We've all been there. A place that's clogged with so many tourists that the first reaction is "get me outta here!" Be that as it may, there are a few tourist attractions in the South that both bear and wear their title well – and definitely merit a visit. Muster the courage, block out the noise, and you'll be rewarded with an enlightened experience of the South. Click through the photo gallery above for our picks, from 10 to one!
RELATED: Best of the South
RELATED: Southern literary destinations
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A longtime travel journalist, Libby chose her beautiful city after a nationwide search for a new hometown. Greenville's amazing downtown, four mild seasons, varied terrain, friendly residents and countless nearby waterfalls made it a winner.
Libby previously spent 20 years in Florida, what she calls “the only place in the world where you drive north to reach the South.”
An avid college football fan, Libby has deep ties to the University of Oklahoma but graduated from rival Texas. She’s lived in Austin, Boston, Nashville, San Francisco and Captiva Island, Florida, including 4 happy years on a houseboat.
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Ken Burns sat down with USA TODAY and shared some of the secrets of America's national parks. Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan are the creators of the PBS documentary "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," available via ShopPBS.org.
USA TODAY 10:16 a.m. EDT September 29, 2014
With more than 4 million visitors a year, the park's services fill up quickly. Be sure and make reservations for everything.(Photo: National Park Service)
Even at a place as famous as the Grand Canyon, there are still secrets to discover. The biggest one comes down to the old real estate adage, "location, location, location."
Most viewers take in the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. But the view is equally spectacular - and less crowded - from the north.
Either way, filmmaker Ken Burns says in the video above, "I think you'd have to be a pretty jaded human being" to view the Grand Canyon "and not go 'Oh my God'."
Once you've checked out the view from above, head below - to the Colorado River for an 11-day boat trip through the canyon.
GRAND CANYON PARK GUIDE: What to do, where to stay and more
Or, you may shun the crowds all together.
"One of the [other secrets of the Grand Canyon] is to just go off on another trail, and not see another human being for hours and hours," Burns says.
As co-creator of the PBS series The National Parks: America's Best Idea, Ken Burns and his team spent months filming in national parks across the United States.
Burns sat down with USA TODAY for a special 10-part series, "Secrets of the National Parks."
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: Redwood and Sequoia | Arches | Volcanoes | Shenandoah | Glacier | Great Smoky Mountains | Rocky Mountain | Yosemite | Yellowstone
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A diamond may be a girl's best friend but a women's-only getaway in the Caribbean is worth gold.
Girls just wanna have fun at the Hilton Barbados starting with a mani, pedi and mimosa-fueled 'Girlfriends Retreat' in the Prime Minister's uber-spacious suite. When the sun sets, dining with the Chef at the 'Fancy Dress Up' dinner at the Grille Restaurant is perfect for those who packed heels while 'Tea Party by the Pool 'is flip-flop friendly for the whole gang. More Bajan bonding awaits with happy-hour jazz trios, outdoor massages, shopping in Bridgetown and rooms with rates that won't break the bank. www.hiltonbarbadosresort.com
Nothing makes gal pals happier than a hip lobby bar, funky faux-beach with real sand, casino, swishy spa and shopping a short stroll away. In the pretty capital city of Willemstad, Renaissance Curacao is wooing the girls with a 'Spa Getaway' that includes plenty of pampering at the Babor Beauty Spa. (Note to BFF's: two besties can easily share one room). http://www.marriott.com
A short drive from the resort, a pedicure at Amazonia is not for the squeamish (or ticklish) as tiny 'doctor fish' on an exfoliating mission nibble away at your feet. The vibrations as the fish ready your feet for sandal season will make the ticklish howl with laughter. Pedicures last from 5 minutes to 20 and will cost US$1 dollar a minute. www.amazoniacuracao.com
It may not be the fast track to fabulous but you'll have fun trying with a soak in the Diamond Mineral Baths where Napoleon Bonaparte's wife Josephine reportedly spent her days. The baths are one stop in on the Island Routes' "Soufriere Fountain of Youth" tour, but the day only gets better with a sail past the awesome Pitons and Anse La Raye, where the fish fry is held on weekend nights. The seven-hour outing takes the ladies on a rainforest walk, for lunch at The Old Mill with the only working water mill in the Caribbean, a dip in Marigot Bay and shopping in Castries. For the groovy girls in the crowd, St. Kitts Music Festival heats up the island from June 26 to June 28 with top-shelf performers like Trini soca superstar Machel Montana and Puerto Rican merengue king Elvis Crespo. www.stkittsmusicfestival.net
For gaggles of pals who won the lottery or want to vacation like they did, Calivigny is the priciest private isle in the Caribbean with nightly rates (yes, per night) starting at USD$30,000 (that's four zeroes). Surrounded by six beaches, the island rents to just one group at a time with options that include the 10-suite Beach House that sleeps 20 for US$52,000 per night; Overhang Residence at US$42,000, per night for up to 18; and three over-the-top Beach Bungalows that fit 12 and can be yours for US$30,000 per night. A quick hop from Grenada either via boat or small plane, extras are outrageous like a grand piano, gigantic moveable movie screen and for serious celebrating — a fireworks display just for the girls. www.calivigny-Island.com
Open late for night owls. Check. Baccarat tables for high-rollers. Check. Fruity Aruba Ariba cocktails. Check. Cigars to celebrate a lucky roll of the dice. Check. A clanging whirlwind of slot machines, big-wager games, roulette wheels and poker machines, the casino at the Hyatt Regency Aruba on Palm Beach is party-central. Chic on the beach, there's massages at the new ZoiA Spa, slew of water sports and people-watching at the Alfresco Bar. http://aruba.hyatt.com
There's a lot of shaking, rattling and rolling going on at Eden Roc at Cap Cana; Relais & Chateaux's first resort in the Dominican Republic. Suave instructors teach the ladies to dance the merengue and shake their maracas while gourmands pick up pointers in 'Olive Oil and Vinegar' classes with Executive Chef Gianluca Re Fraschini, who shows off his personal collection that he curates in the swanky Mediterranean restaurant. www.edenroccapcana.com/
Top of the hit parade for girlfriend getaways (and every other kind of getaway); Jamaica's Jerk Trail is a spicy pilgrimage that stretches from Negril to Port Antonio. Self-guided, the culinary trek stops at roadside stands and neighborhood restaurants like the wildly popular Scotchie's near the airport in Montego Bay, Bourbon Beach in Negril, Ultimate Jerk in Discovery Bay and Blueberry Hill near Port Antonio where the addictive seasoning that combines pimento berries, thyme, lime juice, and piquant scotch bonnet peppers was born. www.jamaicajerktrail.com. For an après-jerk chill-out, cocoon in a "Firm & Glow" anti-aging body wrap at the Red Lane at Sandals Royal Plantation; the all-butler resort with Jamaica's only champagne and caviar bar. www.sandals.com
For those who like their daily greens, it's a grand affair at Grand Isle on Emerald Bay in Great Exuma. The "Ultimate Tee Time at Ocean's Edge" is a three-night stay that includes play at the 18-hole Emerald Reef Golf Course, credits at Sea Star Spa (we recommend the full-body coconut rub and scrub) and dining poolside at the Palapa Grill. www.grandisleresort.com
Turks & Caicos Islands
Big girls won't cry during the "BFF Girls Getaway" from October 25-29 at Beaches Turks & Caicos. The all-inclusive is rolling out the red carpet with catamaran cruises, seaside yoga classes, massages, discounts in the gift shop, cocktails galore, hair-styling classes and — for the young-at-heart — pajama parties on the beach. www.beaches.com/bff
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For most vacationers, a cruise is all about sun, sand, sights and relaxation. But for those for whom the night is always young, many cruise ships also provide a big nighttime party scene.
Discos operate into the wee hours, slot machines clang in the casino, live musicians and DJs provide a beat – whether you want it mellow or pulsating. You can catch a show, laugh along to comedians or snuggle under a blanket outdoors for the cruise ship equivalent of a drive-in movie.
Here are the top cruise ships for nightlife.
Royal Caribbean: The line's ships all provide a non-stop nighttime scene, but the action is on steroids on the world's largest ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Watch a real Broadway show (on select ships) or head to the comedy club for laughs or the karaoke bar to show your skills. Try your luck at the Vegas-style Casino Royale or dance the night away with salsa at Boleros or in a multi-level disco, where celebrity scratch DJs host dance parties. The ships collectively also have ice skating shows, high-diving shows and nighttime parades featuring DreamWorks characters. On Quantum of the Seas, debuting in November, robots join the scene — as both performers and bartenders.
Ready to join the party? Talk to a travel agent for free, today!
Carnival Cruise Lines: The idea is something for everyone (except maybe people who like things quiet). Live musical acts are everywhere, clubs and bars in clusters so you can wander easily from one to another. The casinos have a glitzy decor (including a Hanging Gardens of Babylon theme on Carnival Freedom). Discos feature scratch-n-spin masters trained by DJ IRIE, official DJ for the Miami Heat. Funnyman George Lopez has a hand in choosing talent for the popular Punchliner Comedy Club, with multiple shows each night.
Celebrity Cruises: The nighttime scene on the line's stylish ships is being beefed up with new parties and the addition of Sin City, combining comedy and burlesque (on select ships). The non-smoking Fortunes Casino offers a good selection of table play and slots. Elsewhere, acrobats appear out of nowhere, including in atriums, and there are nightly shows in the main theater. The disco scene includes, on Solstice-class ships, opportunity to swing in a hanging bubble chair when you're not out on the dance floor.
Norwegian Cruise Line: With the best cruise ship casinos, according to Casino Player magazine, Norwegian also delights the nighttime crowd with some of the best parties at sea – including the popular White Hot Party. A big variety of clubs and bars include the sexy, outdoor Spice H20 and the cool Bliss Ultra Lounge, complete with bowling lanes on some ships. There are venues for comedy and jazz and blues, and the newest ships have the best singalong piano act at sea, "Howl at the Moon." You'll also find Broadway shows or musical reviews and such fun absurdities as Svedka Ice Bars (on select ships).
GO VIP: Dance all night in the best cruise ship discos
Princess Cruises: This is the line that invented Movies Under the Stars, shown outdoors on giant screens (now a feature on a lot of ships). On Royal Princess and Regal Princess, additional outdoor fun takes place around the main pool, equipped with fountains for nighttime water and light shows. A new, South Beach-style Night Sky Lounge is debuting this fall – it's outdoors at the Retreat Pool on Regal in the Caribbean. The casinos offer an array of slots and tables, and production shows, comedians, nighttime game shows, discos and live music keep the entertainment scene hopping.
Cunard:Yes there are shows in the wonderful Royal Court Theatre, comedians, live musicians and classy Monte Carlo-style casinos that see plenty of action. But the real nighttime scene involves dancing. Don't miss the real themed balls, where you can trip the light fantastic on the dance floor or just listen to the big band. For the late-night crowd, head from the ball to the disco – on Queen Mary 2 the surprisingly hip, two-level G32.
Crystal: Under the chandeliers of the sophisticated Crystal Casino on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, gamblers will find plenty of amusements. The flow is easy from there to the disco or a bar for a nightcap. The nighttime scene also includes ballroom-style dancing, production shows and entertainment provided by comedians, magicians and musicians. There's a karaoke scene on the luxury line too.
Disney: Disney ships have a surprisingly lively nighttime scene for adults. There are no casinos, but there are adults-only nighttime districts with a variety of clubs and bars. Discos are popular hangout spots and carefully themed – such as the London-inspired The Tube on Disney Fantasy. Other clubs feature blues singers, piano players and late-night comedy acts and, thanks to Disney's ESPN connection, sports fans will find live broadcasts at the popular O'Gills Irish pub/sports bars.
Costa:One word: Toga. The Italian line does toga parties and they are a blast (the crew tells you how to properly tie your sheet). Costa ships also have lively casinos and the kind of late-night disco scene you'd expect from an Italian line – the party doesn't get started until midnight. Entertainment is geared towards a multi-national crowd and includes live music. On the new Costa Delioza, the "ship of pleasure," which debuts in November, a new feature is a Country Rock Club.
ADULTS ONLY: Kid-free zones on cruise ships
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(Photo: St. Lucia Tourism Board)
There are only a few destinations in the world that are synonymous with romance, among them — Fiji in the South Pacific, Paris in Europe, Hawaii in the United States. In the Caribbean, the mantle of romance belongs to St. Lucia. The island destination has the dramatic scenery, sophisticated resorts and couple-friendly attractions lovers crave. Whether going to St. Lucia for a romantic getaway or a full-fledged honeymoon, St. Lucia delivers.
The island's charms include ease of access, with plenty of convenient flights from the USA; English-speaking locals, making it easy to communicate and strike up new friendships; and a compact geography, which encourages couples to rent a vehicle and explore St. Lucia on their own.
St. Lucia's iconic twin Petit and Gros Pitons — designated a World Heritage Site — are two volcanic mountains on the island's southwest coast. While some couples will be content to sit on their verandah with a cocktail and watch from afar as the Pitons reflect a glorious sunset, other couples will want to get a closer look. They'll have the option of taking a hike up Gros Piton, which soars 2,600 feet. The ascent to the top and back down takes about four hours of climbing over rocky terrain. The view is stunning from the summit and is sure to be a real bonding experience for lovers putting in the effort.
There are a number of ultra-romantic resorts in Soufriere on the south coast of the island, offering rooms and villas with superb views. Chief among these are Jade Mountain, Anse Chastanet, Ladera, and Fond Doux Resort & Plantation. While these properties tend to be on the pricey side, they're worth every penny, and will deliver an unforgettable lodging experience.
Chocolate has long been paired with romance, and lovers on holiday can choose to stay at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat. The boutique hotel has only 14 eco-chic cottages tucked away in a lush rainforest setting with views of the Pitons. This is an actual working chocolate plantation, and the cacao beans are grown on the adjoining Rabot estate. Chocolate aficionados will enjoy an immersive experience, with chocolate appearing on the menu, in cocktails and even in spa treatments. There's also a three-hour tour called Tree to Bar Experience, which claims to make guests into instant chocolatiers. They'll see how chocolate is grown and then make their own chocolate bars. Guests at Boucan Hotel Chocolat can also feel good about the social aspects of the plantation, since the enterprise has stimulated the local economy of independent cacao growers.
Soufriere's Volcano and Sulphur Springs is one of St. Lucia's must see sights. Often described as the world's only drive-in volcano (don't worry, it's dormant) Soufriere can be somewhat under-whelming at first glance, offering not much more than steaming sulfur springs. The fun comes when lovers dig into the sulfurous mud and smear it on each other. After deriving the beneficial aspects from the fine gray mud, which is said to improve the skin, lovers can then head over to Diamond Waterfall, which cascades from a height of 50 feet. Diamond Waterfall was a key player in one of the scenes for the hit film Romancing the Stone, starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. While it's not permissible to swim at the actual waterfall, there are several pools where lovers can take a dip and enjoy rinsing the mud off each other. There's also the adjacent Diamond Botanical Gardens, which are perfect for an afternoon stroll after cavorting in the falls.
MORE: See the Caribbean's most amazing waterfalls
DON'T MISS: The 5 coolest things to do in St. Lucia
St. Lucia has a number of other waterfalls that make a perfect centerpiece for a day's hike. Toraille Waterfall has a drop of 50 feet. Here a couple can swim underneath the waterfall and get the full effect of the pummeling torrent of water. This won't be a secluded experience, since the falls are a hit with both locals and visitors. The upside to the popularity is the presence of a changing room and picnic tables.
Those looking for a more private experience can head over to the east coast of the island, to the town of Dennery. Here they'll find the much less-visited Sault Falls, one of the biggest on the island, with water hurtling 55 feet into a beautiful pool.
Thrill-seekers who have ventured all the way to Dennery and Sault Falls can keep the adrenaline flowing with a zipline adventure at Treetop Adventure Park. The ziplines take riders 80 to 400 feet along lines high above the rainforest canopy.
A more peaceful tour among the tree-tops can be had in Babonneau aboard the tram ride at Rain Forest Aerial Trams. The hour-long ride is accompanied by a guide who points out interesting facts about the island's biodiversity — all while lovers take in awesome views high above the lush landscape.
One of the most romantic ways to enjoy the island is from the deck of a catamaran and there are numerous operators offering daily sailings. Many of these combine a half-day sail with a half-day land tour of Soufriere. For the ultimate in romance, couples should opt for a sunset sailing, when the sky more often than not lights up in a Technicolor display as the sun dips into the sea. These evening sailings – depending on the operator – can combine an elegant meal with champagne and soca – St. Lucia's signature music.
MORE: Get some sun on St. Lucia's best beaches
ST. LUCIA: Picture-postcard island images
While all-inclusive resorts might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a romantic holiday, second thoughts are met and conquered by Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort, an all-inclusive resort in the northern part of the island. The resort has a prime location on a peninsula linking the mainland to Pigeon Island, a hill offering hikes leading to splendid sea views. Sandals Grande has lots of perks and amenities catering to lovers, including the Grande Rondoval Butler Suites with Private Pool Sanctuary, which have their own private pools right outside the door.
In the northern half of St. Lucia, couples have a variety of diversions, including the nightclub scene at Rodney Bay; the sprawl of local color in the capital city of Castries, especially the local produce market; and the street fair ambience of the Gros Islet Friday Night Fish Fry, which brims over with grilled island seafood, potent rum punch, hot music and lots of dancing in the street.
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The iHeartRadio Music Festival is rolling into Vegas this weekend. But what's a festival without some rockin' after-parties featuring high-profile hosts, artist-inspired drinks and celebrity DJs? Get ready to go all day and all night, because you're invited.
Official Kick-Off Party at HAZE Nightclub, September 18
Join the hottest pre-party celebration at ARIA Resort & Casino as DJ Prostyle and DJ Scene keep the party going all night. You may even see some of your favorite stars in attendance, so keep your eyes peeled. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. Must be 21 and over. Entry is $40 for men and $20 for women.
iHeartRadio Official After-Party at 1 OAK Nightclub, September 19
Watching electrifying performances by Taylor Swift, Usher, Coldplay and Motley Crue is just the beginning of your epic Friday night. Join one of iHeart's top pop artists, Ariana Grande, as she hosts the 1 OAK after-party at the Mirage and enjoy a specialty cocktail in her honor. For $17, you can sip on "The Grande Celebration," featuring Triple Sec, vodka, tequila, rum, gin and Coca-Cola. If you're feeling "Berry Fancy," channel your inner-Iggy and grab their 50 Bleu Vodka, Red Bull Blue Edition and sour mix concoction with fresh blueberries for $18. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. with the red carpet opening at midnight. Must be 21 and over. Entry is $50 for men and $30 for women.
iHeartRadio Official After-Party at HAZE Nightclub, September 19
Hold onto your Pharrell hats and high heels… There's a second official after-party for you to hit Friday night (it's just how we do). Get your music on at HAZE Nightclub at ARIA Resort & Casino. Special guests Nico & Vinz will host and perform their summer hit song, Am I Wrong?. Indulge in some "Trouble" — the Taylor Swift-inspired Casa Dragones Blanco, pineapple and grenadine fusion ($17) — while you rub elbows with CW stars and festival performers. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. with the red carpet opening at midnight. Must be 21 and over. Entry is $40 for men and $20 for women. HAZE will be closed to the public Saturday.
XS Nightclub with Skrillex, September 19
Are you more of an EDM and Dubstep lover? XS Nightclub at the Wynn will be your clubbing refuge. Join Grammy-winning producer and popular DJ Skrillex for a night of unforgettable pulsating beats. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Must be 21 or over. Entry for men is $30, $20 for women. Buy your tickets online.
Life Nightclub with Fatboy Slim, September 20
As the newest nightclub addition to the Strip, you can bet Life at the SLS Las Vegas has a few tricks up its sleeve for iHeartRadio weekend. Patrons have a chance to check out the funk soul brother himself, Fatboy Slim, Saturday night after the festival ends. You never knew nightclubs could get so funky. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. Attendees must be 21 and over. Upscale nightlife attire required. Male pre-sale tickets are $33 and female pre-sale tickets are $22. Buy your tickets online.
LIGHT Nightclub with Krewella and Tony Arzadon, September 20
As one of the most talked about nightclubs by 2013's iHeartRadio lineup, you can bet more than a few of this year's stars will make appearances at Mandalay Bay's LIGHT. The best part (you know, besides the choreography, avant-garde costumes and visual effects) are the celebrity DJs that call Light home. Krewella and Tony Arzadon will be playing sets on the closing night of iHeartRadio, and will surely make your weekend even more memorable. Must be 21 and over. Doors open at 10 p.m. Tickets for men are $53.86 and $27.08 for women, available online.
--Hilary Billings is a Las Vegas local, travel blogger, video host and Miss Nevada United States 2013. She was named Las Vegas Weekly's Best Blogger for 2013. For more on Hilary, follow her on Twitter @TheNomadGrad and on Facebook!
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Sharon McDonnell, Special for USA TODAY 8:03 a.m. EDT September 19, 2014
It's not all cheese and beer in "America's Dairyland," even if Cheese Days, one of the nation's oldest food festivals, marks its 100th anniversary this September. Its food and drink heritage draws from its large German, Scandinavian, Swiss and Polish immigrant populations.
Beer made Milwaukee, the state's biggest city, famous, and Wisconsin boasts over 70 craft and big breweries and brew pubs. A free tour at brewery giant MillerCoors Co. tells how German immigrant Frederick Miller founded Miller Brewing Co. in Milwaukee in 1855 (Miller later merged with Coors Brewing Co., founded by a German immigrant in Colorado in 1873), and ends with generous samples at the Bavarian-style Miller Inn. At Lakefront Brewery, a microbrewery and the nation's first certified organic brewery, you can dine on sausage and cheese boards, cheese-and-wheat beer soup and beer-battered fish in its Beer Hall, while the tour ($7) includes four pours, a keepsake glass and a coupon for a free beer at many Milwaukee spots.
Over 75 types of sausage are sold at Usinger's, a family-owned meat market founded in Milwaukee in 1880 by a German immigrant, from bratwurst and smoked Polish sausage to little links of pork sausage. (Recipes for a sausage/sauerkraut skillet dinner, cassoulet with pork, chicken and sausage, and more meals are on its website). But the "Bratwurst Capital of America" is Sheboygan, 55 miles north, settled by Germans in the 1860s, where Miesfeld's Meat Market sells 400+ meat items and 50 bratwurst varieties, plus house-made BBQ sauces.
Over 600 types of cheese and other dairy products are produced in Wisconsin – more than any other state – including award-winners like Carr Valley Cheese in La Valle, who scored eight first- and second-place awards in the 2014 American Cheese Society competition. Cheese Days celebrate the Swiss heritage, dairy farming and cheese-making tradition of southwest Wisconsin -- begun by Swiss immigrants in 1846 -- on September 19-21 in downtown Monroe. A parade led by cows decked in bells and flower wreaths -- just like in Switzerland, when brought down from the mountains in grazing season -- yodeling, Alphorn-playing, a cow-milking contest, tastes of 50 different cheeses – plus treats like gourmet grilled cheese, Limburger cheese sliders and cheesecake – dancing, Swiss choirs and children's activities are on the agenda.
SEE MORE: Chase the Wisconsin cheese trail
Tart Montmorency cherries are served in many ways in Door County, a peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan and the nation's fourth-biggest cherry producer. Cherry pie – fresh-baked, fruit-heavy, made with four cups of cherries, sweetened with all-fruit jam – is the most popular choice at Sweetie Pies, a local pie shop. Salmon, charbroiled and smothered in cherry BBQ sauce, is yummy at Alexander's, a fine-dining restaurant. Cherry jam, salsa, vinaigrette, chocolates and wine are sold at Orchard Country Winery & Market – and you can pick your own cherries. (All are in Fish Creek.) Sip cherry wheat beer at Shipwrecked Restaurant, Brew Pub & Inn, a B&B (a bed'n brew with eight rooms) in Egg Harbor.
A "fish boil" in Door County is a legacy of 19th-century Swedish and Norwegian settlers who cooked fish over a wood fire. Today, after chunks of whitefish and potatoes are cooked in a huge cauldron over a bonfire outdoors, kerosene tossed on the flames creates a dramatic conflagration, and makes the fish oils boil over. The fish is served with butter, lemon, cole slaw and home-made bread at White Gull Inn, a 1896 white clapboard inn in the suitably-named Fish Creek, four nights a week May-October, and Friday nights in other seasons. A "Fish Fry," seen on Friday night menus state-wide, means beer-battered, deep-fried perch, walleye, cod or haddock, with sides of cole slaw and potatoes or potato pancakes, and recalls brewery-owned taverns frequented by Germans and Poles. Norwegian fish specialties, like herring and lutefisk, are found in towns with big Norwegian populations, like Stoughton.
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Larry Bleiberg, Special for USA TODAY 7:55 a.m. EDT September 19, 2014
Humpback whales are often seen near the Farallon Islands, Calif., about 30 miles west of San Francisco.(Photo: WWF)
Have all those TV nature shows inspired you to see the real thing? With just a little planning, travelers can quite easily make their way to wildlife hotspots, says Jim Sano, a vice president with the World Wildlife Fund. "If you get on a trail and walk a mile or so, the likelihood of seeing wildlife goes up dramatically," he says. And don't be shy about talking to park and refuge rangers. They know their area the best, and can share where animals are likely to be found. Sano, a former National Park Service naturalist, shares some top places to see animals in the wild with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Travelers can get remarkably close to black bears and grizzlies in this corner of southeast Alaska. "Bears are a flagship species," Sano says. But it's necessary to time your visit to the salmon runs, because the bears are drawn to streams to catch the fish. "That will stack the deck so that you'll see an iconic wildlife scene." 907-246-3305; nps.gov/katm/index.htm
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Bald eagles abound at this 27,000-acre preserve on Maryland's Eastern Shore, which boasts the largest breeding populations of the raptors on the East Coast north of Florida. The property is also a major wintering area for migrating birds and as many as 50,000 geese, ducks and tundra swans stop over during October and November. There are also whitetail and sika deer, and the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel. 410-228-2677; fws.gov/blackwater
Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming and Montana
With the largest concentration of animals in the Lower 48 states, it's so easy to see animals at this national park that you sometimes don't need to leave your car. But Sano suggests parking and hiking for just a mile or so. Yellowstone's bounty includes bear, deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, lynx and wolverines. 307-344-7381; nps.gov/yell
This Pacific island group about 30 miles west of San Francisco teems with sea life, including great white sharks and orcas. "We were just out there and we were surrounded by humpback whales for three hours and they were sticking their heads out of the water just a few feet away," Sano says. 415-561-6625; farallones.org
Glacier National Park
Along with stellar scenery, this park is known for its bighorn sheep population. "I've seen them from the road," Sano says. The park service counts 66 different types of mammals, of all sizes, including grizzlies, lynx, cougar and elk. 406-888-7800; nps.gov/glac
Captain Cook National Monument
Just offshore of a monument honoring famed British explorer Captain James Cook, wildlife lovers will find incredible sea life. "It's like swimming in an aquarium. There's sea kayaking in that area, and spinner dolphins. You can almost count on (seeing them)," Sano says. "It is at the top of my list as a marine experience accessible to the average person." hawaiistateparks.org
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Visit in mid-September to see thousands of monarch butterflies on their annual migration across the continent to Mexico. A few weeks later the same butterflies can be seen winging their way across Texas. "It's a natural wonder, totally amazing," Sano says. Other migration paths follow the East and West coasts. During the refuge's Monarch Mania, scheduled for Sept. 20, visitors can catch, tag and release the colorful insects and see others in an enclosed pavilion. 620-486-2393; fws.gov/refuge/quivira/
Everglades National Park
Visitors will have no trouble spotting alligators at this vast southern Florida preserve. The reptiles are easily spotted from the short Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm Visitors Center. But there's much more to see in the vast wetlands and swamps. "If you can get out in a boat and into the park, your chances of seeing a more varied array of wildlife and birdlife are far greater," Sano says. 305-242-7700; nps.gov/ever
While moose are found all across Maine, the state's biggest lake is thick with the majestic mammals. Regular moose tours and private moose safaris take visitors by van or canoe into the great North Woods to see the animals in their own habitat. The creatures can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and stand nearly seven feet tall. 888-876-2778; mooseheadlake.org
Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge
For wildlife with wings, it's hard to beat this preserve in far northeast California, a stopping point for 80% of the birds migrating along the Pacific flyway. "There can be at any time one million birds in the refuge. It's quite stunning and a place most people have never heard about," Sano says. Refuge visitors include several species of Canada geese, which spend the summer in the Arctic. fws.gov/refuge/tule_lake
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Summer may be over, but that doesn't mean that camps aren't still going strong – for adults, anyway. Throughout the USA, camps are available to make just about any of your dreams come true, from car racing to rocking out to wine tasting and so much more. Who says adults can't be happy campers, too?
Start Your Engines
Dream Racing's two-day Ready to Race experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway puts drivers behind the wheel of a race-ready Ferrari 430 GT, or if they'd rather, a McLaren, Lamborghini, or Porsche. Over the course of the program, campers will attend briefings and training, culminating in a 30-lap race.
NASCAR fans can go on the rides of their lives during the Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp in Charlotte, N.C. Three full days are spent exploring the heart of NASCAR country, including meeting NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Inman, VIP treatment in a luxury trackside suite at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500 Spring Cup Series, and getting behind the wheel themselves at local tracks.
Step into the Spotlight
Imagine it: At the very moment the spotlight shines, you tear into a guitar solo for the ages. Off to your side, one of the greatest of all time joins in – Dave Navarro or Slash, to name a few. Or you belt out a powerful rock ballad, harmonizing with the likes of Steven Tyler, Gene Simmons, Joe Walsh and more. No, you aren't dreaming – you're at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. Throw on your leather jackets and grab the hair spray – you're ready to rock!
Rather camp like a star than perform? Exit stage left to the Shooting Star RV Resort near Utah's Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Settle into an Airstream – decorated a la "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Some Like It Hot," "Viva Las Vegas," or "Breakfast at Tiffany's" – and let Mother Nature do the performing, with 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest.
Make the Team
Loads of pro sports teams host fantasy camps, giving diehard fans the chance to take to the field alongside their favorite players. Among Major League Baseball teams are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, LA Dodgers, Colorado Rockies and scores of others. Football fans can hit the gridiron with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, to name a few.
Dreamt of being an Olympic athlete, but didn't quite make the cut? You can still train like one at a handful of camps around the country. USA Luge Fantasy Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., is led by a team of national coaches and Olympic medal winners, including 1998 silver medalist Gordy Sheer. The USA Basketball Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas combines hardcore training with the best coaching, all to prepare campers for a championship game. Swimmers go for the gold at USA Swimming Fantasy Camps in Colorado Springs, led by the world's top swimming coaches. Olympic gold medalists are there too, to share their tips and experiences with campers.
If wearing the Tour de France's yellow jersey has been a lifelong dream, join the peloton via the XD Cycling Camps with George Hincapie in South Carolina. Led by former pro-cyclist George Hincapie, who himself completed 17 Tours de France and five Olympic Games, cyclists wind their ways through the challenging, picturesque climbs of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Riders live like elite cyclists over the five-day camps, complete with massage therapy, gourmet meals and nightly training group discussions.
Perfect your swing with the best at ANNIKA Academy in Orlando, founded by Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam. During the three-day "Soren-Slam," golfers receive pointers from Annika, as well as her swing and fitness coaches, and tee up with the 10-time major champion on the greens.
Ready to hit the slopes? Sign up for Fantasy Ski Camp at Four Seasons Jackson Hole. The six-night camp features skiing in the backcountry, off the back of the tram and in Grand Teton National Park. One-on-one time with Teton Gravity Research Athlete and Exum Mountain guides will amp up your technique to make the most of your time out on the powder.
Take mountain climbing to the next level – ice climbing. Chicks with Picks' Sampler Women's Ice Climbing Clinic fills three days with technical skills sessions and loads of climbing at Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colo., known as the "Switzerland of America." All of the groups' clinics are perfect for climbers of all skill levels.
Tempt Your Tastebuds
Have your cake – or, rather, pie – and eat it, too, at Upper Crust, a delicious pie and cookie camp in western Montana. Over the course of three days, "pie whisperer" Kate McDermott and James Beard 2012 Outstanding Pastry Chef in the Country Mindy Segal share their secrets to making sweet and savory treats. New York Times photographer Andrew Scrivani is on hand, too, to lead campers through lessons in food photography.
Oenophiles, or anyone who enjoys a nice glass of wine, will want to take note of the Adult Wine Camp in the Sierra Foothills and the Sonoma County Grape Camp. In addition to tastings and pairings, campers get their hands dirty in the vineyards, stomp grapes and blend their own wines, toasting to a better understanding of the wine-making process.
Adventure is Calling…
Channel your inner-Indiana Jones and work side by side with paleontologists during the Mammoth Site Excavation & Preservation Program in South Dakota. For two weeks, campers unearth fossils, from the tiniest fragments to the largest mammoths.
If Jack Bauer is more your speed, MissionX's one- and two-day adventures may appeal to you. Making their U.S. debut in Georgia this fall and led by special ops teams (think Delta Force and British SAS), these adventures push campers to their limits, from escaping a three-story building to finding their ways out of submerged cars and many more harrowing scenarios.
For even more adventure, get into the wild and learn how to survive during a course with the Bear Grylls Survival Academy in New York's Catskills, Yosemite National Park and the Colorado Rocky Mountains. What's more, it can be a family affair – learn useful life and outdoor skills that are useful in everyday life. Activities may include river crossing, fire building, water purification, building emergency shelters, rope skills and much more. Go ahead, get wild.
… Not That You Have to Answer
For some, simply getting away and setting their own schedules is a dream come true. The Creative Me Time Retreat in California's central coast provides visitors just that – the freedom to do as they choose, from hiking and reading, to taking a creative class or indulging in a much-needed nap. The options are endless ... or not.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Travel |