Category Archives: Attractions

A Stone’s Throw From Daytona Beach, Finding ‘Florida as it Used to Be’

Snack Jack’s along A1A just north of Ormond Beach, retains the vibe of “Florida as it used to be.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

To be candid, I would not have traveled to Florida except for a special occasion presenting an opportunity to visit with family I haven’t seen in quite some time. Luckily, this is a mere week before Omnicron hit with such fury or is even a thing, but I still don’t feel Florida particularly appealing for a long list of reasons.

My destination is the immensely popular Daytona Beach area. So even though Omnicron has yet to hit and though I am triple vaxxed, because of Florida’s contempt for preventive public health measures, I remain extremely vigilant in using a mask, staying outdoors as much as possible and avoiding crowds – even the wedding I attend is a small, intimate affair held outside.

Fortunately, the Ormond Beach area, a mere few miles north of Daytona Beach, and north along the famed Highway A1A, where, my cousin – a native Floridian – takes me, is the fabled “Real Florida,” and provides the perfect setting.

Lotus Inn, a delightful boutique hotel on Ormond Beach, with its pool stunningly lit at night © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I stay in a delightful boutique hotel, the Lotus Inn, refurbished with chic touches (stunning pool, fire pit, landscaping), right on the beach, so that each morning, I can grab a cup of coffee from the lounge and walk out onto the beach before the sun rises, when the colors begin to burst in the sky.

I do this each of the four mornings of my visit, and each day, the experience is very different and dramatic in its own way – the colors most vibrant on the first day, a tad less so on the second but the experience enhanced when I discover Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise for something like 10 years, posting them and drawing his own following, as well as taking photos for visitors. There are other regulars I get to meet as well, which includes a flock of seabirds who are drawn to this one spot because of a woman who comes each day with crackers (sharing with visitors who delight in the experience). The colors are different on the third day, but now I focus on the activity – the regulars who come, like the group of swimmers in their wetsuits, who come no matter the season. My fourth morning, there isn’t a sunrise at all, but I get to see the beach in its moody blue-grey colors.

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even though you can see Daytona Beach from Ormond Beach, the atmosphere here is completely different. Here there are mostly low-rise, low-density hotels like mine, the Lotus Inn.

My first night in Ormond Beach, I drive my rental car the four miles down A1A to Daytona Beach and walk the charming boardwalk, really enjoying discovering the 1930s-era Bandstand, coming upon the boardwalk games, and then the long pier itself, alight in neon announcing Joe’s at the end, with a stunning view back at the shoreline. I also get a glimpse of the heart pounding, adrenaline pumping thrill rides at Screamer’s Park.

The Bandshell on Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Eat at Joe’s on the Daytona Beach pier © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now of course, Daytona Beach is famous for auto racing and the Daytona 500 – that began on the beach (cars are still allowed in specific lanes, and plenty of people bike on the flat, hard sand, which became the International Speedway. I would venture that most who come are car people, and touring the speedway and visiting the Racing Hall of Fame are musts. The Daytona International Speedway has just undergone a $400 million “reimagining” and transformed into a state-of-the-art motorsports facility. You can even get behind the wheel of an actual race car with NASCAR Racing Experience and take laps around the world famous 2.5-mile Speedway. (“Speedway Tours” run multiple times  each day; tour tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis, and include the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, https://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/tours/).

Daytona International Speedway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I stop by for a look at the gi-normous stadium, how it is banked at a 30-degree angle so the cars don’t just fly off at the turns, but spend my time discovering what my cousin, Ray Weiss, a former journalist, calls “Florida as it used to be.”

Ray drives me up the famous A1A, to Ormond by the Sea up to Flagler Beach, which cannot be more un-touristy. Here, he stresses, you can still park your car alongside the two-lane road (they call it a highway), on a patch of sand bordered with sea grass, and walk right onto the beach – such a contrast to Daytona Beach, which seems to be competing to have as many high rises and parking meters as Miami Beach. (My cousin describes Daytona Beach perfectly: “a bit of an Atlantic City feel with a redneck flair.”)

“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This stretch between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach, though, is exactly as he has described it and what he cherishes – there are the colorful, weatherworn, funky beach places, miles of undeveloped open beach (vacant of people) and thousands of acres of pristine land called the Loop – woods, water and marshland. “It’s like stepping back in time to what the rest of Florida once looked like when the Seminoles were here,” he says. He should know because my first memory as a child was visiting his family in old Miami and seeing Seminole Indians wrestling alligators.

Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Flagler Beach is a Florida town that is seems stuck in the 1950s. No high-rises here, only modest houses on the beach. (My thoughts alternate between thinking that the property they sit on would be $1-2 million in Long Island, and thinking that sea level rise caused by the climate change Florida’s governor denies makes them worthless.)  Ray points out several old style restaurants, stopping at Snack Jack’s right on the beach – his favorite and I can see why.

Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Back in Ormond Beach, we stop to visit The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, so beautifully set on the river.

The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On my own, I also discover some of the attractions that make actually living here wonderful – starting with the Museum of Arts and Science (MOAS).

When I arrive, I ask the receptionist what is special, what should I definitely look out for. She replies, “Well, we have the biggest collection of Coca Cola bottles, and a skeleton of a giant sloth.”

Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walking into the Coca-Cola collection, you can’t help but let out an actual “Wow,” It turns out that the guy who invented and manufactured that classic glass Coke bottle in Indiana, Chapman J. Root (he got 5c royalty on every bottle sold), also had interests in Coca-Cola bottling plants in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois and Florida, and when he retired, his grandson Chapman S. Root took over the company and moved it, in 1951, to Daytona Beach. Over a 50-year period, Chapman S. Root and his wife Susan Root Fieblman, collected some 100,000 objects that make up the $5 million Root Family Museum collection – probably the largest of Coca-Cola memorabilia – housed within MOAS. We see not only a timeline of all the bottles and bottling equipment, but the delivery trucks, the different vending machines, all with the trademark Coca Cola red color. It is pure Americana – both for the Coca-Cola cultural iconography and the story of an entrepreneur and innovator making good. (See: For Coke Fans, Collection is ‘The Real Thing’, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-2001-10-14-0110120609-story.html)

The Giant Sloth at MOAS, discovered just 2 ½ miles away © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then I walk into the “Natural Florida” exhibit and there it is. When you think of “sloth” you might think of Sid in the “Ice Age” movies. Now imagine The Hulk but probably three or four times the size. The skeleton of the Eremotherium – the largest sloth to have ever existed – that we see assembled in its fearsome pose was collected just 2 ½ miles away. It would have weighed up to five tons and stood 15 feet tall – only the Wooly Mammoth was larger in the Western Hemisphere. Phenomenal.

A fantastic collection of African tribal masks, on view at MOAS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Warehouse at MOAS, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The rest of the museum has some fabulous, unexpected and eclectic collections: African tribal artifacts including incredible masks, Chinese art, and the American decorative arts collection of Anderson Child Bouchelle (a fifth generation Floridian, his father was Florida’s first cardiologist, brought to the state by Henry Flagler). I especially love “The Warehouse” where you can peek at treasures that otherwise would be stored away. (352 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, Florida 32114, 386-255-0285, www.moas.org/visit/index)

Walk the nature trail outside MOAS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Before leaving, I follow the Nature Trail that starts just outside the museum that takes you on a boardwalk into the jungle (note the sign that warns of such creatures as snakes and alligators).

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The next day, after my ritual beach walk to revel in the daily miracle of the sunrise, I go off to two other signature attractions, both very close together at the southern tip of the barrier island.

Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The modest but intimate Marine Science Center, is mainly an aquarium but also is where you can see its medical facilities where sea turtles are being restored to health (you can even watch operations through a glass) and a sanctuary for rescued birds. The small area is packed with fun things to look at, interact with and learn about Volusia County’s rich marine life – like how they are re-growing (not just restoring) coral so crucial to the survival of ecosystems. This is a delight for families with children (100 Lighthouse Drive, Ponce Inlet, Fl 32127, 386-304-5545, www.marinesciencecenter.com)

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Walk up the 203 steps to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nearby, The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, constructed in 1887, is a treasure. At 175 feet tall, the lighthouse is the highest in Florida and second highest in the country. You can walk up all 203 steps winding around and around, and step out for a 360-degree view. Most interesting are the other structures and buildings – all original – that you can visit and the exhibits that show the life and times of the lighthouse keepers, and wonderful videos showing the history. In the modern Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building, you can see a world-class Fresnel lens collection. There is also an exhibit of Cuban Rafts that carried refugees trying to make their way to freedom on these fragile homemade boats and rafts. There is really a lot to see and explore, including nature trails and you can walk out to a very long break-water. (4931 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL 32127, 386-761-1821, ponceinlet.org)

Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse has a world-class Fresnel lens collection. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For more historic sites, you can trace the footsteps of educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune on a tour of her former home, and visit the historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark (where in 1946, a year before he broke the major league racial color barrier in Brooklyn, Robinson broke the color barrier with the Montreal Expos, the triple A minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, after being rejected from other Florida cities, Ray relates).

Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The next day, I visit the extraordinary Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which is on the same campus as MOAS. This is the most astonishing find of all. Since 1997, the Browns made it their mission to collect art representing Florida. After being a traveling exhibit for some time, what is the largest collection of Florida art is now housed in this stunning, brand new two-level structure. The museum features a rotating collection of 2,600 Florida-themed oil and watercolor paintings. The Museum’s grand central gallery and mezzanine showcase the collection’s signature pieces, while six smaller galleries feature beautiful changing exhibitions with Florida themes. Most impressive are the way the paintings are selected, framed, how they are hung together, and the absolutely fascinating notes that accompany each and every one – not only a biography of the artist, but the context for the painting, something of history, and then really fascinating notes that are like a painting tutorial. (https://www.moas.org/explore/cici-and-hyatt-brown-museum-of-art/index)

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne delights in taking photos for beachgoers on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While not my focus on this trip, I would be remiss not to include some of the immensely popular and new attractions in Daytona Beach:

Speedway Indoor Karting (SIK), which opened in late 2020, offers state-of-the-art electric powered karts and gives guests of all ages and skill levels a full racing experience on a 16- turn road course featuring multiple elevation changes and a slick tri-oval.

Daytona Lagoon Premier Waterpark and Family Entertainment Center, just north of the pier area and steps from the beach, added a wave maker Treasure Lagoon Wave Pool, arcade games, and two water slides: Kraken’s Revenge, a 54-foot-high, four-lane mat racer slide; and Shaka Halfpipe, a thrilling inner-tube experience that shoots riders backwards over a 50-foot drop. These new features, along with mini golf, go-karts, the MEGA arcade, and Sky Maze indoor ropes course make this a favorite year-round family spot.

More my speed: a new Riverfront Esplanade. The park that runs the length of historic downtown Daytona Beach is being transformed. When complete in 2022, the Riverfront Esplanade will extend a mile along the Halifax River and include a promenade along the water’s edge, running and walking trails, and landscaping designed to encourage relaxation and reflection including water features, shade trees and raised botanical gardens.

Interactive maps for themed trails are available on DaytonaBeach.com including the new Cars, Craft and Culture trail, Share The Heritage Trail, Monuments & Statues Trail, an Iconic Trail and a Motorsports Trail to add to its popular Hiking & Biking Trails and the Ale Trail.

For more information, Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau,126 E. Orange Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, 386-255-0415, DaytonaBeach.com.

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© 2022 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

Old Westbury Gardens’ New ‘Shimmering Solstice’ is a Magical Experience on Long Island’s Gold Coast

Old Westbury Gardens, the stunning Gilded Age mansion and formal gardens of John S. Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, which was opened to the public in 1959 by their daughter, Peggie, has debuted “Shimmering Solstice,” a walk-through light experience © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The timing of Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” debut could not be more perfect, as people craving holiday cheer in winter’s darkness are looking for outdoor experiences to share. Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever light show walk, presented by Catholic Health, opened November 20 and runs through January 9, 2022.

Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever “Shimmering Solstice” is enchanting © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Words like “magical” and “enchanting” are in oversupply during the holiday season, but are most apt in this case. Indeed, the effect is to feel a little like Alice discovering Wonderland, a dreamscape of beauty – there are even giant dandelions of light.

Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever “Shimmering Solstice” is enchanting © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The walk-through, immersive experience was developed out of a desire to creatively adapt the land and gardens around Westbury House into a visitor location that can be enjoyed during the fall and winter holiday season and that would remain consistent with the mission of Old Westbury Gardens, on the famed Gold Coast of Long Island, New York.

Lightswitch has created giant dandelions of light for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” which make you feel like Alice discovering Wonderland © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In fact, the historic site – the stunning Gilded Age mansion and formal gardens of John S. Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, which was opened to the public in 1959 by their daughter, Peggie – has been looking to offer just such a winter experience for 10 years. Over that time, the technology has advanced – LED lights, computer-synchronization – to create the experience they wanted: one that enhances and celebrates the gardens and architecture, giving visitors a new way to appreciate them.

“Planted” lights change colors in the Rose Garden © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“This is a celebration of our space,” said Maura McGoldrick-Brush, Director of Horticulture at Old Westbury Gardens. “Instead of flowers, the gardens will be blooming with light. This is truly an enchanting combination of the beauty of the gardens and the magic of the season.”

A labyrinth of lights at Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Old Westbury Gardens worked with Lightswitch, a collective of internationally recognized lighting, media, and visual designers to create a show that would celebrate and cherish the Gardens’ history and environment during the fall and winter seasons. 

Lightswitch’s assignment for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Shimmering Solstice” is a completely custom-built show that has been specifically designed to highlight the features of Old Westbury Gardens. Lightswitch’s assignment was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect. It took a year and a half to plan “Shimmering Solstice.”

Interactive features include “Simon” where you can push buttons to manipulate the colors of “Shimmering Solstice” at Old Westbury Gardens © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The formal Rose Garden and Walled Garden bloom with beautiful light and twinkle in lively rhythmic patterns, beautiful paths lead you through to the South Lawn and Allée.  Giant dandelions line the edge of the pond and a  Christmas tree made entirely of lit globes decorates the front of Westbury House.

Lightswitch’s assignment for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are interactive features as well, such as a “Simon” set up where you push buttons to alter the color patterns, a labyrinth and a maze of lights, and immersive features, where you walk amid the lights, even a “Ghost Walk”.

Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever “Shimmering Solstice” is enchanting © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The grand finale is a sound and light show celebrating the seasons and holidays, in which the mansion itself is the canvas with musical accompaniment including Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and classical holiday music.

A field of lights like tall grass leading to Westbury House, the Phipps mansion © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is beautifully spaced and there are paths geared for strollers and wheelchairs. In all, you walk about a mile and visit at your own pace (typically 60-75 minutes to really enjoy).

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“We are excited to offer this brand-new experience for our visitors to enjoy,” said Nancy Costopulos, President and CEO of Old Westbury Gardens. “This walk-through lightshow has been designed specifically for Old Westbury Gardens and offers a one-of-a-kind experience that we intend to become a new annual holiday tradition. We are also thrilled to have Catholic Health as our presenting sponsor for this inaugural event. Their commitment to the communities they serve mirrors our own, and we welcome their support as we bring this spectacular event to Long Island.”

A selection of hot foods, hot and cold beverages and snacks is available in a tent.

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is the first season, but there are already plans to expand in future years, said Paul Hunchak, Director of Visitor Services, Programs and Services. “We were looking for things to do in this season. We always wanted outdoor light show.”

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The event is organized to be COVID19-safe – tickets must be purchased in advance online and they space admissions.

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tickets for Shimmering Soltice must be purchased online in advance; priced by peak and off peak, from $29.95-32.95/adult, $16.95-17.95/child. Senior Discounts on Off-Peak Mondays (ages 62+) $24.95; an Any time/Any Day Experience is $75. (closed Dec. 24-25, Jan. 4); Entry times are every 15 minutes, from 5:30-9:30 pm. (last entry is at 9:30 pm – great for a date!). Purchase at https://shimmeringsolstice.com/.

Lightswitch’s assignment for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Old Westbury Gardens, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the former home of John S. Phipps, his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps and their four children. Completed in 1906 by the English artist and designer, George A. Crawley, the magnificent Charles II-style mansion is nestled amid 200 acres of formal gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds and lakes. Westbury House is furnished with fine English antiques and decorative arts from the more than 50 years of the family’s residence.

John S. Phipps was the son of Henry Phipps, Jr., an American entrepreneur and a partner with Andrew Carnegie (a childhood friend of Henry’s) in the Carnegie Steel Company. Henry was also a successful real estate investor (he invested heavily in Cape Cod and Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; his mansion in Lake Success has become the Great Neck Public Schools administration building and the grounds the South schools campus). After selling his stock in Carnegie Steel, Henry devoted time and money to philanthropic works.

After her parents, Margarita and John S. Phipps, passed away, their daughter Peggie inherited the Old Westbury estate and, in 1959, formed a nonprofit charity to open the grounds to the public to honor the memory of her mother and share the beauty of the 216 acres of gardens, fields and woodlands.

Visitors today experience the grounds and gardens, which remain largely untouched from the Phipps era, with many English-style perennials and biennials preserved. There are rare plant species—including foxgloves, delphiniums – not usually found in public gardens. These plants have been well-maintained for decades by the dedicated horticulture staff, which grow many of the herbaceous plant material right on-site in the private greenhouse, preserving the original vision of John S. Phipps’ and George Crawley.

You can take virtual tours of the mansion (www.oldwestburygardens.org/tourthehouse) and the gardens (www.oldwestburygardens.org/tourthegardens).

Old Westbury Gardens, 71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY, 11568, oldwestburygardens.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

Christmas in Baltimore: Dazzling, Joyful, even Miraculous

Nothing brings families together at the holidays than sharing festive events like Maryland Zoo Lights © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nothing brings a family together like sharing in the thrill, the delight, the joy of enjoying holiday attractions. It is especially fun activity for families coming together from different places for the holidays, feeling and seeing the joy and their delight through their eyes. We had this experience in Baltimore, where we enjoyed two very special holiday events, Zoo Lights at the Maryland Zoo, and “Miracle on 34th Street” in Hampden.

Maryland Zoo Lights features 80 lighting displays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Zoo Lights, presented by Chase at the Baltimore, Maryland Zoo, is back this year with an entertaining twist: you get special glasses that bring out gingerbread men that dance before your eyes as you look at the light displays. There are 80 different light displays, collectively made of 150,000 environmentally friendly LED lights that form favorite zoo animals, some even made to simulate motion, that transform the nighttime zoo into a glimmering winter wonderland.

Seeing dancing gingerbread men in the Maryland Zoo Lights through glasses © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are other delightful surprises: my favorite is the carousel that brings out the kid in anyone, and coming upon donkeys and llamas in the farm yard and Great White Pelicans and penguins in the Penguin Encounter section at the end of our mile-long walk (there is also a drive option on Wednesdays and Thursdays).

Riding the carousel at Maryland Zoo Lights © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Zoo Lights is a seasonal spectacle after-hours event offered five nights a week, Wednesday-Sunday, from 5 to 8 pm, through January 2.

Maryland Zoo Lights features 80 lighting displays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, you experience Zoo Lights on foot, walking along a beautifully lit path past dazzling displays including some favorite animals reimagined as light sculptures. The walk begins at the Main Gate, heads down Buffalo Yard Road into Zoo Central and the Farmyard where there are carousel rides, hot cocoa and maybe even a glimpse of Santa!

The gorgeous carousel, a highlight of Maryland Zoo Lights © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, you can experience Zoo Lights from the comfort of your vehicle beginning at Eagle Gate and proceeding down Buffalo Yard Road. This option is ideal for those who would prefer to stay socially separated or aren’t comfortable walking long distances.

Some of the Maryland Zoo animals stay up late to greet visitors © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tickets are $33 per vehicle for the drive-thru experience and $28 per person for the walk-thru experience; advanced purchase is required. (Closed on Christmas, and the event may be modified due to inclement weather). Book tickets at https://www.marylandzoo.org/special_events/zoo-lights/

Some of the Maryland Zoo animals stay up late to greet visitors © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The event is a major fundraiser that supports the Zoo’s conservation and education activities year-round. Be sure to return in daytime to visit the animals. During winter, admission is $15 thru Feb. 28. There are loads of animals that can be visited outdoors (though weather dependent) including chimps, colobus monkeys and lemurs, prairie dogs, crowned cranes, leopards, cheetahs, zebras and flamingos to list just a few, while giraffes can be visited indoors. (See full list, https://www.marylandzoo.org/news-and-updates/2021/11/colder-weather-2021/)

Making holiday memories at Maryland Zoo Lights © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Animal experiences also are available throughout the winter, including Penguin TrainingRhino Training, and Otter Training.

Purchase tickets online, marylandzoo.org.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, One Safari Place, Baltimore, MD 21217, info@marylandzoo.org or call 443.992.4585, marylandzoo.org.

Hampden’s Miracle on 34th St

34th Street in Hampden, Baltimore, has become known as Christmas Street © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

They call it “Christmas Street”. It’s 34th Street in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden, where for the 73rd year, this small block of modest attached homes goes all out with holiday lighting. It’s not just joyous, festive – dare I say spectacular – as a whole dazzling scene, but the fun is to really look closely at the detail at each house to appreciate the art, the creativity and the message.

The house that started it all, decorating for Christmas since 1942 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The street “captain” (for lack of a better word), has a lighted display that says this family has put up the Christmas decorations since 1942. Its display is the most traditional, the most all-out Christmas-y, jammed crammed with every major symbol of Christmas, “Seasons Greetings” in lights, even with a model train running laps (I’m told they start setting up in October).

The house that started it all, decorating for Christmas since 1942 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As you go down the block, you see displays with themes of Black Lives Matter, Gay Pride, even a Hanukkah house, and messages of peace and love and joy, helping animals. There are messages like “Have a magical Christmas” and of course, “Miracle on 34th Street” (especially appropriate for the Hanukkah display).

34th Street in Hampden, Baltimore, has become known as Christmas Street © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some are so imaginative and artful: one home uses doors to represent the Nativity scene. Another is famous for its Christmas tree constructed of hubcaps and its bike rim snowmen and another for its Big Red Lighted Crab (appropriate for Baltimore).

A nativity scene fashioned of doors © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

How did this get started? Well, the website (christmasstreet.com) provides “Greetings from Bob and Dar”:

“I could live on a dead-end street in the desert and still do this.” says Bob Hosier the ‘guy who started this all’. It started back with his humble beginnings when he was a teenager and lived in Northeast Baltimore. He placed a string of lights on a tree in the family yard and the rest was history. Darlene Hughes’s family also decorated her home on 34th street so it only seemed fitting that these two would meet, get married (over 25 years) and start the tradition that is what everyone now refers to as the ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, which by the way happens to be Darlene’s favorite movie along with ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.”

“Flock Party on 34th Street © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Over the years, many visitors from around the world have visited the lights on 34th street and left many messages in the books that the Hosier’s leave on their porch for people to sign and share. The street has been nationally recognized by Nightline, The Travel Channel, the Maryland Lottery, and Home and Garden to name a few.

A Hanukkah house celebrates the “Miracle on 34th Street” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The longevity of the tradition is notable – in fact, the miracle.

Apparently, this year a new member of the city council tried to end the lights (how would that happen, actually?), but the mayor stepped in “and told us to ‘LIGHT THE STREET’ !!. Special thanks to Scott Davis Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods for Baltimore City for keeping the Tradition alive. We will be lighting the street Saturday after Thanksgiving at 6PM. Merry Christmas.”

“We Believe …” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In fact, that is exactly when we arrived, totally bowled over. When I was informed by our Baltimore relatives about the 34th Street display, I assumed I would see decorated storefronts, like in Manhattan. This was so much better.

One of the 34th Street houses is famous for its Christmas tree constructed of hubcaps and its bike rim snowmen © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The residents keep it totally noncommercial, vendor free (you are told not to give money to street musicians who might show up).

What’s most remarkable, really, is that it takes the entire community on this street to participate, to make this considerable effort, to join together, even with their own individuality and (clearly) differences and also the likely turnover over the years of residents all needing to buy in. One can only imagine the expense, along with the considerable effort and dedication.

It is the essence of the holiday spirit.

34th Street is located in the Hampden section of Baltimore City. Follow directions to 726 West 34th Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21211, christmasstreet.com.

Christmas Village and the Holiday District

Christmas Village will sail back into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 2021. After being cancelled due to the pandemic last year, Charm City’s beloved holiday tradition is ready to transform West Shore Park (501 Light Street) into a traditional indoor and outdoor German Christmas Market, from Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25 through Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24, 2021.

Enjoy holiday vibes with the return of the 30 foot tall stunning Christmas Pyramid from the Ore Mountains, the 65 foot tall illuminated ferris wheel and the addition of a brand-new Christmas Village Carousel with horses and festive reindeer. Famous German ornament vendor Käthe Wohlfahrt returns to the heated festival tent along with 50+ local small businesses, makers, and international vendors. Other highlights include thousands of twinkling lights, the signature wooden huts, a large selection of Glühwein (mulled wine), the warm glow of the open-air Bratwurst Grill, an extended outdoor seating area, a new outdoor Hofbrau beer booth, photos with Santa Claus, appearances by Gingy the Gingerbread Man, and theme weekends with live entertainment. Foodies will find raclette cheese sandwiches, bacon on a stick, wine and beer tastings, all-new spirits tastings, and much more.

Christmas Village is partnering with local organizations to create the Holiday District in Inner Harbor, featuring the Village Christmas Tree at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, nearby attractions, shopping destinations and museums including the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center. (Located in West Shore Park, between the Maryland Science Center and the former Baltimore Visitor Center, 501 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230,   www.baltimore-christmas.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

Looking Good at 95, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Returns to NYC to Usher in the Holiday Season

The 2021 holiday season is heralded in by Santa riding his sleigh to wind up the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, bringing cheer and joy to the crowds that lined the 2.5 mile parade route from Central Park West to Herald Square © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is looking pretty good for 95. The joyful spectacle returned to the streets of New York City this Thanksgiving after 2020’s hiatus to usher in the start of the holiday season with its signature mix of giant character helium balloons, fantastic floats, stirring marching bands, jubilant performance groups, whimsical clowns, music stars. The climax, of course, is Santa Claus, whose jubilant ride in his stocked sleigh brings such joy to adults and children alike, it’s like watching a wave flow through the hundreds of thousands who turned out to line the 2.5 mile parade route from 77th Street and Central Park West, to Central Park South, and down Avenue of the Americas to and 34th Street and the final turn to end at Macy’s Herald Square.

As is tradition, the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was lead by the Thanksgiving turkey © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“For more than nine decades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has served to bring joy to millions, who gather with friends and family to experience this one-of-a-kind holiday celebration along the streets of New York City and in homes nationwide,” said Will Coss, Executive Producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “For our 95th celebration, Macy’s has created a spectacle to remember featuring a dazzling array of high-flying balloons, animated floats and incredible performers. We can’t wait to help New York City and the nation kick-off the holiday season with the return of this cherished tradition.”

Back after last year’s hiatus, crowds lined the 2.5 mile the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 95th annual Macy’s Parade featured 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 novelty and heritage inflatables, more than 800 clowns, 10 marching bands and 9 performance groups, a host of musical stars, and, of course, the one-and-only Santa Claus.

Ada TwistScientist by Netflix was one of the giant inflatables in its debut flight at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To safely produce the annual Thanksgiving Day event, Macy’s once again partnered closely with the City and State of New York to create a production plan that would ensure health and safety practices aligned with CDC guidelines, as well as current local and state government protocols.

Stars on Parade

Jon Batiste at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Macy’s Parade is always the holiday’s biggest stage for entertainment and this year was no different. Joining the festivities were aespa, Jimmie Allen, Jon Batiste, Blue’s Clues & You! host Josh Dela Cruz and the former hosts of Blue’s Clues Steve Burns and Donovan Patton, Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, Jordan Fisher, Foreigner, the cast of Peacock’s Girls5eva (Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Paula Pell, Busy Philipps), Andy Grammer, Mickey Guyton, Chris Lane, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street®, Nelly, Kim Petras, Kelly Rowland, Rob Thomas, Carrie Underwood, Tai Verdes, Zoe Wees, and Tauren Wells.

Jimmie Allen at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Inflatable Icons

Since 1927 the world’s most popular characters have been transformed into high-flying art in the sky. Inspired by marionettes, the Parade’s balloons first debuted as upside down puppets filled with air and carried on sticks, before taking flight with the addition of helium. Over time the inflatables morphed to encompass balloonheads, hybrid inflatables with vehicles inside (balloonicles) and tandem tricycles (trycaloons).

A Funko Pop! inspired Grogu (a.k.a. Baby Yoda in pop culture) from the Star Wars seriesmakes his debut at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New giants joining the line-up this year include Ada TwistScientist by Netflix; a Funko Pop! inspired Grogu (a.k.a. Baby Yoda in pop culture) from the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” Ronald McDonald® by McDonald’s® and Pikachu & Eevee by The Pokémon International Company.

Pikachu & Eevee have their first flight the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Making return appearances to the skies above New York City are giant balloon favorites including Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide; The Boss Baby by DreamWorks Animation and Universal Pictures; Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Books; Sinclair’s DINO® by Sinclair Oil Corporation; Goku by Toei Animations, Inc.; Chase from PAW Patrol® by Nickelodeon; Pillsbury Doughboy by PillsburyRed Titan from “Ryan’s World” by Sunlight Entertainment and pocket.watch; Papa Smurf from The Smurfs by Nickelodeon; Sonic the Hedgehog by SEGA; and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon.

Astronaut Snoopy takes flight at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The inflatable lineup also includes Sinclair’s Baby DINOs and the Go Bowling balloonicles; Smokey Bear by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service; and Macy’s very own special reindeer Tiptoe and Toni the Bandleader Bear.

Red Titan at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Floats of Fantasy

From its inception, the Parade’s floats have transported spectators to magical worlds. These initial whimsical creations focused on nursery rhyme stories. Today the floats are multi-level animated wonders that dazzle with their artistry. Conceived and crafted by the incredible artisans of Macy’s Parade Studio – a design and production facility that includes carpenters, engineers, electricians, painters, animators, balloon technicians, sculptors, metal fabricators, scenic and costume designers – this year’s line-up of floats showcased the best of theatrical design.

The 1-2-3 Sesame Street® by Sesame Workshop float carries the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While they are built for entertainment, they are also a showcase of creative design, engineering, and skillful construction. To spectators they seem to float down the route, even though many are three stories tall and several lanes of traffic wide stages. However, if you dig a little deeper, the magic is revealed as each of these amazing floats are built to collapse to no more than 12 ½-feet tall and 8-feet wide to travel safely from the New Jersey home of the Parade Studio to the Manhattan starting line via the Lincoln Tunnel for the annual celebration.

The cast of Girlsseva ride the Peacock float at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year six new floats will debut including Birds of a Feather Stream Together by Peacock® (cast of Peacock’s Girls5eva); Celebration Gator by Louisiana Office of Tourism (Jon Batiste); Colossal Wave of Wonder by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions (Nelly); Gravy Pirates by HEINZ; Magic Meets the Sea by Disney Cruise Line (Jordan Fisher and special guests); and Tiptoe’s North Pole.

Zoe Wees is aboard The Brick-changer by The LEGO Group at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The returning float roster and its scheduled performers included 1-2-3 Sesame Street® by Sesame Workshop (The cast and Muppets of Sesame Street); Big City Cheer by Spirit of America Productions (Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier); Big Turkey Spectacular by Jennie-O (Tai Verdes); Blue’s Clues & You! by Nickelodeon (Josh Dela Cruz, Steve Burns and Donovan Patton); The Brick-changer by The LEGO Group (Zoe Wees); Christmas in Town Square by Lifetime® (Kelly Rowland); Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill® (Kristin Chenoweth); Elf Pets® by The Lumistella Company; Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s® (Andy Grammer); Fantasy Chocolate Factory by Kinder (Darren Criss); Harvest in the Valley by Green Giant® (Jimmie Allen); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel (Rob Thomas); Her Future is STEM-Sational by Olay (aespa); Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (Tauren Wells); Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree (Macy’s Choir); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism (Chris Lane); Rexy in the City by COACH® (Kim Petras); Santa Express and Starflakes by Universal Orlando Resort; Santa’s Sleigh (Santa Claus); Tom TurkeyToy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life (Foreigner) and Winning Winter Together by MassMutual and NHL® (Mickey Guyton).

Tai Verdes rides the Big Turkey Spectacular by Jennie-O float in the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, Geoffrey, the beloved mascot of Toys”R”Us, made a special appearance down the route.

The Beat and the Pageantry

Virginia’s Hampton University “The Marching Force” at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The nation’s best marching bands brought the beat to the holiday revelry. Joining the line-up were The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (Austin, TX), Brownsburg High School (Brownsburg, IN), Centerville High School (Centerville, OH), Hampton University (Hampton, VA), Lincoln-Way High School (Frankfort, IL), Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States), NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY), Trabuco Hills High School (Mission Viejo, CA), Union High School (Tulsa, Oklahoma), and University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL).

The Great American Marching Band at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Taking entertainment to the next level were the Parade’s beloved performance groups who bring joy to spectators along the route and viewers watching from home. The 95th Parade featured the dazzling dancers of Ballet Hispánico’s School of Dance, the harmonious voices of the Broadway Education Alliance Youth Choir, the fancy footwork of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios, the special tributaries of Indigenous Direction, the out of the world skills of J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade), the razzle dazzle of the St. John’s Dance Team, the energetic Spirit of America Cheer and Spirit of America Dance Stars, and the moving voices of the Young People’s Chorus of NYC.

J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade) showed off their skills as they marched © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are more photo highlights:

Blue’s Clues & You! host Josh Dela Cruz and the former hosts of Blue’s Clues Steve Burns and Donovan Patton © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Spirit of America Cheer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier aboard the Big City Cheer by Spirit of America Productions float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Foreigner on the Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Boss Baby by DreamWorks Animation and Universal Pictures balloon with handlers in matching outfits © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Union High School marching band, Tulsa OK ©  Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Chase from PAW Patrol® by Nickelodeon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Some 800 clowns bring smiles to the crowds along the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Kim Petras atop Rexy in the City by COACH® at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Goku makes a return appearance at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
aespa rides the Her Future is STEM-Sational by Olay float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The First Order from Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jordan Fisher on the Magic Meets the Sea by Disney Cruise Line float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Nelly rides the Colossal Wave of Wonder by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Distinctly New York clowns bring smiles to the crowd at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Chris Lane on the Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Andy Grammer on the Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s® float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Tauren Wells works the crowd on the Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Papa Smurf from The Smurfs by Nickelodeon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Rob Thomas on the  Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of the classic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, Pillsbury Doughboy by Pillsbury © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Centerville High School, Ohio © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Centerville High School, Ohio Jazz Band © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Broadway Education Alliance Youth Choir on the Balsam Hill float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
At last, the one and only Santa Claus comes to town, ending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ushering in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Santa Claus riding his sleigh ends the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ushering in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Young and old alike show sheer joy at the sight of Santa Claus coming to town © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Young and old alike show sheer joy at the sight of Santa Claus coming to town © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Young and old alike show sheer joy at the sight of Santa Claus coming to town © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Santa Claus riding his sleigh ends the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.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

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 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

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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

Long Island’s American Airpower Museum Reopens for Visits, Flights Aboard Historic Planes

A fly-by of World War II era planes from the American Air Power Museum, Long Island’s only flying military aviation museum, at the popular Jones Beach Air Show. The museum reopens August 1 with a special event featuring flyovers of WWII era bombers and fighters © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

What makes Long Island’s American Airpower Museum, located at historic Republic Airport in Farmingdale, so different from other aviation museums is that this is so much more than a static display of vintage aircraft. This is living history: just about every day you visit, you can see these historic aircraft fly – you can even purchase a seat.

Long Island’s only flying military aviation museum, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, reopened after its COVID-19 hiatus, with new health protocols and precautions.

Its impressive collection was started by Jeffrey Clyman, president of the museum and the foundation.

You can buy a seat to fly in the open cockpit of the P10-17 WWII training biplane, which was used in air shows © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

His first acquisition was the P10-17 WWII training biplane which used to fly in air shows. His second was the Avenger. The third, the AT-6 “Texan” came from the Spanish air force where it was used for desert warfare in the Sahara

The Grumman TBM Avenger, with Jeff Clyburn’s name and the stencils of Japanese ships “killed” by its torpedoes on the side, and President George H.W.Bush’s autograph, takes flight with a passenger from the American Airpower Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among them, the Grumman TBM Avenger, the same plane model flown by President George H.W. Bush in WWII in which he was shot down (the other two crew members did not survive); you can see where Bush autographed this plane.  Known as the “ship killer,” so many Japanese ships were destroyed by the torpedoes it carried, that upon seeing it coming, crew would jump off, the museum’s publicist, Bob Salant, tells me during my visit on reopening day.

The TBM Avenger’s wings unfold to reveal where President George H.W.Bush autographed the same model airplane that he flew and was shot down in during WWII © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can actually buy a seat for a flight in the WACO UPF-7 biplane (the initials stand for Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio) and a North American AT-6 Texan, which give you the unparalleled experience of flying with an open cockpit. You can also buy a seat in a D-Day reenactment flying aboard the WWII Veteran Douglas C-47 Gooney Bird, which carried parachutists – you wear an appropriate uniform, there is the radio speech of President Eisenhower sending the troops into this fateful battle, and while you don’t actually parachute, at the end, you are given a card that says whether you lived or died.

You can buy a seat on the Douglas C-47 to experience a D-Day reenactment of a flight that delivered parachutists to battle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

That’s what “Living history” means to the American Airpower Museum.

Indeed, just about all the aircraft you see in the hangar and on the field (a few are on loan), are working aircraft and have to be flown to be maintained, so any time you visit, you are likely to see planes flying.

Among the planes that played an important role in history is the “Mis-Hap” – a North American B25 Mitchell bomber that few in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. It was General Hap Arnold’s personal plane (subsequent owners included Howard Hughes).

“Mis Hap,” the North American B25 Mitchell bomber made famous by the Doolittle Raid onTokyo, was the personal plan of General Hap Arnold© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Another is the Macon Belle, on view in a fascinating exhibit that pays homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, one of whom, William Johnson is a Glen Cove resident. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. They flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa, earning more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses.

The Macon Belle is part of the exhibit honoring the Tuskegee Airmen © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

2020 was anticipated to be a banner year for AAM.  Museum aircraft were scheduled to participate in historic events marking the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and honoring U.S. Veterans who made the Allied victory possible.  As they have done for the last 17 years, AAM’s WWII airplanes were going to appear in the Annual Jones Beach Airshow.  And it must be noted that on May 24th 2020, the American Airpower Museum celebrated its 20th anniversary in isolation.

Instead, the museum had to shut down along with every other museum and attraction in the state because of the coronavirus. It has reopened with health protocols that include filling out a questionnaire and having a temperature check at the entrance; requiring masks and social distancing throughout the museum.

Certain interactive exhibits have been closed, but you can still climb stairs to see inside cockpits, and walk through the Douglas C-47B. Built in 1935 and in service since 1936, the DC3 started as one of the first commercial civilian airliners. It was best known for being used in the Berlin Airlift, dropping food, clothing and medical supplies to Berliners suffering under the Soviet occupation. This C47 was one of the few flyable C47s with a paratrooper configuration, and dropped troops for the D-Day invasion. The plane is dubbed “Second Chance” possibly because after World War II, it was sold to the State of Israel and saw more than 30 years in the Israeli military (very possibly flew in the 1967 war). Today, the C-47B is used in D-Day reenactments.

Women War Correspondents are honored at the American Airpower Mussum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are several excellent exhibits, including one showcasing the WASPs – the Women Airforce Service Pilots who were used to fly planes to their missions. Another focuses on women war correspondents, among them, Martha Gellhorn, considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century, reporting on virtually every major world conflict over her 60-year career (she was also the third wife of novelist Ernest Hemingway).

There are also several fighter jets on loan from the USAF Museum, including a Republic F-84 Thunderjet; Republic RT-84 Thunderstreak, Republic RF-084 Thunderflash, Republic F105 Thunderchief, and General Dynamics F-111.

Clyman, who started his museum in New Jersey, moved it to Farmingdale, Long Island, the “cradle of aviation,” where many of these planes were built, and where the people who built them, maintained them and flew them, still lived. Many of the docents as well as the pilots are former Republic workers and veterans.

Nick Ziroli pilots the North American T6 “Texan” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“My dad was a combat pilot in WWII. So was my uncle. My mom was a nurse,” Clyman tells me. “But just as the 1920s followed WWI, and the 1950s after WWII, they didn’t talk about their experiences in war until they were about to die.” His mission is to not only legacy of the planes, but honor the people.

“Some 65 years ago, the current home of the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport was a crucial part of the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’. Home to Republic Aviation, the complex produced over 9,000 P-47 Thunderbolts in Farmingdale,” the museum’s website explains.

“Today, no American aviation museum with a squadron of operational World War II aircrafts has a more appropriate setting for its flight operations. Taxing to the very runways and hangars that dispatched Thunderbolts to war, vintage aircrafts recreate those turbulent years and allow the public to watch these planes in their natural environment – the air.”

Long Island’s American Airpower Museum, is set in America’s “cradle of aviation.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The hangar where the museum is located is now part of a historic preservation district, as a result of the effort of Senator Charles Schumer and then-Congressman Steve Israel.

There are uniforms, equipment, even two Nikon cameras adapted for use by astronauts that flew  in the Space Shuttle.

Two Nikons that flew on the Space Shuttle are on exhibit at the American Airpower Museum, Farmingdale © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Clyman said it has always been AAM’s mission to honor the legacy of those who gave all to preserve our freedoms.  “We’re pleased to announce we recently resumed maintenance and inspection of our aircraft so that much anticipated flight operations can begin with our grand reopening event.  We also promise a flying salute to our Veterans and front line workers very soon,” he said. 

The American Airpower Museum, Long Island’s only flying military aviation museum, pays homage to the people who built, maintained and flew these historic aircraft © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the reopening on August 1, visitors were treated to aircraft displays and flight operations of WWII AT-6s, WACO UPF-7, and TBM Avenger.

The museum is open to only 55 visitors at one time. There will be a case by case increase should the flight line be open, to increase the number of visitors at one time. Face masks must be worn at all times by anyone who will work, and visit the museum (masks are for sale in the gift shop for anyone who does not have one).  Visitors have their temperature taken as they enter, and are encouraged to wash hands, or use hand sanitizer (hand sanitizer is available in the gift shop, and by the restrooms). Social distancing will be observed and the floors have been marked to denote 6 feet spacing. Restrooms and canteen areas are regularly cleaned.

You can buy a seat to fly in the North American T6 “Texan” from the American Airpower Museum, Farmingdale. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The C-45 cockpits are not currently open, but the Flight Simulator may be available for use on a case by case basis, and cleaned after each use. Docents will also guide visitors accessing certain aircraft and limit the number of visitors at one time.

One of the docents is Steven Delgado who came to New York from Puerto Rico at the age of 15, was drafted to go to Vietnam in 17 and served in a parachutists unit. “I learned English in the army). When he returned, he earned his CPA from NYU and became a volunteer fire fighter.

The museum, a 501 (C3) Nonprofit Educational Foundation,  is open year-round, rain or shine.

Admission for adults is $13, seniors and veterans $10 and children $8. 

The American Airpower Museum, Hangar 3, 1230 New Highway, Farmingdale, NY 11735, 631-293-6398,info@americanairpowermuseum.org, www.americanairpowermuseum.com.

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© 2020 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

Staycation! Long Island Offers So Much to Explore

The world-class Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, Long Island, is a sensational destination for a staycation – inspiring exhibits that explain the beginning of aviation to the future of space travel in the place where it happened, set in a spacious, comfortable air-conditioned facility. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Long Island entering Phase 4 in the COVID-19 recovery means that museums, gardens, attractions, even shopping malls, are open again with health protocols that include limited capacity (many required timed ticketing), social distancing, hand-sanitizing and mandatory mask-wearing. This is an ideal time for Long Islanders to discover our own bounty.

Staycation! Create your own itinerary. Here are some highlights (for more, visit Long Island Tourism Commission, discoverlongisland.com):

Cradle of Aviation Museum is Sensational Destination on Staycation Itinerary

A year ago, we were dazzled and enthralled at the Cradle of Aviation exhibit and special programming for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing. This year is historic in another way – the museum is reopening with special health protocols in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. As I toured the museum as it geared up for the reopening, I really focused on the remarkable historic exhibits, appreciating the role Long Island played in the development of aviation up through and including space travel.

We tend to think of the Wright Brothers and their flight on a beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, but Long Island was really the birthplace of the aviation industry. So many firsts, as I observed going through the museum: the first woman pilot, the first Bleriot monoplane (what??), first woman to pilot an aircraft and first woman to build an aircraft (Dr. Bessica Raiche of Mineola) and of course, first nonstop flight between New York and Paris that departed from Roosevelt Field, right outside. We also see a photo montage of native Long Island astronauts including Mary Cleave who graduated Great Neck North High School.

The planes and artifacts on display are astounding.

The “Spirit of St. Louis” plane used in the Jimmy Stewart movie on display at Cradle of Aviation Museum came off the same production line as Charles Lindbergh’s plane that made the historic flight from Long Island’s Roosevelt Field to Paris, nonstop, in 33 hours © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You learn that the reason Long Island was such a magnet for early aviation began with its geography: a flat, treeless plain with low population. Add to that some wealthy people willing to put up money – like the $25,000 prize offered by hotel owner Raymond Orteig for the first nonstop aircraft flight between New York and Paris that enticed Charles Lindbergh to fly his Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic from Roosevelt Field (just outside Cradle’s door) to Paris in 33 hours. The same plane Lindberg flew – it came off the same production line and was used in the movie, “Spirit of St. Louis” starring Jimmy Stewart – is on display.

Cradle of Aviation educators measure out six-foot social distancing separations getting the air-and-space museum ready to reopen to the public © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many of the interactive have been closed off for health reasons, but there are still videos, sound effects and music (“Over There, Over There” by composer George M. Cohan, who lived in Kings Point, LI, plays where a wood-frame plane is being built), and a dazzling array of exhibits in which to be completely immersed.

Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the end of WWII with  a look back at the aircraft and the people that made a difference in ending the war including such fighter planes as the P-47 and Grumman’s Avenger, Hellcat, and Wildcat (very impressed with the women WASP pilots).

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat (famous in the Top Gun movie, just in time for the release of Top Gun 2) is on display, marking the 50th anniversary of the first flight © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A special treat this summer is the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the F-14 Tomcat, one of the most iconic Navy fighters ever built on Long Island, which was featured prominently in the movie, “Top Gun.”  See a full size aircraft, the third F-14 ever built and oldest flying F-14 from 1971-1990, two -F14 cockpits, nose and flying suits. Learn about the plane, the pilots, and why the F-14 is such a beloved fighter and just in time before the release of Top Gun: Maverick this December.

The environment is especially marvelous during this COVID-summer – spacious rooms, delightfully air-conditioned, with demarcations for six-feet separation and capacity limited to 700 (you should pre-book your tickets online). This is a great year for a family to purchase an unlimited membership ticket ($125 for a family of four), and come frequently. There is so much to see and absorb, you are always seeing and learning new things.

The real thing: the actual lunar lander built by Grumman, Bethpage, for Apollo 19, a moon mission which was scrapped, at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island. It is one of only three LEMs on earth (three are still on the moon; the other two are at the National Air & Space Museum in DC and at Kennedy Space Center in Florida), but the only one on earth intended to go to the moon. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Cradle of Aviation Museum & Education Center is home to over 75 planes and spacecraft representing over 100 years of aviation history and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater. The museum is located on Museum Row, Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in Garden City.  Call (516) 572-4111 or visit www.cradleofaviation.org.  

Cradle of Aviation Museum is part of Museum Row, which also includes the Long Island Children’s Museum, the Nassau County Firefighter’s Museum, and when it reopens the Nunley Carousel, which dates from 1912.                                     

Nassau County Museum of Art Reopens with “Blue”

The Nassau Museum re-opened July 8 with a spectacular new exhibition that includes work by Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Helen Frankenthaler, Yves Klein and many other major artists. A new timed ticketing and touch-free entry system, along with safety protocols, ensure the safety and comfort of visitors. The Museum is limiting capacity and using signage and staff monitoring to make sure distancing is observed, and has instituted a new cleaning regimen as well as health screening for staff and volunteers.

The innovative new show boldly ventures into the many meanings of the world’s most popular color: Blue. It includes several important artists of our time, including Jeffrey Gibson, Mark Innerst and Sean Scully. It brings together a wide range of media, from sculpture, paintings, prints, photographs and watercolors through ceramics (including Moroccan tiles, Chinese Ming porcelain, Turkish vessels and Japanese claire de lune porcelain), textiles and even a United Nations helmet.

Programming for the show, both online and in person, includes a specially commissioned ballet by the artist Han Qin, a concert of works specially composed for the art in the show, lectures and a director’s seminar series. 

Walking the magnificent grounds of the Nassau County Museum of Art (the William Cullen Bryant Preserve) and coming upon sculpture © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum’s magnificent grounds (officially known as the William Cullen Bryant Preserve) have remained open to the public– including outdoor sculpture garden collection of nearly 40 pieces by 24 sculptors, created over the past 100 years, from 1913 to 2018, set throughout its 145 acres of fields, woods, ponds, and formal gardens, and its nature trails.

Celebrating its 30th year, Nassau County Museum of Art, One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor,  is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors (62 and above) and $5 for students and children (4 to12). Visitors are urged to buy their timed tickets in advance online at nassaumuseum.org, 516-484-9338.

More highlights:

Long Island Aquarium has made changes to its operation for the safety of guests, staff and animals (Touch Tanks, animal feeding, encounters, Shark Dives have been suspended). In lieu of a Sea Lion Show, there is a Sea Lion feed and training session, with social distancing in the stands.. Visitors and staff must wear a face mask or covering (masks can be purchased); hand-sanitizers throughout, six-feet social distancing separation will be maintained, including a one-way path through the property. Guests can walk through the Aquarium, enjoying the indoor habitats, to get to the outdoor habitats such as the Penguin Pavilion, Otter Falls, Sea Lion Coliseum. Outdoor dining and retail shops have reopened. Operating at a reduced guest capacity, all members of your party must pre-pay admission and reserve a time slot prior to your visit (https://www.longislandaquarium.com/purchase-tickets/pricing/) (431 East Main Street, Riverhead NY 11901, 631-208-9200, ext 426, www.longislandaquarium.com).

Old Westbury Gardens, the former estate of John S. and Margarita Grace Phipps, is one of the most recognizable of all Gold Coast properties. Its centerpiece is Westbury House, a Charles II-style mansion where the Phipps family lived for 50 years (featured in 25 films including “North by Northwest” and “Love Story”). The 160-acre property also features world-renowned gardens with sweeping lawns, woods, ponds and lakes, and more than 100 species of trees. Advance-reservations tickets are required to tour the palatial home, walk its grounds, and enjoy a window on Long Island’s Gilded Age. (71 Old Westbury Rd, Old Westbury, 516-333-0048, info@oldwestburygardens.org, www.oldwestburygardens.org).

Sands Point Preserve’s The Great Lawn, Rose Garden, Woodland Playground, forest trails, and pond area are open, but the three castle-like mansions (Hempstead House, Castle Gould and Falaise built by Harry S. Guggenheim), Welcome Center and dog run are closed for the health of visitors. Restrooms are available in Castle Gould’s Black Box, and are closed periodically for sterlizing and cleaning. The number of cars is limited; there is contactless payment at Gatehouse, $15/per car, free for members. (127 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, http://sandspointpreserveconservancy.org/)

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Districts, was the home of William Robertson Coe from 1913 to 1955. Coe was interested in rare plants and developed the 409 acre estate into an arboretum with 160 acres of garden and plants. In celebration of the centennial anniversary of the completion of the Buffalo Mural in Coe Hall, Planting Fields Foundation is presenting an exhibition on the work of Robert Winthrop Chanler (1872-1930), The Electrifying Art and Spaces of Robert Winthrop Chanler.  A rare opportunity to view decorative screens and panels from private collections throughout America, the exhibition highlights Chanler’s depiction of frenzied worlds from the early 1910s to the late 1920s. Visitors learn about his work in the context of the artistic developments in America in the early 20th century, his relationship to the wealthy patrons of the Gilded Age, and the preservation challenges presented by the Buffalo Mural in Coe Hall.  Gain a deeper understanding of the historical significance of the screens and their design function within the homes of the elite, as well as Chanler’s eccentric persona and the characters around him throughout his life. One-hour tours are limited to 5 people, all from the same family or group; request your tour time online. (395 Planting Fields Road Jericho Turnpike, Oyster Bay, NY 11771, 516-922-9200, plantingfields.org)

The Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium’s elegant Spanish-Revival mansion was the home of William Kissam Vanderbilt II, great grandson of Commodore Cornelius. The 43-acre estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, overlooks Northport Bay and the L.I. Sound. The museum has reopened the first floor of the Hall of Fishes marine museum; the Habitat and Stoll Wing animal dioramas; and the natural-history and cultural-artifact galleries on the first floor of the Memorial Wing. The Mansion living quarters and the Reichert Planetarium remain closed at this time. A limited number of visitors are being accommodated on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays,  11am-6pm. Galleries are open from 12-5pm. Admission to enter the property: $14 per carload; members free. (80 Little Neck Road, Centerport, NY 11721, 631-854-5579, www.vanderbiltmuseum.org,  info@vanderbiltmuseum.org).

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Oyster Bay, was Theodore Roosevelt’s “Summer White House.” While the house is not yet reopened for visitors, you can explore the 83 acre-grounds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site was the “Summer White House when Theodore Roosevelt served as 26th President, from 1902-1908. He lived in this Oyster Bay estate until his death in 1919, and it remains just as it was when he was in residence. The historic home is not yet reopened (the national site is being reopened in phases), but you can explore the 83 acres of grounds which include Audubon Center and songbird sanctuary (note: public restrooms are closed at this point). Check out the virtual tour (20 Sagamore Hill Road, Oyster Bay, 922-4788, https://www.nps.gov/sahi/planyourvisit/conditions.htm)

Garvies Point Museum and Preserve is a center for research on Long Island geology and the Island’s Native American archaeology. The museum is reopening July 18 (capacity limited to 3-4 family groups at one time). The nature trails (you can really imagine when Native Americans lived here), picnic area (bring a bag lunch), bird & butterfly friendly gardens and Native American Herb Garden, and trails to shoreline are open. Call 516-571-8010 ahead of time to check for availability. (50 Barry Drive, Glen Cove NY 11542. 571-8010, www.garviespointmuseum.com)

Garvies Point is a center for research for Long Island geology and Native American archaeology © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park landscape and tree planting was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead, who designed New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Located on the Connetquot River it has 690 acres of lawns and open meadows, a wildflower garden, a marshy refuge, and paths ideal for bird watching. The grounds are open but the English Tudor-style manor house is closed at this time. (440 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, https://bayardcuttingarboretum.com/

Bethpage State Park has five golf courses including Bethpage Black, home of the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009, and the only public course on the PGA tour. Its narrow fairways and high roughs have been the scourge of many of the game’s best-known players. Facilities include four other color-coded 18-hole championship-length courses and a clubhouse/restaurant. You can also picnic, hike, bike (there is an outstanding bike path), play tennis and horseback ride on 1,475 acres (For information about Bethpage State Park Golf Course, 516-249-0700).

Jones Beach State Park, the largest public beach in the world, offers 6.5 miles of uninterrupted Atlantic Ocean beachfront, two public swimming pools and a smaller beach on Zach’s Bay. The Jones Beach Boardwalk spans two miles of the white sand beach. Along the boardwalk perimeter are basketball courts and deck games, a band shell offering free concerts and social dancing, plus a miniature golf course. You can surf cast on the beach and fish from piers, tie up your boat at a marina.

Biking the boardwalk at Jones Beach State Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Since 2011, State Parks has completed and started more than $100 million in projects to restore Jones Beach State Park’s historic grandeur, attract new visitors and create new recreational facilities. Projects completed include the rehabilitation of the West Bathhouse Complex and Field 6, restoration of the historic Central Mall mosaics, new playgrounds at the West Games Area and Zach’s Bay, new gateway signage, completion of the new Boardwalk Café restaurant, and a new WildPlay Adventure park with zip lines, and a 4.5 mile Jones Beach Shared Use Path along Ocean Parkway. This season, visitors will see $6.6 million in improvements: the West Games Area features a new mini-golf course, new cornhole and pickleball courts as well as refurbished courts for shuffleboard and paddle tennis.

With the state and Long Island’s improving COVID-19 situation, concessions are now allowed to open with restrictions at state ocean and lakefront beaches, including popular destinations such as Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Sunken Meadow, and Lake Welch in Harriman State Park.

Along with all 180 New York state parks, capacity is restricted (you can check online to see if daily limits have been reached, 518-474-0456, https://parks.ny.gov/parks/)

For more Long Island attractions ideas and information on “travel confidently”, visit discoverlongisland.com.

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© 2020 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

10 Uncommon Attractions in Southeast Florida to Explore

Bonnet House Courtyard © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Before sheltering-at-home took hold in NJ, we travelled to Southeastern Florida to visit family. This time, we didn’t just sit around the house and go out to restaurants to eat. We found attractions and activities that were fun and most often free or accepted donations. Others were well worth the entrance fee to enjoy a very uncommon day! 

Manatees in Manatee Lagoon © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Manatee Lagoon, Riviera Beach, FL – the center’s main, unique attraction, is being able to catch a view of the wild manatees as they enjoy the warm, shallow water surrounding the discovery center that is released by the Florida Power & Light Company’s Next Generation Clean Energy Center. The window for this experience is rather small – usually a few days during late January, when the temperature of the deeper, manatee home waters off of Southern Florida coastline becomes cool enough for the manatees to venture into the Intracoastal shore with the Clean Energy hydroelectric plant’s effluence.  This eco-discovery center is usually open weekly from Tuesday – Sunday, 9AM – 4PM, and offers free admission and free parking. The main floor has a small discovery center about the local environment and manatees.

Check the web site (https://www.visitmanateelagoon.com/) for when the Center will be reopened. Manatee Lagoon is located at 6000 N Flagler Dr, West Palm Beach, FL 33407.

Rehabilitated Turtle at Loggerhead Marinelife Center © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, FL – this center rehabilitates three types of sea turtles common to the Florida nesting areas: Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. The Center has small, outdoor recovery tanks for the turtles who are recovering primarily from dehydration and malnourishment, as well as from injuries resulting from encounters with small boats. Before hanging out with the turtles, learn about them from the indoor exhibit. 

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center and the Juno Beach Pier reopened to visitors the week of May 18, 2020. The Center (14200 U.S. Hwy 1,Juno Beach, FL) is open to the public daily from 9am – 5pm; a donation of $10/person is suggested. Face coverings are required for all guests 2-years and older to enter. For more information, call 561-627-8280, or send email to info@marinelife.org.  

Tips to Protect Sea Turtle Hatchlings along Florida’s coastline:

In sea turtle nesting areas, reduce lighting or use lighting that concentrates it down and not out.

Always walk over nesting areas, and stay out of any flagged off area.

If you spot a turtle hatchling crawling away from the water, it can be redirected  to the water, but allow the hatchling to continue on its own.

If you encounter a lethargic or stranded turtle, call Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s 24-hour Sea Turtle Rescue line at: (561) 603-0211 or call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) immediately at: 1-888-404-3922) or dial *FWC or #FWC on your mobile phone.

Blowing Rocks Preserve, Jupiter Island – rocky trails through forests of sea grape trees lead from the narrow parking lots to this natural beach reserve. The preserve gets its name for the Anastasia limestone rocks along the shoreline — when the ocean breaks against the rocks, the force sends plumes of saltwater as high as 50 ft. through the limestone holes.  The protected, low-light sandy beach is a favorite destination for nesting sea turtles, including loggerhead, green and leatherback breeds. Residents and tourists enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and even scuba diving off of the beach.

As of writing this article, the Preserve remains closed to the public. Check the Nature Conservancy’s website for more information about the geology of the beach area, the visiting turtles and the conservancy’s activities to rehabilitating the turtles, as well as directions, and especially, notice when this beautiful, natural preserve will be reopened: https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/blowing-rocks-preserve/

Gumbo Limbo Hatchling Research Center © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Boca Raton –  for a recommended $5/person donation, the center offers visitors outdoor aquariums, a research center for turtle hatchlings, and raised boardwalk trails, which thread out from the Center and lead to the Intracoastal Waterway through groves of Gumbo Limbo and mangroves trees with butterflies and mangrove crabs hanging from trunks and branches. The boardwalk trails are open until dusk, even when the center is closed. The Center (1801 North Ocean Blvd. Boca Raton, FL 33432) also maintains a butterfly garden with a path that leads to the Intracoastal. Plan your visit by learning when they will reopen the Center and the trails, at https://www.gumbolimbo.org.

Monkey Jungle Rainforest Adventure © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Monkey Jungle, Miami – King, a 51-year old Western Lowlands gorilla, is one of the main attractions at Monkey Jungle, where he has called home for the past 41 years.  At his special show, we saw how the trainers interact with King, and learned that they provide him with a full day of companionship and interaction. To get to King, who is at the half-way mark of a one-mile loop, we visited other monkeys and birds housed along the mulched paths which run through a beautiful, tropical rainforest.  As we left King’s show area, we found that we walked into a caged-in path with metal cups hanging from chains at the top of the caging. We realized that we were within the large monkey habitat. The monkeys run freely around the caged tunnel, and pull up the cups with raisins or dried cranberries we were given when we paid admission.  The 30-acre park (14805 SW 216 St, Miami, FL 33170) is open daily from 9:30am – 5pm. Admission is $29.95/adult, $23.95/child (3 – 9), $27.95/senior (65+),  including shows that occur at least three times each day; parking is free.

Monkey Jungle also offers an immersive walk through 4 acres of the natural habitat: during the “Rainforest Adventure Tour,” we encountered many of the 150 very friendly squirrel monkeys and the 5 capuchin  monkeys. They came right up to our hands to gently accept the nuts and dried fruit we were holding out to them; some of them even sat on a shoulder or hat. The Tour runs three times each day at 10am, 12:15 pm, and 2:30pm. The “Rainforest Adventure Tour” is $129.95/person, which includes general admission and the special monkey food. 

Check Monkey Jungle website (https://www.monkeyjungle.com/) and their social media pages for updates when they will reopen. Book the Rainforest Adventure Tour in advance of your visit, by calling 305-235-1611.

Little Havana, Miami – many Cubans came into the US in the 1990s and stayed in Miami. Little Havana district continues to offer the warm, welcoming Cuban experience, especially as we strolled along Calle Ocho: walk through Domino Park, where square tables are filled with Seniors playing dominos and chess; pop into the many cigar shops on the street and watch Cuban-trained men hand roll fresh cigars; grab some authentic Cuban food and listen to live music at one of the historic bars; end the LIttle Havana experience with artisanal gourmet ice cream or sorbets in Cuban and tropical flavors at Azucar Ice Cream Company.

We received a tour of Mister Cigars (mycigarroller.com), the newest of the cigar shops in Little Havana (742 SW 16th Ave, Miami). Since the store opened in the Fall of 2019, they hand-roll around 7000 cigars each month from 3,000 lbs of fresh leaves they receive from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, and Mexico. Mister Cigars’ rollers have a combined experience of over 30 years, were trained at Havana’s Cuban Cigar Manufacturing School, and worked at the famous Partagas cigar factory in Havana.

Little Havana is slowly reopening public services. Mister Cigars, along with other stores, reopened the week of May 18, 2020. In addition to the store reopening,  Mister Cigars will be bringing back the “Cuban Experience” evening: a limo will pick up your party from your hotel, and take you on a tour of a cigar factory in Miami, spend an evening of delicious Cuban food and live show, and return in the limo with a generous gift package including hand-rolled cigars, humidor, and cigar preparation tools. Contact Mister Cigars’ Fernando Morales at 786-493-9042 for more information, pricing, and to schedule the “Cuban Experience.”  Tell Fernando that Laurie Millman sent you!)

For more current and historic information about Little Havana, visit: https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/neighborhoods/little-havana.

Wynward District, Miami – explore by car or foot, the many colorful, hand-painted murals on the sides of warehouses in this Miami district; each designed and painted by local, Miami street artists. Over the last few years, some of the warehouses have been converted to  eclectic, indoor art galleries, chic bars, bistros, and craft breweries. Go to https://wynwoodmiami.com/ to check out when venues will be reopening. For a virtual tour of the murals, go to https://wynwoodmiami.com/explore/street-art-grid-view/.

The Bonnet House © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, Fort Lauderdale – the estate home of post-impressionist American artists, Frederic and Helen Bartlett, continues to look as it did in the 1930s and 1940s, with the bright yellow walls, the house/museum is filled with their original furnishings, as well as the artwork by the artists. The estate is located on a barrier island bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the west side. The tour around the beautifully landscaped grounds transports you to a tropical paradise with a natural barrier island environment, including banyan and palm trees, tropical flowering trees, and ocean breezes – no wonder this is a popular wedding venue.

Bonnet House reopened the  week of May 19, 2020 for grounds tours only, between 10am and 4pm. Tour tickets are $5 for nonmembers.; free for members.  Schedule the tour online at https://www.bonnethouse.org/.

For a virtual, historic tour of the house, check out: https://www.bonnethouse.org/a-virtual-and-vintage-tour-of-bonnet-house/.

Snorkel around the small, artificial reefs near West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach that make up what is called the Palm Beach Snorkeling Trail. These little islands are home to a variety of colorful tropical fish which rival many snorkeling areas around the world, especially those destinations where the humans and boating have depleted the corals and fish.  As I was there in late January, we were lucky to meet a few manatees who were curious about us and hung out with us while we were snorkeling. Some of the island parks require a boat shuttle for a small charge to take a round-trip between RIviera Beach and the slightly, off-shore islands.  Rent or bring your own snorkel gear, and remember to bring and use only sunscreen that is reef-safe. You can also purchase the appropriate sunscreens on the boat shuttle.

Laurie Millman kayaking in the Intracoastal © Roberta Millman-Ide/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kayak through the warm, shallow waters of the Intracoastal between Lake Worth South Beach and West Palm Beach.  As you travel between the shore and the small islands, look for birds of prey, water birds, and the large green iguana colonies. If you do this activity in late January, you may also catch a glimpse of a manatee swimming alongside your kayak. 

NOTE: Many Palm Beach parks are now open sunrise to sunset for one-way walking, running, biking, equestrian riding, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking, while practicing social distancing.  

For more information on boat shuttles, openings, restrictions, and CDC rules, visit http://discover.pbcgov.org/parks/Lists.

Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society Reopens

Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has reopened to visitors. It’s particularly exciting time to visit since in May, Api, a Malayan tiger, gave birth to three healthy cubs. The impact of a visit to Palm Beach Zoo extends beyond the gates, inspiring people to take action and save wildlife in wild places.

Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has reopened to for visits seven days per week from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (last ticket sale is at 4:15 p.m.) and will be operating normally with a few notable exceptions:

  • Capacity will be limited and carefully monitored to allow for physical distancing.
  • All visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance at palmbeachzoo.org.
  • A one-way path will be designated throughout the Zoo in the Florida Wetlands, Tropics of the Americas and The Islands.
  • Certain exhibits will be closed or roped off including the carousel, train, observatory, cafe, aviary, butterfly garden and bronze statues.
  • Food service is available at the concessions window and kiosks in Fountain Plaza.
  • Hand-sanitizer stations will be available throughout the Zoo.
  • Animal talks and animal experiences will not take place at this time.
  • Strollers and wheelchair rentals are not available and guests are encouraged to bring their own.
  • Guests to the Zoo are asked to refrain from visiting if they are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 complications, are not feeling well or have a fever. Guests are also highly encouraged to wear masks, utilize hand-sanitizing stations, and maintain a six-foot distance from other groups.

It’s particularly exciting because in May, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society announced that beloved Malayan tiger Api gave birth to three healthy cubs. Api and her mate Kadar, are part of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan® (SSP). The SSP® is a cooperative reproduction program that serves as an important backup population for critically endangered Malayan tigers in the wild.

For more than 50 years, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has provided visitors with up-close and personal animal encounters that connect people to wildlife. Palm Beach Zoo guests explore a WILD ecosystem thriving on 23 lush, tropical acres while discovering hundreds of exotic animals. Visitors enjoy interactive animal experiences, nature and water play, and a lakeside cafe. Palm Beach Zoo participates in AZA Species Survival Plan® programs, ensuring healthy animal populations for rare and endangered species. The impact of a visit to Palm Beach Zoo extends beyond the gates, inspiring people to take action and save wildlife in wild places. For more information, visit www.palmbeachzoo.org.

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© 2020 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 York City Virtually: Greatest Cultural Institutions, Closed for Coronavirus, Share Exhibits Online

The Metropolitan Museum of Art may be temporarily closed, but you can explore its collections virtually © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s major cultural institutions are temporarily closed to help minimize the spread of coronavirus, but many are making their exhibits and programs available virtually, and have websites that really engage, that make the time spent in enforced hibernation that much richer and more productive, and frankly, less maddening.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is celebrating its 150 anniversary year, has temporarily closed all three locations—The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters—effective March 13. Meanwhile, you can watch videos from exhibition previews to curator talks and performances (https://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia)) and experience the best of human creativity from every corner of the globe at The Met (I love watching the video of the conservation of the Degas tutu, https://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia/video/conservation-and-scientific-research/degas-tutu-conservation) and play audio guides (https://www.metmuseum.org/visit/audio-guide)

When the Met reopens, it will offer a series of special exhibits marking its 150th anniversary: The exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020 will present more than 250 works of art from the collection while taking visitors on a journey through the Museum’s history; The reopening of the galleries for British decorative arts and design will reveal a compelling new curatorial narrative; Transformative new gifts, cross-cultural installations, and major international loan exhibitions will be on view throughout the year; and special programs and outreach will include a birthday commemoration on April 13, a range of public events June 4–6, and a story-collecting initiative.

“Our galleries may be closed, but never fear! Social media never sleeps.” Follow @metmuseum on Instagram for Tuesday Trivia, #MetCameos, and daily art content.

Being confined to home is a perfect time to take advantage of the Museum of Modern Art’s free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?, available now on Coursera. This course offers an in-depth look at over 70 works of art from MoMA’s collection—many of which are currently on view in the expanded Museum—from 1980 to the present, with a focus on art produced in the last decade. Learners will hear directly from artists, architects, and designers from around the globe about their creative processes, materials, and inspiration. What Is Contemporary Art? can be found at mo.ma/whatiscontemporaryart.

Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph is featured in MoMA’s exhibit “Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures”. Meanwhile, take advantage of the Museum of Modern Art’s free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?

I can’t wait for MoMA to reopen so I can see Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, the first major solo exhibition at the Museum of the photographer’s incisive work in over 50 years. The exhibition includes approximately 100 photographs drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures also uses archival materials such as correspondence, historical publications, and oral histories, as well as contemporary voices, to examine the ways in which words inflect our understanding of Lange’s pictures. These new perspectives and responses from artists, scholars, critics, and writers, including Julie Ault, Wendy Red Star, and Rebecca Solnit, provide fresh insight into Lange’s practice. (Scheduled through May 9, 2020).

T. rex The Ultimate Predator at American Museum of Natural History. While the museum is closed, go online to its “Explore” site for videos, blogs and OLogy, a science website for kids of all ages. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

American Museum of Natural History while closed, the website is a treasure trove of information and engaging photos and ways to explore and interact on your own. At the section of its site labeled “Explore” https://www.amnh.org/explore, there are videos, blogs and OLogy: The Science Website for Kids, where kids of all ages can play games, do activities, watch videos and meet scientists to learn more about fossils, the universe, genetics, and more. (Check out https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/brain)

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC. While the exhibit is closed, there are excellent materials online. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is in the midst of the landmark exhibit, Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. The most comprehensive Holocaust exhibition about Auschwitz ever presented in North America, the exhibit had already been extended until August 30, 2020. The museum so far is scheduled to reopen March 29; in the meanwhile, there are excellent materials at the website that will inform and prepare you for when the exhibit reopens (https://mjhnyc.org/discover-the-exhibition/about-the-exhibition/). (See Groundbreaking Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage Transports to ‘Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away’)

New-York Historical Society presents “Women March” exhibit marking centennial of Women’s Suffrage. Many materials are online, but you can also re-visit some of the N-YHS’s imortant past exhibits, like a personal favorite, “Harry Potter: A History of Magic.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New-York Historical Society is closed so you will have to wait to experience “Women March,”   presidential/election exhibits (take a selfie in Reagan’s Oval Office) and “Bill Graham” (phenomenal and surprising exhibit with fabulous musical accompaniment about this iconic concert impresario). Meanwhile, the N-YHS website offers sensational online exhibitions featuring some of their important past exhibits, including ‘Harry Potter; A History of Magic,” and “the Vietnam War: 1945-1975” and Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion (https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/online-exhibitions). You can also delve into its digital collection, with selections from the N-YHS Museum and Library’s holdings paintings, drawings, photographs, manuscripts, broadsides, maps, and other materials that reveal the depth and breadth of over two centuries of collecting.  (http://digitalcollections.nyhistory.org/).  (See: Many Pathways to Mark Centennial of Women’s Suffrage)

Meanwhile, some outdoor venues are open, as of this writing (the situation has changed daily):

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden remains open to the public, having implemented stringent cleaning protocols and posted new signage on-site about best practices in personal hygiene. “We hope that the Garden might offer you some comfort and beauty even during a particularly stressful time.” (https://www.bbg.org/visit)

Central Park, Prospect Park and Flushing Meadows may well provide needed respite. However, the Wildlife Conservation Society has temporarily closed the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium, effective Monday, March 16. Check wcs.org for updates.

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