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Archive for December, 2017

An Urban Oasis in D.C.

By Linda Tancs

Officially authorized in 1890, Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., is the third national park to be designated by the federal government. This 1,754-acre city park has over 32 miles of hiking trails and paths, a planetarium, Civil War fortifications, mills and colonial houses. Two popular attractions are Old Stone House and Peirce Mill. Situated in the midst of Georgetown, Old Stone House is the oldest structure on its original foundation in the nation’s capital. Peirce Mill was the most successful water-powered gristmill along Rock Creek until 1897 and today serves as an educational and heritage site. The Friendship Heights Metro is the closest station to the Nature Center, where you can find maps and other information about the park, which is free to enter and open year round.

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Celebrating American Writers

By Linda Tancs

Besides being celebrated American writers, luminaries like Mark Twain, John Updike, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson and Lorraine Hansberry now have something else in common: they’re part of history at the new American Writers Museum. Located in Chicago, Illinois, the mission of the  museum is to engage the public in celebrating American writers—past and present—and exploring their influence on the nation’s history,  identity and culture. Not far from the Art Institute and Millenium Park (home of the Cloud Gate), the facility has 11,000 square feet of galleries with interesting interactive touches like the “Word Waterfall,” in which a light projection continuously reveals literary quotes on a wall of densely packed, seemingly random words.

Drayton’s Palace

By Linda Tancs

Drayton Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, has a storied history. Home to one of the state’s leading colonial families, it was founded by John Drayton, was later saved from destruction during the Civil War by Dr. John Drayton and witnessed the presence of German Jaegers during the Revolutionary War. Known in the 1700s as Drayton’s Palace, it’s the first fully executed example of Palladian architecture in North America. The house is set amidst a lush riverside garden and the great lawn, landscaped as an expression of an 18th-century gentleman’s country seat. The home hasn’t been furnished or decorated to represent any particular era but it has been preserved in its natural state, the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. New this year is the Sally Reahard Visitor Center, including an orientation hall, education center and exhibition galleries. Professionally guided house tours begin on the half hour and last 50 minutes.

World’s Largest Christmas Store

By Linda Tancs

It’s no wonder that Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan, is dubbed the world’s largest Christmas store. They’ve got over 50,000 trims and gifts, decorations and gifts from 50 nations, 150 styles of nutcrackers and 100,000 lights illuminating the salesroom, among other things. If you want to go really big on the gift-giving, there’s a 17-foot fiberglass Santa Claus for $10,000. Over 2 million visitors arrive at the store each year, a sprawling complex of 45 acres with its own Christmas Lane thoroughfare. The Bronner motto is “Enjoy CHRISTmas, It’s His Birthday; Enjoy LIFE, It’s His Way.” Merry Christmas!

Wings Over Florida

By Linda Tancs

The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is a network of 510 premier wildlife viewing sites across the state. Crystal River Archaeological State Park is part of that trail, offering bird watchers ample viewing from the shell midden. The park is also a National Historic Landmark, its Native American mound complex being one of the longest continuously occupied sites in Florida. In fact, for 1,600 years the site served as an imposing ceremonial center for Native Americans. The visitor center/museum contains exhibits displaying artifacts related to the site.

An Anglo-American Gem in London

By Linda Tancs

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, spent nearly 16 years at 36 Craven Street near Trafalgar Square in the heart of London. The terraced, Georgian house, built circa 1730, is both architecturally and historically significant. Structurally, it holds a Grade I listing and retains a majority of original features, like the central staircase, lathing, 18th century paneling, stoves, windows, fittings, beams and brick. Historically, Franklin worked there during Revolutionary War times, and the dwelling served as the first de facto U.S. Embassy. Open to the public since 2006, the house is the world’s only remaining Franklin homestead.

The Debatable Land

By Linda Tancs

In the early 18th century, Europeans called the land lying between British South Carolina and Spanish Florida the “Debatable Land,” referring to a conflict of control of colonial Georgia arising between Spain and Britain. The dispute came to a head in 1742 when the British defeated the Spanish at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. Fort Frederica National Monument is the site of the archeological remnants of the fort built by James Oglethorpe (the colony’s founder). The island is accessible by car via the F.J. Torras Causeway and is the largest of what are now known as Georgia’s Golden Isles, a premier destination along its southern Atlantic coast.

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