Where do you want to go on vacation? That question is asked time and time again at dinner tables across our country.The decisions are practically endless and there’s much to consider. A theme park? A metropolis? How about a natural setting? Whether you’re considering a last minute getaway for your holiday break or planning ahead to the spring months, Ocala Style’s first ever Town & Country feature offers a few suggestions that are sure to pique your interest, from exploring the bustling streets of downtown Austin, Texas, to camping high atop the ground in a treehouse yurt.
a national treasure
The Ocala National Forest is one of just three national forests in Florida.
Ocala has something special in its national forest. As a matter of fact, there are only three national forests in the whole state of Florida. The 380,000-plus acres with more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs received its national forest distinction in 1908 from President Theodore Roosevelt—the first in the state of Florida and the first east of the Mississippi River. It’s also the oldest and southernmost national forest in the United States and the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest. How’s that for a history lesson!
Last year more than 1.7 million people visited our national forest. If you weren’t one of them, here are some ideas for getting started. If there’s one thing our forest isn’t lacking in, it’s stuff to do, plain and simple. From camping and kayaking to four-wheeling and hunting, the outdoor recreational opportunities are endless.
Whether you’re a true outdoorsman who prefers to rough it sans electricity and running water, or you prefer a few of the comforts of home, the forest has a little something for campers of every level. Primitive camping is allowed throughout the forest. Just pitch your tent and set up camp wherever you see fit. There are a few things to keep in mind, though. Yes, there are bears in the forest. No, contrary to popular belief, they aren’t afraid of the sound of knocking two sticks together. Make sure to keep your food and drinks locked up tight. Also, during general gun season camping in the forest is restricted to designated areas.
Of course if the thought of being alone in the middle of the forest gives you the heebie jeebies, you can check out any one of the dozens of campgrounds scattered throughout the woods, each with their own appeal. Davenport Landing is the perfect spot for canoers and kayakers looking to settle in for the night. According to the United States Forest Service, this site, situated deep within the floodplain of the Ocklawaha River, is a former steamboat stop. For details, call the Ocala National Forest Lake George Ranger District at (352) 625-2520.
Still too close to nature? The forest has a handful of cabin rentals that each offer their own charm and historical significance. Located just off the Juniper Run, the Sweetwater Cabin housed the crew of the 1954 film The Yearling. Surrounded by the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, the structure was built in the 1930s and features two bedrooms, a full bath, a kitchen and a rustic fireplace. Just bring your own bedding and food and you’re good to go. Fair warning, though—this site is so popular that a lottery is held every year to determine the lucky 52 visitors (and their parties, of course) who will get to call this secluded spot home for a week. For reservation information, call Recreation Resource Management at (352) 625-0546.
Sources: fs.fed.us, fs.usda.gov
a magical getaway
Experience the quaint, quiet side of the Walt Disney World Resort in your own treehouse getaway.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World
While our own forest is filled with a plethora of outdoor adventure options, traveling just a few hours in any direction will introduce outdoor enthusiasts to an abundance of one-of-a-kind camping opportunities. Just to our south, beyond the hustle and bustle (not to mention the long lines of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center), is one of Disney’s best-kept secrets. The new and improved Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa are what you might call “glamping.” Look it up, it’s a real word! Glamorous camping allows campers to experience the benefits and joys of nature without sacrificing any of the comfort and convenience of resort-style vacationing.
Built in the mid-1970s, Disney’s tree house accommodations welcomed guests through 2002 before closing their doors. Newly modified, the Swiss Family Robinson-style tree houses are reminiscent of a child’s fort. A very well-built, lavish fort.
“Seeing the tree house villas open again is like welcoming home an old friend,” says Sonya Deese-Byrnes, general manager of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. “One of the many exciting things about the tree house villas is how the resort’s original concept has been preserved while bringing the units up to modern standards. Our members and guests are already raving about their glamping experience.”
Featuring 60 three-bedroom units, each octagon-shaped tree house is elevated 10 feet off the ground making campers feel like they’re surrounded by nature. Panoramic views of lush greenery and scenic waterways greet you from each room. (It’s Swiss Family Robinson without the splinters and bug bites.) Guests are treated to granite countertops, flat-screen televisions, cathedral ceilings and full kitchens. Now that’s roughing it!
Guests of the villas can utilize all the main resort offerings, including boat transportation between the Downtown Disney area and the Disney Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa dock, tennis courts, bicycle rental, playground, on-site Surf’s Up restaurant, nearby spa and fitness center and High Rock Spring Pool, which boasts its own water slide and whirlpool spa. Check out disneyworld.com or call (407) W-DISNEY for more details or to make reservations.
the lazy river
If you prefer your camping a little closer to sea level, a trip on the St. Johns River may be just the solution.
Imagine what it would be like to wake up on the water—the soft wake gently rocking your houseboat, the sound of water lapping the shore, birds chattering in the distance.
At just over 300 miles long and at times two miles wide, the St. Johns River is one of Florida’s most well-known waterways. Stretching from Indian River County to our south to Jacksonville in Duval County to our north, the St. Johns is one of only a handful of major rivers in the world that flows north. Even better, it’s very houseboat-friendly. With its slow, meandering pace, the river allows houseboaters a lazy, leisurely pace to enjoy nature at its finest.
Houseboat rentals are available up and down Florida’s major waterways, but Holly Bluff Marina in DeLand is one company that specifically services the St. Johns River.
“My husband, Rick Armstrong, and I have been in the houseboat business in Florida since 1986, and we purchased Holly Bluff in 1992,” says owner Judy Armstrong. “We just love it. The river is absolutely beautiful and doesn’t have a lot of development. A houseboat is a fantastic way to escape the everyday demands of life and I highly recommend it as a great source of stress relief.”
A selection of boats are available to rent and include sleeping arrangements for anywhere between two and 10 people. By the way, the boats are fully equipped for your convenience. Even the linens and silverware are included. A stove, a color television, air conditioning and heating, hot water, a gas grill, a microwave and a refrigerator are just a few of the other amenities. It’s like home, only with a better view.
No special license is required to drive a houseboat, and an instructor will give each driver a lesson on the river before you and your party sets sail.
Along your journey you may spot alligators and turtles basking in the sunlight, otters splashing playfully in the water and deer and raccoons exploring the shoreline.
“We’ve even had customers who have seen bears swimming in the river,” adds Judy.
Don’t forget to bring a camera and plenty of extra batteries. Houseboats are available for weekend, mid-week and week-long excursions and prices vary depending on the time of year and length of trip.
“Right now through February is our low season,” Judy says, “and we’re offering wonderful specials that make houseboating even more affordable. We invite anyone down to the marina to check the boats out for themselves and to ask questions.”
You can also check out hollybluff.com or call (386) 822-9992.
Glamping on the Steinhatchee allows for all the luxuries of home.
Photo courtesy Steinhatchee Landing
Let’s get back to the premise of glamping. Steinhatchee Landing Resort, just 65 miles west of Gainesville, features cottages that look like they should grace the pages of a child’s storybook. Guests can choose from 50 Victorian, Georgian or Florida Cracker-style cottages (19 of which are pet-friendly), each with their own unique charm. Some feature fireplaces, Jacuzzis and wood-burning stoves, and all include outstanding views of the Landing’s lush 35 acres.
Just a few minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, Steinhatchee Landing Resort is, you guessed it, situated on the waters of the Steinhatchee River. Perfect for anglers and nature lovers in general, the resort blends contemporary amenities, including a wellness spa, with the recreational opportunities only available in the great outdoors. The picturesque village even has a petting zoo for the kids and a croquet lawn, not to mention picket fences, a tidal creek, herb and vegetable gardens, wooden bridges and gazebos. Steinhatchee Landing is like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
While each of the cottages includes a full kitchen where guests can create their own meals, sometimes you just want to indulge a little. Several nearby restaurants are well-known favorites of both locals and visitors. Roy’s Restaurant, overlooking the river, has been a crowd-pleaser for more than 35 years and includes a complete selection of burgers and seafood, not to mention a fully stocked salad bar. Fiddler’s Restaurant has a full-service bar in addition to a full menu, and Mason’s market, the town’s quaint grocery, offers filling and tasty to-go lunches, perfect for families on their way to a day of outdoor excitement. Or you can stock up the cottage fridge and fend for yourself. The choice is yours, and that’s just one of the perks of the laid-back atmosphere at Steinhatchee Landing. Visit steinhatcheelanding.com for more information.
crazy for croom
Croom Motorcycle Area is an ATV-enthusiasts dream.
Photo by John Jernigan
Like your camping experience mixed with a little bit of adventure? A little bit of speed maybe? Croom Motorcycle Area, named one of the “10 Coolest Places in North America” by The World Wildlife Fund, is well-known throughout the ATV community. And rightfully so! With more than 2,600 acres of trails—some tame, some downright challenging—Croom draws ATV and motorcycle enthusiasts to the area from across the country.
And yes, you can camp here. The Buttgenbach Mine Campground, located southwest of Ocala near Brooksville, is a 50-site campground (complete with water and power hook-ups) shaded by 100-year-old pine and oak trees. The grounds feature space for both tents and RV campers and is located within the Croom Motorcycle Area, or CMA.
“Our campground is very unique,” says Forestry Supervisor I Mark Good, “in that it’s set up specificially for riders. You can literally drive out of your campground and have direct access to 2,600 acres of trails. We also provide wash stations to rinse off your bike after a day’s ride and the Red-Line Theater is an amphitheater that offers various forms of entertainment to our campers, including movies under the stars and special presentations.”
Any Croom fan will tell you, though, that the real draw is the trails and pits.
A series of winding trails connect throughout the park, creating more than 100 miles of turns, jumps and elevation changes. While some of the trails are maintained, the majority of riding areas at Croom are left in their natural state. Some are smoothed from the constant barrage of riders, while others are more difficult to handle.
Croom is frequented by world-class racers who often set up camp on the grounds to prepare for upcoming competitions. Travis Pastrana, Ricky Carmichael, J.T. Bennet and Bubba Stewart are just a few of them.
“Travis told me Croom is his favorite spot in the world to ride,” says Mark. “He’s very supportive of the facility and has been coming here and riding the trails since he was a kid.”
And then there’s the sand pit. No mention of CMA would be complete without highlighting The Sand Hill Day Use Area, aka “The Front Pit.” This mining-pit-turned-ATV-park is an enthusiast’s dream. Just like the trail areas of Croom, the Front Pit’s degree of difficulty varies from beginner level to expert. Perfect for spectators, too, this area is composed of clay mud and deep sugar sand and boasts nearly a full square mile of sand dunes, turns, berms and jumps. So grab your tent (and your ATV keys) and prepare for a few days of daytime thrills and nighttime relaxation. Check out croommotorcyclearea.com or call (813) 442-1678 for permit details.
a treetop oasis
Get back to nature (literally) as a guest in Club Florida’s Treetop Yurt.
Photo courtesy of Club Florida
Imagine camping under a giant umbrella, surrounded by panoramic views of lush treetops. You roll over and spot a cardinal on a nearby branch, joyfully announcing the morning. You’re close enough to reach out and touch it. Did we mention that you’re sleeping on a platform some 11 feet above ground, nestled in the treetops? Don’t worry, this one-of-a-kind yurt is surrounded on all sides by floor-to-ceiling screens, ensuring you won’t accidentally roll out, and that bugs and other critters won’t roll in.
Situated at the edge of a quarry that fills and empties along with the Santa Fe River in Gilchrist County, the Sunrise Oasis yurt, owned by Club Florida, is surrounded by four acres of primitive landscape.
“You won’t find another yurt like it anywhere in the world,” says owner Virginia Seacrist.
Designed and built from scratch by Virginia’s sons Patrick and Jonathan, the yurt was finished in 2004. Since then, it’s been featured in newspapers across the state and was recently named in Florida Monthly magazine’s “Where To Stay And Play” list for 2010.
So what exactly is a yurt? Well, according to yurts.com, it’s a round, domed shelter originally used by nomads across Central Asia. Intrigued? You should be!
Two separate platforms make up this tree house yurt, the first of which is just four feet off the ground. The 16-by-16-foot space includes a relaxing spot to sit and enjoy the view, a dining table, a two-burner propane stove, a cooler, a dishwashing tub and soap, and a 50-gallon rain barrel for dishwashing, not to mention flatware, a coffee pot and other cooking supplies. For a nominal fee, Virginia will even supply you and your group with five gallons of drinking water. She really has thought of everything.
A quick climb up an attic-style ladder leads guests to a trap door in the floor of the yurt’s upper sleeping level, which includes four two-inch sleeping mats and a queen futon mattress. A look up reveals the underside of the huge umbrella-like structure and the circular plexiglass dome—perfect for allowing the soft moonlight to filter through at night.
“The yurt is completely environmentally sound,” says Virginia. “We didn’t remove any trees when building the structure, it features a composting toilet and we only allow hand-powered boats on site.”
Virginia is quick to point out that the use of two hydrobikes is included in the rental price, though.
Club Florida Vacation Rentals also operates several other vacation sites in the area, such as a bed and breakfast and a nearby cabin. For details, visit clubfla.org.
The City By The Bay
All cities are born of necessity. A train stop begets a town. An industry attracts a city around itself. It’s only fitting that San Francisco sprung from gold. So idyllic, so captivating, this city by the bay, which boomed during the California gold rush, is the gem of the Pacific Coast. With its beautiful foggy harbor, charming cable cars and sloped streets, San Francisco is an enchanting place with something for everyone.
Much of the action in San Fran seems to center around Fisherman’s Wharf on the water. This quaint district, which juts out on the coast between the Golden Gate and Oakland Bay bridges, is a perfect focal point for a first visit. Take your pick of the restaurants here, but be sure to hone in on the seafood. Franciscan Crab Restaurant and Alioto’s are perennial favorites. For dessert, there’s nearby Ghirardelli Square for chocolate lovers. You can’t miss it. Just head toward the iconic “Ghirardelli” sign gracing the skyline.
Whatever you do in San Francisco, make sure you get out on the water for a while. Whether it’s riding the ferry to Alcatraz Island off the coast, stepping onto a docked historic ship at Hyde Park Pier or embarking on a whale-watching tour, your visit won’t be complete otherwise. Speaking of wildlife, the Aquarium of the Bay, which showcases thousands of marine animals, is a real treat as is a walk to Pier 39 to watch the barking sea lions piled up on the docks.
When you head further inland toward downtown, be sure to check out the famously crooked Lombard Street, the largest and oldest Chinatown in the U.S. and Haight-Asbury’s Painted Lady Victorian homes. And if you only have time for one place outside of the city proper during your stay, make it Sausalito. The ferry is a scenic way to travel to this picturesque enclave, but you can also rent a bike and ride from Fisherman’s Wharf, across that mighty red bridge (all 1.7 miles of it) and into town. The shops in “America’s Amalfi Coast,” as the town has been called, are charming and perfect for souvenir-hunting.
As far as transportation goes overall, San Francisco International Airport is a dozen miles or so south of the city so plan on a short ride via shuttle or cab after your flight. Other than that, the city is walker-friendly and has, of course, those wonderful trolley cars, so no rental is necessary.
It’s virtually impossible to overstate the allure of San Francisco. There’s no place quite like it, and there’s a reason why Tony Bennett and millions of others have left their hearts there. You’ll see.
also see & do
The club Ruby Skye on Mason Street, Union Square for shopping and The Fillmore where The Doors, Hendrix and Pink Floyd once played.
Save: The Mosser Hotel on Fourth Street. Close to everything, including Union Square. themosser.com
splurge: The Argonaut Hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf. Fun, nautical-themed rooms with gorgeous views of the bay. argonauthotel.com
born on the bay Poet Robert Frost (1874), photographer Ansel Adams (1902) and actor Bruce Lee (1940)
Sources: sfcvb.org, flysfo.com, sausalito.org, sanfrancisco.com, fishermanswharf.org
The Windy City
Forty-five million people can’t be wrong. That’s the number of tourists who visited the Midwest’s crowning metropolis in 2008. More impressive than that is the fact that 11 Fortune 500 companies and countless other businesses managed to get a lot of work done all the while. Yes, this industrious city works hard, but it also knows how to play hard, making it an ideal travel destination for, well, millions.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better starting point for an inaugural Chicago visit than the Navy Pier. The expansive beauty of Lake Michigan is a must-see for tourists, and the pier is just the spot to enjoy it. Over eight million people visit the landmark each year, jetting off on boat rides from the South Dock, whirling around on the 15-story-tall Ferris wheel and breaking bread at the numerous waterfront restaurants.
Ah, food. Chicago is world-famous for its good eating, especially its pizza and hotdogs. The city’s famous deep-dish is at its finest at Lou Malnati’s, a family-owned eatery with five locations in Chicago alone. As far as dogs go, your Chicago trip won’t be complete without a stop at Wieners Circle in Lincoln Park. The only thing saltier than the hotdog here is the staff’s famously foul language. After one bite, though, you won’t mind the abuse. For higher-end fare, take a cue from our President and First Lady and make reservations at Spiaggia on North Michigan Avenue.
Live theater is as synonymous with Chicago as deep-dish pizza. The Chicago Theatre, with its legendary marquee (at left), as well as the Ford Center, the Goodman Theatre and several others comprise the Loop’s famed theater district and present fantastic productions all year long. The company “Broadway in Chicago” even offers behind-the-scenes access at some of the theaters. For laughs, don’t miss The Second City, which has graduated such talents as Gilda Radner, Tina Fey and Chris Farley. By the way, chicagoplays.com is an excellent resource for ticket discounts.
Chicago’s two-dozen-acre Millennium Park offers a welcomed respite for visitors after a long day of sight-seeing. The Frank Gehry pavilion there is spectacular to see in person and a regular site for outdoor concerts. Millennium is part of the greater 319-acre Grant Park, or “Chicago’s front yard,” which famously hosted President Obama’s election rally in 2008. If after some rest, you’re looking for more adventure (and don’t have a fear of heights), step out onto The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago. This glass floor 1,353 feet above the street lets you feel like you’re floating—or falling, depending on how you look at it.
Before you board your flight back home from The Windy City, be sure to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or at least have your photo taken in front of the ballpark’s familiar signage because nothing is more Chicagoan than a team that gets up, practices and competes despite 102 years since its last World Series championship. That’s a team after Chicago’s own heart.
also see & do
The Art Institute of Chicago’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections; Lincoln Park Zoo, the oldest in the country; and The Oprah Winfrey Show, although tickets involve online registration, phone calls, patience and luck.
Producer Walt Disney (1901), author Shel Silverstein (1930) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (1947)
save: Inn of Chicago downtown-close to Navy Pier and the Red Line. innofchicago.com
splurge: The Wit downtown-hip, modern and just steps from the Chicago Theatre. thewithotel.com
who knew? The Sears Tower is now the Willis Tower. Naming rights on the building expired in 2003 for department store chain Sears, and the change became official last year. It remains the country’s tallest building.
Sources: explorechicago.org, chicagoofficeoftourism.org, chicagoparkdistrict.com, navypier.com, secondcity.com
The Live Music Capital of the World
If the Lone Star State only conjures up images of boots and spurs and cattle ranches, it’s time to get Texas’ hip capital city of Austin. Nestled in the hills of Central Texas—with Dallas to the north, San Antonio to the south and Houston to the east—Austin is a stand-out destination in a state filled with big-personality locales. It’s home to incredible live music, beautiful weather and a funky Western vibe, a place that manages to keep one foot firmly rooted in its colorful past and the other striding toward the next big thing.
A sensible place to start here is at the capitol building itself. Although some states’ capitols aren’t worth the bother, Austin is an exception. Built in the 1880s, this striking Renaissance Revival structure—complete with a domed rotunda and a portrait gallery of the state’s governors—gives our own national capitol a run for its money.
You can’t talk about Austin for long without mentioning its world-renowned live music scene. Austin City Limits is a pretty tough show to catch live—tickets are free but the unscheduled, first-come, first-serve giveaways online don’t guarantee an actual spot in the audience. However, you always have access to the blues, country, rock and jazz pouring out from the more than 200 bars, dives and other music venues onto Austin’s streets.
Everybody has to eat, and in Austin, you don’t want to miss The County Line Bar-B-Q on Bee Caves Road. It’s quintessential Austin and has been around for decades. Shady Grove, just across the Colorado River from downtown, is another neat spot to grab a bite. Eating a burger and fries under the pecan tree on the restaurant’s patio, with the stringed lights above and old wagon wheels all around, is hard to beat. If you’re there on a Thursday around 8pm, you’ll catch an “Unplugged @ The Grove” concert, and do visit the famous Hippie Trailer on-site before you leave for a fun photo op.
Austin’s night scene is a blast. South Congress Avenue, or SoCo, is the place to be every first Thursday of the month. Loads of people mingle out on the street, shops stay open later and restaurants offer drink specials. This writer had a riotously good time nearby at The Aquarium On 6th (that’s 6th Street, another hot spot) a few summers ago. Not to worry, downtown isn’t only for the younger set. There’s always a comedy show to be had at renowned Esther’s Follies on 6th Street or a visit to the Austin Museum of Art on Congress.
Yes, when it comes to fun, Austin is certainly an equal opportunity provider. So don’t take that “don’t mess with Texas” slogan literally, and poke around this capital city any chance you get. It won’t disappoint.
also see & do
Congress Avenue Bats starting in the spring, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Barton Springs, Mexic-Arte Museum and Mount Bonnell, the cityís highest point
save: Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol, newly renovated and centrally located. starwoodhotels.com/sheraton
splurge: Lake Austin Spa Resort in Hill Country, the 2010 #1 Destination Spa in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler and a Top 10 Best Destination Spa in the World by Travel + Leisure. lakeaustin.com
donít forget SXSW!
That’s South By Southwest, the city’s premier music and film festival, scheduled for March 11-20 this coming year. Hotel rooms go fast for this one, so start planning now through sxsw.com.
Sources: austintexas.org, austincityguide.com, austincitylimits.org
The Palmetto City
Shrimp boils, plantation houses and magnolia blossoms—say the name Charleston and the imagination runs wild with vivid images of lowcountry living. Though not South Carolina’s capital, Charleston is a charming ambassador for the Palmetto State, and she’s a gracious host to the millions who enter her city limits every year.
It goes without saying that if you’re historically inclined, you’ll want to visit Fort Sumter here, site of the first shot fired of the Civil War. You can catch a 30-minute boat ride to the national park from either Liberty Square downtown or Mount Pleasant. A visit to Battery Park, at the southernmost tip of Charleston where the Ashley and Cooper rivers converge, is an antebellum history lesson unto itself. A walk along Rainbow Row downtown on East Bay Street is another peek at the past. The pastel-painted historic homes there make for terrific photos. Certainly put Boone Hall Plantation, located about 8 miles from downtown, on your list, too. The famous oak-lined drive there is breathtaking and very O’Hara-esque. The property itself has been producing crops for more than 320 years.
When you travel to Charleston, it’s best to ditch your diet altogether. Lowcountry cuisine is irresistible. For excellent seafood, head to Hank’s Seafood Restaurant on the corner of Church and Haynes streets. Or if you have an extra half-hour before dinnertime (this place can be hard to find), head for The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene in Mount Pleasant. The restaurant, which overlooks Shem Creek, serves up shrimp, oysters, crab, fish, you name it. If you head out even farther on Highway 17 from Mount Pleasant, you’ll find Seewee Restaurant—a converted general store with a tin roof that has the best fried shrimp, hands down.
If you require more refined dining, try McCrady’s where the James Beard Award-winning executive chef, Sean Brock, specializes in creative Southern cuisine using fresh, local ingredients. Our first President liked it well enough. Washington himself dined in the Long Room there. Yes, y’all, Charleston goes way back. High Cotton is great for steaks, and Poogan’s Porch has the best grits in town.
Don’t forget to shop at the Charleston City Market downtown. Any day of the week, start at Market Hall facing Meeting Street, which features vendors inside, and then make your way down Market Street toward the four blocks of open-air buildings filled with local wares. This shopping strip is a Charleston tradition and best of all, it’s open 365 days a year, from early morning to around dusk. If you’re in the mood for a little nightlife fun after all of that shopping and eating, head to The Pour House on Maybank Highway—a very cool little spot for live music.
No matter what you’re doing, in Charleston, you’ll always feel welcomed, enveloped in that distinctive ambiance of the Old South. This historic town is unmatched in its character and charm, and best of all, she’s not following any other city’s lead. This one’s all original.
also see & do
The South Carolina Aquarium, the Charleston Tea Plantation, producer of the only U.S.-grown tea, and the 1,500-year-old Angel Oak Treeólikely the oldest living thing east of the Rockies.
save: King Charles Inn downtown on Meeting Street. A nice Best Western that keeps you close to the action. kingcharlesinn.com
splurge: Charleston Place, also on Meeting Street. The spa there was recently named one of the top hotel spas by Conde Nast Traveler. charlestonplace.com
For 18 consecutive years, Charleston has been voted a top-10 U.S. travel destination by readers of Conde Nast Traveler. This year, it was number 2. Which city was number 1? See page 53.
Sources: charlestoncvb.com, boonehallplatation.com, mccradysrestaurant.com, angeloaktree.org
The Mile-High City
For the final destination of this Town & Country feature, we couldn’t do better than a city that marries big-city life and outdoor adventure. Perched a mile above sea level (you’re officially 5,280 feet up on the state capitol’s 15th step), Denver, Colorado, is both the gateway to the Rockies and a booming metropolis. Even the most ardent woodsman or woodswoman would be hard-pressed not to find something enjoyable here—from the spectacular views to the numerous outdoor activities just waiting to be tackled. Meanwhile, city folks can relish the art and culture of this dynamic capital.
If you’re itching to get out to those mountains just outside the city’s limits, coordinate a trip through Denver Adventures. Pick your poison—the crew offers skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, hiking and even snowshoeing. In fact, several fascinating attractions await in the Denver neighborhood of Golden, where Denver Adventures is based. Discover how they tap the Rockies at the MillerCoors plant there, travel back in time via the Buffalo Bill Museum and catch a concert at the magnificent Red Rocks Amphitheatre a little farther out in Morrison.
Back closer to town, you’ll want to spend some time shopping. You might have heard of Larimer Square and for good reason. This historic area is packed with top-end designer stores as well as other smaller, picturesque shops. If you have kids in tow or waiting for you back home, be sure to check out Wizard’s Chest on Fillmore Street. It’s 8,000 square feet of toys and games, and a magical stop for young ones and the young at heart. Also, make time to pop into Tattered Cover, a favorite bookstore (they still exist!) on 16th Street. Finally, you’ll need a Western shirt to remember your Denver visit by, so stop by Rockmount Ranch Wear on Wazee Street. Rockmount shirts are a favorite of celebrities, including Leno, Springsteen and Slash. Another way to remember the city is by purchasing a piece of art for your wall, and the dozens of galleries in the Art District on Santa Fe will help with your selection. The district is located around Santa Fe Drive and Kalamath Street, between Alameda and 12th avenues.
With 300 days of sunshine per year, Denver is the ideal place for outdoor dining, and the Buckhorn Exchange—the city’s original steakhouse—on Osage Street boasts a rooftop patio with spectacular views. If, inspired by the adventurous spirit of Denver, you’re looking for a bolder food choice, head to the very famous, award-winning restaurant The Fort for a buffalo steak. The adobe-style building alone is worth the price of dinner.
Sporty yet stylish, artsy and active—Denver just goes to show that town and country can happily coexist. There’s a balance. Apparently, you just have to go a mile up to find it.
also see & do
The U.S. Mint on Colfax Avenue, Dinosaur Ridge out in Morrison and the unparalleled Native American art collection at the Denver Art Museum.
save: The Courtyard on 16th Street-sensible stay in a beautiful, historic building downtown. marriot.com
splurge: Brown Palace, a downtown Denver landmark with a AAA Four Diamond rating since 1977. brownpalace.com
Actress Pam Grier (1949), comedian Tim Allen (1953) and singer India Arie (1975)
Denver’s first permanent structure was a saloon.
Sources: denver.org, thefort.com, rockmount.com, artdistrictonsantafe.com