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Friday, May 24, 2024

Near and Far

Summer’s just begun. Even if you thought your summer was packed and planned, July and August will be much more fun with at least one more getaway. Here are 10 fantastic trips — all easily organized on a moment’s notice.

It’s always the right time to visit Florida’s sandy beaches, and no beach is prettier than Rosemary Beach. Consider visiting a state you might not be all that familiar with, like Arkansas with its deep southern roots and modern new museums, or Wisconsin’s amiable Fox Cities. If you are visiting St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Nashville this summer, you’ll be pleased to see our suggestions for specific new must-sees in these cities. Best of all, these spots all will help you make the most of summer.

Rosemary Beach, FL

Florida Panhandle community offers unhurried relaxation  By Todd A. Tucker

“It just doesn’t get any better than this.” That’s what I found myself thinking on day one of a recent trip to one of the prettiest seaside communities in the United States (or anywhere): Rosemary Beach, Fla.

After arriving at the beautiful new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (we’ve driven to Florida’s panhandle dozens of times), I was being escorted 30 miles to Rosemary Beach when I told the driver to exit US-98 and drive down scenic Highway 30-A. The highway is home to many other beautiful beachside communities, an area I have been quite familiar with for the past 25 years. I told my fellow travelers, “If you think this is beautiful, wait until we get to Rosemary Beach.”

Once we arrived, it didn’t take long for me to end up on a fat-tire bike provided to me by the fine folks at Bamboo Bicycle. In this community of bike paths, this is the best mode of transportation. After a pre-dinner beverage, I parked my bike at the beautiful Gulfside Eastern Green and found myself surrounded by spectacular architecture as the sun set. I paused for a moment to take it all in before dinner at Edward’s Fine Food and Wine on Main Street.

Edward’s is a true chef-run, fine-dining restaurant and wine bar. It tends to be a little more upscale than some coastal restaurants, but it’s very comfortable, with soft lighting, exposed brick, and a guitarist playing in the background. The menu offers a litany of the Gulf’s finest seafood and local produce and, as we raised our glasses to our host, it was an excellent way to kick off the first day.

But for me, the evening was not complete without a bike ride around Rosemary Beach. I love being able to see how the community has changed, its new homes, and the many shops and markets. The ride quickly reminded me of why I love this community so much.

After taking in the Gulf breeze on my bike, I retired to my cottage — a carriage house with soaring ceilings, tons of glass, and beautiful hardwood and granite in the bathroom and kitchens. It also had spectacular tile work. It is sufficient to say that I’d be very comfortable living there, even if it pales in comparison to the 10,000-plus-square-foot homes that are available for lease in that area.

The next morning, I spent not enough time at the beautiful Rosemary Beach Fitness Center, which is adjacent to The Sky Pool. The club has it all: treadmills, recumbents, ellipticals, steppers, and more, next door to a beautiful enclosed pool, with training available. That allowed me to be able to indulge at what has become a regionally famous group of restaurants called Cowgirl Kitchen that now has four locations.

Two Cowgirl Kitchens are along 30-A and are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. The owner, Nikki Nickerson, was very personable and engaging. There are so many good things on the menu, it is very difficult to even decide what to order. The restaurant is small but very cozy and manageable.

After breakfast, our group took a walking tour of Rosemary Beach, where we experienced why it is often referred to as a walking community. The town was designed so visitors can park their car for the entire duration of a stay and either walk or cycle around town.

On this particular after-breakfast walk, our host on the trip, Ken Gifford, president and COO of Rosemary Beach Holdings LLC, explained that Rosemary Beach is such a great community because “everyone who is here wants to be here.”

Lunch was at The Summer Kitchen Cafe, the very first restaurant to open in Rosemary Beach, with a very eclectic menu of wraps, salads, and seafood. Any lunch that consists of a Kobe burger with blue cheese and bacon, washed down with an Abita Turbo Dog beer while sitting on a beautiful patio, can be called a good lunch.

With the afternoon free, my options appeared limitless: the fitness center (not again!), the Vivo Spa Salon, or the beautiful boutiques. My personal choice was to get on my bicycle with my pant pockets overflowing with Hoegaarden beer, and to sit around one of the stunning pools. I have been to other resort communities that offer spectacular pools, but in Rosemary Beach, each pool is more beautiful than the next.

Soon enough, I found myself talking to a couple of ladies poolside from Atlanta. One already had purchased a Rosemary Beach property; the other was searching for a property to purchase on that visit. She said she was a CFO, and I found it humorous that she compared every property she visited to Rosemary Beach before finally realizing she should purchase property there.

All too soon, the afternoon came and went. As you can imagine, with all that lying around, doing nothing in the sun and drinking beer (my specialty), I had worked up a healthy appetite. That evening’s dinner was at Onano Neighborhood Café.

Onano specializes in fine Northern Italian cuisine with a host of very exciting foods from the Tuscan region: exceptionally good crab cakes, asparagus soup, and a pork Milanese. It’s killing me not to remember the name of the wonderful medium-bodied red wine that was toasty with an incredible finish — of all the things to forget!

The final morning started with a wonderfully relaxed breakfast at Amavida Coffee, a small family-owned coffee shop with wonderful teas, pastries, and desserts. We sat at a large joiner-type of table and lingered over good coffee longer than usual.

Another highlight was an afternoon visit to La Crema Tapas & Chocolate. The owner, who also operates Aqua Coastal Sushi in the town, told us how he had always dreamed of owning a restaurant, so he left behind his very good mortgage-banking career and opened his restaurants.

The restaurant had a special vibe and was relaxed, elegant, and very comfortable. The Spanish tapas, including the absolutely amazing desserts, made for a truly unique visit. It was so memorable, in fact, that when I was in the vicinity just four weeks later, my family and I made a determined trip to the restaurant. This was so my sons could experience what they had heard me rave about and seen in pictures I had shown them. Eleven- and 14-year-olds can sometimes be jaded, but not here.

The final dinner with the group was at Restaurant Paradis, a newer addition to Rosemary Beach’s fast-growing dining scene with wonderful seafood and exceptional steaks. Paradis also offers an impressive wine list that, for me, was truly a highlight of the trip.

As I recall my time spent in Rosemary Beach, it would be fun, as I love architecture and design, to write about the spectacular homes, landscapes, and common areas of Rosemary Beach, but words literally would not do it justice.

Rosemary Beach has been lauded over and over, and showcased in dozens of travel magazines, architectural magazines, garden magazines, food magazines, and so much more. As I revisit the Gulf community again, and reminisce about my time spent there, I find myself wondering why more people have not discovered Rosemary Beach. Then again, maybe that still is a good thing when I visit.

When You Go:

•  Rosemary Beach event, merchant, and town information, 850-278-2017, rosemarybeach.com
•  Bamboo Bicycle Company, 850-231-0770, bamboobicyclecompany.com
•  The Sea Oats Beach Service, 850-951-3632, seaoatsbeachservice.com
•  Rosemary Beach Fitness Center, 850-278-2061
•  Vivo Spa Salon, 850-231-6801, vivospasalon.com
•  Amavida Coffee, 850-231-1077, amavida.com
•  Aqua Coastal Sushi, 850-764-AQUA (2082), aquacoastalsushi.com
•  Cowgirl Kitchen, 850-303-0708, cowgirlkitchen.net
•  Edward’s Fine Food & Wine, 850-231-0550
•  La Crema Tapas & Chocolate, 850-624-4121, lacrematapas.com
•  Onano Neighborhood Café, 850-231-2436, onanocafe.com
•  Restaurant Paradis, 850-534-0400, restaurantparadis.com
•  Summer Kitchen Café, 850-231-6264, theskcafe.com



Arkansas offers triangle of art, politics, and architecture  By Kristen K. Tucker

Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress, bristles when asked about her investment in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “You don’t ask what a gift costs,” is her stock reply, according to more than a few of the tourism representatives who are working hard to promote Walton’s gift to her hometown of Bentonville, Ark. — the first major American art museum to be built in 50 years. The museum, opened on Nov. 11, 2011, attracted 600,000 visitors its first year, more than doubling projections. Crystal Bridges features American art, including works donated from Alice Walton’s personal collection, valued in the hundreds of millions.

When I was invited on a press trip, “Arkansas Arts and Culture,” which included Crystal Bridges, I immediately accepted. I also was intrigued that a 21c Museum Hotel had opened in Bentonville. (The original Louisville boutique hotel and contemporary art museum opened in 2006 by Laura Lee Brown and her husband Steve Wilson. In 2009 it was voted top hotel in the U.S. in Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice awards.) After five packed days in early May, I left impressed with what the state refers to as its cultural tourism triangle of Little Rock, Bentonville, and Fort Smith.

Little Rock
I flew to the newly-named Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport and arrived in time to head straight to the Clinton Presidential Center. The state promotes its many Clinton destinations as a “Billgrimage.” The library, opened in 2004, sits on a 28-acre city park overlooking the Arkansas River. Construction of the buildings cost $165 million, all privately funded through donations to the William J. Clinton Foundation.

The main gallery features a timeline of events of the Clinton Administration. I was fascinated by the president’s daily schedules presented in binders. What was President Clinton doing on my birthday in 1998? He and the First Lady departed Washington, D.C. at 6:35 a.m. and finished the day in Portland, Ore., with the president taping his radio address at 11:50 p.m., after attending political and charitable events in San Francisco all day.

Being home to the presidential center helps the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock (they each are incorporated) raise the bar. Dr. Dean Kumpuris, a member of the City of Little Rock board of directors, recalls a promise the city made to President Clinton when he selected the site. “We pledged to make the riverfront and park nicer,” he says.

Two hotels I recommend, the Capital and the Little Rock Marriott (until recently the Little Rock Peabody), are within easy walking distance of the sculpture garden. So is the Arkansas River Trail that unites Little Rock and North Little Rock with a 17-mile -loop walking, running, and bicycling trail that includes four pedestrian bridges.

Little Rock’s most historic district is called the Quapaw Quarter; include a walking tour on your visit. The neighborhood is home to the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and more than 200 residential and other buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I also visited the Arkansas Arts Center. A tour this summer will yield an opportunity to the see the exhibit “Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London” (through Sept. 8). At the center of the show is one of the most famous paintings in the world — Rembrandt’s 1665 self-portrait.

In North Little Rock (which has a population of 63,000, compared to about 200,000 in Little Rock), we dined at the Argenta Market, a deli and specialty market featuring mostly locally-sourced foods and products. The heart of historic downtown North Little Rock is Main Street, where the Starving Artist Café is located. There we were treated to dinner and a live radio show, “Tales from the South,” featuring “true stories told by Southerners who lived them.”

At the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, we dined at Ashley’s. The beautiful synchronized service was matched with each plate’s presentation and taste.

Bentonville, too, is a recently transformed city. Long on the map as the home of Walmart, the Walmart Visitor Center and the town square recently have spiffed up, rolling out the red carpet for increased tourism to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

“We believe in a great museum’s power to transform individuals and communities, and that the opportunity to interact with art should be available to all,” says Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Executive Director Rod Bigelow.

Walton’s ambition to found a major museum of American art first came to public attention in the spring 2005, when she paid the New York Public Library a reported $35 million for “Kindred Spirits,” an 1849 masterpiece of the Hudson River School by Asher B. Durand. The painting depicts Thomas Cole, the landscape painter, and William Cullen Bryant, the nature poet, standing on a rocky cliff overlooking an idealized Catskills vista; the scene bears striking similarities to views in the Ozarks.

Endowed by the Walton Family Foundation with $800 million, Crystal Bridges has been using its resources to assemble a collection of American art rivaling art seen in major museums in quality, if not quantity. Included in the Crystal Bridges recent acquisitions is a 50 percent stake in the 101-piece Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Georgia O’Keefe’s work, donated to Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., by O’Keeffe, Stieglitz’s wife. Thanks to a $20 million grant from Walmart, admission to the museum is free. (There is a charge for special exhibits.)

Take time to eat at Crystal Bridges’ restaurant, Eleven, named for the opening of the museum on 11/11/11. Wednesday nights are special, with WOW — Wednesdays on Water — featuring special menus and presentations.

Other Northwest Arkansas Must-Sees:
The University of Arkansas is in Fayetteville, about 30 miles south of Bentonville. It is also home to the Clinton House. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Clintons were married in the dining room of the home in 1975.

Bella Vista is a 10-minute drive from Bentonville. This lovely community is home to the Mildred B. Cooper Chapel designed by Arkansas architect Fay Jones, a Frank Lloyd Wright prodigy.

The lure of Crystal Bridges has opened a window of opportunity for cultural organizations in the area. The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum opened earlier this year in a building renovated by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, the same firm that designed the Clinton Presidential Library.

When You Go:

•  Arkansas Arts Center, 501-372-4000, arkarts.com
•  Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, Sculpture at the River Market, 501-664-1919, sculptureattherivermarket.com
•  Clinton Presidential Center, William J. Clinton Foundation, 501-374-4242, clintonpresidentialcenter.org, clintonfoundation.org
•  The Bernice Garden, thebernicegarden.org
•  Capital Hotel, 501-374-4371, capitalhotel.com
•  Little Rock Marriott (formerly the Peabody Hotel Little Rock), 501-906-4000, marriott.com/hotels/travel/litpb-little-rock-marriott
•  21c Museum Hotel, Bentonville, 479-286-6500, 21cMuseumHotels.com/Bentonville
•  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 479-418-5700, crystalbridges.org
•  Mildred B. Cooper Chapel, 479-855-6598, coopermemorialchapel.com
•  Walmart Visitor Center, 479-204-6565, corporate.walmart.com/our-story/heritage/visitor-center
•  Clinton House Museum, 479-444-0066, clintonhousemuseum.org
•  Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, 479-784-2787, fsram.org


Austin, TX

An open and friendly city with a quirky sense of humor  By Amy Culbertson

If the mention of Texas brings to mind images of cowboys, cactus, and oilmen, you probably haven’t been to Austin — the quintessentially Texan city that breaks all the Texas stereotypes.

On the edge of Texas’ Hill Country, Austin’s streets bask in the shade of live oaks, while its hills enjoy sunset views over neighboring lakes. True to its “Keep Austin Weird” mantra, Austin celebrates individuality, embracing sports fans and slackers, intellectuals and tech geeks, old hippies, new hipsters, and everything in between. And not for nothing is Austin known as a music capital, with some 200 spots to hear live music.

If the city’s fanatic about its home-grown music, it’s equally so about its locavore restaurants. On the streets, 1,500 mobile vendors dish out a wild mashup of cuisines ranging from pork-belly steamed buns to tarragon-mustard goat cheese crepes. Higher up the food chain, trend-setting restaurants like Uchi and Barley Swine attract national notice. There’s no dearth of ways to work off the calories, either: Austin is threaded with hiking and biking trails, parks, natural pools, and golf courses, and crowned with a series of lakes.

At the city’s heart are the imposing Texas Capitol grounds and the University of Texas campus, home to 50,000 students who feed the city’s laid-back-eccentric vibe. The legacy of the 1960s survives, overlaid by waves of techsters (Dell is based here), creative types (the filmmaking scene is booming), and now, a half-century on from those hippie days, by a hipster culture that rivals Portland’s.

People are open and friendly, possibly because they feel lucky to live in Austin, and once you’ve visited, you too may daydream of living in this lucky city. How to get close to that dream on your visit? Stay in one of Austin’s central neighborhoods, chill out, and live like a local.

Yes, you could hole up in a luxe hotel downtown; you could dive into the maelstrom of music, cinema, and more that engulfs Austin every spring with South by Southwest, or fight for tickets to fall’s Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Or you could explore the city’s quirkier side. Frequent festivals celebrate everything from street marching bands to DIY inventors. A young-skewing population means there are plenty of kid-oriented attractions, too.

And intriguing neighborhoods ring the city’s downtown, each offering you the chance to immerse yourself in Austin. Stay in one of the spots below, and you’ll wake to the murmur of mourning doves and wind down watching lightning bugs flicker in the dusk.

SoCo and environs:
Lady Bird Lake bisects Austin, and the neighborhoods just across the bridges from downtown are hopping. SoCo, around the South Congress strip, is the core of the action, with quirky shops, trendy eateries, funky food trucks, and swarms of cafe-hoppers and hangers-out. Several blocks west, South First offers a more laid-back lineup of food trailers, coffeehouses, boot purveyors, and vintage shops.

Stay at: A few blocks east but a world away from the South Congress action is a bit of old Austin made new: Verde Camp, an enclave of tiny 1930s-era screen-doored rental houses restored with a hip, summer-camp vibe. On decks and porches sit chairs made from old oil drums; inside, all is clean and spare, with midcentury-modern sleeper sofas, folk art, and pots of succulents and cacti tucked here and there. $180-$250.

Sup at: The casual-hip Enoteca Vespaio offers temptations ranging from fat cherry-pepper “shooters” stuffed with prosciutto to crisp-crusted pizzas to sure-handed pastas. It’s the little brother of the upscale Italian Vespaio next door.

The East Side:
This vibrant gentrifying area across the interstate from downtown is often called the Brooklyn of Austin. Drive down the main east-west streets and you’ll see galleries, studios, design start-ups, throngs of young folk lined up at food trucks or clustered at tables in front of hip restaurants and wine bars. Downtown’s just a bike or pedicab ride away.

Stay at: Tucked into a street where coffeehouses intermingle with brightly painted tire stores, piñata stands, taquerias, and dance halls, the Heywood Hotel houses seven thoughtfully-designed, modern, light-filled rooms that brought the Heywood a spot on Conde Nast Traveler’s 2013 Hot List of best new hotels. Furniture is handmade or refinished; some rooms have teeny private patios, and a second-floor courtyard invites lounging. $179-$309.

Sup at: The East Side, home to several urban farms, nurtures some of Austin’s hippest, most locavore-obsessed restaurateurs, including Hillside Farmacy, East Side Showroom, and the East Side King food-truck trio of celeb-chef Paul Qui, dispensing Asian-inflected street fare.

Hyde Park:
This leafy neighborhood of Victorian and Craftsman houses just north of the university embodies old Austin. Stroll the streets and admire the eclectic architecture, not to mention yards planted with everything from wildflowers to artichokes. In the neighborhood lies the Elisabet Ney Museum, in the former home and studio of the pioneering 19th-century sculptress.

Stay at: You may want to move right in to Harris Park Guest House, just south of Hyde Park. It’s a rambling 1911-vintage Craftsman home, many-windowed and beautifully restored, whose expansive grounds offer several serene sitting areas. Perfect for families, it has three bedrooms and two sleeping porches. Base rate is $200 for two, $25 each extra guest, $100 cleaning fee.

Sup at: Avenue B Grocery is a relic of the past, a little neighborhood grocery that has miraculously survived for more than a century. At lunch, order a sandwich to eat at one of the picnic tables outside. For dining indoors, Asti offers beautiful contemporary Italian fare, and Vino Vino has inventive small and large plates; both feature intriguing wines.

Only-in-Austin must-dos:

>> Take a dip at Barton Springs Pool, a beloved three-acre, spring-fed pool whose frigid 68-degree waters will chill you down on the steamiest day and where the people-watching is unparalleled.

>> Join the crowds on and below the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk to watch North America’s largest urban bat colony emerge.

>> Hit the hike-and-bike trails around Lady Bird Lake and watch canoeists and kayakers glide by — or rent a craft and take to the lake yourself.

>> Watch the sun set over Lake Travis or Lake Austin. The bluff-top The Oasis bar, with dozens of decks and terraces, is mega-popular.

>> Try out your two-step at Austin’s hallowed dance hall, the Broken Spoke (chicken-fried steak optional).

When You Go:

•  General Information, austintexas.org/visit
•  Austin City Limits Music Festival, 512-505-4483, aclfestival.com
•  Verde Camp, 512-850-5150, verdecamp.com
•  Enoteca Vespaio, 512-441-7672, austinvespaio.com
•  Heywood Hotel, heywoodhotel.com
•  Hillside Farmacy, 512-628-0168, hillsidefarmacy.com
•  Harris Park Guest House, 713-898-3303, vrbo.com/224665
•  Avenue B Grocery, 512-453-3921, avenuebgrocery.com
•  Asti, 512-451-1218, astiaustin.com
•  Vino Vino, 512-465-9282, vinovinoaustin.com
•  Barton Springs Pool, austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool
•  Lady Bird Lake, tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/boat/paddlingtrails/inland/lady_bird_lake
•  The Oasis, 512-266-2442, oasis-austin.com
•  The Broken Spoke, 512-442-6189, brokenspokeaustintx.com


Napa Valley, CA

America’s most famous wine region delivers on the promise of local and original
By Paul Leingang

It started with a bottle of wine. To be specific, it was mead, a kind of wine made from fermented honey.
My wife and I had been invited to the home of a grape-growing family in Napa Valley, Calif. My wife solved the daunting problem of what to bring as a gift to our hosts by selecting a bottle of mead produced right here in Indiana.

Frank and Beth Leeds, our hosts, appreciated the thought, and they made us feel comfortable at their home in the Rutherford District. That’s where some of the best Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world are produced from acres and acres of carefully tended grapevines.

That was our first of three visits to their home, each one better than the one before.

Frank Leeds is responsible for his own fields and all the other vineyards producing grapes for Frog’s Leap Winery. He also is the managing partner of the Chavez and Leeds Family Vineyard in Rutherford. He learned his organic and dry-farming techniques from the legendary “Uncle Roy” Chavez.

Leeds was honored on May 17 by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG) as the 2013 Napa Valley Grower of the Year. Jon Ruel, president of the NVG, considers him to be “a thoughtful farmer and an outspoken advocate for organic practices.”

Organic and dry means just what it says — no chemical fertilizer, and no irrigation. The Chavez and Leeds technique involves spacing the vines and planting cover crops between rows of grapevines, keeping moisture in the soil while adding natural nutrients. Their vineyards were certified organic in 1988, and they save tens of thousands of gallons of precious California water.

Frank and Beth Leeds also are thoughtful and extraordinary hosts, helping us to understand the value of enjoying what is local and original, in Indiana or California — good advice for every traveler.

Frog’s Leap Winery
Every traveler’s experience of Napa Valley can be different, of course, depending on the time available, the lodging chosen, and the selection of wineries and eateries to visit.

Frog’s Leap Winery is at the top of my list. Originally founded on a spot along Mill Creek known as the Frog Farm, it is a family-owned winery at home in the historic heart of Rutherford. Yet it has a sense of humor. A visitor might try Frögenbeerenauslese, a pun of a name for a late-season wine, a faux-German interpretation of the famous German dessert wine known as Trockenbeerenauslese.

More traditional wines — some very expensive but exquisite — include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rutherford.

Frog’s Leap is headquartered at “the Red Barn,” which was built in 1884 and is said to be the oldest board-and-batten building in the Napa Valley.

Long Meadow Ranch and Farmstead Restaurant
There are many wineries to visit and many restaurants to sample, but next on my list after Frog’s Leap is Long Meadow Ranch and the Farmstead Restaurant, also in the Rutherford District. This three-acre destination site includes a tasting room in a historic home, a winery, a farmer’s market, and a restaurant. But there’s a lot more to the ranch than that.

Long Meadow Ranch produces award-winning red wines and handcrafted extra virgin olive oils, grass-fed beef, eggs, and heirloom fruits and vegetables on 650 acres named Mayacamas Estate in Napa Valley and in higher elevations to the west.

The Farmstead Restaurant is casual, with tables placed around a central open kitchen and featuring an authentic farm-to-table menu highlighting local, sustainable, and organic ingredients at peak freshness.

Depending on the season, the menu may feature local oysters, jumbo artichokes, chili, and other entrees made with grass-fed beef from Long Meadow Ranch, or even Heritage St. Louis-style pork ribs with Point Reyes blue cheese coleslaw.

Along with the emphasis on locally produced meat, fruit, and vegetables, the ranch uses solar panels for electricity and biodiesel fuel to run its farming equipment, demonstrating the owners’ commitment to environmental stewardship.

Long Meadow Ranch and the Farmstead were honored in 2013 as the global winner for the Innovative Wine Tourism Experience. The award came from the Wine Capitals of the World, a network of 10 major global cities in internationally renowned wine regions.

More to see
Napa Valley can be overwhelming, so our most recent visit included just a few stops each day. We didn’t take the wine train, which probably would be a lot of fun. It offers gourmet meals on board and stops for winery tours, and allows travelers to take in all of the scenery with none of the worry about highway traffic.

We visited mega-producer Domaine Chandon, a winery with a world-class restaurant, established in 1973 by Moët et Chandon, the first French-owned sparkling wine producer in Napa Valley.

We visited a casual tasting room along the Silverado Trail, at a small winery near Calistoga, where the owners and workers seemed happy just to make enough wine to share with friends and earn a reasonable living. We all wished we had more time to enjoy other wineries, hot springs and mud baths, restaurants, and other attractions in Calistoga.

Familiar names of wineries pop up left and right in Napa Valley along California Highway 29 — Inglenook, Beringer, Mumm, Beaulieu, and others. Hundreds of others.

Sonoma Valley is just on the other side of a range of mountains to the west, offering what many visitors say is a more casual experience of wineries and eateries. It’s another day trip or two if you have the time.

It’s a long way from Indiana to California, so it is easy to be tempted to add other sites to visit for culture and fun. On the way to Napa Valley, we envied the people who took the time to ride rented bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge. We did take time to enjoy a picnic and a short hike to the Cathedral Grove of ancient Redwoods in Muir Woods. If we had had more time, a longer hike would have been enticing from Muir Woods into the neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park.

On the way back to San Francisco, we stopped at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, an award-winning 21st century architectural marvel in Oakland. We also visited Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Chinatown, the first cathedral built in California and the first Chinese mission in America.

Our trip was in late September, harvest time, but any time is a good time to visit the legendary and local sites of Napa Valley and Northern California.

When You Go:

•  Napa Chamber of Commerce, 707-226-7455, napachamber.org
•  Muir Woods National Monument, nps.gov/muwo/index.htm
•  Cathedral of Christ the Light, ctlcathedral.org
•  Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, oldsaintmarys.org
•  Frog’s Leap Winery, 800-959-4704, frogsleap.com
•  Appellation Trail, flavornapavalley.com
•  Long Meadow Ranch, 707-963-1956, longmeadowranch.com


The Fox Cities, WI

Enjoy a really Gouda time in Wisconsin’s Fox Cities  By Heather Gray

Cheese. That’s the first word that comes to mind upon the mention of Wisconsin. It is a natural association — Wisconsin is the largest cheese-producing state in the United States. Before even exiting the airport, visitors are charmed by rows of cheesehead hats and fresh blocks of cheddar. However, on my trip to the Fox Cities area, I discovered many other attractions to sink my teeth into.

The Fox Cities are composed of 19 communities along the Fox River in East Central Wisconsin, just 30 minutes south of Green Bay. It is one of the state’s fastest-growing areas, well-known for its rich history in papermaking and large concentration of retail shops.

Appleton is the largest of the Fox Cities, with a vibrant downtown offering numerous shopping, entertainment, and dining opportunities. It’s an easy stroll up and down College Avenue, where you’ll find specialty stores like Hey Daisy, a clothing and accessories boutique, as well as City Center Plaza, a popular shopping mall. If you’re looking for some pampering, drop into Shear Chaos, a salon offering a variety of services performed by an experienced and colorful staff that warrants its own reality show. I tried a paraffin hand dip, which left me feeling relaxed and my skin soft and silky.

A thriving arts community is evident in downtown Appleton, with multiple galleries and venues to choose from. The Trout Museum of Art aims to excite the local community about the arts through exhibitions, educational programs, and special events. Or, make your own art at The Fire, a studio that allows anyone to become an artist. Choose a project — pottery painting, mosaic, glass fusing, or precious metal clay — and the staff will help you bring it to life. During my visit, I created a fused-glass pendant that turned out beautifully, despite my inexperience at that particular craft. Just a few blocks away stands the gleaming Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, a proud landmark for the city since 2002. I was lucky enough to catch a performance of Disney’s “The Lion King,” a popular Broadway musical that did not disappoint.

Numerous restaurants are located within walking distance, from fine-dining experiences to a variety of ethnic options. The award-winning Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse is a well-known destination for Packers fans and history buffs alike. Located just across the street from the Performing Arts Center, it’s a perfect choice for dinner before a show. While you wait for your filet mignon, take some time to check out the walls, which are lined in football memorabilia, including a replica of the Lombardi trophy. Cena Restaurant and Bar is a small but lively choice, offering an eclectic selection of entrees and live music on the weekends.

If you’re craving Italian, make the short drive to Frank’s Pizza Palace, which proudly boasts its status as Appleton’s “first and finest” pizzeria. Frank Pierri opened the restaurant in 1955, and his daughter, Jeannie Pierri-Brice, now owns it. From the atmosphere to the service, to Jeannie herself, I found the dining experience to be overwhelmingly charming. The “Frank’s Special” — pizza with a double serving of Frank’s homemade sausage, mounds of mushrooms, and two extra toppings — is a local favorite.

I still reminisce about my visit to Wilmar Chocolates, a nearby confectioner making small-batch chocolates since 1956. The “Build Your Bar” option is perfect as a special gift or a sweet way to treat yourself. Just step right up to the “Chocolate Bar,” and you can pick the type of chocolate, up to four mix-ins, and optional spices to create a custom candy bar to suit exactly your own tastes. The best part is being able to watch (and inhale deeply) as the chocolatiers make it right in front of you. I went with milk chocolate, potato chips, toffee chunks, and Oreo cookie bits. It was glorious!

The Fox Valley, eventually known as the “Paper Valley,” has been a center for the industry since the 1800s. This is mainly due to the area containing all the elements needed for it to succeed — water for power, lumber for pulp, and an eager workforce. Since I have a career in the publishing business, the art of papermaking naturally appeals to me, so I made sure to visit the Paper Discovery Center, located inside a former mill right on the banks of the Fox River. After exploring the interactive exhibits, I learned how to make my own paper in the Purdy-Weissenborn Paper Lab, and I created my own sheet, replete with glitter, to take home.

In addition to being famous for paper, Appleton is also known as the childhood home of magician Harry Houdini, who moved to the area from Hungary when he was 4 years old. The History Museum at the Castle, located downtown in a former Masonic temple, houses a large exhibit devoted to the showman. Children can recreate many of Houdini’s famous escapes while adults enjoy the collection of documents and memorabilia from his career.

Neenah, another of the Fox Cities, is located less than 10 miles southwest of Appleton on Lake Winnebago. It has a thriving, historic downtown that’s nice for an architectural walking tour, particularly near Riverside Park, where many former paper barons lived in the early part of the 20th century. One of these mansions, the Bergstrom house, was converted into the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in 1959. It is named for Evangeline Bergstrom, a collector and expert in glass paperweights, and Ernst and Carol Mahler, also collectors, who donated to and helped found the museum. While the museum does support other temporary exhibits, the main attraction is its world-renowned collection of glass paperweights. With free admission, don’t miss the chance to see more than 3,000 pieces of beautiful glass art. Make sure to stop at the gift shop on your way out — I purchased an artisan-produced glass paperweight to add to my own collection.

Northeast of Appleton is the smaller Fox City of Freedom, where I visited the Kerrigan Brothers Winery. There you’ll find winemaker Troy Landwehr, who is happy to let you taste any of the fruit wines they produce, including blueberry, plum, and even tomato. Troy is also a master cheese carver (I had to get back to cheese at some point, right?), having traveled around the world to create over 1,000 sculptures for a variety of events, openings, and television shows.

Yes, cheese. Even with all these activities, you really can’t visit Wisconsin without trying the best curds it has to offer — and this means stopping at Simon’s Specialty Cheese just outside Appleton on Freedom Road. You’ll wander the aisles in amazement at the sheer number of varieties of cheeses. From the famous squeaky curds, to wax-covered novelty shapes, to their signature chocolate cheese fudge, I guarantee you won’t leave the store empty-handed — or hungry, for that matter, as samples are readily offered. Go ahead and stock up for the flight home. Only in Wisconsin were airport security agents unimpressed with my six pounds of tasty souvenirs.

When You Go:

•  Cena, 920-830-7820, cenarestaurant.net
•  The Fire Art Studio, 920-882-2920, thefireartstudio.com
•  Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, 920-730-3782, foxcitiespac.com
•  Frank’s Pizza Palace, 920-734-9131, frankspizzapalace.com
•  Hey Daisy, 920-662-0801, heydaisy.com
•  Shear Chaos Salon, 920-733-4247, shearchaos.net
•  Trout Museum of Art, 920-733-4089, troutmuseum.org
•  Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse, 920-380-9390, vincelombardisteakhouse.com
•  Wilmar Chocolates, 920-733-6182, wilmarchocolates.com
•  History Museum at the Castle, 920-735-9370, foxvalleyhistory.org
•  Paper Discovery Center, 920-380-7491, paperdiscoverycenter.org
•  Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, 920-751-4658, bergstrom-mahlermuseum.com
•  Kerrigan Brothers Winery, 920-788-1423, kerriganbrothers.com
•  Simon’s Specialty Cheese, 920-788-6311, simonscheese.com


Indianapolis, IN

Downtown Indianapolis offers visitors culture in stride  By Jon Shoulders

Getting there is half the fun. By taking a trip to the newly-opened Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick, visitors both familiar and unacquainted with our state capital have opportunities to explore all corners of the downtown on bike or foot.

The city’s new urban bike and pedestrian path, which connects five downtown cultural districts — Fountain Square, Massachusetts Avenue, The Canal & White River State Park, Indiana Avenue, and the Wholesale District — offers sightseers a convenient means to reach many of Indianapolis’ museums, parks, and restaurants, and an opportunity to experience a smattering of culture en route. In a city that has been historically automobile-friendly — after all, we’re talking about the host city of the annual Indianapolis 500 here — completion of the trail is no small feat.

“The city has become much more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly because of the trail,” says Kären Haley, executive director of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc. “It brings you to within a block of every cultural, sporting, heritage, and entertainment destination in downtown Indianapolis.”

Inspiration for the trail came when Brian Payne, president and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation and founder of the Cultural Trail, saw the benefits of connecting the separate cultural districts he helped establish 12 years ago as a member of the city’s Cultural Development Commission. Payne figured the best approach would be to create an urban version of Indianapolis’ Monon Trail, a popular rail-trail that runs through much of the city and is enjoyed by walkers, runners, and bikers. Construction was completed in seven stages over five years starting in 2007 and culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 10.

The total project cost of $63 million was funded by private donations of $27.5 million and government grants of $35.5 million, which went toward trail design, project management, construction, and a maintenance endowment. Enhancements under and near the trail, such as upgrades to traffic signals, curbs, and sewers, made up $20 million of the funding, resulting in tax-free infrastructure improvements for the city. Fresh paving for the entire eight-mile trail (which is wide enough for easy passing and is wheelchair accessible), 16 art commissions, lighting for 24-hour use, and fresh landscaping all were part of the design that visitors now can experience.

Haley hopes the trail becomes a hot spot. “The planning team decided that the trail would be the boldest, most beautiful urban pedestrian and bike path in the world, and that the trail itself would be a destination because of the beautiful journey that it has created in an urban setting,” she says.

Don’t Miss:

>> There is no actual trail start point; try the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and St. Clair Street, or White River State Park near the Eiteljorg and Indiana State museums, both of which are great locations for beginning your trail journey.

>> Make sure to stroll the Glick Peace Walk, a two-block granite terrazzo section of the trail running along Walnut Street between Capitol Avenue and Meridian Street, which features stainless steel and glass portraits of 12 individuals who have made peaceful contributions to humanity.

>> Stop for a bite at BRU Burger Bar, where the trail reaches the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Alabama Street. You’ll know you’ve found it when you spot “Brickhead 3” just off the street corner — a massive sculpture of 550 individually-cut ceramic bricks shaped to resemble a human head. BRU’s menu boasts appetizers, salads, and a selection of classic and gourmet burgers. For more information, call 317-635-4278.

>> Get your sports fix at the NCAA Hall of Champions in White River State Park. The museum, exhibition center, and conference hall offer two levels of sights and interactive educational exhibits focusing on the student-athlete. For more information, call 317-916-4255.

>> Rent a bike, pedal boat, or kayak from “Wheel Fun Rentals,” located near the corner of Ohio and West streets, and glide along downtown’s Central Canal. For more information, call 317-767-5072.

For maps, updates, and additional information about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick, visit indyculturaltrail.org.


Nashville, TN

A new museum pays tribute to the Man in Black  By MiChelle Jones

Bill Miller couldn’t have asked for a better response to his new Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville, Tenn. Since its opening in late April, the museum has received rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Even more significant is the emotional reaction to the museum from members of the Cash family. Cash’s sister, Joanne, cried softly as she toured the museum in April, while younger brother Tommy Cash has repeatedly expressed his gratitude and admiration for the collection and the way it’s been presented.

The exhibition space isn’t huge, but it is nevertheless a comprehensive look at Cash’s life and career told through images, artifacts and — appropriately enough — music. Dynamic graphics and interactive displays make this a 21st-century examination of an icon whose career stretched from the early days of rockabilly to the digital download era.

“Whatever anybody needs to know about my dad that they don’t know already is in that museum,” Cindy Cash said at a museum event in late May.
“It is a world-class collection of items that tells the story of his life,” Al Gore told the audience at that event. “I was blown away by how well it was put together.” The former vice president happened to be sitting next to Cindy Cash on a flight to Nashville the previous day and asked if he could take part in the reception. “I am proud to be among the billions who love Johnny Cash — really, really deeply love him,” Gore said.

Museum founder Bill Miller started collecting Cash memorabilia at age 12, which also is when he got to know the Man in Black himself. The two remained friends until Cash’s death in 2003. After years of dreaming of opening a museum (Miller also runs JohnnyCash.Com, the official Cash website), Miller opened the 18,000-square-foot museum this spring. Plans call for a 250-seat performance space, then the addition of archives.

Located within walking distance of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium, and Nashville’s honky-tonk district, the Johnny Cash Museum is marked by striking lettering painted directly onto the brick building. A short hallway leads from the gift shop to the museum, where fans encounter a vignette honoring Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. Marshall Grant’s yellow standup bass and “first professional” guitar, and Luther Perkins’ guitar and amp, are placed in front of a large black-and-white backdrop of the group.

Next, Cash’s career is highlighted, from the 1950s through the 2000s, each decade designated by a floor-to-ceiling panel bearing a Cash portrait. There are also touch-screens loaded with song videos from each period. Listening stations allow visitors to compare Cash songs in various formats, including reel-to-reel, 8-track, and CD.

Numerous costumes are on view in the Johnny Cash Museum, from red-and-black leather rockabilly boots to a suit he wore for a 1970s performance at the White House. A royal blue shirt adorned with white embroidery is paired with a photograph of Cash wearing the shirt while posing with Paul McCartney during the recording of “New Moon Over Jamaica.” Gowns worn by June Carter Cash also are on display.

The exhibits become more and more poignant as Cash’s life and career comes to a close. Cash’s moving and award-winning video “Hurt” is the last exhibit visitors encounter; nearby is the soundboard from his Cabin Recording Studio in Hendersonville, Tenn., where his final album was produced.

Cash’s death is not covered in the museum; the idea is to end on a high note with the sounds of Cash’s music hitting visitors as they exit the exhibition space and return to the gift shop.

Don’t Miss:

>> Listen to the kinds of music that inspired the young Johnny Cash on a touch-screen beneath a radio similar to the one Cash grew up listening to in Dyess, Ark.

>> A gallery devoted to Cash’s TV and movie appearances includes a loop of clips shown on a big screen, hats Cash wore in various roles, and a collection of movie posters.

>> Gold and platinum records, three Country Music Association Awards, a Grammy, and an MTV Music Award — just some of the numerous awards Johnny Cash won during his career — are on view in the museum.

The Johnny Cash Museum is located at 119 Third Ave. S., Nashville, Tenn. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; admission is $14. For information, call 615-256-1777 or visit johnnycashmuseum.net.


Louisville, KY

Once run down, East Market Street is hot spot for dining, shopping, and art  By Carla Carlton

Stacie Stewart was behind the desk at Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons in Louisville, Ky., when two women walked in early one afternoon. “May I help you?” she asked. “Oh, we’re just looking,” one replied. “We’re out ‘doing Market Street.’”

Just a few years ago, you wouldn’t have seen many people “doing Market Street.” Aside from a few shops and a couple of art galleries, the street was filled with boarded-up storefronts and was the location of a homeless shelter.

But a homegrown renaissance has transformed the gritty downtown neighborhood along East Market Street in downtown Louisville into an eclectic mix of boutiques, galleries, and eateries that is an appealing diversion both for natives and visitors.

Today, there are 16 restaurants and bars in the 600 to 900 blocks of East Market Street, along with a dozen art galleries, nearly two dozen other shops, a barbershop, and two fitness studios. The four-block concentration of fine art, fine dining, and fun has been dubbed NuLu — for “New Louisville.”

“If you look back 10 or 11 years and see what was available in the area, the change is absolutely dramatic,” says attorney Paul Paletti. He opened the Paul Paletti Gallery specializing in photography in his law firm that is located on the first floor at 713 E. Market St. in 2001.

Today, the street has returned to its roots. East Market Street was historically a bustling hub of regional commerce — so much so that, by the 1890s, the activity of the livestock traders and merchants in a three-block span of market houses necessitated the widening of the street. It’s still wider than most downtown streets, but by the late 1980s, it didn’t see much foot traffic. A few decades-old mainstays such as Muth’s Candy Store and Joe Ley Antiques drew customers during the day, but at night, East Market was deserted.

But where many saw blight, one enterprising gallery owner saw an inviting blank canvas. Influential local painter Billy Hertz and his partner, Tom Schnepf, opened Galerie Hertz at 636 E. Market St. in 1991, and other artists and gallery owners soon followed. In 1993, they banded together to start the First Friday Trolley/Gallery Hop, staying open late one night a month and offering food, drink, and entertainment.

The success of First Friday eventually drew other investors, including film and record producer Gill Holland, who coined the term “NuLu.” He renovated The Green Building, which became Louisville’s first commercial structure to achieve environmental platinum LEED certification, at 732 E. Market St. in 2008 and has rehabbed several other buildings in the area.

The City of Louisville also got involved, helping to find another location for the homeless shelter, and the state recently approved $10 million for streetscape improvements like benches and streetlights that will further transform the neighborhood.

The galleries have been joined by other locally owned shops, including Scout, which showcases quirky jewelry and home décor items; Red Tree, a rabbit warren of rooms filled with one-of-a-kind furnishings; and Canoe Imports, a source for tribal rugs, pillows, and primitive furniture. If kitsch is more your thing, be sure to stop in the WHY Louisville store, which specializes in locally designed T-shirts and art prints. Recently spotted: a print of John F. Kennedy dressed as Col. Sanders with the caption “JFKFC.”

And most notably, fine dining has joined the fine arts to rival Louisville’s two other “restaurant rows,” along Bardstown Road and Frankfort Avenue. Harvest uses all locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, and Decca has transformed the property that once housed the homeless shelter into a three-story restaurant and wine cellar/piano bar with an inviting open courtyard.

The cozy La Coop Bistro offers fine French dining prepared by Bobby Benjamin, previously the chef at the Brown Hotel’s noted Oakroom; next door, Taco Punk serves up made-to-order tacos in a busy, colorful atmosphere. The Mayan Café trades in the exotic flavors of the Yucatan Peninsula, while Rye offers an extensive whiskey list and a frequently changing menu in a hip space that once housed a Jeep dealership. At the Garage Bar, patrons inside the former service station enjoy wood-fired pizzas and “flights” of country ham, while those outside play table tennis under neon lights and lounge on Astroturf-covered furniture.

And, as the name implies, Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons lets you sample a large variety of wines and bourbons before buying. The shop moved to NuLu from Frankfort Avenue because there was more foot traffic along East Market, says owner Paul Meyer.

The First Friday Gallery Hop continues, and now NuLu is hopping every day.

For more information on NuLu, including a map of attractions, visit nulueastmarket.com.


St. Louis, MO

St. Louis Art Museum expands and adds new contemporary art exhibits  By Jim Winnerman

If you have not visited the St. Louis Art Museum in St. Louis’ magnificent Forest Park, now is the time to go. If you already have been a guest, this is the time to return. At the end of June, the city celebrated the opening of a 200,000-square-foot addition to the museum, which was completed at a cost of $162 million. Despite the large expenditure, the admission remains free, thanks to a yearly tax subsidy paid, since 1907, by St. Louis metropolitan-area residents.

The ultra-contemporary addition was designed by renowned British architect David Chipperfield. It features a one-of-a-kind skylight grid and floor-to-ceiling windows that work together to allow artwork to be displayed in natural light.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming support we have received for our expansion project, which will advance the museum’s mission to preserve a legacy of artistic achievement for the people of St. Louis and the world,” says Brent R. Benjamin, director of the museum. He adds that it will be the “opening of a new chapter in the history of this great civic institution.”

Due to a lack of exhibit space, more than 90 percent of the museum’s 33,000-piece art collection has been locked in storage and has not been viewable. The addition helps remedy that. It contains 21 new galleries with 250 pieces on display, 55 of which have not been seen by the public in 20 years. The new space also allows for the installation of taller and larger objects than in the main building.

The 65 galleries in the main building now showcase 1,450 works of art, nearly a third of which also have not been displayed for decades.
The additional space also includes an elegant restaurant, The Panorama, featuring views of the surrounding Forest Park. The museum’s café offers a casual menu of fresh, locally grown foods with organic produce.

The St. Louis Art Museum was founded in 1879. After the 1904 World’s Fair, the museum moved to its current home in the Palace of Fine Arts Building at the Fair and reopened in 1906. Architect Cass Gilbert’s design was inspired by the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy. Majestically perched atop Art Hill with a commanding view of the surrounding landscape and a massive lawn sloping down to The Grand Basin, the museum has always been a sightseeing highlight in a city with a wealth of worthy attractions.

Also in Forest Park:

>> At 1,371 acres, this is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. In fact, it’s 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City. Forest Park offers several days’ worth of sightseeing. Attractions below are all within a five-minute drive of the art museum. For more information on each attraction below, visit: explorestlouis.com/visit-explore/discover/neighborhoods/forest-park/

>> St. Louis Zoo. The zoo features more than 20,000 animals, its own railroad, and a multitude of attractions, shows, shops, and places to eat.

>> Municipal Opera. Broadway musical theater has been presented here under the stars each summer since 1917.

>> St. Louis History Museum. Missouri has some good historical claims-to-fame. There’s the 1904 World’s Fair, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Charles Lindbergh, just for starters.

>> The Boat House. Dogs are welcome at this popular lakeside dining restaurant and beer garden serving lunch and dinner.

>> St. Louis Science Center. One of the 25 most visited museums in the United States, the institution focuses on making science fun for all ages. A restaurant is also on the premises.

>> Paths and Trails. Parallel six-mile trails circling the park are a mecca for hikers, bicyclists, and those on roller blades. Other trails bisect woods and natural areas and bypass lakes.

“A New View: Contemporary Art” exhibit is currently showing and explores the development of postwar American art. Works by artists Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and others are on display.

The St. Louis Art Museum is located at One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, Mo. It is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Admission is free. For more information, call 314-721-0072 or visit slam.org.

Santa Claus, IN

Lake Rudolph offers award-winning family fun for everyone  By Jennifer Rhoades

Nestled in the woods at Lake Rudolph, in Santa Claus, Ind. visitors will glimpse the lake’s charming Christmas cabins, a luxurious alternative to tent camping. Spacious cabins sleep up to eight people and include a large deck with a grill, one bedroom and bathroom, a family room, flat-screen TVs, and a cozy loft that reminded me of “Little House on the Prairie.” It’s a far cry from roughing it in the wilderness, but my husband, daughter, and I still felt like we were experiencing an adventure in the middle of nature when we visited Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort. Visitors may also enjoy the RV experience by renting spacious RVs. Each rental RV sleeps up to eight people.

Plenty of activities are available around the camp, such as miniature golf, paddleboat and kayak rentals, fishing, and the newest attraction, Santa’s Splash Down WaterPark. Two fiberglass water slides are built for inner-tube riders and the Trippo, the world’s largest inflatable water slide, includes three chutes with the center slide that is 136 feet long.

David Lovell, marketing director of Lake Rudolph, says his company is always striving to improve, which is why it added its own water park for Lake Rudolph.

“First and foremost, families are looking for fun, clean, and affordable experiences,” Lovell says. “We provide something different than staying at a hotel. (We provide) an opportunity to experience and enjoy the outdoors.”

If you’re staying the full weekend at Lake Rudolph, make sure to explore some of the other nearby attractions. My family enjoyed a sweet treat at Santa’s Candy Castle with our purchase of delicious handmade chocolates and cinnamon-flavored gourmet popcorn. Its world-famous frozen hot chocolate is perfect on a warm summer’s day.

Keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year long by visiting the Santa Claus Christmas Store. Select from whimsical ornaments and magical collectibles sure to become treasured family keepsakes.

Horseback riding and pony rides are available at Santa’s Stables. Led by skilled guides, my family enjoyed the wooded surroundings on multiple trails. My husband rode the aptly named Donut, a horse that always was anxious to pull over for a snack or two. Arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled ride time to complete paperwork.

Buffalo Run is adjacent to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. My daughter had fun tossing leftover fruits and vegetables over a fence to the buffalo. We slid soft pears onto long sticks and let the animals eat from them. Plan to have lunch at the grill and take a look around the gift shop at Southern Indiana antiques, unusual art, and handmade crafts.

Your visit will not be complete without a visit to President Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home. The story of the Civil War-era president’s 14 formative years comes to life at the Living Historical Farm. Tour the museum, watch the film, and hike along the park’s many scenic trails.

If your calendar is crammed over the summer months, fall is another great time to visit. Family Fall-O-Weekend packages are available. Campers at Lake Rudolph set up elaborate spooky scenes at their sites in hopes of taking top honors in the Halloween decorating competition. Children can trick-or-treat all over the campground and join in the fun at the camp dance and costume party. Holiday World also offers Happy Halloween weekends with great activities such as a hayride and corn maze, pumpkin decorating, the Trick-Or-Treat Trail, and all your favorite rides and spooky shows.

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari

For trips to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari from the campground, guests can hop aboard a free shuttle. This summer, the park adds more thrills with Hyena Falls, a cluster of four in-the-dark water slides ridden by inner tube. Families with younger children will enjoy Holidog’s Fun Town and its latest attraction, Kitty’s Tea Party — a dizzy, spinning thrill ride. It has a mix of roller coasters, water rides, entertaining shows, variety of dining options, plus free soft drinks and sunblock.

For information about Lake Rudolph, call 877-478-3657 or visit lakerudolph.com. For information about Holiday World, call 812-937-4401 or visit

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