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Archive for U.S. travel

A Christmas Village in Philadelphia

By Linda Tancs

German Christmas markets are legendary, but if you can’t make the trip, then consider Philadelphia’s Christmas Village. You’ll certainly be feeling the gemütlichkeit with over 80 vendors selling authentic European food as well as arts and crafts and ornaments from around the world. The event is located at LOVE Park through Christmas Eve.

Lights Galore in Staten Island

By Linda Tancs

A world of light is waiting for you at Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. That’s where the stunning NYC Winter Lantern Festival is taking place until January 5. Over 1,000 lanterns will be on display over eight acres, sculpted into magnificent displays. The event also features a skating rink and cultural performances like a Tibetan folk dance and a form of Chinese Sichuan opera. Take the free Staten Island ferry from Lower Manhattan; free shuttles will transport you from the ferry terminal to the event.

French Heritage in Illinois

By Linda Tancs

If it weren’t for the place names, you’d likely forget the influence of the French in what was once known as Illinois Country. Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, for example, served as the French seat of government and its chief military installation in Upper Louisiana from 1753 until 1765 when it was occupied by the British. Home to a succession of four forts, the present-day structure at the site is a partial reconstruction of a French colonial fort built in the 1750s, a massive stone fort that had replaced three earlier wooden forts, only to fall into ruin with the encroachment of the Mississippi River. The imprint of original foundations remains, along with two reconstructed stone buildings and a restored powder magazine, believed to be the oldest building in Illinois. Declared a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places, the site is located four miles west of Prairie du Rocher.

Lost and Found in Charlottesville

By Linda Tancs

Almost lost to history, extensive archaeological work has revealed the original footprint of Highland, home to U.S. President James Monroe. It burned down in the 1800s, but the guest house remains, filled with family furniture and portraits. A devoted public servant for 50 years, Monroe was the most popular U.S. president of his era, a four-term Virginia governor, Secretary of State and Secretary of War (under James Madison) and an international diplomat, among other things. The grounds include the Highland Rustic Trails, interpretive trails that wind through the pasture and wooded hillside of the estate. In addition to traditional guided tours, the estate offers augmented reality tours featuring a wearable glass device imposing characters of the era (including Monroe) for a more authentic experience. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, Highland is part of William and Mary, Monroe’s alma mater.

Where the Blues Began

By Linda Tancs

Clarksdale, Mississippi, hails as the birthplace of the blues. That’s where you’ll find the Delta Blues Museum, the state’s oldest music museum. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the facility, which includes photographic exhibitions, musical instruments, recordings, sheet music, posters, costumes, folk art, paintings and other memorabilia. Among its many highlights are displays devoted to Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton as well as guitars played by B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Big Joe Williams.

The Most Beautiful Place in America

By Linda Tancs

Miles of sand beach, bluffs that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, forests, clear inland lakes and unhindered night sky views are just some of the charms of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Reportedly named after a Native American legend of a mother bear who swims from Wisconsin to escape a forest fire, the locale was once voted “the most beautiful place in America” by Good Morning America. It certainly does offer spectacular views, like the ones from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (named for the lumberman who initiated the road), a 7.4-mile loop with overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the dunes and Lake Michigan. The Lake Michigan Overlook (stop #9 on the drive) is a visitor favorite, where the sunset is particularly outstanding. Pick up an interpretive guide for the scenic drive at the Visitor Center in Empire.

Bodacious Trees in South Carolina

By Linda Tancs

South Carolina is not lacking in bodacious trees, even champions. Literally. A champion tree is the largest of its species according to a standard measuring formula based on trunk circumference, tree height and average crown spread. They’re the star attraction at Congaree National Park, where you’ll find two champions for every three square miles. In fact, the park represents one of the tallest temperate deciduous forests in the world, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. A great way to experience it is by canoeing or kayaking on the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail. You’ll learn even more if you take one of the limited, reservation-only, ranger-guided canoe tours.

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