Category Archives: Travel

Travel: The Waldorf=Astoria Hotel

Uploaded by superauthors.com.

You’ve stayed in those hotels where if you’ve seen one room, you’ve seen them all? That’s not how they do it at the Waldorf=Astoria. (And yes, that’s how it spells its name.) On Park Avenue in Manhattan you’ll find 1,413 spacious guest rooms and suites all individually designed and decorated. So if you don’t like the room you’re assigned, don’t despair. Chances are you’ll find the right one if you persevere.

Uploaded by gonyc.about.com

A little history is in order. (Don’t fall asleep, this is interesting.) Originally these were two hotels, the Waldorf (1893) and the Astoria (1897). Both were built by members of the Astor family. The original Waldorf stood on the site now occupied by the Empire State Building. (Interesting, right?) But when the action of the city moved north, so did the Waldorf=Astoria, and the new hotel – the world’s largest and tallest at the time – opened in 1931.

The hotel has not only entertained the world’s rich and famous, it’s also been home for some of them. Among the famous folks who’ve called the W=A home are former president Herbert Hoover, retired general Douglas MacArthur, inventor Nicolas Tesla, gangsters Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano, and composer Cole Porter (Great American Things, June 22, 2009).

Travel: LA to Las Vegas Road Trip

You can count on about five hours for the 300-mile road trip. Unless you leave during Friday night rush hour. And depending on how long you stay at the In-N-Out in Hesperia. Uploaded by travelpod.com.

It’s about 300 miles, give or take a few casinos. You can make it in about five hours, provided you don’t travel during Friday’s rush hour. Start on I-10, do a little shake and bake until you reach 1-15, and it’s a straight shot from there. Along the way you’ll pass the World’s Largest Thermometer (134 ft. high), stop at the In-N-Out in Hesperia (a must, according to the folks at 11points.com), and pass such dream towns as Barstow, Primm, and Jean.

I can feel your excitement from here.

Uploaded by vegas.com.

Want the time to go by quickly? Here’s a tip from comedian Rita Rudner (and where has she been lately?):

“I recommend first renting a five year old to sit in the back seat (as it happens, I have one to rent), and have her say ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘I feel sick’ at least 12 times an hour,” Rudner said. “When you next make the L.A.-L.V. trip, minus the child, the five hours will just fly by.”

And at the risk of letting this post become just a bunch of quotes from comedians (though there can be worse things), here’s a final tip. George Wallace reminds you to buy your gas before you arrive in Las Vegas:

“That’s why Vegas is the fastest growing city in America,” Wallace quipped. “People come here lose all their money and can’t go home.”

(Thanks to vegas.com for the assistance in today’s post.)

Travel: Alaska Whale Watching

Several whale species migrate off the majestic coast of Alaska between late March and September. Gray whales are first, followed by humpbacks, belugas, and orcas. Uploaded by eaglewingtours.com.

The Alaskan coast is an amazing place for viewing America’s most spectacular marine environment. You can see porpoises, sea lions, seals, walrus, and sea otters as you navigate past magnificent glaciers. But the greatest attraction is seeing the majestic whales that swim along the coast on their way to and from their feeding and mating grounds.

Uploaded by dailymail.co.uk.

Which whales you can see depends on the season you visit. Gray whales come up from Baja California in late March through May on their way to the Bering Sea. Humpback whales make their way along the southeast coast of Alaska between May and September. Orcas (killer whales) aren’t actually whales at all; they’re the largest member of the porpoise family. Even so, they’re thrilling to witness off Alaska’s coast in the summer months. It’s also possible to see humpback and beluga whales in Alaskan waters.

If you’re taking an Inside Passage tour (Great American Things, June 10, 2009), during these seasons, whale watching will definitely be a featured part of your itinerary. To make a visit just to see whales, head for the southeast Alaskan towns of Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway. Or visit the south central region, including Homer, Seward, and Kodiak. It’s not hard to find a reputable tour operator who can be sure you see these spectacular animals up close. Just don’t forget your camera!

Travel: Panama City Beach

It's too bad that Panama City Beach has a reputation as one of America's best spring break beaches. Because the other weeks of the year its gorgeous powder sand beach and turquoise water are perfect for life break, and stress break, and work break. Uploaded by bookpcbeach.wordpress.com.

Some of America’s most gorgeous beaches lie along the Gulf Coast, and neither hurricanes (rare) or oil spills (rarer) can long spoil their beauty. One of the most spectacular is Panama City Beach, with soft, powdery white sand and calm turquoise waters. And, most of the year, no spring break crazies.

Uploaded to Panoramio by americandream27.

Because it’s located on Florida’s panhandle, Panama City Beach doesn’t offer the warm winter temperatures that others at more tropical latitudes enjoy. What you will enjoy all year long is the sun – the Visitors Bureau boasts of 320 sunny days annually. And the average high in the winter months is in the 60s, which sounds pretty good if you’re in Michigan or Massachusetts.

There’s lots to do at Panama City Beach. It’s a great area for sport fishing… dolphin watching… scuba diving (it’s called the Wreck Capital of the South, which I trust isn’t because of automobiles)… and of course, swimming and soaking up the sun. It’s about 100 miles from Tallahassee, and 300 miles from Atlanta. And…it’s a lot closer (and less expensive) than the Bahamas.

Travel: Busch Gardens, Williamsburg

While Busch Gardens Williamsburg has never tried to compete in the highest-fastest-scariest roller coaster derby, it's America's most beautiful theme park. If you're a parent stuck there for a day, that's important. Uploaded by amusementpics.com.

Busch Gardens gives visitors the feeling of traveling to Europe without such unpleasantries as the expensive Euro, French snobbery, and unreadable alphabets. It’s a theme park that adults can enjoy, with beautiful landscaping, more entertaining shows than most theme parks provide, and plenty of rides to keep kids of all ages entertained.

It’s hard to believe that the park is now more than 35 years old. Its Old World sections include Britain (Banbury Cross), Ireland (Killarney), Scotland (Heatherdowns), Italy (San Marco and Festa Italia), Germany (Rhinefeld and Oktoberfest), and France (Aquitaine). In addition, there are two areas devoted to children – Land of the Dragons and Sesame Street: Forest of Fun.

Uploaded by starrtours.com.

Busch Gardens has never competed in the higher/faster/scarier roller coaster competition. Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t have some great rides. The Loch Ness Monster is still a favorite even after being open since 1978. And Mach Tower, featuring a 240-foot drop, is scheduled to open just after Memorial Day, 2011.

Busch Gardens has received the amusement industry’s Golden Ticket award for Best Landscaping for 13 consecutive years. And The National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA) named Busch Gardens the world’s Most Beautiful Park for the 21st consecutive year in 2011.

Travel: Hilton Head

At Hilton Head Island, the natural beauty of the South Carolina low country is protected by a strict land-use policy. Uploaded by rentittoday.com.

This part of the Southern coast is beautiful, historic, and sometimes, exclusive. With Charleston (Great American Things, June 7, 2009) 95 miles to the north and Savannah 20 miles to the south, Hilton Head Island is part of one of America’s most remarkable stretches of coastline.

Uploaded by placeforholiday.com.

Though it’s only been incorporated as a town since 1983, Hilton Head has a rich history, especially as a base for Union troops during the Civil War. Today, though, it’s known for strictly controlled land development to ensure the preservation of the coastal environment. While most of the island’s residential and vacation properties are located within gated communities, Hilton Head residents have consistently done what’s necessary to limit commercial development.

Hilton Head is not going to be your choice if you’re looking for a vacation bargain. While it has its own special feeling and fiercely loyal visitors, it’s designed to appeal to a sophisticated, affluent traveler. Golf and tennis enthusiasts love the island, and there is certainly no shortage of excellent restaurants. You won’t find high-rise condos or miniature golf courses; but you will find beautiful beaches, attentive service, and a respect for nature at Hilton Head. Just be prepared to pay for it.

Americana: The Plaza Hotel

The Plaza Hotel opened in 1907, and almost instantly became one of New York's most famous landmarks. That's been helped along by its setting for a wide variety of films, ranging from Plaza Suite to Crocodile Dundee to Sleepless in Seattle. Uploaded by baldpunk.com.

When I made my first visit to New York City as an adult, I had a list of the sights I wanted to see as a first-timer. Like most people, I wanted to go to Times Square (quite a bit edgier back then), Rockefeller Center, and the Metropolitan Museum. But another destination was a place I considered the heart of New York – The Plaza Hotel. I walked through the lobby and thought of all the movers and shakers who had been there before. And I still love the place.

Uploaded by makeherup.com.

Located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, the Plaza has been an integral part of New York since it was built in 1907. At that time, you could stay in a room for $2.50 a night – expect to pay close to a grand for that room today. The Beatles stayed at The Plaza when they came to America in 1964. And Donald Trump once owned the hotel, saying, “I haven’t purchased a building, I’ve purchased a masterpiece – the Mona Lisa.”

Recently, The Plaza underwent renovation and is now 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condo units. No mention of The Plaza is complete without a mention of all the movies filmed there. Some of the more memorable include Funny Girl, Plaza Suite, Arthur, Crocodile Dundee, Scent of a Woman, and Sleepless in Seattle.

Travel: Cedar Point

 

Cedar Point has the most rides, the most roller coasters, and the most tall roller coasters. No wonder it's been named America's top amusement park for 13 straight years. Uploaded by joeblog945.wordpress.com.

Why is Cedar Point usually mentioned as one of the top amusement parks in America? Maybe because it’s the only one that has four roller coasters taller than 200 feet (among the seventeen in the park). Or because its 75 rides are more than any other park. It’s no wonder that Amusement Today selected Cedar Point as “The Best Amusement Park in the World.” Not once. Or twice. But for the last thirteen years.

Uploaded by s4.hubimg.com.

Cedar Point isn’t a coaster-come-lately. It’s been around since 1870. And it’s become a sprawling complex of entertainment and lodging venues. CP now has three water rides, an indoor water park, more than two dozen children’s rides, and a host of family rides. Visitors can stay in any of six hotels, relax on a lakeside beach, or attend one of several musical shows. Boredom is definitely not an option.

On the travel review site TripAdvisor.com, reviewer SevenCostanza sums up the general feeling about Cedar Point: “This place should be on any thrill ride enthusiasts bucket list. A ton of coasters, though frankly some of the ones that might seem fun in lots of parks are ho-hum after you ride the likes of Maverick, Millenium Force and Top Thrill Dragster. Those 3 rides are worth the price of admission alone. Besides the great rides, the employees at cedar point work harder than any I have seen at any amusement park. They do everything they can to fill seats and keep the lines as short as possible, as well as do it all with a sense of humor and fun.”

Architecture: Hotel del Coronado

 

The Hotel del Coronado, opened back in 1888, was selected 18th in the AIA's survey of America's Favorite Architecture. Uploaded by wayfaring.info.

The “Hotel Del,” as it’s colloquially known, isn’t just one of Southern California’s inspired architectural masterpieces. It holds that honor for the entire country. The American Institute of Architects’ survey of America’s Favorite Architecture, placed this National Historic Landmark at number 18. That ranks higher than such national treasures at Monticello and any Frank Lloyd Wright creation.

 

The Hotel Del and Marilyn Monroe were both featured in Some Like it Hot. Uploaded by travel.latimes.com.

The Hotel Del, located in Coronado, California (just across the bay from San Diego), is one of the last surviving examples of the Victorian wooden beach resort. Built in 1888 from architect James Reid’s plan, it was at the time the largest resort hotel in the world. And it was the first to use electric lighting. In fact, Thomas Edison came out to supervise the installation of the hotel’s wiring.

Today, the mammoth property contains 680 rooms and suites, many of them beachfront. It offers many of the activities and luxuries you’d expect from a luxury resort named one of the Top 10 Resorts in the World by USA Today, and the number two best place in the world to get married by The Travel Channel.

Sports: Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has recently opened two new exhibits: Pro Football Today and Moments, Memories, and Mementos. Uploaded by dustinkeirstead.blogspot.com.

It’s unfortunate that professional football (then the American Professional Football Association) had its origins in Canton, Ohio, because that’s where the Hall of Fame organizers felt obligated to place their shrine. Nothing against Canton; I’ve never been there, it might be a fine place for all I know. But it’s neither the quaint old-time village that Cooperstown is for baseball, nor an appealing destination as South Bend, Indiana is for the college game.

Uploaded by ballsiest.com.

The original building, opened in 1963, has been expanded several times, so that it now totals just over 82,000 sq. ft. Unfortunately, the exterior still looks like a giant juicer. It’s too bad that some of the money raised for expansions didn’t go to improving the architecture.

But it’s the inside that matters, and that’s a fascinating place for football fans. Two new galleries, Pro Football Today and Moments, Memories, and Mementos bring the latest computer and video technology to celebrate the great players and biggest events in the sport’s history. From the game’s greatest legends to the players of today, the Hall brings the artifacts and history of pro football to life. The Hall will bring back lots of memories and provide hours of enjoyment to fans. Even if it is in Canton, Ohio.

Americana: Cheyenne Frontier Days

 

Frontier Days has been a part of Cheyenne since the end of the 19th century. It's not just rodeo, but a full range of activities and performances for the whole family. Uploaded by museevirtuel.ca.

You don’t have to love the sport of rodeo in order to enjoy Cheyenne Frontier Days. But it helps. Billing itself as “The Daddy of ’em All,” Frontier Days has been an annual mainstay of Cheyenne since its founding in 1897. Its rodeo competition is probably the largest of its kind in the country, and draws some 200,000 people during its run.

Uploaded by marriott.com.

But there’s plenty to do even if you don’t know a dogie from a doggie. There’s a large carnival midway with games and rides. There’s an Old West museum, a chuckwagon cookoff, a grand parade, an Indian village, free pancake breakfasts (yes, free), a Western art show, and a performance by Air Force Thunderbirds. And almost every night, a major musical act. The 2011 acts include Darius Rucker, Jason Aldean, Kid Rock, Mötley Crüe, The Charley Daniels Band, and Toby Keith.

The event is usually held over the last full week of July, so if you’d like to attend in 2011, that’s July 22-31. The capital of Wyoming has never become too “citified,” and it revels in everything Western during Frontier Days. So put on your cowboy boots and your Stetson, and enjoy a part of the country that most of us don’t know enough about. Cheyenne. Wyoming. The West.

Travel: Stowe, Vermont

 

Stowe gets an average of 333 inches of natural snow each year. But it's become a true four-seasons resort, and is especially gorgeous in the fall. Uploaded by worldtravelattractions.com.

Sometimes you have to chuckle at the writers on Wikipedia. Take this entry about one of the premier ski destinations in New England: “Tourism is a significant industry.” Really, Wikipedia?

Uploaded by grandslamtennistours.com.

The resort’s main attraction is Mount Mansfield, which at 4,393 feet is the tallest in Vermont. The first ski trails were cut by the CCC during the Great Depression, and as no one ever said, “If you cut it down, they will come.” They come for the 116 runs and the 333 inches average of annual snowfall.

But Stowe, like most full-service resorts these days, offers a lot more than skiing. First there’s the beauty of this quintessential Vermont small town. There’s shopping, more fine restaurants than anywhere in New England outside of Boston and Providence, year-round outdoor sports like fishing and kayaking, and of course the gorgeous New England autumn (Great American Things, October 19, 2009). It’s a year-round destination for anyone, but a winter paradise for those who love going down the side of a mountain on two sticks.

Travel: Manteo, NC

No matter where you are on Roanoke Island, you're never far from beautiful water. And you're even within walking distance of the Atlantic Ocean. Uploaded by marsheslight.com.

Manteo is the primary town on Roanoke Island, nestled inside North Carolina’s Outer Banks. You may know about its history — Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a charter to settle the area by Queen Elizabeth I in 1584. Several groups of colonists tried to make it through the hardships, but when a supply ship returned after leaving the settlers for three years, it found no one alive on the island. Virginia Dare, the first child born to English colonists in the New World, had also disappeared.

Uploaded by city-data.com.

Today, that story is told in a seasonal outdoor drama called The Lost Colony (Great American Things, June 7, 2010). But that’s just one of the incredibly charming things about the little town of Manteo. I’ve done two posts on this site about the best small towns in America, and I won’t claim that Manteo is better than many other similar towns. I’m sure there are others with a restored lighthouse, Elizabethan garden, and a reproduction of a 16th century ship. But few have the Atlantic Ocean within walking distance, I’m fairly certain of that.

Naturally, Manteo is most alive in the summer, when tourists come to the famous beaches of Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Hatteras Island. But it’s probably more interesting during other seasons, when Manteo Booksellers (the prototype of a charming, independent bookstore) isn’t crowded, and you can get a specialty coffee across the street at the Coffeehouse on Roanoke Island. If everything breaks our way, it’s where I’d love to retire. It’s a beautiful, quiet, very special place.

Travel: Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium is, um, a whale of a facility. When its new dolphin exhibit is complete, it will have more than 9 million gallons of water and more than 100,000 fish and other sea creatures. Uploaded by wikipedia.org.

Ever been snorkeling or scuba diving? Seeing the wide variety of marine species up close and in their natural habitat is hypnotizing and habit-forming. But when you can’t get to a reef, get to Atlanta – the world’s largest aquarium lets you see some species you’d never see on your own. And you don’t have to change out of your street clothes.

Uploaded by unitedstatesdestinations.com.

First, let’s look at the amazing facts. The Georgia Aquarium has more than eight million gallons of water… more than 100,000 fish and sea creatures … more than 60 exhibits… and some species viewable almost nowhere else. These include four whale sharks from Taiwan, great hammerhead sharks, beluga whales, and hammerhead sharks.

That the Georgia Aquarium exists at all is thanks to an amazing $250 million gift from Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot. His company grew up in Atlanta, and he wanted to “give something back” to the city for its support. He also wanted to help revitalize downtown Atlanta, which the Aquarium surely has. Since its opening in 2005, the Georgia Aquarium has attracted more than 11 million visitors. That number will continue to rise, especially with the completion of a new dolphin exhibit, featuring an additional 84,000 sq. ft. of space and adding another 1.3 million gallons of water…

Travel: Kauai

 

Kauai is sometimes called Hawaii's "Garden Isle," and every one of its 562 sq. miles gives this brand credibility. Uploaded by hawaiimagazine.com.

While all of the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago are beautiful and have their own attractions, Kauai might just be the most scenic of them all. It has mountains (the highest is Kawaikini at 5,243 feet), a canyon (Waimea Canyon, called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), the dramatic Napali Coast,  and several gorgeous bays and beaches.

Uploaded by indigofoundation.com.

Oh, those beaches. On the island’s north side you’ll find Hanalei Bay Beach, a near-perfect two-mile semicircle of white sand. And Kee Beach, with a reef that provides some of Hawaii’s best snorkeling. On the east side there’s Kalapaki Beach, a favorite of surfers. Poipu Beach Park highlights the south shore, with its crystal clear waters and the occasional appearance of monk seals. And the west side offers Kekaha Beach, uncrowded and great for sunbathing.

Kauai has only about 60,000 residents, and more of them are involved in welcoming tourists than any other business. It’s the fourth largest of the Hawaiian islands, and is 105 miles northwest of Oahu. Whether you’re looking for an active vacation, with hiking and snorkeling, or a purely relaxing one, Kauai might be the Hawaii you’re looking for.

The Napali Coast. Uploaded by joshfriedmantravel.wordpress.com.

Waimea Canyon. Uploaded by alohaclubhawaii.com.

Hanalei Bay Beach. Uploaded by smashingusa.com.

Kee Beach. Uploaded by desktop2wallpapers.com.

Kalapaki Beach. Uploaded by gohawaii.about.com.

Travel: Florida’s Overseas Highway

If you get creeped out by long bridges, then the Overseas Highway connecting the Florida Keys isn't for you. It has 42, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge. Uploaded by breakdowncover.org.

To me, building bridges is one of man’s most amazing feats. To build the infrastructure underwater needed to support traffic is something my little right-brained self can’t comprehend. Now, consider the Overseas Highway, stretching 127.5 miles and connecting the mainland with Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and, ultimately, Key West (Great American Things, July 14, 2009). I think it’s a modern wonder of the world.

Uploaded by floridakeyskeywestrealestate.com.

The original highway followed the route of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. Flagler constructed the necessary bridges to get rail connections to Key West, but his enterprise ultimately encountered financial problems and shut down. Then a major hurricane in 1935 destroyed much of the infrastructure, and the remnants of the rail line were sold to the state of Florida. It didn’t take many years for the bridges to be expanded to take auto traffic, and this amazing highway became a reality.

They say it’s about a four-hour drive now from Miami to Key West. Drivers now can enjoy not only the beautiful Gulf waters, but a variety of wildlife along the way. The Highway is part of Route 1, and includes 47 bridges, the 7-Mile Bridge being the most famous. In 2009, the Overseas Highway joined such famous byways as Route 66, The Blue Ridge Parkway, and Route 1 – Big Sur as an “All-American Road”, designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Travel: Central Park

 

NYC residents and visitors alike are surrounded by skyscrapers and noise, concrete and asphalt - until they come to the oasis, Central Park. Uploaded by grandcanyon.free.fr.

When Central Park was established back in 1857, New York City’s population had begun to move northward from the downtown area. Though some people lived in the area now covered by the park, to much of Manhattan it was “out in the country.” City officials recognized the need to create open public spaces, and architects Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux won a competition to design the new park.

Uploaded by visitingdc.com.

What they created is bigger than the typical city park, but then, almost everything is bigger in Manhattan. Central Park is roughly 2.5 miles long (from 59th St. to West 110th St.) and .5 mile wide (from 8th Ave. to 5th Ave.). This oasis of green in the asphalt and concrete of the big city has more visitors — more than 25 million each year — than any other city park in America.

The park’s usage has changed over the years. For example, sheep grazed in the area known as Sheep Meadow until about 1930. Now, though, Central Park is committed in large part to recreation and special events. It has walking tracks, bridle paths, skating rinks, small lakes, ball fields, playgrounds, a zoo, and large open areas. Beginning in the sixties, major events made Central Park their home, including summer performances by the the New York Philharmonic, Shakespeare in the Park, and outdoor concerts. As the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation says on its website, “150 years’ worth of visitors have enjoyed and recommended Central Park; don’t you think it’s time for your turn?”

Uploaded by incentralpark.com.

 

Uploaded to Flickr by Andrew Mace.
Uploaded by incentralpark.com.

Uploaded by nyphil.org.

Travel: St. John, USVI

 

The sand is impossibly white. The water is warm, aqua, and calm as a bathtub. The temperature is almost always in the mid-80s. It's what you imagine the Caribbean to be. Uploaded by USVI forum member mscolleen.

(Originally posted April 30, 2009)

The marketing theme for the U.S. Virgin Islands used to be “America’s Caribbean.” So while at first blush it may seem odd to have a Caribbean island in a blog about Great American Things, it definitely belongs.

What makes St. John unique in the Caribbean is that the Virgin Islands National Park covers more than 7,000 acres on the island, limiting development and preserving the quality of the natural habitat. The beaches consist of that amazing sugar-white powder. Shades of aqua you can’t imagine being real make

Photo by Jeannie Chalkley.

each bay more wonderful than the last. The snorkeling is some of the best in the world, and you can swim to the reefs from shore. If all that isn’t enough, the temperature remains in the mid-80s year-round.

There are plenty of dining options, but no chain restaurants. The language is English, American money is used, there’s even a slow-as-home post office. You’ll have to drive on the left, however, and that’ll throw you until you get used to it.

St. John is breathtakingly beautiful, and as safe as the Caribbean can be. No wonder it pulls us back year after year.

 

Photo by Ben Whitney, uploaded to wikimedia.com.

 

Photo by Margo Gripp.

Photo by Teresa Scott.

Photo by Pam Pizzino.

Photo by Teresa Scott.

Photo by Teresa Scott.

Photo by Teresa Scott.

Photo by Teresa Scott.

 

Travel: San Antonio River Walk

 

What began as a project to control flooding in downtown San Antonio has turned into one of the nation's most fascinating pedestrian destinations. Uploaded by thecityofsanantonio.com.

San Antonio is too large to be a “well-kept secret.” And yet, it has that feel. Ask people about it, and they’ll know the Alamo, maybe. The San Antonio Spurs, possibly. But people who like to eat, drink, and live well know one thing about San Antonio: its wonderful River Walk.

Uploaded by blogs.dallasobserver.com.

It features dozens of restaurants, offering everything from barbecue to Southwestern to catfish. Lots of hotels, from the budget variety to the five-star. Interesting attractions, unique shopping, dazzling nightlife, all along the picturesque San Antonio River. There’s a mall (of course), theaters, museums, and it literally is a “walk” — most of these attractions are along a couple of sidewalks one level down from street level.

River Walk has its origins in a flood control plan conceived in the 1920s to protect the downtown area. A bypass channel for the river was originally going to be paved over, but the San Antonio Conservation Society and prominent local architect Robert Hugman had a better idea: Turn the river into a center for local commerce. Downtown San Antonio wasn’t especially safe at that time, and some thought the idea foolish. Time has shown that Hugman was a visionary, and the River Walk has been lengthened several times because of its popularity with businesses.

Many festivals are held along the river, so if you’d like to take one in, consider going to Fiesta in April, Restaurant Week in August, or JazzS’Alive in September. But really, there’s always something happening on the River Walk. It’s San Antonio’s festival that never stops.

Travel: Small Towns (2)

 

Small towns aren't without their problems, but they typically don't include high crime, pollution, gangs, and other blights on modern city life. Uploaded by fuzzygalore.smugmug.com.

A year ago, I featured some of America’s best small towns as Great American Things. Even then, I realized that there were so many worthy of inclusion, that post would be the first of several to come. Here is number two. As I said then, “People who’ve grown up in cities, or who’ve become accustomed to city living, think small towns are a thing of the past. But they’re very much real, and very relevant, today.”

Here are some more of America’s greatest small towns:

Cayucos, California

A beach town halfway between L.A. and San Francisco, Cayucos has the mountains on one side and the surf on the other. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Cayucos, CA. Uploaded by beachsiderentals.com.

Wallace, Idaho

Although most of the silver mining towns in the panhandle of Idaho are deserted, Wallace remains vibrant and beautiful in its mountain setting.

Wallace, ID. Uploaded by pics4.city-data.com.

Rockland, Maine

You don’t have to come for the North Atlantic Blues Festival in July, or the Maine Lobster Festival in August. But don’t you want to?

Rockland, ME. Uploaded by dgrin.com.

Whitefish, Montana

Come to ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort, or to enjoy the lakes and rivers that make this town in the Northern Rockies a sportsman’s paradise.

Whitefish, MT. Uploaded by oldtowncreative.com.

Port Royal, South Carolina

This lowcountry town has a remodeled historic district and a boardwalk along the Beaufort River. It evokes the hospitality of the Old South while being revitalized for the 21st century.

Port Royal, SC. Uploaded by ratcliffhomes.com.

Vevay, Indiana

Here’s a town that’s turned being small into a virtue. And yet, it has a rich wine culture and a casino. (By the way, it’s pronounced VEE-vee.)

Vevay, IN. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

Doylestown, Pennsylvania

Long a favorite retreat of the well-to-do of New York and Philadelphia, Doylestown has rebuilt itself into a center for history and art.

Doylestown, PA. Uploaded by images.topix.com.