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Four National Parks for the vacation do list

 

Memorial Day is almost here. If you haven’t figured out where to spend some of you summer vacation days think National Parks.

Sure there are the ones you always hear about out west – and they are definitely worth visiting. But expand your horizons to other areas of the country.

Check out the National Park Service website for places you can get to in, say, a day and half with Find a Park.

To get you started here are some choice NPS destinations doable from Chicago ranging from an island and dunes to forests and mountains..  BTW April 20-28, 2019 is National Park Week.

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Indiana Dunes

Just around Lake Michigan, a little more than half an hour from Chicago next to Porter IN, the fomer Indiana Dunes State Park was recently given National Park status.

Extending 15 miles around the southern part of Lake Michigan, the park is a birders destination, but with 50 miles of trails, this is also a great place to hike if you like dunes, water views, forests, prairies and even rivers.

For visit tips see and stop at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, 1215 N. IN Hwy 49, Porter, IN 46304. For information call  (219) 395-1882 or (219) 926-2555 and visit NPS Plan.

 

Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)

Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You know about traffic jams but if you drive through this national park you will likely encounter “bear jams,” the phrase the locals use to characterize the stopping of cars to take photos when bears cross the road.

A second item to know if you go is that Gatlinburg, where you may start your park tour, is home to a large artists community. So save time to do “The Loop,” the eight-mile Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.

In the park visit the Mountain Farm Museum, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, or the Roaring Fork area to see farms, churches and homes built by early settlers. You might see black bear, white-tailed deer and turkeys crossing the road or at Cades Cove and Cataloochee.For sweeping mountain views drive up Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap.

The Park Headquarters is at 107 Park Headquarters Road,  Gatlinburg, TN 37738. For more information call (865) 436-1200 and see NPS Plan Your Visit. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is about 585 miles (about a 9.5 hour drive) from Chicago.

 

Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Isle Royale National Park

If looking for a breath-taking, backpacking, boating or fishing experience check out Isle Royale, MI , a National Park island in Lake Superior. Wheeled vehicles not allowed. Camp out or snag a room at Rock Harbor Lodge.

Drive to a departure town such as Houghton, Michigan about 400 miles from Chicago and 200 miles north of Green Bay WI. Visitors then take the NPS’ Ranger III boat over to the Isle. Different boats go from other towns.

Transportation services go there from Houghton and Copper Harbor, Michigan and Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Houghton is off of US-41 at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula. For more information and tips visit NPS Plan. For Houghton and Isle Royale info call (906) 482-0984.

 

Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo

Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The park is beautiful any time of year. Visit in the fall to do its Pierce stocking Scenic Drive or in the winter if you like to snow shoe. Or visit in the spring when birds and wild flowers fill the woods. Come back in the summer to hike or bike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The park’s Port Oneida Rural Historic District features late 1980s farm life and crafts.

Do climb the immense sand dunes. The dunes at Sleeping Bear, town of Empire and at Pyramid Point are on bluffs about 400 feet above Lake Michigan.

The clue about what to see and do is the word Lakeshore. There are 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline plus inland lakes and streams. Park Headquarters are at 9922 Front St., Empire, MI 49630 Park Headquarters call (231) 326-4700 or try the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center (231) 326-4700, ext. 5010. See NPS Visit to plan the trip.

Adjacent towns such as Glen Haven, and Leland further north on the Leelanau Peninsula, are fun to visit. So is boating out to South Manitou Island for its lighthouse.  The park has campgrounds. Click here for accommodations and attractions and to plan your visit. Add a couple of days to visit the wineries and towns on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is about 331 miles, about 5 1/2 hours, from Chicago.

 

 

 

Tulip Time returns to Holland

Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)

Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)

After a bruising winter it’s time to go to a town that celebrates brightly colored flowers with dancing, art, music and windmill-ground flour. No passport needed.

It’s Holland, MI where everything Dutch is celebrated year ’round but where when May comes tulips line the streets and the town is in festival mode.

Plan now to visit because accommodations fill fast. Tulip Time is May 4 through May 12, 2019. Week days are  less crowded but to catch the events you want, check the schedule.  To see the schedule visit Tulip Time events.

Dutch dances begin May 2, Tulip Town Tours, the artisan market and Art in Bloom, Tall ships, Tulip Time Quilt show are May 4.  But many of these events continue through the festival.

 

Tip: Don’t limit your time to just the main festival site.

Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)

Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)

My favorite stop is Windmill Island Gardens on the edge of the downtown.   It has a real, from-Holland, working Dutch windmill. There is also an antique children’s carousel and replica Dutch buildings. For Tulip time there is a Dutch Trade Fair and Dutch food.

Next are two places  on the outskirts of town near the highway that feature gardens and Dutch goods: Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens /DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory where you can watch shoes being made and delft painted, and Nelis’ Dutch Village Family Theme Park  & Wooden Shoe Factory which is geared to kids.

 

Accommodations I like the Courtyard by Marriott Holland Downtown and CityFlats Hotel that is also downtown. To see more choices visit Holland  Hotels.

Dining. I haven’t had a bad meal there. Among my faves are Alpenrose Restaurant and Curragh Irish Pub.But walkthe main street, 8th Street, and explore. There are lots of boutiques and good restaurants plus good sculptures to see and photograph.

Go. Enjoy!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

March supermoon marks spring

 

Watch for a supermoon March 20.. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

Watch for a supermoon March 20.. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

Look up the night of March 20-21. There will be a supermoon. A supermoon is a full moon (or new moon but you don’t see the new moons even if they are super) that just about coincides with when the moon’s egg-shaped orbit puts it at its perigee, the closest point to earth during that month’s orbit. It happens Tuesday.

This supermoon also coincides with the Northern Hemisphere’s spring equinox. In the Southern Hemisphere it is autumnal equinox. Vacationers take that opposite season into consideration when planning a trip.

You’re right if you think you just saw a suspermoon. The closest supermoon of 2019 was Feb. 19, the middle supermoon of a series of three that occurred Jan. 21, happened again in mid February and ends with the one this week March 20-21.

But this one comes on what is the spring equinox north of the equator and fall equinox south of the equator. Also called the vernal equinox, it is when the Sun is exactly above the equator during the Earth’s axis movement from south to north.

Until this date, the Sun rises and sets somewhat south of the equator. After this date it rises and sets more to the north of the equator.  You will likely start noticing the sun beginning to shine on a different part of your property.

What else can you expect? The moon will look larger, mostly as it rises around sunset which is a moon illusion. But this supermoon will also look brighter and ts pull also has a tidal impact. Some people might even complain of sinus headaches.

Of course you will see monthly full moons this year but the one coming up in mid-March is the last of the 2019 supermoons so mark it on your calendar.

For more information visit Earth/Sky.

 

My Itchy Feet: Part 3

Like window seat to enjoy peaceful, artistic cloud formations while flying. (J Jacobs photo)

Like window seat to enjoy peaceful, artistic cloud formations while flying. (J Jacobs photo)

In her mid-seventies, guest travel writer Arlene Davis shares her travel solo tips.

Be aware and trust your gut

While I talk to strangers all the time, and encourage you to do so, you must always be aware of your surroundings. Never give out your hotel name. If you wander into an area that makes those little hairs stand up on the back of your neck, don’t worry about being the “ugly American.” Just turn around and leave.  I’ve never had any safety issues anywhere I’ve been, but I consider myself a smart single traveler. I’m not walking around late at night, I’m careful what I say to strangers, and am always aware of anyone who just ‘gives me the creeps.’ Don’t hesitate to walk into a store or restaurant if someone seems to be watching you a little too closely.

 

Luggage and pocket safety

I’ve taken the pants that I plan to wear on a trip into a tailor shop and asked them to attach Velcro to the insides of the pocket openings. That way, I can keep my credit card, hotel key, etc. in those pockets and I’m sure to feel it if someone were to try to “pick my pocket”. On the occasions where I took a train from one city to another, carrying my luggage, I stand on the platform with the luggage between my feet, not to the side of my leg. That way I know it’s safe and no one can grab a small bag and take off running.

 

Learn the lingo

I learned the hard way that European hotels have different definitions of what is the “first floor”, and what constitutes a “single room”. Through emails I ask how many flights of stairs to get to the room I’m asking about, and also clearly state that even though I’m traveling alone, I do NOT want a small, single-sized bed (what we would call a ‘twin’).  After some back-and-forth (and sometimes with the hotel sending a photo), I am assured of the accommodations I want. Of course I always ask for “ensuite” bathroom facilities, as I don’t want to share.

 

Bathroom amenities

I use what the hotels provide. I manage very nicely using whatever shampoo, hand lotion, etc. is provided. That way I don’t have to weigh down my luggage bringing it from home. If my hair isn’t quite as shiny as it usually is, who cares?

 

Eating alone

Most locally-owned European inns/hotels provide a full, cooked breakfast that carries me through the day. When having dinner alone, I always bring a book. However on many occasions if the adjacent table is close, and they have already received their meal and I haven’t yet ordered, I will casually ask, “Is that as good as it looks?”. This starts a conversation that has frequently led to my being invited to join them rather than sit alone at my table. Many wonderful meals have been spent this way. If they don’t speak English, or don’t ask me to join them, I’m no worse off than when I first sat down. Asking that question is a great ice-breaker and without exception every time I’ve asked, it’s led to some wonderful conversation and a lovely dinner experience.

 

Pace yourself

If you’re going to 14 countries in 8 days, ignore this paragraph. I would rather put a trip off for a year or so until I have enough money to avoid the “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” syndrome.

 

Read everything

Every city has its collection of statues, obelisks, monuments, etc. They almost all have a plaque or some identifying marking. Read every one of them! You come away with such fascinating information and a feeling for the mindset of the locals who helped get it built.

 

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