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Cheap Weekend Getaways from 9 Major U.S. Cities

[st_content_ad]Need a vacation, but don’t have much time or money? Cheap weekend getaways are the answer. Spending two or three nights away from home can provide much-needed rejuvenation and help you scratch the itch to explore a new place at times when you can’t take a longer vacation.

Below are suggested weekend getaways from nine major metro areas around the U.S. Each getaway destination is within easy driving distance of the originating city, so you don’t need to shell out for airfare or baggage fees. Each also has well-rated, affordable hotel options.

Scroll down to see all the ideas, or click on your city below to jump straight to cheap weekend getaways from that metro area.

Featured Weekend Getaways

Cheap Weekend Getaways from Atlanta

Chattanooga, Tennessee

chattanooga tennessee aerial view

The former industrial town of Chattanooga is now an ideal spot for a weekend getaway that’s just a two-hour drive from Atlanta across the Tennessee border. Great spots for strolling include the Bluff View Art District and the scenic Riverwalk. The most popular attractions include the Tennessee Aquarium (beloved by kids and adults alike) and the Hunter Museum of American Art, housed in an early-20th-century mansion. The area is also rich in Civil War history; Chickamauga Battlefield is just a 20-minute drive outside the city.

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Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville north carolina at sunset.

About three and a half hours from Atlanta is the mountain community of Asheville, known for its artsy, outdoorsy vibe. Its most famous tourist attraction is the grand Biltmore mansion, though admission is pricey; fortunately, there are plenty of other fun things to do. Chat with artists in the River Arts District, stop to smell the flowers in the North Carolina Arboretum, or join the locals for an energetic Friday evening drum circle. The nearby Blue Ridge Mountains offer countless opportunities for hiking and scenic drives.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Boston

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown, massachusetts beachfront

Located at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is best known as a summer destination, but it makes for an appealing weekend getaway year-round. Look beyond the beaches and you’ll find the vibrant shops and eateries of Commercial Street as well as the Province Lands Bike Trail, which loops for more than five miles through bogs, pine forests, and sand dunes. And don’t overlook Provincetown’s art scene, which includes galleries and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. You can reach Provincetown via car or ferry from Boston.

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Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, rhode island riverfront.

Rhode Island’s capital city, just a quick drive or train ride from Boston, is the perfect size for exploring in a few days. One major draw is the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, which features everything from French Impressionists to a 12th-century Japanese Buddha. Not far away is the campus of Brown University, which hosts a variety of events and is a pleasant place for a stroll. Save time to wander neighborhoods like the historic downtown district and Federal Hill, also known as Little Italy.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Chicago

Galena, Illinois

Galena illinois street

This quaint historic town in the northwest corner of Illinois is about a three-hour drive from Chicago. Its well-preserved 19th-century buildings include the former home of President Ulysses S. Grant and a fascinating historical society and museum. It’s easy to spend a day wandering in and out of the boutiques and galleries on Main Street, where you can pick up everything from secondhand clothes to locally made jams. Enjoy breakfast or lunch at Otto’s Place, a local favorite.

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[st_related]The 10 Best Day Trips from Chicago[/st_related]

Cheap Weekend Getaways from Houston

San Antonio, Texas

san antonio, texas riverfront

Just a three-hour drive west of Houston is San Antonio, known for its vibrant history and culture. It all starts downtown, where you’ll find the city’s most famous landmark, the Alamo, and the 15-mile urban waterway known as the River Walk, lined with restaurants and shops. There are four other historical missions here, too, comprising San Antonio Missions National Historical Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site. Families will love the DoSeum, designed for kids 10 and under, and the small but fun San Antonio Zoo.

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Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake charles, louisiana city hall
Two hours in the opposite direction is a weekend getaway destination with an entirely different flavor: Lake Charles, Louisiana. During the day you can play a round of golf, tour a Cold War-era battleship, visit the colorful Mardi Gras Museum, or drive the Creole Nature Trail in search of alligators and birds. Then top off each day with a Cajun seafood dinner and an evening at one of the area’s four casinos.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua tree national park, california sunset.

The starkly beautiful desert landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park offer a peaceful (and cheap) weekend getaway from the traffic and smog of Los Angeles. Looking to hike? The park has challenging trails, easy nature walks, and everything in between. You can also bike on backcountry roads, drive along the Geology Tour Road (a 4 x 4 vehicle is recommended), or stay late for a night of stargazing. Campgrounds and affordable motels offer cheap lodging inside and near the park.

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San Diego, California

San diego, california boats in the harbor.

If you’re looking for a less remote weekend getaway, drive a few hours down the coast to San Diego. This laid-back city is a favorite with families, who flock to the San Diego Zoo, kid-friendly museums like the Fleet Science Center, and nearby LEGOLAND California. (For more ideas, see San Diego with Kids.) But San Diego is also popular for adults-only getaways, with plenty of craft breweries, cultural institutions, and neighborhoods to explore; try the Gaslamp Quarter for dining and nightlife.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from New York City

Dutchess County, New York

Hudson valley, new york bridge

Part of the Hudson Valley region that stretches some 150 miles north of New York City, Dutchess County offers both scenic landscapes and appealing attractions year-round. History buffs can tour the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home as well as his Presidential Library and Museum, while fans of the arts should make a beeline to spots like Dia:Beacon, a modern art center housed in a former Nabisco box-printing factory. Hikers can hop onto a section of the Appalachian Trail or enjoy the views from the top of the fire tower at Ferncliff Forest.

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Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton, new jersey dusk.

Stroll among the ivy-shrouded stone halls of Princeton University, located just 50 miles from New York City. Attractions on campus include an art museum and chapel, while the town of Princeton offers plenty of shops and restaurants along Nassau Street, the main drag. Top off your cheap weekend getaway with affordable eats at restaurants like Jammin’ Crepes and Olives Deli and Bakery.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from San Francisco

Sacramento, California

Sacramento, california bridge at night.

California’s capital, located 90 minutes from San Francisco, makes a particularly fun weekend getaway for families thanks to attractions like the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town, which features play areas for little ones based on the stories of Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella, and many more. The riverfront historic district, Old Sacramento, is a must-visit for travelers of any age, with its Gold Rush-era buildings and old-timey shops. There’s also plenty of fresh farm-to-table cuisine to savor around town at a variety of price points.

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Mendocino County, California

Mendocino county coast.

A little farther afield are the fertile vineyards, picturesque seaside villages, and jaw-dropping redwood forests of Mendocino County, about three hours north of San Francisco. Don’t miss the rugged coastal views at Mendocino Headlands State Park or the vibrantly colored blooms at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Visit Montgomery Woods State Reserve for a hike through the redwoods, or craft your own wine-tasting tour along Highway 128.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Seattle

Bellingham, Washington

Bellingham, washington water

In Bellingham, a small city located about 90 minutes north of Seattle, weekend visitors can enjoy a mix of urban and natural attractions. Start with a stroll through the Fairhaven historic district, where restored Victorian-era brick buildings house art galleries, restaurants, and the beloved Village Books. Art lovers can marvel at the sculpture collections at Western Washington University and Big Rock Garden, while hikers have plenty of options, including Whatcom Falls Park and Stimpson Family Nature Preserve.

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Whidbey Island, Washington

Whidbey island coast

Accessible by car and ferry, Whidbey Island is just a short distance from Seattle, but it feels like a true escape. Outdoor attractions reign supreme, from the stunning hiking trails of Deception Pass State Park to the fragrant fields at Lavender Wind Farm (come in summertime to see them in full bloom). You can paddle through Puget Sound with Whidbey Island Kayaking, go on the hunt for sculptures along the Oak Harbor Art Trail, or taste your way through the island’s many distilleries and wineries.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Washington, D.C.

Frederick, Maryland

Frederick maryland street scene

This small city 45 miles northwest of D.C. makes for a laid-back weekend getaway. Stroll the historic downtown area, keeping an eye out for murals, sculptures, and other public art installations scattered around town. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine and the Monocacy National Battlefield are must-sees for travelers with interest in the Civil War, while Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park offer dozens of wooded hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Don’t miss the city’s many breweries and distilleries, including Flying Dog, the largest craft brewery in Maryland.

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Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis maryland sunset.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Annapolis, with its walkable cobblestone streets and sailboats bobbing gently in the harbor. The main draw here is the historic district, with buildings dating back as far as the colonial era. The city is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy, which offers guided tours of its major landmarks as well as stories about what it’s like to be a midshipman. On a sunny day, visit the beach at Sandy Point State Park, complete with a view of the Bay Bridge.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Food & Drink Packing

How to Travel With Wine

Traveling with wine—especially red wine—in your checked luggage can be high stakes.

And while, yes, you could just wrap that wine in clothes in your suitcase and hope for the best, there are much better options.

Why not just ship? You can, but in the warmer months, many wineries won’t ship to most parts of the country because of the risk of heat damage that comes with ground shipping.

Accessories for Traveling With Wine

Here are four of the best-reviewed products for traveling successfully with wine.

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Vinnibag: The Vinnibag is a reusable, inflatable wine protector that stores flat when it’s not in use. To use it, insert a bottle of wine in the middle, partially inflate the Vinnibag, roll the bottom closed, and inflate completely. The columns of air created through inflation create a thick layer of padding without adding weight. Vinnibag has other uses as well, and can be, among other things, a waterproof float for your cell phone and keys at the pool.

Wineskin: Wineskin is the classic, inexpensive option for people looking to travel with wine. You’ll find these in tasting rooms around the country. There’s a single-use version that seals with adhesive, and a zip-top version that can be reused. The single layer of bubble wrap around all sides offers decent padding.

JetBag: The JetBag comes with interior padding, but its main focus is on protecting the contents of your suitcase against any spills. The interior of the plastic bag is lined with the same absorbent material found in diapers, and is designed to soak up a full bottle of wine. The reusable zip seal means that, as long as there haven’t been any spills, the bag can be reused.

The Wine Check: With its wheels and pull strap, the Wine Check is the easiest way to travel with a case of wine. The durable Cordura nylon shell has reinforced stitching, padded sides, top and bottom, and a full zippered top. You can use it with either a cardboard or Styrofoam insert; without the insert (for instance, when you’re transporting it to your destination before you fill it with wine), the Wine Check folds up and can fit in a suitcase.

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Christine Sarkis brings wine, food, and interesting scraps of paper home from her travels. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us to test free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com

Categories
Food & Drink

WineHug Review: Reusable and Secure Way to Travel with Wine

Price and Where to Buy: The WineHug is $22 on Amazon.

How the WineHug Rates:

  • Usefulness: 9/10. The WineHug is not the cheapest option (that would be the $5 to $10 Wineskin), but it’s sturdy, reusable, attractive, and adaptable. The WineHug easily protected a bottle of wine that was dropped from a height of four feet. In addition to adding a Therma-rest-like layer of padding around wine bottles, it could be repurposed to transport similarly sized breakables.
  • Value: 8/10. This reusable protector offers solid protection for wine.
  • Durability: 9/10. Strong Velcro, solid seams, and a sturdy inflation valve means the WineHug can be used over and over again.
  • Cool Factor: 9/10. Among travel wine holders, the WineHug stands out as one of the coolest looking. And it has the practical features to be useful as well.

Final Verdict: This is a sturdy and attractive reusable wine-transportation sleeve that offers enough protection that you could confidently check a suitcase and expect your wine to arrive unscathed.

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Follow Christine Sarkis on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

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Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Cities Miscellany Outdoors

The 9 Best Day Trips from San Francisco

In Northern California, San Francisco gets all the attention. But the places that make for great day trips from San Francisco are often just as magnificent.

The Best Day Trips from San Francisco

Here are nine destinations you should definitely make the time to see—none are more than a three-hour drive from the city.

Napa Valley

day trips from san francisco

[st_content_ad]Napa Valley barely needs an introduction: It’s America’s preeminent wine country, frequently beating out the wines of France and other major oenophilic regions in blind taste tests. What international travelers might not know is that this gorgeous region is an easy day trip from San Francisco—just 50 miles up from downtown.

Come to tour the wineries, visit the tasting rooms, unwind at a spa, and eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant (French Laundry in Yountville is the most renowned). Surrounding you will be the pastoral beauty of endless vineyards.

Sonoma Valley

day trips from san francisco

If you’re looking for a Napa-style experience at a bit of a slower, more casual pace, consider Sonoma Valley as one of your day trips from San Francisco. Start at the town of Sonoma’s historic town square, where you can tour California’s birthplace, Mission San Francisco Solano, and enjoy refined boutiques and eateries. Then head north to explore a beautiful valley filled with tranquil towns, resplendent nature, and hundreds of excellent wineries.

Healdsburg, in particular, is worth a visit; it’s a tiny, well-heeled town with fantastic restaurants, friendly tasting rooms, hospitable hotels, and just a touch of quirk.

Lake Tahoe

day trips from san francisco

Lake Tahoe, about three hours northeast of the city, is a wonderful option for San Francisco day trips. Gorgeous in the summer and snowy in the winter, its mountains-meet-lake scenery is completely unforgettable. The Lake Tahoe region, which straddles the California-Nevada border, is a mecca for recreation, wilderness, and fantastic hospitality.

In South Lake, the Hard Rock Hotel is a veritable museum of rock history—a visit here immerses you in music, memorabilia, and magnificent views over the lake.

The Tri-Valley Area

day trips from san francisco

One of the more accessible day trips from San Francisco is to the Tri-Valley area, about 30 miles east of the city. Anchoring the region is a small town called Danville, with its darling main street and historic all-American charm. This region also encompasses the towns of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, and San Ramon, offering something for everyone.

Taste at one of Livermore Valley’s dozens of wineries—Wente Vineyards is the most notable, and presents outdoor summer concerts with big-name headliners—and hike the region’s beautiful national and state parklands. To be rewarded with one of the widest panoramas in the West, climb or drive up iconic Mount Diablo.

Silicon Valley

day trips from san francisco

Those fascinated by the history of computer science should not miss the chance to visit Silicon Valley, home of Google, Apple, and dozens of other important technology companies. One of the easier San Francisco day trips to make, a jaunt to Silicon Valley can include a tour of renowned Stanford University (it’s more beautiful than you’d expect) with lunch or dinner on Palo Alto’s bustling University Ave.

In tranquil Los Altos, you can see the garage where Steve Jobs started Apple. And in San Jose—the most populated western city between Los Angeles and Canada—visit the Tech Museum of Innovation, see something supernatural at the Winchester Mystery House, or take the kids for a memorable day at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo.

Santa Cruz

day trips from san francisco

Looking for beachy day trips from San Francisco? Santa Cruz is a lively seaside town with great beaches, fierce waves, and surfer-cool denizens. Explore the waterfront Victorian downtown, spend a day on the sand, tour woodsy UC Santa Cruz, or take a thrill ride on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Also here: a gravitational anomaly called the Mystery Spot, the spectacular trees of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and the charming vacation village of Capitola.

Sacramento

day trips from san francisco

Sacramento the capital of a state whose economy ranks among the top 10 in the world. This city blends the old, the new, and the political, making it a wonderful historical option when you’re deciding on San Francisco day trips. Tour the Capitol, visit the character-filled Old West-style district of Old Sacramento along the massive American River, and trace the area’s settlement at Sutter’s Fort. You can also check out the California State Railroad Museum.

A short drive away is the college town of Davis, with its delightful restaurants, boutiques, and tree-lined scenery, plus world-class intelligentsia. Tour the UC Davis campus or catch a performance at its high-caliber Mondavi Center.

Monterey and Carmel

day trips from san francisco

The two adjacent seaside towns of Monterey and Carmel are worthy destinations unto themselves. Until 1849, Monterey was California’s capital under several flags; today, it offers enduring charm and new discoveries with every visit. Though there are many fantastic attractions here, the main one is the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium, featuring what many say is the world’s best display of marine life: It’s home to more than 35,000 living things.

Other must-sees: Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck; the incredibly scenic 17-Mile Drive; and Carmel’s upscale Ocean Ave, leading down to gorgeous Carmel Beach.

Mendocino

day trips from san francisco

To get away from any and all bustle, make the three-hour drive north from San Francisco to Mendocino, where the rugged coastline meets majestic redwoods, and fantastic wineries and breweries are thrown in for good measure. Stroll unspoiled beaches, taste wine in Anderson Valley, or take in the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. The Skunk Train provides a magical ride through the forest, and the Stanford Inn provides delicious vegan food and serene accommodations in a nature-filled setting.

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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

Categories
Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Miscellany

8 Best Orlando Restaurants

In a city that has become as much of a culinary destination as this one, deciding which are the 10 best restaurants in Orlando can tricky. The good news is that you can’t go wrong—just follow the lines and great food will follow.

Best Orlando Restaurants

The eight Orlando restaurants below represent a mix of high-end classics, new culinary upstarts, and quick-eat favorites.

Capa, Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort

best restaurants in orlando

[st_content_ad]Take the elevator to the 17th floor of the Four Seasons Resort and you’ll be rewarded with a view that would makes every meal memorable. With incredible views of Disney’s Epcot and Magic Kingdom theme parks, meals that are timed right can end in fireworks. It’s the kind of novelty that might be necessary at other restaurants, but this rooftop steakhouse and bar doesn’t need it. At this Orlando restaurant, you’ll find Spanish-influenced cuisine that calls on a range of local offerings, including fresh Florida seafood and prime meats. The restaurant has been on Wine Enthusiast’s Best 100 Wine Restaurants in the U.S., and garnered best steak and best restaurant accolades by Orlando Magazine. Watch the chefs work their magic in the open kitchen or dine on the open terrace to soak up the view.

Luma on Park

best restaurants in orlando

There’s something to be said for chefs who recognize the talents in their own backyard. Chef Brandon McGlamery and Brian Cernell do exactly that by opting to create locally inspired cuisine in a gorgeous Orlando setting. Set on Park Avenue in Winter Park the restaurant serves meals that originate from local farmers and growers. The restaurant’s commitment to fresh ingredients is legendary, and the fact that Luma on Park also showcases one of the most extensive wine collections in Central Florida only adds to its popularity. Diners should choose from a selection of small plates or settle in for mains, and always save room for dessert.

Jaleo, Disney Springs

best restaurants in orlando

One of the most anticipated restaurants of the year will feature small Spanish plates and celeb-chef cred. This tapas spot is the brainchild of world-renowned Chef Jose Andres, and the restaurant aims to wow a local crowd with an extensive menu that reflects the regional diversity of traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine. The restaurant is already a hit in other cities, including Washington D.C., where it originated. Its summer 2018 opening is expected to be a resounding success.

Jinya Ramen Bar

best restaurants in orlando

In Japan, ramen is a staple and the pre-packaged noodles most Americans associate with the dish—an abomination. Enter Jinya, a Ramen bar whose owner Tomonori Takahashi grew up eating the real thing and was determined to bring quality ramen to the masses. From the earthen pottery bowls to the rich broth and the aged noodles, not to mention Jinya’s outright refusal to skimp on fresh ingredients, this modern take on Japanese fare offers the ramen you didn’t even know you were missing.

Victoria and Albert, Grand Floridian Resort 

best restaurants in orlando

If the Grand Floridian is the crown in the Walt Disney World Resort collection, Victoria and Albert has to be the crown jewel. A fitting description given that the restaurant is named for royalty and offers exactly the kind of experience they’d expect. The AAA Five Diamond Award winning Orlando restaurant serves up timeless elegance with non-rushed (sometimes hours-long) meals that take you from one beautifully presented dish to another. The caveat: You’ll need to dress accordingly.  Men require jackets and casual wear is frowned upon. It’s a pricey outing for sure, but for special occasions, the exacting service can’t be beat.

Kabooki Sushi

best restaurants in orlando

There are two ways to do sushi: tiny shops with simple décor and a few wobbly tables, and lavish, beautifully decorated spots where the artistry on the walls is carried onto each plate. Kabooki Sushi is the latter.  Don’t let the location fool you: Though the Orlando restaurant seems off the beaten path at the Colonial Town Center strip mall, once you’re inside you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Plates are painstakingly attended to by Chef Henry Moso, who manages to blend other cultures with the extensive Japanese offerings. Kabooki Sushi is the real deal, even if the food is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Black Bean Deli

best restaurants in orlando

This traditional Cuban deli may have two different permanent locations in Orlando, but the commitment to Cuban food is the same at each. From the coffees in the morning to the empanadas and Cuban sandwiches in the afternoon, and the ropa vieja, carne con papa, and plantains at night, the deli has been meeting the expectations of its devoted clientele for more than 15 years. Mark your calendar with the daily specials and be prepared to come early to collect. Pro tip: Whether you eat in or take out, napkins are a must.

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa

best restaurants in orlando

There’s probably no better location in town for this kind of meal. Set amidst the multicultural offerings of Mills 50, this Orlando restaurant is perfectly placed to mix Caribbean, Latin, and Asian cultural influences with the traditional fire, smoke, and pit methods BBQ requires. Don’t be surprise to taste soy, citrus, and curry in the sauces and spices of your meal. Pig Floyd doesn’t shy away from the fusions: Menus boast  BBQ banh mi with crisp pork belly, cheesesteaks, brisket, and Korean “kimcheeze” tacos among other things.  Not ready to let it all go? The restaurant is more than happy to set you up with some take-out for later.

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– Original reporting by Heather Greenwood-Davis

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Cities Miscellany

9 Best Day Trips from Washington, D.C.

You’ll never lack for entertainment in the nation’s capital, but there are still plenty of good excuses to take day trips from Washington, D.C. The city is surrounded with beauty and history, and you don’t need to go far to feel like you’re leaving the urban grind behind.

Day Trips from Washington, D.C.

Whether you’re in the mood for nature, history, sweeping ocean vistas, crab cakes, or a bit of wine, there are numerous Washington, D.C. day trips within easy reach.

Great Falls Park

washington dc day trips

[st_content_ad]Great Falls Park offers a spectacular view of the Potomac River as it churns through a rocky chokepoint, and it’s hard to believe you’re just a 30-minute drive from the National Mall. The park is administered by the National Park Service, and the river here—whose condition runs from novice to extreme—is a regional mecca for kayakers. The park also offers 15 miles of hiking trails. If the weather’s nice, go early: Great Falls gets inundated by throngs seeking relief from the D.C. rat race, and wait times just to get in can reach an hour by mid-morning.

Baltimore

washington dc day trips

Just 45 miles away, Baltimore is one of the great day trips from Washington, D.C. The Inner Harbor offers a slew of great tourist sites, including the kid-friendly National Aquarium, with enough sharks to populate a major motion picture. Take the edge off your hunger with the city’s famous crabs, then catch an Orioles or a Ravens game (the two stadiums are within blocks of each other, less than a half-mile from the Inner Harbor). History buffs will be hard-pressed to pass up a visit to Fort McHenry, which provided Francis Scott Key with his inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner. And if you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket, a slew of reputable new casinos will be happy to help out.

Monticello

washington dc day trips

Thomas Jefferson’s famous hilltop plantation is another great option for people looking for day trips from Washington, D.C. Monticello lies 115 miles southwest of D.C., just outside Charlottesville, and offers incredible views of the surrounding Virginia farmland. About half of the historic 5,000-acre property is currently preserved and open to visitors. The nonprofit foundation that runs Monticello has been working to temper some of its adoring reverence for Thomas Jefferson and come to grips with the delicate issue of the man’s role as slave owner. Hundreds of slaves worked on the plantation during the years that Jefferson owned it, and several “Slavery at Monticello” tours are held each day.

Gettysburg National Military Park

washington dc day trips

Gettysburg, about 85 miles north of D.C., offers a chance to visit the site of what was both the grimmest and perhaps most hopeful chapter in the Civil War. After stunning victories against the Union, Confederate general Robert E. Lee was routed during three days of fighting, but nearly 50,000 Americans lost their lives in the battle. Today, the National Park Service protects the site, which offers a sobering opportunity for reflection.

Loudon County Wineries

washington dc day trips

Virginia has been working hard to make a name for itself as a serious wine-making region, and you could definitely find a worse place to make a day trip from Washington, D.C. than the state’s northern-most vineyards. Located just 50 miles from D.C., Loudoun County’s wineries are located in knock-your-socks-off-beautiful hill-country hollows. With 40 wineries and tasting rooms, you won’t be hard up for choices, and the area has an abundance of cozy bed-and-breakfasts if you’re in the mood to stretch your visit overnight.

Shenandoah National Park

washington dc day trips

Shenandoah National Park feels like it’s a world away and is one of the best day trips from Washington, D.C. for outdoorsy travelers. The park, located 75 miles from D.C., offers more than 500 miles of hiking trails, including the immensely popular route to the top of the 3,284-foot-tall granite crag called Old Rag. There are also plenty of campgrounds and backcountry camping opportunities, plus rock climbing. If you’re in the mood for a less vigorous itinerary, drive the Skyline Drive and then have a meal at Patrick O’Connell’s Michelin two-starred Inn at Little Washington, just outside the park.

Colonial Williamsburg

washington dc day trips

Colonial Williamsburg, which bills itself as the world’s biggest living history museum, is 150 miles south of D.C. The fading former capital of Virginia was revived as a pet project of the Rockefeller family, and offers plenty of opportunities to step back to a time before America was even an idea. Black Americans have long struggled to find a voice to tell their side of the story at Colonial Williamsburg—as they have at Monticello—but the effort is a work in progress. If you’re hankering for a taste of history, Colonial Williamsburg also offers four historic taverns with period-appropriate cuisine (and prices that have more than kept pace with inflation). And if you’re really jonesing for a modern-day fix, Colonial Williamsburg also offers not one but three golf courses.

Harpers Ferry

washington dc day trips

A little more than 60 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., the tiny town of Harpers Ferry (pop. 300) is full of history and a great day trip from Washington, D.C. Harpers Ferry is most famous as the site of abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on the armory there, in an attempt to liberate weapons for use by Southern slaves in a mass uprising. Brown’s raiders were quickly defeated by a force led by Robert E. Lee; Brown was convicted of treason 17 days later, and hanged not long after that. Yet the incident set the U.S. on a path toward civil war. Today, much of the town is a national park and historic district. Sitting in a valley at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harpers Ferry is also blessed with an abundance of first-rate scenery.

Assateague Island National Seashore

washington dc day trips

If you are truly hankering to get away from it all, Assateague Island National Seashore is your ticket. Assateague is a 140-mile haul from D.C., but it’s a world beyond. From its famed wild ponies, which manage to survive on only salt marsh plants and brush, to its 37 miles of sweeping seashores, Assateague will fill you with wonder. The island has plenty of camping, although weekends are in high demand, and nearby towns offer plenty of hotel possibilities if you want to turn your day trip into an overnight stay.

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—Original reporting by Matt Jenkins

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Cities Experiential Travel Food & Drink Miscellany Outdoors

9 Fun Things to Do in Miami

Miami has rightfully earned a reputation as a party hot spot, drawing everyone from celebrities to spring breakers. But when it comes to fun things to do in Miami, this concept takes on multiple meanings. Miami isn’t lacking in late-night parties, but the city is also home to historic neighborhoods, stunning architecture, and mangrove-filled islands begging to be explored.

Fun Things to Do in Miami

To enjoy the best of both city and shore, add these nine things to do in Miami to your vacation itinerary.

[viator_tour destination=”662″ type=”3-mod”]

Canoe Tours

Canoe tours

[st_content_ad]Miami’s beaches may get all the love, but its flat calm waters and mangrove-covered islands make for excellent ecosystems to explore. Kayaking and canoeing are two of the many fun things to do in Everglades National Park, home to 99 miles of wilderness waterways prime for all levels of paddlers. From September to May, The Deering Estate leads morning and moonlit canoeing tours across Biscayne Bay to the seven-acre mangrove island and bird rookery appropriately named Chicken Key. While the island’s mangrove forests and sand dunes are one draw (with campfires and s’mores served during evening tours), the paddle out is equally as exciting as you canoe alongside manatees and sea turtles.

Fishing

Fishing

Miami is a prime year-round locale for anglers looking to cast their reel in the Atlantic. From land, you can throw a line from a number of spots, including Haulover Inlet Jetty and South Pointe Park Pier, both popular places for catching snapper and Spanish mackerel. If you’re after sport fish like marlin, sailfish, and tuna, head out to sea on a half- or full-day guided boat charter led by experts like Top Gun Fishing Charters.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkeling

You don’t need to head south to Belize in order to find beautiful coral reefs. The third-largest barrier reef system in the world, the Florida Reef, happens to lie just offshore, stretching 360 miles from the St. Lucie Inlet north of Miami down to Key West and Dry Tortugas National Park. Snorkel along the mangrove coastline and outer reefs of Half Moon and Emerald in Biscayne National Park, or spend a day swimming with sea life in Key Largo at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the U.S. It’s home to dive sites like the Christ of the Abyss statue and WWII-era shipwrecks.

Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery

Schnebly redland’s winery & brewery

Wine tasting may not rank high on your list of things to do in Miami, but Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery has become something of a local secret, and its grape-less wines have developed a loyal following. Mango, lychee, guava, and passion fruit are just a few of the tropical-flavored wines you can taste at the southernmost winery in the U.S. Head out to the Redland area during the weekend for a wine tasting and tour of the estate, where you’ll come across everything from waterfalls and koi ponds to thatched-roof chickee huts. On Friday evenings, the taproom changes themes from country music hall to Southern-style barbecue, while bottomless mimosa (or beer-mosa) Sunday brunch is a staple at the winery’s farm-to-table-focused restaurant, Red Lander.

Historic Overtown

Historic overtown

A blend of Miami’s heritage from the West Indies, West Africa, and the American South, historic Overtown (once known as the “Harlem of the South”) is a community built by black men in the late 1800s. The historic neighborhood earned its modern-day name thanks to the local and visiting artists who would head “over town” to their hotels or events in other parts of the city. After falling into disrepair, Overtown is slowly getting back on its feet and drawing both locals and visitors to its landmarks, such as the 1913 movie and vaudeville Lyric Theater, the only building that still stands from Miami’s “Little Broadway.” Another major draw: Jackson Soul Food, a family-run restaurant that’s even enticed the likes of the late Nat King Cole and sports star LeBron James.

New World Symphony

Symphony

The New World Symphony’s campus is one of the landmark buildings in South Beach—and the only one in Florida designed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry. If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Miami, dress up and catch one of the orchestra concerts. Or opt for a more casual outing, sprawling out in the grass for one of the free concerts or movies projected on the side of the building in SoundScape Park.

Art Deco Tour

Art deco tour

Miami is known for its Art Deco Historic District, which popped up during a building boom following the 1929 stock market crash. Get schooled on this distinctive style of architecture on a 90-minute walking tour highlighting the city’s Art Deco, Mediterranean, and Miami Modern buildings. If you’d rather take a DIY tour, grab a map from the Art Deco Welcome Center and cruise around the district on a DecoBike, which you can rent with the swipe of a credit card at one of the 100-plus kiosks around town.

Shopping

Bar harbour

Shopaholics can definitely get their fix at Miami’s many malls, which range from the traditional indoor type like Dadeland and Aventura Malls to upscale, open-air shopping centers like Merrick Park and Bal Harbour—both destinations in themselves. The three-story Bal Harbour Shops, Florida’s first high-fashion shopping center, opened in 1965 on the site of former World War II army barracks and looks more like a scene from Southeast Asia than tropical South Florida. Peaceful koi ponds line the center of the courtyard, surrounded by haute brands like Chanel and Harry Winston. Not only are the shops (and their beautifully curated window displays) worth the visit, so are the restaurants, from the French brasserie-themed Le Zoo to iron chef-inspired Makoto.

Beachside Spas

Beachside spas

Miami’s most glamorous resorts not only offer private beachfront access, but are also home to the city’s most lavish spas, which locals deem one of the top things to do in Miami. Most spas offer complimentary use of their amenities when you book a treatment, so plan on indulging in a full day of detoxing in steam rooms and relaxing poolside in between massage sessions. One of the top picks in the city: Fontainebleau’s Lapis Spa, known for its signature thermal treatments and “Water Journey,” a hydro playground with mineral pools, a rain tunnel, a jet bath, and a eucalyptus infusion steam room.

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—Original reporting by Lane Nieset

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Miscellany

10 Best Denver Breweries and Distilleries

Drinking (responsibly) is a favorite pastime in Denver. You can hardly go five blocks without passing a brewery or distillery, or three. Some focus on a particular style, while others are generalists. The only commonality: There’s really good booze coming out of the Mile High City.

10 Best Denver Breweries and Distilleries

Whatever your drink of choice, you’re sure to find it at one of these 10 Denver breweries and distilleries.

Great Divide Brewing Company

denver breweries and distilleries

[st_content_ad]You can’t talk about Denver beer without mentioning Great Divide. The company was one of the Mile High City’s first craft breweries; it was founded in the Ballpark neighborhood in 1994 by Brian Dunn. Great Divide is known for its higher ABV yet well balanced brews, and it now has two locations—the OG taproom and the Barrel Bar in RiNo (which doubles as a packaging and canning facility). For classic Great Divide, order a Denver Pale Ale or Yeti Imperial Stout. For fun—and if they’re available—give the Strawberry Rhubarb Sour or a barrel-aged release a try.

Denver Beer Co.

denver breweries and distilleries

Denver Beer Co. won Denverites’ hearts with its logo alone, which mimics the Colorado flag in color and design and features hops hanging before mountain peaks. But the beer is great too. Everything is brewed in small batches, and DBC’s commitment to fresh ingredients is laudable. The brewery is known for its Graham Cracker Porter and Incredible Pedal IPA, but don’t be afraid to branch out and try whatever’s just been tapped. Inspired by Bavaria’s beer gardens, co-founders Patrick Crawford and Charlie Berger created an indoor-outdoor space on the edge of downtown with garage doors running the length of the taproom. Consequently, it’s the Denver brewery with one of the city’s busiest patios on a sunny day.

Call to Arms Brewing Company

denver breweries and distilleries

Call to Arms’ Berkeley taproom, which opened in 2015, is reminiscent of a British pub thanks to its handcrafted wood bar. The taproom brews old-school ales with precision—try the Oats and Hose oatmeal porter or Clintonian Pale Ale—and taps as many as three new beers each week. Check the digital menu to see what’s on tap at one of the best breweries in Denver when you visit.

Ratio Beerworks

denver breweries and distilleries

At Ratio, as at most Denver breweries, it’s all about having fun. The RiNo beer maker’s 20-barrel system means there are always plenty of pint options—and there are also plenty of things to do while drinking them down. You could grab a seat at one of the handcrafted community tables in the industrial taproom. Or head outside for a game of cornhole on the large, mural-walled patio. Or hit up the food truck (there’s a regular rotation out front) so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. Ratio’s lineup is varied, from an American standard ale to a chocolate rye Scotch ale to an IPA. The beer here is good—the setting even more so.

Little Machine Beer

denver breweries and distilleries

Among the vast number of Denver breweries, Little Machine manages to stand out. There’s the unique circular bar in its Jefferson Park taproom and the robot theme, of course. But, truly, it’s about the beer: The Colorado Stock Ale is made from all Colorado ingredients. (The brewing system itself is all-Colorado-made also.) Faulty Wire is a dessert barley wine aged in Caribbean rum and Mexican port barrels for 11 months. The Gaffer is a London-style porter. You won’t find these brews anywhere else, and that’s saying a lot in a state that considers itself the Napa Valley of Beer.

Stranahan’s Distillery

denver breweries and distilleries

American single malt whiskey may be gaining in popularity, but it’s nothing new for Stranahan’s, Colorado’s first whiskey distillery. Stop by the Baker tasting room to give its three varieties a try; enjoy them neat or in a well-balanced cocktail. Or, book a spot online for one of the hour-long tours. While you’re there, see if you can get your hands on a bottle of Snowflake. The annual December release is master distiller Rob Dietrich’s unique blend (it changes every year) made from different cask-finished barrels, and it’s only available in Colorado.

Leopold Bros.

denver breweries and distilleries

It’s all about options at Leopold Bros. The family-owned and operated, small-batch distillery in northeast Denver produces vodka, whiskey, gin, fernet, liqueurs, absinthe, and aperitivo. Everything is distilled on-site and bottled by hand. While Leopold’s spirits attract most of the attention, the line of liqueurs, particularly the Rocky Mountain Blackberry, are especially tasty; they’re great for cooking with as well as drinking. Sign up for a tour—a portion of your ticket price will benefit four local nonprofits.

Laws Whiskey House

denver breweries and distilleries

The best bars in town carry Laws because its bourbons, whiskeys, and ryes are rich, smooth, and carefully crafted. Laws’ spirits are aged in charred American White Oak barrels; the grain and corn are from Colorado suppliers; and all production is done at the distillery. For an authentic taste, stop by the tasting room to sample A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon, the distillery’s original offering, as part of a whiskey flight. Tours (register online) are also available.

Bear Creek Distillery

denver breweries and distilleries

“Small-batch” is a trademark of Denver distilleries, and Bear Creek is among the city’s best examples. Its rums (try the cask-strength version, aged in barrels from Laws Whiskey House), vodkas, and whiskeys are handcrafted using local ingredients and materials as often as possible. Proof that the product is good: The distillery has won three American Craft Spirits Association Awards. Co-founders Jeffrey Dickinson and Jay Johnson met at Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, about 10 miles from where their distillery now sits. Schedule a tour online or stop by the industrial tasting room (the wood detailing comes from reclaimed rail cars and Wyoming snow fencing) for a taste.’

Rising Sun Distillery

denver breweries and distilleries

Certified organic spirits are the focus at Rising Sun Distillery. Pedal there for a free tour (the distillery is located just off the South Platte River bike path) and to taste the vodka, gin, and peach brandy, which is made with fruit from Colorado’s Western Slope. Rising Sun’s most unique offerings are its Colorado Chili Spirit and Colorado Chili Liqueur, both of which incorporate Anaheim chilis grown in Pueblo. Add them to a margarita or Bloody Mary for a Centennial State kick.

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– Original reporting by Daliah Singer

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Miscellany

10 Best Denver Restaurants

Denver may not have celebrity chefs or the reputation of the coasts, but there is exceptional food being made here—and people are taking notice. New Denver restaurants are constantly opening, and many of the city’s best chefs have started expanding into new neighborhoods.

10 Best Denver Restaurants

 For a taste of Denver’s restaurant renaissance, make reservations at one of the 10 best places to eat in Denver.

Fruition Restaurant

best restaurants in denver

[st_content_ad]Farm-to-table isn’t a trend at Fruition—it’s a way of life. Chef-owner Alex Seidel (a James Beard Award finalist) is also a farmer, running Fruition Farms Dairy & Creamery in Larkspur, about an hour south of his restaurant. Since opening more than 10 years ago, Fruition has become one of the best restaurants in Denver with its thoughtful, comforting, and innovative seasonal food. It’s fine dining without the fuss, served in a cozy, living-room-like setting. The wine list is fantastic, and service is among the best in town. If you find yourself a fan of Seidel’s after dining, stop by his second restaurant, Mercantile Dining & Provision, inside Union Station.

Beast & Bottle

best restaurants in denver

Siblings Paul and Aileen Reilly—he’s the executive chef, she’s the general manager—just get hospitality. From the friendly greeting at the door and the dining room’s relaxed elegance to a menu of perfectly executed American dishes that don’t take themselves too seriously, Beast & Bottle always delivers. Paul is known for his nose-to-tail cooking, using as many parts of the animal or vegetable—responsibly sourced from local farms, of course—as possible. The cocktail menu at the Denver restaurant is an expert lineup of cleverly named tipples, and the Uptown eatery’s brunch lineup is just as satisfying as dinner.

ChoLon

best restaurants in denver

Every meal at ChoLon should start with the soup dumplings. The chewy pillows are filled with a rich French onion soup broth that is comforting and so expertly executed that one wonders how so much flavor could come from a single bite. Here’s how: Executive chef Lon Symensma worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Spain before choosing Denver to open his first restaurant in 2010, and ChoLon’s menu was inspired by a year spent traveling around China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Asian street food is the focus, so while the quality of the dishes and the chic-minimalist space are high-end, nothing feels overly fancy. Order a variety of dishes to share to experience this Denver restaurant as it was meant to be.

El Five

best restaurants in denver

Restaurateur Justin Cucci is known for crafting imaginative spaces with food to match. So it goes with El Five, the sixth eatery in his Edible Beats empire. Located on the fifth floor of a mixed-use building in LoHi, El Five is decked out in colorful, vintage Egyptian movie posters. If possible, take your drink—the bar program is stellar and creative—onto the open-air patio, which affords prime views of the Denver skyline. Once seated, ask your knowledgeable server for recommendations on which of the Mediterranean tapas to order (don’t skip dessert), and plan to share.

Sushi Ronin

best restaurants in denver

Recipe for a perfect evening: Sit down at the sushi counter at Sushi Ronin in LoHi and hand executive chef Corey Baker the reins to your meal. Sushi Ronin is known for its Omakase dining, which the menu translates as, “leave it to the chef.” You also can’t go wrong ordering à la carte from the selection of warm and cool appetizers, donburi bowls, and sushi at one of the best places to eat in Denver. Servers know their fish, so ask them anything. Pair your meal with a Japanese whiskey or sake from the extensive menu. You’ll quickly forget that Colorado is a landlocked state.

Hop Alley

best restaurants in denver

The line at Tommy Lee’s first Denver restaurant, ramen shop Uncle, was near-constant, and the theme continues at Hop Alley. (Reservations are limited.) His 57-seat Chinese restaurant in RiNo is loud, the food is spicy, and the energy is palpable. The small bar is always packed; the beers all make smart pairings for the cuisine, and every cocktail has at least one nod to Asia. The best seat in the house is the corner table with a built-in lazy Susan, perfect for sharing bites of the duck rolls, chilled tofu, or bone marrow fried rice coming out of the open kitchen.

Departure Denver Restaurant & Lounge

best restaurants in denver

With its sleek, futuristic look and dolled up patrons, you wouldn’t guess that Departure is a Portland, Oregon, import. The U-shaped bar is the clear centerpiece, with the tail of a white airplane hanging above white leather stools. The modern Asian restaurant is run by culinary director and former Top Chef competitor Gregory Gourdet, and the menu is an eclectic blend of flavors and dishes that skew Japanese. Visit at brunch to sample from the roving dim sum cart. Departure’s prime Cherry Creek location, inside the swanky Halcyon hotel, makes it a place to see and be seen.

Annette

best restaurants in denver

Located in the Stanley Marketplace, a food-and-retail collective in Aurora, Annette is Colorado through and through. There’s the wall lined with chopped firewood, the gold light fixtures and blue chairs reminiscent of the sun and sky, and, of course, the grub. Chef Caroline Glover’s menu is comfort food crafted with the classic technique and attention to detail of a New York–trained chef. (Glover once worked at the Spotted Pig in New York’s West Village.) One of Glover’s missions is to “serve diners as though they were guests in my home”—and she’s succeeded.

Frasca Food and Wine

best restaurants in denver

If you were to visit only one restaurant while in Denver, it should be Frasca. OK, technically it’s in Boulder, but forget the semantics. The white-tablecloth restaurant is focused on the cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a region in northeast Italy. From the graceful service to the on-point wine pairings (put your trust in owner and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey to guide you through the 200-plus options) to course after course of flawless creations, eating at Frasca is truly an experience. It’s no wonder the restaurant has received multiple nods from the James Beard Foundation.

Oak at Fourteenth

best restaurants in denver

As its name implies, the menu at Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth is centered around wood-fired cooking. Chef and co-owner Steve Redzikowski is masterful in the kitchen, and his New American cuisine is plated so beautifully that, for a second, you’ll think twice about digging in. The contemporary space is sleek but unfussy, and service is top-notch. And the wine selection, curated by sommelier Bryan Dayton, is impressive. Oak at Fourteenth is one of those rare restaurants that manages to serve upscale food in a refined space while still feeling approachable to anyone walking in off the street.

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– Original reporting by Daliah Singer

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Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Food & Drink Oddities

10 Popular Los Angeles Restaurants for Celebrity Sightings

The list of best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities is a tough thing to pin down. A-listers are notoriously unfaithful and whether they deem a place “cool” seems to change with the wind. Still, there are a solid handful of eateries that they would never abandon, at least not anytime soon.

Los Angeles Restaurants for Celebrity Sightings

If you’re looking to see a star in L.A., head to one of these 10 hangouts of the Hollywood elite—if you can get in, that is.

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Catch LA

 los angeles celebrity sightings

[st_content_ad]Catch LA is, by far, the coolest new kid in town. This West Coast outpost of the hip New York seafood eatery opened in West Hollywood in 2016 and immediately became the city’s most popular celebrity hot spot. The brick-and-wood rooftop space is filled with plants—and L.A.’s most beautiful people.

Sitting high above Melrose Avenue, stars of every stripe (Kardashians, Mariah Carey, Kate Upton, Cuba Gooding, Jr., David Beckham, Cindy Crawford, Quincy Jones, Paris Hilton, and so on) order sustainable seafood, or request the vegan menu, then stay for the see-and-be-seen nightlife, since closing time isn’t ‘til 2:00 a.m.

Be warned, though—it’s very tough to get in if you’re not famous, gorgeous, or quite wealthy.

The Magic Castle

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Really a private club rather than a public restaurant, the Magic Castle is where entertainers come to be entertained. Its ornate, Victorian-style dining room serves standard American fare (steak and the like) but the food isn’t the star attraction—that would be the spectacular magic shows in the castle’s theater, which is why you’re more than likely to have a celebrity sitting a seat over.

Since 1963, the Academy of Magical Arts—guests must be members or invited by one—has hosted Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, David Blaine, Johnny Carson, Dick Clark, Norman Schwarzkopf, Jason Alexander, and Neil Patrick Harris, the academy’s former president.

Resourceful travelers to L.A. set on getting in could stay at the Magic Castle Hotel or reach out to one of the performing magicians for an invitation.

The Restaurant at the Chateau Marmont

los angeles celebrity sightings 

This André Balazs hotel right off Sunset Boulevard may as well be the official country club for Hollywood stars, especially hard-partying musicians and actors big on drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll. It certainly has one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities—and is notorious for being a place where famous folks act out.

Its reputation for drama and debauchery started back in the 1930s, when Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were regulars. Over the years, the restaurant has also fed Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, John Lennon, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, and Heath Ledger. These days, you’re likely to see Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Courtney Love, Salma Hayek, Lindsay Lohan, Denzel Washington, or Britney Spears sitting a table over.

The restaurant, known more for its ambiance and celebrity sightings than its food, serves a standard American menu offering breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, plus a late-night menu and full bar. Dine in the intimate indoor space, or outdoor on the lush garden terrace.

Gracias Madre

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Paparazzi station themselves just outside the door of this hip vegan haven—all the better to snap shots of regulars like Natalie Portman, Ellen Degeneres, Mariah Carey, Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba, Amy Adams, Jesse Metcalfe, Olivia Munn, and Sophia Bush. They—vegetarians and omnivores alike—come to West Hollywood for chef Chandra Gilbert’s fresh, flavorful Mexican food made from all-organic ingredients.

There’s a long menu of worthwhile craft cocktails, including a few made with cannabis. Friendly servers bring them out to patrons enjoying the airy white space indoors, or sitting outside on the charming Melrose Avenue courtyard.

The Polo Lounge

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Ensconced in the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Polo Lounge is almost as famous as its regular patrons. Since Hollywood’s early days, dealmakers have been having their power lunches here, while starlets and socialites enjoy the classy American food and full cocktail menu. In this, one of the very best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities, the dining room’s ceiling is run with iconic green-and-white stripes, while the patio is flowery and sunny.

Being a hotel restaurant, it’s open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner—come evening, live piano or jazz music accompanies your meal. Back in the day, the Polo Lounge crowd included the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, and Clark Gable.

Among the eatery’s famous faces these days: Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Diane Keaton, Taylor Swift, Chris Rock, Calvin Klein, and Janet Jackson.

 The Palm Beverly Hills

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Four decades ago, Fred Astaire tap-danced on the bar at this legendary restaurant’s previous West Hollywood location. In late 2014, the Palm’s owners moved their bona fide celebrity hot spot into its new Beverly Hills location, on Restaurant Row, and the stars have not stopped streaming in.

Among those who’ve chowed down on the Palm’s steaks and seafood: Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, and Alyssa Milano.

Augustine Wine Bar

 los angeles celebrity sightings

This one’s our little secret: All the way out in Sherman Oaks—yes, that’s the San Fernando Valley—is a little-known spot where chances are good that you’ll see more than one famous person during dinner. Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes, and Channing Tatum have all been spotted at this under-the-radar celebrity hot spot.

The kitchen offers a small, solid menu featuring salads, soups, pastas, steak, and seafood, plus your choice of cheese trays and charcuteries. Decor is charming and straightforward—this is the type of place where specials are written on chalkboards.

Urth Caffe

 los angeles celebrity sightings

This popular coffee shop sells organic coffee and fine teas alongside its hearty, healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, made mostly from local, sustainable ingredients.

It has multiple locations, but you’ll want to go the one on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood if you want a side of celebrity sightings with your meal. Regulars here include Jake Gyllenhaal, Paris Hilton, Jessica Alba, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Caitlyn Jenner, Lana Del Rey, and Amanda Seyfried.

Canter’s Deli

los angeles celebrity sightings 

It doesn’t get more casual than Canter’s. This famous Jewish deli, founded in 1931 and still operated by the Canter family, is an old-time diner with no decor to speak of, on an unassuming stretch of Fairfax Avenue. And yet, despite this total lack of trendiness or fanciness, it’s one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities.

Since it’s open 24 hours a day, stars fill the booths at all hours of the night, scanning Canter’s book-length menu for massive meat-filled sandwiches, what many swear is the world’s best matzo ball soup, bagels and lox with house-made pickles, beloved waffles, and many other varieties of Jewish comfort food.

Popular shows have filmed scenes here, including Mad Men, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm; and clientele over the years have included Marilyn Monroe, Jack Benny, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Sydney Poitier, Mel Brooks, Larry King, Mick Jagger, Barack Obama, Sarah Silverman, Rachael Ray, John Travolta, Prince, Conan O’Brien, Roseanne Barr, Julia Roberts, and Steven Tyler.

Musso and Frank Grill

los angeles celebrity sightings


Musso’s looks like a place Dick Tracy would come to think. And drink. It’s manly, moody, dimly lit—outright noir, in fact. And, since 1919, this iconic watering hole has been one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities.

As you’d expect, martinis are stiff and dry, the menu lists mostly steak and seafood, and the red-jacketed waiters have worked here for many decades. Back in the day, the regulars were Charlie Chaplin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Humphrey Bogart, and the actual Warner brothers. Today, don’t be surprised if, nestled into the mahogany booths, you spot Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Mila Kunis, Nicolas Cage, Tom Selleck, or the Rolling Stones.

The Perfect Outfit for LA Celeb Sightings

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– Original reporting by Avital Andrews

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Booking Strategy Cities Outdoors Sustainable Travel

10 Cool Temperature Vacation Spots for People Who Hate the Heat

If your idea of a perfect vacation doesn’t include itchy sunburns and sweaty beach time, consider these 10 cool temperature vacation spots. It’s okay to leave the sunglasses at home.

Top Cool Temperature Vacation Spots

From Norway and Russia to closer-to-home locales like the Yukon and Oregon, here’s where to go when the weather heats up.

1. Geirangerfjord, Norway

[st_content_ad]Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO-protected jewel in the north of Norway’s fjords region, has high elevations and sheer canyon walls that keep you protected from the sun. It’s one of the great cool temperature vacation spots for kayaking and hiking along fjord-hugging trails—under typically Nordic skies.

Where to stay: The Hotel Union Geiranger offers unbeatable fjord-views.

2. Cannon Beach, Oregon

 

With an average high of 53 degrees year round, the perpetually cool weather at Cannon Beach is perfect for those who prefer to wear jeans and long sleeves year round. This cozy town is filled with locally owned shops (including art galleries), restaurants, and coffee shops.

Hike in Ecola State Park, with views overlooking the rocky shoreline and Terribly Till, the Tillamook Head Light House. Check out the marine garden by Haystack Rock at low tide—full of anemone and starfish—or look for the famous puffins that migrate to the rock in the spring. Be sure to watch the gray whales migrate; peak times are November and March. In the winter months, you should also keep an eye out for the elk herd that lives in Cannon Beach’s cool temperature vacation spots and often frequents the grassy knolls in town.

Where to stay: Book a room that overlooks the ocean at the Surfsand Resort.

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3. The Barossa Valley, South Australia 

The Barossa Valley, the wine capital of Australia, is home to more than 600 grape growers and more than 100 wineries. It’s a wine connoisseurs paradise, and since you’ll be spending plenty of time at the five dozen or so wine cellars, you’ll be mainly indoors.

Barossa Shiraz red wines and nearby Eden Valley crisp white Rieslings are perennial international world gold medal winners. You’ll get an inside look at the wine making experience up close and personal—plenty of good drinks, and no sunscreen needed.

Where to stay: The Louise has a range of exclusive experiences, from wine tasting with artisan winemakers to cooking classes.

4. Manchester, VT

The nearby Bromley and Stratton mountains translates into cool, shady days in Manchester, Vermont—perfect for alpine slides and Bromley fun zone zip lines in the summer, and skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in winter. Plus, there are plenty of shady hikes at Equinox Mountain (the tallest in the Taconic range) and on the Long Trail, which is part of the Appalachian trail. There’s also nearby fly fishing at Orvis.

Where to stay: Check into a historic guest room at Wilburton Inn, or at one of the inn’s seven vacation properties (including a 15-room mansion that sleeps 34 guests—perfect for big family reunions).

5. Dublin, Ireland

Cool temps and light rain are what makes this city (and all of Ireland) so green, not to mention one of Europe’s top cool temperature vacation destinations. Dublin is more than 1,000 years old and offers everything from historic churches to plenty of Guinness-serving pubs. Walking around, however, is one of the best ways to simply take in the warm and welcoming Irish culture.

Where to stay: Consider a stay at The Clarence, originally a 19th-century hotel that was completely renovated in 1996 by U2’s Bono and The Edge. Be sure to hit the Tea Room, one of Dublin’s most popular dining spots.

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6. Seattle, Washington

Seattle‘s moderate temperature and cloudy days make it one of the best cool temperature vacation spots for those who want to avoid the sun (and heat). Among the top things to do: hiking in the Cascade and Olympic mountains (there are plenty of trails for every skill level), combing the not-so-sunny shoreline for crabs and snails while trying to spot killer whales, bike along the Burke-Gilman Trail, and trout fishing along the pier.

Where to stay: The Fairmont Olympic Hotel offers large rooms, including adjoining suites. The kids will love the indoor swimming pool.

7. St. Petersburg, Russia

It’s not just St. Petersburg‘s northern location that makes this port city on the Baltic Sea one of the world’s leading cool temperature vacation spots. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, this old-world city is also Russia’s cultural center. From the Hermitage museum (one of the largest art museums in the world) to the Peterhof Palace, the Winter Palace, and Peter and Paul Fortress—there’s no shortage of sightseeing opportunities.

Where to stay: Check into the Grand Hotel Europe, where Tchaikovsky honeymooned and Dostoyevsky was a regular. Stay at one of the suites overlooking the Arts Square.

8. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Home to more than 200 waterslides of all varieties—including extreme plunge slides, tube rides, racing speed slides, bowl drops, water roller coasters, surf machines, wave pools, lazy rivers, and tot-friendly spray pads—Wisconsin Dells offers plenty of indoor parks for those averse to the sun.

In addition to water parks, there’s plenty of dry activities, including bowling and rock climbing. Plus, with almost 100 restaurants, the dining options are extremely diverse—from oysters on the half shell to deep dish Chicago-style pizza and a traditional Wisconsin fish fry.

Where to stay: Great Wolf Lodge Resort not only has a massive indoor water park, but has spacious suites and even a kids’ spa, too.

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9. The Yukon, Canada (in the winter)

Sure, the Yukon may get almost 24 hours of sunlight in the summer, but it’s exactly the opposite in winter—and that’s the ideal time to go dog sledding, ice fishing, and searching for the Northern lights in one of North America’s best cool temperature vacation destinations. The Yukon is the size of California, and while that state has a population of 38 million, the Yukon only has 38,000, so you’re sure to see wildlife and beautiful scenery.

Where to stay: The Westmark Whitehorse Hotel is centrally located and its breakfast is super tasty.

10. Chicago, IL (in the Winter)

The Windy City shines when the temperatures dip. Winter is the time to ice skating in Millennial Park with the dramatic Chicago skyline behind you; take in the holiday lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo (it’s free and one of the best zoos in the country); hit the Children’s Museum and Navy Pier, then check out all the great stores along the Magnificent Mile.

Where to stay: The Palmer House is the oldest running hotel in the U.S. It has spacious suites and delicious food at its in-house restaurants.

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Judy Koutsky writes often about luxury, adventure, spa, and family travel. Her work has appeared in more than 30 publications, including Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. She has traveled to six of the seven continents (Antarctica is next on her list). Whether it is hang gliding in New Zealand, shark-cage diving in South Africa, or swimming with whale sharks in Belize, she and her family of four are always up for an adventure.

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Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Food & Drink Group Travel Student Travel

The 10 Best Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest 2017

Oktoberfest and foliage are arguably the biggest focus points of fall travel. And the benefit of Oktoberfest—besides, of course, the beer!—is that you don’t have to outguess nature about the peak time to visit. Although you can find literally hundreds of self-styled Oktoberfest celebrations around the world, only four are major league, with annual attendance of a half-million or more. I’ve listed them below, along with several other smaller but still fun places to celebrate Oktoberfest 2017.

Editor’s note: For the latest version of this story, see 4 Incredible Places to Spend Oktoberfest.

Munich, Germany

[st_content_ad]Of course, Munich remains the world’s best Oktoberfest—you can’t beat the original, and, with anywhere from 5 to 7 million annual visitors, still by far the biggest. Munich’s Oktoberfest 2017 runs from September 16 through October 3. It’s so big that most of the action is in outdoor tents erected in major streets and plazas, and you need a reservation for each tent you want to visit.

Flights to Munich for Oktoberfest 2017 are still available. In my most recent check, economy round-trips cost $600-$900 from the East Coast and $800-$1,100 from the West Coast. As usual, some of the lowest fares require a connection somewhere in Europe.

Hotel space is already tight—and expensive. Available downtown spots are going for $400 and up per night, and only a few hotels on the outskirts are available for less than $200. Fortunately, Munich public transit is good. Check Oktoberfest.de/en/ for details.

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Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is one of three legitimate claimants as runner-up to Munich. This year it runs on September 15-17. You can still find plenty of airline seats, and it’s an easy drive from much of the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. A few downtown hotels are already sold out for the weekend, however, and most available rooms are $200 or higher. Check OktoberfestZinzinnati.com for details.

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario

Another contender, Canada’s Oktoberfest 2017 in southern Ontario runs October 6-14, and it might be the best choice for beer drinkers on a budget. Although the room supply seems to be tightening, you can still find accommodations for well under $100 per night. As with Cincinnati, Kitchener-Waterloo is an easy drive from much of the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. Toronto and Buffalo are probably your best bets for cheap airfares; VIA Rail Canada and Ontario Go transit serve Kitchener from Toronto five times daily by train. See Oktoberfest.ca.

Blumenau, Brazil

Oktoberfest? In Brazil? Yep—many call it the biggest Oktoberfest in the Americas. Blumenau is in southern Brazil, between Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre, with a population largely of German and Italian heritage. This year, its Oktoberfest runs October 4-22.

Getting to Blumenau isn’t easy. The nearest airport, Navegantes, has no direct air service to North America, so to get there, fly to Sao Paulo or Porto Alegre, then take local carriers Azul or Gol. Currently, the lowest posted round-trip fares from Chicago to Navegantes are in the $1,000 range with lousy connections; the best connections are around $1,400. Presumably, you wouldn’t go all that way just for an Oktoberfest; Blumenau is about 400 miles from Sao Paulo and 500 miles from Iguazu Falls. As with the other big Oktoberfest sites, hotel space in the city center is tight, and available rooms are $150 and higher. Check OktoberfestBlumenau.com.br/en/ for details and advance tickets.

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A Different League: New Braunfels, Texas

New Braunfels, Texas, is often included in Oktoberfest lists, but its festival is actually a November “Wurstfest,” this year November 3-12. It’s northeast of San Antonio with plenty of air service and hotel accommodations. See Wurstfest.com.

The Minor Leagues: Other Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest 2017

Hundreds of cities and towns around the world boast at least some kind of Oktoberfest activity, even if it’s only a one-day beer and sausage promotion by a local hotel or restaurant. If you’re looking for something a bit more authentic, the best Oktoberfest locations in North America are those with a legitimate claim to German heritage: Frankenmuth, Michigan; Helen, Georgia; Leavenworth, Washington; Mount Angel, Oregon; and New Ulm, Minnesota.

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Road Trip

Sonoma Coast to Yosemite via Wine Country

Author: HotelCharlotte
Date of Trip: July 2007

We write these little trip reports to help folks with suggested routes and stops for their travel to or from Groveland and Yosemite. I have a little file here at my desk and when ever I see a place I might want to go to, I cut it out and put it in the folder. Once we settled on the dates, Victor was suggesting Death Valley. I thought not. Not in July. Just too hot, and out came my little folder. Right on top was a great picture of the Sonoma Coast and a full page advert for the Timber Cove Inn in Jenner. Stunning! So we agreed to go and I booked the nights. Until this trip, I had almost thought the Sonoma Coast was too far for an interesting one day drive to or from Groveland, but we had a fantastic tour in both directions and neither was too long.

We headed out Monday morning, July 2nd, just before 10 am with no holiday traffic in sight and followed 120 through Escalon where we turn off to cut through the cow fields to Stockton and then took Highway 4 west across the Central Valley and to Highway 680, over the Suisun Bay through Benicia to 780 and west to Highway 80 and north to Highway 37. We followed 37 to a little short-cut road called Lakeview, with no lake to view, into Petaluma. Turn left on Washington Street and this becomes Bodega Road which in turn takes you out to Bodega Bay. With one stop for breakfast, this was a 4 hour trip. Very doable. I would choose to stay in Bodega Bay area as traversing the coast, while stunningly beautiful, becomes tediously slow with curves twists and turns and is not necessarily more beautiful as you head north.

Take time to enjoy Bodega Bay, there are oodles of restaurants and things to do here including a calm-water protected beach. We continued north to Jenner, again quite awesome. This is where the Russian River spills into the ocean. We were there as the tide was turning and it was turbulent and neat! We went even further, they say only 13 miles but it seemed to take forever and the road was far more curvacious than our own Priest Grade!

We finally reached Timber Cove Inn and it is perched on the edge of the cliff and again, dramatic. After check-in we sat at the bar for a bit and nursed a glass of wine as we relaxed from our trip and took in the ocean views. I soon felt some discomfort as I realized the room had several cats roaming about and I am sadly allergic to these lofty creatures. We headed back to the room and all was swell again, but dinner is in the same area as the lounge and while I was able to make it through dinner, by the end, it was difficult breathing. We moved back to our guest room before dessert and checked out the next day. The cats and place were clean, I simply have an allergic reaction that forced us to cut our stay here short by one night.

Our room, #37 was a corner room with extra windows and appeared to be recently remodeled. The spa tub and shower were actually in the bedroom and not the bathroom, which for tubbing was nice as it had an expansive window looking out to the ocean. Everything was clean and seemed new.

We drove up to Sea Ranch enjoying more curves and views and then headed back inland via Jenner, the Russian River and Guerneville where we had a great breakfast at Pat’s in downtown. We toured Rio Nido where we once considered an inn for purchase and then headed towards the West Side highway for some wine tasting.

Our first stop is Korbel, you can’t miss this flowered palace—huge as wineries go and just a bit outside Guerneville. We arrived just in time to jump into an already-started tour and learned a bit about the Champagne process of “fermented in this bottle” and a lot about the Korbel family history. The tour completed with a tasting on one of many patios and we thought the pricing very good at under $10 a bottle with more than half dozen choices.

We found the West Side road and followed it up to Davis Bynum. Here we tasted the best Chardonnay of the day and will look to adding it to our own wine list for the restaurant.

Our next stop was Hop Kiln, a favorite of mine since my Karen Brown days. This is my 4th visit and each time improvements in the winery, surroundings and the wine itself are notable. We buy the 1000 Flowers, a chardonnay based blend. We served this wine last spring, but were then unable to get it again. I think we must!

We continue down the road to B.R. Cohn, a popular stop noted by the many vehicles in the parking lot. The grounds look lovely enough to host wedding receptions, concerts and the like. We enjoy a tasting and buy a pair of flip-flops from their gourmet and gift shop. These kooky “shoes” have a bunch of grapes across the flip part of the flop and called out to me.

This was our last stop in the wine country and we head across the central valley on Highway 12 towards Lodi where we had heard they had a cute downtown with a central square. We are slowly driving now in what must be holiday traffic through the Delta region. When we get to Lodi, we see lots of signs for wineries, but when we follow the roads, we never find the actual winery and figure they must not really welcome visitors or they would be far better marked.

We enter the town of Lodi in search of a square, often dominated by an old steepled church. Following signs such as Central Street and Downtown did not end in the discovery of a cute square and we were never sure if we even found downtown. So, with the swiftness of two freebirds on a road trip we decide to head into Jamestown and see if our friend Stephen at the National Hotel had a room available for the night. Either way, we are assured a great dinner and conversation. After dinner we roamed the cute downtown, doing a little window shopping and stopped at the new Azzo’s restaurant, oft recommended to us by friends. We found we had a lot in common with Azzo and his wife in the love of vintage rock & roll. Their menu looks tasty and we promise to return to test that theory out.

The return trip from the coast on this route did take us all day, but for most of it, we were “touring” and not really just driving. With a handful of winery stops, this is a very pleasurable route to take from the coast to Groveland, Yosemite & beyond.

* Remember to do this type of “touring” with a designated driver, who either doesn’t participate in the tastings or is a light taster. Eight tastings and drinking the full pours will equal one standard 6 oz glass of wine.

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Weekend Getaways

40 is the Greatest Birthday (Mt. Airy, NC)

Author: Michelle Stacy
Date of Trip: November 2006

For my 40th birthday, my boyfriend (now my husband) booked a surprise weekend at Sobotta Manor in Mt Airy, NC. I had no idea of our destination and when we stopped in front of this beautiful house, I knew I was in trouble. The house and grounds were breathtaking enough from the outside, but walking in and seeing the historical architecture and wonderful furnishings was even better.

We were escorted up to our room and walked into heaven. The satin and silk with hardwood and antique wool rugs were a perfect setting for the chilled wine and chocolate strawberries waiting for us. (The strawberries wore dark and white chocolate tuxedos!)

We unpacked and toured all 3 floors of the house. There were snacks and candy everywhere, plus books and music choices in every room. There is even a bar and big screen TV on the ground floor with leather couches and bookcases. It was so comfortable through out. Breakfast was a thing to behold with fresh fruit parfaits and stuffed french toast made from scratch. Yum!!

Rod had scheduled wine tours for us at Shelton Vineyards, Black Wolf, and Old North State. Shelton’s is a beautiful property and operation. It is obvious that a huge amount of care and pride went into the construction and design. The wines are very good and all of the staff is extremely knowledgeable about wine making and NC wines. Highly recommend this tour!

Black Wolf was not nearly as enjoyable. The wines were marginal at best and the staff was more interested in the fact this is a 5 star establishment than keeping that rating. We had reservations for dinner and stopped by for the tour at lunch. In speaking to the hostess on our way out, we mentioned our reservations and the first things she said was to expect a 45 to 60 minute wait to get our dinner as this is customary in 5 star restaurants. Hmmm.

Our last tour was Old North State Winery in downtown Mt. Airy. What a wonderful place to be. We tasted all of their wines and could not find ONE that we did not like. The atmosphere and staff were so impressive that we canceled our dinner at Black Wolf and made one for Scuppernong’s at Old North State. Best decision we could have made! The food was wonderful and very well prepared. They had live entertainment during the meal. We enjoyed wine and cheese before and after and the prices were very reasonable and much lower than we would have expected for the quality of food and service we received. Overall, we blame the weekend and Old North State for our engagement 3 days later! I loved my 40th birthday!!

Categories
Romantic Travel

My Honeymoon to Napa Valley

Author: Heather Ranes
Date of Trip: June 2007

My husband planned a honeymoon trip to remember! With the help of TripAdvisor.com, our Bed and Breakfast host Carlos, and a little imagination, we were able to enjoy every minute of our special trip to Napa Valley in June 2007.

Our honeymoon took place 5 weeks after our wedding; but my husband took it upon himself to book our reservations at the Ambrose Bierce House Bed and Breakfast in St. Helena California several months before. It gave me plenty of time to plot our adventures, research wineries, and consider the myriad of activities Napa Valley has to offer. Thankfully, Carlos (the manager of the property at our Bed and Breakfast) made himself available via email to answer any and all of my naïve questions with patience and thoroughness.

St. Helena, the city in which the B&B is located, was everything we’d imagined. It looks more like a town than a city! Quaint and quiet residential streets lined with trees, antiquated looking shops bordered Main Street, and beautiful sunny weather comprised our first impressions. We arrived at the Ambrose Bierce house a little before our appointed arrival time, but we were greeted warmly and let into our room with no delay.

The room was decorated in a Victorian fashion; my husband found it to be a little “feminine”, but tastefully done. The double sized bed was comfortable and there was a closet of good size in which to stow our luggage. This was a nice amenity as the room itself was small. Fortunately there were 2 windows in the room which let in a lot of fresh air and light, making the room appear slightly larger than it was. Another element of the room included a small side table on which a full decanter of port was made available to us every night at no additional charge. The bathroom had been recently renovated and even sported a Jacuzzi tub — which I took full advantage of several times during our stay. As a frivolous side note, I have to mention that the bathroom towels were marvelously fluffy!

The upper floor of the house, where we stayed, had a total of 3 bedrooms. Each room is adjacent to a common sitting room decorated with antique furniture, a well-stocked bookcase, and travel guides to all of the local sights and eateries. A major bonus of this B&B is that the owner makes and bottles his own wine which he made available to his houseguests; a beautifully appointed sideboard featured a daily complementary bottle of wine. A plate of cheese and crackers was set out in the evenings for us to enjoy along with the notable wine, and in addition there was a coffee pot for guests to use at their leisure — a definite plus on the mornings we woke early to take advantage of the large porch swing before breakfast.

The breakfast on each of the 4 days we were guests was far superior to anything we could have ordered in a restaurant. Eggs Benedict, homemade croissants (worth every calorie!), apple sausage, mimosas…the list goes on and on. Over breakfast, Carlos would invite conversation and make suggestions as to which wineries we should consider visiting, which shops to wander through, and what restaurants he personally recommended for dinner. Overall, his suggestions were right on the money. He even turned us on to some lovely picnic grounds for the afternoon we wanted nothing more than to buy a bottle of wine, eat some local cheese, and stretch out in the sunshine. His knowledge of the area was invaluable.

Apart from the wineries, Napa Valley boasts perfect weather conditions for growing the olives necessary for olive oil. Within 5 miles of the house were three olive oil companies. While taste testing olive oil was a new experience for us both, it was wholly enjoyable! One store even afforded us the opportunity to personally bottle and cork our favorite flavor! We came home with as many bottles of olive oil as we did wine, in a variety of flavors….basil, garlic, and chili to name a few. The niche stores sold not only the locally made oils, but gourmet mustards, meat rubs, and sauces as well. It was a connoisseur’s delight!

Other attractions worth mentioning are Woodhouse Chocolate and the Oakville Grocery. Woodhouse Chocolate creates incredible truffles (try the coconut!) and other sweet delights, and the tiny Oakville Grocery housed more gourmet meats, cheeses, mustards, breads, and wine than we could imagine!

One morning we visited a highly touted spa in Calistoga famous for “refreshing” and “detoxifying” mud baths sprung from local hot springs. We were brought to a private couple’s room and invited to sit in a tub of incredibly thick, hot mud. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip, though not for the reasons one might think. My new husband and I couldn’t stop laughing at the sight of one another covered head to toe in dark, sticky, stinky mud; kind of like “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” While we are not likely to forget our hysterical fits, we are equally unlikely to pay a repeat visit. Our recommendation? Stick to the massage treatments!

Hands down, our favorite winery was Schaumburg’s. While a little pricey at $25 per person, our knowledgeable and witty guide led us through the dark cool caves where they store their prize winning sparking wines while detailing the process of wine making. The tour ends in a dark cave lit with candles where we tasted taste each of their products.

The Ambrose Bierce house is in an ideal location….just a little more to the north end of the Napa Valley. We were within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants in St. Helena, and within reasonable driving distance of literally dozens of wineries.

Out of 5 stars, I give Ambrose Bierce 4 overall. There were a couple of minor details that we might have changed given a chance (the general size of our accommodations, for instance) but we had a wonderful honeymoon trip with very few complaints. We fully intend to go back to the region at some point in our lives together, and we would definitely consider staying at Ambrose Bierce again.