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US Open of Surfing (Photo: Getty Images)

The countdown begins to the largest surfing event on the planet. On Saturday, July 20, the US Open of Surfing kicks off in the morning, with rounds 1 and 2 of the Junior Men’s championship. If you’re one of the thousands of surfing fans en route to the event or are already stretching out on the sands of Huntington Beach, check out highlights of the 9-day surfing competition, which runs through July 28.

In all, this year’s event is slated to see more than 20 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers compete against the best new surfing talent from around the globe at Huntington Beach Pier. Beyond surf, skateboarding is also in store. This year’s event sees the debut of the Van Doren Invitational, an invite-only skateboarding event set to attract pro and amateur riders.

Another big draw will be music. Billed as one of America’s largest free concert stages of the summer, this year’s musical lineup includes indie rocker Modest Mouse, the dance-punk band The Faint and alternative pop artist Twin Shadow.

Can’t make it to the Vans US Open of Surfing? Check out the live webcast.

And if you’re looking for more places to ride out the heat wave, check out the world’s best surf destinations. Plus, explore the world’s best stand-up paddleboarding spots, extreme beach adventures and some pretty cool extreme adventure sports – all sure to provide great summer memories.

Photography by Bruce Rowles

Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County heads to even colder territory tonight with a visit to the legendary snow-covered ski town of Whistler, British Columbia. Newbie Lydia, the sweet Canadian girl, wants the ladies to see her beautiful country in the hopes that the mountain air (and neutral vibe of Canada) will do the hot-tempered gals some good.

The snow bunnies don’t just drink wine in the lodge fireside all weekend. On this girls getaway, the Real Housewives get physical … with mountain sports, that is (their arguments continue to remain verbal slams). The ladies brace themselves for the freezing Canadian temps and hit the slopes on Whistler Blackcomb, two of the biggest vertical drops in North America, where Lydia snowboards and Vicki brags about her days on a ski team.

In the episode that airs tonight, the decked-out-in-fur housewives channel James Bond girls with a high-speed snowmobile tour. And it wouldn’t be a Real Housewives vacation without a few fights, like the one between Vicki and Lauri on the ski slopes.

Learning to ski can cause some epic meltdowns, even if you aren’t a reality star. Whistler PR supervisor Lauren Everest says the Whistler ski team enjoyed teaching the Real Housewives how to ski, even with the drama.

“Our expert snow school instructor Nadio made sure the ladies felt as comfortable as possible while learning a new sport,” says Everest. “The lesson got cut a bit short due to some drama while the cameras were rolling, but that’s what the show is all about … and why we love it when the Real Housewives come to town!”

After some heated discussions slopeside, the ladies whine and dine après-ski at The Bearfoot Bistro, one of Whistler’s hottest foodie scenes. The restaurant focuses on local in-season ingredients and features one of the world’s coldest ice bars, The Belvedere Ice Room, in which more than 50 vodkas are chilled in minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s almost as cold as one of Tamra’s “evil eyes.”

The second part of the Real Housewives’ ski trip airs tonight. We wonder: Will there be a massive snowball fight between Vicki and Lauri? Will Alexis run out of fur outfits to wear? Will Vicki’s maddening screams cause an avalanche? As Bravo says, we’ll have to watch what happens.

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Yellowstone’s busiest season is now in full swing, and if you’re among the thousands of travelers who plan to visit America’s first national park this July, first thing’s first: Bring a jacket. Yes, really, a jacket — in July. You’ll be grateful you did when winds up to 15 mph nip at your face and temperatures drop into the 40s at night. You may even see snow. (Keep current on Yellowstone’s weather here.)

Hard to believe, as scorching temperatures cripple other regions of the west, but Yellowstone is one place you do not want to explore without a jacket this month. I found out first-hand on a visit to the national park just a few weeks ago. From a chilly morning rain to a late-evening snowstorm, I experienced Yellowstone’s dramatic temperature drops all within the span of a few hours.

Once you’ve brought a coat (and a good pair of boots and sunscreen, too), you’ll be well on your way to exploring the park — here’s a taste of Yellowstone’s beauty in summer.

Roosevelt Arch: An elk rests by Yellowstone’s famous Roosevelt Arch — Teddy Roosevelt himself laid the cornerstone of the arch, located at the park’s north entrance. “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” reads its inscription. (All Photos: Lisa Singh) 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Geysers … bears … but just why is Yellowstone called “Yellowstone”? The park’s abundant yellow-colored rhyolite lavas provide the answer. You’ll see these rich colors at Yellowstone’s massive gorge, roughly 20 miles long.

Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin: Remember your jacket? These smart folks certainly did as they make their way down a walkway to view some of Yellowstone’s breathtaking geysers. Did you know Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration geysers in the world?

Rocky Mountain Fauna: It’s not just bears or American bison you may see at Yellowstone. Look up! This mountain goat, with some winter fur still left to shed, may be peering down at you from a mountain cliff. Just beware of Yellowstone’s deadly bears.

Fishing in Yellowstone: Don’t forget to get in some fishing. Pick up a Yellowstone fishing permit, and enjoy angling and fly-fishing in this massive 2 million-plus-acre wonderland, home to 13 native fish species … and plenty of trout.


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The world eagerly awaits the arrival of the royal baby and the news of whether the newest successor to the British throne will be a Prince or Princess of Cambridge. With the Duchess of Cambridge’s due date believed to be July 11, the champagne is chilling and the cigars are ready to be lit for the royal baby’s arrival any minute now.

Once again royal watchers have all eyes on London and the royal couple. Royal baby watch reaches a fever pitch with worldwide outlets camping out in tents outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London’s Paddington neighborhood, the expected delivery location for the royal baby; it’s also the hospital where Prince William was born.

How will the world find out if the little prince or princess has arrived? With a little pomp and circumstance, which is only fitting for a royal birth. The palace will announce when Kate is in labor, and then when the baby arrives, the announcement will be signed by medical staff and rushed to Buckingham Palace with a police escort. Royal sources say the official announcement will be displayed on an easel, the same easel used when Prince William was born, inside the Buckingham Palace gates. After the royal family receives the news, royal watchers all over the globe will finally find out if it is a little royal prince or princess. Then the world will go into official baby-mania for the foreseeable future.

The royal baby will not only boost collective “awws” around the world but will also boost the British economy with royal baby merchandise and royal baby celebrations all over London (who couldn’t resist this Born to Rule onesie?) The biggest celebration is expected to be at Green Park, a 40-acre royal park right outside of Buckingham Palace, where the official birth announcement will be displayed for the public.

Pubs all over London are gearing up to toast the little monarch’s arrival. Royal fans who would rather escape the rowdy revelers than join them can head to the Museum of London’s new exhibit, The Royal Arrival, showcasing items worn by Queen Victoria’s children; the show runs through Oct. 13. Also, for a perfectly posh British-style celebration, get the royal treatment at hotels offering Royal Baby Shower Teas, like St. James Hotel and the London Marriott Hotel County Hall.

For couples who are patiently awaiting their own baby’s arrival, we’ve selected the best babymoon destinations to get away before your buddle of joy arrives. Yes, if you are expecting your own little prince or princess soon, we suggest taking a romantic and relaxing trip while you can, before it’s you and your partner plus one.  For the moms ready to pop any moment, if your baby arrives the same day as the royal baby, you will be honored with a commerative coin from the Royal Mint.

The downside if your child shares a birthday with the royal baby? Just think of the pressure to top the royal birthday parties every year!

 

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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

 

 

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