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June 2011

June 29, 2011

Our Favorite Southern Freebies

By Kate Chandler

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Free music is abundant in the South (Kim Steele/Getty)

A certain southern belle (yours truly) was perusing her favorite southern magazine (Southern Living) when she came across a fabulous article on tons of free southern things to do (101 to be exact). Here are the highlights:

Taste the South
Fried-chicken lovers shouldn't miss the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum in Corbin, Kentucky. Yes, that's Sanders as in Colonel Sanders of KFC. Spice it up with a tour of the Tabasco plant on Avery Island, Louisiana. Cookies, bread, beer, and whisky round out the rest of the options on the foodie list.
Kentucky Travel Guide; Louisiana Travel Guide

Bask in Nature
Waterfalls abound in North Carolina (see Glen Falls and Bridal Veil Falls), Texas (see Gorman Falls), and Tennessee (see Grotto Falls). Kentucky's Red River Gorge and West Virginia's New River Gorge showcase the awesome power of water carving through rock. Stick around for some rafting and hiking.
North Carolina Travel Guide; Texas Travel Guide; Tennessee Travel Guide

Hear Some Tunes
Whether it's jazz at The Lounge in Kansas City, Missouri, or rhythmic beats pouring out of one of the endless clubs on Frenchman Street in New Orleans, free music is a sure thing in the South. Nashville and Memphis are also obvious must-sees for music-lovers.
Missouri Travel Guide

Get Wild
Manatees grace Florida's waters each winter, while Georgia's waters teem with alligators. Even many zoos are free, such as in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, Missouri.
Florida Travel Guide; Georgia Travel Guide; Washington, D.C. Travel Guide

See all of Southern Living's picks for 101 Free Things to Do in the South.

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Related Topics: Budget Travel · Free Stuff

June 27, 2011

Tour de France Set to Start on July 2

By Lacy Morris

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Tour de France(alex ranaldi,Flickr)
Tour de France (alex ranaldi/Flickr)

Good old Lance may be dodging potholes of controversy these days, but the Tour de France still reigns supreme as the premier bike event in the world. Most of us love watching what we could never accomplish ourselves, and the starting flag lowers July 2 as the arduous bike ride begins across 2,100 miles of France’s mountains, valleys, and cities. Catch Stage 9 in the mountain towns of Val-d'Isere and Briancon if you want to see the bikers struggle up the Alps. It’s an odd sort of entertainment, but we like it anyway. To channel your inner Armstrong, here are some bike races coming up in the month of July.

35th Annual One Helluva Ride
July 9, Chelsea, Michigan

Moab to St. George
July 9, Utah

The Goat Ride
July 9, Nashville, Indiana

Tour de Queens
July 10, Queens, New York

Ball and Chain Century
July 24, Salisbury, Maryland

Saints to Sinners Bike Relay
July 29 & 30, Utah to Nevada

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Related Topics: Cycling · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Outdoor Adventures · Trip Ideas

June 23, 2011

Top Ten Places to Ring in the 4th of July

By awayblog

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July 4 at the Hatchshell on the Esplanade in Boston (Mary Giordono_courtesy, B4 Productions)
Boston celebrates the Fourth at the Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell adjacent the Charles River Esplanade (Mary Giordono/B4 Productions)

Fireworks, barbeques, parades, and live music—no other holiday spells summer fun quite like the 4th of July. Although you could just as easily celebrate America's birthday by watching the festivities on TV or setting out some lawn chairs and a grill in your backyard, some Independence Day celebrations are worth the trip, especially if they're right up the road from you. Here, Karen Chen counts down our picks for the country's top ten places to ring in the 4th.

10. Mount Rushmore
With the faces of our country's most venerated presidents etched indelibly in the stone of the Black Hills, this national monument epitomizes American history and pride.'s Mount Rushmore Family Travel Guide

9. Great Williamsburg, Virginia
Celebrate July 4th with living history in the Greater Williamsburg area, the center of political events leading up to the American Revolution.'s Williamsburg Family Travel Guide

8. Miami, Florida
A holiday smack dab in the middle of summer just begs for a beach party.'s Miami Family Travel Guide

7. San Diego, California
Okay, so make that two beach parties. During the day, Pacific and Mission beaches will be packed with holiday sunbathers.'s San Diego Family Travel Guide

6. New Orleans, Louisiana
Like every festival N'awlins hosts, it's always a roarin' good time, and the 4th of July is no exception. The city's Go 4th on the River festival offers concerts at the French Market and a free Mardi Gras-style party with live music, food, and door prizes.'s New Orleans Family Travel Guide

Continue reading "Top Ten Places to Ring in the 4th of July" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Historical Travel · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Top 10 Lists

June 21, 2011

Hit the Pavement: Six Unique Marathons Around the World

Marathon de New-York,Verrazano Bridge(Martineric,Flickr)
Runners in the New York City Marathon cross over the Verrazano Bridge (Martineric,Flickr)

Running had its first boom in the 70s and has been making quite the comeback in the past few years. Running USA estimates that 507,000 people finished marathons in 2010, and, since 2003, the half marathon has been the fastest growing road race distance in the United States, with more than 1.1 million finishers in 2009. That means that close to two million people will run a race that's at least 13.1 miles this year, not including the hundreds of miles they will log during training.

Most people run races not necessarily to win, but to set a personal best, or sometimes just to finish—all you need is a good pair of shoes and determination. Plus, now you can find a race anywhere, from Charleston to Boston to San Antonio, several of which have become more than just a race. Bands play along the way of the Rock 'n' Roll series, which has 23 "tour stops," and you'll see characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse at the Walt Disney World Marathon.

On February 9, 2011, I made up my mind that I would finally mark off a half marathon. I had wanted to do one for years, but just never had the time or maybe the guts. Thirteen-plus miles seemed like a long way to run, but an opportunity came across my desk to run in the Inaugural Run For The Dream Half Marathonin Williamsburg, Virginia, that supports the Wounded Warriors program. I took the offer and ran with it (literally).

Continue reading "Hit the Pavement: Six Unique Marathons Around the World" »

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

June 20, 2011

Hotel Spotlight: Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort

Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort and adjoining Bay Lake Towers (Disney)

I recently spent a couple of days at Walt Disney World in Orlando, staying at Disney's retro-modern Contemporary Resort. For families, this 40-year-old Magic Kingdom stalwart doesn't quite have the cachet of the newer Animal Kingdom Lodge or faux-frontier Wilderness Lodge, but I was impressed with the 655-room property's simple comfort and convenience. Built in 1971, the landmark A-frame design still exudes a futuristic grace that takes you back to old Uncle Walt's original out-there vision for his Florida wonderland. The Contemporary Resort is within sight of Walt Disney World's iconic Cinderella Castle, meaning you can be hitting the rides within minutes, plus gain a privileged, no-crowds view of the nightly fireworks that erupt over Downtown Disney each night. The monorail stops right inside the hotel on the first floor, whizzing guests to the Magic Kingdom as well as Epcot. Another nice feature in the Contemporary Resort's favor is its perch on the shore of Bay Lake, which you can explore by small rental motorboats as well as during water-skiing and paragliding sessions offered through Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre, Disney's on-site concessionaire. (Most notably, check out the exotic birdlife on the lake's central islands, hosting an array of exotic species which were released to live in the wild here after being originally imported during the development of the Animal Kingdom.) Given its role hosting Disney's convention center, the resort does feel a little more buttoned-up than other themed accommodations at places like the Polynesian Resort or Adirondacks-style Saratoga Springs, though I must say I quite enjoyed that the volume was turned down low after a day of being immersed in the whole Disney magic thing. Nightly rates for the Contemporary Resort start at $300, with children under 18 staying at no additional charge in Deluxe Resort rooms when with parents.'s Family Travel Guide to Walt Disney World

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Places to Stay

June 17, 2011

Stay in NYC for $20 a Night

By Kate Chandler

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Times Square, New York City (Medio Images)

A trip to New York City just got a whole lot cheaper, if you're willing to pitch a tent. The National Park Service is creating new campsites at Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field, a former airport once used by Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes. The field, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, currently hosts five campsites, with 47 more expected in the next few weeks. Over the next two years, the park service will build a total of 90 sites, creating America's largest urban park campground. The sites are $20 per night, and online booking at will be available by July 4th weekend. Besides touring the Big Apple, campers can also take advantage of fishing, hiking, biking, and kayaking in the park, with swimming and beaches available at nearby Jacob Riis Park.'s Travel Guide to New York City

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Related Topics: Cheap Trip Ideas · National Parks · US Travel

June 13, 2011

Get Your Summer Groove on at Virginia's FloydFest

FloydFest2011Poster The tiny town of Floyd, Virginia (population: 432, according to the 2000 Census), exerts an outsize influence as a regional destination for music and the arts, most notably Appalachian-flavored bluegrass and folk music. Located south of Roanoke amidst southwestern Virginia's rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, Floyd's weekly Friday Night Jamboree attracts local and regional bands as well as a growing number of music aficionados. Then there's big-time events like the annual FloydFest, a four-day jamboree of folk, rock, and other diverse musical styles that unfurls in a scenic meadow just off Virginia's snaking Blue Ridge Parkway. This summer's event (July 28-31) will feature over 70 performers across a half-dozen outdoor stages, not to mention a colorful supporting cast of jugglers, henna artists, acrobats, and untold other impromptu alternative acts. And unlike some other music festivals we can think of, FloydFest is a distinctly all-ages affair, with family camping, crafts, and activities for the budding Woody Guthries in your brood. Three-day tickets for the weekend fiesta cost $135 until July 1 and include on-site camping; single-day tickets cost $55, or $60 at the gate. Tickets for children 6-12 are $15 for the entire weekend, $20 on the gate. Check the festival website for complete lineup, tickets, and planning details.

Image credit: FloydFest 2011 cover art (courtesy, FloydFest)

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

June 10, 2011

Find Your Perfect Weekend Escape on

By awayblog

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Hikers on Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park, Utah (Nathan Borchelt)

The sun is out, the rivers are running, the fish are biting... Yup, summer has landed and we here at HQ are living from weekend to weekend with plans to hike, bike, and paddle our way to Labor Day. For those of you who dream of getting outdoors but find time's too short or budget constraints preclude you from ticking off the next of your Life List adventures, we present the newest arrival to the Away Network's extensive suite of travel-planning tools: Introducing Quick Escapes from, which will help you find a day trip, weekend getaway, or short escape in your neck of the woods. From a guided fly-fishing course on Pennsylvania's Youghiogheny River to a three-day "Best of" sampler of Glacier National Park, choose from over 700 trips that will let you walk on the wild side without blowing your savings or entire vacation balance.

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June 06, 2011

Top Spots to Find Whale Sharks

Tanaka Juuyoh / Wikimedia Commons

Last week, Smithsonian scientists reported on the largest gathering of whale sharks ever recorded. For those who shake in fear at the mere suggestion of a dorsal fin, it should be noted that whale sharks are more akin to manatees than makos. The largest fish on the planet, they feed on algae and plankton while following a trail of nutrients across the open ocean, ranging from the South China Sea to the Caribbean.

The notoriously elusive and often solitary charasmatic megafauna are catnip for scuba divers. I once met a diver in Utila, Honduras, who claimed to have spent 18 years tracking the beasts and had never seen one. When we told him we'd planned to spend an afternoon searching for them from a snorkel boat, he just laughed.

For those in search of whale sharks, here are three possible spots to find them. Just don't count on finding 400 or more in the same place.

Isla Holbox, Mexico
Just a skipped stone from Cancun and Cozumel, this island is popular with divers and nature lovers alike. It's also close to the Smithsonian's discovery.
Isla Holbox Beach Travel Guide

 Utila, Honduras
A tiny rock off of mainland Honduras, there isn't much to do in Utila except dive. But with top-flight dive outfits like Bay Islands Diving College, Utila Lodge, and Altons, even beginners have a shot at finding whale sharks if they pick their time right.
Utila, Honduras Scuba Diving Travel Guide

Placencia, Belize
Located in the Stann Creek District, Placencia is home to some of the world's most vibrant reefs. The area has great dive sites, including Long Caye Wall and The Abyss, for when the whale sharks don't make an appearance.
Stann Creek District Scuba Diving Travel Guide

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June 03, 2011

Top Ten Spots for 4th of July Fun in the Nation's Capital (And Free!)

Independence Parade(ElvertBarnes,Flickr)
Independence Parade, Washington, D.C. (ElvertBarnes/Flickr)

Influential lobbyists, political consultants, and patrons of the arts are no doubt sitting pretty having already firmed up plans for the impressive Independence Day fireworks in Washington, D.C., in a few weeks' time. Choice invitation-only venues may include the Kennedy Center rooftop, private balconies in the National Gallery of Art, hallowed chambers in the U.S. Capitol building, and, yes, for the chosen few, a spot on the White House lawn. For the rest of us unconnected mortals, the choice can range from dropping a hefty cover on the best hotel and restaurant rooftops, or sweating it out with the masses in any number of public spaces around town. Happily, though, this city of open green spaces and low-level buildings proffers many choice (and free) spots to enjoy the show. Here, we guide you through ten of the best.

1. U.S. National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Ground Zero for the big show, there is nominally lots of green space here for watching the Fourth of July fireworks, although you'll need to arrive early to claim the best spots. The Smithsonian's annual Folklife Festival—this year featuring Colombia, the Peace Corps, and Rhythm & Blues—offers events and exhibits to while away the pre-display hours. The fireworks go up over the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, so the prime spots are on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and points east along the U.S. National Mall from 14th Street toward the U.S. Capitol. The White House Ellipse is also a good spot that usually has a few open patches of ground a little closer to the kickoff just after 9 p.m. Plan on walking down to the Mall from Metro Center or Farragut West to avoid the crush of Metro riders getting off at the Smithsonian. The NPS' National Mall website offers some useful planning tips, including info about a free bike-valet service and advice for staying hydrated in the area's often-fierce summer heat.'s National Mall Travel Guide

2. George Washington Memorial Parkway, Arlington
Fireworks-viewing real estate doesn't come much more prime than here, with the Arlington stretch of the George Washington Memorial Parkway offering the best riverside views of the D.C. monuments and skyline. You won't miss a single explosion, though, of course, this place is no secret. Pack a picnic and get there early; limited public parking is available at various points along the roadway, though a much safer bet is to ride your bicycle along the scenic bike trail (an option that will also offer a swifter mode of escape once the fireworks end at around 9:30 p.m.).'s George Washington Memorial Parkway Travel Guide

Continue reading "Top Ten Spots for 4th of July Fun in the Nation's Capital (And Free!)" »

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Top 10 Lists

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