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Recommended Places in the USA to Visit during
Phoenix (pronounced FEE-nicks) is located
in central Arizona about 150 miles south of Flagstaff and 150 miles north of
Tucson. It is situated on a broad, flat desert basin amid scattered barren rocky
mountain peaks. It is a large sprawling city that has expanded to envelop the
surrounding communities of Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale and Sun City. It
has a small downtown area containing a few dozen high-rise buildings surrounded
by a large metropolitan area that has expanded outward rather than upward. Phoenix
has attracted many retired people who come to enjoy the year-round warm climate,
the dry desert atmosphere and the relatively modest cost of living. Unfortunately,
this popularity has given rise to increased population density, urban sprawl
and traffic congestion. Nevertheless, Phoenix and the surrounding areas retain
a pleasant arid climate free of the rains and mosquitoes in Florida and without
the exorbitant cost of living in Southern California.
There are many things to see in Phoenix
and the surrounding area. The Desert Botanical Museum has a wonderful collection
of desert plants from arid regions around the world. It is a great place to
learn about the flora of the southern Arizona desert. The museum is located
near the popular Phoenix zoo, which contains a fine exhibit of animals living
in the surrounding desert. Heard Museum features Native American culture and
art including an extensive collection of artifacts that depict the lifestyle
of local indigenous people. Deer Valley Rock Art Center is dedicated to the
preservation and interpretation of petroglyphs or prehistoric Native American
rock art. Pueblo Grande Museum features an archeological site revealing some
of the ancient dwellings. These attractions in addition to the Mining and Mineral
Museum and the Chicano Museum help form a complete depiction of the Central
Tucson Tucson (pronounced Too-sawn) is small city located in southern Arizona about 100 miles south of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the Mexican border. It is situated on a flat desert valley nearly surrounded by barren, rugged mountains. Like Phoenix, it has become a retirement community for elderly citizens that appreciate the year-round warm weather and inexpensive living. It is less congested than Phoenix and well situated for tourists wishing to explore the many surrounding attractions. The climate in Tucson is always dry with temperatures ranging from warm to extremely hot. The city normally receives less than 25 cm of rainfall per year. Daytime temperatures can exceed 45 deg. C during the Summer with a much more pleasant 20 - 25 deg. C during the winter months. High tourist season extends from November through March. Fall and Spring are good times to visit this area if you want to avoid the tourist crowds. The surrounding desert is filled with giant Saguaro cactuses that stand up to 10 meters high. (pronounced Sa-war-owe) You can drive through forests of these cactuses or hike the many trails in Saguaro National Park located just outside of the city. The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, located about 15 miles west of the city near Old Tucson at the southern entry to Saguaro National Park, is a great place to experience the flora and fauna of the surrounding desert. It is open 8:30AM until 6PM daily and admission costs about $9. Old Tucson is a simulated western town originally constructed as a film set for cowboy movies. Today it is a theme park with entertainment, restaurants, gift shops and many actors dressed in western costumes. It is open daily from 10AM until 5PM. Admission is about $15. It can be great fun to experience this tourist oriented cowboy theme park, but probably think Tombstone is much more authentic. Tombstone, Arizona is an hour-and-half drive from Tucson across the desert and into the sparsely populated rangelands that still support numerous cattle ranches. It is an authentic, old-west, gold-mining town best known as the site of the "Gunfight at the OK Corral". Main street has been restored as it was in 1881 when Wyatt and Virgil Earp along with Doc Holliday killed Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers in the famous shootout at the OK Corral. Most of the old buildings now contain restaurants, gift shops and tourist attractions, and the OK Corral has been enclosed and converted to a museum. Along the streets, actors in western costumes promote gunfight shows, old-west museums, saloons and stagecoach tours of the town. You can visit "Boot Hill", the graveyard at the edge of the town where 250 residents of Tombstone were buried, most of them murdered, killed by Apache Indians, shot in gunfights, lynched or legally hanged. Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers are buried there. Tombstone is very tourist oriented, but it is an authentic old west town well worth seeing. There is no admission charge to visit the town or Boot Hill. The mission San Xavier del Bac is located nine miles south of Tucson on the O'odham Indian Reservation. This eighteenth century mission is an excellent example of early Spanish colonial architecture and is still used by the local inhabitants for daily religious services. About 40 miles south of Tucson, the abandoned but well-preserved mission San Jose de Tumacacori is a National Historical Monument. It is located near the old Spanish settlement of Tubac, which is now filled with shops selling the works of local artists and craftsmen. Twenty miles further south is the border town of Nogales, a great place to cross into Mexico for a few hours of shopping. Like most border towns, it is filled with shops and street vendors selling native pottery, jewelry, leather goods and gifts at very reasonable prices. Be careful where you eat and drink in any Mexican border town, as the water supply and sanitation may be lower quality than you normally expect. For a very different experience, visit the Pima Air Museum just south of the city. In addition to viewing their wonderful collection of military and civilian aircraft, you can take guided tours of the "Boneyards" at neighboring Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Over 5000 military aircraft including hundreds of huge B-52 bombers awaiting destruction are parked in endless rows at the Aerospace Maintenance and Reconstruction Center (AMARC). It is hard to even imagine so many aircraft parked in one place. There are huge open pit copper mines near Sahuarita just south of Tucson and in Bisbee south of Tombstone. Both mines offer public tours. A 29-mile road winds its way up the Catalina mountains to the 3000-meter high peak of mount Lemmon where temperatures average 10 deg. C lower than the city below. La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Rodeo is held in late February. The Yaqui Easter Ceremony combining Native American traditions with Christian beliefs occurs during Easter week in early Spring. The Tucson International Gem and Mineral Show is held in late February. It is the largest such event in the world, so hotel accommodations will be hard to find during those two weeks.
Sedona Sedona, Arizona is one of the most beautiful vacation locations in the USA. It has been revered as a magnificent spiritual haven since prehistoric times. Native Americans have been coming to Sedona for their religious ceremonies, their spiritual awakenings, their rites of passage and their weddings for hundreds of years. The first time you visit this marvelous valley with its awe inspiring beauty, you will understand why it has been venerated for so long. Red sandstone cliffs rise a thousand feet above the valley floor. Buttes, mesas and pinnacles of rock rise throughout the valley. Everywhere the rocks have been eroded into fantastic shapes resembling giant fortresses, towers, pinnacles and other exotic visages. The village of Sedona is located in the midst of this scenic splendor surrounded by cascading mountain streams, lush green meadows, and forested hillocks all dominated by the imposing red rock formations. The Grand Canyon, just a 90 minute drive to the north, is similar to Sedona but on a much larger scale. Other geological attractions like Yosemite Valley are equally magnificent. Yet, no other scenic attraction is as accessible as Sedona. You can drive through the valley absorbing the scenic views from your car. You can bike or hike through the canyons and explore the rock formations. You can golf in the shadows of the red rock cliffs or even photograph the exotic formations from your hotel window. Sedona is located in northern Arizona just a 30 minute drive southwest of Flagstaff and less than 90 minutes from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is only two hours drive north of Phoenix. You can easily fly to Flagstaff or Phoenix and drive to Sedona. The valley is about 4,500 feet (1.500 meters) above sea level. The climate is semi arid, so it gets little rain or snow, but it has a plentiful supply of water from the nearby mountains. Summers are a bit milder and winters a bit colder than the low altitude deserts near Phoenix. Sedona reputedly is the location of several universal vortexes that provide spiritual healing and metaphysical enlightenment. New age advocates come to this beautiful valley seeking spiritual and physical rejuvenation. You can easily visit some of these vortexes and sit on the rocks absorbing the metaphysical energy sources. But probably, a bottle of good wine helps. Shops and boutiques in the village sell power crystals, Indian amulets, copper bracelets and other spiritual appliances. Many of the resorts and spas offer yoga classes and various esoteric spiritual regimens in addition to the usual massages, facials and traditional cures. A wide selection of accommodations is available in the village of Sedona with some exclusive resorts located in nearby canyons and some tourist cabins and camping along Oak Creek Canyon. There are plenty of restaurants, groceries, gas stations, boutiques and souvenir shops in Sedona. It has a small airfield located atop a mesa overlooking the town. The airport offers some airplane and helicopter tours of the area and a limited number of charter flights to nearby locations. The scenery in and around Sedona is spectacular and most of it is easily seen from the various roads throughout the area. Oak Creek Canyon is the main entry to Sedona from Flagstaff. This road follows Oak Creek through a narrow defile of colorful rock walls as is cascades beneath towering pine trees. In many places, this canyon is only a few hundred feet wide (100 meters) with red, pink, brown and white rock walls rising a thousand feet (350 meters) or more on either side. Airport road climbs to the top of the mesa overlooking the village of Sedona. The airport parking lot offers a great panoramic view of the town, the valley and many of the spectacular rock formations. Visitors flock here at sunset to watch the red rocks become inflamed in glowing scarlet from the rays of the setting sun. Near the bottom of airport road, a small parking place provides access to a short trail up onto a large rounded rock that is supposedly the location of one of the universal vortexes. New age advocates and bemused tourists often flock to the top of this rock to absorb the metaphysical energies of the vortex. Bell rock, Cathedral Rock, the Coffeepot, the Soldiers, Chimney rock and numerous other formations are easily visible from many parts of the village. The magnificent Holy Cross Chapel sits atop a rocky spine overlooking the eastern end of town. It provides a magnificent view of the valley and is a spectacular piece of architecture. There are plenty of other fabulous locations for weddings in Sedona. If you are adventuresome, you can attempt a drive up Schnebley Road, the original roadway into this isolated valley from Flagstaff. It is paved for only about one mile, but its unpaved portion extends another seven miles up through a spectacular canyon with fantastic views of the valley and many immense red rock formations until it culminates on the rim of the cliffs thousands of feet above the valley. It can be rough driving at certain times of the year. If you prefer, you can sign up for one of the jeep tours that will take you up this scenic route. Walking, hiking, bicycle touring and horseback riding are some favorite activities for visitors to Sedona. You can rent mountain bikes or riding horses at several locations in and around the town. The rangers at the visitor centers will provide you with free maps indicating all of the trails and will cheerfully offer advice on the best routes. You can take airplane rides, helicopter tours, balloon adventures, jeep tours, hummer tours or horseback rides in Sedona. There are numerous tourist adventures available from the many tour operators in Sedona. If you are less inclined to adventurous activities, the many resorts and spas will provide you with plenty of pampered luxury. Some of them have golf courses, swimming pools and tennis courts within the very shadows of the spectacular red rock cliffs. Shopping and dining are also favored activities in Sedona. It provides plenty of choices in both. Designer shops, boutiques and quality restaurants abound in this little village. Some of them can be rather expensive, but there are plenty of moderately priced alternatives as well. The quaint reconstructed mining town of Jerome sits high upon the flanks of a mountain about 30 miles west of Sedona. The Ghost town of Gold Queen is next to it. You can drive there in less than one hour. It makes a nice half-day excursion from Sedona. Flagstaff is less than an hour northeast. It offers shopping malls, cultural activities and all the amenities of city life. Old route 66 once passed through Flagstaff, and you can still find some of the original flavor of the mother road in the nearby town of Williams. Sunset Crater, the great hole caused by a meteor impact is near Flagstaff. You can visit the Grand Canyon by driving two hours north of Sedona to the South Rim Visitors Center. It is an easy day trip, but it is worth spending more than a single day to see that magnificent sight. If you prefer, you can even drive to Williams Arizona on old route 66 and take the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim Visitors Center.
California San Francisco San Francisco is on the coast of California about 400 miles north of Los Angeles. It is situated along the shore of a large bay sheltered behind the California Coastal Mountains. The city is renown for its steep streets with panoramic views of beautiful San Francisco bay and the surrounding mountains. It has a very moderate climate with warm summers and chilly winters but without extremes. Constant breezes off of the Pacific Ocean keep the summers from becoming too hot and also prevent freezing winter weather. Take a sweater, as the evening breezes can be quite brisk all year round! Oakland and Berkley, California lie just across the bay from San Francisco and are easily accessible via the Bay Bridge. The more famous Golden Gate Bridge spans the narrow inlet that extends from the Pacific Ocean into the bay. The Golden Gate Bridge connects San Francisco with a mountainous peninsula called the Marin headlands that is primarily known for beautiful scenery and expensive homes with spectacular views. Sausalito, a small village on the bay shore of the Marin headlands is famous as a local artist's community. Alcatraz Island with its abandoned prison is situated in the middle of San Francisco Bay. The city of San Jose lies about 30 miles south of San Francisco at the southern tip of this extensive bay. The area near San Jose and Santa Clara is known as "Silicon Valley", home of the largest concentration of electronics and computer firms in the USA. San Francisco was founded in 1776 when father Junipero Serra constructed the mission San Dolores to Christianize the local native Indian population. At the same time, Spanish troops constructed a Presidio, or fort, to protect this colony for the Queen of Spain. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the village of Yerba Buena, consisting of whalers, traders, adventurers and pirates, occupied the present site of San Francisco. In 1848, gold was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains about 100 miles to the east. By 1849, San Francisco was inundated with "forty-niners" as the gold seekers were commonly called, and the population of the city exploded. Ever since, it has remained the center of commerce, entertainment, culture and tourism for Northern California. San Francisco is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the USA. Steep streets lined with Victorian era houses, a great turquoise bay surrounded by low mountains, and antique cable cars that still shuttle passengers up and down the city slopes all make San Francisco one of the most picturesque cities in the US. The city has developed a unique character from its mixture of diverse cultures including Native American Indians, Spanish colonials, gold seeking adventurers and numerous European, African and Asian immigrants. This is reflected in the great San Francisco cuisine found in the many fabulous restaurants of the city. Among the many attractions of San Francisco are the ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown and Japantown with their traditional shops and restaurants. Each of these communities houses a large population of Asian immigrants and has a unique oriental character. North Beach is renown as an Italian neighborhood, the Mission District as a Hispanic community and Castro Street for its gay and lesbian population. The Embarcadero, a broad avenue along the bayfront, is now lined with shops, restaurants and tourist attractions including several piers that have been converted to specialty shopping malls. Most famous is the historic Fisherman's Wharf which still hosts a fleet of working fishing vessels as well as fish markets, seafood restaurants and gift shops. Excursion boats and ferries depart from piers near Fisherman's Wharf. They are a great way to see the sights around the bay. The Alcatraz tour takes you to "The Rock" and allows you to visit its abandoned prison. This trip usually fills up, so it is best to make your reservations at least one day ahead. You can also take a ferry to visit the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier Museum in Oakland, or you can ride a ferry to Sausalito and Tiburon for some sightseeing and shopping. A cable car line terminates a few blocks from Fisherman's Wharf, and many tourists congregate there to watch the motormen manually rotate the cars. This is a good place to photograph the cable cars but not a good place to board one as the wait can be long. It is easier to take a bus or taxi to the downtown area where you can quickly board a passing cable car. Golden Gate Park and Seal Rocks, along the Pacific side of the city are worth visiting. Other California tourist attractions are located near San Francisco. Across the Golden Gate Bridge, the first pullout on the right provides a nice view of the city from across the bay. If you follow the small road under the highway and climb the mountain behind the bridge, you will be rewarded to some spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay area. From the top of the mountain the road continues high above the Pacific Ocean with pullouts at many scenic vistas and hiking trails. This road eventually leads to Stinson Beach, a popular Pacific Ocean swimming and surfing area, and to Muir Woods, an impressive reserve of Giant California Redwood trees. Beautiful Monterey Bay is an hour-and-half drive south along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur extends about 100 miles further. Napa and Sonoma valleys, in the heart of California Wine Country, are just an hour drive north of San Francisco. The Sierra Nevada Mountains and exquisite Yosemite National Park are within a half-day drive to the east. The downtown area of San Francisco is the center of business, commerce and shopping. There are a wide variety of large department stores and smaller shops near Union Square and a big shopping mall on Market Street. The Embarcadero especially in the Fisherman's Wharf area offers many small shops, specialty stores and tourist attractions. Chinatown and Japantown have many small shops specializing in oriental artifacts and Asian foods. Sausalito and Tiburon across the bay have many boutiques, art galleries and specialty shops. For serious shoppers, the immense "Great Mall of the Bay Area" in Milpitas, near San Jose is a wonderland of factory outlet stores. There are also a few outlet malls in Sonoma Valley near wine country and several in the Monterey Bay area.
Los Angeles Los Angeles is the largest city in California and the second largest city in the USA. It is located on the southern coast of California about 75 miles (120km) north of the Mexican border and 400 miles (600km) south of San Francisco. The original name of the city was "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles" or "The Village of Our Lady the Queen of Angels", but the name was shortened for obvious reasons. Los Angeles is situated on an irregularly shaped coastal plain about 30 to 60 miles across. It is bounded on the west by nearly 60 miles of Pacific Coast beaches and ocean cliffs. The San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains form a 2500-meter high wall to the east. The Santa Monica Mountains define its northern limit and the Santa Anna Mountains define the southern. Los Angeles natives inhabit the entire plain and all the local hills plus the sides of the mountain ranges and into all of the connecting valleys. The city now covers over 1000 square-miles in dozens of interconnected communities. High-rise buildings only exist in a few isolated clusters. From nearly every vantage point, you can gaze across miles of low rooftops with palm trees towering above. In order to commute between these widely dispersed neighborhoods, Los Angeles has constructed a remarkably efficient system of broad streets and avenues including the10-14 lane wide freeways. These enable you to quickly navigate across the vast metropolitan complex most times. Try to avoid the freeways between 7 to 9 AM and 4 to 6 PM. when millions of cars commuting to and from work clog the roads. Air pollution from these millions of cars combines with the moist air from the Pacific Ocean to form a dirty gray haze known as Los Angeles Smog. Unlike most cities, Los Angeles does not have a distinct urban center. It is a collection of individual communities tied together by a complex network of roads and freeways. Each community offers a uniquely different character. Together, they make up this huge metropolitan complex called Los Angeles. Along the Pacific shore, Malibu, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey and Palos Verde are high-class residential beach communities. Venice Beach, on the other hand, is known for bikini clad roller bladers, muscle-bound weight lifters and an odd assortment of slightly off-beat characters. Long Beach is a thriving seaport with a vibrant commercial district and oil wells. Laguna Beach houses a large artist's community. Hollywood is the historic home of the old movie studios, and Beverly Hills is still the home of the movie stars. Here you can drive along the western terminus of historic route 66 on Santa Monica Boulevard. You can stroll along famous Hollywood Boulevard and the Sunset Strip. In nearby Burbank, you can visit many modern movie and television studios. In Anaheim, you can see the original Disney Land and Knott's Berry Farm. Downtown is certainly a commercial district, but it is no more the urban center of the city than many other neighborhoods. Near the downtown area are ethnic neighborhoods with large Asian populations called, Korea Town, China Town and Japan Town. Nearby are several predominately Afro-American neighborhoods and many predominately Hispanic-American neighborhoods. Los Angeles has four major airports; Los Angeles International, Burbank-Glendale Airport, John Wayne Airport and Ontario International Airport. In addition, the Orange County Airport is less than one hour from the city and San Diego Airport is within a two-hour drive.
San Diego San Diego lies along the southern coast of California near the Mexican border. It is 125 miles (200 km) south of Los Angeles and about 600 miles (1.000 km) south of San Francisco. It is situated along the shores of a large bay sheltered behind several low-lying peninsulas. This great natural harbor enticed the Spanish missionary Father Junipero Serra to found the first of his series of 21 missions here in 1769. During the Second World War, the US Navy established its primary Pacific naval base and naval airfield at San Diego. Today, San Diego is the second largest city in California. It is a large modern metropolitan center, a year-around tourist resort and a thriving commercial seaport with a large naval base. Despite its size, San Diego seems less congested and frenzied than Los Angeles. It has a very hospitable climate with comfortable temperatures in all seasons. During the winter, days are usually warm and sunny and the nights are cool. In the summer, a pleasant breeze off of the Pacific Ocean moderates the heat from the tropical sun. It does not suffer from the problems of air pollution, which plague Los Angeles. San Diego has spread north and south along the coast and eastward into the foothills of the mountains and now encompasses several distinct communities. Downtown San Diego is a combination of high-rise hotels, modern office buildings and a restored "Gas Lamp Quarter". Here, you will find a large convention center alongside an extensive yacht basin, several unique shopping centers and a wide assortment of restaurants, bars and clubs. Balboa Park, on the eastern hills skirting downtown, offers a wide assortment of museums, cultural attractions and one of the best zoos in the USA. San Diego International Airport is located near the downtown section of the city. Coronado Peninsula stretches across the harbor from downtown. It is a beach resort community that offers a wide assortment of recreational activities like swimming, boating and fishing and many resort hotels. Mission Bay, just north of downtown, has an extensive shorefront park with two family amusement facilities: Sea World and Belmont Park. The "Old Town" section of San Diego to the northeast includes six square blocks of historic buildings restored to their colonial splendor. There are a lot of restaurants, clubs, boutiques and souvenir shops in the Old Town area. A bit further north along the shore lies the beautiful seaside community of La Jolla with its up-scale shops and exclusive hillside homes. Any trip to San Diego should include a visit to the beaches on Coronado Peninsula and a stroll through the historic Coronado hotel. Balboa Park can occupy several days of sightseeing in the numerous museums and the world-renown Zoo. A trip to old town San Diego including a tour of the Junipero Serra museum and the reconstructed Mission San Diego will occupy another day. Add a boat excursion around the harbor, a stroll along the embarcadero, and a walking tour of the Gas Lamp Quarter, and you will have spent an enjoyable week touring beautiful San Diego. For the more adventuresome, there are fishing excursions, hot air balloon rides, and even air-combat experiences. The main shopping district in downtown centers around the architecturally unique Horton Plaza Shopping Center and the Gas Lamp Quarter. Small shops and boutiques are also found along the Embarcadero especially at the Fisherman's Village. There are numerous small shops in the Old Town district. The more serious bargain hunters will wish to visit the suburban Mission Valley Shopping Center and Fashion Valley Shopping center in Mission Valley, the Grossmont Center in La Mesa or the La Jolla Village Square. The Mexican City of Tijuana is just ten miles south of downtown San Diego. It is famous for its bargain shopping and wild nightlife. Many native handicrafts, especially leather goods, silver jewelry, pottery and hand woven textiles are available in numerous shops and from thousands of street vendors. Bargain-priced alcoholic beverages, Cuban cigars and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals are also readily available. Be sure to check the US customs restrictions before you attempt to bring such items back across the border into the USA. When driving into Mexico, you may be required to purchase additional auto insurance and the traffic delays at the border crossing can sometimes be quite long. It is easier to take the tram from downtown San Diego to the border and walk across to Tijuana. You can also drive to the border and park your car in one of the large parking lots on the US side, then take a bus to downtown Tijuana. Be careful when purchasing food and drink from street vendors as the standards of cleanliness are sometimes far less than you may expect. About two hours drive north of San Diego brings you to Los Angeles, the largest city in California and a sprawling metropolitan center that includes Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Long Beach and dozens of other communities. One hours drive to the east takes you up into the Santa Rosa mountains with cooler temperatures, vineyards, cattle ranches and vast forests. About two hours drive to the east brings you back down to the arid desert valley of Palm Springs and the Salton Sea. Here you will find eternal sunshine, hot temperatures and affluent oases with golf courses and luxury winter resorts. Another half-hours drive and you reach Joshua Tree National Monument with its bizarre high altitude desert landscape and ecology.
Santa Barbara The city of Santa Barbara is located on the California coast approximately 90 miles (150 km) north of Los Angeles. It is somewhat sheltered from Pacific Ocean weather by a group of uninhabited rocky isles, known simply as the Channel Islands, situated 30 miles to the west across the Santa Barbara Channel. Its beautiful beaches and sheltered waters offer a great environment for swimming, boating and sunbathing. A low ridge of hills with spectacular views of the harbor nearly surrounds the city. Many beautiful but costly homes adorn these ridges and hillsides. A few miles further inland, the great wall of the Santa Ynez Mountains forms a picturesque eastern backdrop. This part of the California Coast is often called the California Riviera, as it is a beautiful vacation destination but a very expensive place to live. You can get to Santa Barbara by driving about two hours north from Los Angeles on Highway 101. On the way, you will pass some great scenery as the road snakes between the coastal mountains and many isolated surfing beaches. Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is small, but it hosts a nice selection of daily flights from many major western cities. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train offers a half dozen trips a day from Los Angeles and San Diego to Santa Barbara. The major attraction in Santa Barbara is its beautiful broad beach fringed by rows of palm trees and pristine parks. It resembles the gorgeous beach at Santa Monica in northern Los Angeles, but without any of the surrounding congestion, traffic or air pollution. It even has a long pier accommodating restaurants, shops and amusement attractions. On a Saturday afternoon in August, this beach had only a handful of sunbathers scattered about its vast sandy surface. This is what makes Santa Barbara a favorite weekend getaway destination for residents of all southern California including many Los Angeles natives. To the north and south of downtown Santa Barbara, there are numerous narrower beaches ideal for surfing. Near Carpinteria, about 15 miles south of Santa Barbara, Rincon Point is reputedly the finest surfing spot in California. Several surfing schools in Santa Barbara offer to teach you how to surf like a real California beach bum in a single day. From the harbor basin in Santa Barbara, you can rent kayaks or sailboats. You can go on whale-watching cruises, on fishing charters or on boat excursions to the Channel Islands nature preserves. You can rent bicycles and pedal cars nearby. There are no high-rise hotels or beach condominiums in Santa Barbara. Small classy hotels, restaurants and shops surround the beach area. All of the streets in town are lined with palm trees and flowering shrubs. The major shopping and entertainment area is located along State Street beginning about 6 blocks back from the beach. This city has a wonderful selection of fine restaurants, boutiques and upscale shopping malls. On weekend nights, the bars and clubs along State Street offer lively entertainment to both tourists and local revelers. The city also offers a ballet, a symphony, theaters, museums and many art galleries. For golfers, there are several beautiful courses near Santa Barbara with gorgeous palm-lined fairways and year-round golfing weather. Sightseers will enjoy exploring the Old Spanish Presidio and the Mission Santa Barbara in the older parts of the city. The courthouse that combines striking modern design with traditional Spanish colonial features is worth visiting. From Santa Barbara, it is less than an hour drive over the mountains or along the coast to the Santa Ynez Valley with its flower farms and wineries. This is the heart of the California Central Coast wine region where some great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are grown. You can visit many of the wineries and sample some of their vintages. Solvang, located along route 101 in the Santa Ynez Valley, is one of the most unique towns in the USA. It is a complete Danish village with Danish architecture, Danish restaurants and Danish shops. It is a good place to stop for lunch during your explorations of the Santa Ynez Valley. The best times to visit the California Riviera are from May through October. The temperatures for this half of the year are normally warm enough to lie on the beach and to enjoy other outdoor activities. Swimming in the somewhat chilly Pacific Ocean waters is always a challenge. During the winter months, it is usually warm enough for most outdoor activities like golf or tennis, but a bit too cool for sunbathing or swimming. It never gets too hot even during mid summer as the ocean breezes keep the temperature very pleasant.
Palm Springs Palm Springs is an old resort city located 114 miles (190km) east of Los Angeles California. It is located in the upper Colorado Desert just east of the 10,804 foot (4,500m) San Jacinto Mountain Peak. This arid desert valley lying in the rain shadow of the Santa Rosa Mountain Range offers a warmer, dryer and sunnier climate than the city of Los Angeles less than two hours drive to the west. It was once known for its natural hot-water springs. Today it is better known for its many beautifully manicured golf courses. Years ago, Palm Spring was the weekend refuge for many famous Hollywood film stars and movie moguls. As far back as the silent picture era, it was the place where the rich and famous sought relief from the Los Angeles smog, and the crowds of city dwellers. Many Hollywood personalities built their lavish vacation homes in the desert surrounding Palm Springs. Some of those magnificent villas still stand as testament to the glamorous days when Palm Springs was the vacation retreat for Hollywood legends. Many streets, boulevards and civic centers still bear the names of its famous inhabitants like Frank Sinatra Drive, Dinah Shore Drive, Gene Autry Trail and the Bob Hope Cultural Center. Palm Springs has grown from a small desert spa to a conglomeration of intertwined towns that spread along the Coachella Valley for many miles. Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Indio are a few of the many communities that form this fashionable metropolitan area. As you cruise along highway 111 through these connected villages, you pass endless developments of expensive homes, lush green golf courses, upscale shopping malls featuring designer boutiques and trendy restaurants interspersed with thousands of palm trees. As you drive interstate highway I-10 east out of Los Angeles, you pass through a narrow gap in the San Bernadino Mountains known as San Gorgonio Pass. A windmill farm with hundreds of giant propellers atop slender towers attests to the fact that this geological feature acts as a funnel for the coastal winds off of the Pacific Ocean. Then you drop into the flat desert basin of the Coachella Valley and enter the suburban developments of expensive desert homes, golf courses, swimming pools and palm trees. You have arrived at Palm Springs and its neighboring villages. Palm Springs has a small but very beautiful airport with commuter flights from many destinations in the USA especially from West Coast cities. Taxi fares from the airport can vary greatly depending on destination. It may cost only $10 to a hotel in nearby Palm Springs, but a trip to a resort in Indio can be as much as $40. Rental cars are usually a better choice. There are more flight options at Ontario airport about one hours drive to the west or at Los Angeles International two hours drive from Palm Springs. Amtrak, the US passenger rail system, has a station in Palm Springs but only one train heading west and one train heading east stop there each day, and those are in the middle of the night. Greyhound offers long-distance bus service from Palm Spring to Los Angeles and to destination across the USA. For many years, Palm Springs was known as the vacation spot for wealthy elderly folks. It was especially renown for attracting affluent gray-haired gentlemen in green golf pants who spent their days on the fairways while their very young glamorous escorts lounged by the hotel swimming pool or shopped in the exclusive designer boutiques in town. The scene has changed. Young affluent urban professionals from West Coast cities like Los Angeles have discovered this weekend getaway a few hours from home. Today, a younger trendier set of tourists can be seen golfing, shopping and cruising the classy restaurants of Palm Springs. It is once again becoming more of a party town like it was in the days when the Hollywood elite spent their free time here. There are a wide variety of accommodation options in Palm Springs. You can find elegant resorts that offer spacious rooms, picturesque swimming pools, tennis courts and private golf courses. You can also find plenty of modestly priced hotels with similar accommodations in a slightly less glamorous setting. You can even find a variety of budget priced hotels. Check our Palm Springs accommodations page to read about some of the lodging options in the Palm Springs area, to compare the prices and to book your reservations. The major attractions in Palm Springs are its climate, its golf courses and its elegant vacation resorts. Temperatures can get quite hot during the summer and a bit chilly during the winter, but the climate is quite pleasant most of the year. Rainfall is always sparse, and blue cloudless skies are the norm. Tourists from the cold northern states tend to flock to Palm Springs from January until May. October or November is preferable, which are usually very pleasant months with less tourist crowds. Golf is a year-round activity at Palm Springs, and there are over one hundred courses in the area. The lush green fairways seem so incongruous to the surrounding barren desert. It takes over on million gallons (4 million liters) of water every day just to maintain the grass on the golf courses. Swimming pools and tennis courts are almost as numerous as the palm trees in this area. Palm Springs is typically a place to relax, play golf and lounge around the pool under a warm desert sun. Shopping is another popular diversion in Palm Springs. There are hundreds of shops, designer boutiques, art galleries, and markets. Most are located on South Palm Canyon Drive. Every Thursday evening a portion of this main thorofare is closed to all but pedestrian traffic for an open-air Village Fest. El Paseo in nearby Palm Desert is another shopping area that has been compared to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills because of its collection of elite designer shops. If you are a bargain hunter, the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon, about 15 minutes west of Palm Springs features 120 factory outlet shops. There are a variety of restaurants in Palm Springs and its neighboring communities. The dining options include everything from very classy fine dining establishments to modestly priced ethnic cuisine and inexpensive fast food. The dance clubs and bistros are favorite after-dark hangouts for the trendy urban professionals that flock to Palm Springs on weekends. Sometimes, you can even spot a few Hollywood celebrities. Indian Canyons, located on the tribal lands of the Agua Caliente natives, is a delightful place to see some of the great natural beauty of the desert geology and desert foliage. These picturesque canyons featuring a natural desert oasis provide a great place for walking and hiking. A rotating aerial tramway located in Chino Canyon can take you up 8,500 feet (2700 meters) to Mount San Jacinto State Park where the temperature is often 30 degrees cooler and the hiking trails are surrounded by giant redwood forests. Palm Springs has a Desert Museum and an aircraft museum. Nearby Palm Desert offers a large Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Joshua Tree National Park is only 35 miles east of the city. Florida Orlando Orlando is located in central Florida 75 miles northeast of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach. It is 50 miles due west of Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach. Best known as the home of Disney World, this city is also the center of the largest concentration of family entertainment attractions in the world. The climate in central Florida is semi-tropical. Summers are oppressively hot and humid with almost daily afternoon Thunderstorms. Winters are pleasantly mild with sunny weather and comfortable temperatures. Hurricane season, between August and December, can produce some unpleasant weather on the rare occasion when a tropical storm chances to veer inland in the immediate vicinity. Many US families brave the heat and flock to Orlando during the summer school holidays from the beginning of June until the end of August. They invariably fill the hotels, amusement parks and restaurants with hordes of raucous children. Adult vacationers and retired folks usually choose the winter months of December through March to visit Orlando. The off seasons in the fall and spring are often the best times to visit. Two major airports serve the Orlando area. Orlando International Airport is located 8 miles southeast of downtown. It has numerous daily fights to major cities throughout the USA. Orlando Sanford Airport is situated about 15 miles north of downtown. It serves numerous charter airlines from overseas destinations. The Tampa St. - Petersburg airport is less than two-hour drive to the west and the Melbourne airport is a bit over an hour to the east. Airport buses provide convenient, inexpensive transportation to downtown Orlando and an airport van service provides quick transport to the International Drive area hotels. Most of the major attractions in the Orlando area are located along a ten-mile stretch of route 4 southwest of the city. The Disney Resort Complex is situated along route 4 ten miles southwest of downtown. Universal Studios is located just 5 miles southwest of downtown. Sea World, Wet and Wild, plus many other attractions, numerous hotels, hundreds of restaurants and several shopping malls are all located along route 4 between those two giant theme parks. Check our Orlando Attraction Map to view the locations. The Disney Resort Complex is immense. With over 40 square miles (100 square km.) of land, it is the size of a small country or at least a province. It contains four major theme parks. Each of them is equivalent in size to the Disney parks located in California, France or Japan. The complex also contains three water parks, eight golf courses, twenty-five themed hotels, hundreds of restaurants, several shopping centers and a wide variety of additional entertainment and recreational sports facilities. Universal Studios Great Escape contains two major theme parks, a luxury hotel and an assortment of restaurants and shopping facilities. Sea World has a marine theme park and will soon be adding a water park with a dolphin encounter experience. Wet and Wild is a major water park. There are dozens of other attractions in this area and along route 192 in Kissimmee, 5 miles east of Disney World. Accommodations are concentrated in and around the major theme parks, all along this stretch of route 4 and along route 192 in Kissimmee. There are additional accommodations near downtown Orlando, in the vicinity of the two airports and scattered throughout the area. Disney Resorts has at least 18 different hotel and vacation home complexes within its realm with 7 more just outside the main gates. Each has a different historic or geographic theme with prices varying from moderate to very expensive. There are no budget accommodations at Disney, but all the facilities are very nice and all include free access to the convenient Disney internal transportation system. Lake Buena Vista offers a number of moderate to expensive hotels near the entrance to Disney Resorts. The ten-mile stretch of route 192 between Disney World and the town of Kissimmee is lined with moderate and budget priced accommodations along with a wide array of restaurants, shops and entertainment facilities. You can still find hotel rooms in the $25 to $50 range along this highway. Universal Studios offers luxury accommodations at its Portofino Bay hotel on-site and is currently constructing a second hotel. There are large concentrations of moderate priced hotels in this area especially along International Drive and near the exits of route 4. In addition to the major theme parks and water parks, Orlando provides a wide variety of family entertainment options. For typical Florida diversions, We recommend that you visit Gatorland with its vast collection of native alligators and crocodiles and its "gator-wrestling" shows or that you try an airboat ride through the swamps at Boggy Creek Airboats. For adventure and excitement, try a hot air balloon ride with Orange Blossom Balloons or a high-speed spin in a genuine NASCAR racer at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Even dining can become an adventure in Orlando. Theme dinner shows such as Medieval Times provide you with entertainment like jousting tournaments and sword fights while feasting. The dinner show themes run from Medieval to Cowboy, Arabian Nights, Gangster or Broadway Show motifs. There are great concentrations of souvenir shops, boutiques, specialty stores and shopping malls in the theme-park strip along route 4 southwest of downtown. You will find shops scattered throughout the major theme parks and in the hotel complexes. Disney also offers a variety of shopping at its downtown area. Universal does the same at its City Walk. There are many shops and malls in Lake Buena Vista or along route 192 to Kissimmee and along International Boulevard near Universal Studios. Additional shopping centers are concentrated in downtown Orlando at Church Street and in the suburban communities of Altamonte Springs and Winter Park. For serious shoppers, there are two very large Belz Factory Outlet Malls at West Oakridge Road and along International Drive. Orlando Premium Outlets and the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores are outlet malls located near Disney World.
Miami Miami is located on the Atlantic coast of Florida at the southern tip. It is warm year around and usually very hot and humid during the summer months. Most tourists prefer to visit during October through April. Outdoor sports and swimming are open all seasons, so be sure to take your swimming suit and plenty of cool clothing. A sun hat and a good sunscreen are essential even in the winter months. In Miami, dress is always casual, with sundresses, jeans or walking shorts appropriate during the day. A few higher-class restaurants require jackets and ties, but most do not. Hundreds of thousands of Hispanic immigrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central America and South America have settled in Miami. Spanish is spoken almost everywhere in the city. Many signs are in both English and Spanish especially those near the Latin district known locally as "Little Havana". Cubans originally settled in the area around Calle Ocho Street (Southwest Eighth Street) more than 20 years ago. Today, this colorful area embraces immigrants from all over Latin America. Miami and Miami Beach are actually two distinctly different cities. Miami Beach, located on the outer bank is almost exclusively tourist orientated, and consists mainly of hotels and vacation apartments. Miami, located on the mainland, is a cosmopolitan city with a distinctly Latin American flavor. The Art Deco district of Miami Beach occupies a compact one-square mile area roughly between Lincoln Road, Sixth Street, Ocean Drive and Alton Road. It is a showcase for this early twentieth century art movement and contains dozens of restored buildings with that characteristic architecture. To help find your way around, visit the Miami Design Preservation League's Welcome Center on 1001 Ocean Drive (305) 672-2014. Pick up the league's audiocassette for a self-guided introduction to the Art Deco Historic District. The South Beach section, where fashion designer Gianni Versace lived and died, is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the world. If you can tear yourself away from the beach, you might want to visit the Parrot Jungle and Gardens, the Monkey Jungle, the Metrozoo, Vizcaya (a fabulous Italian Renaissance-style villa), the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, or the Holocaust Memorial. You can also take tours by boat, plane, helicopter, walking or driving. All sorts of water sports are available like boating, fishing, skin diving, snorkeling and water skiing. Golf and tennis are popular. Horse racing, greyhound dog racing and Jai alai are favorite spectator sports. Miami Beach provides plenty of nightlife. The large hotels have elaborate stage shows and the Art Deco District is filled with bars and nightclubs. Find a free copy of "This Week in Miami-Miami Beach" at any hotel. It will list all of the current shows and entertainment attractions. Both Miami and Miami Beach offer many excellent restaurants with a diverse selection of cuisine. Fresh seafood is the local specialty. Joe's Stone Crab restaurant is a very popular Miami Beach landmark known for its large portions of excellent food. Wherever you eat, be sure to try some Key Lime Pie, a famous Florida dessert. There are plenty of good shopping opportunities in the Miami area. For exclusive shopping, go to the Ball Harbor Mall. Other shopping centers include Bayside Market Place, Coconut Grove, The Falls, Aventura Mall and Cocowalk. If you are a serious bargain hunter, don't miss the 173-store Sawgrass Mills Factory Discount Mall in Sunrise, Florida 40 min north of the city. In the Little Havana area, there are many small shops with unusual and interesting items, but you may have to speak Spanish to get the best deals. There are two large National Parks near Miami. The Everglades National Park is the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the USA. It has more than 1.5 million acres of natural habitat with over half of it under water. The main entrance is reached via Florida City south of Miami. It is open all seasons. Biscayne National Park is also reached by traveling south through Homestead. It consists mainly of unspoiled coastline, islands, crystal-clear ocean waters and coral reefs. The majority of Biscayne Park is under water along the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula and around the northern keys. If you visit either park, remember to take your mosquito repellent and sunscreen!
Tampa, Saint Petersburg and Clearwater Tampa, Saint Petersburg and the beachside community of Clearwater are all located around Tampa Bay on the western coast of central Florida. They are within two hours drive of Orlando, Disney World, Universal Studios and the surrounding entertainment complexes. This is a popular beach resort area for families that come to Florida to see the Orlando attractions. The Gulf Coast along the western side of the Florida Peninsula has a very different character than the eastern Atlantic Coast. The fine sand beaches are equally nice on both coasts, but they are usually shallower with warmer waters on the Gulf side. There is very little surf on the gulf, so it attracts fewer young revelers and has less wild amusements. The gulf coast is favored by family vacationers and retired folks. Downtown Tampa lays at the northern end of a great shallow bay a few miles inland from the coast. It is a large metropolitan center with many commercial buildings, offices and retail establishments. Clearwater is a beachside community just west of downtown on the gulf coast. It has a many hotels, motels, restaurants and tourist attractions. It also has a fishing harbor with many excursion boats and fishing charters. Saint Petersburg is just south of Clearwater on the peninsula extending between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Saint Pete is less commercial than Clearwater. It has fewer hotels but many condominiums and beachside apartments. It has a lot of quiet neighborhoods with private homes and vacation rentals. If you like to be at a beach near the excitement and entertainment, choose one of the many hotels in Clearwater. If you prefer a quieter vacation away from the tourist crowds, rent a condominium or vacation home in Saint Petersburg where you can be near great beaches and a short drive from the entertainment in Clearwater and the shopping in downtown Tampa. Tampa International Airport is located right in downtown Tampa near the causeway to Clearwater. Several commercial airlines and many charter services land there. Downtown Tampa and Clearwater are easily accessible via a short taxi ride, and the airport limo service provides convenient access to St. Petersburg. Orlando International is a much larger airport with a wider array of domestic and international flights. It is about a two-hours drive from the Tampa - St. Petersburg area. Sanford International Airport, with its many international charter flights is just north of Orlando and about a two and a half hour drive from the Tampa Bay area. Tampa attractions include the Tampa Museum of Art, the Children's Museum of Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry, the History Center, the Zoological Gardens and the Museum of African-American Art. St. Petersburg offers the Salvador Dali Museum, the Museum of History, several art galleries and numerous parks. Clearwater has an aquarium. Nearby, Busch Gardens theme park features herds of wild animals that can be viewed on simulated safaris, and Weeki Wachee Springs amusement park has the world's only underwater theater. Cypress Gardens, Florida's oldest theme park, still offers botanical gardens, a butterfly conservatory, amusement rides and their famous water ski shows. Tarpon Springs, a coastal community about 30 minutes drive north of Tampa, has an active sponge diving fleet and a thriving Greek community. It is famous for its restaurants featuring authentic Greek cuisine and its unique gift shops. Sarasota is less than an hour drive south of Tampa Bay. It is generally considered the cultural center of Western Florida. Of course, the Tampa Bay area's most popular attractions are its white sand Beaches especially those in Clearwater or the quieter beaches in St. Petersburg and the northern suburban communities. Fishing is another popular activity. The large marina, located near the Clearwater side of the causeway, has numerous excursion boats and fishing charters. You can spend a half-day fishing on the Gulf for as little as $25 or you can rent a six-passenger charter for $700. The boats will provide all of the tackle and will even clean your catch, while a nearby restaurant can cook it for you. If you prefer fresh water fishing, there are also many inland charters in the area. Golf is another popular attraction with dozens of area courses offering year-round recreation. If you prefer spectator sports, you can find NFL football, NHL hockey, major league baseball, major league soccer, arena football, horse racing, greyhound racing and Jai Alai.
Daytona Daytona Beach is conveniently located 54 miles from Orlando on Florida’s Central East Coast, just an hour’s drive from many popular theme parks and other favorite tourist destinations. If you are traveling around Florida, Daytona Beach is easy to reach via Interstate 95 or Interstate 4. Daytona Beach International Airport is served by several major airlines with service from more than 150 destinations worldwide. The beach is 23 miles long and up to 500 feet wide at low tide. The gentle slope and tides have packed the hard, white sands nearest the ocean, enabling automobile access. Of the 23 miles of beach, 16 miles allow driving and parking during the day and when the tide permits. The sand becomes softer as one moves further inland from the waterline. Sand dunes in the area can reach as high as 25 feet. The beach became well known because it was used as a proving ground for developing the automobile engine. That technology was also put in use in developing aircraft engines for World War II fighters. Thus, the world's eyes were on Daytona Beach each time an automobile raced along the beach in the late '30s and early '40s attempting new land speed records. From a glamorous Mediterranean-styled villa to intimate beachfront cottages, the Daytona Beach area is filled with a variety of quality, small lodging accommodations which provide excellent value and convenience to families and couples on vacation. Seventy-four small hotels, motels and inns are members of the Daytona Beach area's Superior Small Lodging program. This program is a unique accommodations concept that helps visitors choose from the finest small lodgings this area has to offer. The hotels participating in this program have no more than 75 rooms and are distinguished by their warm, friendly ambiance and personalized service. To become a member of the SSL program, each small hotel must pass an annual inspection and meet quality assurance criteria for cleanliness, comfort, privacy and safety. Travelers can look for the familiar SSL logo that designates participating properties. The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Museum, located at the southernmost point of the area, the lighthouse serves as a faithful guide to mariners off the Atlantic coast. Historical displays and a gift shop are located on the grounds. A climb to the top provides a spectacular view of the Daytona Beach resort area. The Caribbean-themed waterpark and family entertainment center, Adventure Landing, features three waterslides; a quarter-mile, two-level, go-kart track; three nine-hole miniature golf courses, and an arcade with over 100 games that feature the latest technology in sports and fantasy video games. Daytona USA is an interactive motorsports attraction designed to entertain and inform race fans about the history of motorsports in the Daytona Beach area. Included in the 50,000 square-foot attraction are opportunities for visitors to participate in a NASCAR Winston Cup stock car pit stop; design their own race car; talk to their favorite competitors (via video); take a walk through the history of Daytona Beach racing and play radio or television announcer by "calling" a race.
Key West The great peninsula of Florida extends over 400 miles south from the eastern seacoast of North America. Below its southern tip, a curved archipelago, consisting of thousands of small islands and coral reefs, stretches another two hundred miles south and west. It helps to form a great natural barrier between the South Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They call these islands the Florida Keys. Most of them rise only a few feet above the shallow seabed and are covered with mangrove swamps, shallow beaches strewn with shells and occasionally a few palm trees. A few islands are large enough to support thriving villages. In the olden days, these tropical isles were the refuge of pirates, commercial fishermen, treasure seekers and reclusive castaways from civilization. Today, you can drive along highway one, hopping from island to island over hundreds of bridges and causeways, until you reach Key West over 100 miles southwest of the Florida mainland. As you pass over the many bridges, you can peer down into crystal clear waters and plainly see the coral bottom 20 feet beneath the surface with schools of colorful fish swimming about. It is easy to understand why this is a paradise for snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing. Key Largo, the first island south of Miami and the largest key, contains John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park. The park is open 8AM until dusk every day and admission is $3.75 per vehicle plus 50 cents per passenger. It would be wise to stop at the shopping center down the road and buy diving masks before you enter. When you swim at the beach, you will be amazed by the clarity of the water and the vividly colored tropical fish swimming around you. The main portions of the coral reef lie several miles east of the island. You can take a 2.5 hour glass bottom boat tour of the reef for about $13. If you are more adventuresome, you can take a snorkeling tour of the reef for about $24. Snorkeling and scuba diving along with sports fishing are the main attractions all along the keys. Boats of all types and sizes are available everywhere in the keys. You can rent boats or take guided excursions for fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving or just plain, island sightseeing. Fishing excursions can be booked for as little as $25 per person for a half-day on a large boat or up to $100 per person for a full-day of deep-sea fishing on a small boat. There are hotels, motels and vacation cottages all along the keys. Big Pine Key, about 75 miles south of Miami, has commercial camping. There is a wide selection of accommodations and restaurants at Key West. During the late summer and early fall hurricane season, you should pay attention to the weather warnings. There is only one road to Key West and back to the mainland. Getting stuck on a small island during a fierce tropical storm can be quite uncomfortable and even frightening. Fortunately, the National Weather Service always provides ample warning of an impending hurricane.
Panama City The northwestern extension of Florida that stretches along the Gulf Coast is usually called the "Panhandle of Florida". It is less developed than other parts of the state with sparser population and vast expanses of wild pine forests. The climate is a bit cooler than the southern parts of Florida but it still offers mild winters, hot summers and pleasant spring and fall weather. Its beaches are magnificent with warm shallow waters and fine white sand. The Panhandle attracts fewer tourists, and remains a favorite "undiscovered" vacation spot for local vacationers and retired couples from the northern states. Panama City is located along the coast of the Florida Panhandle about 350 miles northwest of Orlando, Florida and approximately 350 miles east of New Orleans, Louisiana. It has a small airport with limited access via commuter flights. There is a much broader selection of flights going to Fort Walton Beach, sixty miles to the west, to Pensacola, one hundred miles to the west or to Tallahassee 120 miles to the northeast. Panama City is a small seaside community with a population of approximately 35,000. It has several large marinas in town and lies adjacent to one of the finest beaches in Florida. Panama City Beach begins just west of the city and extends for more than twenty miles along the Gulf of Mexico. Its beaches are renown for their fine white sand often called "sugar sand" and for the deep azure-green waters that give this area its nickname of "the Emerald Coast" Many travel authorities have rated the beaches of Panama City among the best in the world. Due to its somewhat isolated location far from the popular tourist attractions of south and central Florida, Panama City has remained relatively unspoiled by the tourist crowds. The beachfront is not dominated by an unbroken wall of high-rise tourist hotels, and there is still plenty of public access to its beautiful beaches. You can actually find affordable lodging in small hotels and motels right on the beach. There are a small number of exclusive high-rise condominiums along the beach and several more are under construction. Evidently, people are beginning to discover the unique charms of Panama City Beach, so it may not remain unspoiled much longer. Saint Andrew Park is situated at the eastern tip of Panama City Beach across the bay from Panama City. This 1260-acre park contains natural coastal dunes, wetlands, forests and a large undeveloped island. The entry fee is $2 per person or $4 per car. It offers swimming at its beautiful white-sand beaches, fishing from its jetties and piers, camping, hiking and boating. A shuttle service will take you to nearby Shell Island for a modest fare. Panama City Beach extends westward from St. Andrew Park for at least twenty miles until it changes its name to Laguna Beach. The eastern half of Panama City Beach is characterized by classy condominiums, upscale vacation rentals, restaurants, gift shops, golf courses and restaurants. The western part of the beach becomes more "honky tonk" with budget motels, modest vacation rental homes, amusement arcades, tourist attractions, souvenir shops, convenience stores and fast food establishments. Laguna Beach becomes more residential with many private homes and vacation rental units. The best time to visit Panama City Florida is between May and October. During the winter months, it becomes a bit chilly for swimming and sunbathing, but is fine for golf, tennis, biking and other outdoor activities. From mid March through mid April, several hundred thousands of college students from around the USA descend on Panama City Beach for their Spring Break revelries. This is a great time to visit the area if you are looking for wild parties and a youthful crowd. On the other hand, if you are looking for a peaceful vacation, you might wish to avoid Panama City Beach at that time. The primary attraction in this area is the magnificent white sand beaches with their warm clear waters. Sunbathing and swimming are the most popular activities. Boating and fishing are also very popular. You can fish from the jetties and piers along the shore, or you can join a fishing expedition on one of the many charter boats. Scuba diving and snorkeling are equally popular due to the crystal-clear warm waters in this part of the Gulf of Mexico. Several businesses in Panama City and Panama City Beach offer snorkeling adventures, scuba diving expeditions or charter fishing cruises. Popular year-round activities include golf, shell gathering, hiking, biking and walking. Shopping is somewhat limited along the beach with most of the shopping malls and major stores located along Panama City Parkway and within Panama City. Most accommodations are located along the beach. There are also some accommodations in Panama City but they are 15 to 30 minutes drive from the beach. Hotel prices are highly inflated during March and April due to the Spring Break madness. The rates drop significantly from mid-September through February. Probably, the best bargain vacations can be found in late September and October as the weather is normally very nice and the hotel prices are low.
Sarasota he City of Sarasota and the surrounding area are known as the cultural hub of Florida. An abundance of sun, sand and water provide a stunning backdrop to museums, botanical gardens, wildlife sanctuaries and professional theater, dance, art and music. Officially recognized as having the finest, whitest sand in the world, beach life couldn't be better than here. Year-round outdoor recreation and water sports abound, as the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota Bay, the Myakka River, Lemon Bay, and the Inter-coastal Waterway surround the area. The average daily temperature range is from 72 in January to 91 in August, which is one reason why this area is so popular with tourists at any time of the year. In any month, there are usually 22 sunny days, a real cure for the gloom of winter. There are two international airports near the City of Sarasota: Tampa International (one hour north of Sarasota) and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (just northeast of town). There are buses, taxis, limousines and car rental services at both airports to get you into the city. Sarasota literally teems with places to see and things to do. The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art and the Circus Museum are located at the intersection of US 41 and University Parkway just south of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The Museum is open daily from 10AM to 5:30PM and closed all national holidays. The main building of this Venetian palace is Ca d'zan, the former winter home of the Ringlings, with 2-story vaulted ceilings, a crystal chandelier from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and wall hangings depicting figures from mythology. The Ringling Museum is best known for its 17th-century Baroque paintings, in one of the world's most important collections. For a visual treat, take the opportunity to tour the outside of this unique and dramatic complex with its tropical palm trees, manicured lawns, and location on the bay. Admission is $9.00 for adults. Children are admitted free. Are classic cars more your speed? Then don't miss the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, just south of the airport and across the street from the Ringling Museum on US 41, open between the hours of 9:30AM to 6:00PM daily. Admission is $8.50 for adults and children under four are free. This is the third oldest car museum in the United States. Three cars owned by the Ringling family now reside here. For a grand look at the flora and fauna in this city, head directly to The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, located on the peninsula at Sarasota's downtown waterfront on South Palm Avenue. Open daily from 10AM to 5PM. Admission to the botanical gardens is $8.00 for adults and children between the ages of 6 and 11 is $4.00, with younger children free. Best known for its live collection of over 6,000 orchids, this bay-front acreage is also home to 20,000 colorful plants, with seven greenhouses. As an added attraction, within the grounds is a unique example of eclectic Southern Colonial architecture, housing the Gardens' Museum, with botanical exhibits. Appreciation of the natural environment abounds in this tropical palm-treed community. The theme of the Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary, located at 1708 Ken Thompson Parkway, is conservation and protection of birds along with providing a home for injured, rehabilitated and rescued birds. It is set on two waterfront acres and open seven days a week. Many native Florida birds as well as migratory birds from all over the world can be seen at this wildlife retreat. Admission is free but donations are encouraged to help care for the birds. Next door to the bird community is the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, the Center for Shark Research and the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, located at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway on an eleven-acre site fronting on Sarasota Bay. The facility is open from 10AM to 5PM daily. The marine aquarium has over 200 species of fish and invertebrates. The Mote Laboratories also conducts research and rehabilitation programs for marine life. Opera and ballet lovers will feel right at home in the cultural hub of it all. On Sarasota Bay is the home of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, host to the symphony orchestras, jazz, opera, musicals, choral productions, and ballets. Additionally, there is the Asolo State Theatre, a fixture in Sarasota for over 40 years and home to one of the area's leading regional theatrical companies. These attractions are located at the Center for the Performing Arts at 5555 North Tamiami Trail (US 41) for your cultural entertainment and enjoyment. After the beach, the golf course and the other attractions, head directly for St. Armands Circle for a real shopping treat. There are over 145 shops; boutiques and restaurants laid out in a circular pattern. Art galleries, jewelry and clothing stores, bookstores and much more are here to discover. Leaving Sarasota behind won't be easy. However, traveling one-hour north up the coast of Florida brings you to Tampa, home of Busch Gardens. At this African-theme park, kids of all ages can enjoy themselves on the newest and largest double-dueling, wooden roller coaster in the Southeast, christened Gwazi. Two hours northeast from Tampa is Orlando, home of the ever-popular Disney World, where you can delight in being a kid again and where kids get to be who they are, kids. Whatever your pleasure, the golden gulf coast of Florida has something for everyone.
Silver Springs Silver Springs is a hidden treasure in north central Florida that is usually missed by most tourists. It is located near Ocala, Florida just 75 miles (120 km) north of Orlando. Located at the headwaters of the Silver river, the springs gush nearly 550 million gallons (over 2,000 million liters) of crystal clear water every day creating the largest natural artesian spring formation in the world. The waters of Silver Springs and the nearby Silver River are so transparent that this has become a favorite location for the filming of underwater scenes in many movies and television shows. You can visit Silver Springs and view the underwater creatures in a glass-bottomed boat, take a jungle cruise, visit the wildlife park, petting zoo and alligator farm. You can stroll through the botanical gardens, watch an animal show and listen to a concert. The price of admission is about $30 for the whole day including all features. The park is open 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM every day of the year. This is great entertainment for the whole family. New Jersey Atlantic City Atlantic City is located in southern New Jersey along the Atlantic coast. It is just 60 miles east of Philadelphia, PA and 115 miles south of New York City. You can easily drive from New York City to Atlantic City in about two hours. It is less than one hour from Philadelphia and only three hours drive from Baltimore or Washington DC. One hundred years ago, Atlantic City was a fashionable summer retreat for the affluent residents of nearby cities. The wives and daughters of the social elite would escape the summer heat in the city by moving to their summer homes on the beach. You can still see their elegant Victorian mansions and beach cottages in the southern suburbs of Atlantic city. Today, Atlantic City's main attraction is gambling. The oceanfront is now lined with grand casino hotels. It has become the little Las Vegas of the east coast. At least a dozen glitzy hotel casinos are located along the beachside boardwalk. Some of them are quite spectacular, although on a smaller scale than Las Vegas. They offer entertainment, fine dining and naturally, gambling. Most of the casinos offer musical variety shows similar to those found in Las Vegas but at more reasonable prices. Tickets usually cost about $10 to $25 or about half the price charged in Las Vegas. Often, the Atlantic City casinos also offer famous name entertainment. Many big-name stars appear at the Atlantic City casinos for a few shows on the weekends. Tickets to these shows cost a bit more. (about $25 to $50). It is still much cheaper than Las Vegas or Broadway. Every year, Atlantic City hosts the Miss America pageant and frequently, the major casinos hold world-class sporting events such as championship boxing matches. Tickets may be difficult to find for the really big events. If you are not a gambler, Atlantic City is still worth visiting. It has a nice sandy beach for sunbathing and swimming with a broad boardwalk stretching several miles. The boardwalk includes the usual assortment of restaurants, souvenir stands, amusement arcades and quaint shops. The Atlantic City casinos are worth seeing. Their overdone glitzy architecture and massive scale are truly incredible. You will have no problem finding a nice restaurant and the entertainment opportunities are excellent. If you are visiting New York City, you can easily take a day trip or an overnight jaunt to Atlantic City. Excursion buses depart from the big apple to Atlantic City every day. Many of the major tour bus operators offer regularly scheduled excursions to Atlantic City for about $25 per round trip. For a real bargain, find a gambler's excursion bus or van tour. They usually provide a round trip ticket which includes a free meal at one of the casinos and a rebate of gambling tokens for nearly the value of your ticket. It is like getting a free trip!
Newark Newark, New Jersey is located ten miles southwest of New York City. It is best known as the location of the Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the three major airports serving the New York City area. Northern New Jersey is primarily a commercial and industrial area interspersed with residential neighborhoods and shopping centers. Much of the area around Newark is flat marshy lands traversed by a complex of interstate highways, roads and intersections. Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey are the two communities adjacent to Liberty International Airport. Newark is a mixed community with some commercial and industrial areas and a lot of ethnically diverse residential neighborhoods. A few of the inner-city neighborhoods are rather impoverished and possibly insecure. The parts of Newark and Elizabeth adjacent to the airport are fairly decent neighborhoods but not scenic. Liberty State Park is just a few miles from Newark Airport. It offers some nice views of the Statue of Liberty and provides ferry transportation to Liberty Island for up-close viewing of the statue. Most of the hotels are situated adjacent to the Airport or along the nearby roads. These hotels are typically moderate to budget priced and are far less expensive than hotels in Manhattan. When driving to New York City, The hotels in Secaucus are preferable, as they are closer to the city and the commute is quicker, but the hotels near Newark Airport are also suitable alternatives to staying in Manhattan. If you are driving to New York City or flying in via Newark Liberty International Airport, the hotels in this area are less expensive alternatives to accommodations in Manhattan. Rooms cost approximately 25% to 50% less, and you can save as much as $35 per day in parking. There are even suites and short-stay apartments available for reasonable prices. Newark airport is convenient to anyone driving north from Philadelphia or Washington DC as it is located adjacent to I-95 the main north-south corridor along the eastern coast of the USA. It is also convenient to anyone driving along I-78 east from central Pennsylvania. You can easily stop and stay at a hotel near Newark Airport and avoid the drive through the tunnels into Manhattan where traffic is fierce, parking is expensive and hotels prices are often exhorbitant. There are several convenient and inexpensive transportation alternatives into New York City from the Newark Airport area. From Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal, there is a choice of transportation alternatives into New York City. Taxis and Limos are available, but they cost about $35 for a commute into Manhattan. Shuttle busses leave every half hour or so and they can take you to various locations in downtown or midtown Manhattan. The cost is a more reasonable $10 fare. The least costly method of transportation into the Big Apple is via the New Jersey Transit trains. In the airport, you can hop onto the free AirTrain that connects the various terminals and take it to the Liberty International Airport Train Station. There, you can purchase a ticket from the vending machines for $7, then ride any train into Manhattan at the Pennsylvania Railway Station. If you are staying at one of the hotels near the airport in Elizabeth New Jersey, you can always return to the airport terminal via shuttle bus or car, and take the train or other transportation into the city. You can also go directly to one of the train stations by car or by walking, and take the train into the city. The train stations in Elizabeth and in North Elizabeth both have commuter parking lots nearby where you can leave your car. The Liberty International Airport Train Station has no parking.
Secaucus Secaucus, New Jersey is located nine miles north of Newark, four miles west of New York City and just two miles from the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan. It is best known as the home of the Meadowlands Sports Complex which includes the New York Giant's Football Stadium, Continental Arena and the Meadowlands Racetrack. This area of Northern New Jersey is a flat marshy area traversed by a complex of interstate highways, roads and intersections. There are a several industrial parks with numerous office buildings, warehouses and light manufacturing sites. The little village of Secaucus has been swallowed up in the midst of it all. Secaucus offers some small shops, filling stations, restaurants, convenience stores, a shopping mall, an assortment of factory discount outlets, a convention center and a nice assortment of hotels. North Bergen is the next community one mile east of Secaucus. It is only one mile from the entry to the Lincoln tunnels. There are a few budget priced hotels just off route 3 in Bergen. The area is not as convenient as the area around Harmon Meadow Mall. It is primarily a commercial neighborhood with less restaurants and shops within easy access, but the accommodations are typically more bargain priced. If you are driving to New York City, this is a great place to stay. The accommodations are typically newer, more spacious and less expensive than in Manhattan. Rooms cost approximately 25% less, and you will save as much as $35 per day in parking. New Jersey Transit Bus # 320 goes from the Harmon Meadow Shopping Center near many of the hotels directly to the Port Authority Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. The ride costs about $4 and takes approximately 30 minutes. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is on 42nd Street just a four-block walk from Times Square and the Broadway Theater District. Busses run every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on Saturdays until 1AM. Service is limited on Sundays. Driving into Manhattan on Sundays is recommended. As an alternative, you can take the Weehawken Ferry into Manhattan. You must drive east on Route 3 to the last exit before the Lincoln Tunnel. It is the exit for "Hoboken". Follow the signs that say, "Ferries to New York"! There is a large parking lot along the banks of the Hudson. All-day parking costs $6. The ferry ride to the 38th Street Pier at Midtown costs $5 each way but includes a free shuttle bus ride to many locations around Midtown Manhattan. When you wish to return to your car, you simply board one of the free red, white and blue Waterway busses that loop around Midtown Manhattan. It will take you back to the 38th Street Pier and the ferry back to the New Jersey parking area. Another ferry from Weehawken takes you to Wall Street in downtown Manhattan for $7. On Sundays, it is more convenient to drive into Manhattan as traffic is usually very light and on-street parking is available. Most parking garages charge greatly reduced rates on weekends.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, located sixty miles
north of Albuquerque, is a favorite vacation destination in the USA. As the
second oldest city in the United States, it offers a unique mix of history,
architecture, culture, cuisine, outdoor activities and shopping in a setting
that epitomizes the American Southwest. With 65,000 residents, Santa Fe is New
Mexico’s third largest city. It was originally settled by Spaniards before1607,
and is now the oldest state capital city in the United States. Its original
name “La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis”, is Spanish
for “the Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi”.
At 7,000 feet above sea level, the city spans nearly 35 square miles in a valley
near the Rio Grande at the southern base of the Rocky Mountains. It is nestled
between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and the Jemez Mountains to
the west. Santa Fe can be surprising to first-time visitors who think they will
find a hot, dry desert climate all year-round. While the city is blessed with
abundant sunshine, winters bring sufficient snowfall to makes it a popular ski
destination. Without severe temperature extremes, it offers much to enjoy any
time of the year. The annual Santa Fe Indian Market is held in August. It provides
the opportunity to purchase original works of art directly from 1,200 American
Indian artists who participate from across the country. With the growing interest
in folk art, the city recently launched the Santa Fe International Folk Art
Market, scheduled for July, with artists from 40 countries exhibiting. Spanish
colonial art can be seen and purchased at the Traditional Spanish Market, the
oldest and largest exhibition and sale of its kind in the United States, which
is also scheduled for July. The smaller Winter Spanish Market is held in December.
Allow time to adjust to Santa Fe’s
high altitude and take it easy the first day or so. It is especially important
to drink plenty of water, and to apply plenty of sunscreen even in winter. Albuquerque
International Sunport Airport, about an hour’s drive southwest, is the
closest major airport to Santa Fe. Santa Fe’s smaller Municipal Airport
is served by Great Lakes Aviation with commercial flights from Denver, Colorado.
For a short visit of a few days, no car is needed to enjoy the city’s
major sites. Take a shuttle bus from Santa Fe Municipal or from Albuquerque
Sunport Airport, and stay at one of the many glorious hotels or charming bed
and breakfast establishments close to the Plaza downtown. Most of the historic
sites, restaurants and stores are within an easy walk. For a longer stay, rent
a car and visit some of north central and central New Mexico’s nearby
attractions. Santa Fe boasts the United States’ oldest public building,
church, house and neighborhood. It has 10 major museums and some 200 world-class
art galleries, making it an art and history lover’s paradise. Downtown
Santa Fe is a National Historic District. At its heart is the Plaza. Bounded
by Palace Avenue on the north, Old Santa Fe Trail on the east, San Francisco
Street to the south, and Lincoln Avenue on the west. The park like Plaza is
the main town square. On its north side is the Palace of the Governors, built
in 1610 as Santa Fe’s original capitol building and first major structure.
The one-story adobe spans the block and is the oldest U.S. public building still
in continuous use. The front portal is reserved for Native Americans to sell
their traditional and contemporary jewelry, pottery, sand paintings, and other
arts and crafts. They are there 360 days a year from 8 a.m. to dusk. The Native
American Artisans Program of the Palace of the Governors provides an opportunity
for these talented artists and craftspeople to market their original artwork
in a venue that assures authenticity for the buyer. The goods displayed and
sold by program participants must be made by the seller or by their household
members. East of the Plaza is a turquoise portico with shops, restaurants and
courtyards, and the Sena Plaza. At the end of East San Francisco Street, is
St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral. South on Old Santa Fe Trail is the Loretto
Chapel erected in 1873-1878. Its choir loft staircase which makes two complete
360-degree spiral turns without center or side supports is said to be a “miraculous”
architectural achievement. Legend has it that the chapel’s small size
and choir loft height precluded a conventional staircase. Faced with using a
ladder or rebuilding the balcony, the good sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the
patron saint of carpenters, and a carpenter appeared who constructed the staircase
and mysteriously left without payment. Further south on Old Santa Fe Trail is
an area formerly known as Barrio de Analco and part of a National Historic District.
Some homes date to the mid-18th century. On the eastern side of Old Santa Fe
Trail at 215 East De Vargas Street is the oldest house in the United States,
built around 1646. At the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and East de Vargas is
San Miguel Mission Church, said to be the country’s oldest church structure.
The altar was built by Indians from Mexico in 1610, and mass is still celebrated
every Sunday. The adobe Santuario de Guadalupe, west of the Plaza was built
between 1776 and 1796. It holds a stunning altar painting and is the country’s
oldest extant shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
A sampling of works by New Mexico’s
most famous artist can be seen in the small Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 217
Johnson Street, a few blocks west of the Plaza. The Museum of Fine Arts, 107
West Palace Avenue, has a collection focused on 20th century Southwestern American
art, while the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, 108 Cathedral Place,
is dedicated to contemporary Native American fine art and a showcase for artists
from the Institute. Four museums are clustered on Museum Hill, a few miles southeast
of the Plaza above the city, on Camino Lejo off Old Santa Fe Trail. The Museum
of Indian Arts & Culture gives a fascinating opportunity to learn about
the culture and history of Southwest Native Americans from their perspective
in an exhibition that combines displays ranging from architecture and the arts
to language and song with videos in which they tell their own stories. A second
permanent exhibit displays nearly 300 pieces of pottery created over 2,000 years
by Pueblo Indians. The Museum of International Folk Art houses the world’s
largest collection of folk art and is regularly voted Santa Fe’s best
museum. The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, designed after a Navajo
“hooghan,” or home, features changing exhibits of contemporary and
traditional Native American art. Its Case Trading Post Museum Shop is worth
a visit on its own. Outfitted to resemble a turn-of-the-20th-century Navajo
reservation trading post, it sells pottery, jewelry and textiles from more than
100 respected artists. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art holds the most comprehensive
collection of Spanish Colonial art, focusing on works created in New Mexico
since colonized by Spain in 1598 and encompassing art from countries that influenced
this art from the Middle Ages to today. Museum Hill can be reached by taking
the M line bus from the downtown, with bus fare free on Sunday.
From cowboy and cowgirl boots, buckles,
belts and custom-made hats to high-fashion jewelry and collectable works of
art, Santa Fe offers an array of goods to satisfy the most discerning shoppers,
with an eclectic mix of unique boutiques, familiar chain stores, shopping malls,
and art galleries. Several shops and small indoor malls, including the Plaza
Galeria and Santa Fe Arcade, surround the Plaza or are within easy walking distance.
Lincoln Avenue, one block north of the Plaza, offers a collection of shops called
Lincoln Place. More shops are located on West San Francisco Street. For delightful
shopping in a renovated warehouse, visit Sanbusco Market Center, 500 Montezuma
Avenue, in the Guadalupe District adjacent to the historic Railyard. Some two
dozen shops and restaurants are located at Sanbusco – short for Santa
Fe Builders’ Supply Company -- in what was once the Railyard Center, a
pleasant walk southwest of the Plaza. Visit Canyon Road, the internationally
famous, half-mile collection of one-of-a-kind galleries, shops and restaurants,
off the southeastern curve of Paseo de Peralta near East Alameda Street. Lined
with historic adobe houses, Canyon Road is a former route used by American Indians
to travel from pueblos along the Rio Grande to those in the Pecos region. This
is the place to buy original works of art. South of the city on Cerrillos Road
and accessible by bus from the downtown Plaza are three major shopping complexes.
Villa Linda Mall at Rodeo Road; Santa Fe Plaza Shopping Center, and the Santa
Fe Premium Outlets, with a few dozen stores offering bargain prices.
About 70 miles north of Santa Fe is Taos,
a small historical artists’ community with art galleries, museums and
world-class skiing. Especially noteworthy is Taos Pueblo, with its multi-storied
adobe buildings. One of North America’s oldest continuously inhabited
communities, it has been home to the Taos Pueblo Indians for more than 1,000
years. It is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark.
The pueblo is open to visitors except during late winter and early spring. Bandelier
National Monument, west of Santa Fe, has ruins of ancient cliff dwellings. Most
of New Mexico’s 19 Indian pueblos are within driving distance from the
city. Some are open to tourist visits; others are not. Northwest of Santa Fe
about 34 miles is Los Alamos, where the first atomic bomb was created. The small
village still attracts many scientists from around the world that come to visit
the Los Alamos National Laboratories, but there are few attractions for tourists.
New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque, is worth visiting to see historic
Old Town and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The city celebrates its 300th
anniversary from April 2005 to April 2006. It hosts the Gathering of Nations
Indian Powwow every spring which is the largest Native American cultural festival
in the USA. In the downtown area surrounding the old town district, there are
a number of beautiful hotels designed in the Adobe Spanish Colonial style of
architecture. For the most part, they are luxury hotels in the above average
to expensive price range. There is a much broader selection of hotels along
Cerillos Road a few miles south of downtown. You can find hotels in the budget
to moderate price range in that area. There are also a few moderately priced
hotels near the exits on I-25
Albuquerque Albuquerque (pronounced al–buh–kirk–ee) is the largest city in New Mexico. It is located along the Rio Grande River near the center of the state. Two major interstate highways neatly divide New Mexico into quadrants. Route 25 comes across its northern border from Colorado, wends its way through the north central mountains, then follows the Rio Grande Valley south to El Paso at the borders of Texas and Mexico. Route 40 bisects the state roughly following the path of old Route 66 from the Texas border on the east to the Arizona border on the west. These two major traffic arteries intersect in Albuquerque. At the intersection of these two highways near downtown Albuquerque, the ramps and bridges are all painted in pastel hues of pink, tan and turquoise. The bridge abutments and retaining walls are artistically decorated with Indian designs. The very roads and civil constructions of this city are imbued with the essence of southwestern culture. The city sprawls across the wide shallow valley of the Rio Grande River nearly 5,000 feet (1,524 m.) above sea level. To the east, the Sandia Mountains form an imposing wall reaching high into the turquoise sky. On the horizon in every other direction, distant hills and mesas punctuate the vast upland plateau. On the western edge of the city, the Rio Grande River lies nearly hidden in its shallow channel at the foot of the low bluffs overlooking the city. The climate at Albuquerque is surprisingly mild in all seasons. Although located in a near desert environment, it is spared from intense summer heat due to its higher elevation and spared from bitter winter cold due to its southern latitudes. It receives some rainfall in the summer and a spare amount of snow in the winter, but normally has clear blue skies on most days in any season. Downtown Albuquerque, with its small cluster of new high-rise building, lies near the intersection of the two highways. Commercial buildings, shopping malls and hotels cluster along these major highways in all directions. The old town section of Albuquerque lies just a few blocks southwest of this crossing of roads. About ten square blocks of the old town district have been carefully restored to its original Spanish colonial era atmosphere. Low adobe structures with protruding wooden Vigas and shaded promenades surround the main plaza which is dominated by the imposing adobe structure of the San Felipe de Neri church. Narrow passageways lead to shaded inner courtyards and hidden fountains. About 100 shops, restaurants and galleries are located in the area, with Native American crafts sold daily at an open-air market under the eastern portico of the main plaza. There are several unique museums located in the old town area including the rattlesnake museum, the turquoise museum and the national atomic museum. If you intend to buy any turquoise jewelry, you should definitely go to the turquoise museum first, as you will get an education on the mining, manufacture and quality of turquoise gems. Albuquerque also offers a zoo, a biological park, an aquarium, a botanic garden a science center and a museum of natural history. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is located just a few blocks north of the old town district. It provides visitors with information about the history and culture of the Pueblo Indians and the other Native American tribes indigenous to this part of the USA. You can learn about the 19 ancient Indian Pueblos in New Mexico that are still inhabited by resident natives, and can find out how to visit them. The center offers many interpretive programs, including native dances by members of various tribes during summer weekends. The center has a store featuring Native American crafts manufactured in local villages, plus an outdoor market featuring foods and crafts sold by their native producers. Every April, the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque hosts the “Gathering of Nations”, the largest Native American Indian powwow in North America. This weekend festival attracts as many as 2,000 Native American dancers, drummers and singers from numerous tribes. It also attracts tens of thousands of Native American spectators, but everyone is welcome to attend. In October, Albuquerque hosts an annual International Balloon Fiesta. This colorful nine-day event attracts hundreds of balloons and features some spectacular mass ascensions. The geological features around the city create near perfect conditions for ballooning with winds that radically change directions at increased altitudes. Other nearby attractions includes the Petroglyph National Monument on the western outskirts of the city. It contains thousands of ancient and not-so-ancient Native American rock carvings and paintings. A few miles to the north of downtown, the Sandia Peak Arial Tramway can take you on a 2.7-mile (4,5 km) climb to the top of this 10,378 feet (2.343 m) high peak. If you enjoy driving, there are several scenic routes through the eastern mountains including the beautiful Turquoise Trail that passes through alpine meadows, evergreen forests and even a few ghost towns. Heading west from Albuquerque, you can see historic old route 66 running parallel to the main highway. You can even get off the Interstate and drive it for a few miles. About an hour and a half west is Acoma Pueblo, also known as “Sky Pueblo”. This beautiful Indian village is located high atop a mesa overlooking the vast prairie. It has been continuously inhabited for nearly a thousand years. It is open for guided visitation daily. There are several other pueblos that you can visit within an hour drive from Albuquerque. An hour and a half drive north is Santa Fe, the capitol city of New Mexico. It is a beautiful old city with adobe architecture and rich Spanish colonial culture. It is also an upscale ski resort and artist’s community with a fabulous array of fine restaurants, craft shops, boutiques and art galleries. Albuquerque Sunport International Airport is located just a few miles south of downtown along route 25. There are busses, shuttles and taxis that will take you anywhere in town for very modest prices. Amtrak, the national passenger rail service, operates its Southwest Chief Line from Los Angeles to Chicago with a stop in Albuquerque. There are plenty of nice accommodations in Albuquerque at very affordable prices. Most of the hotels are located along route 25 and route 40 with a large concentration of budget to moderate priced hotels near the airport. There are hotels in all price ranges near downtown and in the vicinity of the crossing of route 25 with route 40.
Tennessee Nashville Nashville is a small city that feels more like a big town. It is situated along the banks of the Cumberland River in the center of the state of Tennessee. It is commonly known as "Music City USA" and as the world capital of Country Western Music. Country or "hillbilly" music was born in the 1920s soon after radio and records made it possible for local "folk" musicians to hear what their contemporaries were creating in other parts of the US. Country music was originally based on Scotch-Irish melodies and ballads that were popular at "barn dances" in many rural states. It soon became popular with millions of farmers and urban factory workers across the country. Music Valley is accessible from downtown Nashville via a Cumberland River water taxi that lands at the Opryland dock. An old-fashioned show boat provides excursions, musical shows and dinner dance cruises from the same dock. Within walking distance of Opryland are a wax museum of country stars, a car museum, a toy museum and several clubs offering live country music entertainment. Downtown Nashville contains many attractions related to country music including the country music hall of fame, several museums dedicated to famous country stars, and the "Music Row" area with its array of international recording studios. It also offers an assortment of interesting museums; parks and churches including a full size replica of the Parthenon restored to its original Greek splendor. Nashville's entertainment district is centered on Broadway and Second Avenue downtown. There you will find a variety of restaurants; bars and clubs featuring live country music. The Wild Horse Saloon on Second Avenue is famous for its weekly country dances that are nationally televised. Yes, you can be on television if you are brave enough to venture out on the floor with some of the best country dancers in the world. On weekend evenings, musicians play their instruments and sing country ballads on the downtown street corners. Every day in Nashville, you can see men and women walking on the streets in their faded western attire with a guitar slung over their back, looking for their chance to find fame and fortune in Music City, USA. From Nashville, it is a short 75 miles drive south to Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of the Jack Daniels whiskey distillery. It is about 200 miles west to Memphis, Tennessee and "Graceland", home of "The King of Rock and Roll", Elvis Presley. Memphis Memphis is situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River at the western border of Tennessee. Like its ancient namesake in Egypt, this city lies above the apex of a mighty river delta. It forms a gateway between two radically different regions of the USA. To the south, lie the poverty stricken farms of the delta, the swampy bayous of Louisiana and that great European flavored port city of New Orleans. To the north and west are the rich farms of the Midwestern plains and the northern industrial cities like Chicago and Detroit. Perhaps this strategic location has helped form the unique cultural heritage of Memphis. A genteel atmosphere of southern aristocracy has blended with the intensely spiritual soul of its Afro-American community. This is the birthplace of the Blues and the birthplace of Rock and Roll. It was also the home of the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley. Downtown Memphis, stretches along the bluff overlooking the Mississippi. Main Street has been converted to a pedestrian mall with antique trolleys and horse drawn carriages providing convenient transportation to the entire downtown area. The Peabody Hotel, located near the midpoint of the downtown district has a unique tradition. Every day at eleven AM and at five PM, the Peabody ducks parade to and from the lobby fountain with the accompaniment of an orchestral march. A giant steel pyramid, housing a sports and entertainment complex is at the north end of downtown. Just south of the pyramid a walkway leads to Mud Island, containing a river museum complete with a working model of the lower Mississippi and the Memphis Belle, a world war II, B-17 bomber made famous in the movie of the same name. Historic Sun Studios is situated in a rather run-down neighborhood just a few miles east of downtown. It is small and not very impressive looking, but the tour is well worth the modest eight-dollar fee. You will stand in the very room where Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, and Howlin Wolf recorded their earliest blues recordings, where a young electrical worker named Elvis Aaron Presley cut his first demonstration tape and recorded his first hit, "That's all right". You will even hear the famous recording of Elvis, jamming with Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Graceland, Elvis' famous estate is located on Elvis Presley Blvd. about 15 minutes south of downtown Memphis. Unfortunately, the neighborhood is no longer as exclusive as it was when Elvis lived. Elvis Presley Blvd. is lined with strip malls, small shops and industrial sites nearly to the doorstep of Graceland. The entry fee costs about $20. It includes an audio-guided tour (in several languages) of the Elvis mansion with its vast collection of Elvis' costumes and awards. It also includes a tour of two jet airplanes built for Elvis and many of his cars and motorcycles. You can buy a lot of Elvis souvenirs in this neighborhood. The National Civil Rights Museum is located in an impoverished neighborhood just a few blocks south of downtown. The old Lorraine Motel, where Doctor Martin Luther King was assassinated, has been restored and dedicated to the history of the civil rights movement. It may not have as much relevance to foreign visitors, but to us Americans, it is a moving reminder of our recent history. The Memphis Music Hall of fame is located downtown across from the Peabody Hotel. It has many artifacts and memorabilia from famous blues and rock and roll performers. The Memphis Queen Riverboats depart from a pier on the riverfront just south of Mud Island. They offer a variety of sightseeing and pleasure cruises on the Mississippi. The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium with its IMAX theater and its many natural and cultural exhibits is located in the eastern suburbs near route 240. There are not many shopping options in downtown Memphis. Beale street has a wide selection of Elvis souvenirs and Blues memorabilia. It also has the 125 year-old A. Schwab Department Store with some interesting merchandise that appears to be nearly as old as the store. The really big shopping centers are all located in the suburbs just off the beltway around the city formed by I-40 and I-240. There are a few smaller malls on Elvis Presley Blvd. near Graceland. For serious bargain hunters, The Belz Factory Outlet Mall is located in Lakeland about 40 minutes east of downtown Memphis.
May is a great time to visit. The Beale Street Music Festival is held the first full weekend of May. It is one of the best Blues festivals found anywhere. The Southern Cooking festival and the World Championship Barbeque contest are held later in May. The weather is usually very pleasant in the spring and fall. Temperatures can become quite hot and unpleasant during mid-summer. Winters are usually mild and snowfall is rare. The biggest attraction outside the city of Memphis lies about 30 miles south in Tunica, Mississippi. This small town has been converted to a gambling center with casinos, hotels and entertainment. Tupelo, Mississippi, about 100 miles south east of Memphis, is the birthplace of Elvis Presley. You can visit his humble childhood home. Henning, Tennessee, about 50 miles north of Memphis, is the birthplace and early home of Alex Haley, author of "Roots". He is buried nearby along with many of his relatives including "Chicken George". Mississippi Riverboats are a different way to tour the Southlands of the USA. The Memphis Queen Riverboats depart from the Mississippi river bank near Mud Island. They offer sightseeing tours on the river, evening dinner cruises and some special party cruises. The Delta Queen Riverboats cruise the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers from New Orleans all the way up to Cincinnati, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania about 1,500 miles upstream. They stop at Memphis on their journeys and it is possible to cruise from one day to a week or more on the greatest rivers in the USA. Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital of the world is 200 miles to the east of Memphis. Fifty miles south of Nashville, in the tiny town of Lynchburg, Tennessee, lies the Jack Daniels distillery, producer of the worlds finest Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.
Lynchburg Lynchburg, Tennessee is a quiet little village nestled in the hills of southern Tennessee about 75 miles south of Nashville. It has an eighteenth century courthouse in the middle of an old town square surrounded by quaint shops. It has only one traffic light and less than 400 residents. Lynchburg was the home of one very famous resident who created the town's most prominent product over 130 years ago. He now lies buried in the cemetery at the edge of the village. His name was Jack Daniel. The oldest licensed distillery in the USA is still located on the edge of Lynchburg. It is the only place in the world where Jack Daniel's Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey is produced. This charcoal-mellowed corn whiskey is still made according to a recipe created by Jack Daniel in 1866. You can tour the distillery every day except holidays from 8Am to 4Pm. Lynchburg is located in Moore County, Tennessee which is officially a "dry county". That means, no alcoholic beverages may be sold within Moore County. Ironically, there are 48 warehouses with over 200 million liters of Jack Daniel's Sour Mash Whiskey stored in barrels on the hill outside of Lynchburg. The distillery is permitted to sell special collector bottles of whiskey only to tourists from outside the county. From Nashville, it is a pleasant hour-and-a-half drive through picturesque farmlands to Lynchburg. The one-hour distillery tour introduces you to some wonderful aromas as you learn how Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey is produced.
Texas Dallas Dallas is located in northeast Texas, approximately 245 miles north of Houston and 190 miles south of Oklahoma City. The Trinity River flows through the city and there are more than 60 lakes in the area. Many of the lakes are used for recreational activities like boating and fishing. Dallas is basically flat. Some evenings viewers on the outskirts of the city can see the green outline of the Bank of America Plaza building in downtown Dallas. Dallas' climate is humid but most of the annual rain falls in the spring often bringing entrancing thunderstorms. Dallas also sees hot, dry wind in the summer time. The winters can get quite cold, even icy. Fall is the ideal time to visit but if you don’t mind the occasional rain shower spring is also pleasant. The people of Dallas are pleasant, too. They're welcoming and full of hospitality. Anyone who visits is more than likely to hear the greeting, "Hey, y'all!" Just don’t forget to taste some of their Texas Barbeque (BBQ) and enjoy a Tex-Mex dinner with a margarita. (Tex-Mex is a Texan spin on Mexican cuisine.) Local residents refer to the Dallas/Fort Worth area as "the Metroplex." The Metroplex is in reference to the urbanized area around the cities, connected by over a dozen major highways. Many of the Dallas highways are known by two names and can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the area. The U.S. Highway 75 (Central Highway), Interstate 45 (Julius Schepps), and Interstate 35 (Simmons) run north and south. Interstate 635 (LBJ Freeway), Highway 183 (Airport Freeway), Interstate 30 (R.L. Thornton), and Loop 12 (Northwest Highway) run east and west. The Highway 114 (John Carpenter Freeway) runs northwest and southeast. In addition to the many major highways that run though Dallas, an alternative mode of transportation is available, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). DART is Dallas' reputable transportation service which connects Dallas with 12 surrounding towns by three modes of service: DART Rail, Trinity Railway Express (TRE), and bus service. The TRE serves DFW Airport and the bus service serves Dallas Love Field airport. In addition to the many major highways that run though Dallas, an alternative mode of transportation is available, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). DART is Dallas' reputable transportation service which connects Dallas with 12 surrounding towns by three modes of service: DART Rail, Trinity Railway Express (TRE), and bus service. The TRE serves DFW Airport and the bus service serves Dallas Love Field airport. Dallas is associated with cowboys and ranches, but visitors are often surprised to find the city to be such a fast-paced metropolis. However, visitors can still get taste of the country by visiting Southfork, best known as the filming location of 1980's TV show, Dallas. The "Ewing Mansion" is located north of Dallas in Plano, about half an hour from downtown. Guided tours are available year round for individual and group tours. The "Dallas Legends" exhibit displays the gun that shot J.R., Lucy's Wedding Dress, the Dallas Family Tree, and Jock's Lincoln Continental. You can eat at Miss Ellie's Deli and buy souvenirs at the two "Dallas" themed gift shops. General admission is $8.95 with senior and children discounts are available. Chuckwagon dinners are available for groups over 20. Cowboys and ranch hands entertain throughout the dinner with songs and cowboy poetry. The downtown West End Historic District, referred to as the "West End," is recognizable for its restored red brick warehouses. Today the old buildings host dozens of restaurants, shops, bars, and dance clubs. The famous four-level West End Market Place used to be a candy-and-cracker factory but now has activities and entertainment for all ages. On the first level is the West End Market Place Visitor Center. Escalators connect the levels which are filled with eateries, ethnic jewelry stores, the West End Comedy Theatre, western wear and Texas-themed shops. Level 3 has a photo shop where visitors can dress up in costumes and have their pictures taken with scenes of the Old West and the Victoria Era. Level 4 has a sports bar and indoor miniature golf. On weekends the streets of the West End Historic District really pick up as people take horse carriage rides, roam the streets stopping to watch street entertainers, and enjoy the summertime's outdoor concerts. Bar patrons have many choices in Dallas Ally which is a group of several clubs with varying music and on Market Street, the main road of the West End, is Gator's Croc & Rock which has live piano entertainment. The West End is great place to sit back after a day of activity and grab a bite to eat or just enjoy a cold beer before hitting the dance floor. Reunion Tower is best known as "the ball" in the downtown Dallas skyline. Built as part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Reunion Tower is the 15th tallest building in Dallas. Elevators with a view take guests up the 50-story landmark. On the first level is a 360-degree observation deck, called The Lookout where a splendid view of the Dallas area and Fort Worth can be observed. Located on the level above is the elegant, full-service Antares Restaurant, which is open for lunch, dinner, and a Sunday brunch. On the highest level is The Dome, a cocktail bar open nightly for cocktails, food, and entertainment. The Dome and Antares are on revolving platforms, which complete a rotation every 55 minutes. A visit to Reunion Tower is truly a memorable experience. Deep Ellum is located only three blocks from downtown Dallas and dates back to shortly after the Civil War when former slaves settled, making it at the time the most culturally diverse part of Dallas. At one point the area was the warehouse district, holding several industries including a cotton gin and Henry Ford's assembly plants. Today Deep Ellum is the foundation of Dallas' music scene and considered a progressive, trendy area. It’s a great area to hang out and hear live bands in the different bars and clubs. The Dallas Zoo is located only a few miles south of downtown, off of Interstate 35 East. The zoo is divided into two sections: Zoo North and Wilds of Africa. One of the many attractions Zoo North has an endangered tiger habitat and a section where children can pet and brush the animals. The Wilds of Africa features six major African habitats. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for seniors, $5 for children 3-11, and children under 3 are free of charge. Dallas has many shopping malls through out the Metroplex. One of the most impressive is the beautiful multilevel Galleria Dallas where there are over 200 stores including high-end shops Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton. The main department stores are Macy's, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Ice skaters can enjoy the newly renovated ice skating rink which sits under a vaulted skylight, inspired by Milan Italy's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Dallas Galleria is a shopper's paradise. Dallas Galleria isn’t the only good place to shop. Highland Park Village has great shopping and great restaurants, which is located north of down town at Mockingbird Lane and Preston Road. Shoppers can pick up a Starbucks coffee to enjoy as they stroll in and out of the stores and boutiques. Cole Han and Chanel are a couple of the stores located here along with spas, health club, a movie theatre, bakery, and restaurants. You don't want to miss hopping on a McKinney Avenue Trolleys which connect the Downtown Arts District with the historic, picturesque Uptown. Uptown is an upscale area offering dozens of boutiques, galleries, hotels, and restaurants, including the Hard Rock Café. Fine dining, fine shopping, and fine art are all part of the Uptown experience. If an outlet mall is more your speed try the Allen Premium Outlets in Allen, TX, north of Dallas off Highway 75. There are more than 90 stores plus a food court.
Houston Houston, Texas is located on the eastern coast of the state approximately 30 miles inland from the port city of Galveston. It is 350 miles west of New Orleans, Louisiana, and 300 miles northeast of the Mexican border. Houston is a large modern metropolitan hub with a sophisticated cosmopolitan environment and all of the amenities that you expect to find in a major city. It is the primary business, technological and commercial center of Texas. The surrounding terrain is low and flat with a warm damp climate. They grow cotton, sugar cane and rice in the neighboring farmlands. The summer weather can be rather hot and humid. Winters are cool but seldom very cold. Fall and spring often produce the most pleasant climate for visitors. George Bush Intercontinental Airport, located twenty miles due north of downtown, is the major airport for Houston with many international and domestic flights daily. It is a thirty to sixty minute drive from downtown depending on traffic. There are vans and shuttles available to many downtown and suburban locations for about $20. The smaller William P. Hobby airport, located seven miles south of downtown, provides many domestic flights throughout the USA. It is just fifteen minutes drive from downtown. Vans and shuttle buses from this airport to downtown and other locations cost about $15. Houston has an excellent network of roads including three beltways circling the city at various distances from the center. Route 10 loops around downtown at a radius of four miles. Route 8 and the Sam Houston Parkway form a double belt at near eight miles, and Route 6 forms an outer belt nearly fifteen miles from the center. Clusters of skyward soaring ramps highlight the major intersections and sometimes confuse out-of-town drivers. Despite the excellence of the road system, road repairs or traffic mishaps sometimes reduce rush-hour traffic to near standstills. The central downtown area has an exquisitely reconstructed old-town area and an outdoor heritage museum in adjacent Sam Houston Park. The cultural center of Houston with its Museum of Fine Arts, Children's Museum, Museum of Natural Science, Contemporary Arts Museum and several other cultural attractions is immediately to the south. The Bayou Place Entertainment Complex and Enron Field, new home of the Houston Astros baseball team, are both located nearby. The older, but still impressive, Astrodome is just south of downtown. It houses the annual Houston livestock show every February. This major festival includes the world's largest rodeo, a national barbeque cooking championship plus many live entertainers. Just across the I-610 loop from the dome, are the Six Flags Astroworld amusement park and Six Flags Waterworld. The Houston Space Center is located 25 miles southeast of downtown along I-45 near Texas City and Galveston. It is the most popular attraction in the Houston area. The visitor center at this NASA facility is open to the public every day in the summer and every weekday during the winter. For about $15, you can explore its exhibits, view an I-max film, test your space traveling abilities on several interactive rides and visit the actual mission control centers and astronaut training facilities. This is a great experience for children and adults. Another popular attraction is the George Ranch Historical Park, located 25 miles southwest of Houston near Richmond, Texas. This 480-acre living history park is at the center of a 21,000-acre working cattle ranch. You can meet real cowboys and watch them perform their ranching chores. Costumed characters show you historical exhibits and explain various aspects of early farming and ranching life. San Jacinto Battleground State Park and the San Jacinto Museum with its 570-foot obelisk monument are about 25 miles east of downtown Houston. This site commemorates the battle that insured Texas independence. The Battleship Texas, a World War One era Dreadnought that helped to support the D-Day landings in Normandy, is moored nearby. You can tour the museum, the monument and the battleship daily. Galveston is less than an hour drive down I-45 from Houston. This seaport city, which once served as a pirate hideaway, has an old-town district filled with Victorian houses. It has elegant streets lined with tropical foliage and a long beachfront drive with seafood restaurants, nightclubs and bars. The Moody Gardens contain three large glass pyramids filled with a tropical rain forest, an aquarium and a tropical lagoon. There are shopping malls scattered all over Houston. The Galleria, located in the uptown area west of central downtown, is the most impressive with its wide assortment of international designer shops. Highland Village and Uptown Park are other shopping malls located nearby. Further west is the Katy Mills Mall with many outlet stores, retail establishments, restaurants and entertainment venues. Deerbrook Mall, Willowbrook Mall and Woodlands Mall are located north of downtown. Baybrook Mall is located south along the route to NASA and Galveston.
San Antonio San Antonio is located in south central Texas about 200 miles southwest of Houston and 150 miles north of the Mexican border. It is renown for its beautiful River Walk and for the Alamo, a national historic site and a shrine to Texan independence. The city has a rich Hispanic culture and a large Tejano (Texan - Mexican) population that produces a distinctive community with the grandeur of an old Spanish colony. It is a popular tourist destination with many historic and cultural attractions and a wide selection of entertainments. San Antonio International Airport is located 13 miles north of downtown along route 281. Transportation to the downtown hotels is available via cab for about $15, via shuttle bus for $8 or via public transportation for less than one dollar. You can drive from San Antonio to Houston in about four hours along Interstate 10. You can drive to Corpus Christi, on the Gulf Coast, or to Laredo, on the Mexican border, in a little over two hours. As in most southern cities, San Antonio can become very hot during the summer months especially July and August. It can get cool in the winter but seldom very cold. The best times to visit are in Spring or Fall. The Alamo and the River Walk are the main tourist attractions in San Antonio and the top two attractions in the entire state of Texas. The Alamo is a partially reconstructed Spanish Mission in the heart of the city and was the place where 189 Texas patriots died in 1836, while defending their land against a greatly superior Mexican army led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The defenders included the famous frontiersman Davy Crockett and colorful Texian knife fighter Jim Bowie. You can tour the small museum of historical artifacts located in the reconstructed chapel for free. The historic Battle of the Alamo is depicted at the San Antonio IMAX Theatre Rivercenter and at the Texas Adventure multimedia special effects theater within one block of Alamo Square. The Paseo del Rio, or River Walk is the unique attraction of San Antonio. More than 2.5 miles of the San Antonio River, flowing through the heart of downtown, has been converted into a beautifully landscaped riparian canyon. Its banks are lined with trees, tropical flowers, waterfalls and meandering walkways. Numerous picturesque bridges traverse it, and tour boats constantly ply its placid waters. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops compete with hotels, shopping malls and classy apartments for riverfront views. On weekends, the River Walk is jumping with music, entertainment and activity. A riverboat tour costs $5.25 and is a great way to see all of the riverfront scenery. In the vicinity of Alamo Square, are several interesting museums and cultural attractions including the San Antonio Children's Museum and the Hertzberg Circus Collection and Museum. The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum is the most curious. It is an old-time western saloon and restaurant with a museum of animal horns, cowboy memorabilia and strange artifacts. It is a nice place to go for a cold drink or a quick lunch. The 750-feet-high Tower of the Americas sits amidst beautiful HemisFair Park a few blocks southeast of downtown. You can ride to the top observation deck for a few dollars, or you can dine in the tower restaurant overlooking the city. The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio is located next to HemisFair Park, and the Alamodome sports complex is across the freeway next to the Sunset Station entertainment center. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is located in the southern suburbs of San Antonio. It contains the remains of four Spanish Missions in various states of preservation. Mission San Jose is the best preserved with its entire compound reconstructed as it would have looked in colonial times. It enables you to see how the mission operated as a self-contained farming and manufacturing community with houses for hundreds of pacified Native American Indians. There are several theme parks on the outskirts of the city. SeaWorld San Antonio with its aquatic shows is located about fifteen minutes west of downtown. The Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park and the Splashtown water park are located about 15 minutes north of the city center. Schlitterbahn, thirty miles north along route 35, is quite interesting. This German-themed water park complete with replica castle and one of the biggest and best water rides in the country, sits in the middle of the German colony of New Braunfels. Restaurants in this little town feature bratwurst and apple strudel along with the usual Texas barbeque. There are plenty of opportunities for year-around golf or tennis at the many courses in the San Antonio vicinity. Horse racing can be seen at the Retama Park racecourse about fifteen minutes northeast of town. Horseback riding is available at many ranches and stables outside of the city. Daytrips or automobile tours out of San Antonio could include: A half-day drive eastward to the beautiful white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico at Corpus Christi and South Padre Island with a stop along the way to visit the immense King Ranch near Kingville. A half-day drive southward to visit the border town of Laredo, Texas and to cross the Rio Grande for some shopping in the town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. A leisurely drive northward through the German community of New Braunfels, into the hill country to visit the LBJ Ranch of President Lyndon Johnson then on to the old German community of Fredricksburg, is preferable. You can even visit Luckenbach, Texas, that tiny town in the middle of nowhere, made famous by country music stars Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
Luckenbach If you occasionally like to stray off the beaten path to visit sights seldom seen by the tourist crowds, Luckenbach, Texas is a secret corner of the USA worth visiting. This authentic American town is located in the middle of nowhere with not much to see. Yet, a visit to this tiny cowboy community is like a trip back in time to a previous era when life was less complicated. It is hardly more than a bend in the road. A couple of shabby old buildings stand beneath a grove of spreading oaks. The whole town covers less than ten acres. A sign as you enter town says: "population 3". The Luckenbach post office stands at the center. It includes a general store and saloon. Out back, folks sit on benches under the oak trees sipping Lone Star Beer and listening to country music. A cowboy strums his guitar. The only other significant structure is the dance hall. It is a genuine old-fashioned Texas dance hall. Local bands play western music on most weekends. Folks from all around the area come to dance and party. They have an interesting assortment of entertainment events in Luckenbach. It includes Armadillo races, cowboy Christmases, bluebonnet balls, mud daubers days, an annual hug-in, and the world's all women's chili cook off. Most famous of all is the Fourth of July picnic. It has been frequented by country music star Willie Nelson. Waylon Jennings and Willie both recorded hit records about Luckenbach. Luckenbach sits along both sides of ranch road 1376 approximately 17 miles south of Fredricksburg, Texas. It is about an hour drive north of San Antonio and an hour west of Austin. You should stop and ask directions! Luckenbach is not easy to find. You better hurry! It might disappear before you get there.
If you're planning to tour the eastern
USA, Atlanta, Georgia provides a great starting point. This modern metropolis,
near the south Atlantic seacoast, offers a variety of sights, shopping, nightlife,
sports and entertainment. Atlanta's proximity to Florida, the Georgia coast,
and the Appalachian Mountains position it perfectly for the start of a driving
tour of the eastern or southern USA. Hartsville International Airport receives
direct service from many European capitals and offers domestic flights to most
US cities. It is located five miles south of downtown Atlanta. You can take
a taxi from the airport to downtown for $20, or a shuttle bus for $8, or the
train for $1.50. MARTA, Atlanta's mass transit system, can transport you around
the city very efficiently and very economically. The International Information
Counter at Hartsville Airport has MARTA maps and information.
During the American Civil War, Atlanta
was burned to the ground by the advancing Union army. The city rebuilt around
140 years ago and hasn't stopped growing since. Atlanta is a business center
and home to hundreds of corporate headquarters including Coke Cola, United Parcel
Service and many more. It's a great hub of business activity. It is also a regional
center for nightlife, entertainment and sports attractions. It has a temperate
climate that makes club hopping, late night shopping and outdoor activities
a pleasure all year round. Buckhead is considered the center of Atlanta nightlife.
Its history dates back to the 1800's when a tavern owner mounted a "buck's
head" in his establishment near the corner of West Paces Ferry Road and
Roswell Road. Whether you're seeking Latin music, a coffee house, a cigar bar,
a romantic nook, a gay bar, or a disco, you will find it here. It is worth a
walk through this affluent neighborhood simply to see the palatial homes, to
sample the unique restaurants, and to browse in the luxury shops. You'll find
currency exchanges and other services for international tourists and businesses
in this area. Lennox Square Mall in Buckhead is the largest shopping mall in
the southern USA. Art galleries, boutiques and small shops are plentiful, making
it a perfect place to browse during the day. In almost every part of Atlanta,
you can find interesting neighborhood nightclubs and bars featuring a wide variety
of entertainments. The Grant Park area has a range of venues catering to crowds
from country and western fans to rockers. Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Cyclorama
& Civil War Museum are also located in the Grant Park area. The Cyclorama,
a 42 feet-high 360-degree painting of the battle of Atlanta, has been on public
display since 1898. The Museum is next to the zoo and opens daily from 9:30
AM until 4:30 PM, with admission prices of $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for children
and $4.00 for seniors. For a glimpse of the Old South, visit the Atlanta History
Center at 130 West Paces Ferry Road. You'll find fascinating exhibits on everything
from antebellum arts to Coke Cola, plus information about touring some of Atlanta's
stately homes and gardens. The Southeastern Railway Museum in nearby Duluth,
Georgia has over 80 pieces of rolling stock and is a must-visit for folks who
like trains. If you're a Gone With the Wind fan, you can visit the house where
author, Margaret Mitchell, lived in at 999 Peachtree Road. Tours are given continuously
from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM for an admission fee of $12. Literary tourists will
also enjoy the Wren's Nest House Museum, home of J. C. Harris who authored the
Uncle Remus tales. If you like modern history, visit the museum at the Carter
Center or The Martin Luther King National Historic Site. The long anticipated
reopening of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King preached, is scheduled
for December 2001. If you prefer modern culture, visit the World of Coke Cola
for memorabilia and exhibits related to this distinctive US beverage . Underground
Atlanta is one of the most popular attractions in the city spanning six blocks,
twelve acres, and three levels with entertainment, shopping, and restaurants
It is in the center of downtown near the Braves Baseball stadium, the CNN center,
and the Georgia State Capital. For shopping, Atlanta is a great place to end
your tour of the USA. You will find a variety of retailers including upscale
and funky as well as discount outlets. Bargain hunters seeking toiletries, blue
jeans, and other American goods should head for the suburbs and explore Wal-Mart,
or another discount store for good buys. For serious bargain hunters, there
is a Tanger Factory Outlet Mall 30 miles south of Atlanta in Forest Grove.
Baltimore, Maryland Baltimore, Maryland is situated along the shores of the vast Chesapeake Bay nearly 200 miles (over 300 km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is located approximately 35 miles (60 km) northeast of Washington DC and 75 miles (125 km) southwest of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. It is one of the great eastern coast seaports of the United States with extensive facilities for container shipment and for the transport of automobiles via roll-on roll-off cargo vessels. It is an older city with plenty of character and many historically significant attractions. The old inner harbor basin located at the heart of downtown Baltimore has been refurbished and converted to a large entertainment and shopping area. The docks and streets surrounding the inner harbor now house museums, restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and hotels. The National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery Children's Museum, and the World Trade Center of Baltimore are all located around the basin. Docked along the Inner Harbor piers, you will also find: the USS Constellation (the last all-sail war ship built by the navy); the USS Torsk (a World War II vintage submarine); the lighthouse ship Chesapeake and the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney. They are all open to the public for tours. The Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a very colorful and historically interesting place to visit. The Harbor Shops are located right on the Inner Harbor basin downtown. They contain a variety of shops, a fast food mall and an assortment of nice restaurants. You can buy a souvenir of Baltimore and sit down to feast on some genuine Maryland crab cakes while enjoying the harbor scenery. You can stroll along the esplanade to the nearby Science Center or the Aquarium or can tour the USS Constellation and the other museum ships. Water taxis depart from the pier just behind the Harbor Shops to take you to Fells Point, Little Italy or Fort McHenry. All-day tickets on the water taxis cost about $6. The city of Baltimore has many old ethnic neighborhoods. A few of them have been restored and refurbished into interesting shopping and dining locales with plenty of character. Little Italy is located just a few blocks east of downtown. It offers many Italian restaurants, groceries and pastry shops. It is only a 15-minute walk, a five-minute cab ride or a 10-minute water taxi ride from the center of downtown. Fells Point, a small shipyard community located about 3 miles east of downtown along the harbor basin, has been revived as a shopping and entertainment center. The old central markets still offer a variety of meats, produce, ethnic delicacies and seafood. The surrounding shops have been beautifully restored and converted to bars, restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and antique shops. On weekends, live music and entertainment attract a lot of young folks. You can get to Fells Point via a 10-minute taxi ride or a 15-minute water taxi voyage. The Federal Hill district of Baltimore lies just south of the Inner Harbor Basin. Its most prominent feature is the low hill situated directly south of the harbor. From its summit in Federal Hill Park, you get a great panoramic view of the entire city. You can reach it by walking south along Light Street past the Maryland Science Center. It is less than a mile. The surrounding neighborhood is composed of neatly refurbished brick and stone fronted town houses, with a nice selection of small shops, restaurants, stores and neighborhood bars. The Cross Street Market offers a nice selection of meats, produce, seafood, pastries and flowers. This is a place where the residents of Baltimore go to shop and to eat. You can drive to Baltimore from New York City or Philadelphia by taking Interstate route 95 south. It is only four hours from NYC and only two hours from Philadelphia. From Washington DC it is less than one hour north on Route 95 or a bit longer if you take the Baltimore Washington Parkway or old Route one. You can fly into Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) which is only a half-hour drive south of downtown. There are plenty of public transportation options from BWI to downtown Baltimore. You can take the MARC trains, the light rail, the AMTRAK passenger trains, the super shuttle vans or the taxis. Route 95 skirts around Baltimore along a circular beltway known as route 695. Many hotels, motels and modestly priced accommodations can be found along route 95 or near the major exits from 695. Other accommodations are concentrated near BWI airport and along route one south of the city. Some of the finest hotel accommodations are located on or near the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore. Likewise, shopping centers are clustered near route 95 and route one and near some of the major exits from 695. The Towson Town Center Mall and the White Marsh Mall are located in the northern suburbs and the huge Arundel Mills Mall with nearly 200 factory outlets is just south of the city in Hanover Maryland. There are also some upscale malls and boutiques near the Inner Harbor area in downtown including Harborplace and the Gallery at Harborplace. Annapolis, capitol of the state of Maryland and one of the oldest cities in the USA, is located just 25 miles southeast of Baltimore. It is a lovely little city located in a picturesque setting on the Chesapeake Bay with some of the best preserved 18th and 19th century architecture in the country. It is home of the US Naval Academy and home of St. John's College, originally founded in 1696. This historically significant attraction is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Baltimore and it offers many interesting attractions. Ellicott City is a charming village with a restored historical district located just a few miles south of the 695 beltway around Baltimore. The central business area has a selection of quaint shops, art galleries and restaurants. Washington DC, our nation's capitol, is less than a one-hour drive south of Baltimore. You can take the MARC or the AMTRAK trains to Union Station, you can drive to one of the park and ride lots in the DC suburbs or you can drive all the way to downtown Washington. There are so many monuments, museums and historical attractions in the city. It is one of the best tourist destinations in eastern USA.
Boston, Massachusetts Boston is one of America's oldest cities and first settled in 1630. The capital of Massachusetts, Boston is a city rich in history and tradition, yet vibrant and modern. Located along the northeastern seaboard of the United States, Boston is about 200 miles northeast of New York City. Logan International Airport serves the area. Although only two miles north east of Boston, it will take you about 30 minutes by car or taxi to reach the city. Six bus companies provide non-stop service to and from the airport for about $6 each way, and they run every 15-30 minutes. The MBTA subway's Blue Line will take you into the city in about twenty minutes and costs less than $1. You can also take the Airport Water Shuttle. It takes about seven minutes and takes you to the Rowe Wharf on the Boston NE Waterfront. The shuttle operates every 15 minutes Monday-Friday, and every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday and costs $10 for adults, $5 for seniors. Children 12 and under ride free. The easiest way to get around Boston is on foot and by subway. Although the streets do not follow any particular pattern, you'll find it easy to navigate. Wear comfortable walking shoes, especially for the granite paving stones you'll find in the Market place and the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill. A note of caution: be careful when walking in the city and obey all traffic signals; Boston drivers are known for their aggressiveness. Boston's subway system, also known as the T, has four major lines (red, blue, orange and green) that branch out from the center of the city. The "T" is efficient, safe, fast, and comfortable. You'll find many information centers throughout the city that will provide you with helpful maps and brochures. A particularly good place is the Boston Common Information Kiosk. It's open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at Prudential Plaza, provides multilingual maps. Boston is a city of neighborhoods, colleges, and wonderful walking trails designed to help visitors learn about its glorious past. The most popular tour is the Freedom Trail. It takes walkers along a 2 ½ mile trail of popular sites from the American Revolution. The Freedom Trail begins at the Boston Common (the oldest public park in America) and ends at Bunker Hill in Charlestown. By following the well-marked red line, tourists will see 16 of Boston's most important historical sites including the Old Meeting House, Fanueil Hall, and Paul Revere's home. National Park rangers offer free-guided tours from April through November. The Women's Heritage Trail traces the accomplishments of 80 renowned women on four self-guided tours. Maps are available for $5 at the Old State house and the National Park Service Visitor Center. Black Heritage Trail takes tourists past 14 sites of historical significance from the 19th century. Along the 1 ½ mile trail are the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment monument located in the Boston Common. The movie "Glory" was based on this young officer and his regiment comprised of the first black soldiers recruited for the North during the American Civil War. The Lewis and Harriet Hayden House, a stop on the Underground Railroad, provided a safe haven for runaway slaves on their way to Canada. The Abiel Smith School, the city's first public school for black children, now houses the museum of African-American history. Next door is the African Meeting House where abolitionist leaders such as Frederick Douglas spoke out against slavery. The oldest continuously operated black church in America, the Meeting House also offers historical and educational programs. The Harborwalk is a self-guided tour that follows Boston's rich maritime history. You'll find maps for this walk at the information center on Boston Common. Boston is made up of many charming neighborhoods with fine restaurants and antique stores. Back Bay is a virtual open-air museum of various residential architectural styles including Victorian, Italianate, and Gothic Revival. Beacon Hill harkens to another era with its gas lamps, shade trees, brick sidewalks and grand townhouses built between 1800 and 1850. You'll enjoy strolling along the prettiest streets in Beacon Hill -- Chestnut and Mt. Vernon -- that open out into Louisburg Square. There are wonderful antique shops along Chestnut Street. Along Pinckney and Beacon streets, you'll find many homes designed by Charles Bullfinch. Across Boston Harbor is Charlestown, a predominantly Irish working class neighborhood. You can reach Charlestown by trolley or a quick ferry trip from Long Wharf that costs $1. Charlestown is also home to the U.S.S. Constitution, a 44-gun frigate first commissioned in 1798. The Constitution is a living museum of Boston's shipbuilding past and is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free tours from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Along Boston's Waterfront is the New England Aquarium filled with sharks, live sea creatures, wonderful exhibits, and an interactive and educational Kids' Space. Open 363 days a year, (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays) the Aquarium also offers whale watching cruises and Science Sea cruises. The Museum of Fine Arts, at 465 Avenue of the Arts, is second only to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. A glorious grand staircase with colorful murals painted by John Singer Sargent welcomes visitors into the museum. Founded in 1870, the museum is divided into nine areas. It houses the finest and largest collection of Japanese art outside of Japan. There is also a large collection of impressionist paintings and major works by Homer Winslow, Edward Hopper, and over 60 paintings by John Singleton Copley. Other galleries feature art of Africa, sculptures and ceramics from the Ancient Americas, and a wonderful collection of tableware made by Revolutionary patriot and silversmith, Paul Revere. No trip to Boston is complete without a shopping spree at Filene's department store. The best buys are in Filene's Basement where you'll want to check two things: the price and the date. In the basement, every item is marked with a date. The earlier the date, the better the bargain! Open seven days a week and major credit cards accepted. One of Boston's most famous landmarks is FaneuiI Hall. An historic market place and greeting place built in 1742, it houses an information desk on the first floor for visitors and tourists. With its gourmet coffee shops and boutique store, it is a popular place for both locals and tourists. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Across from FaneuiI Hall is the Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall Market Place, a wonderful place for people watching and shopping. You'll find café's with international and specialty foods, popular chain clothing stores, unique gift shops, book stores, open air bars and restaurants. Street jugglers, magicians, and entertainers perform daily. Open Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you're in town on a Friday or Saturday, you'll want to check out the open-air Hay Market. From dusk to dawn, vendors with push carts sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to fish, meats and cheeses. Outlet shopping is also very popular in the areas surrounding Boston. Fall River and New Bedford, about 45 minutes south of Boston, were once manufacturing centers for clothing. They now have more than 100 outlet stores where you'll find great buys on clothing, house wares, lingerie, and much more. There are over 50 college campuses in the greater Boston area. Just across the Charles River is Cambridge, home of America's oldest university, Harvard. Harvard Square, a very popular spot for people watching, is also known for its street musicians performing on weekend nights and Sunday afternoons. Coffee shops, restaurants, and book stores are abundant in this town that caters to 30,000 students. About 20 miles northwest of Boston are Lexington and Concord. Lexington is a quaint, quiet town of historic homes and taverns. Lexington is where Paul Revere made his historic ride to warn the townsfolk the British were coming. Concord, the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walden Pond is about 22 miles northwest of Boston. You'll also find Sleepy Hollow Cemetery here. Both towns can be reached by subway. Salem, where suspected witches and sorcerers faced interrogation and death, is 20 miles north east of Boston. The Salem Witch Museum is filled with interesting exhibits and the Witch Dungeon Museum historically recreates the witch trials. The Salem Trolley will take you to all the major points of interest. If you prefer walking, follow the Salem Heritage Trail. The red line will take you to the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, and the House of the Seven Gables. You can go back in time to December 1627 when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Plimoth Plantation, located about 30 miles southeast of Boston in Plymouth, is staffed by interpreters dressed as native American Indians, pilgrims, and sailors. It offers visitors a realistic look at everyday life of these early settlers and includes preserved and restored 17th century homes. You can also board a full-scale replica of the Mayflower. The Plantation is open April through November, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and until 7 p.m. in July and August. Admission for the Plantation and Mayflower Tour is $18.50; tour of the Mayflower only is $6.
Branson, Missouri Branson, Missouri is a popular US attraction that is not very well known to foreign visitors. It is a family oriented vacation resort in the midlands of the USA that has become the "music theater capitol of the world." Dozens of theaters in Branson now offer shows mostly with country music or traditional family oriented themes. A whole array of other entertainment and tourist attractions are also available. The blue haze of early morning surrounded my encampment. Here and there campfires popped and crackled as their light projected strange shadows on nearby rocks and trees. Groups of people eating breakfast sat at lantern-lit picnic tables. Others still slept. The cool, morning air of the camping area slowly came to life with the sound of crickets. The Ozark hills boast many stories of wonder, superstition and mystery. One such story is about the League of Law and Order that developed the nickname Baldknobbers. At one time after the Civil War, the Ozark mountain communities were still in a state of unrest. A group of lawless men used violence to gain control of several of the county governments. These violators went unpunished because of their complete domination of these various governments. Finally, a band of 26 citizens came together to rid the Ozark Mountains of the malicious foes. Dressed in dark clothing and black head coverings they attached white beards or cattle horns for an even more morbid effect. The group named themselves Baldknobbers after the high barren hill where they held their first meetings. This vigilante group decided to rid the Ozarks of the criminals. Some of their tactics were quite brutal and the name Baldknobbers soon became attached to all ruthless venturers in the Ozark hills. Today, their memory lives on as a group of courageous neighbors who demonstrated their unity in a war against the lawless. On the campus of what is known as United States' most unique college - the School of the Ozarks, you can take a guided tour. As my young guide pointed out the various buildings around the campus, he explained the history of the school. He said the school, founded in 1906, was initially set up to provide an education for young persons of capable intellect but inadequate funds. My guide told me about the extensive arts and crafts program sponsored by the school and the various outlets the school provided for the exhibitions of the work. The major attraction on campus is the Ralph Foster Museum. Devoted to the history of the Ozarks region, the museum's collections of more than 750,000 items represents history, antiques, archaeology, geology, mineralogy, natural history and westward expansion. The museum is open year round. Those who travel the Branson area today find that there is a certain spell cast by this wild rustic land that cannot be forgotten. Perhaps it's the excellent fishing that the many lakes provide, or the rugged beauty that surrounds the traveler at every step, or maybe it is the friendliness of the natives that sparks a certain something. Whatever it is - it's there and forever calling.
Chicago, Illinois Chicago is located in the northern part of the mid-western United States about 800 miles due west of New York City and over 2000 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California. It is usually considered the third great metropolis in the USA along with its East Coast and West Coast sister cities of New York and LA. The city is situated on the western shore of Lake Michigan, one of those five great inland seas known as the Great Lakes. To the west of Chicago, lies the Great Plains of the Midwest. Vast expanses of flat lands much of them covered with wheat and cornfields extend nearly a thousand miles to the feet of the Rocky Mountains. With no natural barriers such as mountains or hills to protect it, the city is subjected to the full onslaught of the winds and storms that blow across these "Prairies". Thus, Chicago deserves to be called the "windy city", although it really earned that nickname from its abundance of "windy" politicians. The major tourist attractions of Chicago include a trip to the observation deck at the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower and a tour along Lakeshore Drive with its beautiful parks, beaches and museums. Chicago offers visitors over a dozen major museums, two zoos, a large aquarium and a planetarium. It also offers lots of shopping opportunities and a variety of sports and entertainment. The downtown loop area has many stores and shops especially along State Street, but the real heart of the Chicago shopping district lies just north of the Chicago River. The section of North Michigan Avenue across the river from downtown is known as the Magnificent Mile and is lined with world-class department stores, vertical shopping malls and many fine restaurants. As in most US cities, many large shopping malls and outlet centers are located in the suburban communities. For discount shopping, the Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall is along I-94 about one hour north of Chicago.
Harpers Ferry Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is located at the convergence of the Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland state borders about 65 miles northwest of Washington DC and 80 miles west of Baltimore Maryland. The park, which includes the village of Harpers Ferry, is strategically situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. It was the early pioneer's gateway to the westward route through the Appalachian Mountains and a significant military objective during the Civil War. It is most famous as the location of John Brown's aborted attempt to instigate a revolution against slavery. The picturesque village of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia clings to the rocky slopes of the promontory between the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers overlooking the steep wooded river valleys. Many of its shops and houses have been restored and preserved in the conditions of the Civil War era. Museums and historical exhibits have been constructed in some of the old buildings. Old houses have been converted to quaint restaurants, shops and galleries. It is a very pleasant place to visit. Located only a two-hour drive from Washington DC or Baltimore, Maryland, this small picturesque historical site is a nice destination for a day excursion from either city. In an effort to preserve the environment of the village, the National Park Service has constructed a visitor center with parking one mile west of the Shenandoah Bridge just off route 340. They provide free shuttle busses to convey visitors to and from the town center. There is a $5 per vehicle entry fee that includes unlimited visitation for a 3-day period. The center is open every day from 9AM until 5PM except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Days.
Kennebunkport, Maine The northeastern section of the USA which includes the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are commonly called "the New England" states because they reminded early British settlers of their homeland. The northernmost of these states, Maine, has a rugged rocky coast and dense forests strewn with pristine lakes and rivers. Its scenic beauty and cool climate attracts many visitors during the summer months. Here is Ron Harmon's wonderful description of the picturesque seaside village of Kennebunkport, Maine. The morning air was clear; and its freshness mixed with the smell of the sea made the surroundings invigorating. Sometimes, you would find a damp misty fog that makes everything at a distance resemble a watercolor painting had held the whole southern coast of Maine in its grasp. You would enjoy your stay in the serene mood cast upon the area by the fog, the coastal village took on a new look under the rays of a bright summer sun. People were coming out of "hiding." It's amazing! During the fog, a few people strolled the streets, but now under the sun, everything was alive. Summer is a special time in Kennebunkport -- a time when fun seekers are plentiful and store proprietors keep busy. Along the streets, shopkeepers set "sale" items in front of their stores to attract customer's attention. Visitors were not only looking, but lots of them were buying as well. Young couples on bicycles pedaled by the shops so quickly that for an instant they became a blur of color. At several points along the avenue, college-aged individuals congregated to discuss their plans for the day. Apart from the shops selling everything from autographed first edition books to original oil paintings, there were plenty of other things to see and do. A few blocks from the village, an old gristmill had been turned into a restaurant where visitors can dine in the atmosphere of a bygone era. Other mills around the area have been transformed into a museum and playhouses were famous entertainers "pack 'em in." At Kennebunk Landing is the ornate "Wedding Cake" house built in 1846. Nearby, on Blueberry Hill stands the 200-year-old farmhouse of once-famous pop singer Jane Morgan. It is thought that the old farm is haunted - in fact Miss. Morgan believed the story so strongly that she gave the "spiritual occupants" the names of Ned and Nellie. On Kennebunk Beach huge crumpled granite rocks dot the shoreline. A large group of persons at one end of the beach played in the cool waters of the Atlantic. Farther down, a young couple sat on top of one of the stones while a group of small children played in a tidal pool. A few miles from Kennebunk beach is Perkins Cove. At one time, the cove's main industry was fishing, but for some reason, it has now become a home for artists. At Barnacle Billy's, a colorful eatery, one can sit on the sun deck and sip cool lemonade or dine on a lobster dinner. Boats of all sorts pass below the deck while lobster traps lay scattered on the shore. If lucky, a visitor might see one of the artists sitting in the noonday sun trying to sell his works. Most of the serious artists, however, have rented space at the cove and exhibit in a more professional style. Evening in the Kennebunks is something special in itself. The hot pinks rich reds and tawny golden colors of a setting sun seem to change even the oldest houses into works of art. This little section of southern Maine is a place where a visitor could stay a whole summer, explore every "nook and cranny" and still not see it all. It is a place that lures a person back so many times that eventually it might be called home.
Las Vegas Las Vegas, Nevada is a vibrant pulsating city and the largest adult playground in the world. It is a community that was created from the wastelands of the Mojave Desert in Nevada specifically to provide a gambling and entertainment oasis for the titillation seeking residents of post-war Los Angeles. Everything in Las Vegas has been done (or overdone) on a grand and spectacular scale. Along the Las Vegas strip, a black glass pyramid rises over a hundred meters above the desert with a larger than full sized replica of the Sphinx at its entry. Next to it, sits a larger than life castle with garishly colored turrets. Across the street, is a scaled-down skyline of New York City complete with a Brooklyn Bridge and a Statue of Liberty. Beyond that, you can see a half-sized replica of the Eifel Tower, a near full sized replica of the Piazza San Marco from Venice and a large volcano that erupts flames every thirty minutes. In Las Vegas, you often ask yourself, "Is this really a city, or am I visiting some futuristic amusement park on another planet?" On any given evening in Las Vegas, you will find hundreds of entertainment events such as the renown Las Vegas stage shows, world class sporting events, performances by world famous entertainers plus music, dance and comedy at large and small venues throughout the city. This city never seems to sleep. The frivolity continues long into the night and the serious gamblers continue their pursuit of riches until well after the morning sun has risen on a new day. Most of the newest, grandest Las Vegas casino hotels are located along the southern end of the strip near McCarran Airport. Even the smallest of these newer casino hotels has over 2,000 rooms with MGM Grand offering more than 5,000 rooms. Each casino contains thousands of slot machines, hundreds of gaming tables, multiple restaurants, numerous shops, theaters featuring "Las Vegas Shows" plus numerous bars, cocktail lounges and smaller entertainment venues. Along the northern part of the Strip, a few miles away from McCarran Airport, and also in the downtown area even further north, the casinos are older and a bit less spectacular. That means they usually offer their accommodations, their all-you-can-eat buffets, and their shows at bargain prices to entice you to come and gamble at their facility. There are also a few large casino hotels like Sam's Town and Boulder Station located well away from the strip. Those isolated casinos often offer some super-saver bargains. Since the time of Bugsy Siegel, Las Vegas has been renowned not only for its gambling, but also for its free flowing liquor, its fine dining and its extravagant entertainment especially at the Las Vegas Shows. All these original ingredients are still available in even greater variety and quantity in modern-day Las Vegas. The famous old Las Vegas Shows were typically variety shows featuring headline entertainment, well known bands, scantily-clad dancing girls and ribald humor. You can still find some of those shows on the Strip. The afternoon performances and the early evening performances are usually toned-down family-oriented presentations, while the late night performances are more adult oriented featuing nudity, risque humor and adult themes. A typical old-time Las Vegas Show in family-oriented theme is held at the Stratosphere Casino every afternoon, and the admission is very reasonably priced. Some of the newer shows are even more extravagant productions than the old-time ones. Cirque du Soliel runs about a half dozen fabulous productions in Las Vegas including: Mystere, Ka, O, and Zumanity. Each production is set in an immense specially-constructed theater with fantastic sets and technological marvels. The prices are fairly expensive, but they are certainly amazing feats of entertainment. At least two or more Broadway-style productions of musicals or plays are constantly featured in Las Vegas. There are a number of Las Vegas "regulars" playing at Casinos throughout the city, and new famous, world renown entertainers appear for limited engagements nearly every week. In addition to all this, there are free shows and free entertainments available at many of the casinos nearly every day. There is certainly no lack of entertaining diversions in this town. Las Vegas is ideally situated for anyone that would like to explore the Southwest of the USA. It is centrally located amongst some of the greatest natural attractions in the USA like the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. McCarran Airport has nearly 500 flights per day arriving from both domestic and international destinations, so access is convenient and often very economical. The desert landscape surrounding Las Vegas is stark and forbidding but strangely beautiful. Red Rock Canyon, just 20 miles west of the city, looks just like hollywood scenery for a cowboy movie. Boulder Dam and Lake Mead, located just 25 miles east of the city provides the strangely contrasting images of deep blue waters set among stark arid hills and barren rock formations. About 60 miles to the north, the Valley of Fire offers some unique hiking and sightseeing opportunities in a volcanically created environment of strange contorted rocks, lava fields and ancient Native American runes. Grand Canyon National Park, one of the great natural wonders of the world, is only 150 miles east of Las Vegas. The drive to the South Rim Visitors Center is 300 miles by road, while the slightly less spectacular West Rim is only a 150-miles drive from downtown Las Vegas. Death Valley National Park is about 150 driving miles to the west and can easily be seen on a one-day drive from Las Vegas. Zion National Park is about 150 driving miles to the north east, and Bryce Canyon is about 80 miles past it. If you do not wish to drive to any of the attractions, there are many tour options to these great natural wonders via bus, airplane and helicopter. If you intend to visit Las Vegas for a few days or more, you need only leave the gambling parlors for a single day or even only a half day to see some of this spectacular Southwest scenery. There are numerous tours departing from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, Death valley, Zion National Park, Boulder Dam, Lake Mead, the Valley of Fire and other interesting places. The tours can be via airplane, helicopter, bus, van, jeep or even hummer. Normally, the tour operators pick you up at your hotel, take you on a guided tour of the attraction, then return you to your hotel later in the day. This is a very convenient way to see some of the fabulous scenery in a very limited amount of time. Naturally, you can always rent a car and tour these same fabulous sights on your own.
New Orleans is the diamond set at the
end of the Mississippi River as it spills into the Gulf of Mexico. It stands
unique in America as the only city that strongly preserved its old world Spanish,
French and African heritage. Originally built along canals (called bayous),
the city is actually an island encompassing 363 miles, and it is the only major
American City built below sea level (-4 to -6 feet). Known as "The Big
Easy" and "The City that Care Forgot," New Orleans is not only
the home of great food and great music, but also the Cities of the Dead, exotic
nightlife, voodoo practices, and, most importantly, a unique blend of cultures
that created the Creole and Cajun people. When local folks talk about the different
sightseeing events, they often refer to the different neighborhoods, called
districts. Each district is distinct from its neighbors and has its own assortment
of wonderful sights. The famed French Quarter is at the heart of downtown. The
structures there are mostly tightly-knit two-story structures of Spanish-style
brick and wrought iron. There, boutiques, art and antiques stores, and souvenir
shops are open in the daytime, but at night that the Quarter comes alive with
restaurants, gentlemen's clubs and blues bars. This area also includes the Jackson
Square shopping area, the dock area for paddleboat and steamship river cruises,
and the Aquarium of the Americas. The Garden District is approximately five
miles to the east of the French Quarter, bordered by St. Charles Ave. in the
north and Magazine Street in the south. Here you will find lovely historic homes
that look like dollhouses, with their large porches, fancy trim and wrought
iron fencing. The local historical society encourages tours through this district
to show off the elegance of a bygone era. The tours also include a stop at the
Lafayette Cemetery, one of the Cities of the Dead. Loyola and Tulane Universities
are located in the University area, as is Audubon Park, the site of the Audubon
Zoo and Aquarium. On the nearby banks of Mississippi River, you can board an
air-conditioned J.J. Audubon river cruise.
The airport is located close to Interstate
10, which is in the far eastern section of town. Airport shuttles and buses,
which are far cheaper than taxis, are readily available. The shuttle costs $10
one way to your destination, while a bus to the downtown depot on Tulane Avenue
is just $1.50. You can easily tour by bus, or you can use the two streetcar
systems. The St. Charles streetcar, more than 150 years old, is a living relic
of New Orleans history. Running from Canal Street (at the edge of the French
Quarter) to Audubon Park, it is a 13.13-mile stretch that is great for sightseeing.
A round trip takes about an hour and a half. A second streetcar line runs across
the Riverfront. The cars, which travel a 1.9-mile route, are referred to as
the "Ladies in Red." They connect the Jackson Square area to the newest
West Side commercial developments along the river. If you are planning a full
day of bus and streetcar hopping, consider buying a visitor's pass from the
hotel or in a local shop. It costs $5.00 for one day or $12 for three days.
If you are driving your own car, park at your hotel or at a Park-and-Ride area
outside of the downtown district, and then do your sightseeing by bus. Downtown
parking can be hard to find and costly. Typical of a tourist center, New Orleans
has a large variety of shopping areas. The French Quarter boutiques, souvenir
shops, and art galleries do big daytime business, as do the shops at River Walk
where you will find all of the well-known national chain stores. Within walking
distance of the French Quarter is the Jackson Brewery, located at the end of
St. Peter Street and on the river. It houses fifty restaurants and shops, many
of which feature art, antique and craft items made by local artisans. Magazine
Street boasts six miles of galleries, boutiques, jewelry stories, and antiques
New York City New York City is located on the eastern coast of the United States about 1000 miles north of Florida and 200 miles South of Boston. It is situated at the mouth of the Hudson River, and is divided into five districts called boroughs. Long Island stretches almost 100 miles to the east of New York City and the state of New Jersey lies just across the Hudson River to the west. The "Big Apple", as the city is often called, is the largest city in the US with over 7 million residents. It is filled with a diverse mixture of inhabitants including immigrants from many countries. Some of its many neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, and Spanish Harlem reflect the rich ethnic heritages of the resident's original homelands. Manhattan borough, the business and commercial center of New York City, is situated on a large island in the middle of the Hudson River. Just south of it, across the main harbor, lies the borough of Staten Island, a large residential community. Across the East River branch of the Hudson, the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens are situated on the western tip of Long Island. The borough of Bronx is on the mainland to the north. New Jersey lies across the Hudson to the west. Manhattan Island is about two miles wide and over 12 miles long. It contains most of the business, economic, entertainment and cultural sights of the city. A four-miles long by half-mile wide Central Park, located at the very center of the island, neatly divides the city into sectors. The southern part of the island is called "Downtown" and the section directly south of Central Park is called "mid-town". Everything from the middle of the park to the northern tip of the island is usually called "Uptown". The part of the island closest to Long Island is called the "East Side" and the part closer to the Hudson River is the "West Side". The two neighborhoods lying on either side of Central Park are called "Upper East Side" and "Upper West Side". The numbered streets of Manhattan all run east-west beginning with First Street just above Greenwich Village, and extending all the way up to 218th Street at the far northern tip of Up-town. Avenues run north-south beginning with First Avenue on the East Side and extending to Twelfth Avenue along the Hudson River on the West Side. These numbered Avenues are interspersed with named Avenues such as Park Avenue, Lexington, Madison and Broadway. Broadway is a bit unusual as it starts out as a typical north-south avenue in the middle of the island downtown, but angles sharply to the west just below Central Park and continues on up the West Side to the top of the island. Brooklyn is across the East River on the southwestern tip of Long Island. It is accessible via bridge or tunnel. This borough is nearly four times as large as Manhattan Island and has a population of about four million. It is one of the primary bedroom communities for New York City. Unlike Manhattan, there are few tall buildings in Brooklyn. Typically, the tree-lined streets are filled with brownstone townhouses and small apartment buildings. There are very few hotels in Brooklyn, but those few offer a quiet alternative to the noisy hectic streets of Manhattan. Coney Island Beach and Amusement park are located along the southern shore and John F. Kennedy Airport lies just east of Brooklyn. Queens is north of Brooklyn on the tip of Long Island. It is also a residential community with many high-rise apartment complexes. LaGuardia airport, Shea Stadium and the crumbling ruins of the old World's Fair are located there. There are a few hotels near the airport. The Bronx is another mainly residential community almost due north of Manhattan on the mainland. The large and impressive Bronx Zoo is located there. Staten Island is due south of Manhattan across the main harbor basin. It is most easily reached via the Staten Island ferry from Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan. The ferry ride offers spectacular views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty and is absolutely free for all pedestrians. Staten Island has a small town atmosphere with many single-family homes. New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world. It is often called "the city that never sleeps." In fact, Times Square at midnight seems more vibrant and active than most other cities at noon. New York has many tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations headquarters, the Empire State building and over 300 museums. It is renown for its wide variety of entertainments including the world famous Broadway theaters. There are over 30,000 restaurants in New York City plus countless bars and clubs. If you like big cities and lots of excitement, the Big Apple is a great place to visit.
Philadelphia Philadelphia is the second largest city on the East Coast and the fifth largest city in America. It has a metropolitan population of 5.8 million people with an average winter temperature of 33 degrees (1 C) and an average of 75 degrees (23 C) in the summer. Driving time to Philadelphia is six hours south from Boston, two hours south from New York, three hours northwest from Washington, D.C., two hours from Baltimore and one hour from the coastal resort of Atlantic City. William Penn, an English Quaker, founded Philadelphia in 1682 on land purchased from the King of England. You can arrive via Philadelphia International Airport only eight miles from downtown or by Amtrak which takes you into the middle of the city at 30th Street Station. SEPTA is the public transportation service within the city which can get you anywhere you need to go. Because of its prime location along the East coast, Philadelphia quickly became the cultural center of the New World. With a rich history, “The City of Firsts” is considered the birthplace of American democracy and the home of the American Revolution. Before Washington, D.C., Philadelphia was the nation's capital form 1791 to 1800. Today it is a major metropolitan business, cultural and tourist attraction. The Philadelphia Zoo, named America’s first zoo, is known for its endangered wildlife conservation efforts as well as its educational programs, workshops, special events and recreational activities. It is the region’s number one family attraction with more than one million visitors coming every year to see over 1600 rare and exotic animals and 42 acres of beautiful gardens. Sesame Place is a great spot for families to spend a fun-filled day. Fashioned after the universally famous, award-winning children’s television program, this theme park located 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia in Langhorne Pennsylvania has more than 50 activities such as different water slides for all ages. Most exciting of all, the children will get an opportunity to meet and hug their favorite Sesame Street characters. They can visit Bert & Ernie’s home, watch dance shows, participate in parades and play all types of games. The price is $40 per person, but children under two years are admitted for free. More than 1 million people visit the Avenue of the Arts section along Philadelphia’s Broad Street every year. This district is divided into North and South and houses over 37 cultural organizations, entertainment venues plus outdoor murals. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, founded in 1805, is America's oldest art school and museum. The New Freedom Theatre is the nation's largest African-American theatre and the Philadelphia Doll Museum is the nation’s only African American museum of its kind. Visit the Uptown Theater, an old movie house where famous Americans such as Pearl Bailey, Lionel Hampton, Dinah Washington and Count Basie performed. The Metropolitan Opera House, known as The Met, is universally famous. Built in 1908, it has the largest stage in all of Philadelphia. The Academy of Music, built in 1857, is the oldest opera house in the United States. City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States, with over 250 pieces of marble sculpture and motifs. Philadelphia International Records is the home of some of the USA’s best-known R&B, soul and hip-hop artists. The Philadelphia Music Alliance has established a Walk of Fame along the avenue that honors many area musicians and music industry icons with more than 100 bronze plaques. Shopping is a part of every vacation and Philadelphia has plenty to offer in this area. The best news is that clothing and shoes are tax-free throughout Pennsylvania. Rittenhouse Row is a high-end shopping center with brands by famous names such as Nicole Miller, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany. Jewelers' Row is America’s oldest diamond district with more than 300 businesses. Antique Row is a paradise for antique and treasure lovers. If you like shopping malls, Philadelphia has several. The Gallery is the largest city mall in the U.S. with more than 120 shops. The Shops at Liberty Place holds more than 60 stores and restaurants and is in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Outside of the city you’ll find King of Prussia Mall, the largest retail complex in the country with eight department stores and more than 365 retailers. Also outside the city, Franklin Mills has more than 150 outlet stores for bargain and discount lovers. The town of Reading Pennsylvania, just 65 miles (100 km) northwest of Philadelphia, is known as outlet city because it has over 90 factory outlet stores. The Pennsylvania Academy of The Arts, built in 1876, holds a vast collection of American art by famous painters such as Charles Wilson, Thomas Easkins and Winslow Homer. The Academy itself is a great work of art with a grand stair hall decorated with gold leaf, silver stars, intricate carvings and bronze ornaments. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the third largest art museum in the country and holds some of the most impressive Renaissance, American, Impressionist and Modern art pieces by the most respected artists from all over the world. There are more than 80 period rooms from Medieval Times to Ancient Greece. The Masonic Temple, completed in 1873, is like a magnificent cathedral. It is located across the street from City Hall and is amazing inside and out. The grand exterior is matched by interior rooms made of Moorish, Gothic and Alhambra designs. The grand staircases are lined with Masonic paintings and sculptures by William Rush, the father of American sculpture. A museum, located inside the temple holds artifacts such as George Washington’s Masonic apron. Philadelphia is situated along Interstate highway 95, the main traffic artery that extends along the East Coast of the USA from Boston in the north to Miami Florida in the South. It is an easy drive of just a few hours from Philadelphia to New York City or to Baltimore and Washington DC. The beach resort of Atlantic City, often called the little Las Vegas of the East Coast, is only a one-hour drive to the southeast. There you can find gambling casinos and glitzy shows just like in Las Vegas but on a much smaller scale. Lancaster Pennsylvania is less than a two-hour drive to the west. That is the location of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, known for its quaint German-speaking communities and its technology-shunning Amish religious sects. Less than an hour west of Lancaster is Gettysburg Pennsylvania, location of one of the greatest battles of the US civil war.
Seattle, Washington Seattle, Washington is located in the far northwestern corner of the United States, if you don't consider Alaska. It is approximately 100 miles south of the Canadian border, nearly 3000 miles west of New York City and over 1000 miles north of Los Angeles, California. The city is situated on a series of low hills overlooking the deep-water harbor of Puget Sound about 75 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. It is nearly surrounded by water with Puget Sound on the west, Lake Washington a few miles to the east and Lake Union connecting them across the north. On clear days the Cascade Mountains are visible on the eastern horizon and the Olympic Mountains loom across the Sound to the west. The snowcapped volcanic peak of Mount Rainier dominates the southern view. This city is set in the midst of some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the USA. The climate is surprisingly mild this far north. Warm currents off the Pacific Coast tend to moderate the local weather. Summers are never very hot and winters are not very cold. Little snow falls in the city. Seattle is often called the rainy city, but that is not accurate. The city does not receive a lot of rain, but it does get about 220 days of cloud cover every year, and most of the rain occurs during the winter months. Sunshine and blue skies can be rare from October through March. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or Sea-Tac is located about 10 miles south of downtown Seattle just west of Interstate route 5. Transportation to downtown is available for $7.50 via express buses. Seattle Center, dominated by the 605-feet high Space Needle, is located 1 mile north of downtown and is easily accessible via a short Monorail ride. For nine dollars, you can take an elevator to the top and appreciate a spectacular view of the city with its surrounding lakes and mountains. Seattle Center is also the location of the Pacific Science Center, the Children's Museum, the Children's Theater, the Opera House, the Bagley Wright Theatre, the Seattle Center Playhouse, the Key Arena and the new Experience Music Project. It also contains an amusement park, a video arcade, a fast food gallery and an assortment of shops. Pike Place Market is located at the western edge of the central downtown area overlooking the Puget Sound waterfront. It offers an array of shops, kiosks and vendors selling fresh seafood, vegetables, flowers and all sorts of wonderful gifts. It is renowned for its flying fish market, where the seafood vendors toss their sales over the heads of amused spectators. The market also contains many restaurants, specialty shops and those ubiquitous Seattle coffee houses. The Seattle waterfront is located at the bottom of the hill just behind Pike Place Market. Many of the old fishing piers have been converted to restaurants, specialty shopping malls and tourist attractions. The Seattle Aquarium is here. Michelle says it is worth the price of admission just to see the adorable live sea otters. An Omni-Max theater offers an interesting view of the 1980 eruption of nearby Mount Saint Helens. Argosy Harbor Tours depart from a waterfront dock and provide a wonderful way to see the city from a different perspective. You can also find speedboat tours, sailing ship excursions and para-sailing adventures along the waterfront. There are some excellent seafood restaurants in this neighborhood. Pioneer Square Historical District is just a short walk south of the Pike Place Market and the waterfront. This neighborhood contains many restored Victorian structures. It includes art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, a great bookstore and a lot of bistros, sidewalk cafes and bars. A great picturesque totem pole and a bronze statue of native chief Sealth adorn the square. An interesting underground tour of Seattle takes you beneath the streets and sidewalks surrounding Pioneer Square. Lake Union bisects the city just north of downtown as it wends its way from Lake Washington on the east side to Puget Sound on the west. The lake is filled with activity from the commercial fishing vessels, motorboats, yachts, kayaks and seaplanes that continuously ply its waters. Houseboat communities on the lake were featured as Tom Hank's home in the film "Sleepless in Seattle." The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, located near the lakeside community of Ballard, are worth visiting. You can not only watch the incessant stream of maritime traffic navigating the locks, but you can also watch the incessant stream of migrating Salmon navigating the fish ladders. Many of the best attractions in the Seattle area are located outside of the city. Olympic Peninsula with Olympic National Park lies across the Puget Sound, and on a clear day, its snowcapped peaks are visible from downtown. Mount Rainier National Park and Mt St. Helens National Monument are both only a 4-hour drive from downtown Seattle. The Cascade Mountains rise just beyond the eastern limits of the city. A few hours drive over Snoqualmie Pass takes you to the Columbia River Plateau and the Yakima Valley. This is the rich agricultural heartland of Washington and is its wine country. A few hours boat ride brings you to the San Juan Archipelago where you can view whales, seals and other wildlife in the natural splendor of unspoiled wilderness. Seattle is a good city for shopping. It has a wide variety of department stores, boutiques and specialty shops right in the downtown area. Pike Place Market, the Waterfront, Pioneer Square, Fremont and the Chinatown/International District all offer lots of interesting shops featuring unusual merchandise. There are major shopping malls in Lynnwood, Bellevue, Northgate and South Center. For serious bargain hunters, there are large factory outlet malls in Auburn, 30 minutes south of downtown Seattle, and in Burlington, 65 miles north of the city.
Washington DC Washington DC is located near the middle of the eastern coast of the USA. It is 230 miles south of New York City, less than an hour drive to Baltimore and slightly more than two hours to Philadelphia. The city is near the vast Chesepeake Bay about 100 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The surrounding landscape is nearly flat with some gently rolling hills and shallow valleys. Summers can get quite warm with temperatures often exceeding 80 degrees F during June through August. Winters can be quite cold with temperatures intermittently falling below freezing from December through March. They get a modest amount of precipitation evenly distributed throughout the year. Occasional Atlantic storms can bring deluges or can dump large amounts of snow on the area in the winter. Washington DC is more than a city but not quite a state. It is a "district" created by the Congress of the United States in 1790 as a place to meet and transact their affairs of government. It was originally a ten-mile, square of land straddling the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland. They called it the District of Columbia and named the new capital city, to be constructed within, Washington in honor of our founding father and first president. There is a lot to see in Washington DC and most of it is free. You can tour the US Capitol Building, the White House, the Supreme Court and many federal government agencies like the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (where they print the money) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) (where they shoot a machine gun). You can visit the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt Memorials. You can see Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam memorial, the Korean War memorial and the Battle of Iwo Jima memorial. You can even spend several days touring the many parts of the Smithsonian Institute, one of the largest and finest collection of museums in the world. None of it will cost anything! Washington DC offers many historical and educational attractions, a variety of cultural and entertainment activities, plenty of multi-ethnic dining experiences and an array of shopping opportunities. Outside of the city, there are many civil war battlefields within a short drive; and President Washington's home at Mount Vernon is just south of DC. The port city of Baltimore and Anapolis, home of the US Naval Acadamy, are within an hour drive. Even Piladelphia and New York City are within a half-day drive.
Vancouver, British Columbia Vancouver, British Columbia is the largest and possibly the most beautiful city in the westernmost province of Canada. It is located just 24 miles (38 km) north of the US border and less than a three-hour drive from Seattle, Washington. The city is situated at the Fraser River Delta on the Pacific Coast. Eighteen surrounding communities spread over the adjacent 2930 square kilometer area make it a large vibrant metropolitan center. Vancouver is 60 miles (96 km) northeast of Victoria, the capitol of British Columbia, located on the southern tip of nearby Vancouver Island. The city of Vancouver sits in the midst of some spectacular scenery. The Ocean Strait of Georgia frames its western edges with the great harbor basin of English Bay and Burrard Inlet to the north. Across the inlet, high mountain peaks rise directly out of its northern suburbs. More lofty mountains define its eastern horizon. Downtown Vancouver sits astride the hilly spine of a small peninsula jutting into the bay. It is composed of an interesting mixture of high-rise office buildings, hotels and apartments interspersed with many private homes and lower structures containing small shops, restaurants and boutiques. It exudes the atmosphere of a large cosmopolitan city and simultaneously of a small intimate town. The northern tip of this peninsula is devoted to Stanley Park, one of the finest urban recreational areas in North America. The remainder of the peninsula is covered with various interesting neighborhoods featuring shopping, business, restaurants, theaters and urban living. Grouse Mountain is the most popular scenic attraction of the city. Just 15 minutes from downtown, the Skyride Gondola whisks you to a mountaintop plateau far above the city. Attractions at the summit include an I-Max film, a lumberjack show, a display of giant chainsaw sculpture and a refuge for two orphaned bear cubs. In the winter, skiing and snowboarding are popular diversions. Near the bottom of the mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge provides an exhilarating opportunity to cross a 450 feet long swaying footbridge 230 feet above the rocky gorge of the Capilano River. You can take bus tours or trolley tours of the city. You can take boat tours of the harbor or seaplane tours of the environs. The BC Ferries can take you to Victoria, to the Suncoast or to several destinations on the Channel Islands. Train tours depart from the city for scenic destinations in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. You can take fishing or whale watching charter cruises in the nearby waterways. Luxurious cruise ships depart from the city piers for voyages to Alaska. You can go sea kayaking. The internationally famous ski resorts of Whistler and Blackcomb are less than two hours north of Vancouver. The tourism possibilities are endless. Vancouver International Airport is located on Sea Island just south of the city near the suburb of Richmond. It has many flights to destinations throughout North America and to every other continent. Taxis to downtown cost about $20 to $30. The Airporter Shuttle Bus costs $12 and a limo costs $35 for up to eight passengers. Many visitors from the USA drive north on US interstate 5 which turns into Canadian 99 at the border. Vancouver is at the western terminus of the Canadian Transcontinental railway and the TransCanada highway. Both connect to the eastern Canadian provinces via spectacularly beautiful but very long routes. Vancouver is also a major terminus for many cruise ships that offer voyages to Alaska from mid May through early October. There are a number of hotels located near Vancouver International Airport and in the neighboring community of Richmond. Other hotels are located along routes 99 and 99A or in the suburb of North Vancouver. The greatest concentration of accommodations is in downtown. We stayed at the Park Hill Hotel in the center of downtown. It was conveniently located near most of the attractions with plenty of restaurants, convenience stores and shops within a short walk. For a moderate price, we had a spacious suite with a balcony overlooking the magnificent harbor and free parking in a secure garage. You can check prices and make reservations at the Park Hill Hotel, or you can also check the availability of other hotel accommodations in Vancouver before you pack up to go there.
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