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The Galápagos of North America

By Linda Tancs

Channel Islands National Park is just off the southern California mainland, but in many ways it’s worlds apart. Lightly tread by tourists, the isolation of this chain of five major island groups has resulted in a globally significant biodiverse environment that some refer to as “the Galápagos of North America.” Its paleontological record shows evidence of extinct species such as pygmy mammoth, flightless sea duck, vampire bat and giant deer mouse. Among the living are rare birds, over two dozen species of whales and the largest colonies of seabirds in southern California. Santa Cruz Island, the largest, sports sea caves like Painted Cave, one of the world’s largest and deepest caves. Although the mainland visitor center in Ventura is readily accessible by car or public transportation, the islands are only accessible by park concessionaire boats and planes or private boat. Advance planning is highly recommended.

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The Door to Sicily

By Linda Tancs

The Greeks founded the Sicilian city of Messina and named it “Zancle,” a reference to its sickle-shaped natural harbor that provides a main point of entry for visitors. Just three miles across the Strait of Messina, its most famous attraction is likely the astronomical clock. Be there at noon for the movement that lasts about 12 minutes. The clock’s figures include a roaring lion and crowing rooster. Afterwards you can visit the tower for amazing views of the city.

Seattle’s Favorite Market

By Linda Tancs

The Space Needle may be iconic, but no visit to Seattle, Washington, would be complete without a trip to Pike Place Market, a nine-acre public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront. Opened in 1907, it’s one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States, offering a multisensory experience of sight, sound and taste among its historic arcade, winding alleys, stairways and lower levels. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, one of its best known features is the throwing of fish across the aisle by fishmongers. Mornings before noon are generally the best time to visit, but this time of year is fabulously free of crowds. Take a self-guided walking tour with one of the market’s pocket guides. The information booth is located on Pike Street about 100 feet in front of the Public Market clock and sign.

Making Magic in Ohio

By Linda Tancs

Magi-Fest is one of the largest magic conventions in the United States. Held annually in Columbus, Ohio, the longtime event starts today and runs through Saturday. Performers and lecturers from around the world include Tim Hannig, Juan Tamariz, Adam Rubin and Alfredo Marchese. One of the biggest draws is the dealers room, featuring Magicallusion, H&R Magic Books, Pattrick’s Magical Surfaces and Trick Supply, to name a few.

Playing Games in Oregon

By Linda Tancs

Gaming and puzzlery is an ancient pursuit, older than writing. At the Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery in King City, Oregon, they want to entertain you with the history of thousands of games, puzzles and related materials from many countries and traditions.  With more than 4,000 games to play, you’ll have a choice among puzzles, traditional board games, modern board games, dexterity games, eurogames and construction toys. The facility is open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Fish in the Desert

By Linda Tancs

The Mojave and Colorado Desert regions within California were included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 1984, one of only 46 ecosystems in the United States with this special designation. One of the core areas comprising this reserve is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The park’s name comprises a pairing of famed Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza (who crossed this desert in 1774) and the Spanish word for sheep (“borrego”), referring to the region’s native bighorn sheep. The state’s largest park, its attractions include a desert garden just outside the Visitor Center that identifies vegetation typical of the 600,000-acre park. The desert garden also includes a pupfish pond, a unique species of fish that flourishes in extreme and isolated environments.

Vietnam’s Premier Nature Reserve

By Linda Tancs

Established in 1962, Cuc Phuong is the oldest national park in Vietnam and is its premier nature reserve. Located on two limestone mountain ranges about 75 miles southwest of Hanoi, its rich ecosystem includes a fossilized sea reptile hundreds of millions of years old. Here you’ll also find over 2,234 vascular and non-vascular plants, 122 species of reptiles and amphibians and 135 species of mammals, such as the critically endangered primate Delacour’s langur. Trekking is a popular activity, and popular trails will lead you to several ancient trees, caves and villages of the minority Muong people.

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