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Camping Gems

Camping Gems

Find those fun and funky “special” places across the country. Hit the road and discover all the odd roadside attractions that make getting there more than half the fun. Road tripping gives you an excuse to search out hidden gems along your route. Look inside for suggested trips and inspiration to plan your own camping gem journey.

Discover Jamesport, Missouri

Discover Jamesport, Missouri and the Old Order Amish Community


As we approach the New Year, the time comes to make a few resolutions. This year, why not resolve to take more time for yourself, to try and see new things. When you are making plans to keep your resolutions, think of Jamesport, Missouri. This is a beautiful little town, a perfect destination for a day-trip or getaway. This town is best known as an Old Order Amish community, but it also has a flourishing non-Amish community as well. A visit to Jamesport will transport you back in time to a way of life, free from the hassles of modern technology.

After the railroad bypassed Jamesport in the 19th century, the once-flourishing town was faced with dwindling prospects. However, they have made use of the town's old world charm, and have turned it into a popular tourist destination. Today, a visit to Jamesport is like walking through a door to the past. 

The Amish moved to Jamesport in 1953. The Amish are a unique community, not to be confused with Mennonites. In the 1600s the Amish separated from the Mennonites because they believed the Mennonites were not strict enough in their religious observance. The lives of the Amish are strictly governed by biblical law, and to this day they do not use technology. They live on rural farms, use tools from a bygone era, cook on wood burning or kerosene stoves, and use horse-drawn vehicles for transportation.

Jamesport has many little shops in its downtown area. If you want to visit the Amish and Country stores, you will have to travel a little outside the downtown area. Within the town you will find quaint homes, little inns, and bed & breakfasts. You will see the horse-drawn vehicles as they pass through town, and you can visit a variety of equine businesses. The town is also a great destination for antique hunters. Throughout the year there are a variety of festivals and events that visitors are welcome to attend.

If you are interested in learning about the Amish community, you can take one of the tours. These tours will lead you to the Amish shops and even show you around an Amish farm. You can find detailed maps of the Amish and Country stores in downtown Jamestown. The Amish stores are located on their farms, so when you visit the shops you will also have the chance to see a working Amish farm.

Jamesport has a variety of stores and restaurants that offer delicious food. For a tasting adventure, visit the Homestead Creamery and try some of their fresh artisan cheeses. On top of tasting their delicious samples, you will also get the chance to watch some of the cheese making process.

When visiting an Amish community, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. All of the stores in Jamesport are closed on Sunday and almost all of the Amish stores are closed on Thursday. Thursday is their second day of rest during the week; many do not keep their stores open. The best days to visit Jamesport or Fridays and Saturdays since you will have the chance to experience all that the town has to offer.

In addition, the Amish stores only take cash or checks, so be prepared to put away your debit or credit card. In order to respect the wishes and beliefs of the Amish, do not take their pictures.  Instead, satisfy your inner shutter-bug with photos of the idyllic scenery.

Discover Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Discover Pagosa Springs, Colorado


Next time you wake up with desire to travel to a new camping gem, check out Pagosa Springs, Colorado. This picturesque town has it all, from hot springs to a fascinating history. You can recreate year round in the sunshine - this area averages 300 days of sunshine every year.

Pagosa Springs in located within the San Juan National Forest and adjacent to the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest contiguous wilderness in the United States. The National Forest provides an amazing range of recreational opportunities year round. Many of the campgrounds within the National Forest are closed during the winter; however, you will find some area campgrounds remain open during the winter.

The Pagosa Springs area has especially good downhill skiing.  The nearby Wolf Creek Ski Area is one of the oldest ski resorts in Colorado. Before going to the Wolf Creek area you should be aware that it is a high alpine ski area: the base has an elevation of 10,300 feet and the summit is at an elevation of 11,900 feet.

There are a myriad of other recreational opportunities in Pagosa Springs including sledding, snowshoeing, ice climbing and ice fishing. If you are a Nordic skier, you will also have ample opportunities to enjoy your sport. Children are sure to love Pagosa Spring's recreation as well - in the winter they can take sleigh rides, spend some time ice skating, and even go for a hot air balloon ride.

For those visitors looking to experience some history and culture, there is plenty to see in Pagosa Springs. The surrounding area has a rich Native American history. Nearby Chimney Rock Archeological Area is a prime example. Discover the amazing Pueblo Indian ruins by taking guided tours, and attending festivals or a full moon program. If you are willing to travel, check out the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. Durango is 60 miles west of Pagosa Springs, but it is worth the drive since you can ride the historic train along the Animas River. During the winter the steam locomotive doesn't travel the entire route to Silverton and back; instead the trip stops at the Cascade Station, which is about half of the regular route. Even in the winter the trip is beautiful and you can still learn all about the historic steam locomotives and the narrow gauge track at the museum. During the winter this train also provides a Polar Express ride - on the trip to the North Pole you and your family will drink hot chocolate and listen to the classic story.

Of course, no trip to Pagosa Springs is complete without a visit to the hot springs. Originally founded by the Ute Native Americans, the springs have a high mineral content which gives it a strong sulphur-like smell.  The water is believed to have medicinal properties. Today, you can enjoy the hot springs at one of the three resorts and spas.

The Great Pagosa Hot Springs is located behind the Springs Resort. Visitors can view the actual hot springs, but the natural temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit makes it much to hot to actually use. The town has built three fountains which use the water for people to enjoy.

The Springs Resort just opened its new Luxury Suites Hotels, which is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standard certified building. This new building uses the geo-thermal heat to provide 80% of the heating. The resort also has lots of pools for visitors to enjoy the mineral waters; there are also non-mineral pools for those who want a break from the medicinal properties of the pools.

Pagosa Springs also has two other resorts where visitors can enjoy the healing powers of the hot springs. The newest is the Overlook Mineral Springs Spa. This spa has great views from its rooftop tubs. Visitors to the Overlook Mineral Springs Spa can also enjoy day passes and massage services. The Spa @ Pagosa Springs has a very large pool with hot mineral waters for visitors to enjoy.

Leavenworth, WA – A Bavarian Wonderland

Leavenworth, WA – A Bavarian Wonderland


The beautiful little town of Leavenworth lies at the base of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Here visitors will find the full power of Washington’s natural beauty within the forests and wilderness areas. Leavenworth is particularly special because the entire town has adopted a Bavarian theme. Homes, shops, and restaurants all strive to make the town into a "little Germany" for visitors. A trip to Leavenworth will be filled with recreational activities, tours, and Bavarian themed adventures.

Outdoor Activities

Leavenworth and the surrounding area provide year-round recreational opportunities. The town is a great starting point for trips to Lake Wenatchee, the Wenatchee National Forest, and Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Glacier Peak Wilderness, where you can experience backcountry adventures. The summers are warm and the waters are pleasant.  Visitors and locals alike take part in many fun summer activities including camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, river rafting and tubing, birding, rock-climbing, and much more.

In the summer Leavenworth is a great spot to spend some time rock-climbing. Climbers will find crags and routes of differing lengths and difficulty. The rocks in the area make Leavenworth one of Washington’s best rock-climbing destinations. Many of these great rock-climbing spots are within 10 miles of town. Some of the popular spots are in Tumwater Canyon, Icicle Canyon, and the nearby Peshastin Pinnacles.

Agro-tourism

Summer in Leavenworth is also a great time to experience some agro-tourism. Visitors come from around the country to learn about the agriculture in the area. Washington is a leading producer of berries, fruits,and  especially organic pears. Agro-tourists can visit some of the berry farms and orchards to learn how the growing and picking is done, and they can taste a bit of the delicious produce.

Winter Visits

Winter in Leavenworth is particularly beautiful.  The town is covered in snow and during the holiday season visitors will have ample opportunity to experience Bavarian themed holidays. The snow throughout winter makes Leavenworth a fabulous getaway for winter activities as well as summer ones. Popular winter activities are Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, snowboarding, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, dog sledding, sleigh rides, and snowmobiling.

Throughout the town of Leavenworth, visitors will find different companies that offer lessons and guides for winter activities. Visitors interested in sleigh rides will find a variety of companies. Others provide dog sledding and some even offer backcountry skiing experiences. The region is a great spot for backcountry skiers since there is a variety of terrain and plenty of backcountry areas, including Icicle Creek and Chiwaukum Range. Nordic Skiing is also popular in Leavenworth. Skiers will find over 25 kilometers of groomed trails nearby. Skiers from around the country visit Leavenworth for the Nordic skiing.

Other Fun Activities

Beyond the recreational activities, Leavenworth has a few more interesting experiences to offer its visitors. The town has a variety of walking tours that focus on the towns Bavarian theme. There are many wineries throughout the region that offer tours and tastings. Nearby Cashmere, WA is home of the famous Aplets & Cotlets Factory and Country Store. The candy factory is open year-round and offers free tours.

Holidays in Leavenworth

The holiday season in Leavenworth is especially beautiful. Visitors will find concerts and plays, including a group that plays hand bells. The town has the yearly German Christmas Market, Kristkendlmarkt, and the Christmas Lighting Festival. After a day of fun in the snow visitors can return to the beautiful little town and have some fun with a Bavarian holiday experience.

Ohio River Valley

Ohio River Valley


America's beautiful Ohio River Valley runs along the Eastern and Southern boarders of Ohio, dividing Ohio from West Virginia and Kentucky. Along this river valley you will find a wide range of amazing and unexpected experiences. You can enjoy fine art, beautiful architecture and live entertainment, as well as great recreation in some of the area's wilderness.

In Wheeling, West Virginia, along the Ohio River, you will find the beautiful Oglebay Resort. This resort features terrific sites like the Good Zoo, which has a wide range of wild and domestic animals. If you are more interested in outdoor activities you will find superb golfing opportunities through most of the year. During the winter Oglebay Resort has great opportunities for ski enthusiasts.

Also in West Virginia, visit Prabhupada's Palace of Gold. Located in New Vrindaban, this palace complex is like a little slice of India right in the United States. Srila Prabhupada’s devotees built the palace throughout the 1970s in his memory. Visitors can take tours of the Palace of Gold among other features and marvel at the amazing artistry of the construction.

Travelers to the Ohio River Valley who are looking forward to a little entertainment can take a ride on The Showboat Majestic. This is the last surviving showboat in the United States; it was first launched in 1923 and continues to float on the river to this day. On the Showboat Majestic you can float on the Ohio River while enjoying musicals and comedies.

Recreational opportunities abound in the Ohio River Valley. Bicyclers may choose to take a bike tour of Ohio, riding along the Ohio River Valley. Avid hikers will enjoy a day in the Wayne National Forest. Within this forest you can enjoy some remote hiking opportunities and you may even have the opportunity to see some of the wildlife found in the Midwest.

Serpent Mound State Memorial, found in Adams County, Ohio, is an amazing example of Prehistoric culture in the United States. The Serpent Mound is almost a quarter of a mile long and appears to represent an uncoiling serpent. It is also one of the best of these rare effigy mounds in the United States. Experts have proposed that the mound could have been built by the people of the Adena culture or by the Fort Ancient culture. Archeologists have also worked on nearby conical mounds which contained pieces from the Adena culture, dating from approximately 800BC to AD100.

Seekers of urban charms will love Cincinnati, which lies right on the Ohio River. In this vibrant city you can enjoy pro sports, all sorts of arts and culture, and the Cincinnati Zoo. In Cincinnati you can take in all sorts of performances, ranging from opera to Broadway to symphonies. The Cincinnati Art Museum has an amazing collection of art, and it has free admission every day. At the art museum you will find art by many of the old masters including Titian, Picasso, and Renoir. You can also view the galleries with art from ancient Egypt, the Far East, and Native American culture. Another great feature of the art museum is the examples of local art, art from Cincinnati's "Golden Age," and examples of Rookwood pottery, which originated in Cincinnati.

A Chillingly Haunted Halloween in Gettysburg, PA

A Chillingly Haunted Halloween in Gettysburg, PA

Halloween -- the time of year when we all get the chance to let loose and embrace our interest of all things creepy, crawly and scary. Some people enjoy putting together a great costume and carving a jack-o-lantern, and others embrace the paranormal and visit haunted houses and cemeteries. All Hallows Eve is one of the best days of the year to pay a visit to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the most haunted city in the United States.

Gettysburg is rich with history. The city was around long before the Battle of Gettysburg -- in fact, it has over 200 years of history. However, Gettysburg is best known for the part it played during the Civil War: the battle on July 1, 2 and 3 of 1863 that took place in Gettysburg, where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.

During a stay in Gettysburg you can visit many haunted places and possibly even have a chance to experience paranormal activity for yourself. This most haunted city in the U.S. has paranormal tours all year since ghosts don't appear on Halloween alone. Throughout the Halloween season you can book special tours. Gettysburg has lots of stories of Civil War ghosts and even some orphan ghosts. The Jennie Wade house, considered to be one of the most haunted houses in the country, is in Gettysburg. The Farnsworth House Inn is also one of the country's most haunted houses.

The Battlefield
You can visit the battlegrounds of Gettysburg to experience the history of the place and honor those soldiers who fought and lost their lives. The spirits of the fallen soldiers of the Battle of Gettysburg haunt these battlegrounds. When you tread on these hallowed grounds though, you should be aware that you may be treading on the last resting place of some brave soldier, so always walk with care and respect for the dead. Every Saturday in October, the first Saturday of November and every holiday weekend, you can take a bus tour of these battle grounds, including Sachs Covered Bridge and Herr's Ridge. You will also be entertained and awed with some of the spookiest ghost stories you may ever have the chance to hear.

Jennie Wade House
The Jennie Wade House is also a fantastically haunted house in the U.S. Jennie Wade was the only innocent civilian to be killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. Her house is now a museum that shows its visitors what a home would have looked like during 1863.  It has even preserved the bullet holes where the shots that killed Jennie Wade passed through the door. You can take a tour of the house and nearby cemetery, and hear about the paranormal activities people have experienced. There are supposed to be cold spots that roam the house and other examples of those on the other side. The truly courageous or those that have a desire to experience the presence of ghosts can brave the "Midnight in a Haunted House Tour" of the Jennie Wade house where you will hear the tales of the haunting, stand in the spot where Jennie Wade died, and when the lights go out at midnight you may even get to see some of the resident ghosts.

Haunted Orphanage
Gettysburg is also home to a haunted orphanage. Here you can take tours to the cellar where orphans were chained to the wall along with other horrors. You can also take the "Midnight Orphanage Tour" where you take a spooky midnight tour of the cellar. In the darkness of the cellar with the Medium, you may even experience the makings of your own ghost story.

The Historic Farnsworth House
The Historic Farnsworth House also has a history of paranormal activity. At this location they offer a variety of ghost walks including the Confederate Hospital Ghost Walk, the East Cemetery Hill Ghost Walk and the Mature Tour, which features content not appropriate for children. Every tour occurs at night, guided by lantern light. You can also visit the Mourning Theater where you hear the local ghost stories, or you could spend some time in the new Seance Room.

Artistic Taos, New Mexico

Artistic Taos, New Mexico


Taos, New Mexico is a gem of a city. This art-filled resort town is steeped in history and surrounded by colorful deserts and wooded mountains. For recreation, the summer provides hiking, biking, and even rafting. In the winter you can ski or float above the town in a hot air balloon. In the evenings, take in the fabulous art, festivals, or enjoy the rich history of the Pueblos in the region.

Located in the northern region of New Mexico, this area was originally home to the Pueblo people. Their rich history is visible everywhere you go. You can even visit Taos Pueblo, which has been continuously inhabited for over one thousand years. Later in history, the Spanish colonized Taos. In the early 1900's Taos became a haven for many of our nation's most revered artists, including Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe. Taos remains, to this day, a thriving artists community.

Art Galleries
If you want to enjoy the art in Taos, visit some of the eighty different galleries within the city. You could also visit one of the town's six museums, which feature both modern and historic art. In addition to the galleries and museums, Taos has great festivals, including music festivals and the performing arts. The rich Pueblo history in the region has fostered the rich collection of native artists.

Summer Activities
When you tire of spending your day viewing the art in Taos, partake in some of the areas amazing recreation. During the summer you can fish, bike, hike, raft, rock climb, or even horseback ride. River rafting in the Taos area is especially good.  If you love rock climbing, or even want to try it out for the first time, you can enjoy all levels of climbing here. First time climbers can sign up for guided rock-climbing trips. If you want to try something a little different, you can go on a llama expedition.

Winter Activities
If you dream of visiting a winter wonderland, Taos, New Mexico, is an ideal place to spend your winter vacation. After a few days playing in the snow, you can take a break on a nice hot air balloon ride. From the balloon you will be able to take in the beautiful vistas of Taos from the sky. Everything looks a little bit more amazing and fantastic from the air, especially from the basket of a hot air balloon.

Winter in Taos has just as many exciting recreational adventures as the summer. There are four ski resorts in the Taos area. Skiing and snowboarding are just the beginning of the winter activities to be found in Taos. You can snowshoe, cross country ski, ice fish, ice skate, play hockey, tube, and even go for a sleigh ride.

Each ski resort has something special to offer. Red River's ski area has varied terrain.  In addition to skiing and snowboarding, you can also snowmobile or cross country ski on its many trails. At Taos Ski Valley you can take lessons from the nationally acclaimed ski school and enjoy the great snow on the mountain. Angel Fire Resort offers regular ski sports, and it also has all sorts of other snow sports, including ice fishing. Finally, Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort has a multitude of trails and ski-in, ski-out lodging for those who want to spend the maximum amount of time on their skis.

Taos, New Mexico is a fabulous town in which to spend some vacation time. Within the city you will find a rich history and a comfortable atmosphere. The city has great access to all sorts of art, from native and modern to music and other performing arts. Travelers that love to recreate will find many ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors of northern New Mexico.

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