Forts and Fudge

Forts and Fudge

Experience Mackinac Island’s tasty treats, vibrant small town, and biking roads.   Nestled between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, Mackinac (pronounced MACK-i-naw) Island lies untouched by recent decades. Victorian-era houses line the downtown streets, and the only highway around the island is teeming with tourists on bicycles. More than a dozen fudge shops inhabit the island, which make for good stops after exploring caves and old army forts. This quaint island, measuring only 3.8 square miles, is a popular summer getaway and an unforgettable weekend destination. Despite its size, Mackinac Island is home to an impressive number of attractions. The ferry to Mackinac departs from both the north and south sides of Mackinac Bridge (which, contrary to the name, is not connected to Mackinac Island itself). The only way to travel on the island is by foot, bike, or horse. Almost all vehicles have been banned from the island since the end of the nineteenth century, and since then, there has been only one auto accident, in which the island’s police car rear-ended the ambulance. Downtown When heading to the island, the most pronounced view is of the Grand Hotel along the coast. Erected in 1887, it is most known for its appearance in the 1980 film Somewhere in Time. The historic and photogenic hotel is open for business and hosts a variety of events and celebrations. It resides close to the legion of fudge shops that line the main street. There are at least 15 of these decadent fudge shops, each with marble slabs as big as dinner tables that are used to craft the treats....
Snow Place I’d Rather Be

Snow Place I’d Rather Be

Settling in for a peaceful day of fishing on the edge of a pristine glacier lake is a dream come true for many vacationers, if only thousands of other vacationers weren’t looking for the exact same thing. Many people retreat to the mountains for peace and quiet, but they often don’t find it at Glacier National Park—at least not during the peak summer months.  However, vacationing at Glacier National Park for a week during the winter is an ideal mountain getaway. A great way to kick off your week away is with the Amtrak Empire Builder train to see the beautiful mountains starting in Whitefish, Montana. The Empire Builder runs right into Essex, which is in the heart of the park’s rugged peaks. Essex is home to the Izaak Walton Inn, which is dedicated to providing an authentic Montanan experience. The inn has a no electronics policy, so visitors can enjoy a distraction-free experience. Many of the roads are closed during the winter, so snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are the only way to access the beautiful trails through the park. The east bank of Lake McDonald, also known as Going-to-the-Sun Road, is a popular (but not too popular) spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Snow-adventuring newcomers can join in on walks lead by park rangers on Saturdays and Sundays. The rangers can help you get acquainted with the area and with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. If you’re looking for something more extreme, ditch the cross-country skis for some downhill skis and head out with a backcountry skiing guide. Make sure that your guide is Avalanche certified before hitting...
Simple Gifts: The Amish Country of New England

Simple Gifts: The Amish Country of New England

If you’re in Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell (which means you’re really there for the cheesesteaks), take some time away from the city crowds and go to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Rolling fields, horse-drawn carriages, country-style meals, and roadside mom-and-pop shops. The women wear bonnets and the men wear beards. They plow their fields and keep their only telephone in the barn for emergencies. Time travel? No, but it’s as close as you can get. It’s Amish country, a pastoral paradise in the center of Pennsylvania. It’s a fresh, unfamiliar culture in the middle of an area full to bursting with American history. There’s a lot to enjoy about the Amish, and they’ll welcome you with their Pennsylvania Dutch accents and impeccable manners. The best time of year to go is in the autumn during the harvest. Not only will the trees be turning to the most brilliant shades of red and yellow, but there will be loads of fresh produce being sold on every roadside farm. Of course, that’s the season most people want to be there. If you’re looking for a quieter vacation, the springtime is your best bet. Spring is planting season, and you’ll find tiger lilies growing like weeds along the sides of every highway. Can you smell the Shoo Fly Pie? It’s a must-have before you go. It’s a traditional treat: a sweet molasses pie with a cake-like consistency and a crumbly topping. And it’s absolutely kosher to snag a slice for breakfast. Once you get to Amish country, divide up your time wisely. Be sure to find a place where you can ride...
Wolf Tracking in Yellowstone

Wolf Tracking in Yellowstone

Yellowstone may show visitors a beautiful landscape of green meadows and gorgeous geysers in the summer, but the oldest national park in America turns hostile in the winter. The landscape completely changes until some of the attractions are not even viewable. Most tourists deem it wise to stay clear of Yellowstone during this time. But the cold actually brings a different adventure for travelers to enjoy. In the dead of winter, groups join together in Yellowstone for one purpose: wolf tracking. Yellowstone National Park has been a popular tourist attraction for centuries. In 1872, it was declared the first American national park to protect the beautiful collection of geysers and to provide a sanctuary for many different animals. The creation of the park did not immediately provide legal protection for wildlife. Hunters and tourists were free to come to Yellowstone and kill any game or predator they came across, including the wolves. The Hunted At the time Yellowstone was created, wolf numbers were already in decline throughout the United States. Hunters often targeted these wild ancestors of dogs to reduce attacks on livestock. Exterminating the wolves seemed essential. Even when hunting regulations in Yellowstone were established in 1883, wolves were among the many predators not protected by law. By the early 1900s, not a single wolf was left in Yellowstone. Waterfall Effect Soon after the eradication of Yellowstone wolves, park managers and biologists recognized the devastating blow to the ecosystem. Deer populations exploded and vegetation became largely overgrazed. This waterfall effect caused the entire park to suffer from the absence of wolves. Seventy years later, the gray wolf was...
Get X-treme

Get X-treme

The X Games have been growing in popularity each year by super half-pipe proportions. People from around the globe make the trek to Snowmass ski resort in Aspen, Colorado, to see big air, even bigger wipeouts, and a whole lot of free giveaways from sponsors like Monster energy drinks, Jeep, GoPro, and the US Navy. Some have even made it a yearly pilgrimage. Here are some tips from the pros. Dress for the Occasion It can get cold up there—very cold. Temperatures, especially at the evening events, can drop below zero before you even begin to factor in windchill. It may look sunny, but be prepared, or you might end up a frozen no-fun fan before they even start throwing in the big tricks. Go Early As the days go on, more people arrive and the atmosphere buzzes with excitement as the big events approach, but more people means less free swag for you. Get there early in the week (and the day) and take advantage of all the giveaways before the crowds show up and the deals disappear. Just as important, find a good spot to watch the events ahead of time. Make sure to get in position at least a half-hour beforehand (an hour is advisable for the really big events like most of the big air and half-pipe competitions). Prepare Yourself The athletes do better when they prepare well for the games, and so will you! Look at the schedule beforehand and map out which events you have to see and which ones you wouldn’t mind missing, then draw up a game plan. If you have a...
Victoria, Canada: Little England, A Ferry Ride Away

Victoria, Canada: Little England, A Ferry Ride Away

After a short ride on the ferry, I stepped onto the street to face a neo-baroque castle. Turning left, I spotted a large, Victorian mansion half-covered in ivy, and then I started to wonder, “Am I in England?” Victoria, Canada, was named after the famous Queen Victoria of England, and this city on the southwestern tip of Canada stays true to its namesake. Along with its architecture, this tourist destination is starkly reminiscent of England, emitting a foreign and historic energy. With the picture-perfect waterfront, the horse-drawn carriage rides, and the pervading Victorian style, it’s hard to remember that you are less than two hours away from the United States. Victoria is a perfect weekend getaway to escape without spending thousands.   Victoria Day If you’re planning a weekend to Victoria, May Long Weekend is the perfect choice. The Monday before May 24 is Victoria Day, a national Canadian holiday celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday (actually on the 24th). Victoria boasts the most prominent parade, celebrating its namesake with food, music, and fireworks. For many, Victoria Day is a happily anticipated long weekend and a symbol of the beginning of summer. Darri Guinto, a recent visitor, described Victoria as “quaint and picturesque.” She particularly remembers the numerous flowers that cover the city, adding to its beauty and charm. Guinto said that instead of lampposts, Victoria has hanging baskets of flowers that line the streets.     Butchart Gardens Victoria is also home to the internationally renowned Butchart Gardens, located just beyond the city limits. Converted from an old stone quarry, the family-owned garden is open year-round, continuously displaying blooming gardens...