Myrtle Beach Bliss


Myrtle Beach

Have fun in the sun, chow down in full Southern style, or even get abducted by aliens in this primo resort town.

The crews who dug the Intracoastal Waterway in the 1930s probably didn’t have a clue about what would spring up in their wake. But when they connected inland rivers at the northeastern tip of South Carolina and continued some 60 miles southward, they birthed one crown jewel of an island.

The area that eventually became Myrtle Beach—at the time known by only a few, for its pristine white beaches—was sparsely dotted with vacation homes and a few resorts. But by the 1940s, thanks to its new Air Force base, dance clubs that gave rise to the Carolina Shag and a motel-lined strip, it had been duly discovered. Nearly 80 years later, Myrtle Beach (named for the wax myrtles that sprout in maritime forests and edge up onto the dunes) welcomes almost 14 million visitors annually. Here’s what’s fresh in this long-beloved destination.

PLAY HARD
Myrtle Beach’s famed Ocean Boulevard has always been the place to cruise in the Palmetto State. But since 2010, when the city’s Boardwalk opened, the attention has been shifting from the automobile to the pedestrian. The 1.2-mile walk stretches from 2nd to 14th Avenues and includes countless benches, canopies, parks, souvenir shops and arcades.

You won’t run out of amusements on the Grand Strand, but two must-sees sit within a few blocks of each other on Ocean Boulevard. First, the beachfront SkyWheel, a nearly 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel sporting 42 glass-enclosed air gondolas and a million LEDs that dance in a stunning light show. A ride on this marvel, which opened in 2011, offers views of as far as 20 miles in every direction; try it at dusk to take in the sunset and the strip’s neon artistry.

Just south of the wheel, Family Kingdom has reigned as Ocean Boulevard’s amusement park for decades. While it’s known for its old-school wooden roller coaster, 2013 brought the Twist ’n’ Shout steel roller coaster and a 2-person flying-gondola ride. You can stroll the amusement park grounds free of charge; you pay only to ride.

Farther afield in nearby Murrells Inlet, Pirate Adventures awaits pint-size landlubbers looking for seafaring action. After donning swashbuckling clothes and dabbing on pirate makeup, kids (and their chaperones) climb aboard an old wooden ship to sail in search of treasure. Spoiler alert: Rogue sailors attack along the way.

Myrtle Beach

GEEK OUT
How long would you have lasted in the cold waters that claimed the victims of the Titanic disaster? Stick your hand in an icy tank and find out. Think you can use your mind to move objects? Strap on a sensor-laden headband and give it a go at WonderWorks, where you’ll find hands-on experiments galore. Until Labor Day, Encounters: U.F.O. Experience displays 200-plus artifacts centered on purported run-ins with aliens.

TEE UP
Golf Digest has ranked the Grand Strand, with its 102 greenways, among its top 10 best buddy golfing destinations for years. And now, the area’s pick-of-the-litter course is easier to access. Instead of booking through your resort to score a reservation at the semiprivate Dunes Golf & Beach Club, you can book at myrtlebeachgolf.com.

SHOPPING BREAK
Myrtle Beach’s onetime Air Force base is now home to Market Common, a walkable live/work-shop complex with A-list stores. Noteworthy recent additions include City Mac, a chic Apple shop where you can get the latest phone or troubleshoot laptop snafus; the Kangaroo Pouch, which has the hippest baby gear and wear; Devo Olive Oil Co., selling some 60 types of pressed oil; and the Coastal Wine Boutique, where you can taste and buy

EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Find the Crab Cake Lady’s hand-made crab cakes at Harrelson’s Seafood Market, in Murrells Inlet. And hunt down Mr. Fish at its newly opened location, north of the old (closed) spot; the lines for fried platters and chocolate pie still run out the door.

For down-home food, head to Lulu’s Café (their eggs Benedict is a take on biscuits and gravy, and cheese fries come with pimento cheese). Kudzu Bakery offers cakes, while Coccadotts gets wacky with cupcakes (try the maple and bacon).

A casual lunch of Nacho Hippo’s tacos stuffed to the limits can’t be beat. And a great date night destination is tiny Sobaya Japanese Bistro, where Korean and Japanese dishes are made to order. On the other end of the evening-out spectrum, drive to North Myrtle Beach for 21 Main at North Beach’s country-club-meets-steak-house fare. Chef Lou Petrozzi’s steaks are perfectly rendered; his seafood dishes, like seared scallops, are impeccable.

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Low Country Lowdown


Fried Green Tomatoes

Get a taste of the South at these spots in Charleston, Hilton Head and Savannah.

Southern culture is amazingly diverse, and nowhere more so than in the Low Country kitchens of South Carolina and Georgia, where food lovers gather for shrimp and grits, fried chicken, pork ribs, Gullah rice and fried green tomatoes—dishes that have evolved over more than two centuries. Here’s a triangle of culinary pit stops—in South Carolina’s Charleston and Hilton Head, and in Savannah, Georgia—where dining traditions are infused with regional ingredients, eccentric chefs and a whole lot of soul.

CHARLESTON
Travelers staying in Charleston’s historic district, where 18th-century houses line cobblestone streets, can taste-test Low Country staples at the Saturday farmers market in Marion Square. Here, stalls overflow with okra, butter beans, rutabagas, whole pigs and chickens—as well as sandwiches and pies. Foodies scope out the scene at 8 a.m.; before you join them, get a café con leche at Hope & Union Coffee Co., six blocks away.

For lunch, venture out of the downtown area to Martha Lou’s Kitchen, a Charleston institution in a bright pink cottage on a nondescript four-lane thoroughfare. After over 30 years in the biz, Martha Lou herself still runs the kitchen, a spotless corner with well-loved pots and pans visible from the dining room. Tables fill up for her famous fried chicken, well seasoned with just salt and pepper, as well as sides like buttery cornbread and cabbage simmered with hunks of ham. A glass of sweet tea, in this case extra sugary, is a must.

Five o’clock cocktails are a serious tradition here, and Charlestonians happily celebrate it at F.I.G., or Food Is Good. At the restaurant’s bar, expert mixologists craft cocktails such as the Marfa Daisy, made with Espolón tequila and elderflower, and the Green Thumb, a blend of Mississippi Cathead vodka, chartreuse, mint, cucumber, celery bitters, aloe and lime—both chart-toppers on the winter drinks menu.

Over the years, many of the city’s chefs—Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca, Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill, Sean Brock of McCrady’s—have been singled out for prestigious James Beard Awards. The latest is chef Brock’s Husk, set in a historic house with wide porches, antique-glass windows and a 10-foot chalkboard menu that details ingredients and their provenance. His dishes are daring: chicken skins poached in buttermilk and hot sauce, then fried till they’re crisp; sliders made with pig ears—pressure-cooked, sliced and fried—and pickled heirloom squash, tucked inside warm buns.

At Cypress, Craig Deihl mixes Low Country foods with Asian ingredients: oysters, for example, are topped with tuna sashimi and pineapple wasabi. End your evening with a Lady Baltimore cupcake, a Southern specialty made with sherry-soaked raisins and figs, at Sugar Bakeshop, owned by New York transplants Bill Bowick and David Bouffard.

HILTON HEAD
This South Carolina island is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the country. Luckily, it’s blessed with wide stretches of sand and a low-rise oceanfront, so beachgoers never feel packed in like sardines. In town, bikes rule the streets, which are lined with shops, art galleries and more than 150 restaurants.

Seafood, of course, is the thing to order. Devoted customers of the unassuming Sea Shack insist that no one does fresh fish, oysters and clams better. The question “Fried, grilled or blackened?” applies to everything from shrimp po’boys and crab cakes to locally caught wahoo and triggerfish. Meals are served on plastic blue-checked tablecloths in a kitschy dining space dominated by a mural of a jaunty shrimp relaxing with a cocktail in a hammock—seemingly unaware of its fried, grilled or blackened fate.

While restaurants in Hilton Head cater to varied taste buds—sushi bars and pizza joints stand side by side—travelers committed to a Low Country food pilgrimage should book one of the front-room tables at Red Fish (8 Archer Rd.; 843-686-3388; dinner for two, $130). The menu isn’t strictly South Carolina–inspired, but some of the best dishes on it are. Try the seared scallops with lobster mac-and-cheese, the Low Country shrimp and grits, or the Berkshire pork chop served over grits and kale. The space also doubles as a wine store, so you can buy a bottle, open it to drink with your dinner and cork the rest for later.

SAVANNAH
Savannah is known for being quirky and mysterious—and for its 22 lovely park squares, framed by Federal-style and 19th-century Greek Revival houses and shaded by trees hung with Spanish moss.

Crowds line up early to snag a family-style table at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, which has been serving many of the same dishes since 1943. Servers bring out bowls piled high with Deep South fare: sweet stewed rutabaga, fried chicken and peppery red rice and sausage. Marcia Thompson, Mrs. Wilkes’s granddaughter, circles the room, encouraging conversation between diners.

In-the-know locals stop by Emerald City, a handful of 6-foot-long pits next to a car wash, for tender pork, beef ribs and rack of lamb. The smoky meat is pulled off the barbecue and slathered in tangy tomato-based sauce. Down the street at Back in the Day Bakery, the cheerful staff turns out old-fashioned cupcakes and banana pudding with house-made vanilla wafers.

Most of Savannah’s cafés and restaurants are on the redeveloped waterfront, a grid of redbrick streets lined with boutiques, a few blocks from the Savannah River. A discreet sign marks Alligator Soul, a cavernous downstairs space that feels like an elegant wine cellar, with its stone walls and arches. Dive into Christopher DiNello’s reinvented Low Country classics: Squash blossoms are sautéed with lobster and crawfish; shrimp and grits are livened up with cheddar and lemon butter; and green tomatoes are tossed in Parmesan before being fried.

A Hendricks gin martini at Circa 1875, expertly made and garnished with a cucumber slice, might sound like a dangerous conclusion to the night. But in this bistro, where artists and designers sit deep in conversation in the dark wood booths under pressed-tin ceilings, it feels just right.

Fried Chicken

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How to Tackle Hilton Head


Hilton Head

Experience a destination with a funky mix of history, abundant outdoor activities and unique cuisine.

Hilton Head is a 45-mile drive north from Savannah, GA, and 110 miles south of Charleston, SC. In the early 16th century, the French and Spanish attempted to settle this fertile land. Its live-oak forests and rich soil made it an agrarian paradise; the many waterways facilitated shipping; and the proximity to the Eastern seaboard made it a prime outpost. But local tribes didn't entirely welcome those early visitors. Finally, in 1663 British sea captain William Hilton successfully claimed the island for England, giving plantation life its start.

Today, Hilton Head Island is a funky mix. Historical sites are scattered among the resort-community-and-golf-course descendants of Sea Pines; hotels butt up against huge swaths of preserved land, while shopping and dining strips flood the interior. A four-lane road encircles the island, with hideaway developments shooting off it like spokes. And here and there, humble vegetable plots thrive next to multimillion-dollar digs and modest, slouchy cottages alike.

"This is the most relaxing vacation I've had with my family—ever," says a woman making her way across Broad Creek by kayak. "It's the first time we've ever just chilled out, relaxing on the beach, me reading and the kids shelling, and all of us trying new things."

To score that same experience, you'll need a strategy. Hilton Head has 250-plus restaurants and two dozen golf courses, so it's crucial to narrow your field of vacation vision. For a family-flavored getaway (the island's specialty), first pick a place to stay. If you're flying in, look for flights to the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. And on your way to the island, stock up at the Publix in neighboring Bluffton to avoid the weekend crowds at island grocery stores.

Next, come up with your dream menu of outdoor activities. Hotels and resorts offer daily tours; ask for schedules when you check in. Or try Outside Hilton Head for kayaking, boating, fishing and dolphin-cruising options. If you’re not staying at a resort with beach access, you can hit the sand at several public access points. The most popular one is Coligny Beach Park, with ample parking and a brand-new area with restrooms, showers and more.

As for getting around, either bring your own bicycles or rent from Hilton Head Bicycle Co. And for the ultimate Lowcountry experience, don't miss exploring the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. This 605-acre wilderness oasis combines jungle-like expanses of native evergreen palms, live oaks and wax myrtles with lagoons populated by cranes and alligators. Powdery dirt roads traverse the gently sculpted site. Pick up a map at the info center hutch and head off by foot, bike or car—or on horseback. For a trail ride, sign up with Lawton Stables.

Hilton Head

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Heritage of Hilton Head


Hilton Head

Learn the history of this barrier island—including the best time and spots to visit—so you can experience the Low Country like a local.

Hilton Head Island in a nutshell: Vacationing families connecting—via scents, scenery and seafood—with the second-largest barrier island on the East Coast. And while most of the 2.5 million annual visitors tend to come during warmer months, they miss out on what might be the island's best time of year. After Labor Day and before spring break, the humidity drops, traffic trickles off, crowds thin and temperatures average in the 60s. Folks toss on fleece pullovers to walk the 12 miles of beaches; ride fat-tired, single-speed cruisers along epic bike paths; and hunker down at cozy oyster roasts. Sound good? Grab the Lowcountry winter uniform—flip-flops, khakis and light sweater—and come on out to Hilton Head.

To play Indiana Jones, check out the Indian Shell Ring in Sea Pines. More than 4,000 years ago, Native American settlers are believed to have piled discarded oyster shells in a circle to form low walls around their village, now in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. And on the island's northern tip you'll find the remains of Fort Mitchel. This moat-lined earthen mound relic of the Civil War was uncovered in the 1970s when construction crews were clearing land for a new restaurant. Today the Old Fort Pub serves up high-end Lowcountry staples like crab cakes with green tomato, sweet pepper relish and stone ground grits. Patrons waiting for a table can head next door for a self-guided tour of the fort remains.

One of the most vibrant local groups is the Gullah, a distinct African-American community that has retained much of its African heritage. To learn more about the Gullah's role in Hilton Head history, head to the Coastal Discovery Museum, then polish off your schooling at Harbour Town with a walk to the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Its walls display historic photos and illustrations detailing Hilton Head's path to the present.

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The Slopes of Utah


Park City Utah

Ski areas abound, making Utah a true winter wonderland—whether you’re a beginner or a former Olympian.

It seems that your plane has barely touched down at the Salt Lake City airport and you’re already riding a lift into the winter-white wilderness. Of Utah’s 14 ski resorts, 11 are less than an hour’s drive from the airport. Several are clustered together, offering a combination of activities and terrain for a wide range of abilities. Here’s an overview of what you’ll find.

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES
Just 29 miles from the airport is Snowbird, which has a range of slopes for skiers and riders. It’s connected to skiers-only Alta, right next door. The two combined have 4,700 acres of powdery paradise. For chilling out après-ski at Snowbird, the place to be is the Cliff Spa, which has a view-filled rooftop pool and hot tub.

The drive from the airport to Solitude takes about 45 minutes. You’ll find a cute European-style village at the mountain’s base, and 1,500 acres of skiable terrain. Drive 5 minutes more and you’re at Brighton, one of the state’s most popular resorts for families both for its affordability and for its terrain.

PARK CITY RETREATS
Resorts in the Park City area include Park City Mountain Resort, Canyons and Deer Valley. All are less than 36 miles from the airport and have state-of-the-art lifts—including Canyons’ Orange Bubble chair, which has heated seats—and terrain to please a wide range of abilities. What’s more, Park City itself is within 15 minutes’ drive. Its Main Street is lined with shops selling one-of-a-kind fashions and jewelry as well as bars and restaurants of all sorts. A plus: Many buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, since Park City was founded during the silver boom. A short drive away is Sundance Resort, with 6,000 acres at the base of Mount Timpanogos.

Utah

NORTHERN DELIGHTS
Thirty minutes north of Salt Lake City is Odgen, a former railroad town that’s a hub for outdoor enthusiasts. Three ski resorts are within a half-hour’s drive: Snowbasin, Wolf Mountain and Powder Mountain. The latter, known as Pow Mow, is North America’s largest ski area, offering 7,000 acres of skiable terrain. Even on the busiest days, you can find yourself skiing alone on untouched corduroy. In Ogden itself, consider a visit to iFly, an indoor sky-diving simulator that’s so effective, sky divers use it to train. Farther north but still only 90 minutes from Salt Lake City is family-owned Beaver Mountain.

SOUTHERN GEMS
Utah’s southern resorts, Eagle Point and Brian Head, are a bit farther afield. Three hours south of Salt Lake City, they deliver reliably good conditions all season long, with plenty of fresh powder.

 

NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.

 

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Park City's Winter Wonderland


Utah

This old mining town has sure built itself up into an incredible getaway.

At first light you were schlepping a plastic bin through an airport security line. Now, the only line you’re worried about is which of the pitched white curves of Deer Valley’s Ontario Bowl to ski down—still untracked, it should be noted, at two in the afternoon. Visiting Park City is like slipping through a rabbit hole: It’s a quick, convenient and a true getaway. This historic mining town, just 40 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, beguiles you with its downtown full of top-notch restaurants and galleries, and then tempts you with a trio of world-class ski resorts. Welcome to wonderland, Alice.

THE SERENDIPITY OF SILVER
While many ski towns try to manufacture charm, old Park City’s nearly abandoned boxy Wild West storefronts and frilly Victorians were waiting in mothballs, courtesy of the miners who chiseled more than $400 million worth of silver out of the surrounding Wasatch Mountains in the 1800s. Today, Park City’s fairy-tale Main Street twinkles with lights and brims with activity. Since the skiing here is considered less challenging than at neighboring resorts like Snowbird and Alta, the clientele tends to be of intermediate skill—couples and families looking for a well-rounded experience that includes shopping, dining and relaxing.

Pack snow-proof footwear, because this is a town for strolling. On foot, you’ll discover a warren of diversions tucked above, below and along Main Street and Park Avenue. Browse Bahnhof Sport for skiwear, Chloe Lane for designer jeans and Mary Jane’s for funky women’s clothing and accessories. A free trolley travels Main Street if you find yourself loaded down with packages.

Two dozen art galleries showcase everything from local watercolor landscapes to western bronze statues. Start with Phoenix Gallery, an airy, three-story space that provides a perfect backdrop for the contemporary mixed-media sculpture on display.

Shops and galleries seem to be outnumbered only by restaurants. It’s not easy to find a bargain, but the financial hit is worth it for some memorable meals. Rustic chophouses serve chile-rubbed prime cuts; trattorias could hold their own in Tuscany. The name on locals’ lips is Shabu, where you can cook your food in sizzling broth at the table. The atmosphere is fun and informal, and the “freestyle Asian cuisine” playfully pairs flavors, like sake-steamed sea bass with black bean and garlic paste.

Despite what you may have heard about Utah’s bewildering liquor laws, nightspots abound as well. Those wishing to close out a day on the slopes with a cocktail need only pay a nominal “membership fee” to get in to most clubs. Whether your tastes lean toward meeting for martinis and appetizers (Jean Louis) or drinking beer and dancing until dawn (Harry O’s), you can find it in spades in Park City. In Utah terms, Park City is “Sin City,” and the town takes pride in that nickname.

UP ON THE SLOPES
Above all, Park City is a ski town. Its fortunes were transformed from silver to snow in 1963, when a local mining company opened Treasure Mountain to skiing. Photos at the Park City Museum show zealous skiers traveling through old mine shafts and surfacing in soot-covered parkas on mid-mountain slopes.

Today Park City has 3 ski resorts, all regularly deluged with the dry-as-dust Utah snows that drift down the east side of the Great Salt Lake. Few ski hills are as centrally located as Park City Mountain Resort. To hit the slopes, all you need to do is hop on a chairlift downtown and soar over the city up the mountain. On the way down, skiers and snowboarders still schuss past the occasional mining relic. This 3,300-acre resort is especially well suited for families, thanks to its great location, abundance of ski-in/ski-out lodging, diversity of runs and teen-pleasing terrain parks (even lighted for night-riding) that routinely win kudos from snowboarding magazines. Near the base is the Alpine Coaster, a 2-person roller coaster that blazes downhill.

Four miles north, The Canyons has quietly become one of the largest ski areas in the country, with 3,700 acres of terrific bowls, gullies and ridiculously long, mellow cruisers. It's still expanding: 300 acres of aspen glades were added in 2008 around the new Dreamcatcher chairlift. And there's a growing village at the resort's base, though guests staying there might feel a bit isolated from Park City's other attractions.

The area's toniest accommodations can be found sidled up to Deer Valley Resort, a mile south of downtown Park City. This exclusive mountain prides itself on elite customer service and amenities. To prevent lift lines and give skiers plenty of elbow room, ticket sales are limited. Trail grooming approaches high art, and snowboarding is prohibited. Mid-mountain restaurants cater to the upscale clientele with dishes like grilled Atlantic salmon with orange hollandaise; the resort even markets its own line of signature foods (cilantro-lime glaze, anyone?). On sunny afternoons, after their 2-hour lunches, guests contentedly sip blueberry mojitos on The Beach, where Adirondack chairs are lined up in the snow.

The 1,825 acres of ski terrain at Deer Valley gets better every year. Guests tend to gravitate to those delightful corduroy groomers, leaving the wide-open steeps and glades for accomplished skiers off the Empire and new Lady Morgan chairlifts.

Not that you need more variety, but the scissor-sawed peaks ringing the horizon are home to more than a half-dozen additional ski resorts. These include Alta and Snowbird at the south end of Salt Lake City in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Robert Redford's Sundance near Provo, and the virtually undiscovered expanses of Snowbasin and Powder Mountain north near Ogden.

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Waitsfield & Warren: Little Neighborly Vermont Ski Towns


Ski in Waitsfield; eat in Warren—or do both in one day. You can’t go wrong.

Fair warning: The Very Small Donuts sold at Waitsfield’s Big Picture Theater & Café are addictive. Luckily, you can bag a dozen for $6.50 while watching, say, Cheaper by the Dozen in one of the two screening rooms. Throw in a microbrew: This retro-themed spot, which has sea-foam-green decor, leather couches and killer brunches and burgers, is one of the state’s only movie theaters that allow dinner and a show.

Waitsfield anchors one end of the Mad River Valley, where you’ll find the ski areas Mad River Glen and Sugarbush. The other marquee town around here is Warren, home of the Pitcher Inn and the Warren Store. The latter is famous for its No. 6 (turkey on a baguette with a secret-recipe cranberry mayo) and other overstuffed sandwiches, but the toys, women’s clothing and housewares at the top of the rainbow-colored stairs are just as tempting. The Tracks lounge, across the street at the Pitcher Inn, is a fine place to snack on duck rillettes by the fire.

But there’s more poking around to be done in Waitsfield. Park near the covered bridge to check out works by more than 200 Vermonters at the Artisans’ Gallery. Then head for a meal at Mint, a vegetarian restaurant that should convert even the most devoted carnivore, at least temporarily. If you must have meat, try the New Vermont Sausage pizza at the perennially popular American Flatbread, made with maple-fennel sausage, sun-dried tomatoes and caramelized onions.

Once you’re ready to click into your skis, you’ll find natural snow, zero snowboarders and a time-capsule vibe at Mad River Glen, a laid-back ski area that has barely changed since its founder decided in 1948 that it wouldn’t be a “mountain amusement park” but a “winter community.” Over at 578-acre Sugarbush, more-modern upgrades let you score first tracks in the fresh snow of Lincoln Peak in a heated snowcat dubbed the Lincoln Limo. It’s very—well, sweet.

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Stowe: A Little Vermont Ski Town


Challenging skiing leads way to posh accommodations. Add in some creature comforts and this Vermont ski town has something for everyone.

As you sit with your skis dangling over the slopes on your way up Stowe’s Spruce Peak, you may find yourself contemplating which you’d have a better chance at: winning the annual Sugar Slalom happening over to your left, or securing one of the posh homes beneath your feet, whose hot tubs are big enough for scuba gear.

It’s OK. This is Stowe, a fertile place for fantasies ever since the Civilian Conservation Corps cut the first trails on Mount Mansfield, in 1933. And thanks to a recent, $400 million overhaul, most of those fantasies can be indulged at the upscale Spruce Peak base area—including piles of chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows for making s’mores around a fire after skiing. While Stowe Mountain Lodge anchors this side of the resort, you don’t have to be a guest there to catch a show at the new Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center or to have a drink at the lodge’s bar.

Granted, not everything around Stowe is cushy: The fabled Front Four trails still send plenty of bruised knees and egos away from this area, which has a 4,395-foot summit elevation and 116 trails. But it’s the combination of hard-core terrain, layers of tradition and mountain-inspired creativity that makes it such a winning ski town. An exploration actually begins about 7 miles from the resort, in the heart of the historic village. Housed in the 1818 Old Town Hall, the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum showcases some 10,000 cold-weather curiosities, from gondolas to 10th Mountain Division uniforms. Stowe Mercantile, just up the road, may have nearly as much stuff, but it’s all for sale: penny candy, sleigh bells, stoneware mugs. Chocoholics will want to head to Laughing Moon Chocolates for handmade treats.

Fuel up on either wood-fired pizzas at Piecasso or tacos at Frida’s Taqueria before venturing up the 5-mile Stowe Recreation Path. The multi-use trail begins at the white-steepled Community Church, winds past the Topnotch and Stoweflake resorts and is ideal for hikers and cross-country skiers. Every February, it’s also part of the Stowe Derby, a race that takes daring skiers from the top of Mount Mansfield to Stowe Village.

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Jeffersonville: A Little Vermont Ski Town


Schussing down the Green Mountains is sublime, but so is strolling the snow-covered streets filled with galleries, bakeries, brewpubs and more in this quaint ski town.

"It’s very sweet,” the no-nonsense waitress at Jeffersonville's Mix Café warns a mother and two preteens about their menu choice. They've taken a break from Facebooking on their iPad to debate ordering the crème brulée French toast with "drunken" blueberries. The trio nod and order it anyway—why not? The Mix's particular twist on French toast is said to be the best in Vermont, and almost everyone who gathers here, from Carhartt-clad farmers to snow bunnies in Bogner, has probably earned the calories.

Sweet but also surprising: sort of like many Green Mountain ski towns themselves. Jeffersonville is the home of Smugglers' Notch. At one point, there really were smugglers in Smugglers’ Notch. Early-19th-century outlaws ferried embargoed British goods and later, during Prohibition, booze from Canada through this narrow pass in the Green Mountains. Today Smuggs is best known as a family-friendly ski resort with 3 interconnected mountains and 1,000 acres of terrain, a 2,610-foot vertical drop and an average annual snowfall of 322 inches.

You won’t find high-speed quads or gondolas at Smuggs—and that’s just the way locals like it. Slower chairlift rides means fewer people on the hill at one time. The toughest trails, such as Black Hole (the only triple black diamond in the Northeast), Liftline and F.I.S. wriggle down from Madonna Mountain, while Morse Mountain is a gigantic playground dusted with snow. Smuggs even has its own mascot, Mogul Mouse, and Burton Riglet Park for very young snowboarders.

For a non-ski option, visit ArborTrek for a zip-line canopy tour. The 2-hour Wild Winter Ride takes thrill seekers on a high-flying adventure through snow-covered treetops.

Après-ski, it’s hard to beat a slope-side Long Trail Ale at Morse Mountain Grille or the moules frites at the Hearth & Candle; both are right in the resort’s village. Feel like a drop of vodka or rum? Duck into Smugglers’ Notch Distillery. The rest of Main Street, and pretty much the whole town, stretches east from there: At 158 Main Restaurant & Bakery, you’ll find such kid-friendly fare as grilled cheese and chicken fingers, while the Jeffersonville Country Store (sells Betty Boop lamps, wooden trains, Bove’s pasta sauce and Lake Champlain Chocolates.

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Atlantic City Revival


Nearly a century after its Prohibition-era heyday, the boardwalk is back.

There’s more to Atlantic City’s old nickname, “America’s Playground,” than raucous speakeasies and glittering nightclubs. This New Jersey beach retreat was also once known for a more wholesome brand of fun—namely, great food and spectacular shows. Now, after decades of decline followed by casino-focused development and a post-Hurricane Sandy revitalization, a new playground has emerged that mixes some of the old, Prohibition-era delights with more modern pleasures.

FRESH TRACKS
In his book Boardwalk Empire, on which the HBO series is based, historian Nelson Johnson writes that Atlantic City blossomed in the 1920s because of its accessibility. Ninety-nine trains, including 11 of the 16 fastest in the world, cruised in and out of A.C. each summer day. The city eventually evolved into a car-centric town, but rail travel returned in 2009 with the launch of the double-decker ACES train, which runs from New York City on weekends and is a far cry from the dreary casino buses (think leather seats and drink specials).

HISTORY SAMPLER
If you arrive in time for lunch, pop over to the White House Sub Shop, a favorite for its overstuffed sandwiches. The walls of this workingman’s deli, which opened in 1946, are plastered with photographs and memorabilia from A.C.’s past, including glossies signed by a zillion Miss Americas and a towel used by Frank Sinatra during his last show at the Sands. Dozens of friendly cooks whip up cheesesteaks and hoagies, using fresh bread supplied by the folks at Formica Bros. Bakery across the street.

When you’ve reached your caloric capacity, take a stroll down the boardwalk to Garden Pier, just north of the Trump Taj Mahal. Here the Atlantic City Museum awaits, with exhibits about the Steel Pier’s diving horses and the very first Ferris wheel. The boardwalk itself has few of the legendary hotels from Prohibition days, but near the Tropicana you can peek into the old Ritz-Carlton (now the Ritz Condominiums). It was from the Ritz’s ninth floor that crooked political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson ran the city in the 1920s. “Nucky had leased the entire floor from where he reigned as the ‘Czar,’” writes Nelson Johnson. With his silk robes and hedonistic lifestyle, Nucky turned the Ritz into a “lavish temple of pleasure.”

To get a real taste of old Atlantic City, leave the boardwalk and hit the traditional eateries. Several celebrity-chef restaurants have opened in town—including the Borgata’s Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck establishments—but locals will still point you to Dock’s Oyster House. Dock’s has been run by the same Dougherty family since it first opened in 1897, and they often greet you at the door. The dining room retains its old-world feel, with a pianist playing standards from behind the bar and a menu that still lists the same century-old hits: fried oysters and crab cakes.

Farther down Atlantic Avenue, you’ll find an even greater culinary landmark: The Knife & Fork, founded in 1912. It’s housed in an idiosyncratic, Flemish-style building that was first a private club and then a speakeasy until federal authorities raided it. In 2005 the Knife & Fork was purchased by the Dougherty family, of Dock’s fame, and given a makeover. It still serves traditional beef and reef fare, but the revamped menu also offers modern twists like Kobe sliders and Asian slaw.

MODERN THROWBACKS
Not all of the “vintage” establishments in the city are old. The Chelsea, a 1950s-style boutique hotel, opened in 2008 as the first non-gaming resort on the boardwalk in the casino area. Retro lamps and art deco mirrors accent the rooms; the two restaurants were developed in part by Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr. Teplitzky’s is a chic diner and bar straight out of The Jetsons, while Chelsea Prime resembles an old-school steak house with its leather booths and black-and-white photos of 1940s A.C. The tall windows with sweeping ocean views make a perfect backdrop for a succulent T-bone.

Old-school revelry is also making a comeback. Check out the free parade put on three times a day Wednesday through Sunday by the Showboat casino, with dancers, acrobats and singers wearing feather boas and colorful costumes. Showboat may not be the spiffiest casino on the boardwalk, but you won’t find a more entertaining tribute to the glory days of the Steel Pier.

NEW TOUCHES
Had enough history? Head to the Pier Shops at Caesars, where you can browse the latest fashions at high-end boutiques (Gucci, Ferragamo) and marvel at the Water Show, a dramatic display of fountains, lights and music. Take a break in the Adirondack chairs on the mall’s third floor (which has great sunset views, by the way), then wander over to the outlet stores on The Walk.

As with shopping, Atlantic City’s entertainment scene has also gotten a serious update. With new casinos popping up across the country, the gaming industry is growing more competitive, and Atlantic City is trying to keep up with the changes by improving its other attractions. So far, the work has paid off. The city has now drawn big-name performers like Bruce Springsteen, Shakira and Lady Gaga, with more consistently on the horizon.

If you don’t have tickets to a show, you’ll find plenty of action at one of the many nightclubs and lounges. Exhibit A: Harrah’s Pool. By day, it’s a huge, watery oasis of hot tubs and palm trees. Come evening, DJs are unleashed and it transforms into an aquatic dance club with mini-cabanas and an MTV Jersey Shore vibe. The nearby Borgata also has several popular clubs and lounges with nightly DJs and live bands.

And to help you recover from your big night out, Atlantic City has tons of spas. Opt for the seashell massage ($125) at Showboat’s Vive Day Spa, which is like a hot stone treatment, but with a shore twist. The South Jersey shore, that is.

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Putting the “Atlantic” back in Atlantic City


This historic New Jersey town isn’t just about slot machines and craps tables.

First-time visitors to Atlantic City are often surprised to find that it has a beach at all—much less a broad, 4-mile stretch of sand where seagulls soar, waves roll in, surfers glide and children toddle through the shallows. But back in the 1850s, long before the casinos arrived, Atlantic City got its start as a retreat for saltwater bathing, then believed to cure a multitude of ailments. The first boardwalk ever was built here in 1870, as a favor to beachside hotel owners irked by the sand tracked in on their Oriental carpets by careless guests. What started as an 8-foot-wide wooden promenade is now 60 feet wide and 4 miles long—and still a place to see and be seen.

THE BEACH, MADE EASY
Atlantic City’s beaches are handicap accessible, via ramps from the Boardwalk, and have public restrooms and showers at frequent intervals. You can surf off three designated beaches and fish (for free) from the jetties. Several locations rent lounge chairs, and a number of the casino hotels operate summer beach bars for those who prefer to do their relaxing with a frosty beer (and maybe some live music). With all this, why spend your summer days indoors?

BACK IN THE DAY
The Atlantic City Boardwalk loaned its name to Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series based on real-life tales of the city’s Prohibition days. The show has inspired a new interest in Atlantic City history, and the Roaring Twenties Trolley Tour is the best way to explore it. Over the years many of the city’s historic buildings have fallen to the wrecking ball, but this tour searches out the spots that still remain.

Passengers board the vehicle—a varnished-wood replica of a Victorian trolley—for a 4-hour excursion that takes in such sights as the Ritz, a former hotel (now condos) where notorious crime boss Nucky Johnson once sprawled over the entire ninth floor. You’ll also pass by the still operational Absecon Light, which your guide will tell you is the country’s third-largest lighthouse, having withstood every storm since 1857. And you’ll see two of the original boathouses used by Prohibition-era rumrunners—your guide might describe the “alcohol abuse” that took place when federal agents poured out confiscated hooch onto the beach.

PETTING THE SHARK
Atlantic City’s modest but sweet aquarium scores points with kids who like to get up close with marine creatures. It’s located in a stand-alone building on Gardner’s Basin. Much of the display space is devoted to touch tanks, home to creatures such as white spotted bamboo sharks, epaulette sharks and chocolate chip sea stars. In other tanks, look for beady-eyed piranhas, diamondback terrapins, a massive red-tail boa and some good-size red and green iguanas. The star resident is a giant loggerhead sea turtle named Groman, who weighed in at 180 pounds at his last checkup. After your aquarium tour, consider a cruise on one of the sightseeing and whale-watching boats that tie up in Gardner’s Basin, or stop by the roadhouse-style Back Bay Ale House for lunch.

NEXT UP
The last few decades have handed Atlantic City some economic challenges, and there are plenty of empty lots to prove it. But development has picked up. Revel  casino hotel opened up just about two years ago, with 1,100 rooms, 12 restaurants, a spa and a 5,500-seat arena—making it AC’s biggest hotel to date. And unlike most of the properties in town, it’s making the most of its oceanfront location: A 2-acre sixth-floor deck will have cabanas, fire pits and gardens with 30,000 trees and plants. Even the lobby, also on sixth floor, will offer water views. It could be that “Atlantic” will once again be the operative word in the “Atlantic City” name.

NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.

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Clamoring for Seaside Fun


Outer BanksOnce a summer-only destination, Massachusetts’ Cape Cod now has a season that easily extends through mid-December; almost all restaurants and hotels, as well as many shops, are open year-round. The area is divided into four parts: Upper, Mid, Lower, and Outer.

UPPER CAPE
Closest to the mainland, the Upper Cape is located along Buzzards Bay and the Cape Cod Canal. The Chart Room Restaurant, on Red Brook Harbor in Cataumet, is a perennial favorite for seaside seafood or drinks at sunset. Special occasions call for a trip to Osteria La Civetta, in Falmouth, for authentic northern Italian fare. The Sandwich Antiques Center offers 6,000 square feet of art and collectibles to satisfy shopping urges. It’s worth the drive to Spohr Gardens, in Falmouth, to take in the seasonal blooms in this six-acre woodland garden, open to the public for free.

MID CAPE
The Mid Cape is known for its beaches, windsurfing and Hyannis, a town made famous by the Kennedys. Fans of oysters should check out the Naked Oyster, in Hyannis, known for its impressive raw bar. Sit at picnic tables to enjoy your meal at the Sesuit Harbor Café, right on the beach in Dennis. For legendary ice cream, head to Centerville’s Four Seas Ice Cream. If you’re planning to throw your own clambake or lobster boil, find everything you need at All Cape Cook’s Supply, in Hyannis. Design Works, in Yarmouthport, sells fashions and home furnishings from around the world, while the artisanal items at Scargo Pottery & Art Gallery, in Dennis, are all made by hand on-site.

LOWER AND OUTER CAPES
These two areas encompass the base of the curve, and the curve itself, of Cape Cod. Much of the Outer Cape is part of Cape Cod National Seashore. The Cape Cod Rail Trail—a paved 22.mile path that follows a former railroad track—is used by cyclists, runners and horseback riders. It starts (or ends, depending on your point of view) in Wellfleet. The Brewster Store sells Cape Cod books, souvenirs, locally made fudge and jams, and all manner of dime-store knickknacks. For fashions (women’s and children’s), jewelry and home accessories, check out Cape Weekend in East Orleans. And for all things nautical, both practical and decorative, go to Marine Specialties, a classic army-navy store in in Provincetown. The Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre, which dates from 1957, shows double features every summer night.

There's no shortage of eating establishments on the Lower and Outer capes. The Impudent Oyster is an upscale seafood restaurant in an old church in Chatham. Celebrities are often spotted at The Mews, a longtime favorite in Provincetown. And no trip to the Cape would be complete without a visit to a clam shack. The fried clams at Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar, in Eastham, were rated the best on the Outer Cape in Cape Cod Life magazine’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards. A bonus: Arnold’s has its own miniature golf course on-site.

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Seaside Fun Without the Crowds


Known for its beautiful beaches and enormous dunes, North Carolina’s Outer Banks have plenty to offer no matter the time of year.

Winter is a remarkable season on the Outer Banks. Without the buzz of summer crowds, the 130-mile strand of sandy islands off the North Carolina coast feels like even more of a frontier. Visitors in this quieter time often have long stretches of beach all to themselves. Most arrive by taking the 3-mile-long Wright Memorial Bridge across Currituck Sound. Two other bridges link the Outer Banks to the mainland through Manteo. Travelers can also take a North Carolina state ferry from points south. Whatever the route, visitors and residents say they breathe easier as soon as they hit the coast-hugging, two-lane N.C. Highway 12—aka “the beach road”.

ISLAND ART, FESTIVE LIGHTS
The landscapes of the Outer Banks inspire artists who paint, sculpt and photograph the birds, fish and lighthouses. Carvings of ducks and shore birds are featured at the Bird Store in Kill Devil Hills. Other galleries that show and sell the work of local artisans include Wanchese Pottery in Manteo and the colorful Pea Island Art Gallery on the surfers’ haven, Hatteras Island.

NATURAL WONDERS
Believe it or not, in winter you can go sledding and sandboarding (similar to snowboarding) at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Its 426 acres of sand dunes are the tallest in the eastern United States. Sandboarding is only permitted from October through March when the sand is cooler; participants glide down dunes that look like small ski mountains. Jockey’s Ridge is also known to have great conditions for hang gliding: consistent winds and deep sand that makes for softer landings. Outfitter Kitty Hawk Kites offers hang-gliding lessons year-round.

Wild horses live on the northern beaches of the Outer Banks, and winter is a terrific time to see them. You’ll start to notice plenty of four-wheel-drive vehicles as you head north of Duck and Corolla. Eventually, the paved portion of Highway 12 disappears in the sand. From that point on, only outfitters and others in off-road trucks and Jeeps can drive on the 7,500 acres of beaches that are home to the wild descendants of colonial-era Spanish mustangs. (Note: The horses are protected by law; you’ll face a stiff fine if you get closer than 50 feet.) Locals know that the holidays are a good time to take family and friends on excursions with outfitters like Corolla Outback Adventures and Wild Horse Adventure Tours.

South of Nags Head, incredible seaside scenery is the star attraction on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Along this windswept, mostly undeveloped stretch of coast, blowing sand from tall dunes must be scraped regularly from the highway by bulldozers so that traffic may pass. The shore is known for its seashells; one of the best shelling spots is Coquina Beach, near the Bodie Island Lighthouse. And some 400 species of birds frequent the Outer Banks, including wintertime warblers, finches and orioles. Birders bring binoculars to the Charles Kuralt Trail and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

SEASIDE HISTORY
At Roanoke Island Festival Park, learn about the “lost colony” of English settlers who mysteriously vanished from Roanoke Island in the late 1500s. Boat-building workshops are offered at the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum. Meanwhile, displays and stories of shipwrecks, sea battles and pirates can be found at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras—some 2,000 ships have sunk along the Outer Banks over the centuries.

Perhaps the greatest visitor activity in the Outer Banks, though, is a flight of imagination. Thousands of people from around the world make their way to Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills each year to see the place where Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first powered flight happened in 1903. Full-scale reproductions of their practice glider and their first “flying machine” are among the displays at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The historic grounds are marked by a towering marble obelisk on a mound that can be seen from miles away—a reminder of the feat the brothers accomplished on these wild barrier islands little more than a century ago. Thanks to them, travel has never been the same since.

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Virginia trails


Virginia trails

I took an early morning walk while visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Historic towns along the Virginia Chesapeake bay. It was mid autumn and the color of the leafs just changing. A log with a bright yellow moss caught my attention, I was able to get the shoot during the only 5 mins window where the sun hits it directly. I went back several times, and was not able to get the same light or colors. As simple as it looks, this was my lucky shoot and the image I'll treasure of this Virginia trip!

-Magda A.

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Past Meets Present in Colonial Williamsburg


Virginia's famous living museum shines in springtime.

It’s 1774 here, in Virginia’s first colonial capital. The dirt road winds past the Governor’s Palace, where a cook is stirring Brunswick stew over an open fire, and the courthouse, where Grace Sherwood’s witch trial is underway. But despite the anachronistic spectacle, Virginia’s famous living museum is far from hokey. The entire area is fascinating, fun and in top-notch condition, thanks to renovations brought on by the 400th birthday of Jamestown in 2007. Spring is the best time to visit, for gorgeous blooms and mild weather. And when you’ve had enough of the 18th century, there are plenty of modern-day amusements.

Beginning in the 1930s, Colonial Williamsburg’s 301-acre historic area was transformed into a mock colonial town, thanks to a gift from John D. Rockefeller. Eighty-eight of the buildings are set on the original foundations, and more than 500 were meticulously reconstructed. The Governor’s Palace, for example, was recreated in part using the obsessive notes that Thomas Jefferson left behind (including such details as the exact distance between windows). On a guided tour, you’ll see rooms full of elaborate period furniture; inside the kitchen house, cooks might be preparing mutton or pies. Down the road, you’ll find the wigmaker, apothecary and basket weaver. At the 240-year-old courthouse, visitors can volunteer to be a defendant or a juror in a mock trial.

Things do get a little intentionally silly during Revolutionary City, a daily roaming outdoor theater piece that launches with fife and drums. Events of 1774–1781 are enacted several times a day on the same streets where they actually occurred. The crowds follow the interpreters as they read the Declaration of Independence or protest the Stamp Act of 1765.

Evening reenactments take place at some of the colonial taverns, which serve beer in pewter mugs, surprisingly tasty peanut soup and syllabub, a frothy citrus dessert. Even the dinnerware is authentic, with many pieces modeled after 18th-century squirrel patterns excavated nearby. While you’re eating, fiddle players meander through the large colonial rooms.

All over the grounds you’ll find animals that are rare today, like Ossabaw Island pigs and Red Devon cattle. Spring is lambing time, when you might witness the birth of a Leicester Longwool, one of the oldest breeds of sheep and nearly unknown in the U.S. (The adults are comically cute, with lustrous coats that fall in loops.) And the 90 acres of gardens showcase native plants like purple broccoli, as well as stunning flowers. In spring, red buckeye, azaleas, lavender, daylilies and dogwood trees are all in bloom, and workers at the Colonial Nursery are starting to plant using 18th-century tools and techniques, like hotbeds, cold frames and bell jars.

CHANCE TO RECHARGE
Williamsburg is renowned for its golf courses, such as the 45-hole Golden Horseshoe (a Golf Magazine Top 100) and Colonial Heritage, a 175-acre championship course designed by Arthur Hills. At the top of Duke of Gloucester Street, Merchants Square has more than 40 stores, from Williams-Sonoma and Talbots to Bella Lingerie and the Cheese Shop (a great place for a quick sandwich). In May, this courtyard hosts a Saturday farmers market, selling just-picked local produce and meats.

This is also where you’ll find many of the city’s best restaurants. At Berret’s, sit on the lovely patio and order fresh oysters straight from the nearby York River and a shrimp-garnished Bloody Mary. The Fat Canary, also on Merchants Square, uses native ingredients in innovative dishes like lobster and chive salad with lemon-infused olive oil, and tuna wrapped in nori and tempura-fried. And although the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg sounds historic (it’s “inspired by five centuries of wellness practices”), the three-floor facility has 12 light-filled treatment rooms. The Williamsburg Massage begins with a traditional herbal foot bath, but it’s a long way from provincial.

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Wine Country


Wine Country

Enjoying the scenery in Central California's fabulous wine country.

-Kathleen B. from Aliso Viejo, CA

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Coastal Cali Drive


Cruising down the California coast may well inspire a lifestyle change.

SanDiego

When people talk about Southern California, they’re usually referring to the idyllic, 130-mile strip of coast between Los Angeles and San Diego. The “California Riviera,” as it’s often called, is as much a lifestyle as a location. People here live outdoors—even, it seems, when they’re indoors. To see California beach culture at its best, start your drive 40 miles south of L.A., among the surfers and volleyball gods of Orange County’s Newport Beach. Then cruise down toward San Diego, about 90 miles farther.

NEWPORT BEACH
Stop in Newport Beach for a bike ride along the 3-mile-long Balboa Peninsula. The flat cycling path cuts between the sand and a row of whimsical beach houses—a simple sea cottage is next to a palazzo, which is next to a tiki hut. Rent beach cruisers for $10 an hour from Easy Ride Bicycle Rentals. The beach is improbably wide and full of dunes; at its south end is the Wedge, a scenic inlet where sailboats and Duffy electric touring boats glide by.

Move slightly inland to sample Newport’s upscale diversions. Key among them is the nearly 400-acre Pelican Hill Golf Club. The Tom Fazio-designed 36-hole course is open to the public. A longtime Newport Coast institution, the club is now surrounded by the palatial, Mediterranean-style Resort at Pelican Hill. Soak up the ambience over an early dinner at Andrea, one of Pelican Hill’s dining rooms. It’s easily one of the state’s finest Northern Italian restaurants.

Leaving Newport Beach, Highway 1 dips and winds along cliffs and past sandy coves. Rather than blasting by all this beauty, set aside an afternoon for Crystal Cove State Park, a protected 3-mile sandy strand backed by 2,400 acres of seaside cliffs and forests of eucalyptus, pine and Canary Island palms. Before you head out on the 17 miles of hiking trails, fuel up at the 3-year-old Beachcomber Café, reportedly the first restaurant in 40 years to open right on the SoCal sand.

Orange County

LAGUNA BEACH
The affluent and arty city of Laguna Beach is home to fewer than 25,000 people. With its curving bay and bungalow- and mansion-dotted hillside, it’s like an American version of Italy’s Positano—but with surfers. At Laguna’s center is Main Beach, with its tidal pools and boardwalk; across from the beach are the galleries of Forest Avenue—Laguna Beach has lured artists for more than a century. The town’s Heisler Park has walking paths that drop down to golden sands where you can swim, surf, dive or just explore the tide pools. It’s a great vantage point for views of the rugged coast, human-scaled town and palm-silhouetted sunsets.

Treasure Island Park also has Pacific views to spare. Here, locals work their way through morning yoga routines on the lawns while bunnies can be heard hopping about in the underbrush. After your visit, stop at the adjacent Montage, a Craftsman-style resort that has been wowing travelers and celeb weekenders from L.A. since it opened in 2003. If you book a treatment you can spend some time at the spa, with its open-air relaxation areas, pool deck and oceanfront gym. Or just relax over drinks by the fire in the plush lobby. Views of the Pacific included, naturally.

NORTH COUNTY, SAN DIEGO
The next stop is North San Diego County—known as North County. An easy coastal drive south on Interstate 5 leads to the pretty community of Del Mar, anchored by the Auberge Del Mar resort. The lobby lounge and the tiered decks that hold the Waterfall Terrace and Bleu Bar are social magnets, and the restaurant, Kitchen 1540, is well worth a visit.

End your SoCal road trip in La Jolla, a walkable, Mediterranean-style village with a strong sense of community. The town’s ocean swimmers like to drop their towels on the emerald green lawn above La Jolla Cove and swim out—beyond snorkelers ogling Garibaldi fish—to the half-mile buoy in the bay. Paddlers can rent kayaks and tour the coast’s seven sea caves, while the more daring might sign up at Torrey Pines Gliderport for a 20-minute tandem flight above the sands of Black’s Beach.

When you’re in La Jolla’s oceanfront park, wander south along the coastal path to a tiny cove populated by sea lions basking in the sun. Humans must stay behind the rope: There’s no touching allowed. But from here you can admire (and photograph) the sea lions enjoying their version of the SoCal lifestyle.

Southern California Coast

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Yosemite National Park in California


Yosemite

We went to Bass Lake and took a day trip to Yosemite. I have never seen anything so beautiful! My son and his family came with us and we rented a pontoon boat at Bass Lake and had a super fun day. This Is a picture of the Yosemite Valley from our day trip there.

-Renee G. from San Anselmo, CA

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Cool California


Cool California

A cool, calm morning in Avila Beach, California

-Lim A. from Burnaby, BC, Canada

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The Great Outdoors in the San Bernardino Mountains


From waterskiing to snowboarding, the twin towns of Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead offer a wealth of high-altitude fun and some off-season entertainment to boot.

Pine-swathed peaks, glinting lakes, idyllic mountain villages—the sister alpine towns of Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead seem a world away from the glamorous beaches of Los Angeles, a drive of less than 2 hours west. Located in the San Bernardino National Forest off the Rim of the World Highway (Route 18), these small burgs offer a bounty of outdoor activities for every season, including some charming festivals.

OFF-SEASON FUN

Nature takes center stage here, but there are a few surprises, too. Big Bear Lake showcases indie flicks each September at its International Film Festival. The town embraces Oktoberfest with gusto, so bring your stein to the highest beer garden in the country (6,750 feet) and watch live Bavarian musical acts clad in lederhosen. Adrenaline seekers should check out the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain—the twisting quarter-mile bobsled course is open year-round. When the weather is warm, it’s all about trout fishing, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Not to be outdone, the storybook Lake Arrowhead Village puts on a worthy Oktoberfest as well, having the largest German-brew selection of any celebration south of Santa Barbara and a typical smorgasbord of bratwursts and supersized laugenbrezel (traditional pretzels). In June, the Annual Antique and Classic Wooden Boat Show pays homage to skiffs that date from the 1930s. If you’re clamoring to get out on the water, McKenzie Water Ski School has been the go-to stop for lessons since 1946. 

Big Bear LakeHIT THE SLOPES

Southern California doesn’t evoke images of powdery slopes, but Snow Valley, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain harbor an abundance of ski runs that span all skill levels. Snowboarders camp out at the latter, doing their best Shaun White imitations on the 580-foot superpipe, the only one of its kind in the area. Those who prefer to keep their tips on the ground head to Rim Nordic, which has 10 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

GOOD EATS

While every resort has its own culinary offerings, those preferring to eat in the villages should fuel up for a day on the mountain at Belgian Waffle Works, situated on the banks of Lake Arrowhead. Its doughy golden staple comes in 17 versions made with different ingredients, from sliced peaches to Oreo cookie crumbs, and the biscuits and gravy is genuine down-home comfort food. For an early dinner, Madlon’s, in Big Bear Lake, serves a sophisticated menu in a replica of a gingerbread house. Don’t miss the garlic escargot and dry-aged porterhouse steak.

 

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