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“Patricia Schultz unearths the hidden gems in our North American backyard. Don’t even think about packing your bag and sightseeing without it.” —New York Daily News
THE UNITED STATES
FOUR CORNERS AND
ALASKA AND HAWAII
BERKSHIRE SUMMER FESTIVALS
When warm weather sets in, performing artists from New York, Boston, and the rest of the world find their way to the Berkshires, where the life of the mind flourishes among the rolling, wooded hills of western Massachussetts. The Tanglewood Music Festival is the Berkshires’ marquee event. The summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood attracts top-flight artists from around the globe who perform works in a wide variety of genres. The lush 500-acre estate encompasses four lovely performance venues with plenty of seating, but Tanglewood’s calling card is a glamorous picnic dinner. Some music lovers spread out blankets and gourmet meals on The Lawn, dining by candlelight, sometimes with china, silver, and crystal. Others bring the kids and tuna sandwiches. The season culminates in early September with the annual Tanglewood Jazz Fest.
The internationally acclaimed Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival offers dance performances, lectures, demonstrations, films, and live music. “The Pillow,” a longtime haunt of the legendary Martha Graham, is famed for encouraging the dance world’s rising stars. You can enjoy ballet one night and hip-hop, modern jazz, or Spanish flamenco the next. Close to Lenox in the small town of Becket, the 161-acre property, a National Historic Landmark, is home to multiple performance spaces, a dance school, and carefully preserved wetlands that can be enjoyed on a self-guided tour of the grounds.
Shakespeare & Company’s focus is—not surprisingly—on the Bard, but its three performance spaces also schedule contemporary works and revivals. The celebrated actor-training program gives the company an energy that makes it irresistible to established stars as well as talented unknowns. Literature is another art closely associated with the Berkshires. The Mount was the home of novelist Edith Wharton from 1902 to 1911. Wharton claimed to be “a better landscape gardener than novelist”—the judges who made her the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction might disagree—and the Mount preserves her legacy.
The venerable Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge presents revivals of plays and musicals as well as original productions. Top-notch actors, directors, set designers, and playwrights make and build on their reputations on the festival’s two stages. The company makes its home in the 1888 Stockbridge Casino, designed by Stanford White. Across the tiny town is the Norman Rockwell Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of works by the beloved 20th-century American artist. The iconic Four Freedoms and numerous Saturday Evening Post covers form the heart of the collection of more than 500 paintings and drawings by Rockwell, who lived in Stockbridge for the last 25 years of his life.
Anchoring Stockbridge’s Rockwell-perfect Main Street is the friendly Red Lion Inn, a landmark since the late 1700s. The inn offers a variety of accommodations, some with shared baths and some in houses adjoining the main building. There’s even a guest room in an 1899 firehouse down the block.
WHERE: Lenox is 130 miles west of Boston. Visitor info: Tel 800-237-5747 or 413-743-4500;. TANGLEWOOD: Lenox. Tel 888-266-1200 or 413-637-5381; . Cost: tickets from $18; lawn admission from $9. When: late June–early Sept. JACOB’S PILLOW: Becket. Tel 413-243-0745; . Cost: from $10. When: late June–late Aug. SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY: Lenox. Tel 413-637-1199; . Cost: tickets from $15. When: mid-June–Sept. THE MOUNT: Lenox. Tel 413-637-1899; . When: closed Jan–Apr. BERKSHIRE THEATRE FESTIVAL: Stockbridge. Tel 413-298-5576; . Cost: tickets from $19. When: mid-June–early Dec. NORMAN ROCKWELL MUSEUM: Stockbridge. Tel 413-298-4100; . When: daily; studio closed Nov–Apr. RED LION INN: Stockbridge. Tel 413-298-5545; . Cost: from $95 (off-peak), from $145 (peak). BEST TIMES: July–Aug for pleasant weather; mid-Sept–mid-Oct for foliage.
Living the High Life at a Gilded Age Estate
THE “INLAND NEWPORT ”
Lenox and the Berkshires, Massachusetts
The Berkshires have long promised to nourish the mind, body, and spirit. Visitors flock to western Massachusetts in search of renewal at cultural venues, spas and retreats, and at the exquisite mansions that dot the landscape. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Gilded Age tycoons from New York and Boston turned their attention to Lenox and the vicinity, touching off a building boom of country estates that peaked in 1885. The resulting concentration of magnificent homes led the author and animal-rights activist Cleveland Amory to dub the Lenox area “the Switzerland of America.”
Thanks to the same false modesty once common to Newport, Rhode Island, the mammoth country houses were known as “cottages”; more than 70 of them survive, many as luxurious lodgings for visitors with gilded budgets. Sitting like a Scottish castle at the end of a regal drive on 100 acres of painstakingly tended grounds, Blantyre offers elaborately decorated guest rooms, rich with subtle floral fabrics and sumptuous draperies. The accommodations echo the formality of the rest of the property (men are asked to wear jackets and ties in the dining room). Tennis courts and croquet lawns join more modern amenities such as a small but lovely spa.
The other sumptuous sanctuary in town is Wheatleigh, an 1893 confection that aspires to be an Italian palazzo. Equally luxurious, but sleek and sophisticated where Blantyre is formal and ornate, the extensively restored hotel occupies a parklike setting on 22 acres originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect most famous for his design of New York City’s Central Park. Contemporary art complements the antique and custom furnishings, creating a refined atmosphere in the tranquil guest rooms and dramatic public spaces. The inn overlooks a scenic lake, just part of the bucolic views enjoyed from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room. Chef Jeffrey Thompson draws on French, Latin American, and Caribbean traditions in creating his thoroughly American cuisine, a celebrated combination of delicate flavors and local ingredients. His regularly changing menu might include a dish as simple as pea soup or as elaborate as antelope loin with couscous and huckleberry sauce.
Less baronial but no less comfortable lodgings can be found at the Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough. Dating to around 1760 and over the years serving as a trading post, stagecoach stop, tavern, general store, and even a post office, it is done up in sophisticated country style with candlelit dining rooms and a summer terrace as the dramatic backdrop for owner-chef Peter Platt’s seasonal New England cuisine.
WHERE: Lenox is 130 miles west of Boston. Visitor info: Tel 800-237-5747 or 413-743-4500;. BLANTYRE: Tel 413-637-3556; . Cost: from $550. WHEATLEIGH: Tel 413-637-0610; . Cost: from $715; dinner $125. THE OLD INN ON THE GREEN: New Marlborough. Tel 413-229-7924; . Cost: from $225 (off-peak), from $245 (peak); dinner $65. BEST TIMES: June–Aug for greatest variety of cultural offerings; late June–early Sept for Tanglewood Music Festival; mid-Sept–mid-Oct for foliage.
When the World Is Too Much with You
NIRVANA IN THE BERKSHIRES
Berkshire country grows lovelier with each season, passing from tranquil snow white to velvety green to raucous reds and golds. The lack of large cities nearby means relatively little light pollution; on a clear night, a canopy of stars brightens the ink-black sky. All this forms an inspiring backdrop for destinations that promise to renew the spirit and reinvigorate the body.
Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club is such a retreat, a luxurious estate with staff who satisfy guests’ every need while insulating them from the tumult of the outside world. A cornucopia of recreational offerings complement the old-fashioned atmosphere: Imagine yourself a Gilded Age tycoon on a well-deserved getaway, wandering the resort’s 380 gorgeous acres. The property centers on a restored 1894 mansion, an architectural showpiece that evokes a Tudor-style English country house, rich with carved woodwork, wood paneling, and antique Oriental carpets. Cranwell is the retreat of choice for spa aficionados, who gravitate to the 35,000-square-foot spa, with 16 treatment rooms and an extensive fitness center as well as a relaxation lounge complete with fireplace in each locker room. Golfers are equally pampered here: After a morning on the 18-hole championship course (with GPS-equipped carts), a host of treatments await at the spa, many designed specifically for sore duffers.
The arrival of Canyon Ranch, the eastern outpost of the legendary Arizona spa (see p. 700), has given Cranwell a run for its money. Headquartered in Bellefontaine (said to be designed after Le Petit Trianon at Versailles), it offers the same magical combination of amenities and atmosphere that has earned the original Canyon Ranch an unrivaled international reputation. Its location sits on 120 acres with extensive outdoor fitness options—hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, tennis, skiing, and much more. Indoors, the 100,000-square-foot spa complex incorporates a gorgeous pool, tennis and squash courts, exercise and weight rooms, a jogging track, and numerous treatment rooms. The cuisine, which famously balances nutrition and flavor, is so appealing that cooking classes are now available. The emphasis is on activity rather than relaxation: Canyon Ranch schedules more than 30 classes a day from which to pick and choose, and the staff includes medical professionals to help get you on track and on your way to your personal goals, especially once you’re back home.
Dramatically different from all the physical activity and indulgence, the Kripalu Center promises a simple experience befitting this spiritual sanctuary. Overlooking a lake from a hilltop that affords spectacular views of the 350-acre estate, Kripalu is the country’s largest yoga education center. Guests wander the beautiful grounds, relax in a whirlpool or sauna, and experience an environment designed to be a nurturing retreat from the madding crowd. Suitably simple accommodations in the four-story redbrick building range from dorm rooms with bunk beds to private doubles. The friendships forged amid a delightful milieu of a freshair camp for adults with a higher mission are an inherent part of its specialness. Guests eat at long communal tables and chat at lunch and dinner but not at breakfast, which is a silent meal. The Retreat & Renewal package is the most popular, with all the basics covered: room and board, yoga, meditation, and other activities. But more extensive programs incorporate options such as workshops that focus on fitness, personal growth, weight loss, Ayurvedic cleansing, and countless other subjects.
MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE
New York, New York
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is as much a part of America’s most beloved holiday as turkey, cranberry sauce, and football. Although an annual tradition since 1924, when it got its start in the midst of the radio age, the parade is a true child of TV, having reached generations nationwide since its first broadcast in 1948.
It all started locally, when the giant Macy’s Department Store organized a group of mostly immigrant employees for a march down Manhattan’s West Side. Drawing from the traditions of the European carnival and American ragamuffin parades, the marchers wore colorful costumes and were accompanied by marching bands, clowns, fairy-tale floats, and animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo—and Santa Claus tagged along to ring in the holiday season. Inflatable animals replaced most real ones in 1927, beginning a tradition that’s become the centerpiece of the parade to this day. In the 1930s, popular cartoon and comics characters like Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and Superman made their first appearance. Following a hiatus during WWII, the parade returned on a shortened route and has remained essentially the same ever since, with classic balloons like Uncle Sam, Freida the Dachshund, and Humpty Dumpty now replaced by contemporary creations like Ronald McDonald and SpongeBob Square-Pants. Human participants range from TV, sports, and pop stars to Miss USA, the Radio City Rockettes, and marching bands from around the country, all led by a huge Tom Turkey float. Santa Claus rides the parade’s last float, and his arrival at Herald Square signals the parade’s terminus and the “official” beginning of the Christmas season.
As you approach Shartlesville, a string of roadside signs promises “More Than You Expect,” and that promise is fulfilled. Built by local resident Laurence Gieringer, Roadside America is a 6,000-square-foot scale model of an idyllic mid-20th-century American town. Every miniature structure, from the village barber shop to the cathedral with its 44 hand-painted windows, was lovingly crafted by Gieringer over the course of half a century, with wife, Dora, creating 10,000 trees and countless other tiny touches. Upon Gieringer’s death in 1963, time in Roadside America essentially stopped, and was preserved unchanged by his daughters in time-capsule form.
The thing that elevates Roadside America above the merely charming is that it’s as alive and moving as any real landscape, letting visitors play God to their own little Mayberry. Press a button and you might set one of the many trains or trolleys in motion, speeding the town’s 4,000 tiny residents from place to place. Another button might set church bells to tolling, or lift a choir in song. Meanwhile, hidden motors pump water through fountains and waterfalls, set mills to grinding, and make planes and helicopters circle overhead. The level of detail is astounding, as is the historical scope: Scattered among the buildings and roads, unexpected touches like an Indian village, a coal mine, a Barnum & Bailey Circus rehearsal, a miniature Benjamin Franklin, and Gieringer’s own father (the village harness maker) reveal its creator’s surrealist view of time and urban planning. The highlight comes every half hour as night descends on Gieringer’s world, and the town’s lights come on, as images of sunset, the American flag, and Christ himself are projected onto the walls, accompanied by Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” For a certain kind of visitor—and you know who you are—this is the kind of odd, yet curiously revelatory, experience that small-town travel is all about.
WHERE: 40 miles northeast of Hershey. Tel 610-488-6241;.
The Crucible of Our Nation
In September 1777, British troops defeated George Washington’s Continental Army at the Battle of Brandywine, near the Pennsylvania/Delaware border (see p. 212). Within two weeks the British were in control of Philadelphia.
Washington counterattacked at Germantown, but was unable to take back the city. By December, with the British firmly entrenched and winter coming on, he moved his army to the winter camp he’d selected 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, at a place called Valley Forge.
Everybody knows at least part of the story: how the 12,000 men of Washington’s ragtag army, their feet bound in rags, their clothing and equipment in tatters, hunkered down through the long, terrible winter. As many as 2,000 of them died. Washington, holding his army together through sheer force of will, conceded that “unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place … this Army must inevitably … starve, dissolve, or disperse.”
Change did come, though, from across the Atlantic. The first to arrive was Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian drillmaster sent from Paris by Benjamin Franklin, who was negotiating an alliance with the French. Von Steuben immediately set about standardizing the army’s training; within three months, he’d welded its diverse units into a unified fighting force. During this time supplies finally began appearing, along with new troops. Morale was given yet another boost when word arrived that Franklin had succeeded in drawing France into the conflict, both parties pledging “not to lay down their arms, until the Independence of the United States shall have been formally or tacitly assured.” A month later, in June, the American army marched from Valley Forge, entirely transformed. The war would drag on for another five years, but this was the turning point.
Today you can honor those early patriots at Valley Forge National Historical Park, a 3,600-acre preserve of rolling hills, dogwood forest, and historical sites. Washington’s headquarters has been restored and furnished, and is staffed by interpreters in period costume. On the edge of the Grand Parade Ground, replica log huts mark the camp’s outer defensive line. Toward the encampment’s center, Artillery Park displays period cannons. Memorials include the grand National Memorial Arch, dedicated in 1917 to the “patience and fidelity” of the soldiers who wintered there, as well as statues of von Steuben and General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, commander of the Pennsylvania troops.
WHERE: 18 miles west of Philadelphia. Tel 610-783-1077;. BEST TIMES: Dec 19 for a reenactment of the army’s arrival at Valley Forge; May 7 for a commemoration of the parade with which the Continental Army marked the alliance between the U.S. and France; June 19 for a celebration and reenactment of the day Washington left Valley Forge.
THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM AND DOWNTOWN DRAWS
Rarely has the opening of an aquarium elicited such excitement and intrigue as the new one in Atlanta did in 2006. The $250 million gift of Bernard Marcus to the city where his company, Home Depot, began, it is the world’s largest aquarium. Located in downtown Atlanta, traditionally the domain of office workers, not tourists, it is a 9-acre state-of-the-art facility with a staggering 8 million gallons of both fresh and salt water that contains more than 100,000 different animals, representing over 500 of the planet’s marine species.
The aquarium is divided into several marine-life areas. One of the most popular, perhaps owing to its appearance in sultry Georgia, is the Cold Water Quest, a habitat for creatures that thrive in the world’s icier seas. Here you’ll see beluga whales, California sea lions, African black-footed penguins, a giant Pacific octopus, and Japanese spider crabs. The Ocean Voyager is another crowd pleaser, where stingrays, whale sharks (the largest species of fish in the world), and groupers swim gracefully through a 100-foot-long saltwater tunnel.
Next to the aquarium visit the brand-new World of Coca-Cola Pavilion, an exuberant (if unabashedly commercial) tribute to the world’s most popular soft drink. Then wander the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park, the focal point for the 1996 Summer Olympics, and walk to the CNN Center (the Cable News Network’s studio headquarters), where a behind-the-scenes tour is a uniquely Atlanta experience.
EUDORA WELTY HOUSE
Amassive oak tree shades the front yard of the 1920s Tudor-style home where Pulitzer Prize–winning author Eudora Welty spent an idyllic childhood and most of her adult life, and which now serves as a museum dedicated to her. Graceful and grand, the tree might be seen as a metaphor for Welty, known for her genteel nature, hospitality, and humility, despite her stature as one of the great American writers of the 20th century.
In 1936, the 27-year-old Welty published her first short story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman.” Among her early novels are The Robber Bridegroom (1942), Delta Wedding (1946), and The Ponder Heart (1954). The winner of many awards, she received her Pulitzer for fiction in 1973 for The Optimist’s Daughter. All her success—and her abiding affection for her Mississippi home—made her the pride of Jackson until the day she died in 2001 at the age of 92.
Welty’s longtime house is now open for visits. She moved here as a child when her father built the house in 1925. After college, travel, and brief residences in San Francisco and New York City, Welty returned home to care for her widowed mother, and stayed on after her death in 1966.
Traditional furnishings fill the two-story dwelling. The living room, visitors learn during guided tours, used to be the site of Welty’s Christmas morning eggnog-filled open-house celebrations. Other glimpses of Welty’s literary life include the dining room table where she ate meals and edited her books, and the bed where she often spread out her manuscripts in progress, cutting out a single sentence or a paragraph and repositioning it with straight pins.
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK
Bordered only by the vast waters of Lake Superior, Isle Royale (pronounced ROY-al) National Park is a model of what we imagine a national park to be: wild, rugged, roadless, and isolated from anything that resembles the developed world. The park occupies an entire 45-by-6-mile island along with a surrounding archipelago of nearly 400 smaller islands and outcroppings. Rock Harbor and Windigo, two harbor areas that receive park guests by ferry, seaplane, and private boat, are the only dots of development that impinge on this watery wilderness. The rest of the 850-square-mile park is wild backcountry, home to wildlife and precious little else.
Isolation is a large part of Isle Royale’s appeal and uniqueness. It serves as a living laboratory for scientists, who study the predator/prey relationship of wolves and moose, for example, uncompromised by the effects of outside intruders. Isle Royale’s isolation also contributes to its light visitation; more visitors pass through Yosemite’s gates in an average summer day than visit Isle Royale in an entire year.
The majority of visitors arrive by ferry from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Rock Harbor on the island’s southeast shore. The Rock Harbor Lodge near the ferry dock provides the island’s only lodging. It’s a simple affair, but its basic motel-style rooms sidle right up against the rocky shoreline with glorious views of nearby islands and the open waters of Lake Superior. It’s a fine base for noncampers who want to enjoy a taste of the park. You can set out on several day hikes and sign up for boat trips to attractions like a restored fishing camp, a lighthouse, and an old copper mine—and still enjoy a hot shower at the end of the day.
THE NIOBRARA RIVER
For a 76-mile stretch between Valentine and Highway 137, the Niobrara is designated a National Scenic River; six distinct ecosystems meet here, offering up some of the country’s best canoeing amid the beauty of America’s heartland. The Niobrara is at its most dramatic at this ecological crossroads, with the steepest canyons, the tallest cliffs, and lots of pretty waterfalls.
- On Sale
- Nov 29, 2016
- Page Count
- 1200 pages
- Workman Publishing Company