Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for May, 2023

Digging for Diamonds

By Linda Tancs

Located in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of the few places in the world where the public can search for real diamonds at their original volcanic source. Diamonds come in a variety of colors, but the three colors found at the park are white, brown and yellow. Amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate, quartz and other rocks and minerals naturally occur there as well. Visitors to the park search a 37-acre field (the eroded surface of a volcanic crater), and any rocks, minerals or gemstones you find are yours to keep. Bring your own mining equipment or rent it from the park. Park staff provide complimentary identification of rocks and minerals as well as diamond mining demonstrations and other interpretive programs.

An Iconic Ferry in New York

By Linda Tancs

One of the last operating ferry systems in New York, the Staten Island Ferry has been transporting passengers between New York City and Staten Island long before bridges were introduced. Today it is the only non-vehicular mode of transport between Staten Island and Manhattan, transporting almost 70,000 passengers daily between the St. George and Whitehall (also known as South Ferry) terminals in Staten Island and Manhattan, respectively. The orange-colored icon offers scenic views of New York Harbor (including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty) and is a free service provided by the City of New York.

A Drive to the Sky

By Linda Tancs

Between Manchester and Arlington, Vermont, Skyline Drive is the longest private toll road in the country. In continuous operation since its completion in 1947, it boasts 5.2 miles of paved road ascending 3,248 feet to the summit of Mount Equinox, the highest peak in the Taconic Range. To say the views are sweeping is certainly an understatement. You’ll get 360-degree views of mountain vistas in Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and, on clear days, Montreal’s Mount Royal. The route is open from late May (Memorial Day weekend) to October.

A Big Tree in a Small Town

By Linda Tancs

Egremont, Massachusetts, is a small town in the Berkshires, the kind of out-of-the-way place you’d expect a celebrated writer to hunker down in while writing the next great American novel. But the most celebrated thing there is a tree. Not just any tree, mind you, but a colossal twin-trunked elm about 150 years old lovingly named Elma. It resides alone on Baldwin Hill in the middle of a cornfield, its isolation credited for its survival against that elm-felling, beetle-borne fungus known as Dutch elm disease. It strikes quite the pose against the rural landscape (which includes the Housatonic River Valley and some of the Berkshire Hills), making it perhaps the most photographed tree in western Massachusetts.

The Soul of the Rogue

By Linda Tancs

Affectionately dubbed “the other Phoenix,” you’ll be met with Southern Oregon hospitality in Phoenix, Oregon. Touted as the heart and soul of the Rogue Valley, a key attraction is the Rogue River, where rafting attracts worldwide visitors. You can also hike the Rogue River Trail. Stretching 40 miles between Grave Creek and Big Bend, the trail follows the north bank of the river as it winds its way toward the Pacific Ocean and traverses the wild section of the Rogue National Wild and Scenic River along its entire length. You’ll find wilderness lodges and campsites along the route.

Air Power in Virginia

By Linda Tancs

Located in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region, Hampton, Virginia, is home to Air Power Park. An outdoor park displaying restored aircraft and spacecraft, it chronicles the air power that played a vital part in America’s early space exploration and aircraft testing. Many of the park’s jets, missiles and rockets have connections with nearby Langley AFB and NASA Langley Research Center. Enjoy the outdoor displays daily from sunrise to sunset. You can also tour inside displays during regular business hours. Admission is free.

Onions and Wine

By Linda Tancs

Located in the southeast corner of Washington State and nestled at the foot of the Blue Mountains, Walla Walla (a Native American term meaning “many waters”) is renowned for its sweet onion, the state vegetable. But in recent years the wine is giving this hallmark bulb a run for its money. Recognized among the finest wine regions in the nation, the city boasts more than 120 wineries amid 2,800 acres of grapes. Wineries and tasting rooms are scattered throughout six main districts, so expert-led tours and shuttles offer a convenient way to experience all the varietals that the region has to offer.

A Gem in West Virginia

By Linda Tancs

The Ohio River’s most famous island is arguably Blennerhassett, a small island near Parkersburg, West Virginia, constituting Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. It’s named for Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, wealthy Irish aristocrats who settled there in 1789. The centerpiece is their Palladian-style mansion, a favorite attraction for over 40,000 tourists each year. In addition to tours of the mansion and its grounds, horse-drawn carriage rides are available. The ride there is almost as enchanting as the park itself because the island is accessed via a 19th-century sternwheeler riverboat departing from Point Park in Parkersburg. The park is open from May to October.

Horse-Drawn Wonders in Maryland

By Linda Tancs

Open seasonally, the Thrasher Carriage Museum in Frostburg, Maryland, offers a rare and extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Every walk of life is represented, including milkman carts, luxurious sleighs used by the Vanderbilt family and even President Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration coach. The history of the vehicles is paired with docent-led discussions of the clothing, activities and lifestyles of Victorian era Americans. The array was once the private collection of James Richard Thrasher, an avid collector of goods of this kind.

The National Lighthouse Museum

By Linda Tancs

The United States Lighthouse Service’s General Depot in Staten Island, New York, was the national headquarters, testing ground and distribution center for all materials and equipment used by light keepers and USLHS personnel from 1864 to 1939. Now the foundry building on that site hosts the National Lighthouse Museum, where visitors can enjoy self-guided exhibits exploring lighthouses, their lights and lightkeepers, as well as monthly lectures and special events. This time of year (May through October) you can also enjoy a boat tour, visiting lighthouses that can’t be seen from land as well as ship graveyards and bird sanctuaries. The museum is a short walk from the Staten Island Ferry terminal.

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