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Archive for U.S. travel

Celebrating the Sunset in Clearwater

By Linda Tancs

Florida’s Gulf Coast city of Clearwater may seem overshadowed at times by St. Petersburg (the area is, after all, frequently paired off in print as St. Petersburg/Clearwater), but that’s hardly the case at Clearwater Beach. A vibrant beach town, they’re big on sunsets—so much so that they celebrate it all year long. Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival on the beach operates all year from two hours before until two hours after sunset, weather permitting. The nightly celebration features artisans, crafters, street performers and, of course, the sunset, previously voted the best sunset in America. See if you agree.

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Legendary Lights in Ohio

By Linda Tancs

What do 4 million Christmas lights look like? Like a blanket of color. Just head on over to historic Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio, and see for yourself. One of the largest water-powered grist mills still in existence, the original mill at the site was built in 1802 by Owen Davis, a Revolutionary War soldier and frontiersman miller. During the Christmas season, the mill, along with the gorge, riverbanks, trees and bridge, sparkle and glow, together with a synchronized lights and music show that features the old covered bridge. Go during the week to avoid the weekend crowds.

A Geological Enigma in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

One of the oldest mines in the United States, Sterling Hill was first worked before the 1730s, a source of local employment for residents of Ogdensburg, New Jersey. It is one of the most famous mines in the world and a geological enigma, with 350 different mineral species found there (a world record for such a small area) and more than two dozen of those found nowhere else on Earth. Closed in 1986, it was the last operating mine in the state and produced 11 million tons of zinc ore. It’s also famous for the abundance of mineral species documented as fluorescent, highly coveted by collectors. Named to both the state and national registers of historic places, guided tours last about two hours and include one hour in the underground zinc mine, 30 minutes in the large exhibit hall and about 10 minutes in the museum of fluorescence. Mineral collecting is also available amidst 200 tons of high-grade zinc ore, much of which contains fluorescent mineral.

Sponge Capital of the World

By Linda Tancs

Known for its Greek culture, Tarpon Springs is a city along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Just 45 minutes north of St. Petersburg, the locale is named for the fish found in abundance in nearby waters. Greek eateries line the waterfront, a legacy of the sponge divers who settled there in the early 1900s. Walk along Dodecanese Boulevard to see docked sponge boats and shops selling sea sponges, a tribute to the city’s status as sponge capital of the world. A bit quieter is the historic downtown district, where art galleries, antique stores and specialty shops are housed in buildings dating from the late 1800s.

A Shrunken Head in Memphis

By Linda Tancs

One of the most enduring landmarks in Memphis, Tennessee, the Pink Palace Museum hosts an eclectic mix of artifacts bearing historical, educational and technological significance. For instance, you’ll find a life-size replica of the first Piggly Wiggly store, the forerunner to today’s self-service grocery store. That was the brainchild of grocery clerk Clarence Saunders, who later conceived of the palatial estate now hosting the museum. But perhaps the most memorable exhibit for visitors is the shrunken head sitting in the middle of the rotunda. Once owned by local businessman Abe Scharff, it was later donated to the museum and is believed to be a relic from his visits to South American tribal regions in modern-day Ecuador and Peru where head shrinking was a common practice. No one is quite sure whether the item is real, but you can read up on the process that headhunters used to get a shrunken head while you’re deciding for yourself.

Trees of Mystery

By Linda Tancs

In the coastal town of Klamath, California, you can walk among giants. California redwoods, that is. In the heart of redwood country is the state’s original redwood nature attraction, Trees of Mystery. The family run preserve has over a mile of interpretative trail to take in the size and scope of these forest wonders, which average eight feet to as much as 20 feet in diameter and some as tall as 375 feet. For a bird’s-eye view, take the sky gondola. Have a green thumb? You can buy a seedling and try to grow your own giant.

Quebec Rural Style in Michigan

By Linda Tancs

The oldest home on Mackinac Island in Michigan is the Biddle House. Dating back to 1780 and built in the Quebec rural style, it was purchased in the 1800s by Edward Biddle, a wealthy fur trader who hailed from a prominent Philadelphia family (one of the first families of the United States). Biddle married Agatha de la Vigne, a Native American born on Mackinac Island who partnered with her husband in the fur trade. Often overlooked in island history is the fact that most residents in the 1800s were Native American. Now that the house is in the midst of a renovation, its Indian roots will be highlighted with a two-room exhibit.

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