United States | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Sat, 21 Oct 2017 00:30:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg United States | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Day Trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park https://moon.com/2017/10/day-trip-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/ https://moon.com/2017/10/day-trip-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:42:41 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60504 If all you have is one day to spend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, don’t sweat it. You can still see a lot (and plan a return trip as soon as you can) on a day trip.

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If all you have is one day to spend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, don’t sweat it. You can still see a lot (and plan a return trip as soon as you can) on a day trip.

Start the day in Gatlinburg with a stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up maps and find out about special events. Follow Little River Gorge Road west toward Cades Cove. You never move too fast on this curvy road, so slow down and take your time to soak up the views.

fields surround an unpaved road leading to the mountains in Cades Cove

Cades Cove is the picture of calm, rural beauty. Photo © Sean Pavone/123rf.

At Cades Cove, grab a map and a driving guide for the scenic 11-mile Cades Cove Loop, one of the most popular drives in the park (so you’ll find you’re not alone). Though there may be company—crowds even—this wide, verdant valley ringed by tall peaks is the very picture of calm, rural beauty. Stop for a walk to John Oliver Place, the Methodist or Primitive Baptist Church, or one of the many cabins that showcase the history of settlement here.

At the midpoint of Cades Cove Loop, stop for a hike to Abrams Falls, a pleasant 5-mile round-trip hike to a 20-foot waterfall. The entire hike should take 3 hours or less to complete, giving you plenty of time to complete the Cades Cove Loop before returning to grab lunch in Gatlinburg.

Abrams Falls tumbles into a creek surrounded by trees

Take a hike to Abrams Falls. Photo © Jim Vallee/iStock.

Newfound Gap Road connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina. Follow Newfound Gap Road south up and over the Smokies. In 23 miles, you’ll reach the turnoff to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park. If the weather is good, you’ll be able to see the observation tower at the summit as you drive up Newfound Gap. After the 8-mile drive to the parking area, make the short, steep hike to the top. If the summit is shrouded in clouds (and it may well be), continue south along the crest of the Smokies.

Stop at Newfound Gap to check out the Rockefeller Memorial, the place where president Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the park in 1940. As you continue east toward Cherokee, stop at any of the scenic overlooks along the way—you can’t go wrong.

The ramp to the viewing platform on Clingmans Dome

The ramp to the viewing platform on Clingmans Dome. Photo © Jason Frye.

You’ll draw close to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina by the end of the day. Perfect timing, as every evening elk make an appearance in a field adjacent to the visitor center and the Mountain Farm Museum. While checking out the collection of historic structures at Mountain Farm, keep an eye out for elk; they will often cross right through the middle of this re-created farmstead on their way to dinner.

Spend your day trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park driving through peaceful valleys, taking in scenic mountain views, and visiting historic sites from Tennessee to North Carolina with this travel itinerary.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Jackson Hole Winter Activities https://moon.com/2017/10/jackson-hole-winter-activities/ https://moon.com/2017/10/jackson-hole-winter-activities/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 22:43:55 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60378 Winter in Jackson Hole brings skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Experience the best of this Wyoming destination with these fun winter activities.

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Winter in Jackson Hole brings skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. While the winter season runs Thanksgiving-early April, high season includes all holidays and school vacations: Christmas, New Year’s, Martin Luther King weekend, President’s Day week, and school spring breaks. Prices go up for those holiday periods. To avoid the crowds, plan midweek trips outside of the holidays. January and February usually bring the coldest weather, while March often delivers big dumps of snow.

welcome sign at Jackson Hole in winter

Winter in Jackson Hole brings skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Photo © Tenley Thompson/iStock.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Snow King Mountain (100 E. Snow King Ave., Jackson, 307/734-3194, early Dec.-Mar., lift tickets $48 adults, $30 juniors and seniors) is not usually a choice for diehard destination skiers and snowboarders, but families like its smaller size (400 acres), night skiing for kids, tubing, and cheaper rates.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

With big vertical, steep chutes, and a reputation as a big, bad experts-only ski area, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (3265 W. Village Dr., Teton Village, 307/733-2292, late Nov.-early Apr., lift tickets $121 adults, $75 juniors, $98 seniors) has only 50 percent of its terrain devoted to advanced skiers and snowboarders. The rest is rolling groomers for beginners and intermediates. The resort’s 4,139 vertical feet has 19 lifts spread across 2,500 acres, including the Aerial Tram that goes to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain. The average year delivers 450 inches of snowfall. Lift tickets are pricey, but you often can get cheaper rates with lodging packages or online. The resort has several terrain parks, on-mountain and base area restaurants, rental shops, and lessons. The resort does not own lodging properties, but Teton Village has accommodations ranging from a hostel to luxury lodging.

Heli- and Snowcat Skiing

Heli- and snowcat skiing can rack up 12,000-15,000 vertical feet in places where you have elbow room in big bowls, glades, and steeps. High Mountain Heli-Skiing (Teton Village, 307/733-3274, mid-Dec.-Mar., $1,200/person) has access to five mountain ranges surrounding Jackson Hole. A trip usually gets in six runs per day. Reservations are required; sometimes you can get packages that combine a trip with lodging.

person dressed in green skiing in Jackson Wyoming

Skiing in Jackson Hole is an unforgettable experience. Photo © Josh Beckner/iStock.

Backcountry Skiing

The Tetons are a backcountry ski mecca. Slap on a pair of skins and grab the transceiver, beacon, and probe to head out for skiing. Teton Pass, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort side country, and hike-to terrain beyond the boundaries of Grand Targhee Resort are the most popular places to go. Consult with experts at Teton Mountaineering (170 N. Cache Dr., Jackson, 307/733-3595) when renting gear and check on avalanche conditions (Bridger Teton Avalanche Center, 307/733-2664) before you go.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Unfortunately, housing and hotel developments have usurped the groomed Nordic centers in Jackson Hole and Teton Village, but some of the pathways around town are groomed for skate or classic skiing. Check current grooming conditions (307/739-6789) and download online maps of groomed trails (www.friendsofpathways.org).

Any summer trail around Jackson Hole can turn into a snowshoe trail in winter. One of the most scenic places to snowshoe is on the summit of Teton Pass. Follow Forest Road 019 south for about three-quarters of a mile (1.5 miles round-trip); it’s short but big on scenery. A trail continues from the end of the road, but you’ll need avalanche gear to proceed.

Guides and Rentals

Skinny Skis (65 W. Deloney, Jackson, 307/733-6094 or 888/733-7205, 9am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm Sun., hours vary seasonally, $15-25/day) rents snowshoes and general touring, metal-edge touring, and skate-ski packages. The shop also waxes and tunes skis.

Hole Hiking Experience (Jackson, 866/733-4453, daily in winter, $75-175/person) guides half-day to full-day cross-country ski trips and snowshoe tours (2-6 hours), plus combination programs of hikes mixed with wildlife-watching or other activities.

Snowmobiling

Snowmobile routes tour the Gros Ventre Mountains. A unique trip goes to the Granite Hot Springs (20 miles round-trip, early Dec.-early Apr.) in Bridger-Teton National Forest. The tour follows snow-buried Granite Creek Road (Forest Rd. 30500) up Granite Creek to the hot springs. The route is suitable for beginning snowmobilers. Togwotee Adventures (1050 S. Hwy. 89, Jackson, 307/733-8800) guides snowmobile tours to the Gros Ventre Mountains, Togwotee Pass, Granite Hot Springs, and Yellowstone.

Snowmobile rentals are available at Leisure Sports (1075 S. Hwy. 89, Jackson, 307/733-3040, 8am-5:30pm daily) and Jackson Hole Adventure Rentals (1060 S. Hwy. 89,Jackson, 307/733-5678 or 877/773-5678, 8am-5pm daily Nov.-Mar., 9am-6pm daily Apr.-Oct.). Snowmobiles run about $135-175 per day; winter gear costs $5-20 per item. Trailers are also available.

Ice Skating

A free outdoor ice rink operates at the Town Square in Jackson. Grand Teton Skating Association (noon-8pm daily mid-Dec.-Feb.) runs the rink. Skate rentals ($5) are available. Snow King Sports (100 E. Snow King Ave., 307/201/1633, daily mid-Oct.-Mar., $8 adults, $6 kids) has indoor public skating (noon-2pm) and open hockey (10:15am-11:30am, $10).

Tubing

King Tubes (Snow King Mountain, 100 E. Snow King Ave., Jackson, 307/734-9442, 2pm-7pm Tues.-Fri., 11am-7pm Sat.-Sun. early Dec.-Mar., $20 adults, $15 kids for one hour, $5 each hour thereafter) requires no skill on the snow to have some fun sliding. A rope tow pulls you and your tube up a hill where you can then sail downhill.

Winter Sleigh Rides

In Teton Village, Teton Village Sleigh Rides (307/733-2674, daily in winter, $35/person) operates horse-drawn sleigh rides from the corral across the street from Snake River Lodge. Rides depart three times each evening (5pm, 6pm, and 7pm). Reservations are a good idea.

dogs pulling a sled in Jackson Hole

If you’re planning on a dog sled tour in Jackson Hole, advance reservations are recommended. Photo © jbreeves/iStock.

Dogsledding

Dogsled tours (late Nov.-early Apr.) take place on the fringes of Jackson Hole and require longer drives or shuttles to reach their locations. Reservations are required, with pickups available in Jackson.

Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours (307/733-7388 or 800/554-7388) runs full-day and half-day trips up Granite Canyon in Bridger-Teton National Forest. The company is owned by eight-time Iditarod veteran Frank Teasley.

Winter in Jackson Hole brings skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Experience the best of this Wyoming destination with these fun winter activities.


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton.

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Boston Bookstores: An Indie Guide https://moon.com/2017/10/boston-bookstores-indie-guide/ https://moon.com/2017/10/boston-bookstores-indie-guide/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 20:10:05 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60734 What do Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Parker have in common? They both lived and worked in New England, and whether they sought the serenity of Walden Pond or roamed the tough streets of Boston, this region informs their work.

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What do Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Parker have in common? They both lived and worked in New England, and whether they sought the serenity of Walden Pond or roamed the tough streets of Boston, this region informs their work. Add in greats such as Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sylvia Plath, and Atul Gawande, and you’ll get a glimpse of the range of authors who call this area home.

old fashioned book shop sign on a street lamp

New England is a literary hotspot. Photo © florigianluigi/iStock.

There’s a reason New England—and particularly Greater Boston—continues to be a literary hotspot, more than three centuries after Anne Bradstreet penned her poems in what is now Cambridge. While groups like Grub Street and the Writers’ Room offer groups, classes, and support, and the Boston Literary District kicks off the annual Boston Book Fest with its fun Lit Hub pub crawl (Oct 26 this year), those of us who live by the pen know that what makes Boston’s literary heart beat are its independent bookstores. While chains—or online giants like Amazon—dominate elsewhere, the indie bookstore scene is alive and well here, creating an environment where readers and writers of all types thrive. Pop into some of these Boston bookstores, or check out Indiebound for a complete listing of indie bookstores in the Greater Boston area.

In Cambridge, home of Harvard University as well as Mistress Bradstreet, two quite different indies rule. Although it’s not affiliated with the university, Harvard Bookstore has held sway across the street from Harvard Yard since 1932. The sprawling bookstore features new fiction and nonfiction upstairs and a huge basement of remainders and used books below. Store best sellers and staff picks get their own displays, and one entire wall of featured titles are on sale at 20% off during their month in the spotlight. And if the book you seek is a rare or out-of-print tome, look to Paige M. Guttenberg, the store’s print-on-demand “book robot” (which also does a handy job with self-published works).

Right up Mass. Ave, Porter Square Books–winner of Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” for 2017–adds a café to the mix, along with a popular fiction section (vital to crime fiction authors like me!) that’s second to none, which means readers can enjoy a ginger lemonade as they browse the latest whodunit or NPR pick. Both shops have regular and varied reading series, as well as frequent buyer programs that reward readers.

Further west, brand new Belmont Books is the newest addition to the local indie list, filling a void left seven years ago when the beloved Charlesbank Books closed. Featuring weekly events and cozy children’s area, Belmont Books looks to become a community center. Head a bit further out, and you’ll find the Concord Bookshop, which has been serving Thoreau’s hometown since its founding in 1940. The knowledgeable staff, which includes former librarians and educators as well as writers, offer great staff picks.

Across the river, Brookline Booksmith holds sway. Since 1961, this huge and well curated store—winner of the Improper Bostonian’s 2017 Best Bookstore award—has a fun collection of toys, housewares, and gifts, as well as volumes old and new. Booksmith’s busy event series not only hosts touring authors but also reading groups, like the Small Press Book Club and YA Fierce Reads events. In 2010, Booksmith’s sister store in Wellesley spun off under new owners as Wellesley Books, and has added a special focus on local authors to its own fine collection and reading series.

Downtown Boston, meanwhile, has its own book culture, and discerning readers often head to trendy Newbury Street for the quirky Trident Bookseller and Café. With its roots in counterculture, Trident is the place for works on astrology and alternative health, as well as healthy treats in its upstairs café. The multi-level store also boasts both a great selection of literary journals as well.

Meanwhile, out in Newton, the beloved New England Mobile Book Fair has finally lived up to the “mobile” part of its name, moving from its longtime location earlier this fall to a new spot down the street. For several months, the fate of the store—known for its warehouse-like shelves and books filed by publisher—was in doubt until a suitable new space was found. Although the move required some culling in the cavernous store, the hearty reception local readers (and authors) have given the new space (at 4,400 SF considerably smaller than the previous 32,000 SF store) demonstrates the strong relationship yet another indie bookstore has to the community.

Moon & Mysteries: New England Giveaway

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7 Great Wisconsin Weekend Getaways https://moon.com/2017/10/7-great-wisconsin-weekend-getaways/ https://moon.com/2017/10/7-great-wisconsin-weekend-getaways/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 17:42:21 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60419 With several distinct regions to choose from, Wisconsin is perfect for weekend getaways. The seven 2- to 3-day itineraries here can either be used as-is for a weekend, or combined in almost any way for longer trips.

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With several distinct regions to choose from, Wisconsin is perfect for weekend getaways. The seven itineraries here can either be used as-is for a weekend, or combined in almost any way for longer trips. Door County and the Wisconsin Dells are the most popular getaways in the state.

A recreation of early 1900s Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Stroll back in time with the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Museum.

1. Milwaukee

Save this beer-centric city for a long weekend. After exploring Milwaukee, head to Door County or westward to the capital, Madison.

Day 1

Driving to Milwaukee from Chicago, choose Kenosha, Racine, or a boat tour of Lake Geneva along the way. A drive through the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit is a primer on glacial history right near a walk-through people’s history at Old World Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, stay downtown in the historic Pfister or at Brewhouse Suites, located in the renovated Pabst Brewery just northwest of downtown.

Day 2

The Milwaukee lakefront is a must. Tour Miller Brewing or the Harley-Davidson Museum and step into the unparalleled Milwaukee Public Museum. If you have time, go north to postcard-perfect Cedarburg.

Looking at the Monona Terrace fountain towards Wisconsin Ave and the State Capitol building in Madison

Enjoy the Monona Terrace fountain and a view of the State Capitol building. Photo © csfotoimages/iStock.

2. Madison

After exploring Madison and Devil’s Lake, you’re so close to the Wisconsin Dells that you should try to combine the trips if you can.

Day 1

In Madison, start with the architectural gems: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace and, a few steps away, the magnificent State Capitol. Stroll the pedestrian-friendly State Street area to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The University of Wisconsin Arboretum has the best urban trails anywhere, or visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Downtown is the lovely Mansion Hill Inn; alternatively, on the near west side, the ecofriendly Arbor House perfectly fits the ethos of Madison.

Day 2

Choose a longish drive northeast to the extraordinary Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area or a combination circus experience and workout in Baraboo and Devil’s Lake State Park. During the spring or fall migratory periods, visit Horicon Marsh; otherwise, Devil’s Lake is a gem of a park.

View of a small island in the bay with a boat leaving a wake.

Scenic view of Lake Michigan from Potawatomi State Park. Photo © Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

3. Door County

Door County is easily reached from Milwaukee and Madison. It’s also customary for Wisconsin football fans to pilgrimage to Green Bay and Lambeau Field on the way to Door County or on the way back. You could substitute one of the days in Door County with a ferry ride to quiet, great for biking Washington Island and potentially another short ferry ride to Rock Island State Park to hike as far as you can get from the mainland.

Day 1

First day—explore the bay side of the Door’s sublime natural environment and grand food, lodging, and shopping. Must-sees for nature and recreation are Potawatomi, Peninsula, and Newport State Parks. Spend the night in Fish Creek for the food and shopping; top picks for lodging are the White Gull Inn or the Whistling Swan.

Day 2

On your second day, explore the lakeside. Must-sees are hiking or kayaking at Whitefish Dunes State Park or The Ridges Sanctuary as well as the nation’s densest county concentration of lighthouses. This is the more tranquil side of Door County, and some people spend their entire weekends on this side for that reason.

Beautiful view of Devils Lake State Park in Wisconsin.

Stretch your legs in Devil’s Lake State Park. Photo © Wirepec/iStock.

4. Wisconsin Dells

Following a riotous trip to the Dells, you could head southwest to explore the rivers of Wisconsin.

Day 1

Pick a megaresort and let the water-slide fun commence. Make sure you do your homework; you can get some amazing deals. Top choice for a place with capital-E everything is the amazing Kalahari Resort Convention Center for indoor and outdoor waterparks, rooms, villas, and many other options.

Day 2

See the real Dells of the Wisconsin River on the World War II-era duck boat tour. If you’ve had your fill of water, Devil’s Lake State Park down the road offers superb hiking and, next door, fetching Baraboo is small-town quaint and has a grand circus museum, replete with outdoor shows.

A natural arch on Lake Superior partially covered in ice.

A visit in colder months may mean dramatic ice formations along Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Photo © Dendron/iStock.

5. The Northern Cap

From the Northern Cap, the Great North Woods are nearby.

Day 1

Drive to Bayfield on a Friday and eat whitefish. Stay at the budget Seagull Bay Motel, or for a splurge, the Old Rittenhouse Inn cannot be beat for the historic lodgings and epicurean delights.

Day 2

In the early morning either kayak the sea caves or cycle the rolling hills filled with apple orchards, then in the afternoon either take a shuttle to an island and hike or take the grand evening boat tour of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore for amazing vistas.

Day 3

Spend today driving the extraordinary Highway 13 along Lake Superior to Superior to see the big lakers (freight ships) and waterfalls.

Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum

6. Great North Woods

Combine the Northern Cap and the Great North Woods for a week of outdoor bliss.

Day 1

Get a cabin, cottage, or resort room in Hayward in northwest Wisconsin, or in the northeast, in the Minocqua area, Eagle River, or Boulder Junction. Spend the day with a rowboat, canoe on the lake, or nap to the sound of lapping water.

Day 2

From Hayward, spend a day at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and a lumberjack show. From Minocqua, visit Waswagoning or the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. If you’re in Eagle River, spend your second day on a snowmobile in winter or fishing the amazing Eagle River Chain of Lakes.

Kickapoo River

7. Southwestern Wisconsin

From the Great North Woods, head south. Southwestern Wisconsin is also close to the Dells.

Day 1

Camp at Wildcat Mountain State Park or stay at the extraordinary Inn Serendipity Woods; either canoe the extraordinary serpentine Kickapoo River or bike the original U.S. rail-to-trail path, the Elroy-Sparta State Recreational Trail.

Day 2

Drive very slowly in the region, the Coulee Range, to wave at horse-drawn buggies of the Amish, and visit one of their amazing bakeries for great sustenance. The Amish should only be photographed with permission.


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Wisconsin.

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Austin Festivals in Fall and Winter https://moon.com/2017/10/austin-festivals-fall-winter/ https://moon.com/2017/10/austin-festivals-fall-winter/#respond Sat, 07 Oct 2017 21:32:45 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59993 Though the sizzling heat of summer tapers off during fall and since winters are mild, Austin festivals stay in full swing. Here's the lineup from September to February.

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people gathered in front of stage outdoors

Open air concerts happen all year long in mild Austin. Photo © arevhamb/123rf.

Though the sizzling heat of summer tapers off during fall and since winters are mild, Austin festivals stay in full swing. Along with the requisite music festivals, you’ll find festivals celebrating film, books, and of course, the revels of Pride Week.

For a complete guide to absolutely everything going on in Austin throughout the year, check out www.austin360.com and click on the calendar link, or go to www.austintexas.org and click on the events link.

September

Imagine the symbol of Texas—the Lone Star—on a rainbow backdrop, or a giant Texas-shaped rainbow flag proudly carried as a standard of victory by men dressed up like Cher. At the Austin Pride Parade, gay pride is as big as Texas. Held annually since 1991, this is an important event that is all about tolerance, acceptance, and being proud of who you are. The parade is a family event replete with floats, music, and classic cars, but it can have moments that aren’t necessarily rated G.

The fall occurrence of the Pecan Street Arts Festival is held on 6th Street the last weekend of September. For more details see the complete entry in May section of Moon Austin, San Antonio & the Hill Country.

October

Spun out of the famous public television show, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is the biggest music fest of the year. For three days the festival features top acts, bands, performers, and musical legends in nearly all genres of music. In the past the festival has featured artists such as REM, Ben Harper, and Coldplay, and the list goes on. The scene: 200,000 people, portable potties, the smell of sunscreen, parking miles away, dust in every orifice, and heat exhaustion, all in beautiful Zilker Park. Tickets can be purchased for one of the three days (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday), or you can throw down more cash for a three-day pass. In the spring an early-bird ticket special is offered, but these sell out in a matter of hours. After that tickets can be bought at a premium online. There’s a long list of things that won’t pass security; check the website before you bring all kinds of stuff to survive the weekend.

Founded by former librarian and First Lady Laura Bush, the Texas Book Festival has become one of the biggest literary events in the Southwest. Book signings, awards ceremonies, celebrity-author book readings, and a black-tie Literary Gala including cocktails and dinner provide a great weekend that benefits the Texas Public Libraries. Tickets range $50- 75, and the Literary Gala is $350 per person.

Austin has been attracting quite a bit of attention from the film industry. The event that highlights Austin and celluloid is the Austin Film Festival. For eight days hundreds of film industry folk, celebrities, and silver-screen fans converge in downtown Austin’s many cinemas and hotels to view some 100 films. The festival also includes a screenwriter’s conference.

Local cyclist, cancer survivor, and all-around controversial figure Lance Armstrong hosts Ride for the Roses (512/236-8820) every October. This hugely popular event brings out crowds of cyclists, fans, celebrities, and spectators for a whole weekend of cycling-related events, all to raise money for cancer research.

Perhaps the most obscure event that goes on in these parts is the Texas Gourd Society Show and Sale. Talk about niche: This society is made up of artists that enjoy painting and decorating gourds. The show and sale also includes a competition. Whoever has the most gourd-geous gourd wins! Believe me, some of these gourds are pretty spectacular.

When writing up events for Austin’s calendar in October one can’t omit Halloween on 6th Street. Some 60,000 dressed-up freaks and ghouls take over downtown’s historic 6th Street. Overstimulated by sugar and whatever else, people party all night. The costumes are unbelievable. If you want to trick-or-treat but don’t want to put time into inventing a costume, rent something from Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds (1506 S. Congress Ave., 512/444-2002).

November

The funnest festival in Austin is Fun Fun Fun Fest. Or at least it’s pretty fun for all who are interested in indie rock, punk rock, hardcore, metal, and hip-hop/DJ. The festival, which started in 2006, is held in Austin’s Waterloo Park close to downtown. The promoters of this show have an uncanny knack for getting bands from the bygone era of rock underground to resurface and put on amazing shows. Past lineups have included Slayer, Jane’s Addiction, 7 Seconds, The Hold Steady, Descendents, High on Fire, Spoon, Explosions in the Sky, and Ice T. Even Weird Al Yankovic has done his thing, whatever that is. There are multiple stages for music and one for stand-up comedy. The event also includes BMX and skateboard half-pipes and even an amateur-wrestling ring.

A great way to sneak a peek into the lives of Austin artists is by touring artists’ studios during East Austin Studio Tour. Over a hundred artists, galleries, and studios participate in this East Austin event in mid-November each year. All media and styles are represented, from serene landscapes to bizarre abstract art. A map of the tour is available on the East Austin Studio Tour website.

December

Austin’s beloved holiday tradition, the Zilker Park Tree Lighting, draws thousands to Zilker Park to see the park decorated in lights and watch the lighting of the 165-foot Christmas tree. The Trail of Lights, which is a mile-long display of holiday and wintertime scenes, is an Austin bucket list experience. Most locals consider spinning under the tree and eating funnel cake the only way to usher in the Christmas spirit in Austin. The tree-lighting ceremony takes place on the first Sunday of December, and the Trail of Lights is open until the New Year.

The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar (512/447-1605, 10am-10pm daily) is a uniquely Austin holiday market where artists and artisans from Texas and the Southwest sell their works. This Austin original has been encouraging the public to buy from local artists since 1976. Besides all kinds of weird, wacky, original, and pop forms of art, the bazaar features great food and live music, and it all takes place at the Palmer Events Center. The bazaar operates the second half of December. Parking is available at the Palmer Events Center Garage, accessed off Riverside Drive.

January

The very best way to sample a wide range of Austin bands and musicians is by stumbling through all the Red River/6th Street venues during Austin Free Week. It is, as its name implies, a completely free week of live music. This started out as a way to cure the post-holiday music industry blues and has grown into a smorgasbord for music lovers. There are no cover or door charges at venues such as the Mohawk, Sidewinders, Beerland, Empire Control Room, and the Scoot Inn during the first week of January.

February

For over two decades, every February Carnival Brasileiro has brought Austin a party straight out of Brazil. Hailed as one of the city’s weirdest and wildest celebrations, Carnival Brasileiro features only Brazilian music played on Brazilian instruments and sung in Portuguese, all for a crowd of drinking gringos. The event takes place at Palmer Events Center. Tickets can be purchased at local outlets Lucy In Disguise (1506 S. Congress Ave.) and Waterloo Records (600 N. Lamar Blvd). Tickets are $40, or $45 at the door.


Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Austin, San Antonio & the Hill Country.

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Five New York Activities That Are Better in the Fall https://moon.com/2017/10/new-york-city-walks-5-fall-activities/ https://moon.com/2017/10/new-york-city-walks-5-fall-activities/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 12:00:00 +0000 https://moon.com?p=60669&preview=true&preview_id=60669 While the season for picnics and rosé all day is on its way out, there’s still every reason to spend time outside in New York. Here are five things that are popular in the summer, but even better in the fall.

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New Yorkers and visitors alike, rejoice! Summer is over, August’s soul-crushing heat is on its way out the door, and it’s officially autumn in the city. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up a few things you probably would have done this summer, were it not for the oppressive humidity and unidentifiable smells rising from the subway into your innocent nostrils. Take a breath of below-90-degree air, kick up a few leaves, and enjoy.

1. Rooftop bars

Popular opinion would have it that prime rooftop season is spring and summer, but we beg to differ: September and October are just as good, if not better. The weather has cooled down just enough, the crowds have begun to dissipate, and with the days starting to get just a little shorter, you might catch both sunset over the city and happy hour at the same time. A+.

View from High Line park looking towards the NY streets in fall.

Visiting in fall gives you a better chance to actually stroll the High Line. Photo © Janifest/iStock.

2. Tourist destinations

Namely, all of them. More specifically, NYC-bucket-list spots like the High Line. Again, this one comes down to crowds; summer is easily the most popular season for tourists to visit New York. And look, we get it—school is out, business is having a summertime slump, the sun is (finally) out, etc. But come fall, the majority of out-of-towners have returned home, the weather is still beautiful, and you’re more likely to be able to actually stroll the High Line. Go ahead and take in the view—with a little room to breathe.

3. The parks

Need we say more? While the season for picnics and rosé all day is on its way out, there’s still every reason to spend time in New York’s beautiful public parks. The crisp autumn air, the leaves changing all around you, a cup of hot cider…and maybe a hot date? It’s all so romantic, in the cheesiest, most perfect way.

4. Special events

Autumn in New York brings all kinds of special events to town. Just to name a few: The New York City Wine and Food Festival, Fashion Week, Comic Con, and the New York City Marathon. Never a dull moment.

5. Doing all of these things outside!

It’s true that summer in the city is practically overflowing with food and drink festivals, outdoor concerts galore, and more. And far be it for us to forego any of them. But there’s a special place in our hearts for the occasions that fall brings: Halloween, harvest festivals, Oktoberfest, and oh so much more. And the ability to celebrate them outdoors without instantly melting into a puddle of condensation? There’s just no comparison.

This fall, when it comes to walking the city, we’ve got you covered.

For more ideas on the best things to do in New York, both outdoors and in, check out Moon New York Walks. If you’re heading off to explore more of the world’s most walkable cities, pick up a copy of our City Walk guides to London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam or Berlin!

Moon City Walks Guides - Explore seven amazing cities, one step at a time.

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Why You Should Visit Sheridan, WY https://moon.com/2017/09/why-you-should-visit-sheridan-wy/ https://moon.com/2017/09/why-you-should-visit-sheridan-wy/#comments Thu, 28 Sep 2017 22:05:16 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60606 The biggest reason to visit this northern Wyoming town now is the new wave of businesses that are opening alongside intact and revitalized older businesses, providing this enclave with the perfect combination of fresh energy and original character. It’s kind of like the charm of an old VW bus with the luxurious feeling of a Rolls Royce. Visiting here gives you a distinct sense of discovery, as you explore a town that is at once historic, full of character, and newly coming into its own.

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This is the moment to visit Sheridan, Wyoming.

It’s not just because this college town of about 18,000 souls in northern Wyoming opened the Whitney Center for the Arts in 2016. And it’s not just because of the expanded, 24,000-square foot, $15.8 million Brinton Museum just outside of town in Big Horn. It’s not even because the Big Horn Mountains provide a bit of shelter from Wyoming’s notorious winds.

The biggest reason to visit this northern Wyoming town now is the new wave of businesses that are opening alongside intact and revitalized older businesses, providing this enclave with the perfect combination of fresh energy and original character. It’s kind of like the charm of an old VW bus with the luxurious feeling of a Rolls Royce. Visiting here gives you a distinct sense of discovery, as you explore a town that is at once historic, full of character, and newly coming into its own.

Come along for the ride with these recommendations for a visit to Sheridan.

a blue car parked in front of the Trail End Historic Site

Learn more about the area’s fascinating history at Trail End Historic Site. Photo © Mindy Sink.

Sights in Sheridan

Plan some time to learn more about the area’s fascinating history and culture.

Trail End State Historic Site is the historic home of the Kendrick family, whose patriarch was a cattle rancher, Wyoming Governor, and United States Senator. There are self-guided tours available, or you can plan ahead and schedule a guided tour of the four floors of this 1913 Flemish Revival style mansion.

On the grounds of the 620-acre Quarter Circle A Ranch is the historic Brinton house, and the new Brinton Museum in the Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Building. Three floors house a collection of Western and American art, an art gallery, a gift shop, and a bistro with spectacular views of the Bighorn Mountains. The building alone is an attraction unto itself, with North America’s largest rammed earth wall as the centerpiece.

Sheridan College campus is home to the Whitney Center for the Arts, which has performance and gallery spaces where you can see regional artists display artwork or local musicians such as Jalan Crossland perform. This is also where the annual Wyoming Theater Festival takes place.

For some background reading on the history of this part of Wyoming, pick up Where the River Runs North by Sam Morton.

sign on the building of the Whitney Center for the Arts in Sheridan WY

The Whitney Center for the Arts was opened in 2016 on the Sheridan College campus. Photo © Mindy Sink.

Hungry or Thirsty?

While Sheridan isn’t quite a dining destination yet, downtown offers plenty of options for libations and a bite to eat.

The Mint Bar is classic Western nightlife. If taxidermy gives you the creeps, though, you may want to go elsewhere. Personally, between the neon cowboy outside and the glowing stuffed jackalope (a mythical Western animal) behind the bar, wild horses couldn’t drag me away. Locals love to tell stories of people riding horses through the front door here.

Black Tooth Brewery is an award-winning brewhouse and taproom where you can stop in for a few cold ones with names like Saddle Bronc Brown Ale, Wagon Box Wheat and Cowboy Joe. Thanks to their expanded facility, you can even pick up a six-pack of whatever they’re putting in cans right here.

Open Range Restaurant is found in the city’s historic Sheridan Inn. If you haven’t already heard about Buffalo Bill, you will in Sheridan. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was—and is—world-renowned for his Wild West rodeo shows, but in these parts, is known as an early investor and one-time manager of the inn. Wyoming-size portions await, so order accordingly.

Red Velvet Bakery & Tapas makes the most delicious quiche I have ever eaten, plus hearty baked goods that you can take along for a day of hiking and exploring. The storefront on Main St. is worth hunting for when you need a caffeine fix.

storefront of Black Tooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming

Quench your thirst at the Black Tooth Brewing Company. Photo © Mindy Sink.

Go On, Git!

Are those wide-open spaces calling your name? Whatever your interests, there are all kinds of options nearby.

Less than an hour’s drive outside of town, you can drive along the Big Horn Scenic Byway to Steamboat Point and do a hike of about 1 mile to the top of the rock formation. If you have the time, keep on going to Sibley Lake: a pristine blue jewel where you can hike, boat, fish and camp. If you have even more time, keep on driving to Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Range, built by Native Americans hundreds of years ago.

If you’re here in the winter, there’s even skiing—both downhill and cross-country—relatively nearby.

rock formation of Steamboat Point surrounded by grass

Take a hike up to Steamboat Point. Photo © westernphotographs/iStock.

Where to Shop

Don’t forget souvenirs for the folks back home!

For that authentic Western gift, go to King’s Saddlery and King Ropes on Main St., where they forge the ropes used in rodeos around the country. For those of us still learning the, er, ropes of lassoing, maybe just pick up one of their baseball caps. Be sure to check out the on-site Don King Museum too.

Surf Wyoming is a fun local brand that celebrates the best of Wyoming’s great outdoors. Grab a t-shirt at their shop on Main (practically across the street from King’s).

The gift shop at the Brinton Museum has a wide selection, from kid-friendly trinkets to cute holiday presents with a Western flair. Go beyond the gift shop, too: the gallery has amazing work for sale by local and regional artists.

saddles lined up in a store

Stop in at King’s Saddlery for a souvenir. Photo © Mindy Sink.

Where to Rest Your Head

The Sheridan Inn is in a prime location downtown, walking distance from many places to shop, eat and drink. Despite its rich history and Buffalo Bill ties, the inn only reopened to guests after a renovation in 2015, after years of neglect.

If you’re traveling with a large group, get out of town and closer to nature at Canyon Ranch in Big Horn. This fourth generation cattle and guest ranch (home to the Wallop family, one of whom was a Wyoming senator) has three houses to choose from, and a welcome staff that can connect you to activities like horseback riding and fly fishing in the area. Most of all, it’s a beautiful place to enjoy the view, take a walk, and just embrace the peace and quiet.

The wonderfully surprising things about Sheridan are the many ways there are to enjoy it—for families, couples, adventurer seekers, history lovers, art patrons, and more—and how easy it is to get here with flight service through Denver (which is only a six-hour drive away) on Fly Sheridan.

Go to Sheridan Travel and Tourism to find out about upcoming events, such as Third Thursdays in summer, Wyoming Theatre Festival, the rodeo, and more.

side view of the Sheridan Inn in Wyoming

If you want lodging in the downtown area of Sheridan, book a stay at the Sheridan Inn. Photo © Shawn Parker, courtesy of Sheridan Inn.


cover Moon Denver Boulder Colorado Springs 1e Mindy Sink has roots on Colorado’s Front Range. As a journalist, Mindy has been writing about the greater Rocky Mountain region for years, including more than 10 years for the New York Times, as well as for Sunset Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and other well-known publications. Find more of Mindy’s Rocky Mountain travel recommendations in her book Moon Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs.

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Best Sites for Rockhounding in Colorado https://moon.com/2017/09/best-sites-for-rockhounding-colorado/ https://moon.com/2017/09/best-sites-for-rockhounding-colorado/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:13:12 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60224 Thanks to its remarkable diversity of landscapes and a long and varied geologic history, Colorado is one of the best places in the country for amateur gold, gem, and mineral collecting. Regardless of whether you strike it rich, hunting for treasures is a fun excuse to get outdoors and enjoy some of the Centennial State’s most spectacular scenery.

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Thanks to its remarkable diversity of landscapes and a long and varied geologic history, Colorado is one of the best places in the country for amateur gold, gem, and mineral collecting. Regardless of whether you strike it rich, hunting for treasures is a fun excuse to get outdoors and enjoy some of the Centennial State’s most spectacular scenery. Late summer and autumn, when the mountains are carpeted with golden aspen trees and the highest peaks are dusted with snow, is the most ideal season for prospecting. A good guidebook, such as William Kappele’s recently updated Rockhounding Colorado, is indispensable, as is your trusty rock hammer. Before you head out, be sure to read up on prospecting laws and make certain that you don’t collect on private land, which is illegal. Below are a few of Colorado’s richest rockhounding sites to get you started.

view from Mount Antero of trees and a mountain

Mount Antero is renowned for large smoky quartz crystals, phenakite, and blue beryl crystals. Photo © Robert Cicchetti/iStock.

Mount Antero

Located southwest of Buena Vista and high above the Arkansas River Valley, Mount Antero is part of central Colorado’s pegmatite belt, where veins of exceptionally coarse rocks contain large concentrations of rare minerals. The collecting site, which is just below the mountain’s 14,269-foot-high summit, is the continent’s highest gemstone locale. It’s renowned for large smoky quartz crystals (up to 50 pounds!), phenakite, and brilliant blue beryl crystals that (thanks to their color) are also called aquamarine.

Fairplay

One of the best spots to try your luck searching for gold is in the chilly waters of the South Platte River’s Middle Fork near the town of Fairplay. Founded in 1859 after placer gold was discovered nearby, the town is nestled in a high-elevation valley between two spectacular mountain ranges. After obtaining a permit (PDF), you can pan or sluice along the creek at the town’s “beach” and, if you’re fortunate, find a few flakes to take back home.

rock with fossil imprints from Florissant Fossil Quarry

Conifer needles, leaves of several hardwood trees, and the relative of an ancient mosquito (left) are just a few of the author’s discoveries in rocks purchased at the Florissant Fossil Quarry. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Florissant Fossil Quarry

Florissant Fossil Quarry is a privately-owned quarry located an hour’s drive west of Colorado Springs. Visitors have the opportunity to split open chunks of shale to search for fossils of the more than 1,700 species of plants and animals that were entombed in the muddy bottom of a lake that covered this area 34 million years ago. These are the same types of discoveries preserved in the nearby Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Weather permitting, the quarry is usually open daily from 10am – 5pm in summer and on weekends in September, but it’s best to call ahead (719-748-3275) to confirm.

Golden Gate Canyon

This beautiful canyon slicing through the foothills northwest of Denver is a great spot to search for specimens of semi-precious black tourmaline. Also abundant are crystals of blocky feldspar and sparkling mica, which are especially plentiful near the junction between Golden Gate Canyon and Robinson Hill Roads. Bonus: if you continue another six or so miles up the road, you’ll reach Golden Gate Canyon State Park, one of the region’s best areas for viewing fall foliage.

Museums, Rock Shops, and Gem Shows

If you don’t have time to put your own fortune-hunting skills to the test, you can always drop by one of the state’s many rock shops, including my favorite, Nature’s Own, which has branches in Nederland, Boulder, and Fort Collins. And regardless of whether you’re a novice or a serious collector, you’re sure to enjoy the gem and mineral display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which includes blocky, crimson-colored rhodochrosite and sky-blue aquamarine from Mount Antero. And don’t miss Tom’s Baby, an eight-pound gold nugget found in Breckenridge in the late 1800s.

If you’re in or near Denver, check out the Denver Coliseum Mineral, Fossil, and Gem Show and the Denver Gem & Mineral Show, both of which are held in September and feature hands-on exhibits, entertaining lectures, and hundreds of dealers hawking everything from coiled ammonite fossils to glistening nuggets of gold.


Find more ways to enjoy the natural features of Colorado in Terri’s Moon Colorado travel guide.

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The Best of Michigan Road Trip https://moon.com/2017/09/best-of-michigan-road-trip/ https://moon.com/2017/09/best-of-michigan-road-trip/#respond Sun, 10 Sep 2017 07:55:34 +0000 http://moon.type5.co/?p=719 Whether you’re a long-time resident or a first-time visitor to the Great Lakes State, you should set aside some time to experience Michigan’s most beloved sights and activities. Consider taking this exciting tour of the state’s top cultural and natural attractions.

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Whether you’re a longtime resident or a first-time visitor to the Great Lakes State, Michigan’s top cultural and natural attractions make the trip well worthwhile. These short itineraries each highlight a section of the state. Explore a section at a time, or link them all together for a road trip throughout the entire state.

Detroit to Kalamazoo

If you’ve started your adventure in the Motor City, head about eight miles southwest of downtown to Dearborn, where you’ll find The Henry Ford, a fascinating complex of historical attractions that includes the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

From Dearborn, head west along I-94, through Ann Arbor and Battle Creek. Two notable sights are the W. K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary near Augusta and the Air Zoo, an enormous complex devoted to the history of aviation in Kalamazoo.

dusk on the beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo © dpenn/iStock.

Saugatuck to Traverse City

From Kalamazoo, head north on U.S. 131 for about 18 miles and continue on Highway 89 for roughly 33 miles, toward the Art Coast, a cluster of art galleries in and around the towns of Saugatuck and Douglas.

After spending some time amid the area’s shops, restaurants, and inns, drive north on U.S. 31 to the incredible Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a marvelous 35-mile stretch of beaches, dunes, and lakes that lies alongside Lake Michigan and about 174 miles north of Saugatuck.

From the lakeshore headquarters in Empire, head east on Highway 72 for 24 miles to Traverse City, an ideal base from which to explore gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay, popular with boaters and surrounded by several scenic resort towns, golf resorts, and an abundance of wineries that rival California’s Napa Valley.

Tahquamenon Falls in autumn

Hike rustic trails to Tahquamenon Falls for beautiful displays of fall color. Photo © Doug Lemke/iStock.

Mackinac Bridge to Munising

Expect a 100-mile drive on U.S. 31 from Traverse City, through the towns of Charlevoix and Petoskey, to the amazing five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, one of the world’s longest suspension bridges. After crossing the bridge and passing through St. Ignace, head north for about 50 miles on I-75 to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan’s oldest city. Here, you’ll glimpse another engineering marvel, the Soo Locks, through which massive freighters pass between Lakes Huron and Superior. For an up-close view, take a Soo Locks Boat Tour.

Head west along Highway 28 for about 38 miles through the Hiawatha National Forest, then turn north on Highway 123 for another 26 miles until you arrive at Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest waterfall systems east of the Mississippi. Afterward, continue north on Highway 123 for 25 miles to Whitefish Point, where you’ll find the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, the only museum dedicated to the perils of maritime transportation on the Great Lakes.

Roughly 115 miles farther west lies Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a fabulous stretch of sand dunes, desolate beaches, sandstone cliffs, and shady forests beside Lake Superior. To get there, take Highway 123 southwest to Highway 28 for 23 miles until you come to Highway 77. From there, head north along Highway 77 for 25 miles until you arrive at Grand Marais, which is the eastern terminus of Pictured Rocks. The national park spans more than 40 miles along the lake, from Grand Marais to Munising.

The Keweenaw Peninsula

If you want to venture farther into the wilds of the UP, head west from Munising on Highway 28/U.S. 41 for about 145 miles to the heart of the Keweenaw Peninsula. History buffs will enjoy the Keweenaw National Historical Park. From nearby Houghton, adventurous hikers, backpackers, kayakers, and wildlife enthusiasts can take a ferry ride to Isle Royale National Park, a wild, isolated archipelago in the northern reaches of Lake Superior.

the sun sets over the lake surrounding Mackinac Island

Take a ferry to Mackinac Island. Photo © jmbatt/iStock.

Straits of Mackinac to the Thumb

Once you’re done exploring the Upper Peninsula, head south to Mackinaw City, which lies about 266 miles from Houghton. To get there, take U.S. 41 south through L’Anse, Ishpeming, and finally to Marquette—a distance of 128 miles. A college town with a sophisticated yet “up north” feel, Marquette is a worthy destination in its own right.

From Marquette, take Highway 28 through Munising, Shingleton, and Seney until you come to I-75. Take I-75 south, cross the Mackinac Bridge and you’ll find yourself in Mackinaw City. Board a ferry for Mackinac Island, a charming vacation spot that has long banned automobiles in favor of bikes and horse-drawn carriages. Rife with Victorian mansions, this nostalgic island offers a true step back in time, anchored by the magnificent Grand Hotel, which prides itself as America’s Summer Place.

Back on the mainland, drive south on I-75 for about 58 miles through a cluster of excellent golf courses in the greater Gaylord area, and continue south for roughly 27 miles to Hartwick Pines State Park, home to the largest stand of virgin white pines in the Lower Peninsula.

End your tour of Michigan on a festive note by heading south on I-75 for about 125 miles, toward the Bavarian style town of Frankenmuth, site of German shops and festivals, all-you-can-eat chicken dinners, and a year-round Christmas store.

Travel map of the state of Michigan.

Michigan


Plan a weekend getaway or take an epic road trip through Michigan with these suggestions for the top sights in the Great Lakes State, indulging in nature at the Upper Peninsula's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and walking through historic downtown Dearborn along the way.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Michigan.

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Exploring Kachemak Bay https://moon.com/2017/09/exploring-kachemak-bay/ https://moon.com/2017/09/exploring-kachemak-bay/#respond Thu, 07 Sep 2017 21:56:40 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58641 If you have three days in Homer, spend at least one of them on beautiful Kachemak Bay. A great way to do this is through a Natural History Tour with professional naturalists from the nonprofit Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. You’ll spend time at bird rookeries, tidepools, rainforest trails, and prehistoric sites, and will gain a lifetime appreciation for the marine world.

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If you have three days in Homer, spend at least one of them on beautiful Kachemak Bay. A great way to do this is through a Natural History Tour (907/235-6667, late May-early Sept., $140 adults, $90 children under 12) with professional naturalists from the nonprofit Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. You’ll spend time at bird rookeries, tidepools, rainforest trails, and prehistoric sites, and will gain a lifetime appreciation for the marine world. These eight-hour experiences are a bargain and include a visit to Gull Island during your boat ride across to Peterson Bay. Bring your own lunch, binoculars, and camera; rubber boots are provided.

Combine the natural history tour with a two-hour guided sea kayak trip for $180 per person. Overnight stays (just $35 pp in a yurt with kitchen access) are also available at the Peterson Bay Field Station. The Coastal Studies office is in a yurt near Ramp 2 on the Spit. At the nonprofit’s headquarters (708 Smokey Bay Way), there are additional displays on local flora and fauna and snowshoes for rent during the winter. Coastal Studies offers many other day trips throughout the summer, from 1.5-hour Creatures of the Dock tours ($7) to four-hour Ocean Connection tours where you even get the chance to play with an underwater remote operating vehicle.

giant rock formations in the bay with seagulls flying over them

Gulls flock over Kachemak Bay. Photo © troutnut/iStock.

Water Taxis and Tours

A small fleet of boats plies the waters of Kachemak Bay all summer, offering wildlife-viewing trips to Gull Island, whale watching in the bay, transport for kayakers and hikers heading into the state park, and access to remote wilderness lodges. An hour-long visit to Gull Island costs $50 per person, and water taxis will drop you at remote beaches inside Kachemak Bay State Park for $75-80 per person round-trip. The most popular of these hikes is from Glacier Spit Beach to Grewingk Glacier and then back over the Saddle Trail to Halibut Cove, where you can get a water taxi back to Homer. Just want to check out the scenery? A $50 ride-along is a fun way to explore the bay and join an existing trip.

A two-person minimum is required, but if your time is flexible water taxis can generally get singles onboard with another group heading in the same general direction. Some water taxis have discounted rates for families and kids under 13. You’ll find water-taxi kiosks on the Spit, though some just use their boat and cell phone as a floating office.

The following are all excellent operators: Ashore Water Taxi (907/399-2340), Bay Excursions (907/235-7525), Bay Roamers Water Taxi (907/399-6200), Mako’s Water Taxi (907/235-9055), Red Mountain Marine (907/399-8230), and Homer Ocean Charters (907/235-6212 or 800/426-6212). Most of these run May-September, but both Mako’s and Ashore operate year-round. Kayak rentals and a variety of specialized tours are offered by Mako and other operators.

An avid naturalist and serious birder, Karl Stolzfus of Bay Excursions (907/235-7525, Apr.-Sept., $65 adults, $35 under age 13) leads excellent two-hour Gull Island and Sixty Foot Rock tours. He also guides three-hour K-Bay birding trips ($75 pp).

Biologist Glenn Seaman operates Seaman’s Ecotour Adventures (907/235-2157, May-Sept., full-day custom trip $550 for two people, $650 for four people, $450 half-day for two people), providing a variety of boat-based environmental tours around Kachemak Bay, covering the gamut from birding to cultural history. All-day custom trips are geared to your interests. This means having your own private guide and boat for seven hours. As the former head of Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, Glenn has a deep knowledge of the region.

Central Charters & Tours (907/235-7847, $59 adults, $49 seniors, $39 kids) has daily round-trip sailings to Seldovia, with a narrated wildlife tour that includes stops at Gull Island to watch nesting murres and gulls, and Sixty Foot Rock for sea otters.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Anchorage, Denali & the Kenai Peninsula.

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