Archive for the ‘Travel tips’ Category

Visit Great Smoky Mountains for fall color and terrific crafts

 

I love all parts of Tennessee but if you only have time for a color drive through one section you won’t go wrong choosing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers more than 800 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and wonderful fall color. (Tennessee Tourism photo)

Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers more than 800 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and wonderful fall color. (Tennessee Tourism photo)

BTW if you see bear cubs, pull to the side to take photos because “bear jams” instead of ordinary fall color “peeps” make it hard for people merely driving through the park from Nashville to get to Ashevill, NC.

Put Sugarlands Visitors Center (above Gatlinburg) into your GPS to start the color drive. It’s a short drive south of Gatlinburg on US 441.

Ask there about road closures. You should be able to continue up to Clingman’s Dome for an amazing view and a fun picture op

At 5,048 feet you can stand with one foot in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina. The Tower is closed but the parking lot which also has great views is open.

After going back down to Gatlinburg, drive the eight-mile Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community loop on Glades and Buckhorn Roads.

The art in the studios complement the park’s natural wonders.

You are likely to return home with great photos and probably a well-turned bowl or gorgeous painting.

For more information call (865) 436-1200 or visit the park headquarters at 107 Park Headquarters Road Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

 

Five fall trips where color is just part of the draw

 

Now that leaves on a few trees are changing is the time to figure out where to go to see spectacular color in a few weeks and next month.

 

Ephraim in the fall in Door County, WI. Door County Visitors Bureau photo

Ephraim in the fall in Door County, WI.
Door County Visitors Bureau photo

But if you don’t want to merely drive some place for fall color and then head back home then consider a vacation destination with great views, hiking, biking, fun shops and lots of lodging and dining choices.

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Door County, Wisconsin, near Green Bay

 

Why:

 

    • ·         Good hiking and biking in state parks
    • ·         Really good art galleries
    • ·         Fun crafts and clothes shopping
    • ·         Excellent dining choices
    • ·         Beautiful views of Lake Michigan and Green Bay

.        Lots of lodging choices

More information at Door Vacation and Door County

 

 

Where: Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois

 

Why:

  • ·         Scenic overlooks, hilly terrain and interesting stone formations
  • ·         Good hiking, biking in Giant City State Park
  • ·         Shawnee Wine Trail tastings
  • ·         Makanda, a delightful artist comunity

More information at Shawnee National ForestShawnee Wine TrailGiant City State Park and Makanda.

Explore the back roads of Brown County in the fall. Brown County photo

Explore the back roads of Brown County in the fall. Brown County photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Brown County, Bloomington area

 

 

 

Why:

  • ·         Good hiking, biking and horseback riding in Brown County State Park
  • ·         Fun crafts shops in Nashville
  • ·         Scenic hills and Hoosier National Forest
  • ·         Renown architecture in nearby Columbus
  • .         Indiana University has a beautiful campus (go on a non-football weekend)

More information at Brown County State ParkHoosier National Forest and Columbus.

 

 

Where: Wisconsin Dells on the Wisconsin River

 

Why:

  • .     Good river boat scenery
  • .     Nice hikes
  • .     Fun water-parks for kids
  • .     Interesting photo museum in town
  • .     Circus World in nearby Baraboo

More information at Fall colors Wisconsin Dells, Baraboo,  and fall color advantage.

Traverse City area puts on a color show each fall. TC Visitors Bureau photo

Traverse City area puts on a color show each fall.
TC Visitors Bureau photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Traverse City/Sleeping Bear Dunes  in northern Michigan below the UP

 

 

Why:

  • ·         Good hiking in a scenic national park
  • ·         Excellent wine trails
  • ·         Wonderful dining choices
  • ·         Beautiful views of Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay.

More information at fall color trip, Traverse City/Sleeping Bear and Traverse

 

 

Fall color tips:  For current Midwest color reports go directly to a state’s tourism site.

Wisconsin’s suggested scenic drives are at Travel Wisconsin.

Michigan is at Michigan.org and at Fall Color Tours.

Minnesota is at MNUS and Explore Minnesota.

Illinois is at Enjoy Illinois and ILUS.

Indiana is at Visit Indiana and Hoosier fall color. http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier/docs/fallcolor.htm

 

Have a fun, safe trip!

 

 

 

 

 

Save eclipse glasses for next big solar event

 

The next time a total solar eclipse crosses the United States isn’t that far off. It’s April 8, 2024

Floor map of eclipse paths at the Adler Planetarium. Jodie Jacobs photos

Floor map of eclipse paths at the Adler Planetarium. Jodie Jacobs photos

If you didn’t have a chance to experience totality on Aug. 21, 2017 you might want to plan where you want to see it next time. Even if you don’t go you might know someone who will. So save those eclipse glasses if lucky enough to have a pair.

Carbondale, IL will again be dead center when the eclipse path crosses the United States. But the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse will cut the opposite direction. It will go from Mexico in the southwest to Maine in the northeast as it moves across Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Vermont.

Consider then, taking a spring vacation in Austin or Dallas Texas, Indianapolis, Toledo or Cleveland, Ohio or the Buffalo, Niagara Falls area or even Montreal. Chicago won’t be in the direct total solar eclipse path until Sept. 14, 2099.

To go now to walk across the map visit Adler Planetarium’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit. It has a terrific floor map of the total solar eclipse path for 2017, 2024 and 2099.

The Adler also has a total solar eclipse experience at one end of the exhibit complete with cooler air, expected sounds and a good visual eclipse.

 

Why experience totality

The following quote from Adler Astronomer Larry Ciupik, the Doane Observatory director,  describes what he saw in Capo San Lucas, Mexico July 1991.

“It didn’t matter how much I knew about it or prepared for it, my first total solar eclipse was unexpected and unlike anything I’ve ever seen!” Ciupik said on an Adler web site.

He went on to explain. “In the last few seconds before totality, the sky darkened to a deep blue, then purple, and faint wavering lines appeared—shadow bands—whisking across the sand of our beachside site. Suddenly, the Sun itself dramatically changed. I took off my special solar viewing filter and saw what looked like a hole in the sky surrounded by a pearlescent glow. The Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, resembled outstretched wings several times wider than the hole on each side.”

Also, totality will last longer on its path. It will range from three minutes plus seconds to four minutes plus seconds over most of the United States in April 2024 instead of the two minutes plus seconds it did  in August 2017.  For the 2024 path click here and at Time and Date.

The Adler Planetarium's "Chasing Eclipses" exhibit simulates a total solar eclipse that includes the cooling air and sounds. Jodie Jacobs photos

The Adler Planetarium’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit simulates a total solar eclipse that includes the cooling air and sounds. Jodie Jacobs photos

 

Checking locations

To figure the time of the eclipse in the city you want to visit check its latitude and longitude then go to NASA Path.

The information is thanks to NASA and Fred Espenak.  The numbers are in Universal Time so for central daylight time subtract 5 hours and eastern daylight time subtract 4 hours.

Another good resource is Earth Sky. For another map of eclipses see EarthSky Essentials.

 

Adler Exhibit

“Chasing Eclipses”is up now through through Jan. 8, 2018. The Adler Planetarium is on the Museum campus at 1300 South Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60605. For ticket and other information visit Adler Planetarium and call (312) 922-7827.

 

 

 

Five things to do in Chicago for Spring Break

Here are some ideas of where to go and what to do whether visiting Chicago from out of town or planning to take advantage of the city if living in its metropolitan area.

 

Take an architecture tour

Chicago is known for its architecture – whether it’s the fabulous Louis  A. Sullivan Auditorium Theatre at Congress Parkway west of Michigan Avenue, the Rookery designed by Danial Burnham and John Root, with a grand atrium redesigned by  Frank Lloyd Wright on LaSalle Street or the Aqua Tower, an undulating multi use building designed by Jeanne Gang and her Gang Studios on North Columbus  Drive that includes the Radisson Blu hotel.

The Architecture Foundation does excellent art deco and other walking tours and has a good boat tour on the Chicago River. There are also other good architecture boat tours such as those done by Wendella.

The Marina Twin Towers on the Chicago River are on architecture boat tours and the Chicago Film Tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Marina Twin Towers on the Chicago River are on architecture boat tours and the Chicago Film Tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

See movie and TV filming sites

Chicago is a popular movie and TV location site. A really great way to see the city is to take the Chicago Film Tour.

More than 80 movie and TV shows have been filmed in Chicago including The Dark Knight, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Sting, Spiderman, The Fugitive and North by Northwest so the tour goes from Wrigleyville on the Northside to China Town south of the loop and lots of places in between.

It takes close to two hours but while on the bus you also get movie shots on a TV monitor and background information from very knowledgeable guides.

 

Combine  Millennium Park with a lunch break

You’d never guess that any eyesore once used by the Illinois Central Railroad could be turned into the gorgeous 24 plus- acre park of gardens, walkways, remarkable sculptures, fountains, art work and public concert spaces that is Millennium Park.

The park stretches along Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street on the North to Monroe Parkway on the South. But what first catches the eye is the interesting stainless steel ribbon-like top of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry.  Its lawn is covered by an artistic sound grid.

Stroll the park to see the Lurie Gardens, the sculptures by Chaikaia Booker in the Boeing galleries section of the park (up now through April 2018, the 50-foot high towers of the Crown Fountain desiged by Jaume Plensa (the towers have changing faces of Chicago residents and the tower spits water into a wading area and the park’s famed Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean.

A 66-foot long elliptical sculpture by Anish Kapoor, The Bean is where visitors go to take selfies. Chicago’s clouds and skyline are beautifully reflected on the Bean’s polished stainless steel surface.

The Bean is a popular selfie site in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Bean is a popular selfie site in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Leave the park by way of the Nichols Bridgeway, a long pedestrian bridge going from the park up to the Renzo Piano restaurant and the Bluhm Family Terrace in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. The restaurant, named for the architect Renzo Piano who designed the Modern Wing and the Bridgeway, is a terrific lunch spot with a view of the city. But you need a reservation.

If you haven’t snagged one go out onto the Terrace to snap photos and go back down to the park where you might be able to get a table at the Park Grill below the Bean.

 

Enjoy Chicago’s music scene

If you like blues, jazz or folk, find out who is at The House of Blues, Andy’s, Green Mill or The Hideout. For classical programs check Orchestra Hall, the Civic Opera House and the Harris Theatre. Also look up the Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park, host of the Blues Fest, for free concerts.

 

Indulge in a short but wonderful “staycation”

Lots of hotels downtown Chicago have a workout room however few have the space for a good-sized pool and a great spa. Stay and book a spa treatment at the upscale, Oriental influenced Peninsula Hotel overlooking Chicago’s Magnifenct (shopping) Mile on North Michigan Avenue and swim in its half-Olymic length pool. You can also order drinks and lunch there.

Or  stay at The Langham, a five star hotel on the Chicago River with British roots. Aside from a fine lap pool and spa, the hotel is known for its traditional tea, good services and spacious rooms. Located in a former Mies van der Rohe skyscraper on Wabash Avenue, the hotel is also well situated for downtown and Magnificent Mile exploration. When reserving ask about the room’s views.

 

Chicago really is a terrific destination even for a few days. Enjoy!

 

 

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