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Plains Indian Museum Powwow

Plains Indian Powwow (Photo: L. Singh)

We love Wyoming. On July 10, 1890, the Cowboy State entered the Union, and with it a million travelers’ dreams were made. Including this one’s. Standing on Mirror Lake Highway, under the massive “Forever West” sign, puts it all in perspective: This is a place where you can roam free. And you’ll do a lot of roaming here. With just over 500,000 people — in a state roughly the size of the United Kingdom — Wyoming is the least populous of all the states.

Your first stop in this great expanse of the American Wild West is Cody, WY. Granted, this is a tourist hub, as the western-wear-and-trinket shops along Sheridan Avenue attest. But you sort of expect that: The town’s namesake, after all, was the late-great western showman Buffalo Bill Cody, who helped found this rugged stretch of northern Wyoming in 1895. See his apparition at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a complex of 5 museums that tells the story of the American west through western art, firearms exhibits and stories of the Plains Indians.

The world of Native American culture comes to life every summer, just beyond the museum’s doors. For more than 30 years, the Plains Indian Museum Powwow has showcased dancers and drum groups from Northern Plains tribes. Members of Native American tribes come from neighboring states, such as Idaho and Nevada, and in addition to performing, they sell Indian jewelry, bead and quillwork, clothing and more. Try the fry bread, hand-made by Arizona native Mary Sounding Sides. She’s been making fry bread at the powwow for the past 10 decades. What’s her cooking secret? “No secret,” she says, “just something I learned as a girl.” Make sure you stay for the grand finale: Flanked by American and Native American flags, dancers march away; they may wave to you and invite you to join the march as well.

Hotel Irma’s Gunfight (Photo: L. Singh)

More western lore comes to life at the town’s landmark, Hotel Irma. Buffalo Bill built this hotel in 1902, and named it after his daughter. The afternoon I swung by, I pulled a seat up to the cherry-wood bar that was given to Buffalo Bill by Queen Victoria — complete with an antique cash register from the early 1900s. You never know who you’ll meet as you sip a beer or lemonade; my bar buddy for the afternoon was a local Native American man named Oliver who told me about an upcoming powwow at nearby Wind River Reservation.

Stay ‘till the evening. It’s a little cheesy, but you’ll want to stay for Hotel Irma’s free gunfight show. Be patient with the sound system — this is live theater, folks, and sometimes the mics cut in and out. But you’ll get the basic gist, especially once you see “Wyatt Earp” shoot up outlaw cowboys Billy Clayton, and Tom and Frank McLaury.

Your next step: breathtaking Yellowstone. But you’ll need a full day for that. Check back later this week; we’ll give you the lowdown.

It’s time to get real — really, really real.

Nude Recreation Week kicks off this week, and with it so should your clothes. Just imagine letting it all go, and embracing your true, natural self. You’ll be living out loud Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” like never before … and joining a revered American tradition while you’re at it.

Bear with us …

Turns out, for the past 82 years, nude recreation has been celebrated nationwide by the premier, uh, outfit of its kind — the American Association for Nude Recreation, whose annual membership costs less than the price of a bathing suit. Thank AANR’s advocacy and its 35,000 members: The US is now home to more than 250 campgrounds, beaches and resorts nationwide for nude recreation, says AANR president Susan Weaver.

Goodbye, Tan Lines!

If all of this is a little new to you, relax: We’ve got you, um, covered, with a little advice from AANR prez Weaver herself. Her first tip: Check out AANR’s Nude Resort Locator — it lists all the nude recreation venues nationwide where you, in all your natural best, are welcome. Also be sure to check out TravelChannel’s roundup of best nude beaches. Plus, our scoop on Jamaica’s nude beaches and where to go au naturel in the Caribbean.

And once you show up, don’t be afraid to tell people you’re new.

“If you say it’s your first time, people are overwhelmingly cordial and put you at ease,” says Weaver, speaking to us from her home in Annandale, VA. Weaver, personally, loves all the resorts she’s been to – including her home club, Avalon Resort in West Virginia, as well as recent visits to Star Ranch Nudist Club in McDade, TX; Squaw Mountain Ranch, a family nudist campground in Estacada, OR; and DeAnza Springs Resort in Jacumba, CA.

“There are no end to places to visit and wonderful people to meet,” says Weaver.

Since the mid-1980s, Weaver has embraced the nude recreational lifestyle herself. “It’s such a joyous and freeing experience,” says Weaver. “You feel more one with nature … you don’t have to worry if your tan lines will be even … you can simply enjoy the sun, wind and water … and you won’t get sand in your bathing suit, which is most uncomfortable, we’d all agree.”

Americans Want to Get Naked

Turns out, some 53 million Americans agree. That was the finding of a recent survey conducted by MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm: Roughly 15% of the American population would spend their recreational dollars on nude leisurely fun like skinny dipping (an activity Weaver calls the “wave of the future”).

Doing the math here: That means that in an office of 100 people, about 15 of your coworkers would be game for a nude recreational outing. And lucky for you guys, the big one is coming up next Saturday.

World Record Skinny-Dip: Make History Next Saturday!

In 2009, history was made, when more than 13,500 nudists skinny dipped simultaneously at the same time – a feat captured by Guinness World Records. This year, AANR, and North America’s other premier association of its kind, the Naturist Society, will gather members to make history once again.

On Saturday, July 13, at 1 p.m. LNT (Local Nudist Time) nudists throughout North America will take the plunge in lakes, rivers, resorts and waters off beaches from coast to coast. Get all the World Record Skinny Dip details, then plan ahead.

Wherever you take the plunge, keep in mind these tips, says Weaver: Leave cameras at home, bring sunscreen (“we take skin safety very seriously,” she says), and be open to meeting new people.

And once you do: We want to hear from you – tell us your story below!

Courtesy of Getty Images

Travelers visiting Washington, DC, will notice something different about the city’s skyline. Although it’s closed for repairs, the Washington Monument is now lighting up the night sky. The National Park Service has installed 488 lamps on the scaffold surrounding the monument.

The rehabilitation is part of a welcome change. On Aug. 23, 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the 555-foot-tall monument, cracking and chipping stones near the top and shaking the mortar loose. The lights are expected to stay on until the popular tourist attraction reopens in spring 2014.

The Big Apple more your style? If you’re heading to NYC, there’s exciting news for tourists who want to check out Lady Liberty. Yep, after being hit by Superstorm Sandy last fall, the Statue of Liberty has once again opened to the public after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 4th.

You may recall that the National Park Service closed Liberty Island following Hurricane Sandy; however, the Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened after a year of renovations. Last October’s storm flooded and damaged New York Harbor docks and Liberty Island’s walkways, buildings and electrical systems, but the 126-year-old iron statue made it through the storm unscathed.

Looking for more sightseeing recommendations for these cities? Check out our list of Washington DC Attractions and Top 10 Attractions in NYC.

Photo: Lisa Singh

You need to visit Gettysburg this Sunday.

While the past week has already seen dozens of events at Gettysburg coinciding with the battle’s 150th anniversary, the real epic event — the must-see attraction — is Sunday, July 7. That’s when upwards of 40,000 reenactors from all over America, and as far away as Canada, will descend on the fields of Redding Farm, near the historic 6,000-acre battlefield in southern Pennsylvania, to recreate what many historians call the turning point in the Civil War: Pickett’s Charge.

Just imagine: It’s July 1863, the country is already 2 years into the war, with casualties mounting on both sides, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee makes a calculated risk: to head into the heart of Union territory, near the town of Gettysburg, PA. Battles have been raging for 2 days, and by the third, Confederate victory is within reach. Lee orders an infantry assault against Union positions on Cemetery Ridge, and 12,500 men soon advance over wide-open fields for 3/4 of a mile. They don’t stand a chance: Heavy Union artillery and rifle fire burst forth, and within 1 hour some 5,000 Confederate men lay dead. While the Civil War will rage on for another 2.5 years, the Confederacy never fully recovers from the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge.

This watershed moment in the Civil War will be reenacted Sunday at 3:30 p.m. — just punch “1085 Table Rock Road, Gettysburg” into your GPS, and hit go. Plenty of parking spaces can be found on the edge of the wide-open field. (Visit GettysburgReenactment.com for more details.) Bring water, bring sunscreen, bring plenty of earplugs for the kids — because with 40,000 reenactors firing off Springfield rifles and cannons, you’ll need ’em!

Reenactor pauses before the start of battle. (Photo: Lisa Singh)

Now, granted, Civil War reenactors have a reputation for being a little … intense. But this isn’t some Dungeons and Dragons dork fest. (Check out this must-read from the NYT, Why the Civil War Still Matters — if that doesn’t fire you up for the Civil War, nothing will.) You owe it to yourself to spend time with some of these guys — I did and learned a ton! For one thing, I learned what soldiers actually ate. Heading back to Confederate camp with one reenactor offered that view. (Turns out, these guys and gals don’t usually stay in nearby hotels, but in tents, for days on end … with no showers!)

Cooking up johnnycakes, a staple of Civil War soldiers’ food. (Photo: Lisa Singh)

The evening I swung by the camp, one Civil War reenactor, John Hollinrake of New Hampshire, was firing up some johnnycakes on an open skillet — that’s 3 parts cornmeal, 1 part flour and 1 1/2 parts brown sugar. All cooked in bacon grease, leftover from the cured bacon that Hollinrake had fried up.

Hungry for more? Take a tour of historic Gettysburg, and see our roundup of more Civil War battlefields.

Fourth of July

We want to know: How are you celebrating the most patriotic day of the year? Will you be commemorating America’s independence by taking in one of the best fireworks displays in the US? Are you lucky enough to be spending the holiday at one of the best hotels for 4th of July celebrations? Whether you’re celebrating with a picnic, a party or plenty of pyrotechnics, we want to see! Instagram your photos with the hashtag #TCJuly4th, and we’ll feature some of our favorites on the blog.

Here’s to the red, white and blue!

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A Hug For the World: British runner Kate Treleaven, co-founder of the One Run For Boston cross-country charity relay, stretches out in St. Louis.

The “Stink Mobile” never stops. Barring any unexpected detours, it will have trekked 3,300 miles when it welcomes hundreds of runners Sunday night finishing One Run For Boston — a cross-country relay to raise money for Boston Marathon bombing victims. Event co-founders Kate Treleaven and Danny Bent, friends from England, are taking turns sleeping in their donated 2013 grey Ford Escape, a logistical support vehicle that doubles as a motel.

One Run began in Los Angeles on June 7 and will end on June 30 at Boston Common, a few steps from the Boston Marathon Finish Line. Taking a scenic backroads tour of America, the route meanders through 14 states and is being tracked with a GPS baton along with a 24/7 Live Photo Gallery.

The purpose is to raise money for The One Fund Boston but also to showcase acts of human kindness and generosity in the wake of the April 15 terrorism attacks. Runners also passed through tornado-ravaged parts of Oklahoma and are earmarking that state’s donations to help families who lost their homes.

“This is a much deeper experience than a road trip,” says Bent, a triathlete and author who previously bicycled from England to India to raise money for child poverty. “We’re experiencing America from the inside out. People are inviting us into their homes. Every one hour and forty minutes, we meet a new person. It’s a like a spike of adrenaline.”

Runners from around the country are flying into Boston to join the ceremonial last 8 mile leg of the journey. Strangers have been donating frequent flier miles to each other after meeting on the One Run Facebook page.  Bent and Treleaven, who sometimes run alongside supporters, recently logged a 16-mile stretch to replace a Pennsylvania runner whose father had just died. Their tribute memorial run was coincidentally on the same day as the funeral.

Along with the inevitable tear-jerking moments, the One Run founders are also sharing plenty of lighthearted memories as they stumble across silly roadside attractions and truck stop oddities.

On June 16, the runners passed through Amarillo, Texas, home of Cadillac Ranch, a public sculpture garden where graffiti-covered junk cars are planted nose down into the earth. Bent and Treleaven painted “One Run For Boston” on one of the steel (yes, cars were not always made of plastic) canvases.

Road trippers Danny Bent (left) and Kate Treleaven pretend to spray paint each other at Cadillac Ranch on Route 66 in Texas.

“Every British person dreams about driving across America and seeing all the different landscapes. You can drive across Britain in just a few hours,” says Treleaven. “But we’re not going to the usual tourist places. We actually drove straight past the Grand Canyon!”

“This trip is about meeting people we would otherwise never have a chance to meet,” she adds. “We’re getting under the skin of America and loving every moment of it.”

**

(For more information on donating to One Run For Boston or joining the runners in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts anytime from June 28-30, click here).

– written by Darren Garnick

 

 

Photo by Reuters

Can he do it? This coming Sunday, the world will find out as Nik Wallenda attempts his latest daredevil feat: a walk across the Grand Canyon while suspended a stomach-churning 1,500 feet — more than 4 football fields — above the Little Colorado River.

Wallenda is no stranger to mind-boggling stunts. A year ago, this seventh-generation American acrobat made headlines when he successfully walked across Niagara Falls — a total of 1,800 feet — becoming the first person to do so.

Now Wallenda has his eye on the Grand Canyon, without the tether he wore last year (something Wallenda reportedly wasn’t happy about wearing, but which he did in compliance with the Niagara Falls Commission’s stipulations). This go-round, Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk, on land owned by the Navajo Nation, will occur without a harness, before a live audience (10-second delay notwithstanding). Two wireless point-of-view cameras will also be affixed to Wallenda’s vest.

Don’t think you’d want to duplicate Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk? You can still score bragging rights with your own dramatic adventure. Take a South Rim mule ride through the Grand Canyon, but plan ahead — trips may be booked 13 months in advance. North Rim mule trips are offered from mid-May to mid-October.

If views of deep chasms and astonishingly old geologic formations spread across 1.2 million acres are all the drama you need, hike the Grand Canyon. Or enjoy the dazzling, dizzying view of the canyon from the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bridge walkway that offers a 4,000-foot-high view of the canyon’s floor. Come night, crash at one of the 10 best luxe hotels near the Grand Canyon.

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Getty Images

The Obamas arrived in Ireland on Monday, and while the president attended the G8 summit in Belfast, the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha were able to fit in a 2-day whirlwind tour of Dublin, exploring their Irish roots.

“There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama,” says the web-hit Irish folk song that went viral back in November 2008.  The president’s great-great-grandfather was born in the Irish village of Moneygall, and Ireland celebrates this connection by always extending a warm Irish welcome to the president and his family.

Michelle Obama and daughters learned more about their Irish ancestry with a special tour of Trinity College, where they viewed archives documenting their family’s Irish origins and saw the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illustrated gospel manuscript.

Other highlights of the first family’s trip included a private tour of Glendalough, one of the most famous monastic ruins in Ireland, and a special Riverdance performance at the Gaity Theatre, where Michelle Obama addressed an excited audience.

And talk about a power lunch … the first lady dined on fish and chips in Dublin with the “first rock star of Ireland,” U2 frontman and world humanitarian Bono.

This wasn’t Obamas’ first visit to Ireland. Back in 2001, the president visited his ancestral hometown Moneygall searching for his “missing apostrophe.” On this visit, the president met his 8th cousin, Henry Healy, now known as “Henry the Eighth.”

 

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REUTERS/Adam Ihse/Scanpix

This past weekend marked another royal wedding: the nuptials of Princess Madeleine of Sweden and American financier Christopher O’Neill. The much-buzzed-about royal wedding took place at the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Stockholm, followed by a reception at Drottingholm Palace, where the Princess was born.

Princess Madeline met her husband-to-be while living in New York, and Mr. O’Neill has declined a royal title so he can keep his US citizenship and continue his banking career.

Well-wishers lined the cobblestoned streets in Stockholm on Saturday as the royal couple traveled in a horse-drawn carriage through Gamia Stan, the medieval old town. The newly wed couple then set sail from Stockholm Harbor on a royal barge to Drottingham Palace for a lavish reception, with royals and celebrities from all over the world in attendance.

A royal wedding isn’t the only reason Stockholm is on our radar this month. Weather-wise this Scandinavian gem shines in June … quite literally. On June 21, thousands of tourists will flock to Sweden to see the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon when the sun shines for a full 24 hours around the summer solstice.

If you’re more of royal watcher than a sun gazer, there’s another big event to look forward to this summer: the much-anticipated arrival of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s baby. Kate’s 8-month baby bump is getting bigger and bigger every day, as seen at the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation last week. The royal baby is due mid-July and the world is abuzz with speculation, rumors and bets: Will the royal heir be a boy or a girl? And what will be the baby’s name and title?

Our bets are on Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth’s middle name. What do you think?

 

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World Oceans Day

We, as travelers of the world, have a lot to appreciate the ocean for: Travel and trade, food, medicines, communications, and just about half the oxygen we breathe.  And with concerns of increasing impacts linked to climate change, ocean acidification, diminishing overfished populations and endangered species, and polluted waters — we have many reasons to help protect the ocean, especially during travel.  Join the international celebration on June 8, World Oceans Day, by taking action to keep it healthy and beautiful!

Here are a few tips for making your future travels as ocean-friendly as possible:

Planning:

  • Consider Ecotourism options — Help make the local community a healthier, more beautiful place after your visit.
  • Travel shorter distances — Explore the “hidden gem” destinations around your home and appreciate what your own habitat has to offer.
  • Avoid cruises — Cruise ships are notorious for creating major issues with improper waste management leading to pollution, excessive energy consumption, coral reef damage, and other kinds of environmental degradation to regions visited.
  • Consider purchasing Carbon Offsets — Help balance the impact of energy used to travel by funding an environmental cause.

Transportation:

  • Ride public transit — Rather than using your own car or a rental car, consider trains or buses. These options can be less expensive than flying and greatly reduce the pollution caused by driving long distances. Plus, a train trip can take you through beautiful natural environments that you might never see by car.
  • Get around on foot or bike — Walking and biking around your destination can help you get a true feel for a place.

Where to Stay:

  • Consider staying in a “green” hotel or eco-lodge — Show that you support businesses that exemplify environmental sustainability.
  • Participate in water-conservation programs in hotels — Help save diminishing freshwater resources used for washing linens. If the hotel does not have this program, let the cleaning staff know that you don’t need your towels and sheets changed every day.
  • Borrow or rent from a local — Couchsurfing is a free service that will let you find a couch to sleep on during your trip. Airbnb is another popular site, allowing travelers to find hosts renting their extra bed, room, apartment, or house for travelers. This may give you the opportunity to save money, meet natives, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Packing & Toiletries:

  • Leave little bottles of hotel amenities untouched — Resist the urge to take the small plastic bottles of soaps and shampoos from hotels. These can create more waste, often ending up in the ocean. Instead, use a refillable bottle from body care products from home.
  • Use multi-purpose, biodegradable soaps — Reduce the number of products you need to pack as well as the amount of chemicals washed down the drain or into local streams. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Classic Soap is a biodegradable, vegetable-based, 18-in-1 uses product for cleaning, shaving, shampooing, and moisturizing.
  • Choose and apply sunscreen wisely — Look for biodegradable, organic sunscreens. Also, apply 30 minutes before going into water or else the sunscreen is likely to wash off right away in the water.  Such sunscreens and other skin lotions are made with chemicals and oils harmful to humans and the ocean.
  • Bring your own reusable bags — Avoid disposable plastic bags. Even when disposed of properly, the lightweight plastic can escape garbage bins and find ways into woodlands, storm drains, and water ways. Plastic bags are of the most dangerous marine debris, accounting for millions of turtle, sea bird, and marine mammal deaths by ingestion, entanglement, and suffocation each year. Even worse, plastic bags do not biodegrade.

Food & Drink:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle Avoid adding empty water or other beverage bottles to the waste stream by refilling your own container from larger sizes.
  • Seek local food — Look for vendors and restaurants with local ingredients rather than consuming goods that must be shipped to your destination from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
  • Only eat sustainably-sourced seafood  Consume fish that is local, not over-fished, or is responsibly aquacultured.

Activities:

  • Educate yourself – Enjoy a new place by learning about its wildlife and unique natural characteristics.
  • Volunteer in the community you’re visiting — This could be as simple as picking up litter in places you visit and disposing of waste properly.
  •  “Leave only footsteps, take only pictures” — Try not to disturb native plants and wildlife. Many countries have established eco-parks that allow tourists to see the natural beauty of a country without harming the environment.

Souvenirs:

  • Be careful what you buy — Don’t buy endangered species products such as tortoise shell, ivory, animal skins or feathers. Don’t purchase star fish or turtle-shell related souvenirs or any creature that may have been put to death for the sake of a gift shop sale. These animals may have been killed specifically for tourist trade.
  • Leave rocks, shells, seeds, and other natural artifacts in the wild — This will prevent any contributions to habitat destruction.

Celebrate World Oceans Day this Saturday by making a promise to protect the ocean or find an event near you!

- Lauren Goldberg, The Ocean Project

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