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Nacogdoches, TX - Blueberries in the Bluebonnet State

The oldest city in Texas is known for far more than its colorful history. This is also the place to get the colorful berries that are ideal for blueberry pie, pancakes, cobbler, and ice cream..

With all the recent reports touting the healthful qualities of blueberries, the Nacogdoches’ Texas Blueberry Festival is more popular than ever. The June festival offers tons of fresh blueberries, plus old-fashioned fun with pie-eating contests, blueberry treats and art vendors, ice-cream making contests, and tours of local blueberry farms. There are also plenty of fun activities for the kids, from the bounce house to the petting zoo.

After you’ve done the festival, head into Nacogdoches for a fun day of antiquing or nature hikes. You can stroll down the red-brick streets, admiring the historic downtown, or stop in the 100-year-old hardware store. Historic sites include the Stone Fort Museum, the 1830 Sterne-Hoya House Museum, and the 1835 Durst-Taylor Historic House. At the Oak Grove Cemetery you can see the graves of a number of famous Texans, including four signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Be sure not to miss the Old University Building, an 1845 university hall that was chartered by the Republic of Texas.

Nature lovers will find plenty to do in Nacogdoches, from hikes along the Lanana Creek Trail to bird watching for woodpeckers, nuthatches, and sparrows. You can tour the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, admiring the colorful blooms at this largest azalea garden in Texas, or head to the SFA Interpretive Trail and Arboretum. More than 150 species of birds and 80 species of butterflies live in this section of the Angelina National Forest. The Arboretum spreads over nineteen beautiful acres on the University of Texas campus.

Lake Champlain Birding Trail

The picturesque Lake Champlain area is a magical world to explore, whether you’re looking through a pair of binoculars or exploring in a kayak or canoe. Nestled on the border of Vermont and upstate New York, the Lake Champlain region was dubbed “glimmerglass country” by James Fenimore Cooper, author of Last of the Mohicans. This gorgeous waterway is home to thousands of migrating birds that travel the eastern corridor to and from Canada each year. This year, you can travel the 300 mile route of the Lake Champlain Birding Trail, exploring the walkways and natural vistas along the way—and taking in a charming part of New England..

The Lake Champlain Birding Trail is a highway-based trail that links together 88 bird-watching sites along the shores of the lake and upland areas. Every stop along the trail is marked with interpretive signs, and some stops include boardwalks, bird-viewing blinds, and viewing platforms. A network of volunteers keeps an eye on the species that visit the various sites around the lake, publishing up-to-date information on bird sightings and migrations.

You can explore the southern stretches of the trail by starting in Burlington, Vermont, a charming farm and college town on Interstate 89. With its old-fashioned clapboard houses, fresh fruit and vegetable markets, and specialty shops, Burlington is a great place to stroll around. Be sure to sample some Vermont delicacies like locally-made cheddar cheese or ice cream. You can arrange to take a boating cruise on the lake, where the kids can look for Champ, the Lake Champlain monster. Fishing tours are also popular.

At the southern end of the lake lies historic Fort Ticonderoga, a fort that played a pivotal role in the American Revolution and in the French and Indian War. This strategic site has been occupied for thousands of year. There is evidence that Native Americans have lived in this area since 8000 BC, more than 6,000 years before Samuel de Champlain explored and charted the region. You can take a tour of the fort, stroll through the King’s Garden, and watch a re-enactment of one of the fort’s great battles. The fort offers special children’s activities and events in July and August, and family programs all year long.

West of the lake, the charming town of Lake Placid has a great history in sports. Lake Placid was the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. With its amazing natural beauty and sporting facilities, this is a great place to play in any season. The nearby Adirondack Park offers more than 200 miles of trails, rushing rivers for white-water rafting, and coves and bays for canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing. Winter sports abound at nearby Whiteface, Algonquin, and Marcy Mountains. Take your pick from downhill skiing and ski jumping to luge, bobsledding, and ice skating. The town also has terrific dining, shopping, and family entertainment.

Farther north along the lake, you’ll find the yawning natural cavern of Ausable Chasm, a geologic wonder in the heart of a primeval forest. With natural stone walkways leading visitors down into the chasm, it’s no wonder that more than 10 million visitors have flocked here. You can hike to Rainbow Falls, view the Elephant’s head, see Column Rock, or explore Hyde’s Cave and Mystic Gorge. Guests enjoy rafting and inner tubing down the Ausable River, admiring views of the canyon up above. Don’t miss the chance to do the Rim Walk, taking in the views, or to pan for gemstones. This is a great way to get to know the Adirondack Mountains, an area known as the “Home of the High Peaks.”

Chicago - In search of the Famous Hot Dog

Chicago is famous for a number of things—its baseball teams, the Magnificent Mile, the windy weather—but for some, the only fame that matters is that of its hot dogs. Chicago has its own unique hot dog style, serving up all-beef hot dogs on poppy seed buns, topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, dill pickle, tomato, peppers, and celery salt. Chicago dogs never include ketchup (many vendors in the windy city don’t even stock ketchup). Some say Chicago hot dogs have been “dragged through the garden” because of the variety of condiments. .

You’ll find terrific dogs all over the city, but you can start your feasting tour at Hot Doug’s, Portillo’s, Superdawg Drive In, Harry’s, Byron’s, or Johnny Rockets. Head to a Cubs or White Sox game and enjoy a hot dog the old-fashioned way, served by a vendor right at your seat. Afterward, you can take in the Chicago Baseball Museum or visit the Navy Pier with its 150-foot Ferris wheel, boardwalk, and restaurants. The kids can enjoy a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo or to Millennium Park with its ice-skating rink, giant sculptures, and the splashing, playful Crown Fountain.

For a spectacular, bird’s eye view of the city, ride up to the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower and stroll along the skydeck. You’ll have great views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago lakeshore. Then head back down to ground level and take a stroll along the lakeshore, walking or biking along the 29 miles of paved trail. Chicago is an avid sports town, so this is also a great place to see championship teams like the NFL Bears or the NBA Chicago Bulls.

The Heart and Soul of America - Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is so jam-packed with attractions; it’s hardly a site that can be covered in a few days. With so many outstanding museums, cultural centers, and political destinations to visit – not to mention outstanding side trips into Maryland and Virginia – you’ll want to take at least a week to experience it all. Whether you’re after a sumptuous dining experience, a political celebrity sighting, or a tour of the White House, you’ll find it in beautiful Washington, D.C..

Start your trip to the District of Columbia by heading for the major highlights of this historic city. Visiting popular attractions like the gleaming Washington Monument with its reflection pool and milling crowds will help you get your bearings in the city. Take time to visit the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial, the territory, honing in on the sites that have strong relevance for you.

You may want to take a tour of the White House, admiring rooms that were decorated by Jackie Kennedy and taking in the presidential portraits and the famous rose garden. Georgetown University, with its stunning architecture and student spirit, is a fun place to visit for a campus tour or a picnic lunch.

And of course Washington, D.C. is known for its museums. You’ll have plenty to choose from, starting with the eighteen museums and nine research centers of the Smithsonian Institution. Pay a visit to the National Portrait Gallery, the National Air and Space Museum, and the incredible National Museum of American History. After all this history and art, the kids will love a stop to see the animals at the National Zoo.

If you have a few days left in your visit, consider a day trip into Virginia. This gorgeous state is home to sites like Arlington National Cemetery and Prince William Forest Park, a great place to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. You can pay a visit to the Manassas National Battle Park, site of the first and second battles of Bull Run, or make a longer trip to the famous Fredericksburg Battlefield or the Stratford Hall Plantation, birthplace of General Robert E. Lee.

Maryland, with its crab cakes and gardens, is another terrific family destination. The state capital, Annapolis, is home to the historic United States Naval Academy. You can take a self-guided walking tour of nineteen historic campus attractions, following an audiotape recorded by Walter Cronkite.

To get into the great outdoors, head to Calvert Cliffs State Park for a day of hiking, birding, beach combing, and fossil hunting. You’ll find more excellent bird watching in the wetlands at the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary, home of the rare albino turtle. If you’re ready for even closer under-water action, head to Baltimore for a day at the outstanding National Aquarium.

You’ll find plenty of special events going on in the Washington, D.C. area, from the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and National Cherry Blossom Festival to the Washington, DC International Film Festival and Smithsonian Folklife Festival. And of course the capital city puts on a special show for all-American holidays like the Fourth of July. You won’t want to miss the fireworks on the National Mall, patriotic concerts at the National Cathedral, and more music in the evenings on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. From parades to special events at the National Archives, this is a fabulous place to spend the grand old Fourth.

Bewitching Salem, Massachusetts

Bewitching Salem, Massachusetts

No American town is more tightly tied to spookiness than Salem, Massachusetts. Since the famous Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 put this quiet seaport on the map, people have been flocking to Salem to explore its colorful history.

Burlington Vermont Camping

Natural beauty abounds in Burlington, a quiet college town that has plenty going on. Among other delights, it’s a terrific place to come for ice cream! This home of Ben & Jerry’s specialty ice cream is famous for dairy products of all kinds, from cheese and cream to flavored milk. But ice cream reigns supreme in Burlington, where Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream shop in 1978 at the corner of St. Paul and College Streets. Today Ben & Jerry’s is a world-wide phenomenon, known for its unique flavors like Phish Food, Cherry Garcia, and Chunky Monkey..

When you visit, be sure to take in a Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour, so you can learn all about ice-cream making and sample new flavors and products. If you visit in the summer, check the dates for the annual One World One Heart Festival, put on by Ben & Jerry’s, and the Vermont Maple Festival. You’ll go home with plenty of real maple syrup and candies to share as gifts all year long.

While you lick your ice cream cone, you can explore the area around Burlington. Set on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, Burlington is nestled between the Adirondack and Green Mountains, giving the town lovely views in all directions. You can visit the Burlington Coat Factory, head along the Lake Champlain Birding Trail, or enjoy the lovely restaurants and shops. Burlington is known as Vermont’s Queen City, in part because of its historic architecture, fountains, and brick-paved town center.

A number of events keeps Burlington’s social calendar lively. You can take in the annual First Night Celebration, visit in March for the Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade, or come in summer for the Chew Chew Fest: A Celebration of Local Farming and Fresh Food. Later in the summer months, take in the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival and the annual Marketplace Sidewalk Sale.

Islands and Hamlet’s of Maine’s Acadia Region

Islands, hamlets, and the incomparable Acadia National Park make this region a treasure for campers. Head to Maine’s “Down East” area and wander the rocky and sandy beaches, touring the islands, mountains, and lakes. You can shop for antiques in the coastal villages or take a ferry to a scenic island. This area is known for its amazing wildlife, so don’t forget to watch for moose, foxes, beavers, and shorebirds like puffins, eiders, gulls, and terns.

Begin your visit by setting out on Highway 1, a route that traces the coastline of Penobscot Bay. The Highway is easily accessible from Portland or from Interstate 95 cities like Augusta and Bangor. You’ll trace along the craggy outcroppings that Maine is so famous for, admiring views of rocky islands in the distance. Head north through Rockport, Belfast, and Bucksport to beautiful Bar Harbor, a town that sits adjacent to Acadia National Park.

In the 19th century, picturesque Bar Harbor was new England’s premier summer resort destination. It was home to Millionaires’ Row, a line of opulent summer estates that belonged to America’s most powerful families: the Rockefellers, the Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Astors, and Morgans. With its stunning fall foliage and charming old-fashioned inns, Bar Harbor is a popular romantic get-away spot. Take a stroll through town and admire the remarkable architecture of these historic buildings.

Bar Harbor has plenty of family activities, from the oceanarium and zoo to the family nature camp. You can take in a lumberjack show or head to the newly-expanded Abbe Museum to admire artifacts from the Wabenaki Indians. The town features of a number of top-notch boutiques and galleries that showcase works by Maine artists and sculptors.

The Bar Harbor area is also known for its great outdoors activities. Aside from hiking the Mount Desert Island forests, you can head to the Holbrook Island Sanctuary on Penobscot Bay for a day of fishing, bird watching, beach combing, and cross-country skiing in the winter. Throughout the area you’ll find places to go snow-shoeing and skiing in the snowy months or horseback riding and rock climbing in the spring and summer.

Just south of Bar Harbor lies Acadia National Park, home to 1,532-foot Mount Cadillac. The summit of this peak is the first part of the United States to greet the sun each day. That’s a fitting theme for Acadia National Park, since special views abound here. You can hike the sea cliffs, taking in the mountains, lakes, and islands, or take the scenic auto loop. 125 miles of trails in the park are closed to cars, making them perfect for walks and hikes. The park also offers rock climbing, sailing, and canoeing.

Farther northeast on Highway 1 is the pretty town of Calais, a perfect place to escape the crowds. Calais lies just across the St. Croix River from new Brunswick, close enough for side trips to Nova Scotia highlights like Halifax, Moncton, and the Cape Breton Highlands Park. In the 1800s, Calais was a major shipping port for the U.S. Today it’s the home of historic sites like Whitlock’s Mill Lighthouse, the northernmost lighthouse in Maine. This lighthouse is still in operation, guiding ships in from Passamaquoddy Bay.

Calais has a charming waterfront and walkway to explore. Natural attractions abound in this area that boasts the greatest tidal change in the continental U.S. There are 40 lakes in the Calais area, a region that’s known as one of the best fly-fishing spots for land-locked salmon. You’ll find plenty of fishing camps, outfitters, and guide services in Calais. Not far away, the 23,000-acre Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to head for a day of wildlife viewing. Watch for moose, deer, bear, eagles, beaver, mink, goose, and woodcocks.

With its craggy coast, lively tidepools, and dramatic views, Maine truly has something for everyone. So pack your hiking boots, your camera, and your fishing pole and come to Arcadia! You’ll go home with a knapsack full of great memories.

Point Reyes, California

Just thirty miles north of San Francisco off Highway 1 is a magnificent stretch of natural wilderness. The 70,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore offers breathtaking ocean views, miles of natural coastline, and plenty of wilderness and wildlife. With 150 miles of hiking trails, you’ll never run out of terrain to explore at Point Reyes..

Picture yourself riding your mountain bike (or horse) through pastoral grasslands to the Inverness Ridge or the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center, getting the lay of the land and forming a plan for your visit. You’ll find plenty of scenic drives and trails to stroll along, but you'll also encounter dairy cows and a thriving dairy industry situated on NPS land. As a matter of fact the Bear Valley visitor center used to be the “W” or Bear Valley Ranch and was then designated as the new National Seashore’s headquarters. There are six working dairies and cattle ranches operating in the park. Some of the best cheese in the country and maybe the world comes from this area. Stop in at Cowgirl Creamery for delicious artesian cheeses and take home an unusual souvenir.

Many visitors enjoy taking a whale watching trip off the coast. Between January and April, visitors flock to the Point Reyes headlands to look for migrating gray whales and seabirds. Gray whales make one of the longest migrations in the world. Every year, they travel over 10,000 miles from the cold feeding waters of Alaska to the warmer seas of Baja and Southern California. In fact, a gray whales spends a third of its life migrating! Mid-January is the best time to see these giants of the ocean heading south to their traditional breeding grounds. Around mid-March, they’ll make the trek northward again. A little later in the season (April and May), mother whales and calves can be seen heading north at a slower pace, closer to shore.

You’ll also want to visit the grassland terrain of Bear Valley, home to kinglets, thrushes, hummingbirds, and owls, and the Limantour, a marsh, pond, and shore area that’s favored by wading birds and waterfowl. At the Bolinas Lagoon, pelicans, cormorants, kingfishers, and other waterfowl flock to the rookeries. Five Brooks Pond is where you’ll see green-backed herons, mergansers, and grebes. Ducks and raptors like the terrain of Abbotts Lagoon, and long-eared and great-horned owls nest along the Estero Trail.

Point Reyes is known for the marine wildlife that relies on the safety of the seashore for resting and mating. While you’re there, watch for Elephant Seals, sea lions, and several species of seals. In fact, every year, 7,000 harbor seals (20% of the California breeding population) haul out at Point Reyes.

Other wildlife are attracted to the abundance of Point Reyes. Tomales Point and the Elephant Seal Overlook are great places to watch for the resident tule elk ranging on the grasslands below. Nearly forty species of mammals, including bobcats, mountain beavers, deer, and long-tailed weasels, reside in the park.

With all its natural beauty and abundant wildlife, Point Reyes is an amazing place to explore. You can take a kayak trip around the coves and shallows, discover the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, or take your time getting to know this amazing piece of coastline.


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