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Our newest national park puts on its winter face for visitors

FAYETTEVILLE, West Virginia – The wave of approximately 1.4 million visitors who swept over America’s newest national park during its first year has subsided, and a quieter atmosphere has settled onto the vast acreage of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. It became America’s 63rd national park in December 2020.
December 31, 2021 • By Tom Adkinson

  new red river gorge bridge in winter

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Hoping for warmth and a nice fish on a Florida pier
CLEARWATER, Florida – Many a Florida visitor has had to bundle up in unexpectedly chilly weather, but this angler came prepared and is eager to make the acquaintance of a hungry fish, all under the watchful gaze of a nearby stoic pelican. The angler is on Pier 60 in Clearwater on Florida’s west coast.
Art of the edible kind in downtown Paducah, Kentucky
PADUCAH, Ky. – The fabric art at Paducah’s National Quilt Museum is known internationally, but not three blocks away is art of a completely different kind that has been building a reputation since 1873.
Nashville’s cascade of stone steps entices nature lovers, exercisers
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Ask a Nashvillian for directions to the Allée, and you may get a blank stare. However, if you ask for directions to the big stone steps in Percy Warner Park, you’ll get an instant spark of recognition.
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Pearl Harbor: 80 years ago and still with us
HONOLULU, Hawaii – Demographers and genealogists say a generation is approximately 25 years, which means Americans are at least three generations divorced from the trauma that occurred 80 years ago this month.
Grayton Beach: Nice dogs, friendly folks and a colorful three-eyed giraffe
GRAYTON BEACH, Florida – “Nice dogs, friendly people” is the phrase that residents of Grayton Beach enjoy using to describe this beach community. Visitors who stroll through its tiny commercial district might amend it to say “Nice dogs, friendly people and a colorful three-eyed giraffe.”
Sometimes you feel like a nut – as in a pecan
ALBANY, Georgia – Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it’s very likely that a pecan pie is in your future. There’s a good chance that pie’s signature ingredient came from a pecan tree not far from this town in southwest Georgia.
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Appreciating Tennessee’s Duck River as autumn lingers
CHAPEL HILL, Tennessee – When the temperature climbs to 75 in mid-November, kayakers and anglers face temptation often too great to resist. Will this be the last warm day of the year to paddle?
New Civil War statue in Tennessee town tells a "Fuller Story"
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – There’s a new Civil War statue in history-laden Franklin, one that’s been a long time coming – and probably not one you’d expect.
Preparing for the quiet time of year on Dale Hollow Lake
CELINA, Tennessee – The quiet months are settling in at Dale Hollow Lake, an impoundment of the Obey River that covers 27,700 acres of hollows in the mountain-and-valley terrain north of Cookeville, Tennessee.
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Biking to the sights in Louisville
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – The delightfully named LouVelo bike sharing system opens the door to pedal-powered exploration of the heart of Kentucky’s largest city. As in many cities, using the Louisville bike share system is easy.
Everyone nods in agreement at National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin – Meagan Pearson has gotten used to having hundreds of pairs of eyes constantly looking over her shoulder as she works.
Sculpture Milwaukee keeps adding art to downtown streets
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin – Every year since 2017, a crop of sculptures has sprung up in downtown Milwaukee to be admired by passersby strolling along city streets.
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A Kentucky distillery tour that’s not about whiskey
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Everyone knows you can tour whiskey distilleries in Kentucky. There’s a historic concentration of them in central Kentucky around Bardstown, and they now stretch from Owensboro on the western edge to Pikeville in the mountainous east.
Over and over and over and over and over the river
SMITH COUNTY, Tennessee – “Caney Fork River” is the answer to the trivia contest question of “What river does I-40 cross five times in the space of four miles in Middle Tennessee?”
Shades of Stonehenge at a Middle Tennessee state park
MANCHESTER, Tennessee – If we could transport ourselves back 2,000 years in what today is Middle Tennessee, it’s possible that ceremonial preparations were underway for the autumnal equinox.
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A bridge Lewis and Clark could not imagine
ASTORIA, Oregon – When the Lewis and Clark expedition finally reached the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River in November 1805, oceangoing sailing ships already were plying the Pacific.
10 strikes, and you’re out at Louisville Slugger Museum
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – You don’t have to know who won last year’s World Series, understand the infield fly rule or even know the distance between bases on a baseball diamond to thoroughly enjoy the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.
A casual beach conversation at Seaside, Oregon
The setting: Along the century-old promenade in Seaside, Oregon, a coastal resort town 80 miles northwest of Portland.
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Garnet, Montana: Quite ghostly, but not spooky at all
GARNET, Montana – If ghosts were real, and if ghost towns were inhabited by ghosts, then Casper the Friendly Ghost would be the perfect tour guide for Garnet.
Out for a walk on an Oregon portion of the 2,653-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail
MT. HOOD, Oregon – From this point, these two southbound hikers are only 2,108 miles from Mexico as they walk along a very well marked portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
Hot Springs celebrates 100 years as national park, 89 more of federal protection
HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas – A yearlong birthday party is in progress in central Arkansas, and there’s plenty of time for you to enjoy it.
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A breath of fresh air at Denver International Airport
DENVER, Colorado – The map of Concourse B at Denver International Airport seems like a tease – it offers an escape to the outdoors without clearing security, potentially making that long layover you were dreading more tolerable.
The Ox – open since 1883 with no lock on the door
MISSOULA, Montana – The Oxford Saloon & Café – the very name makes it sound slightly trendy or even a bit sophisticated. It is neither.
Welcome to the wilderness in the mountains of Montana
MISSOULA, Montana – There is no need to build thrill rides in Montana, not when you can begin a mountain hike with the bouncy, breezy walk on a suspension bridge leading into the Welcome Creek Wilderness.
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Escaping DFW to a Texas heritage farm and life in another century
GRAPEVINE, Texas – If you couldn’t see or hear the frequent takeoffs and landings of jet airplanes at DFW International Airport, it would be even easier to mentally transport yourself to the rural life of North Texas in the late 1800s on a five-acre parcel of land in Grapevine.
Finding laughs with West Virginia’s top artists and craftsmen
BECKLEY, West Virginia – Bits of post-lockdown freedom can generate some loosened inhibitions, such as when this visitor to a famous arts and crafts location in West Virginia decided she needed to have a showdown with an exquisitely sculpted Tyrannosaurus Rex. The competition was a draw.
Watch out for that levitating bridge in downtown Duluth
DULUTH, Minnesota – Beware on Lake Avenue in downtown Duluth. It’s possible for a portion of the street to levitate right in front of you. Mind you, it won’t happen terribly quickly or without warning, but it’s still strange to see approximately a block of roadway rise 120 feet into the air.
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Dukes Creek Falls: A splashingly nice North Georgia hiking destination
HELEN, Georgia – Tourists flock to the attractions, restaurants and shops of Helen, Georgia, a major destination in the mountains of North Georgia. Many of them, however, escape the hubbub of the tourist town for quiet destinations such as the trail that leads to Dukes Creek Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
BridgeWalk: Not your casual stroll in West Virginia
FAYETTEVILLE, West Virginia – Doug Coleman stands on a spot not any bigger than a yoga mat, gestures grandly out to the stunning West Virginia scenery and seems oblivious to the drop of 851 feet just inches from where he’s perched. Coleman is leading a tour along the underneath side of an engineering marvel, the New River Gorge Bridge.
Memphis is no Caribbean cruise port, so use your imagination
MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Travel is opening up, but it still will be awhile before large numbers of people are sunbathing on Caribbean cruise ships and strolling on Caribbean beaches. However, Memphis, a decidedly non-Caribbean destination, does have some slightly comparable activities at its 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park – if you have a good imagination.
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National park designation boosts visibility of West Virginia’s New River Gorge
FAYETTEVILLE, West Virginia – The spectacular New River Gorge is an overnight success – even though this rugged piece of southern West Virginia has been millions of years in the making. All it took was an act of Congress.
Cooperstown always is at bat for the Baseball Hall of Fame
COOPERSTOWN, New York – Was Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field where baseball was invented, as some people contend? Almost certainly not, but it’s a great tale in the lore of baseball.
Riding the rails – sort of – across America
The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly has introduced an outdoor asset to legions of Americans who formerly never gave a second thought to what becomes of a railroad route if the railroad doesn’t need it anymore.
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Taking a Sunday drive means more with dozens of new National Scenic Byways
At the same time Americans were waiting to get coronavirus vaccinations, the nation’s tourism got a shot in the arm, too. It came with selection of 34 new National Scenic Byways and 15 new All- American Roads, routes that carry travelers off the beaten path to view amazing vistas and access some of America’s treasures.
Morning beauty along Northwest Florida’s Gulf coast
WALTON COUNTY, Florida – The serpentine sweep of a coastal dune lake in near Grayton State Park in northwest Florida provides the setting for a modern-day treasure hunter to scout for the previous day’s lost coins, keys and rings.
It’s not really spying – it’s appreciating our fine feathered friends
CAPE MAY, New Jersey – Anytime is a good time to grab some binoculars, find your local Audubon Society chapter or call your local nature center and get introduced to birding, but spring and fall are especially good birding times at Cape May on the far southern tip of New Jersey.
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Department store walls tell stories of Tupelo and Mississippi
TUPELO, Mississippi – The red brick walls of Reed’s Department Store at the corner of West Main and Front streets in downtown Tupelo tell two nuanced Mississippi stories. Facing West Main Street is a mural of a young Elvis Presley, while around the corner and facing Front Street is a mural of Mississippi’s state flag.
Tennessee prepares big birthday for 84 of state’s most scenic locations
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Roger McCoy is about to celebrate a 50th birthday in a big way – not his own, but the 50th birthday of a program that now protects 84 of Tennessee’s most notable locations. McCoy heads Tennessee’s Division of Natural Areas.
Hear Mother Nature roar at Great Falls, Virginia
McLEAN, Virginia – To see real power on a trip to Washington, D.C., forget the Capitol and the White House. Instead, go 15 miles up the Potomac River to Great Falls Park, where you quite literally feel the roaring power of Mother Nature
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‘One Nation Under a Groove’ at new African American music museum in Nashville
Driving trips are an early escape from the confinement of coronavirus travel limitations, and the Louisiana parishes (counties) along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge offer a culinary incentive in addition to the bliss of simply being out on the road. It’s the 34-stop Andouille Trail.
Enjoying a towering pyramid without a long flight to Egypt
MEMPHIS, Tennessee – You may never travel to Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, whose glory once reflected in a branch of the Nile River, but you certainly can get to the Pyramid in Memphis, which gleams in the sunshine right beside the mighty Mississippi River.
Go west, but not too far, to see some spectacular Western art
Go west, young man, and grow up with the country. That famous comment, attributed at least in part to newspaper editor Horace Greely in the mid-1800s, resonates in the Southeast right now, at least slightly. You can go west without actually traveling very far by visiting three nearby places to soak in some glorious art. Two opportunities are permanent, and one is as fleeting as the wind across the open prairie.
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Sampling a German sausage with a French name on Louisiana’s Andouille Trail
Driving trips are an early escape from the confinement of coronavirus travel limitations, and the Louisiana parishes (counties) along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge offer a culinary incentive in addition to the bliss of simply being out on the road. It’s the 34-stop Andouille Trail.
Come for Picasso, stay for some museum hopping around Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – In the year of a coronavirus epidemic, it was easier to ship 76 works of art by Pablo Picasso from Paris to Nashville than for you to travel the other direction. That’s what the Picasso Museum Paris, the largest public collection of Picasso’s works in the world, did when it sent an eye-popping collection to Nashville’s Frist Art Museum to mark the start of the Frist’s 20th anniversary year.
We can dream of a sunny Caribbean vacation, can’t we?
ARUBA – While all of the U.S. works to overcome the coronavirus pandemic and much of the U.S. is gripped in winter’s embrace, we at least can dream of Caribbean sun and sand and our eventual escapes. The pretend surfer here is outside a restaurant in downtown Oranjestad, the very walkable capital of Aruba, and the pandemic-appropriate beach is just a few miles away at the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts.
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Four stories frozen in bronze in Tennessee city

CLARKSVILLE, Tennessee – Statues across the nation have drawn much attention in recent years, and not always for good reasons, but several statues in this Middle Tennessee city are far from controversial.

Four in particular are popular with visitors because they celebrate pop culture, extraordinary athletic accomplishments and local history. All four are almost ready-made for selfies, and they are in outdoor locations where coronavirus concerns are minimal.

Wings up, wings down for 20 years at Milwaukee Art Museum

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin – 2021 marks the 20th year that the roof of the Milwaukee Art Museum has flapped like the wings of a graceful shorebird on the edge of Lake Michigan. Wind permitting, it is a piece of architectural performance art that happens every morning when the museum opens, at noon and in the evening when the museum closes.

Mardi Gras ain’t happening this year, but all’s not lost

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – This just isn’t the year for Mardi Gras revelry. Not in the New Orleans French Quarter. Not in Mobile, Alabama, where the locals are quick to tell you their Mardi Gras was the first in America. Not in St. Louis, where an impromptu parade with five guys a few decades ago has turned into an annual party drawing 500,000 revelers.

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Kayaking with manatees on Florida’s west coast
FORT MYERS, Florida – The Orange River is tiny, just 8.7 miles long, but it showcases some really big attractions every winter. Manatees, those docile, bulbous vegetarian sea mammals that can be 10 feet long and weigh 1,200 pounds, love this little river, especially the warm water that flows out of a Florida Power & Light Co. generating plant.
January 22, 2021 • By Tom Adkinson

6 freebies and 1 great year-round deal at America’s national parks
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns declared that national parks are “America’s best idea.” They are, and for six days this year, admission is free at the roughly one-fourth of them that charge an entrance fee. The freebie days are scattered through the year. The schedule starts this month – January 18 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and stretches until November 11, Veterans Day.
January 15, 2021 • By Tom Adkinson

Shades of Vincent van Gogh every night in Clarksville, Tennessee
CLARKSVILLE, Tennessee – Clarksville certainly doesn’t play on the same field as New York City, but this mid-sized Middle Tennessee community and the Big Apple have something in common – the art of Vincent van Gogh.
January 8, 2021 • By Tom Adkinson
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On guard in St. Augustine through war, peace and pandemic Why is there a pelican statue in a landlocked Tennessee state park? It’s time to party in New Orleans, but stay in your car! Ol’ Man River sings to you down on the levee in Baton Rouge

Brown-Lanier House
Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument added to National Park System
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train ridesExperience a train ride into river gorges, through historic tunnels, and along some of the most beautiful landscapes in America
Journey through the Carolina Mountains and some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Ride into river gorges, across valleys, and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains. If you have been waiting to ride a train behind a century-old steam locomotive, here is your chance. Ride along one of the original railroad lines in Chattanooga, crossing four bridges and passing through pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel, which was completed in 1858 and on the National Register of Historic Places.
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pickwick belleTennessee Riverboat Cruises: Romantic Cruises or Family Adventures
Tennessee offers a variety of leisure riverboat cruises on its waterways. Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis all have riverboats or steamboats to take you on Tennessee rivers to view beautiful scenery and wildlife, enjoy live entertainment and a great meal, or learn about the history of the Civil War in our great state. Archaeological evidence along the cruise routes tells the stories of the various Native American cultures who inhabited this river valley for over 10,000 years. Cruise in the wake of the early pioneers who had to overcome rapids, shoals, whirlpools and the formidable Chickamaugas. See the famous Body Farm. Pause and reflect in remembrance of the many that perished on the Trail of Tears.
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