469 Miles: Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

469 Miles: Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

Many of the hiking trails in the Parkway feature beautiful views, such as in this photo of Crabtree Falls (Ken Lane).   There’s a reason the Blue Ridge Parkway is America’s most visited National Park Service site. The 469-mile road does more than connect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It is both a fascinating display of the nation’s history and a gorgeous landscape to explore. It is renowned for its beauty and for its peaceful natural atmosphere—even though it is a popular vacation spot, the park is large enough that it feels secluded and peaceful. One of the reasons the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts so many visitors is its universal appeal; it really does have something for everyone. Because of the variety of options for experiencing the parkway—you can camp or stay in a rustic hotel; hike, bike, or just stay in the car; and visit the entire parkway or just a small stretch—it is a perfect vacation for people of all ages and activity levels. It is one continuous road with no offshoots, other than exits to leave the park. Along the sides of the road are mile markers, which correspond with guidebooks to help visitors identify where the trails, overlooks, and campsites are. History The parkway was originally conceived in 1933 by US senator Henry Byrd. Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw the potential of Byrd’s idea, and the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of the parkway two years later in North Carolina. Most of the parkway was completed in 1966; however, it took an additional 21 years for...
A Grimm Path: The German Fairy Tale Route

A Grimm Path: The German Fairy Tale Route

Does modern life sometimes feel too complicated? Wishing you could revisit the innocence and imagination of your childhood? Then pack your bags and prepare for a road trip into the land of fairy tales! No, it’s not Disneyland. The Fairy Tale Route is a highway that winds through dozens of picturesque German villages that are linked with the Grimm brothers and their fairy tales. Retrace their footsteps and enjoy the scenery that inspired their famous stories. The highway begins in Hanau, Germany, near Frankfurt. Visit the birthplace of the Grimm brothers and participate in the Brothers Grimm Festival, a series of performances of beloved fairy tales held annually each summer. Nearby Steinau holds the Grimms’ childhood home. Travel north into Red Riding Hood land, a region along the highway known for its ancient forests and traditional costume of a red cap beginning near Alsfeld. Alsfeld is the winner of several awards for the best preserved medieval town in Europe. Take a stroll through the streets and admire the half-timbered architecture. Afterwards visit the Märchenhaus, or Fairy Tale house, where you’ll see each room decorated with mannequins and props depicting fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” The second floor alone contains over two centuries’ worth of dollhouses that allow you to experience the history of childrearing in Germany. After exploring the house, you can go into the listening room where a professional storyteller will entrance you with a traditional tale. The entrance fee is two euros for an adult (about $2.13), one euro for a child ($1.07). If you travel along highway B254 for about...
Edge of the Ocean

Edge of the Ocean

North of everywhere in Europe lies a winding, wet road that has been considered the best road trip in the entire world. The road stretches across churning waters, whose waves crash over the asphalt and smash into passing cars. The drive inspires awe in all who face it. This exciting drive is known simply as the Atlantic Ocean Road. Located in Norway, the Atlantic Ocean Road, known in Norwegian as the Atlanterhavsveien, crosses an archipelago connecting the coastal towns of Kristiansund and Molde. Architecturally stunning and inspiring bridges connect more than five miles of asphalt to tame the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Of the eight bridges that make up the highway, the Storseisundet Bridge is the most striking. As you drive, the bridge arches into the sky, and seems to cut off as if it leads straight into the heavens. In addition to impressive architecture, the highway provides wonderful attractions to enhance the experience for daring adventurers. Some of these locations reside along the highway, while others are great additions to a longer visit to the area of Fjord, Norway. Kvernes Stave Church and Rural Museum If religion excites you, the Kvernes Stave Church and local museum is the place to visit. A beautifully rendered church, built in the same site as an ancient stave church, has been built near the Atlantic Ocean Road. This structure has gorgeous, intricate carvings of dragons, ivy, and vines. The local museum provides detailed history of the area, allowing patrons to travel back in time and feel what an eighteenth-century village would have felt like. The museum is built in an open-area style, combining...
Australia by Rail

Australia by Rail

Australia is the sixth largest country by land mass, the world’s largest island, and an entire continent! You’ll need to do some clever planning to make the most of your adventure Down Under. To maximize your time and money in Australia, travel by rail. The national railroad website lists 18 separate journeys to choose from, all intersecting at different points and combining to span the continent. Two train journeys in particular offer magnificent views and essential sightseeing opportunities. Together, the Ghan and the Indian Pacific routes form the perfect introductory Australian experience. The primary stops on each journey provide must-see highlights in each major city. The Ghan Running north to south, a one-way Ghan route lasts two nights. The train ride begins in Adelaide or Darwin—your choice—and stops in Alice Springs, roughly halfway through the transcontinental journey. You can choose to disembark in Alice Springs for off-train excursions, or you can ride the rail straight through. One-way adult tickets start at AUD $889. It may seem like a steep price, but it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to see such a broad range of the country. And there are often discounts and partial tickets to bring down the cost. Adelaide The Central Market in Adelaide is a highlight you won’t want to miss. A handful of gardeners founded the market in 1869, and it still stands today, although it’s undergone numerous transformations. From bakeries to nut bars to delis to bookstores, you are sure to find something you’ll enjoy. Several traders offer tastings for anyone who wants to sample before buying. The market is closed on Sundays and...
Hit the Oregon Trail

Hit the Oregon Trail

At the mention of the Oregon Trail, many young Americans will recall fording rivers, crossing plains, and being waylaid by dysentery or broken legs in a popular game played on flickering computer screens. The real Oregon Trail, used by many American pioneers during the westward migration from Missouri to Oregon during the mid-nineteenth century, was far more remarkable. To pioneer ancestors of many modern Americans, the trail may have evoked nightmares of danger, disaster, and tragedy—including exposure to the elements in the unforgiving American wilderness. The trail also may have conjured images of fortune, opportunity, or hope—reflecting the determined American spirit of exploration, expansion, and perseverance. With the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the trail largely fell into decline. Nowadays, with the conveniences of modern technology and transportation, most would consider the Oregon Trail consigned to history books and low-resolution computer games. However, to many Americans, the Oregon Trail and its associated landmarks still represent an important part of our heritage. Although the original Oregon Trail is no more, many sites protect the legacy of those early pioneers. Here are five of the more notable historical attractions that everyone can enjoy along this route. Independence, Missouri The departure point for many pioneers, the city of Independence is replete with historical significance. Be sure to visit the National Frontier Trail Center, a museum that specializes in the history of pioneers and pioneer treks. Independence also happens to be the hometown of Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States. If you stop by the Truman Presidential Library and Museum, be forewarned that the museum may be...

Dingle Peninsula: The Slea Head Drive

Dingle Peninsula The Slea Head Drive Vibrant emerald foliage grows from rocky cliffs and glacial Atlantic waves crash against rocky shores as sheep wander aimlessly, grazing amidst ancient ruins where historic tales are locked deep inside the remaining stone walls. cc Dingle Peninsula, located along Ireland’s southwest coast, contains a 30-mile (48-kilometer) loop called Slea Head Drive that wraps around the land mass, allowing visitors to tour this picturesque portion of Ireland. The road starts in Dingle, the only substantial town along the peninsula. Dingle fits the traditional Irish mold as a major fishing port. The city also features a very unique resident: a bottlenose dolphin named Fungie. Since 1984, Fungie has taken it upon himself to lead vessels in and out of the harbor and has become a local celebrity: Dingle has immortalized their flippered friend with a life-size bronze sculpture located on Main Street near the harbor. Luckily for landlubbers, Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours depart on the hour every day (weather permitting), allowing people to watch Fungie splashing about in his natural habitat. As you leave Dingle, you’ll quickly approach the Ventry Village. This Gaelic village is home to numerous ruins, including the Rahinnane Castle, which was built on a sixteenth-century ringfort and where the Knight of Kerry resided. Today, three of the four walls remain as well as the stairs leading from the first floor to the second floor, which you can still climb—carefully. The ruins are located just off of the highway and through a pasture, so you may want to wear boots. Once you have hiked back to the road, you will soon see...