marriott.com/stay-longer-save-more/ .

Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, Florida Keys: From November 22 to 30, receive 30 percent off two nights or more in the hotel or three nights or more in a villa with promo code CYBERW  on stays from November 28, 2021, through October 31, 2022. Known for its family-friendly amenities and programming, the 60-acre Hawks Cay resort offers 177 guestrooms and 250 two- and three-bedroom villas, a full-service marina, six restaurants, saltwater lagoon, five swimming pools, kid and teen clubs, spa, Cliff Drysdale tennis program and the only resort-based Dolphin Connection program nationwide. To book, visit www.hawkscay.com

CLUB MED ‘SPLASH INTO WINTER’ SAVES ON ALL-INCLUSIVE ESCAPES

Club Med Quebec, Canada, a four-season, all-inclusive mountain resort, will be Club Med’s first in Canada, just an hour and a half away from Québec City in the Le Massif de Charlevoix region.

Club Med, a pioneer of the all-inclusive concept, invites travelers to take advantage of up to 45% off all-inclusive escapes plus perks at Club Med’s top resorts in Florida, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean, including Club Med Ixtapa Pacific (reopening December 11, 2021), offering a family-fun getaway under the sun, and Club Med Québec (opening December 3, 2021), offering an all-inclusive mountain escape. The Splash into Winter sale is open for bookings now through January 10, 2022, with travel dates through July 1, 2022; additional perks include a free room upgrade and free stays for kids under 4.. Enjoy unlimited culinary options, premium accommodations, and activities for all interests – from skiing and snowboarding to standup paddle boarding and snorkeling – and Club Med’s Family program.

Club Med’s spacious low-density resorts are surrounded by nature, spread across 50 acres, and operate at a limited capacity, enhanced safety and hygiene protocols, free onsite antigen testing, and free cancellation policy, for total peace of mind.

Participating Club Med resorts: Club Med Québec, Canada; Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Port St. Lucie, Florida; Club Med Cancún, Mexico; Club Med Caravelle, Guadeloupe, French Caribbean, Club Med Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda, Dominican RepublicClub Med Buccaneer’s Creek, Martinique, French Caribbean, Club Med Turkoise, Turks and Caicos, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, Mexico, and Club Med Columbus, Bahamas.

Details on the Splash Into Winter Sale at https://www.clubmed.us/o/best-all-inclusive-vacation-deals. For more information, visit www.clubmed.us, call 1-800-Club-Med (1-800-258-2633).

ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES INCLUDES AIRFARE, 20% SAVINGS FOR 2021 BLACK FRIDAY SALE

This Black Friday, travelers can enjoy more value and more savings when they book an all-inclusive luxe-adventure journey to some of the world’s most captivating and remote destinations aboard Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Navigator and World Traveller.

From November 26 through 30, 2021, travelers will receive complimentary round-trip, intercontinental business-class air travel for all new deposited suite bookings or 20 percent savings for all new deposited stateroom bookings made aboard Atlas voyages departing from March 1 through September 30, 2022, based on availability. Travelers can choose among 29 voyages in Antarctica and the Arctic, South America, the Mediterranean, British Isles and Northern Europe, and Iceland and Greenland aboard newly launched World Navigator and World Traveller, launching in July 2022. Travelers must mention code BLKFRI21 at time of booking.

Travelers can choose among 20 World Navigator voyages, ranging from six to 16 nights, and nine inaugural season voyages aboard World Traveller, ranging from seven to 11 nights. All guests enjoy Atlas’ All Inclusive All The Way, which offers inclusions such as complimentary round-trip air travel from 16 major U.S. and Canada gateways, choice of a complimentary shore excursion at every port, unlimited premium wine and spirits, international beers and coffees, prepaid gratuities, polar parkas, regionally inspired gourmet cuisine, Atlas Assurance protection program, and L’OCCITANE bath amenities.

For more information about Atlas Ocean Voyages’ Black Friday offer, call Atlas Ocean Voyages at 1.844.44.ATLAS (28527).

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Holiday Lights Re-Kindle Holiday Cheer This Season

Magic of Lights

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Holiday Lights festivals are back, rekindling holiday cheer. Here’s a taste of what this season offers, to help you plan especially since many require advance purchase tickets and have limited capacity.

Early Bird Pricing for Magic of Lights at Jones Beach

Early bird pricing has already opened for Magic of Lights, a family-friendly, drive-through holiday lights festival. The 2.5-mile drive-through experience of dazzling, sparkling, and twinkling series of magical light displays is taking place in two New York City-area locations: PNC Long Island’s Jones Beach State Park and Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ, from Friday, November 19 through Sunday, January 2.

Magic of Lights features themed light displays using the latest LED technology and digital animations. It is highlighted by the Illuminating Mega Trees consisting of 120-feet of dancing, lights synchronized to holiday music. Other dazzling festive light displays include Winter Wonderland, The Night Before Christmas, Candyland, Toyland, Sports Row, 12 Days of Christmas, and the notorious Enhancing Tunnel of Lights. In addition, new to this year’s exhibit are the Prehistoric Christmas and Snow Flurry Tunnel.

Magic of Lights is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. (dusk) until 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. (dusk) until 11 p.m. (Magic of Lights will be closed on Friday, December 31). For dates, times, and ticket availability, visit magicoflights.com.

Admission is $25 in advance or $35 at the gate on weekdays and $30 in advance or $40 at the gate on weekends through November. Price is based per car and will change in December. Special pricing is available for limousines and buses. Group ticket rates are available. Tickets are available through TicketMaster.com.

Visitors can save $3 on weekday admission when they bring at least two non-perishable food items benefiting Long Island and New Jersey food banks. Other charity nights will be announced in the coming weeks. Last year Magic of Lights’ philanthropy made a meaningful impact in local communities by donating more than $150,000 in cash to local organizations in addition to collecting non-perishable food items, toys, books, coats and more for those who need it most. At Jones Beach, A portion of every entry ticket will support Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Foundation for Long Island State Parks Inc.

Magic of Lights at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island

The Magic of Lights uses the latest CAD technology and is hand-crafted at the Magic of Lights warehouse in Medina, OH,. The displays combine for more than 10 miles of LED lighting across all presentations, in the trees, and on the buildings. There are 10 different colors of LED bulbs used. The highest scene is 32-feet tall, and the longest is several hundred feet long. The steel displays are designed, bent, cut, and welded into about 800 frames combined in different configurations to create each show’s giant winter holiday scenes.

The Magic of Lights is produced in partnership between Live Nation and FunGuys Events. In Long Island, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is a co-producer and the event is presented by New York Community Bank.

Jones Beach State Park, 895 Bay Parkway Jones Beach, NY.  To book, go to https://magicoflights.com/events/jonesbeach/

Bronx Zoo’s Holiday Lights Festival

The Bronx Zoo’s family holiday lights festival returns for select dates from Nov. 19-Jan. 9. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The outdoor celebration is complete with festive entertainment, seasonal treats and classic holiday music.

The walk-through experience features more than 260 lanterns representing almost 70 animal and plant species; 79 new lanterns representing 30 new animal species will make their debut at this year’s Holiday Lights. The family-favorite Holiday Train returns for 2021 (Astor Court; $3, $2 Members).

Entertainment includes family-friendly puppet adventures and test your wits in an animal trivia challenge (Wildlife Theater, Dancing Crane Pavilion); animal-themed stilt walkers at Astor Court; costumed wildlife characters you can take a photo with Santa at the Somba village; see nightly ice carving demonstrations as expert artists create wildlife art from giant ice blocks at Grizzly Corner and  live Ice Carving Competitions on Fridays beginning Nov. 26 (except Dec. 31), when expert ice artists go head-to-head (Grizzly Corner).

Enjoy seasonal treats of hot cocoa, roasted marshmallows, ice cream, coffee, and gifts plus more s’mores than ever before, featuring creative toppings (throughout the Zoo).

Pre-purchased tickets are required: https://bronxzoo.com/holiday-lights

Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460, 718-220-5100 https://bronxzoo.com/

Zoo Lights Returns to the Maryland Zoo

Zoo Lights, presented by Chase, returns to The Maryland Zoo. From Friday, November 19 through Sunday, January 2, this seven-week seasonal after-hours event features more than 80 light displays with 150,000 environmentally friendly LED lights to transform the Zoo into a sparkling winter wonderland. Zoo Lights runs five nights a week, Wednesday-Sunday, from 5 pm to 8 pm.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, guests will be on foot walking along a beautifully lit path past dazzling displays including some favorite animals reimagined as light sculptures beginning at the Main Gate, heading down Buffalo Yard Road into Zoo Central and the Farmyard for carousel rides, hot cocoa and maybe a glimpse of Santa.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, experience Zoo Lights from the comfort of your vehicle (ideal for those who would prefer to stay socially separated or aren’t comfortable walking long distances).

Tickets are $33 per vehicle for the drive-thru experience and $28 per person for the walk-thru experience; advanced purchase is required. Members receive a $5 discount on each ticket purchased. (Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the event may be modified due to inclement weather.)

 Information and reservations: www.marylandzoo.org/ZooLights.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, One Safari Place, Baltimore, MD 21217, 410-396-7102, marylandzoo.org.

Palm Beach Zoo’s “Zoo Lights”

Palm Beach Zoo Lights

While the animals slumber, Palm Beach Zoo is illuminated for the holidays with over one million eco-friendly lights. The “Zoo Lights “festival  takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 19-Jan. 2, 2022. Each evening from 6-9 pm, the Zoo will be aglow with themed displays throughout its 23 acres.  The festive holiday fun also features photos with Santa (until Dec. 23rd), a DJ holiday dance party, and seasonal treats. Nightly attendance is limited and timed tickets are required to be purchased in advance online.

Palm Beach Zoo, 1301 Summit Boulevard, West Palm Beach, Florida 33405, 561-547-9453 (WILD), https://www.palmbeachzoo.org/.

Finger Lakes Festival of Lights

Finger Lakes Festival of Lights, a new, world-class, attraction featuring thousands of dazzling lights is now open every evening through December. More than 1,000 illuminated silk, porcelain and steel larger-than-life Chinese lanterns draw visitors through a magical path of discovery with each turn providing beautiful and unexpected moments of excitement and awe.

Finger Lakes Festival of Lights

Seneca Lake was carefully selected for this incredible show because of its natural, outdoor setting known for its unparalleled vistas, crystal clear water and majestic trees and foliage.  The show brings this scenery to life after dark, creating an experience that celebrates and enhances the natural world at night through artistic fantasy and illumination.

Produced by American Lantern Festivals Inc., the Finger Lakes Festival of Lights illustrates the story of a brother and sister who visit their grandfather in the Finger Lakes. Grandpa spins tall tales and stories about Seneca Lake.

The Finger Lakes Festival of Lights is a one-mile, self-guided walk through the woods, on a highly manicured path that’s accessible for people of all ages and abilities. The Festival is located behind Grist Iron Brewing in Burdett. The experience is open seven days a week, opening at 7PM with last entry at 9:30PM. (Grist Iron Brewing Company, 4880 NYS Route 414, Burdett, NY 14818, 929-434-1342, http://gristironbrewing.com/)

All tickets are single use general admission and allow entrance to the festival anytime after opening date. Tickets start at $19.95 if purchased in advance online; the cost at the door is $30; children four and under enter free.  Information and tickets are online, https://fingerlakeslights.com/

Highlights of other holiday-themed events at New York State sites include a Gilded Age Christmas celebration at the decorated Staatsburgh State Historic Site in the Hudson Valley, a Black Friday hike through a rare Lake Erie sand dune environment at Woodlawn Beach State Park, a post-Thanksgiving “Turkey Trot” run at Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, a visit by Santa Claus at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, and the 47th annual Christmas Bird Count at Letchworth State Park in western New York.  For a complete listing of holiday events, visit the NYS Parks calendar of events here. The list will be updated as further events are added. Some events may require pre-registration or an admission fee. More information at www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. 

Winter Lights on Cape Ann: 150 Displays Nov. 26 – Jan. 2

The Second Annual 2021 Winter Lights on Cape Ann Display Celebration is beginning the day after Thanksgiving, November 26 and extending through January 2. More than 150 places are lit up throughout Cape Ann to celebrate the joys of the season. A custom-designed Google Drive Map has been produced and available at www.discovergloucester.com/winter-lights-cape-ann.- highlighting Rockport, Gloucester, Magnolia, Essex and Manchester’s participating locations.

Holidays at the Newport Mansions

There will be more lights, more trees and more festive outdoor decorations as Holidays at the Newport Mansions returns to The Breakers, Marble House and the Elms, starting November 20 in Newport, Rhode Island.

For the second year in a row, “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers: An Outdoor Magical Wonderland” will illuminate the historic landscape with thousands of lights in a variety of colors. But this outdoor attraction has been significantly expanded to include the southern portion of the property, allowing visitors to stroll along a winding path while enjoying holiday music and displays like the Peppermint Woods, Gnome Knoll, Snow People Corner and Glowing Grove, among others.

Once again, the Children’s Cottage will be decorated and will include a selfie station. The northern portion of the winding path will feature a Tunnel of Light and other displays.  A 16-foot Christmas tree-shaped light display will be set up on the porte-cochère above the main entrance to The Breakers.

A total of 28 Christmas trees will glow in various places throughout The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms, featuring ornate, themed decorations that reflect the room where they are located. As always, the 15-foot poinsettia tree in The Great Hall of The Breakers – made up of 150 poinsettia plants – will provide a perfect holiday photo opportunity for visitors. And at Marble House, a 20-foot Christmas tree will be positioned outdoors directly in front of the main entrance.

Poinsettias, flowers, evergreens, wreaths and floral arrangements will decorate the fireplace mantels, tabletops and staircases of these historic mansions throughout the holiday season. Many of the plants and flowers used have been grown by the Preservation Society’s Gardens and Landscapes Department, including more than 500 poinsettias and 1,200 lilies.

Beginning November 20, The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms will be decorated and open daily for the holidays, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. All properties will close at 3 p.m. on December 24.

The Breakers will open at 10 a.m. daily through January 9. Mondays through Wednesdays with the last admission at 4 p.m. with the house and grounds closing at 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, last admission at The Breakers will be 3 p.m. The house and grounds will close at 4 p.m. before reopening at 5 p.m. for “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers.”

A separate ticket is required for “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers,” scheduled for Thursdays through Sundays from 5-7 p.m. The house will also be open for tours during those times. On December 18, The Breakers will have last admission at 3 p.m., the house and grounds will close at 4 p.m. and there will be no “Sparkling Lights.”

The Elms and Marble House will open daily at 10 a.m. through January 2. Last tour admission will be 4 p.m. The houses and grounds close at 5 p.m. On December 18, The Elms and Marble House will stay open for evening hours, with last admission at 6 p.m. Houses and grounds will close at 7 p.m.

The houses are in the care of The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, a nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2020. It is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties – seven of them National Historic Landmarks – span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

Preservation Society of Newport County, 401-847-1000, NewportMansions.org.

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Weekend Getaway in Enchanting Mendocino

Mendocino, California in its values and culture, is more “Coastal Elite” than “49er.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

At first blush, Mendocino on California’s northern coast is reminiscent of Cape Cod’s coastal towns but with a definite Western twist, like the wooden water towers (we wondered if they are still used, considering Mendocino’s water crisis), some repurposed into shops, like one that houses a Spells shop. This is expressed also in the charming architecture, much of it Victorian and the natural setting – high cliffs than drop into the Pacific Ocean – dramatic and spectacular.

Indeed, Mendocino seems to epitomize today’s California in
values and culture – the northern part, at least. The boutique shops,
restaurants and markets are high end, high quality but not pretentious –  they are artful and earthy. There are any number of holistic, New Age-y, naturalist services and organic food markets.  Mendocino is more “Coastal Elite” than “49er.”

 

Headlands Coastal Trail. Menodocino is more “coastal elite” than “49er” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The town itself hugs the rocky coast, providing a stunning scene from the coastal cliff walk, Headlands Coastal Trail, that snakes around and turns on itself for two miles. There is constant drama as waves rise out of green, aquamarine ocean crash against rocks, rush through rock tunnels with a roar and then spit up through a rocky blowhole.

Despite COVID and despite a drought so severe the town has
to truck in water, Mendocino is charming, welcoming, and exudes tranquility (and resiliency) – all is right with the world in this slice of heaven.

Fog Eater Cafe, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After a pleasant, relaxing morning at Little River Inn, we head to a delightful Sunday brunch at Fog Eater Cafe. Indeed, we join a line
that has formed before the quaint restaurant with a 1940s/50s diner vibe for indoor dining and a gorgeous garden for outdoor dining, even opens. The hearty menu is a vegetarian fusion of Deep South/New Orleans and NorCal (if you can imagine that), big on comfort food, served on gorgeous, random antique China with silver utensils.  It’s a hoot, a feast for the eyes. You didn’t imagine Southern food could be vegan? The whole menu is vegan except for poached eggs and the preparations make you forget you’re not eating meat. 

Sunday brunch at Fog Eater Cafe, Mendocino: corn bread French toast © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I get the corn bread French toast with apple, soaked in syrup. There’s fried cauli+ waffles (fried cauliflower and green onion sorghum waffle with pepper jelly and spicy sorghum syrup); pimento cheese and
black-eyed pea sausage biscuit sandwich; savory oatmeal with local tempeh bacon, roasted carrots, braised greens with either poached egg or tofu. Fog Eater Café is open for Sunday brunch, happy hour, and dinner when menu items might include Cheesy Pumpkin Grits, Fried Blue Oyster Mushrooms, fried green tomato biscuit sliders and a Southern Plate featuring mac ‘n cheese. The beignets come with a rhubarb jam. Natural wine, local beer and wine-based cocktails are also served. (Outdoor dining available for all; indoor dining for fully vaccinated guests; also take out; no reservations, 45104 Main St., Mendocino, CA 95460).

“Come in for a spell” at Loot and Lore, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

With great delight, we walk each street to explore the lovely shops and galleries in Mendocino (the village’s scale is perfect) – coming upon such special places as the Mendocino James & Preserves, Moore Used Books and Big River Trading Company on Main Street; the Artists Co-op of Mendocino, My Chic Farmhouse, and Icons on Albion Street; Mendocino Country Store on Ukiah; Mendocino Chocolate Company, Déjà Vu, on Lansing Street. Most intriguing is Loot and Lore, a wicca supplies shop on Albion, housed in a former water tower, where the sign that greets you is “Come in for a spell.” (We peek in through the window because it was closed when we visit.)

Water tower houses Loot and Lore, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We particularly loved Compass Rose (613 Albion Street), featuring American Crafts – the oldest family-run business in Mendocino, established 50 years ago; the father makes the leather items; there are also stunning objects in glass. Also, Rainsong offering exquisite contemporary clothing, accessories – you could imagine a millionaire coming to Mendocino for a weekend, buying a house and furnishing it and their wardrobe in one spot – the quality and designs are spectacular (10470 Lansing Street).

Compass Rose, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The galleries are marvelous – you never know what you will discover. I am enthralled coming upon the wildlife and nature photography of Jon Klein at the Lansing Street Gallery, which accurately describes itself as  “a hub for coastal and Bay Area artists, representing a diverse, vibrant and creative community” in the best fashion (lansingstreetgallery.com)

I especially love Mendocino’s rich heritage – mixed or repurposed but preserved – like the water towers that once supplied the homes (and may well again, considering the drought). Besides the historic Ford House that now serves as the Visitor Center for Mendocino Headlands state park, the Kelly House Museum serves as the town’s historical society and offers docent-led walking tours ($20 pp) as well as self-guided audio tours (707-937-5791, www.kelleyhousemuseum.org).

Historic Mendocino Hotel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We loved wandering into the historic Mendocino Hotel, established 1878 – as you walk through the door with its etched glass into the Victorian lobby, you feel you have crossed through a time portal.

But what most transfixes me is the sculpture atop the Masonic Hall, dating from 1873, “Time and the Maiden,” which has become Mendocino’s iconic landmark.

 

“Time and the Maiden” atop the Masonic Hall has become Mendocino’s iconic landmark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I later learn that this exquisite sculpture by Erick Albertson, “the first Worshipful Master” of the Masonic Hall, was hand-carved “out of a single virgin redwood trunk”, is over 10 feet high and wasn’t specifically commissioned for the hall. Albertson, who undertook construction of the hall in 1866, “created the statue as a personal exercise of craftsmanship” but the Masonic members wanted it for the hall, so had a cupola built to support it.

 

Also known as ‘Father Time and the Weeping Maiden,” the haunting scene depicts a weeping girl reading from a book that rests on a broken column, an hourglass at its base; she holds an urn in her left hand and a sprig of acacia in her right, as Father Time, depicted as an angel with wings and carrying a scythe, stands behind her, tenderly braiding her hair.

“Time and the Maiden” atop the Masonic Hall has become Mendocino’s iconic landmark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

According to Wikipedia, the hour glass symbolizes the brevity of human life; the scythe and the urn foreshadow its end; the broken column symbolizes a life cut short prematurely, the weeping maiden represents those who mourn; the open book represents the enduring record of accomplishments. Acacia was the wood is specified in the Book of Exodus to use to build the Ark of the Covenant, and is also an evergreen known for its resistance to fire and decay, signifying the immortality of the human spirit. The symbols are drawn from history or mythology, and are used in Masonic rituals and rites. 

The masons have their own understanding of the symbols which boil down to “time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things.” 

But to me, the girl symbolizes lives cut short – so common in Albertson’s day. Father Time is also the Angel of Death but his scythe remains in its sheath. He is taking his time, tenderly braiding her hair. Perhaps she is telling him she has not yet had the opportunity to fill the pages of that book. Perhaps we are witnessing a negotiation. Has the hour glass run out for her?

The Masonic Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and though sold to a savings bank in 1977 which operates on the first floor, the Masons continue to hold their meetings there on the second floor.

Mendocino cherishes its heritage © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mendocino was the first of several north coast towns founded between 1851 and 1920 – the heyday of the lumber industry. German immigrant William Kasten was bound for gold country in 1850 when his ship ran aground off Mendocino coast; in 1851 he filed papers claiming the land. San Francisco engineer Harry Meiggs built a sawmill at Big River in 1852 and Little River was founded in 1854 as a mill town supplying the lumber that built San Francisco.

In 1854 Jerome B. Ford, superintendent of the first sawmill and founder of the town, built a home overlooking the Pacific. Today, the Ford House serves as the visitor center for Mendocino Headlands State Park and houses various exhibits.

Mendocino cherishes its heritage and what’s old can be new again © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many who found their fortune not in California’s gold but in lumber built these magnificent Victorian buildings. But over-logging resulted in depletion of the forests and led to businesses and the school being abandoned – until new enterprises, like the vineyards and tourism, repurposed and repopulated the area. (We stay at Little River Inn, opened by Ole Hervilla, a pioneer of Mendocino’s tourism, who converted his 1857 house into the inn in 1939).

We can’t leave Mendocino without returning for a brief walk on a favorite section of the Headlands trail, just before it starts to rain. Considering the drought, I expect to see people rushing out and dancing.

Headlands Coastal Trail, Mendocino © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During our all-too brief but oh so perfect weekend in Mendocino, every moment is filled with something special, and yet so unhurried and relaxed. We are able to enjoy the Skunk Train, Glass Beach, Noyo Harbor and Headlands Coastal Trail, as well as exploring Mendocino’s lovely shops, boutiques, markets and eateries. But there are scores of other places and experiences – so many with enchanting names and providence (Glass Beach, Pygmy Forest, Fairy Trail) – and we can’t wait to return.

On our list (with help of the Brewery Gulch Inn and Little River Inn):  

Beaches

Van Damme State Beach (the Little River Inn has its own trail down to the beach directly below). Among the activities, this is the launching point for sea cave tours by kayak (Kayak Mendocino, www.kayakmendocino.com, 707-813-7117)

Caspar Beach on Point Cabrillo Drive off Highway One. “Good rock and tide pooling during low tide”

Big River Beach just north of the bridge in Mendocino, where the redwoods meet the sea, is reached from the Presbyterian Church on Main Street to a staircase to the beach. “The most popular beach with lots of activity- surfers, volleyball, etc. Soft sand, river side is often warmer, currents can be dangerous”

Hikes:

The Haul Road at Big River – “Flat and straight, easy walk into the redwoods with a stroller”

Van Damme Pygmy Forest: Fern canyon and ecological staircase walk.“Wooden walkway has educational signage about the pygmy forest. Both walkway and trail are easy for shorter legs and strollers.”

The Fairy Trail – inside the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg. “Discover fairy dwellings and other surprises. The Gardens are hilly, so bring stroller or prepare to carry little ones.”

Jug Handle State Preserve – just north of Caspar on Highway One, which is recommended by a couple we meet at the Fog Eater. “Best example of an Ecological Staircase in the Western Hemisphere.”Hike through six different ecological zones – a five million year old ecological staircase with ancient marine terraces – wander through tall pygmy forests along a creek canyon. “Great educational science hike for older kids. Be sure to pick up the guide in the parking lot that explains everything.”

Montgomery Woods – first-growth redwood groves (there is an uphill half-mile hike to the virgin redwood groves)

MacKerricher State Park – scenic boardwalk along the ocean to tide pools and seal observation points or walk around the lake.

Ten-Mile Beach – dunes and miles of deserted beach, just north of Fort Bragg past the railroad trestle. – good for walking and biking.

Activities/Attractions

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens – 47 acres overlooking the Pacific

The Point Cabrillo Light House – (Schedule of events at PointCabrillo.org)

Bryan Preserve – in Point Arena: Preserve and breeding of endangered African hoof animals (Weekends, by appointment only). “The 2-hour Jeep tour better for older children”

CV Starr Aquatic Center, Fort Bragg: Water park with lazy river, water slide (must be 48”), and fountains.

Driving 128 through the Navarro Redwoods Forest © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The drive back to Sonoma along Route 128 is gorgeous – taking you through the Navarro Redwoods Forest and Anderson Valley wine region where we stop off at Husch Winery for a wine tasting (we enjoyed the wine at both the Brewery Gulch Inn and Little River Inn). It is very picturesque setting for wine tasting amidst the 21-acre vineyard of Pinot Noir (the vineyard was the first to grow Pinot here), Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer grapes (they require a warmer climate). Husch, founded in 1968, was one of the pioneering vineyards in the Anderson Valley and has used sustainable farming techniques since the 1960s (owl boxes help with gopher control, no till farming, sheep as mowers, insectory, cover crops, fish friendly farm).  In 1971 Husch made history by becoming the first bonded winery in the Anderson Valley. H.A. Oswald (neighboring grape growers) purchased the winery from Tony and Gretchen Husch in 1979; today the Oswald grandchildren run the day-to-day. (Husch Vineyards, 4400 Highway 128, Philo, CA 95466, 800-554-8724, huschvineyards.com)

Husch Vineyards © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We also stop at the PennyRoyal farm in Boonville, famous for its cheese and wine, happy to show off its 23 acres of vineyards, sustainable farming practices and traditional winemaking methods. The rain now coming down heavily (and you need a reservation for a tasting or tour), we stop just long enough to buy delectable cheese produced from their sheep and goats (www.pennyroyalfarm.com).

For excellent planning help: Visit Mendocino County, 866-466-3636, 707-964-9010, www.visitmendocino.com.

See also:

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN MENDOCINO: BREWERY GULCH INN

WEEKEND IN MENDOCINO: HISTORIC SKUNK TRAIN INTRODUCES A NOVEL RAILBIKE EXPERIENCE

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN MENDOCINO: LITTLE RIVER INN

______________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights
reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at
goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Weekend Getaway in Mendocino: Little River Inn

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is just after sunset when we arrive at the Little River Inn, perched on a lovely curve on the Mendocino coast with a commanding view of the ocean. Little River Inn is one of the oldest lodgings on this dramatic stretch of the Northern California coastline, family-owned for 80 years. Over the years, it has expanded, upgraded and modernized in delightful ways to be a true luxury resort with the charm of an inn and ideal for everything from a romantic getaway to a family adventure to a destination wedding.

The original house that is the nucleus of the inn was built in 1857 by Silas Coombs, and has remained in the family ever since. Grandfather Ole Hervilla, clearly a pioneer in turning Mendocino’s economy from lumbering to tourism, turned the original building into an inn in 1939, which is now run by its fifth generation innkeeper, Cally Dym.

The original house that is the nucleus of the Little River Inn was built in 1857. Grandfather Ole Hervilla, a pioneer in turning Mendocino’s economy from lumbering to tourism, turned the original building into an inn in 1939, which is now run by its fifth generation innkeeper, Cally Dym © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Set on 225 wooded acres, the old Coombs home is now surrounded by 65 ocean view rooms in townhouse-style units where you have your own entrance and your own balcony and luxurious amenities like Jacuzzis, steam showers, private hot tubs, gas and wood-burning fireplaces, superior quality bedding and linens. There is also a lovely dining room in the original building and a legendary Ole’s Whale Watch bar.

The Little River Inn is distinguished by having a nine-hole golf course – the only golf course on the Mendocino coast (Ole actually built it himself in 1957 after being dissuaded by the cost of hiring golf architects); two tennis courts with lights for night play, and a day-spa.

Dining in the inn’s restaurant is sublime. The garden has been opened for outside seating (actually it is a tent) as an accommodation for COVID but has proved extremely popular – we sit among twinkle lights at the base of redwood trees.

Little River Inn has turned its lush garden into a dining space © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The sophisticated menu offers a host of delightful preparations, marvelous flavors and gorgeous presentation. Sarah indulges in the Spicy Lobster Tagliolini prepared with lobster meat, lobster-tomato broth, yuzu caviar and house-made Tagliolini pasta (one of the “small plate” offerings that is sufficient for a main course); mushroom agnolotti prepared with “black pearl” oyster mushrooms, ricotta, parmesan with a black truffle cream and pecorino tartufo. Eric savors the Cioppino, prepared with Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, local rock fish, simmered in a tomato-fennel broth; and I delight in good ol’ Ole’s cheese Burger with flourishes of grilled onions, tomato, mayo, pickes, Pain de Mei bun, prepared with perfection.

Chef Dym’s Spicy Lobster Tagliolini prepared with lobster meat, lobster-tomato broth, yuzu caviar and house-made Tagliolini pasta © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These are the creations of five-star chef Marc Dym, who was named Executive Chef at Little River Inn in 2006 after Marc and Cally (the fifth-generation Innkeeper) were married. Dym, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, brings a modern twist to classic American-regional cuisine and have garnered Little River Inn high Zagat ratings.

Schedule a tee time at Little River Inn’s Audubon-certified 5,458-yard, nine-hole golf course. Tucked among redwoods and pine trees, it offers majestic views of the Pacific and some “unexpected” challenges.

The Little River Inn’s Audubon-certified 5,458-yard, nine-hole golf course – the only golf course on the Mendocino coast – offers great views and interesting challenges © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

I love the colorful back story that once again features Ole Hervilla, who turns out to have been a major visionary for Mendocino’s tourism:  After watching Arnold Palmer play on television, in the 1950s, he got the idea to build a golf course at the inn because it would be a draw for guests. Locals were skeptical that anybody would want to play golf on the coast (tell that to Pebble Beach).  Working with his own contractors (after getting cost estimates from golf architects), he opened his course in 1957.

There is also a driving range, putting green, two lighted tennis courts (available free to guests; they even supply the racquet) and fully stocked Golf and Tennis Pro Shop (call 707-937-5667 to reserve a tee time).

Little River Inn’s Spa offers a full array of services including customized massages and facials (open daily, 10 am-5 pm).

Reveling in a quiet cup of coffee on our balcony at Little River Inn, looking out to the Pacific Ocean © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

All of this – the setting, accommodations, dining, amenities – makes Little River Inn prime for destination weddings from elopements to grand affairs of 200, reunions, as well as events and functions, with four different venues.

The inn is especially welcoming to families and offers Family Discovery and Family Adventure packages, and children under 16 stay free.  Pet-friendly units are also available (check out the Water Dog package). Other packages include Stargazing, Romance, there are also special offerings for festivals and seasonal promotions.

Stroll down Little River Inn’s private trail to Van Damme State Beach to enjoy the sunset and the tidepools © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Little River Inn is perfectly positioned to take advantage of all the attractions in Mendocino, Fort Bragg. You can stroll down its private trail down to Van Damme State Beach where there are 10 miles of hiking trails, a Pygmy forest, beach and tidepools.

View from Little River Inn lawn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And so, after lingering over coffee sitting in rocking chairs on our balcony, reveling in the view to the Pacific Ocean, we set out to thoroughly explore Mendocino.

Little River Inn, 7901 N Highway 1, Little River, CA, United States, 95456, 888-INN-LOVE, 707-937-5942 www.littleriverinn.com.

For excellent planning help: Visit Mendocino County, 866-466-3636, 707-964-9010, www.visitmendocino.com.

See also:

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN MENDOCINO: BREWERY GULCH INN

WEEKEND IN MENDOCINO: HISTORIC SKUNK TRAIN INTRODUCES A NOVEL RAILBIKE EXPERIENCE

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN ENCHANTING MENDOCINO

____________________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Weekend in Mendocino: Historic Skunk Train Introduces a Novel RailBike Experience

The legendary Skunk Train on the Pudding Creek track, out of the historic depot in Fort Bragg, California © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our Mendocino, California weekend sojourn continues. From the Brewery Gulch Inn, where we stayed our first night, it is a picturesque 20 minute drive up the coast to Fort Bragg for the Skunk Train, a vintage steam train that weaves through the redwood forests of the Noyo River Canyon. That was alluring enough, but what really captured our imagination was the idea of riding a “railbike” on the same train tracks through the forest. Railbike?

Before you board the Skunk Train or railbike, sure to visit the model train display and the historic exhibits across the track from the Skunk Train depot © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Train buffs will be absolutely ecstatic to visit the historic train station, walk across the tracks to a fantastic model train exhibit and historical society exhibit housed in appropriately aged buildings (so atmospheric), then board the train for a fairly short ride about 3 ½ miles down the track along the Pudding Creek, to Glen Blair Junction before returning, for a total of 7 miles. Weather permitting, you can ride an open car or sit inside the vintage cars.

Boarding the Skunk Train at Glen Blair Junction © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Since 1885 the historic Skunk has made its way through these old-growth redwood groves, over scenic trestle bridges, through tunnels, and into the heart of the Noyo River Canyon, primarily for logging purposes. Today, the repurposed train offers five trains that ply two different routes and two different railbike experiences.

First the railbike experience.

Riding the railbike through the redwood forest en route to Glen Blair Junction © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Two of us have already gotten onto our railbike (it seats two people) – custom-built, patent pending, specially designed like a recumbent, where you sit back, outfitted with electronic-assist, and virtually silent so you can really appreciate the forest.

Riding the railbike through the redwood forest en route to Glen Blair Junction © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We take the more modest of the railbike trips that are offered, The Pudding Creek railbike trip, which gives you an excellent taste and can be done by just about anyone. It is 7 miles roundtrip traveling along the same tracks as the scenic train – in fact, the trips are coordinated so the railbikes leave first, then the train, then the train leaves and the railbikes follow. (Note: it is downhill most of the way but uphill most of the way back, along a grade that is higher than most railroads – no problem, you have the motor assist!). There are two guides who accompany us – one in front and one in the back. People follow one after another but everyone is independent.

Railbikers return to the station © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One person is designated the “driver” (the other is the passenger) who is given an orientation before we set off how to brake and use the electronic assist; the passenger just pedals (it is manageable for a parent and young child). It is fun, and you get this wonderful opportunity to just chat and be together as you roll through the forest.

The Puddle Creek railbike excursion takes less than two hours, including time at Glen Blair Junction where we get off (as the railbikes are reversed for the return), and can walk a delightful forest loop trail.

This gives the historic train time to arrive, the train passengers to also get out and stretch, and depart before the railbike riders start back. The guide gives us some narration here and points to where the train tunnel has collapsed.

While Eric and I set out on the railbike, Sarah boards the train at the Fort Bragg depot for the relaxed, scenic 7-mile roundtrip journey on the Pudding Creek Express, traveling along the same Pudding Creek Estuary through primeval ancient redwoods forest to the Glen Blair Junction.

The stop at Glen Blair Junction gives the railbikers time to hike a short trail in the redwood forest which brought industry and settlers to Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Trains also stop at Glen Blair Junction for 15 minutes, allowing the passengers to get off and explore. But if you would like to spend more time walking the trails among the redwoods, you can stay behind and catch the next train (roughly two hours later). You can bring a packed lunch (to enjoy at the picnic tables set out there.

We organize it so I switch off with Sarah who has come on the train so she can experience the railbike and I can experience the train on the way back (how clever of me since the return was more uphill). Both were delightful experiences and the length well suited to families with young children.

The Skunk Train claims to be the crookedest train in the West © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On the way back I hear the narrator say these were some of the first tracks ever laid down by the California Western Railroad in 1885 and have been used in some fashion just about ever since. He claims it is also the most crooked train in the West, possibly the world (though I would need confirmation of that). 1940s music is playing as we roll along. I mostly stay in the open car but wander through the passenger cars to see what that is like.

The Skunk Trains operate with both Diesel-Electric engines and a #45 Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikado Steam Engine, the Super Skunk, pulling the passenger cars, including a bar car with snacks, non-alcoholic drinks, beer, wine, and spirits, as well as an open air car.

Train buffs will love the back story of this historic train: the Fort Bragg Railroad was formed in 1885 to make transporting lumber easier, eventually being incorporated into the California Western Railroad, commonly known as The Skunk.

The train played a vital role transporting families and workers to their logging camps along the route, making The Skunk a different type of railroad, the website notes: It not only was key to the area’s economic activity but also its social and cultural life. “No other logging railroad in America has made the deep impression on American life that was created by the line from Fort Bragg – first by the natural beauty of its route and later, by the distinctiveness of its equipment,” the website boasts.

The nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925 when motorcars (actually railbuses or railcruisers) were introduced on the line. These single unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines for power and pot-bellied stoves burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm, but the fumes they emitted had a very pungent odor that people living along the line said smelled like skunk. “You could smell them before you could see them.” (No longer the case.)

The Skunk Train dates back to 1885 and played a vital role transporting families and workers to their logging camps along the route, and not only was key to the area’s economic activity but also its social and cultural life © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The California Western Railroad was first operated as a division of the Fort Bragg mill (Union Lumber Company, Boise-Cascade). In the mid-1960s, Arizona-based Kyle Railways began managing the railroad and purchased it in 1987. In August 1996, a group of local Mendocino Coast investors purchased California Western, marking the first time in its 111-year history that the line operated as an independent business. Today the Skunk Train is owned and operated by Mendocino Railway.

The Pudding Creek train operates year-round and the railbikes operate rain or shine, so just bring raingear if the weather isn’t great).

The Pudding Creek railbike excursion is $250 for one or two people; the train is $41.95 (Ages 13 and up); $25.95 (Ages 2-12), Infant: $10.95; Dog: $10.95.

Be sure to visit the model train display and the historic exhibits across the track from the Skunk Train depot © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Train buffs should consider the longer excursion, the two-hour Wolf Tree Turn a scenic 16-mile roundtrip journey departing from the Willits valley floor that takes you over the summit of the line (1740 feet elevation), through Tunnel #2, and down into the Noyo River Canyon where you are immersed in the redwood forest that made Mendocino County famous. The train stops briefly at Crowley, giving passengers the opportunity to visit one of the oldest and most iconic trees along the route, the Wolf Tree (named for the large growth off of one side which woodsmen called “wolf trees”) (Adult: $49.95; child: $29.95; Infant: $10.95; Dog: $10.95).

There is a much longer, more ambitious railbike experience, as well: a four-hour excursion that travels the Redwood Route takes you 25 miles along the meandering Noyo River and deep into old-growth redwood groves on a section of track now reserved exclusively for the railbikes ($495/railbike for one or two people).

Eric and Sarah pedal the railbike © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are loads of seasonal and themed events as well: Cinema in the Redwoods; Music in the Redwoods; Magical Christmas Train; Easter Express, Pumpkin Express; summer BBQ trains, murder mystery trains, the Mushroom Train, the Crab & Cremant train and Railbikes by Moonlight. The trains can also be used to host corporate meetings, picnics, parties, proms, weddings, baby showers, and  team building.

The Pudding Creek railbike excursion is $250 for one or two people; the Pudding Creek Express train departing Fort Bragg year-round is $41.95 (Ages 13 and up); $25.95 (Ages 2-12), Infant: $10.95; Dog: $10.95.

Skunk Train, 100 West Laurel Street Fort Bragg, California 95437;
299 East Commercial Street Willits, California 95490, www.skunktrain.com.

Glass Beach

Polished sea glass like gemstones at Glass Beach, Fort Bragg © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From here, it is a very short distance to go to Glass Beach in Fort Bragg – one of the absolute highlights of this place. The intriguing name and spectacularly picturesque scene belie the origins of the beach and why it is covered with tiny, shimmering pebbles of sea glass like gemstones: Rather than the sea glass floating in on waves from various places and mysteriously collecting here, the sea glass is in this space because it was once a garbage heap and the glass bottles tossed away over the years have broken down, smoothed and rounded by the rhythmic waves. There is a finite amount of glass so though it is illegal to remove any glass, people take what they think is an insignificant amount, and over the years, has drained the beach of much of what it used to have. Still, it is magical.

Polished sea glass like gemstones at Glass Beach, Fort Bragg © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The water crashes against rocks just off the shore here, making for dramatic scene (but not suitable for swimming or letting kids venture into the water). You can hike north up to Pudding Creek Beach where a paved multi-use trail crosses over an old train trestle; other trails go south from Glass Beach to other glassy beaches.

Dramatic scenery at Glass Beach, Fort Bragg © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Glass Beach is at the southern end of the sprawling MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg, which is noted for birdlife and harbor seals.

Dramatic scenery at Glass Beach, Fort Bragg © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Polished sea glass like gemstones at Glass Beach, Fort Bragg © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
You can hike from Glass Beach north up to Pudding Creek Beach where a paved multi-use trail crosses over an old train trestle; other trails go south from Glass Beach to other glassy beaches © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From here, we follow the Brewery Gulch Inn’s concierge recommendation to lunch at Princess Seafood in Noyo Harbor, an actual fishing port where various restaurants have sprung up to serve the fresh catch. Princess Seafood not only is totally operated by women, but the fishing boat that brings in its catch is run by women, as well.

We take the short drive into Mendocino to explore this charming place.

Headlands Coastal Trail

You literally step across Main Street from Mendocino’s charming shops and eateries to enter Mendocino Headlands State Park, a 347-acre park that envelops this enchanting village. The coastal trail is nothing less than spectacular: dramatic 70-foot bluffs providing views of rocky offshore islands, tide pools and beaches below. The hiking trail begins at the Ford House Visitor Center and continues for some 2 miles around the entire bluff of the headlands to the north side of town.

Hiking the Headlands Coastal Trail, you get a great view of Mendocino and Portuguese Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our hike starts overlooking Noyo Bay, then snakes around to open views of the Pacific.

One of the highlights of this incomparable trail is Portuguese Beach, named for the Portuguese sailors from the Azores who were among Mendocino’s early settlers. The tide is low enough when we take the stairs down to Portuguese Beach to come upon these fabulous formations of driftwood, and can see at water level the rock arch. Eric can’t resist and with great abandon, plunges into the frigid water. The beach, its sand surprisingly soft, is aptly named, since it is reminiscent of the beaches in Portugal’s Algarve.

Encompassed by high bluffs, Portuguese Beach is reminiscent of the beaches in the Algarve of Portugal © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Continuing on the trail, we see remnants of the logging that was Mendocino’s primary industry, and, at a promontory about half-way along the trail, you take a small path to a blow hole/punchbowl where the ocean smashes up through a hole in the rocks, with a roar and a splash.

Coming upon the blow hole on the Headlands Coastal Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rounding the bend, there are dramatic rock formations. Offshore and north of the west end of Little Lake Street is Goat Island, a large flat offshore rock that is part of the California Coastal National Monument where you are also likely to see various shorebirds and seabirds. Indeed, it is a good idea to bring binoculars because whales and birds can be seen throughout the year.

Headlands Coastal Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Headlands Coastal Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The visitor center for Mendocino Headlands State Park is in the Historic Ford House on the south side of Main Street near the beach. It is worth a visit especially if you are interested in local history and the flora and fauna you are likely to encounter at the beaches and on the trails nearby. Walking tours are also available. There are public restrooms at the north and south ends of the Headlands- on Heeser Drive and near the Ford House.

Headlands Coastal Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Headlands trail is a fabulous place to watch the sunset – the sun literally falls into the ocean – before we head to our next destination, Little River Inn.

Headlands Coastal Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Headlands Coastal Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Headlands Coastal Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For excellent planning help: Visit Mendocino County, 866-466-3636, 707-964-9010, www.visitmendocino.com.

See also:

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN MENDOCINO: BREWERY GULCH INN

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN MENDOCINO: LITTLE RIVER INN

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN ENCHANTING MENDOCINO

______________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Weekend Getaway in Mendocino: Brewery Gulch Inn

Savoring the peace, the view, and the bento box dinner and wine at Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino, California © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

To get to Mendocino, you drive through Anderson Valley with its picturesque vineyards, wineries, and farms, take a twisty road that winds around hills, and go through the Navarro Redwood Forest (a magical experience) and finally, along the Pacific coast. You are already feeling the calm sweep over you by the time you reach Brewery Gulch Inn, set on a hillside with a sweeping view of a cove and the ocean. And then you fully exhale and feel all stress and worldly concerns slip away. Time seems to slow down.

Brewery Gulch Inn

With Mendocino itself just around the bend, we head directly to the Brewery Gulch Inn, a marvelously quiet, intimate inn (just 10 rooms) which sits just above the coastal highway, nestled amid trees and lush landscaping.

Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino, is a place of perfect peace © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We arrive just in time for the 5:30-6:30 pm wine hour – a delightful tasting that accompanies a delicious artfully prepared light dinner. There are many modifications due to COVID-consciousness – so many actually being very pleasant adaptations that have become popular with guests. So, instead of serving the inn’s signature dinner as a buffet, we are given our own bento box, accessed with our room key (late arrivals will find it in their room).

The Great Room, Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We can sit in the Great Room – a combination living room and dining room (with well spaced tables) set around a fireplace, that opens out to the outdoor patio, or we can sit outside on the patio or lawn. We opt for the outdoors, bathing in the golden light of the setting sun as it falls into the ocean, watching waves hit against rocks in the intriguingly named Smuggler’s Cove, and hummingbirds chase each other. The feeling of well-being – pure contentment –  washes over us. It is perfection.

Each day, Executive Chef Stephen Smith prepares artful, imaginative dinner selections that are a feast for the eyes as well as the palette, featuring organic produce accompanied by local wines and beers (included in the stay).

Enjoying our bento-box dinner at Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino, on the lawn as the sun sets © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This evening’s menu features Pina Colada prawns; creamy green chili and parmesan cheese polenta; chilled black bean and corn salad; chocolate-raspberry truffle tart. The menu changes daily: the night before we arrived, dinner consisted of Cajun chicken fingers with Creole remoulade and pickled zucchini; maple-whipped sweet potatoes; orange chiffon cake with cream cheese frosting and crème Anglaise. On another night: crispy duck breast with rosemary Dijon & cranberry-ginger gastrique, blue corn polenta crackers, fennel-smoked tomato stuffing, House-pickled vegetables and Gran Marnier chocolate mousse.

The Great Room, Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Every detail is carefully arranged: the dinner is served in “Mendo-style” bento boxes created by local woodworker, John Myers, from the same eco-salvaged redwood used to construct the Inn. The boxes are labeled with the name of each room (ours is Osprey and is decorated with Osprey images) so that guests can be sure the box prepared for their room will accommodate their dietary restrictions. “We are hoping the portability provided by these boxes will make it easier for you to dine outside, in our Great Room, or in the privacy of your room.”

(If you arrive after the concierge leaves, the bento box is sent into the room. They ask that you inform them by 10 am if you won’t be dining at the inn for the evening, to avoid food waste.)

Wine-hour at Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Every possible guest comfort is integrated into the experience. The Great room is loaded with games (even the furniture becomes a game board) and a huge selection of DVDs (just help yourself); there are bird books and a spotter scope on the patio;  fresh coffee, fresh fruit and fruit-infused iced water set out, as well as a refrigerator that we guests can use – and the sweet, patient help of the concierge.

Watching the sun fall into the ocean at Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The interior design, furnishings and art are exquisite. And the ambiance and services are also very in tune with the environment – there are several EV charging stations (you are asked to reserve time).

The effect is to be a place of serenity and peace.

Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino, is a place of perfect peace © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We loved the personal notes from Guy Pacurar, Proprietor, Sarah Rowe, Guest Services and Manager, Laura Hockett in advance of our stay that ask about dietary restrictions, and offer driving directions with suggestions of places to stop along the route and activities to pre-book.  

The inn’s website offers marvelous suggestions of what to do in the area, especially what might be pre-booked. Under Pre-Arrival Concierge, there are various services and activities, including massages, wine tours and tastings such as in Anderson Valley, horseback rides, chocolates, wines, restaurant reservations, that the inn can arrange for you prior to your arrival.

Morning view from our Osprey room at Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the morning, there we find muffins and coffee laid out and we enjoy a marvelous cooked-to-order breakfast in the Great Room (we could also have asked it to be served in our guest room). I have a delectable salmon scramble.

Enjoying a cooked-to-order breakfast at Brewery Gulch Inn, before heading out to explore Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Considering what is included in the experience – the wine tasting, light dinner accompanied by local wines and beers, lavish cooked-to-order breakfast from a seasonal menu (in the Great Room or served in your guest room), WiFi – this is an intimate inn (just 10 rooms) which provides the experience of a luxury hotel that is also a value proposition.

Osprey room at Brewery Gulch Inn, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is no wonder Brewery Gulch Inn consistently merits awards and accolades: named to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2021 Readers’ Choice for Best Hotels-Northern California, its seventh time on Conde Nast Travelers’ list of best lodging properties in the US; Travel & Leisure’s Top 15 Resorts in California (2021) and a six-time winner of Travel & Leisure’s World’s Best Lodging Awards.

In the morning, aided by the suggestions of Brewery Gulch’s concierge (Glass Beach, Noyo Harbor for lunch, Headlands Coastal Trail for a hike), we head out to explore. First stop, the famous, historic Skunk Train and its novel “railbike” experience in Fort Bragg, just 20 minutes up the coastal road.

Brewery Gulch Inn, 9401 North Highway One, Mendocino, CA, 95460, 800-578-4454, brewerygulchinn.com.

For excellent planning help: Visit Mendocino County, 866-466-3636, 707-964-9010, www.visitmendocino.com.

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New Yorkers Cheer Playful Comeback of Village Halloween Parade- Photo Highlights

New York City’s Village Halloween Parade is famous for its giant puppets © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s famed Village Halloween Parade is always thrilling and fun, but this year’s was especially joyful.

There was a special energy, sense of joy after the COVID hiatus in 2020 – with crowds returning to six and 10 deep at the barriers lining the parade route, from Spring Street to 16th Street on Sixth Avenue, many of the onlookers in costume.

Understandably, some of the marchers paid homage to COVID in their costumes, but most were throwbacks, nostalgic, playful and even innocent on this night of Devil May Care – the Wizard of Oz, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and impersonating games –with uncharacteristically few political statements (except for the interruption of an actual religious protest denouncing sinners, sparking “boos” from the crowd). On the other hand, many of the displays paid homage to protecting the climate and environment.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To be sure, there were lots of Satan, the Devil and Malificent but despite the requisite scary monsters, vampires (flash mob dancing to “Thriller”), and ghouls and such, there was a sense of childhood innocence.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

That’s because the 2021 theme (“in two parts”) was “Let’s Play” and “All Together Now” – and was manifested in many of the major displays, especially the giant puppets for which the Village Halloween Parade is known.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One huge group of puppets took the form of cartoon characters. And even the skeleton puppets which traditionally lead the parade seemed to have a smile on their skull.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There was even an entire circus, complete with tight rope walker.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director, challenged participants to “come up with a costume  idea that engages the audience and your fellow marchers–so we can PLAY together once again! Think Wheel of Fortune, a Kissing Booth, Play Ball! A Deck of Cards!”

Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director of the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Don’t be the ONLY GAME in Town–Join with your friends and play on!” she said. “Make up your own interactive or visually enticing game! And then, join us on our Special THEME section of the Parade!”

Indeed, there was a marching Deck of Cards, Hula Hoops, a board game float, and a Slinky Lady.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the highlights: Grand Marshal Randy Rainbow performing a song for the Spectrum 1 NY1 television broadcast.

Randy Rainbow, 2021 Grand Marshal of the Village Halloween Parade, treats onlookers to a performance © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is one of the best nights for New Yorkers to show their creativity, imagination, artistry and humor. It’s the night when you can be anything you want to be, when the lines between what’s real and what’s not are obliterated – even more so than on other nights of the year.

Here are photo highlights of the Village Halloween Parade 2021:

Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director, challenged participants in the Village Halloween Parade 2021 to “come up with a costume  idea that engages the audience and your fellow marchers–so we can PLAY together once again! Think Wheel of Fortune, a Kissing Booth, Play Ball! A Deck of Cards!” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s Village Halloween Parade is famous for its giant puppets © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Bindlestick Family Circus performs during the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Slinky Lady, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hula Hoops, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Deck of Cards, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York’s Gay & Lesbian marching band, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Scary Plastic Monster, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Climate Crisis, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Money, money money. Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of the puppeteers who make the Village Halloween Parade so special © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New Yorkers show off their artistry in the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Miss New York in the Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Celebrating its 48th Anniversary, New York’s Village Halloween Parade is:

The nation’s largest public Halloween celebration

Named as The Greatest Event on Earth by Festivals International for October 31

Attended by over 2 million people, seen by over 1 million on TV

The nation’s only major night Parade

Seen LIVE on NY 1 Television

Listed as one of the 100 Things to do Before You Die

Recipient of the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s Award for making a major contribution to the cultural life of New York City

Recipient of a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of Longtime Artistic Achievement

Recipient of the Mayor’s Tourism Grant in recognition of the Parade’s major impact on the economic life of New York City and grants from the Manhattan Borough President’s Tourism Initiative

Picked by Events International as The Greatest Event on Earth on October 31, and ranked 3rd by Citysearch as the best event in New York City

Ranked by Biz Bash as one of the top 10 events in NYC

An event which has a positive impact on New York economic life, bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists and an estimated $90 million in tourism dollars into the city, providing Greenwich Village businesses and restaurants their best night of the year.

An event which has a tremendously positive impact on how people who live in or come to visit New York see and feel about this community. The excitement and goodwill that it generates is lasting.

In effect, by turning a large and complex city into a small town for just one night, the Parade has been a pioneer in the critical movement toward the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City.

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Bike Tour Operators Respond to Booming Demand With Itineraries Near & Far

E-biking through Albania with Jim Johnson of Biketours.com. Responding to a surge in demand for cycling trips, bike tour operators are offering itineraries as near as the Hudson Valley and as far as Japan and as novel as Norway and Albania © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bike tour operators, many still with marvelous fall 2021 itineraries available, are gearing up for 2022, many offering next year’s tours at this year’s prices for those who book early (most have liberal cancellation or change policies).

Responding to a boom in demand for biking, they are back to offering itineraries to international destinations that are classic favorites as well as newly emerging, off-the-beaten track places, as well as coming up with new domestic trips.

Biking has been extremely popular – ideal for enabling people to explore uncrowded destinations while being outside and sufficiently distant, while the wide availability of e-bikes have expanded the boundaries of where cyclists can venture.

Bike tours have been my favorite form of travel – you get to see things at just the right pace to really experience and enjoy, but still cover enough ground to be constantly delighted.

The best bike tours are designed to bring you to the most scenic and interesting places and attractions, provide accommodations in quaint local inns or even incorporate boat or barge.

There is a lot that the tour companies do, beginning with designing itineraries that maximize gorgeous scenery, immersion in local culture, and give you a great ride. They also shuttle bikes to the start and end of a daily ride if you aren’t riding point to point; shuttle luggage inn-to-inn (unless you are on a boat or barge tour, the added beauty of a boat or barge tour is that you don’t have to pack and unpack); booking charming accommodations and dining; and often arrange sightseeing as well as dining experiences. They also can change the itinerary on the spot should circumstances warrant and provide assistance if there is any difficulty along the way.

Self-guided trips also provide a lot of support beginning with an intensive orientation by a guide who provides detailed maps of the route (if not online GPS navigation) and vouchers to the pre-booked accommodations, shuttle luggage from one inn to the next, makes sure the bike properly fits and provide links to service if necessary.

Jim Johnson, Biketours.com founder and company president, preaches the benefits of bike tourism as one of the best ways to explore and become immersed in a destination, heritage and local cultures, a low-carbon, ecologically-friendly way to travel, and especially now, with more interest in being away from crowds.

“By creating a world almost devoid of tourism, the pandemic has provided us with a unique opportunity–a blank slate, in effect–to define what tourism will look like in the future. Bicycle travel provides a superb model for more responsible tourism, for better, more authentic experiences, and for more comfortable traveling,” Johnson writes on his Tailwind blog.

Biketours.com’s Venice-Trieste-Istria self-guided biketour brings us to colorful Caorle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

BikeTours.com has a fabulous catalog of European destinations, from Albania to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Estonia and Montengro, Romania and Slovenia.

Johnson offers this list of eight lesser-traveled European bike tour destinations deserving a visit: Bulgaria; Transylvania; Slovenia; Connemara Ireland; Apulia, Italy; Umbria, Italy; the Balkans.

I’ve traveled with BikeTours through Albania (by e-bike), on an incredible bike and boat tour through the Greek Islands, and guided tour of Slovenia, and self-guided trips on Danube Bike Trail and Venice to Croatia. The company is a broker for superb in-destination bike tour operators that provide excellent service, bikes, delightful accommodations, and offers excellent value.

I’m next eyeing one of Biketours.com’s Amsterdam-Bruges by bike and boat.

You can join Johnson on his Founder’s Tour, November 6-13, 2021, for Bike the South’s final Athens to Savannah tour of the 2021 season.

“I founded Bike the South during the pandemic, and I hope some of my BikeTours.com friends who have delayed overseas travel will join me for this last-minute domestic opportunity.”

The cost per person, double occupancy, $2,879, includes a donation to the Georgia Hi-Lo Trail, a 250-mile paved path under development from Athens to Savannah. This tour also helps create awareness about the project and demonstrate the potential economic impact of the trail and sustainable tourism on rural Georgia. (Contact jim@bike-the-south.com, www.bike-the-south.com/tours/athens-to-savannah). 

Biketours.com, Chattanooga, TN, 877-462-2423, info@biketours.com, biketours.com.

Discovery Bicycle Tours’ Coast of Maine cyclists enjoy a classic view at Thurston’s Lobster Pound © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can lock in your Discovery Bicycle 2022 biking adventure and your preferred dates for international tours, including the Moselle River Bike & Barge, by booking by November 1.

The 8-day Moselle River Bike & Barge tour, August 13-20, 2022, is maxed out at 24 passengers on the Iris. Just as on other Discovery Bike barge tours, there are two guides and a support van that accompany the riders; breakfasts and most dinners are on board. Cabins have two beds and a shower ($3695).

International travel will likely be extra popular in 2022 so it is recommended to book early.

Here are other international offerings from Discovery Bicycle:

In Europe tours are scheduled in ScotlandEnglandIreland or Denmark; in Italy,  three itineraries to choose from:  TuscanyPuglia and Dolomites to Venice; in Iberia, cycle Spain’s gorgeous Catalonia or take a voyage on the ancient paths of El Camino de Santiago; or visit Portugal and taste the treasures of the sea.

Other international cycling trips are available in ChileNew Zealand and Vietnam. Closer to home, is Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

Discovery Bicycle Tours offers what may be the first to design an itinerary on New York State’s new Empire State Trail, from the tip of Manhattan to Albany (the trail continues north to the Canadian border, and connects with the 353-mile east-west Erie Canalway).

In addition, Discovery has domestic bike tours to Coastal Maine (which we enjoyed this summer); Cape Cod; Idaho; Mickelson Trail & Black Hills, South Dakota; Tucson & Saguaro National Park; Lake Champlain Islands; Crater Lake & Scenic Bikeways; Texas Hill Country; Florida Keys, Florida Gulf Beaches; California’s Death Valley; Taste of Southern California; and Vineyards , Canyons and Charming Inns of California.

Discovery Bicycle Tours, 2520 W. Woodstock Rd., Woodstock, VT 05091, 800-257-2226, info@discoverybicycletours.com, www.discoverybicycletours.com.

Crazy Horse Memorial is visited on bike tours along the Mickelson Trail, South Dakota, © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bicycle Adventures is giving a $300 discount on 2022 bookings made by October 31. (No code is needed when booking online, your discount will be applied automatically to your balance payment.)

Bicycle Adventures has itineraries on some of the most wonderful rail trails, like the Mickelson in South Dakota (6 days, $2948) and Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes in Northern Idaho (5 days, $2898), which are ideal for beginners, and Washington’s Olympic National Park & Discovery Trail (6-days, $3398).

Its selection of road cycling itineraries include California Redwoods (6 days, $3698) and Montana’s Lewis & Clark Country (6 days, $3098), a new tour through the Valley of Fire & Death Valley in Nevada (6 days, $3148).

There are also international offerings including a new Ireland ‘s Wild Atlantic Way (7 days, $4373) and a new France Bike and Barge from Strasbourg to Lagarde in Alsace (7 days, $5123); other itineraries are available to Spain’s  Medio Camino, Scotland’s Isle of Arran, Chile’s Lakes and Volcanoes, Mexico’s Yucatan, and for advanced riders, a bike, hike, paddle and sail through the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest, deepest fjord (8 days, $5180).

Bicycle Adventures, Seattle, WA, 800-443-6060, bicycleadventures.com.

Wilderness Voyageurs offers supported bike tours on the Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilderness Voyageurs has a marvelous selection of bike tours oriented around rail trails including the New York’s Erie Canalway, Florida’s Sun Coast, Idaho’s Hiawatha Trail, Pennsylvania’s Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath; Wisconsin’s  Elroy-Sparta Trail, Missouri’s Katy Trail, South Dakota’s Mickelson Trail & Badlands (which I enjoyed). Explore Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon cycling the Pine Creek rail trail, starting and ending in Black Lick that also features Bald Eagle State Park and Ghost Town trail (3 days, $975).

Wilderness Voyageurs offers a broad selection of road bike trips. Among the intriguing offerings is a “Kentucky Bike & Bourbon” tour that explores the state’s horse farms and whiskey-making (four days, $2100), plus trips through Pennsylvania including Amish Country,  Gettysburg and the Civil War; in Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg Shenandoah and Skyline Drive; Washington’s San Juan Islands, and Texas Big Bend. The operator also has expanded its super-popular New York Finger Lakes bike tour to six-days ($2150).

Another featured bike tour is Cuba Clasico through central Cuba that takes you off the beaten path and Cuba’s tourist track. Biking from Havana, Santa Clara, Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, it’s a tour through Cuba’s heritage and homeland from the best seat in the house—a bicycle seat (8 days, $3990).

Wilderness Voyageurs, 103 Garrett St., Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania 15470, 800-272-4141 , https://wilderness-voyageurs.com/

Biking in Peru with Butterfield & Robinson

For 2022, Butterfield & Robinson is launching the collection of new trips that were supposed to be launched in 2020, but kept back because of the coronavirus pandemic. New scheduled trips for 2022 have been refined further to accommodate local regulations and are limited to 16 people – you can join other travelers on a scheduled departure or take over a trip and turn it private with your family and friends.

Kyushu Biking: In true Japanese style, each intricate detail of this trip was crafted with intention. Pedal into lush subtropical landscapes with green tea fields and smoking volcanoes on the horizon. Connect with the fascinating local culture from samurai practice to mythological stories and “power spots.” Talented chefs, brewers and artisans  bring you closer to deep cultural roots, while each stay shows you a new way to relax and rejuvenate.

Alsace E-biking: Wind passed stretches of tidy vineyards, take the time to explore colorful towns and sample regional wines along the way. Alsace is a mix of France and Germany, blending cultures, flavors which make for a unique and hyper-local experience.

Butterfield & Robinson (which offers hiking and walking tours as well), has bike tours in Africa (for example, eight-days Morocco e-biking and Namibia Bespoke), Asia, Europe (like a 7-day Bulgaria biking and 6-day Cotswold-Bath biking), Latin America (like 7-day Chile Wine country and a Costa Rica Bespoke), and North America (for example, Quebec Bespoke). There is a selection of self-guided trips, as well as guided.

Butterfield & Robinson, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 866-551-9090, www.butterfield.com, info@butterfield.com

Biking over the Rosendale Trestle on the Wallkill Rail Trail, Hudson Valley, New York, part of the 750-mile long Empire State Trail Network © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In 2022, Duvine Cycling & Adventure Co. is traveling to England for the first time, hitting the rolling hills for a new Cotswolds Bike Tour (5 days, $4895).

The company has an extensive catalog of “classic” bike tours all over the world including the United States, like a new four-day Hudson Valley Bike Tour ($3695); a new six-day Maine tour to Camden and Penobscot Bay (3995); a new Santa Fe and Taos bike tour (5 days, $3595), a four-day Shenandoah Valley ($3595) and a four-day Blackberry Farm Bike tour in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains ($6495)

Also new is a Sardinia Yacht & Bike Tour in Italy (7 days, $7695) and new private tours including an 8-day Maui Villa bike tour (8 days, $6995); a 7-day Tuscany Villa Bike Tour (7 days, $5995) and a 7-day Mallorca Villa Bike tour.

Duvine, Somerville, MA, 617 776 4441, 888 396 5383, info@duvine.com, duvine.com.

Trek Travel is celebrating 20 years of cycling vacations in 2022 by inviting people to cycle through a bucket-list destination and the company sure offers many of them spanning the globe.

Trek Travel is celebrating 20 years of cycling vacations in 2022 by inviting people to cycle through a bucket-list destination and the company sure offers many of them spanning the globe – in Europe like a new self-guided Ireland trip (6 days, $2599); a new self-guided Scotland tour (6 days, $2299); a new self-guided Portugal tour through Alentejo region (5 days, $2199). For avid riders, a new “Classic Climbs-Slovenian Alps Tour” (6 days 3899), and a 6-day tour through the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini ($5499); South America (Chile, 7 days, $5699); Asia (Japan Bike Tour, 7 days, $8799) and North America (South Dakota Glamping, 5 days, $3299).

What could be more “bucket list” than “Classic Climbs: The Tour Bike Vacation” which has you ride the most famous climbs of the Tour de France on a nine-day cycling tour of the Alps and Pyrenees. You ride the legendary cols of Aubisque, Galibier and the mythic Ventoux, along with the test of all tests: the grueling ascent up Alpe d’Huez, following in the tracks of pro riders.

Trek Travel, 613 Williamson St., Madison,WI, 866-719-2427, https://trektravel.com/

Biketours.com’s bike/boat trip through Greek Isles © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

BSpoke Tours curates cycling itineraries with an eye toward eco-friendly cycling holidays to European destinations: For history and wine lovers, Bordeaux; for cyclists looking for an adventure in an authentic corner of Spain, Asturias where one third of the region is environmentally protected with nature reserves and protected landscapes.

Among its new trips is a curated tour by e-bike in Sussex and the Cotswolds, starting in the north at Moreton-in-Marsh and an opportunity to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, continuing down the picture-perfect countryside to the south, stopping in beautiful towns and villages, including Bourton-on-the-Water, Upper & Lower Slaughter, Tetbury, Cirencester and Bibury and ending in the Roman spa town of Bath.

Another new UK program explores Scotland’s most iconic castles and coastlines by road bike.

BSpoke Tours also offers itineraries throughout Europe –including e-bike and boat-and-bike programs, food-and-wine, eco-friendly, luxury, self-guided, group. New offerings include the island of Sardinia, and in Puglia in Italy; and Andalusia and Camino di Santiago in Spain.

BspokeTours is touting its flexible booking policy because of uncertainty about travel plans. Deposits have been removed and change fees eliminated so you can change your date and destination for no cost up to 12 weeks before departure (monies paid are secured through ABTA and ATOL).

BSpoke Tours, info@bspoketours.com, bsoketours.com (has a live chat option).

Discover France is featuring biking trips through the Loire Valley, where there is a 800 km cycle route. A large stretch of the Loire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; in parts it’s also known as France’s Valley of the Kings and as The Garden of France. All along The Loire Valley, you stick closely to France’s last great wild river, with its sandy banks and islands, its vine-covered slopes, its typical towns and villages, its fine food and its unique atmosphere. The route ends at the Loire’s Atlantic estuary.

A five-day/six-night “Loire Valley Secret Castles” bike tour starts in Joué-les-Tours and takes you to Azay-le-Rideau, Langeais, the Chateau de Villandry and Ussé, and the famous Fontevraud Abbey. You cycle through some important wine regions such as Chinon and Saumur for some wine tasting. This is a self-guided trip (start any day), priced from 760E.

Among the new itineraries: self-guided French Riviera-South of France by the Coast, from Nice to St. Tropez (6 days, 1280E); and self-guided Veloscenie From Nogent le Rotrou to Mont Saint Michel (7 days, 1570E).

Also: an 8-day Bordeaux Vineyards by Bike tour travels Saint-Emilion to Entre-Deux-Mers (1550E); a 7-dayAlsace by the Wine Route (1350E). There are also itineraries through Champagne and Burgundy.

Discover France, 427 Rue Hélène Boucher, Mauguio 34130, France, 800-929-0152, discoverfrance.com.

Biking in Mekong with Grasshopper Adventures

Other prominent bike tour companies include Backroads Bicycle (backroads.com), Pure Adventures (pure-adventures.com), Escape Adventures (escapeadventures.com), Freewheel Holidays (ww.freewheelholidays.com, www.freewheelholidays.co.uk) Grasshopper Adventures (grasshopperadventuers.com), Ride & Seek (www.rideandseek.com).

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Most Glorious Fall Foliage is Right in Our Neck of the Woods

A hike up Chimney Mountain in New York’s Adirondacks to take in the fall colors © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take advantage of the outdoors this fall – hiking, biking, kayaking, pick-your-own apples, pumpkins, and camping!

And New York State really has it all.

The I LOVE NY weekly foliage report is a great tool for visitors looking to plan a seasonal getaway – you can not only follow the progress of the changing colors, but the new interactive fall foliage map, located on the I LOVE NY foliage website, showcases great foliage viewing locations in each of the various regions throughout the state. You can use the map to see what the foliage is like during peak viewing in a given area find nearby, must-see attractions and events, from harvest festivals to Halloween celebrations, craft beverage trails, museums and family fun. Reports and the new interactive map are updated Wednesdays throughout the season at www.iloveny.com/foliage or dial 800/CALL-NYS (800/225-5697).

Thanks in part to its size and location, New York State has one of the longest and most colorful foliage seasons in the country. From late September through mid-November, some part of the state is likely experiencing peak foliage.  

Travelers are invited to share their photos of New York State’s amazing foliage on social media by using the #NYLovesFall hashtag. Submitted photos may be featured on the I LOVE NY fall foliage website and official I LOVE NY social media accounts reaching nearly two million followers. 

A hike up Chimney Mountain in New York’s Adirondacks to take in the fall colors © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The colors are already turning in the ADIRONDACKS, which peaks around Columbus Day weekend. Adirondack Experience lists hikes in categories, one of which is “best summit views” with excellent descriptions (also alltrails.com gives precise maps, elevations).  Last fall, based on their recommendation, we did Chimney Mountain and Castle Rock hikes in one day (www.adirondack.net). The Adirondack Fall Foliage Meter (www.adirondacksusa.com/fall) provides up-to-the-minute fall foliage reports on where the leaves are prettiest and most colorful. More sources: Adirondacks Regional Tourism, visitadirondacks.com; Hamilton County Tourism, adirondackexperience.com, 800-648-5239.

A hike up Chimney Mountain in New York’s Adirondacks to take in the fall colors © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A little later in the season, GREENE COUNTY/GREAT NORTHERN CATSKILLS are spectacular (https://www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors) – like hiking through the exquisite North South Campground, which is part of the Hudson River School Art Trail (a network of trails and attractions like Frederic Edwin Church’s Olana, where besides his extraordinary home, you can visit Olana’s 250-acre landscape for free (olana.org) and the Thomas Cole House (thomascole.org). I’m still partial to spending as much time outdoors as possible, so I am happy following the Hudson River Art School Trail (hudsonriverschool.org). (These days, it is best to check the website to make sure indoor attractions are open and if they require advance purchase, timed tickets.)

In Greene County:

Take a Ride:

The Windham Mountain Skyride features a two-mile chairlift to the summit of Windham Mountain, providing incredible panoramic views and is open through October 11th. For additional mountainous scenery, the Hunter Mountain Scenic Skyride offers a two-mile, six-passenger chairlift with views of the Northern Catskill Mountains, open through October 17th.

Explore one of many motorcycle routes showcasing scenic views: ride on the Mohican Trail past the Five State Lookout, the Mountain Clove Run, or another picturesque route in the Great Northern Catskills. Or explore the 120 miles of some of the best mountain biking trails in the country.

Take a Hike:

In Prattsville, Pratt Rock, known as “New York’s Mount Rushmore,” offers a 3.1-mile round trip hike featuring a historical monument dedicated to Zadock Pratt, with summit views overlooking the valley with ample foliage.

For a challenging, yet rewarding ascent, the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower via Spruceton Trail, offers incredible panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains.

For a less intense, yet equally as scenic excursion, the Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville offers 178 acres of trails and boardwalks to admire the autumnal beauty.

Visit Local Farms:

Boehm Farm located in Climax offers a pick-your-own produce experience in addition to a variety of farm-grown and baked seasonal goodies. Be sure to call prior to visiting for the most up-to-date information on picking variety availability.

For a family experience, find spectacular views at East Durham Farms in East Durham. Bring home farm-grown produce, local jams, jellies, cheeses and other goods for everyone to enjoy.

To sample fall-grown produce and locally made products, visit Story Farms in Catskill for delicious harvested fruits and vegetables from the family-run farm, or RSK Farm in Prattsville for a variety of fall vegetables available at their farmstand.

(Great Northern Catskills, 800-355-CATS, 518-943-3223, www.greatnortherncatskills.com)

Letchworth State Park, the “Grand Canyon of the East” (where New York State has just opened an innovative autism nature trail) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Finger Lakes region has over 1,000 waterfalls and gorges, 650 miles of shoreline, more than 16,000 acres of National Forest, and over 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails – such as we enjoyed in Watkins Glen State Park and Letchworth State Park, the “Grand Canyon of the East” (where the state has just opened an innovative autism nature trail – a one-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment). Also, vineyards, wineries, breweries, rail-trails. museums, art galleries, historic sites, theaters. Excellent planning aids are available from The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, 309 Lake Street Penn Yan, NY 14527, 315-536-7488, 800-530-7488, www.fingerlakes.org. Another excellent source of visitor information is Visit Finger Lakes, 585-394-3915, info@visitfingerlakes.com, www.visitfingerlakes.com.

Watkins Glen State Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Go totally au natural and camp out (through October). We adored our camping adventures at the in Letchworth State Park and the4 Six Nations Campground in Watkins Glen State Park (https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/)

In Coxsackie, Gather Greene is a glamping destination with 17 wooden glamping cabins on 100 acres of rolling hills and fields, each equipped with air conditioning and heating, full bathrooms, a mini-fridge (176 Levitt RoadCoxsackie,  262-448-3683, www.gathergreene.com).

Camp New York is a network of independent campground owners across New York State, from the high peaks of Adirondacks to the majestic Niagara Falls frontier, from the scenic Finger Lakes to the eastern edges of Long Island, and everywhere in between (585-586-4360, www.campnewyork.com). Here are some of their recommendations: For those looking to take scenic fall drives, U.S. Route 20 runs east/west through the heart of NYS, crossing along the tips of several Finger Lakes and offering beautiful rolling hills and sweeping vistas. These websites, https://nyroute20.com/ and https://www.dot.ny.gov/display/programs/scenic-byways/route-20, cover sights to see in the Central New York section. Some popular base camps along the way include Lebanon Reservoir Campground in Hamilton (www.lebanoncampground.com), about 15 minutes off Route 20, and Cider House Campground in Bouckville (www.ciderhousecampground.com), which is located right on Route 20 in the heart of the Madison Bouckville Antiques Community (https://www.ciderhousecampground.com/https://www.madisontourism.com/things-to-do/antiquing/). Families looking for spooky destinations across New York should check out the Haunted History Trail (https://hauntedhistorytrail.com/) and crosscheck the haunts of interest with neighboring campgrounds on CampNewYork.com.

New England Beckons

NEW HAMPSHIRE’s Lakes Region not only offers gorgeous scenery, hiking, biking, but wonderful fall festivals and events.

I have my sights set on the 58-mile long Northern Rail Trail. Set geographically right in the middle of classic New England, it crosses New Hampshire beginning just north of the state’s capitol in Concord, N.H. and extends almost to Vermont in Lebanon, N.H. Now a recreational trail, it was once the rail bed of the Northern Railroad built in 1847, so the gradient never exceeds 1 percent. It traverses rivers, working farms, orchards, horse and alpaca farms, lakes, quaint towns and historic covered bridges and affords classic New England vistas. Railroad buffs will love seeing the historical artifacts that remain: there are the original granite mile markers a couple of old railway stations and noteworthy rock work supporting trestle crossings and culverts. You can easily imagine what New England looked like in the 1850s. Currently the trail has been completed for four-season use from Lebanon, NH through Grafton, NH and Danbury, Andover to Depot Street in Franklin. (The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail group has the goal of extending the tail from Danbury, NH to Boscawen in Merrimack County, NH).  (More information: Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, www.fnrt.org )

New Hampshire innkeepers have made it delightful to turn the Northern Rail Trail ride into an inn-to-inn bike tour. Seven historic inns throughout the Lakes and Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee regions are connected by the trail and offer inn-to-inn packages. For more information, maps and rates, visit Bike the Northern Rail Trail website at: http://bikethenorthernrailtrail.com and find the innkeepers at www.nhcountryinns.com.

We recently enjoyed our stay at Mill Falls at the Lake (312 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, NH 03253, 800-622-6455, 844-745-2931, info@millfalls.com, www.millfalls.com)  , but there are scores of bnbs, cabins, cottages, hotels in the region.

The Lakes Region tourism office has a fantastic site to plan a visit: https://www.lakesregion.org/

Of course, VERMONT has practically trademarked “fall foliage.” Indeed, three-quarters of the state is blanketed with forests, most of it maple trees that turn the vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. You can track the progress of the color changes with the state’s foliage forecaster and sign up for Vermont’s fall foliage report to get real time updates on where the color is peaking each week.  Find trip planning inspiration, ideas and resources at https://vermontvacation.com/seasons/fall.

There, you can link to Vermont’s 10 federally designated scenic byways routes and roads that take you through Vermont’s forests and farmland to historic villages and towns that are vibrant hubs of culture, commerce and recreation. These byways range in length from 14 miles to 400 miles and provide access to museums, art galleries, antique auctions and curio shops, trail heads, swimming holes, waterfalls, hikes and valley views (https://vermontvacation.com/byways). You can also follow the Vermont Arts Council’s recommendations for arts and foliage viewing destinations along Vermont’s most scenic drives during foliage season (www.vermontartscouncil.org/blog/autumn-and-art).

Enjoying the fall foliage biking along the 12.7-mile Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

MASSACHUSETTS is the 8th most forested state in the United States, with over 3 million acres of forest, accounting for 62% of the entire state.  Some parts of Western Massachusetts are over 90% forested. Its foliage season stretches from mid-September to early November.  Here are some highlights and “secret gems”:

CAPE & ISLANDS: In Cape Cod, a secret gem is theWest Barnstable Conservation Area, one of the largest conservation parcels (1,114 acres) on the Cape. The entire tract is filled with glorious fall colors from mid-October through November. Better yet, rather than drive, Cape Cod is a paradise for cyclists, with the most wonderful bike paths that basically extend over the entire Cape.

Foliage comes later to Martha’s Vineyard than the rest of Massachusetts, typically peaking for brilliant colors at the end of October into early November. TRAILSMV is a free app that allows visitors to explore the Island’s fabulous network of pristine trails for walking, biking and hiking that make leaf peeping so much fun. 

The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires of Massachusetts is a stunning trail for biking and walking
© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

WESTERN MA: In the gorgeous Berkshires, find the best fall foliage at this site: https://berkshires.org/four-fabulous-ways-to-enjoy-fall-foliage/#more-82593

Mohawk Trail: Hoosac Range Trail (2441 Mohawk Trail) located at the first summit on the Mohawk Trail features high elevation long views and sublime rock cliffs formed by “glacial plucking” with trees twisted into fantastical forms by wind and ice. Look out for migratory raptors at Spruce Hill and great views over North Adams, Mount Greylock and Florida State Forest. (https://www.bnrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Hoosac_Range_trailmap.pdf)

Mount Greylock State Reservation is the highest point in Massachusetts.  At 3,481’, on a clear day, you can see as far as 90 miles away. The middle of September to middle of October with peak season typically Columbus Day weekend. 

The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires of Massachusetts is a stunning trail for biking and walking
© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NORTH OF BOSTON: Some secret gems are:Harold Parker State Park in Andover; Old Town Hill in Newbury; Ravenswood Park in Gloucester; and Pipestave Hill and Mill Pond in West Newbury.

Merrimack Valley: The Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge is a 12-mile river wetlands conservation area stretching from the towns of Billerica, Massachusetts (downstream) to Wayland, Massachusetts (upstream), along the Concord River and Sudbury River (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/great_meadows/)

Drive the 90-mile Essex Coastal Scenic Byway that links 14 coastal communities from Lynn to Salisbury and features breathtaking vistas, working harbors, quaint villages, world-class art and culture, and distinctive local food, shops, lodging and visitor services. 

Fall in the Berkshires, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

CENTRAL MA: The secret gem here is theTully River Valley: Royalston, Athol, and Orange offers many options for hikers, bikers, and paddlers. A 4.5-mile foot trail loops around Tully Lake and the quarter-mile cascades of Doane’s Falls, and a 7.5-mile mountain bike and hiking trail circles adjacent Long Pond, passing by red maple trees that offer vivid foliage along the water’s edge starting in late September. Access is available at Tully Lake Recreation Area on Route 32, and Tully Lake Campground and Doane’s Falls Reservation on Doane Hill Road (https://thetrustees.org/content/tully-trail/).

Jacob’s Hill Reservation features two vistas with panoramic westerly views across the Tully Valley, and the steep cascades of Spirit Falls, which are especially picturesque after an autumn rain. The entrance is on Route 68 in Royalston, and the reservation may also be reached via the Tully Trail from Long Pond. Across the valley rises Tully Mountain in Orange, where ledges provide a striking view across the region to Mount Monadnock, Wachusett Mountain, and Mount Watatic (https://thetrustees.org/place/jacobs-hill/

Fall in the Berkshires, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NORTH CENTRAL MA: The Mount Wachusett State Reservation located in Princeton and Westminster, offers stunning views of the region. Visitors can also take the skyride at Mt. Wachusett Ski Area. With over 800 farms and orchards in the region, the country roads in North Central Massachusetts provide scenic opportunities to see the bright vivid fall colors. These include routes 119, 13, 2A, 140, 117, 70, 202 just to name a few.  Best time to go: late September/October.

SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS has some of the largest cranberry bogs in the nation and is a great place to see foliage alongside the cranberry bogs flooded with crimson berries.

Plymouth/South of Boston: A great experience in Plymouth County is the wet harvesting of cranberries at the height of fall foliage.  The A. D. Makepeace Company in Wareham gives cranberry bog tours starting in late September that takes you into the heart of cranberry country in Massachusetts (www.admakepeace.com)

Freetown-Fall River State Forest offers 5,000 acres of forest and open space, a perfect setting for fall foliage.  It is also the home of the Wampanoag Reservation (the “”eople of the First Light” who were there when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. (https://www.mass.gov/locations/freetown-fall-river-state-forest http://visitsemass.com/freetown-fall-river-state-forest/)

GREATER BOSTON:The Emerald Necklace, a ring of green open space created by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 19th century is a great way to enjoy foliage in the city of Boston.  Highlights include Franklin Park in Dorchester, the Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond, Olmsted Park, The Riverway and Back Bay Fens. You complete the Necklace by taking the Commonwealth Avenue Mall into the Public Garden and then to Boston Common (https://www.emeraldnecklace.org/park-overview/emerald-necklace-map/)

To track fall foliage in Massachusetts State Parks, go to https://www.mass.gov/location-details/fall-foliage-season-in-the-parks.

A great guide to visiting Massachusetts is available at https://www.visit-massachusetts.com/state/foliage/.

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