One-tank escapes for 8 cities

Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012 @ 12:03 PM
Updated: Sunday, July 01, 2012 @ 12:03 PM

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Summer vacation doesn't have to mean a long, expensive trek. These getaways are a short drive from eight major urban areas. All you need is a weekend and a tank of gas!

Shenandoah Valley, Va.

107 miles from Washington, D.C.

A collection of 10 independent cities make up the Shenandoah Valley, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an idyllic watercolor landscape and outdoor adventure haven.

SEE OUR SUMMER ROAD TRIPS!

Shenandoah National Park is famous for its outdoor beauty, accessible via both easy and difficult hiking trails, some of which are part of the park's 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail (540/999-3500, nps.gov/shen, $15 per vehicle, $8 per person). The Limberlost Trail takes you past lush mountain laurel; Old Rag Mountain offers panoramic vistas. To refuel, perch in the Pollock Dining Room's taproom at Skyland Resort Lodge and order a Prohibition Punch, featuring local (legal) moonshine ($7.50), and a slice of famous blackberry ice cream pie, made from scratch from the season's harvest (540/999-2212, visitshenandoah.com/dining/skyland-restaurant, Prohibition Punch $7.50, blackberry ice cream pie $6). Not outdoorsy? Stroll through downtown Winchester with a guided tour of the Patsy Cline Historic House, where the country star lived for five years (540/662-5555, celebratingpatsycline.org, $8), or pick your own flowers in the fragrant fields at White Oak Lavender farm in Harrisonburg (540/421-6345, whiteoaklavender.com, tours $5).

WHERE TO STAY Instead of camping out with her hubby FDR in Shenandoah National Park in 1936, Eleanor Roosevelt opted for luxury in Luray: "Franklin, you can rough it if you want, but I'm staying at the Mimslyn," she allegedly told the president. Even today, the property has opulent touches like Doric columns, formal gardens, and fine dining courtesy in the hotel's "upscale Southern" Circa '31 restaurant—necktie recommended (800/296-5105, mimslyninn.com, from $160).

DRIVING TIP I-81 runs the length of the valley and connects large towns like Winchester, Harrisonburg, and Stanton. Consider jumping onto Skyline Drive to take in some of the most beautiful mountain vistas in the U.S.

Yountville, Calif.

56 miles from San Francisco

A walkable mecca for wine and food enthusiasts, Yountville offers glasses of big California reds, award-winning bites, and lush Napa Valley scenery that's a refreshing change from San Francisco's cityscapes.

To sample vino, hop the Napa Valley Wine Train that chugs through the heart of town: It serves meals onboard, and visits local wineries for tours (800/427-4124, winetrain.com, from $135). Or go rogue and create your own tasting of five wines at Cornerstone Cellars (707/945-0388, cornerstonecellars.com). Get Michelin-star-quality flavor for less at chef Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc restaurant by partaking in the evening family-style four-course menu (707/944-2487, adhocrestaurant.com, $45); also, make time to walk through Keller's French Laundry Garden, which nurtures fresh vegetables and fruits used at French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro—it's free and open to the public. On a weekend morning, stop by Bouchon Bakery for the somewhat elusive chocolate doughnut—brioche dough filled with decadent chocolate pastry cream and topped with chocolate frosting and chocolate-covered Rice Krispies. But go early (it opens at 7) to score one (707-944-2253, bouchonbakery.com/yountville). Then float above the horizon on a group hot air balloon ride for eight to 12 passengers or take a romantic trip à deux with Napa Valley Balloons (800/253-2224, napavalleyballoons.com, from $210).

WHERE TO STAY For a French country feel, book a room at Maison Fleurie, a B&B with a morning breakfast buffet and complimentary wine, tea, and hors d'oeuvres in the afternoon. Borrow bicycles from the front desk and go for a leisurely ride when you tire of tippling (800/788-0369, maisonfleurienapa.com, from $145).

DRIVING TIP The most direct route from San Francisco is I-80 East, over the Bay Bridge, to Highway 37 West and then Highway 29 through Napa Valley.

New Braunfels, Tex.

175 miles from Houston

If you visit New Braunfels and don't (a) eat German food or (b) get wet, you're doing something wrong. The town is well known for the innovative 65-acre Schlitterbahn Water Park, but its German history, food, and freshwater activities are equally compelling.

Floating down the spring-fed Comal River on giant inflatable "toobs" is essential in New Braunfels. Rent one for the day or take a guided group trip at Rockin 'R' River Rides (830/629-9999, rockinr.com, call for a group trip quote). Quell your post-river appetite with one of 10 types of schnitzel, pan-fried bouletten (meatballs), or classic brats at Friesenhaus, one of the area's specialty German restaurants (830/625-1040, friesenhausnb.com, schnitzel from $15). No German meal is complete without a hearty dessert, so pop into Naegelin's Bakery, "the oldest bakery in Texas, since 1868," for a big hunk of apple streudel—a whole one is more than two feet long (830/625-5722, naegelins.com).

WHERE TO STAY The 30-unit Greune Mansion Inn, right on the Guadalupe River, has a quiet, Victorian feel, with multiple historical buildings broken up into residences that guarantee each guest his or her own entrance and porch. Many of the units have river views (830/629-2641, gruenemansioninn.com, from $190).

DRIVING TIP Take I-10 to I-46, making sure to avoid Houston rush hour if you can help it.

Hood River, Ore.

62 miles from Portland

Orchards, wineries, and outdoor recreation are all hallmarks of this Columbia River Gorge destination.

Taking a drive on the whimsically named Fruit Loop steers you through 35 miles of orchards, vineyards, forests, and farmland (541/386-7697, hoodriverfruitloop.com). Sampling the area's up-and-coming viticulture is another must: Columbia Wine Tours shuttles from two to 24 people to four wineries in four hours and provides bottled waters and snacks along the way (541/380-1410, hoodrivertours.com, two-person tour $140). Or if you prefer hops to grapes, swing by the Full Sail Brewing Company Tasting Room & Pub for a sip (or three) of Full Sail Amber (541/386-2247, fullsailbrewing.com). Dubbed the "windsurfing capital of the world" by some, Hood River is an ideal place to test your mettle on the water: Hood River Waterplay offers five different levels of windsurfing classes, plus equipment rental if you need it (541/386-9463, hoodriverwaterplay.com, from $69).

WHERE TO STAY Seven Oaks Bed and Breakfast describes itself as a "garden oasis," surrounded by two acres of flowering plant life and fenced in by Douglas firs. The four-unit house (plus separate cottage) provides storage for recreational equipment and serves organic eggs, jams, and pastries (541/386-7622, sevenoaksbb.com, $160).

DRIVING TIP I-84—a.k.a. the Columbia River Highway—is a straight, gorgeous shot from Portland. Look for both mountains: Mount Hood and Mount Adams.

Harbor Country, Mich.

26 miles from Chicago

Hitting the beach in the heart of the Midwest is possible at Harbor Country, a group of eight towns on the white-sand beaches of Lake Michigan. The southern beaches of New Buffalo and Warren Dunes State Park are biggest, but individual townships have access too (harborcountry.org).

Charter a fishing boat in the New Buffalo Harbor with Cap'n D Charters to hunt down salmon, trout, bass, and blue gill (574/232-0436, capndcharters.com, $500 for up to four people for six hours) or try surfing or stand-up paddleboarding in New Buffalo or St. Joseph, assisted by Third Coast Surf Shop (269/932-4575, thirdcoastsurfshop.com, $75 for a 90-minute private lesson). Afterward, head to Three Oaks to the brand-new organic Journeyman Distillery, nestled in a former corset-making factory, and kick back in the tasting room for a sample of Featherbone Bourbon, a nod to the turkey feathers that the corsets were fashioned out of (269/820-2050, journeymandistillery.com). Soak up the booze at Skip's in New Buffalo, famous for its ultra-tender prime rib (269/469-3330, skipsrestaurantandcatering.info, from $22).

WHERE TO STAY Directly across the road from its own private beach, the 31-room Lakeside Inn, built in the late 1800s, has a front porch filled with rocking chairs, plus an on-site café (269/469-0600, lakesideinns.com, from $80).

DRIVING TIP Stick to highways 90 or 94. Creatively taking the back roads will only lead you into stop-and-go traffic.

Clarksville, Tenn.

207 miles from Memphis

How to describe Clarksville? "Think Carrie Bradshaw meets Dolly Parton," suggests the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce's website. With entertainment offerings just as diverse as those two pop culture icons, Clarksville manages to be a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll.

The tobacco trade—specifically stemmeries—brought in the big bucks in Clarksville in the late 1800s: Tour the Greek Revival/Italinata-style Smith-Trahern mansion, built in 1958 by a wealthy tobacconist - the slaves' quarters out back are still standing, as is an adjacent 1700s cemetery (931/648-5725, fceclarksville.org, $2). Continue exploring the past via the trails at Fort Defiance Civil War Park, between the Red and Cumberland rivers. The site was a Confederate fort that fell to Union soldiers in 1862; soon after, it served as a safe place for freed and runaway slaves (931/472-3351, fortdefianceclarksville.com). Or, hike one of three trails at Dunbar Cave State Park—the caves were once mined for gunpowder (931/648-5526, tn.gov/environment/parks/dunbarcave). Cool off afterward amid 1870s architecture downtown, at the Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, which makes its own beer onsite, including the signature Barnstormer Red Ale, made with Bavarian Hallertau hops. Pair it with one of the eatery's specialty pizzas, like the Whitehorse, a pie topped with alfredo sauce, fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, feta, provolone, and mozzarella (931/552-3726, theblackhorsepub.net, from $15.50).

WHERE TO STAY For an authentic 1800s experience, drive 15 miles southwest of Clarksville to Lylewood Inn Bed & Breakfast in Indian Mound, run by Mandy Williams. The rich antebellum décor—some rooms have claw-foot bathtubs—is matched in decadence only by the group meals: In addition to the requisite country breakfast, home-cooked dinners can include glazed pork loin, garlic cheese biscuits, and fresh berry cobbler (931/232-4203, lylewoodinn.com, from $75).

DRIVING TIP Take Highway 40 to Highway 24, but don't fear the backroads. Visit the Tennessee Trails and Byways website for multiple mapped driving routes from different destinations - like the "Screaming Eagle" trail that begins in Nashville (tntrailsandbyways.com).

Excelsior Springs, Mo.

28 miles from Kansas City, Mo.

Soak up the late-18th and early-19th century history of Excelsior Springs, a Missouri town that boomed due to its wealth of pure, natural springwater. Early tourists came from miles around to bathe in the mineral-rich H2O and hopefully heal their ailments, and the city has preserved that craze via historic buildings and walking tours.

Belly up to the world's longest water bar, housed in the Art Deco-style Hall of Waters and Cultural Museum, built in 1937, where you can taste the mineral waters that put Excelsior Springs on the map (816/637-2811, visitesprings.com). A few blocks down, stop into Oooey Gooey Chocolates for a chocolate-dipped Twinkie on a stick—your choice of either milk or white chocolate (816/630-9255, oooeygooey.com, $2.25). Or get away from it all at the 40-acre Knott Nature Sanctuary, which features education and recreation programs that include hiking, camping, and gardening and landscaping (816/630-2872).

WHERE TO STAY Notorious characters Al Capone and Bugsy Malone reportedly threw their own bathtub gin and gambling parties at The Elms Resort and Spa, which reopened this year for its 100th anniversary after a multi-million-dollar renovation that includes a spa with a hydrotherapy grotto. The hotel is perhaps best known, though, for being the place Harry S. Truman found out he'd defeated Dewey for the presidency in 1948 (816/630-5500, elmshotelandspa.com, from $139).

DRIVING TIP The quickest way to get to Excelsior Springs: Catch I-35 North from downtown Kansas City, then take Highway 69 to Excelsior.

Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

30 miles from New York City

Indulge your love of literature, the arts, and lifestyles of the rich and famous in this storied region north of New York City.

Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman live on (in spirit, anyway) in the Sleep Hollow Cemetery, which author Washington Irving name-checked in his 1820  story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Walk the grounds for free and visit cemetery residents including Irving himself, Andrew Carnegie, Elizabeth Arden, and William and J.D. Rockefeller, or take a two-hour, lantern-lit guided evening tour—if you dare (914/631-0081, sleepyhollowcemetery.org, guided tour $25). For a quick bite, select a hot "Fleetwood original" calzone (stuffed with pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions, mozzarella, and tomato sauce) from Fleetwood Pizzeria, founded by the Guzzo family in 1965 (914/631-3267, fleetwoodpizza.com, $5.75). Drive two miles northwest, on Bedford Road, to Pocantico Hills to see how the other half lived at Kykuit: The Rockefeller Estate. Drift through the main rooms of the six-story stone house, past the fountains and sculptures dotting the expansive gardens, and tour the underground art galleries, replete with works by Picasso and Warhol (914/631-8200, hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit/tours, from $23).

WHERE TO STAY Venture eight miles north of Sleepy Hollow to bunk at the Alexander Hamilton House, an eight-unit Victorian B&B with an eight-foot-deep swimming pool and a giant lawn chess set in the backyard (914/271-6737, alexanderhamiltonhouse.com, from $135).

DRIVING TIP Allow traveling time for New York City traffic—the 25-mile drive can take much longer than an hour, even during off-peak hours.

Add Hocking Hills to your bucket list

Published: Saturday, September 27, 2014 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Saturday, September 27, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

While the Hocking Hills State Park is beautiful any time of year, with its scenic waterfalls and caves, many additional activities are offered in the warmer months. Park goers can enjoy horseback riding, ziplining, canoeing, and other activities in the area.

Directions to Hocking Hills State Park

 

From Dayton, take U.S. Route 35 East through Xenia. As you approach Chillicothe, take the State Route 159/Bridge Street exit toward U.S. Route 23 North. Turn left on North Bridge Street/State Route 159. Follow State Route 159. Turn right on State Route 180. Turn right on State Route 56 East/State Route 180. Follow State Route 56. Stay straight to go on State Route 664.

 

For more information, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/hockinghills or call (740) 385-6842.

At the end of last year, Buzzfeed came out with its “22 Stunning Under-The-Radar Destinations To Add To Your Bucket List In 2014.” The places on the list sound exotic: Orchid Island, Taiwan; Ometepe, Nicaragua; Rangiroa, French Polynesia.

 

All the destinations are thousands of miles away from Southwest Ohio, except for one: Hocking Hills State Park, the only place in the entire United States that made Buzzfeed’s list.

 

If you haven’t been there for years or, worse, if you’ve never been there at all, that’s a downright crying shame because Hocking Hills in Hocking County is the geological crowning jewel of Ohio and is fantastic to visit regardless of the season. I’ve been there on sultry summer days; also, when snow was on the ground.

 

Personally, my favorite times are in the spring and fall. When I was there this past April, the seasonal waterfalls were spectacular — I could hear the roar of the falls long before I reached them. There’s not so much water in the fall, but the turning color of the foliage and milder temperature makes hiking a delight.

 

The park is comprised of five separate non-contiguous areas: Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs. Old Man’s Cave is the most popular destination of the five, but the unique features of each of the other four sites are definitely worth a visit.

 

I carry a backpack with plenty of water and opt for serious waterproof hiking boots when I’m on these trails. A boot with a thin sole lets me feel when I’m stepping on loose pebbles or twigs. In the winter and spring, the trails can be slippery because of ice and mud. In dry conditions, they can be slippery because of loose sand and in the fall, leaves can cover the rocks and roots that jut out of the trails.

 

I also carry food — usually a cucumber and almond butter sandwich, some chips, a piece of fruit and maybe some nuts. There are picnic tables and shelters at all the sites. After a day of hiking, a special treat is a double scoop of ice cream at Grandma Faye’s grocery and general store on State Route 664 about 1 mile west of Old Man’s Cave.

 

On my last day of hiking, I splurged for lunch at Hocking Hills Dining Lodge, also about a mile from Old Man’s Cave. The lodge has an extensive menu that includes pizza, entrees like center-cut pork chops and ribeye, lots of sandwiches, burgers and oodles of beer. I loved the Better Burger ($7.95) with cheddar (add $1) on a homemade potato bun with hand-cut fries on the side.

 

WHY HOCKING HILLS IS SO SPECIAL

 

Hundreds of millions of years ago, Hocking Hills was submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean, the currents of which deposited vast amounts of sand and gravel. When the ocean receded, the sand and gravel bonded with silica and iron oxide to form a unique kind of sandstone found only in this part of the world. The middle layer of this Blackhand sandstone (named for a non-extant large black hand that American Indians painted out of soot on the side of a cliff) was very soft, and about 10,000 years ago glacial meltwaters carved out deep gorges, which are now teeming with lush vegetation, gigantic trees with exposed and twisted roots, and moss-covered boulders where chipmunks like to scamper.

 

Old Man’s Cave

 

Located off State Route 664, Old Man’s Cave isn’t a cave, but rather a large recess in a 150-foot-deep gorge, its name inspired by a hermit who lived here more than 100 years ago and whose remains are believed to be buried beneath the ledge.

 

Besides the large recess, there’s plenty more to see. The site is divided into five major sections: Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls and Lower Gorge. If you take your time to look around, you’ll see it’s all fantastically beautiful — and don’t be surprised to see what resemble human-like faces peering out of many of the rock formations.

 

Near the Upper Falls is a don’t-miss natural whirlpool called The Devil’s Bathtub. Water flows down a tiered waterfall into a round basin. According to folklore, the basin is so deep that it reaches Hell; actually, it is only a few feet deep.

 

Just don’t plan on bringing a bar of Irish Spring and jumping in. The Devil’s Bathtub is off limits to visitors.

 

Cedar Falls

 

The Lower Gorge Trail from Old Man’s Cave will take you to Cedar Falls. Despite its name, there are no cedars, but plenty of hemlocks, which early Europeans mistook for cedar. The largest and most spectacular waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park is here, where the Queer Creek tumbles into the chasm.

 

Now, for the geeky part: Scientists and engineers will appreciate the path leading from the parking lot accessible from State Route 374. Called Democracy Steps, it was created by Japanese artist and architect Akio Hizume, who applied the mathematical principles of the Fibonacci Sequence as well as Penrose tiling into the design of the path.

 

Ash Cave

 

A mile or so from Cedar Falls, after turning right on State Route 56, you won’t find any ashes in Ash Cave, and just like Old Man’s Cave, it isn’t even a real cave.

 

But when you reach the 700-foot-long horseshoe-shaped recess, you may feel like you’re on the set of a science fiction movie that takes place on Mars or some other desolate planet. You’ll also know you’re not alone — previous visitors have destroyed the primordial illusion by defacing the sandstone boulders by carving initials, names, other words and shapes into them. The enormous size of the recess, its peculiar quality of light, the sand and boulders, and the unauthorized modern-day hieroglyphics give Ash Cave a funky vibe.

 

Humans have been drawn to this place long before European explorers discovered enormous piles of ashes believed to have accumulated from centuries of fires. A group of sandstone boulders near the entrance of the recess is called Pulpit Rock because early Christian settlers used to hold church service here.

 

Ash Cave has a seasonal waterfall created by the East Fork of the Queer Creek. On prior visits, I’ve seen the pool of water below the waterfall shaped almost like a heart. Ash Cave is a popular site for weddings and a permit must be obtained from the park office (740-385- 6842).

 

There are two trails, an upper and a lower. The lower trail is paved, flat and wheelchair accessible.

 

Rock House

 

The only true cave at Hocking Hills State Park, Rock House is midway down a 150-foot cliff. It’s 200 feet long and features seven Gothic-like “windows.” American Indians used it for shelter and built ovens in some of the recesses. After European settlers arrived, it became a hiding place for outlaws and was nicknamed Robbers’ Roost.

 

I always carry a flashlight when I visit the cave because the floor is uneven; plus, in the wetter months, it can be slippery in spots.

 

The Loop Trail starts at the parking lot. I prefer going left, which descends much farther than the other route and provides a fabulous view of Rock House. But the price for that view is then having to ascend some very steep steps to reach the entrance of the cave.

 

Cantwell Cliffs

 

Not for the faint of heart, Cantwell Cliffs is both figuratively and literally a breath-taking experience. Located on State Route 374, it is the remotest of the five park sites, 17 miles away from Old Man’s Cave.

 

It’s a rugged trail that offers a heart-pumping descent through extremely narrow passageways — nicknamed Fat Woman’s Squeeze — to get to the bottom of the gorge.

 

This is a dangerous place so stay on the trail — not only for your own safety but for other hikers as well. During my recent visit to the cliffs, I’d descended into the valley when I suddenly heard a loud commotion and looked up in time to watch small boulders and rocks tumble down the recess because someone who’d gone off trail had stepped on a loose one. Fortunately, no one was in the path of the minor rock slide.

 

The ascent out of the gorge is very steep, and I’m always convinced that gravity here is denser by the time I make it back to the parking lot.

 

NEARBY SITES OF INTEREST

 

Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve

 

Named after W.J. Conkle, who carved his name and the date 1797 into sandstone, Conkle’s Hollow is another woolly place located off State Route 374. Hikers have two trails to choose from: the scenic floor trail and the even more scenic but very challenging rim trail 200 feet above.

 

The lower trail is pleasant and will take about an hour, in and out. The 2.5-mile-long upper trail, which is pretty darn rugged, may take 2 or 3 hours to complete. The view from the rim is truly spectacular, but is no place for babies, small children, pets or spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends afraid of heights. I’ve witnessed the breakup of a couple on this rim.

 

Rock Bridge State Nature Preserve

 

Located outside the town of Rockbridge, just off U.S. Route 33, Rock Bridge is the longest of several dozen natural bridges in the state of Ohio. The stone arch is more than 100 feet long; 20 feet at its widest and about 6 feet at its narrowest; and 50 feet above a ravine.

 
A 1.75-mile long loop trail will take you to the bridge. Part of the trail is a boardwalk over a bog. The area can be muddy, so you may want to carry a walking stick.

African-American Museum is worth waiting for

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 @ 9:12 PM


            Desks and a wood burning stove from the Hope School are on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Sept. 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Ken Cedeno/McClatchy/TNS)
            Ken Cedeno

WASHINGTON — It’s a project frequently referred to as “100 years in the making.” But if your travel plans include a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, be prepared to wait a while longer. The next tickets become available online May 3 at 9 a.m. — for admission in August.

Since the museum opened last September, the culmination of a dream conceived in 1915 by African American Civil war veterans, more than 1 million visitors have waited patiently to enter it. (The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution, leading some to call it the Blacksonian, which is great deal easier to pronounce than NMAAHC.)

Once inside, visitors wait even more to view some of the 37,000 objects on display. If you’re the type of museum-goer who could roller skate through the Louvre, you might be satisfied in two hours. But many visitors take six to absorb the full experience.

Typical lines for entrance to the lowest level of the museum, which document the African American experience from 1400 to 1968 — a slave cabin, the casket of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Jim Crow railroad car — last 45 minutes. Those waiting share space with equally-long lines of others waiting to sample food — Creole shrimp and grits, Gullah style Hoppin’ John, braised short ribs — in the 400-seat Sweet Home Cafe.

“I don’t see the lines getting any shorter,” the museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said in an interview last month. “I don’t think we’re going to have those moments when I can bounce a basketball through the museum — at least not for the next three or four or five years.”

“The museum’s design has also caused choke-points,” observed a reviewer in The Washington Post. “For example, the intentionally cramped entrance to the slavery section on the lowest level can’t handle the number of people who can fit into the massive elevator that ferries guests below ground. Museum officials have decided to not fill the elevator to capacity, which causes lines at the elevator two levels above.”

Traffic in the three floors above the Heritage Hall entrance level, which include a gift shop — T-shirts, coffee mugs, Kwanzaa items — flows more easily.

Level 2, “Explore Your Family History,” offers interactive displays. There’s the front end of a blue, 1949 Oldsmobile. Seated behind it in “the driver’s seat,” a six-year-old boy from Atlanta swipes a screen that calls up scenes of what he might have experienced if he were taking a trip in the ‘40s from Chicago to grandma’s house in Alabama. He sees signs on restaurants in Indiana refusing to serve “Negroes.” Gas stations in Kentucky whose pumps operated only for whites. One picture advises bringing an empty coffee can along because not all restrooms would accommodate him and his family.

On the same level, in a quiet room lined with computers, a man from Long Island searches for information about his great-grandfather. Spencer Thompson, he learns, lived in South Carolina in 1850, but was not a slave.

Level 3, “Community Galleries,”, honors African American Medal of Honor winners in the “Military Experience” gallery and sports stars in the “Leveling the Playing Field gallery.” An imposing feature in the sports wing is a life-sized statue of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised an Olympian controversy with their black power salute during the playing of our National Anthem at the 1968 Games in Mexico City (only the most devout football fans might know that Smith played for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969 — two games, one reception, 41 yards).

The museum tops out on Level 4, “Cultural Expressions,” two cellphone friendly displays dominate the “Musical Crossroads” gallery: the 1,200-pound Holy Mothership prop used at Parliament-Funkadelic concerts and the late Chuck Berry’s apple-red 1973 Cadillac. The car previously had been driven onto the stage for the documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!,” which was filmed at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. That was the same theater from which he had been denied admission as a child because of his race.

An apt analogy, perhaps, for a museum that’s well worth the wait.

IF YOU GO

— The museum is located at 1400 Constitution Ave NW. Parking in the area is limited and visitors are encouraged to use public transportation.

— Open every day except Christmas from 10-5:30.

— Admission is free but all visitors, including infants, must have tickets, which may be obtained only online at ETIX.

— Advance timed entry passes are released monthly. The next release date is May 3 for tickets to be used in August.

— A limited number of same day tickets are available. Check availability at nmaahc.si.edu

— A limited number of walk-up tickets are available on week days only.

— For more information call 1-844-750-3012

10 must-see attractions at Lake Erie

Published: Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 6:00 AM

While roller coasters loom large across the Sanduskycoastline, there is much more to do along the Lake Erie shores. From waterparks to wineries and museums to marinas, the Lake Erie shores and islands havesomething to offer travelers of all ages. And tourists agree, actually morethan nine million tourists according to the Lake Erie Shores & IslandsVisitors and Convention Bureau, making it one of the most popular leisure andbusiness travel destinations in the Midwest.

TEN STOPS ON A LAKEERIE SHORES AND ISLANDS ADVENTURE

Marblehead Lighthouse

Pretty and practical – MarbleheadLighthouse, built in 1821, is both the most photographed and oldest lighthousein continuous use on the Great Lakes. The view from the top is well worth the climb– 77 stairs – with expansive views of the nearby islands and Cedar Point.Meander through the museum and recently opened lifesaving station to take inthe history of the area.

http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/marbleheadlighthouse

Liberty Aviation Museum

Step back in time at the Liberty Aviation Museum. Located at the Erie-OttawaCounty Regional Airport, the museum collection includes World War II-era planes — including a 1945 B-25 Mitchell bomber — a WWII Vosper PT boat, that iscurrently being restored, and both civilian and military vehicles of the era.The Tri-Motor Heritage Museum is also onsite, enabling guests to view theactive restoration of a vintage Island Airlines Ford Tri-Motor.

A visit to the museum wouldn’t becomplete without a meal or, at least, a creamy milkshake at the Tin GooseDiner. The fully restored diner, named after the historic aircraft that servedthe islands for nearly half a century, was built in New Jersey in 1949 andsends you back in time immediately upon entering.

www.libertyaviationmuseum.org

African Safari Wildlife Park

Get up close – really, really close — with all sorts of wildlife. Where elsecan you feed bison, alpaca, zebra or a giraffe from the comfort of your car?But there is more to the Port Clinton wildlife park as there are also walk-thruexhibits, pig races, camel rides and educational animal programs. Walk throughrabbit row, feed a kangaroo and hold a 6-foot Burmese Python.

www.africansafariwildlifepark.com

Maritime Museum of Sandusky

Shipwrecks, pirates and, even, convicts — the Sandusky area has a rich andcolorful maritime history. With interactive exhibits and educational programs,you can discover shipwreck artifacts, learn about the local wetlands, try yourhand at ice harvesting, discover pirate tales and, even, learn about Sandusky’srole in the Underground Railroad. Climb into a boat or let the kids build oneof their own, it’s interesting for all ages.

www.sanduskymaritime.org

Set sail

With a refreshing lake breeze and beautiful scenery, getting to the islands is partof the fun. Whether you choose the speed of the Jet Express (https://jet-express.com/) or the practicality of Miller Ferries (www.millerferry.com) — where you can set sail car and all – travel to the Lake Erie Islands is fun, convenient and reasonably priced as children 5 and under are free.

Kelleys Island

From a600-acre state park to quaint shops and waterfront restaurants, Lake Erie’slargest American island has plenty to offer. The Glacial Grooves are a must-see.A National Natural Landmark, the Glacial Grooves are the largest easilyaccessible grooves in the world measuring in at 400 feet long, 35 feet wide andup to 10 feet deep. Getting around the island is fun and easy via a rented bikeor golf cart, allowing you to take in the natural beauty of the island. Kayakrentals are also available if you want to take in the sights from the water.

http://kelleysisland.com/

Put-in-Bay

Tiny island — big fun. South Bass Island packs a lot into its 2-mile-by-4-mile island and more than 2 million visitors annually travel to what has been dubbed the “KeyWest of the North.” Grown-up fun includes a winery and multiple restaurants andbars. Kids will have a ball at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center – with mini-golf,a giant maze, cave and rock-climbing wall. The whole family can take in thesights at the Butterfly House and nearby Chocolate Museum. No trip to theisland is complete without a visit to the Perry Peace Memorial – declared aNational Monument by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Again, golf cart andbike rental provides easy transportation or climb onto the Island Tour Trainfor a guided tour.

https://www.putinbay.com/

Merry-Go-Round Museum

Part history, part art, the Merry-Go-Round Museum in downtown Sandusky blendsboth flawlessly. While the museum’s own carousel – circa 1939 by the AllanHerschell Corporation – is a magnificent centerpiece, the collection ofindividual carousel figures is expansive. From reindeer – recently used asholiday decorations at the White House – to tigers, wolves, ostriches andtraditional horses, there is an enchanting collection of original and restoredfigures. Watch skilled craftspeople work in the onsite restoration shop andtake a ride on the one-of-a-kind carousel.

www.merrygoroundmuseum.org

Stay and play

The fun doesn’t haveto stop when you get to the hotel. There are five family-friendly hotels complete with indoor waterparks in the Sandusky area. From the wilds of Africato the tropics to the backwoods, guests at Kalahari, Castaway Bay, Great WolfLodge, Maui Sands and Rain Waterpark, can experience wet-and-wild fun everyday. From wave pools to water slides and themed restaurants and attractions,it’s more than a place to stay; these hotels are definitely places to play.

Grown-up fun

From wine tastings on the porch to a stroll through the vineyards, wineries are plentiful in the region. Both the islands have their own wineries – Kelleys Island Wine Company and Put-in-Bay Winery – but there are also several on the mainland including Mon Ami Historic Winery & Restaurant, Port Clinton, oneof the oldest wineries in the Lake Erie islands region, getting its start asthe Catawba Island Wine Company in 1872.

Cheers to a great trip!

More information on these and other area sites is available at www.shoresandislands.com.

Air Canada accused of bumping 10-year-old from overbooked flight

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 10:17 AM

File photo
John Li/Getty Images

Air Canada is the latest airline coming under fire for bumping a passenger on an overbooked flight.

But this time, according to the Vancouver Sun, the passenger in question was 10 years old and the only member of his family barred from the trip.

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Brett Doyle had purchased tickets for him and his three family members months ago for a trip from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to Costa Rica.

But when he tried to check in and select seats the day before their vacation this month, he was unable to select a set for his 10-year-old son. They spent hours on the phone with Air Canada to correct the issues, then drove to the airport, only to be told the flight was overbooked.

Doyle said he was told by an Air Canada agent that 34 tickets were sold for the 28-seat flight, but that it was unlikely that six passengers would miss a flight over spring break, according to The Vancouver Sun.

They then drove to Moncton to get another flight to make their connection to Costa Rica in Montreal, CBC reported.

That flight was canceled. They then drove to Halifax, staying overnight in a hotel, to be able to get to their final destination.

An airline spokesperson said that companies use a computer algorithm to look at patterns where customers book flights and don’t show up. Isabelle Arthur told The Vancouver Sun that even though Air Canada sells fewer seats than the prediction, there are still times that flights are overbooked and passengers must be moved to a different flight.

Arthur said that children under the age of 12 are usually seated with family, but there was a miscommunication in this case because the airline wasn’t directly dealing with the Doyle family.

Doyle said that Air Canada offered him a $2,500 voucher and may pay for the expenses incurred. The voucher expires in a year.