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July 2009

July 30, 2009

Annapolis: The Perfect Day Trip

By Karen Chen

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Storefronts and boats at City Dock, Annapolis (Karen Chen)

If you live anywhere within a few hours drive from Annapolis, Maryland, I'd highly recommend taking a weekend or day trip there. The charming city is the state's capital, but surprisingly, does not rank as one of the state's ten largest cities. Instead of a booming metropolis, it's a slice out of a time past, with colonial brick buildings and churches, sailboats floating in the harbor, quiet streets lined with quaint rowhouses and brick sidewalks, and one main street spanning only about four short blocks that's perfect for shopping for souvenirs or knick-knacks, people watching, or making a pit stop for homemade ice cream or fudge.  A city of about 37,000 people, Annapolis is small enough to explore on foot, and parking is exceptionally easy to find.  Here are some suggestions for some things to do and places you'll want to check out while in the city:

- One great (and green!) way to traverse the city is by bike.  Free Wheelin' offers free bike rentals from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days a week, from June 1 to October 1. They're located at the Harbor Master's office at City Dock, above the Visitor Information booth. And even better than free bike rentals? Free bus rides! All Free Wheelin' customers get to ride any Annapolis Transit bus for free as well; all buses have bike racks.  Be sure to explore the quaint side streets—you'll find interesting stores and cozy neighborhoods you wouldn't otherwise notice.

- Situated on the Chesapeake Bay, the city is perhaps most famously known as the "Sailing Capital of the World" and boasts a rich maritime heritage.  It's nice enough just to stroll along the docks and admire the regal sailing vessels anchored in the harbor, but there are tons of ways to get on the water, too.  Dozens of companies rent sailboats and/or kayaks, or board a ferry for a guided tour around the Chesapeake.  Check the Annapolis tourism website for all the different options.

Continue reading "Annapolis: The Perfect Day Trip" »

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Related Topics: Budget Travel · Family Vacation · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

July 29, 2009

Beach Bytes: Rehoboth Beach's Watermelon Festival

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Rehoboth Chamber of Commerce)

One of the East Coast's best family beaches is celebrating summer with one of America’s favorite seasonal fruits. July is National Watermelon Month, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is hosting its first annual Watermelon Festival on August 15.

I’m looking forward to a little dose of nostalgia with a visit to Rehoboth, which was one of my favorite getaways during my college days. The last time I was there, 100 gourmet restaurants and 40 hotels and bed and breakfasts wouldn't have been in a developer’s wildest dreams! It was not sophisticated, but no one asked for more.  It’s grown and prospered, but continues to display its small town pride and warm welcome to visitors, and the surf and sand attracts visitors from several neighboring states. The charm of bygone days on this mile-long boardwalk lures returning guests, while art, theater, and upscale boutiques lend a new attitude. Downtown Rehoboth is doing a lot this year, and there's always something going on.

The history behind the Watermelon Festival goes back to the 1920s and '30s when vacationing families purchased their melons from hucksters. Refrigerators were not common, so families carved their initials on their purchase to identify it among all the melons that were stored in the community icehouse.  The Rehoboth Beach Museum is now housed in the old icehouse building where the festival will be based.  Seed-spitting and watermelon-eating contests are part of this event, as are crafts, a moon bounce, and food and drinks.  The admission price ($4 for adults, $2 for children) includes a visit to the museum.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation · Holidays, Events, & Festivals

July 28, 2009

Birdwatching in Arizona and Beyond

By Guest Blogger

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Spotted owl (Alan and Sandy Carey/Photodisc/Getty)

Though most of us are sweating out the dog days of summer and dreaming of cooler days ahead, avid birdwatchers are probably the most anxious for fall to arrive (well, maybe it's a tie with fall-foliage lovers). Each fall, billions of birds migrate across North America, heading south for warmer weather and better food supply. The sites at these "flyways" are spectacular, and festivals run throughout fall to celebrate this wonder.

The fall birding festival season kicks off soon at the 18th Annual Southwest Wings Birding & Nature Festival in Sierra Vista, Arizona (August 5-9, 2009). Sierra Vista lies at the foot of the Huachuca Mountains, minutes away from popular southwest birding hot spots including the San Pedro River and the Garden, Sawmill Huachuca, Ramsey, Carr, Miller, and Ash canyons. These places are known for their excellent biodiversity of birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles, and close to 1,000 species of plants. Field trips and seminars will introduce these natural features and the area's abundant birdlife to festival participants. New this year is a hike up Miller Canyon to search for high-elevation species such as the Red-faced Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, Greater Pewee, Hepatic Tanager, and possibly Spotted Owl. Writer-naturalist Kenn Kaufman will be the keynote speaker. Base registration fee is $15 with a la carte pricing on field trips. Registration info is on the festival's website. Inquire with the Windemere Hotel about reduced rates for festival attendees.  --Laura Kammermeier

Check back later this summer when will publish Laura's picks for the Top Ten Fall Birding Festivals. Until then, check out's Birdwatching Guide.  

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Outdoor Adventures

July 24, 2009

Sea Turtle Nesting: A Summer Guide

By Guest Blogger

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Volunteers watching a loggerhead turtle laying her nest (courtesy, Jeff Janowski/Oceana)

Just as many people make regular summer pilgrimages to the beaches along the Southeast coast of the U.S., so do some of the ocean’s most ancient creatures: sea turtles. Before hotels, miniature golf courses, and surf shops crowded the coast, these gentle reptiles have been swimming ashore to lay their eggs.

On Bald Head Island, North Carolina, I recently had the chance to see a nesting mother reprise this millennia-old ritual. After several nights of anxious waiting, I watched in the wee hours of the morning as a female loggerhead turtle deftly used her back flippers to dig an egg chamber, drop more than 100 golf ball-sized eggs, and then disguise the nest by wildly flinging sand around. Having used the Earth’s magnetic fields to navigate to the beach of her birth, she returned to the ocean, never to see her offspring, which will hatch around 60 days later.

It was a remarkable thing to witness, and while I wish I could say I’m unique in my experience, with a little determination (and maybe some caffeine), anyone can catch a glimpse of this natural phenomenon on many beaches in the U.S. Many regular visitors to Bald Head have integrated turtles into their vacation routine: play on the beach by day, watch for sea turtles by night.

Continue reading "Sea Turtle Nesting: A Summer Guide" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Eco-Tourism

July 23, 2009

Moon Travel Guides Wants to Know: What's Your Favorite City?

By Karen Chen

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Denver_Moon-guide Everyone's trying to cut corners these days, including those who are trading in summer vacations abroad for trips closer to home. But whether you decide to take off on a road trip, discover your backyard mountains, go on a weekend getaway to the local lake, or revisit a big city near you, you'll likely find that there's tons of summer fun to be had—right here in the U.S. of A.

To help inspire these summer adventures, or help you plan the logistics of your trip, Moon Travel Guides is giving away 50 of their U.S. guidebooks in 50 days.  They will also be featuring all U.S. destinations on their website for the next two weeks, including guest blogs from guidebook authors about their favorite American cities. To win a book, all you have to do is answer one simple question: What's your favorite U.S. city?  Tell them in 100 words or less what you love about your top city, and send your entry to All submissions must be mailed between now and September 7.

We want to know about your favorite city, too!  Is it the nightlife or beaches of Miami?  The public art and cafes of Seattle?  The free cultural activites in Washington, D.C.?  Or the easy access to wildlife and outdoor adventure of Anchorage?  Tell us in the comments!

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Related Topics: Budget Travel · Free Stuff

July 22, 2009

Eat Your Way Through Melbourne

Melbourne's Yarra Valley (courtesy, Victoria Tourism)

Fans of Anthony Bourdain—consummate cook and author, intrepid traveler, chain smoker, and host of The Travel Channel’s No Reservations—can now follow in his footsteps.  Inspired by last Monday’s episode, “Australia,” Swain Tours has created a new package trip entitled “Eat Your Way Through Melbourne," which includes $560 round-trip airfare from L.A. or San Francisco on United Airlines; five nights in Melbourne at the Crown Towers; a Colonial tram-car dinner; a behind-the-scenes look at the city’s markets; a chef-led tour through the Mornington Peninsula; a tour of a Yarra Valley vineyard; one night at Apollo Bay and two nights at both Port Fairy and Dunkeld; a total of ten breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners (one a ten-course tasting menu); car rental for seven days; and whatever other epicurean adventures you can find.  Total price? $3,199 per person, based on double occupancy. The travel window is from now until March 31st, 2010 (to secure the discounted $560 round-trip airfare, book by August 20).

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Related Topics: Food and Drink · Travel Deals · Trip Ideas

Take Care of Your Feet at the Beach

Flip-flops-on-beach True confessions of a flip-flop aficionado: I love flip-flops. I’m a fanatic. I’ve loved flip-flops since I had my first pair as a child growing up in a mountain town where they were totally inappropriate and rubbed blisters between my toes. I have dozens of pairs and still cannot resist new styles, brand names, or good sales. Whenever I'm at home or going to the beach, you'll find a pair of flip-flops glued to my feet.

Now, having rolled out this confession, I implore you to wear flip-flops, too. 

Pavement is sometimes scorching hot from the sun, parking lots or driveways may consist of loose gravel, and sand at some beaches in the middle of high season is often so hot it can burn. And there's plenty of sharp and foreign objects that can be found along the way from your home to the beach. Broken glass can unfortunately be found on sidewalks, in parking lots, or in the sand. Seashells wash up on the beach and often have sharp edges. Sand spurs, a type of tiny prickly weed sprinkled in the sand along some coasts, can be hidden and can hurt your feet. Boardwalks are often made of made of wood and can have sharp splinters. We wouldn’t walk on any of this at home without shoes. Why would we walk on it at the beach? It’s unwise and unsafe.

Continue reading "Take Care of Your Feet at the Beach" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Travel Tips

July 20, 2009

Vermont's Shelburne Farms

By Erika Lloyd

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Shelburne Farms (Orah Moore Photos)

On the scenic shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont, Shelburne Farms features an historic inn and restaurant, walking trails, pastures for 125 cows, a cheese-making facility that produces an award-winning cheddar, an independent woodshop, plus a variety of educational programs on nature and agriculture including summer camps, field trips, work and learn programs, and even a preschool.  The 1,400-acre working farm was built as a model agricultural estate in 1886 by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb.  In 1972, their descendants founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to conservation education, to which the farm buildings and land were bequeathed.  Today, visitors can tour the property, inn, and breeding barn, or spend some time in the farmyard where activities focus on caring for farm animals. 

The 24-bedroom Inn at Shelburne Farms, a 19th-century building restored in 1987, was once the home of Seward and Webb, and now houses guests in individually decorated rooms and guest cottages (for descriptions and photos, visit the Shelburne Farms website).  Despite its size, the inn manages to evoke an extremely cozy atmosphere and retains much of its original furniture and decoration.  Guests have access to activities including hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, biking, sailing, tennis, golf, or cultural events.  Or they can simply relax with a book on the porch overlooking Lake Champlain.  The inn’s restaurant features seasonal menus using locally produced ingredients.

The greatest part of visiting Shelburne Farms and staying at the inn is the positive atmosphere that you will find yourself surrounded by, as the people who work here are dedicated to the mission of inspiring visitors to feel more connected to the land and to develop their conservation ethics.  You’ll go home feeling invigorated and at least a bit more eco-savvy.

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Related Topics: Eco-Tourism · Family Vacation · Places to Stay · Trip Ideas

July 17, 2009

You Tell Us: The Top Gear and Apparel for Hot Weather

Kaenon Spindle S3

As my packed-to-the-point-of-bursting closet demonstrates, I have what could be called an unhealthy gear obsession.  My friend mockingly refers to it as REI smashed into a single one-bedroom hall closet, but I always reply with one of my central tenets: it's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.  Sorta goes with "the right tool for the right job." (Although I will admit, eight different types of jackets may qualify as overkill.)

That said, there is nothing better than falling in love with a new piece of gear—and for me that happens about once a season.  This summer? I'm definitely in love with the Spindle S3 sunglasses from Kaenon. I put 'em on for the first time, and I knew they'd be the lens through which I'd be witnessing the rest of my warm-weather days, from sailing on the Chesapeake to D.C. roof-bar hopping to visiting San Fran for the first time. 

So I present the question to you: What is your tried-and-true, ever loyal must-have summer gear item?  New or old, there's no wrong answer.  Tell us by adding a comment!

And, to start the conversation, we also present a list of the newest, latest, and greatest gear for hot-weather climates.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Travel Gear

July 16, 2009

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs: "Our Princess Land"

By Guest Blogger

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Room-at-the-Broadmoor “Welcome to my princess land, Gramma” is how my four-year-old granddaughter greeted me at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs on our recent visit there. I could see how the historic towers might resemble a castle to a four-year-old enthralled with the storybook world of princesses and princes. Perhaps the only missing structures were a drawbridge and moat, but Kaydence didn’t seem to notice.

And it's no stretch of the imagination that the attention you receive from the uniformed staff is fit for a princess. A security guard greets you first, and from that moment, you’re whisked away into your own magical kingdom with what seems like your own personal servants. This wasn’t my first visit to the luxurious Broadmoor, but it was my first hotel adventure with my two grandchildren, Kaydence and two-year-old Ryland.

Surrounded by the mountains and framed by Cheyenne Lake, the historic Broadmoor is just 90 miles south of Denver, or a few miles from its own airport. The resort sits on 3,000 beautifully sculpted acres with splashes of brightly-colored flora and manicured lawns. The lake’s glassy surface is marred only by the occasional floating duck, and with the right amount of rain (such as we experienced), other creatures like earthworms and frogs might catch your child’s attention. Other animals, such as deer and foxes, frequently cross the fairways on the resort’s three 18-hole golf courses.

Continue reading "The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs: "Our Princess Land"" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Family Vacation · Places to Stay · Trip Ideas

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