Travel briefs

Monday, August 3, 2009

Travel briefs

Leaf-peeping in Iowa: Mississippi River, bridges of Madison County

DES MOINES (AP) — Whether you’re on a river, in the woods or driving by the famed bridges of Madison County, autumn colors are easy to find in Iowa.

The foliage is pretty anywhere along the Mississippi River but particularly in Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, about three hours from Des Moines on the state’s eastern border. (And yes, it is named for Zebulon Pike, who explored the area in the early 1800s and for whom Pikes Peak is named in Colorado.)

Go canoeing on the Des Moines or Raccoon rivers, and try the spectacular route on the Raccoon from Booneville into Des Moines. Or take a fall foliage cruise along the Mississippi:

The first half of October is a nice time to simply stroll the streets of Greater Des Moines — particularly Waterbury and South of Grand neighborhoods, where you’ll find old oak trees, burning bush shrubs and redbud trees in every shade of orange and red.

About an hour southwest of Des Moines is Winterset, home to “The Bridges of Madison County” made famous in the book and movie, and a lovely place to view fall foliage. Roseman is the bridge Robert Kincaid seeks when he stops at Francesca Johnson’s for directions in the story; it is also where Francesca leaves her note inviting him to dinner. Five more scenic covered bridges await the traveler.

The Ledges State Park, about an hour north of Des Moines in the town of Madrid, has miles of railroad trails leading up to beautiful vistas overlooking the Des Moines River Valley and the canyon. You’ll find numerous tribal burial mounds in the area, along with white-tailed deer, raccoon, beaver, woodchuck and many types of birds.

Walt Disney Family Museum opening in San Francisco Oct. 1

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Starting Oct. 1, you’ll be able to get a taste of Disney in San Francisco.

That’s when The Walt Disney Family Museum opens, with 10 galleries focusing on different chapters in the life of Walt Disney himself, from his early years in Kansas City to his arrival in Hollywood in the 1920s to his technological innovations, like synchronizing sound to a cartoon.

Displays will include the Oscar statuettes awarded to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” — one full size and seven little ones — along with the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse and concept art and animation cels showing Bambi and Pinocchio. Other exhibits include listening stations, interactive displays and more than 200 video monitors.

The museum consists of three historic buildings set in the Presidio, a former Army base with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The museum is located at 104 Montgomery St. It will be open every day except Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $12.50 for kids 6-17, and will be by timed-entry ticket, available online at up to 60 days in advance.

Anthology of travel writing from National Geographic Adventure

WASHINGTON (AP) — National Geographic Adventure is celebrating its 10th anniversary with an anthology of work from the magazine called “The New Age of Adventure: 10 Years of Great Writing.”

The paperback ($16.95) includes work by writers like Sebastian Junger, Peter Matthiessen and Philip Caputo. Topics include emperor penguins in Antarctica, volunteers who risk their lives to save mountain gorillas in Congo and a yearlong coming-of-age road trip through Europe and Asia.

Other pieces tell stories of an ancient ceremony conducted by an Amazonian shaman to relieve depression, reindeer herders in Russia, and running the rapids on the Colorado River on Sept. 11, 2001. for leaf-peeping trips

DUBLIN, N.H. (AP) — Yankee Magazine has a one-stop Web site for planning trips to see autumn color in New England this year at

The site includes a Kidszone where kids can color, do crafts and learn about leaves; a foliage blog and forum by Jeff Folger; and a peak map that illustrates typical colors for each day of the season using historical data, so you can reasonably predict when peak color will hit any given destination.

Yankee magazine’s September-October issue also features the five best camping spots in New England for fall:

—Little Moose Management Unit in Greenville, Maine, with primitive sites on Big Moose Pond and miles of trails.

—Mount Philo State Park, Charlotte, Vt., with 10 mountaintop sites and views of Lake Champlain.

—Lost River Valley Campground, North Woodstock, N.H., with car and tent sites along the shores of two rivers.

—Clarksburg State Park, Clarksburg, Mass., 45 sites near Mauserts Pond, with views of the Hoosac Range, Mount Greylock and the Green Mountains.

—Oak Embers, West Greenwich, R.I., a family campground adjacent to Arcadia Management Area.

Is Stonehenge overrated? Book offers options

NEW YORK (AP) — Is Stonehenge overrated? Too many people at Machu Picchu? And what about the crowds at the Grand Canyon?

A new book, “Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives” says some of the world’s most famous destinations are over-visited, overpriced and overrated.

But for every place it smacks down, the book suggests alternatives that provide comparable if lesser-known experiences.

The book’s entry on the Great Pyramids of Giza complains that “Cairo’s urban sprawl has seen houses and fast-food chains expand to the very edge of the ancient site, where an unbroken procession of tour buses spill out their charges.” Some of the alternatives — like the Pyramids of Meroe in Sudan, 143 miles from Khartoum — are not necessarily more appealing to the average traveler, simply because they are harder to reach, but others, like the Pyramid of Cestius, in Rome, are worth considering.

As an alternative to Stonehenge, the book suggests other ancient stone circles like Avebury, 85 miles from London, as well as places in Sweden and Germany. For alternatives to Petra, the ancient city carved from red sandstone in Jordan, the book recommends not just the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia, but also the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and the rock pueblos of Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

Whether you’d honestly consider beaches in Perth, Australia, and the Outer Hebrides as realistic alternatives to Miami Beach or Cape Cod probably depends on where you live and how many flyer miles you feel like using up. But ideas from “Off the Tourist Trail” are thought-provoking: Isla del Sol on the border of Bolivia and Peru rather than Machu Picchu; Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil instead of Niagara; Tikal, the ancient Mayan step pyramids of Guatemala, instead of Mexico’s Chichen Itza; and Bryce Canyon, Utah, instead of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The book, a $40 hardcover from DK Eyewitness Travel, has separate sections on cities, ruins, natural wonders, festivals, great journeys, architectural marvels, beaches, sports and activities, and arts and culture.

Art by ‘Caps for Sale’ author in Naples, Fla., and later Lincoln

GLEN HEAD, N.Y. (AP) — An exhibit of art by the late author of the beloved children’s tale “Caps for Sale” is opening Oct. 1 in Naples, Fla., and will travel to Lincoln, Neb., and to the New York City area next year.

The show of works by Esphyr Slobodkina is part of a series of events commemorating her 100th birthday and her work as one of the first female American artists to explore abstraction. She was also a pioneer in using collage to illustrate children’s books.

“Caps for Sale” tells the story of a peddler whose hats are stolen by mischievous monkeys.

“Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction” will remain on view until Dec. 29 at the Naples Museum of Art, which loaned some of the works for the show.

The show then goes to the Sheldon Art Museum in Lincoln, Neb., Jan. 26-April 18 of 2010. A final venue is expected to be chosen in the New York area.

Highlights include mural sketches Slobodkina did for the Works Progress Administration, assemblage art from the 1930s, original “Caps for Sale” illustrations, classic abstractions from the 1940s and 1950s, and rarely-exhibited paintings and assemblages dating from the 1960s to 2001.

An open house, including a talk and tour of the Slobodkina House in Glen Head, N.Y., on Long Island, will take place Dec. 13 with another planned for April. Tours are also available by arrangement and for groups. Visit for details.

The retrospective premiered at the Hecksher Museum of Art in Huntington, N.Y., which coordinated the show with the Slobodkina Foundation, using works loaned from many institutions, including the Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Fla., also hosted the exhibition this past summer.

Appalachian Mountain Club offers 2-for-1 deals for kids’ lodging

BOSTON (AP) — The Appalachian Mountain Club is offering an all-inclusive two-for-one lodging deal for children 12 and under when accompanied by an adult.

The discount is available at all five of the AMC’s northern New England lodges in New Hampshire and Maine.

AMC facilities in New Hampshire’s White Mountains are the Highland Lodge and the Joe Dodge Lodge, in addition to the Cardigan Lodge at the base of Mount Cardigan. At the Highland Lodge, the L.L. Bean gear room offers free loaner outdoor clothing and equipment, from hiking boots to fleece jackets.

In Maine, AMC guests can stay in the Medawisla Wilderness Lodge and Cabins or the Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins, all in the Moosehead Lake region. Canoes and kayaks are available free for guest use.

Other free programs offered at AMC’s White Mountain lodges include guided hikes and lectures and activities like GPS orienteering.

Families have a choice of private rooms with private or shared bath at New Hampshire lodges and private cabins with private or shared bath in Maine.

The AMC’s children’s 2-for-1 discount is available at the Highland and Joe Dodge lodges through Dec. 25, excluding Nov. 26-29; at the Cardigan, through Oct. 24; and at the Maine wilderness lodges, through Oct. 31.

Rates vary by location, for non-members starting at $67 per person, per night for adults and $43 for kids 12 and under, with the second child free. All-inclusive rates include breakfast and family-style dinner with other guests at all lodges, plus trail lunch at Cardigan Lodge and Maine Wilderness Lodges. Only one discount is offered per reservation. For reservations, call 603-466-2727. Details at

The Maine lodges are also offering a three-night “Maine Woods Discovery” package, Sunday-Friday, through Oct. 10, for $366, plus taxes, for non-members ($318 for AMC members), including private cabin accommodations, dinner, breakfast, and trail lunch. L.L. Bean fly rod rentals are available. For reservations, call 603-466-2727. Details at

The organization offers an online Fall Planning Guide as well at

Vatican museums to remain open at night through October

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican says Friday nights at its museums have been a great success, so it is extending the initiative to include September and October.

The Vatican Museums, which include a visit to the Sistine Chapel, are jammed by tourists during the daytime, so this summer they opened the doors on an experimental basis on July 24.

Museum officials announced in a statement Tuesday that the initiative proved to be so popular that nighttime visits will continue in September and October from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., with last admission at 9:30 p.m.

Reservations are required and should be made on the Museums Web site:

West Virginia whitewater fall season expected to be a good one

HARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s whitewater outfitters are expecting a great fall season.

Outfitters told The Charleston Gazette that the Gauley and New rivers are running at prime levels. Class VI River Runners managing partner Dave Arnold says this year’s water levels are among the best he’s seen in 30 years.

The fall season begins Sept. 11 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers starts lowering Summersville Lake from its summer pool to its winter level. The Gauley’s whitewater thrills come from the extra flow of water.

New map of what to do and see in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A family-owned publishing company in Vancouver called Pink Parrot Maps has produced a unique map of its hometown just in time for folks heading to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The map covers downtown as well as Stanley Park, Granville Island and a seaside biking path. But the most unusual and useful thing about the map is that it shows dozens of hotels, restaurants, theaters, shops, museums and other attractions, marked by name on the blocks where they are actually located.

The map also offers concise descriptions for most of the attractions it shows, such as this one for Salmagundi Collectibles: “Check out the Chinese herbalist cabinet downstairs.” Restaurants are displayed on the map with simple recommendations like this one for the Hermitage, “Cozy French w/courtyard patio,” and this one for The Five Sails, “Lovely view & fine dining.” East Hastings Street is shown with a warning — “Be careful, especially at night” — while Alberni Street is recommended for its upscale shops and restaurants.

The company says the unusual mix of graphics, locations and information eliminates “one of the most vexing problems with tourist maps: confusing iconograhy and cross referencing.”

“What To Do in Downtown Vancouver: Map & Guide Combined” is available from for $8.35 plus shipping, and can also be found on Amazon and at various book and travel stores.

August 7, 2009: 12:31 am

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