ALL POSTS IN [Road Trips]

Everglades

Photo By Valerie Conners

While the hordes of Spring Breakers flock — understandably — to South Florida’s golden shores, consider a trip down the not-so-beaten path, to Everglades National Park, the heart of which lies just an hour’s drive west of Miami, along the Tamiami Trail. A drive into the heart of the Everglades grants visitors glimpses of the diverse wildlife roaming the region, including loads of alligator sightings (stand back, and keep you hands to yourself!), great blue herons, colorful roseate spoonbills and ever-present white herons and ibises. If you weren’t a bird watcher, much less bird lover, before entering the Everglades, you will be when you depart.

“Everglades” literally translates to “river of grass,” and that’s exactly what you’ll find here: a subtropical wetland that begins in Central Florida at Lake Okeechobee as water leaves the lake and flows south, forming a slow moving river. The so-called river of grass is an astonishing 50 miles wide and 100 miles long, running all the way to the tip of South Florida and into the sea. Of that vast expanse, 1.5 million acres have been designated a National Park, protecting 20 percent of the Everglades and the extraordinary wildlife contained within.

Everglades National Park is split into 2 main entrances, Shark Valley in the north central section of the park and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in the West. Start your foray into the Everglades in Shark Valley. This entrance has the most amenities for visitors, including a museum, bike rentals and tram tours, as well as an observation tower in the thick of the glades that affords striking views of the grassland. A 15-mile loop road winds through Shark Valley, and is popular for bikers and a few apparently cold-blooded walkers undaunted by the region’s high temperatures. If you’re not prone to exert yourself for the duration of a 15-mile bike ride, hop aboard a tram tour, where knowledgeable guides point out and explain in detail the Everglades’ flora and fauna — with frequent stops for photos.

From Shark Valley, make your way toward the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. This entrance lies tucked into the far western reaches of the park, where you’ll see a much different topography, chiefly mangrove islands and winding waterways. As you make drive west, you’ll have the choice to continue along the well-trodden Tamiami Trail, or pop off onto a Scenic Loop Road, and as I highly recommend, and great poets will agree, always — always — take the road less traveled.

The loop road is partially unpaved, though easily driveable, and winds through what may well be the region’s most spectacular and wildest scenery: a cypress forest, part of the Big Cypress National Preserve. These monstrous trees drip with Spanish Moss, and you’ll pass by alligators lounging at their bases, as well as countless birds — herons, ibises, purple gallinules and pelicans galore. The best part? In what turned into an hour and a half foray along the road (I stopped for lots of pictures), I passed a mere 4 other cars. This is as remote a space as you’ll find anywhere in Florida.

Everglades

Photo By Valerie Conners

You’ll leave the Preserve and arrive in Everglades City late-afternoon or early evening. To get the most out of an Everglades National Park road trip from South Florida’s east coast, spend an overnight in Everglades City, just south of Naples, on the western edge of the park. The town is incredibly small, just a few hundred residents, and lies amidst winding waterways. Book a room at the Everglades City Motel, where the old-fashioned exterior belies the beautifully remodeled rooms inside. Grab a sunset cocktail and a platter of smoked fish dip at the iconic Rod and Gun Club, which sits along a scenic curve of the river. For dinner, meander a mile or so down the road to Camellia Street Grill, a true local’s hangout along the river. You’ll find kitschy decor, a welcoming outdoor deck, twinkling lights strung from trees, and if you’re lucky — live music and dancing.

The following day, head into the park’s western entrance, and book yourself on a boat tour of either the mangrove isles or Ten Thousand Islands. You can choose from a larger boat that winds through the islands or a smaller, 6-person tour that heads into the depths of the mangroves. After your boat tour, pay a visit to Chokoloskee Island, just a few minutes down the road. Here you’ll find the Smallwood Store and Ole Indian Trading Post, a former general store established in 1906 that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been turned into a museum featuring artifacts from the era, including newspaper clippings, medicine bottles, and furnishings.

Before you head back toward the 2-hour drive to Miami, refuel with lunch at the Havana Cafe, a Chokoloskee restaurant dishing up tasty Cuban food. Try the pork plate, traditional-style Cuban pork shoulder, serve with black beans, rice and a small salad. Ask to try the homemade hot sauce — you’ll thank me later.

Photography by Reuters

Looking for a flashy way to get around town or a not-so-practical option for your next road trip? Take a ride in the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. On Sunday, the new hot rod was revealed during the press preview at the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Unfortunately, if you want to see it in person, you’ll have to wait until the Detroit Auto Show opens up to the public on Saturday, Jan. 19 or until the car hits showroom floors this fall.

It’s been 9 years since the Corvette has been revamped.  The biggest difference this time around is that the sleek car has a V8 engine, and – guess what! — it’s no longer a gas-guzzler. Strict government rules and fines from regulators forced engineers to rethink how to design the car for better gas mileage.

In addition to the Corvette, other automakers are showing off their new vehicles, too. According to the Washington Post, auto aficionados will be able to check out other experimental concept vehicles, including the Bentley GT Speed convertible, BMW 4-Series (Z4), Honda Urban SUV, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Mini John Cooper Works Paceman.

The Auto Show will have more than 500 vehicles on display, representing the most innovative designs in the world. It is North America’s largest and most prestigious automotive showcase. And parents don’t have to leave their kids behind.  Family Day kicks off on Friday, Jan. 25, with magicians, acrobats and caricature artists to keep the kids entertained. If you can’t make it for Family Day, we recommend seeing the parade of cars on the main show floor at 3:30 and again at 7 pm on Jan. 19 – 27.

Yes, we’re aware that some of you may not live in Detroit to catch this big auto show, but there may be an auto show coming to a city near you next month. The Washington Auto Show kicks into high gear on Friday, Feb. 1 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 10. The Chicago Auto Show runs from Wednesday, Feb. 9 to Monday, Feb. 18.

We’d be remised if we didn’t remember the auto lover who appreciates a good, ole classic car. So, we thought we’d add the picture below of the Corvette Stingray, taken in 1955 without the flashy bells and whistles.  Back in the day, it still looked like a fun way to travel. What do you think?

If you’re interested in more recent cars, take a look at our auto show slideshows from 2012 and 2011.

Photography by Getty

Photography by Getty Images

AAA predicts that 93.3 million Americans will hit the road during the holidays, making this Christmas travel season the busiest it’s been in 6 years. More people are taking road trips this year because finding a reasonably-priced airplane ticket is like finding a needle in a haystack.

A record 84.4 million people will drive at least 50 miles between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1, according to the reputable travel agency. That’s 90.5% of holiday travelers, up from 89.3% just 6 years ago. So what does that mean to you? Expect plenty of traffic jams, crowded rest stops and bumper-to-bumper lines near highway tolls.

Need tips for dealing with this inevitable headache? Pack a couple travel-size games and snacks to keep the kids preoccupied. We recommend checking out some helpful family travel tips from Mommy Points blogger, Summer Hull, before you head out the door. Our travel expert offers up advice on everything from flying with a baby for the first time to finding hotels with health food options.

One thing travelers aren’t too concerned about is gas prices, which have dropped 50 cents since September, according to AAA. The average price at the pump will range from $3.20 and $3.40 a gallon by New Year’s Day, but that’s still not enough of a reason to thwart travelers’ plans to drive.

Although more people will be on the road, the airports will be just as busy. We recommend heading to the airport earlier than you normally would to avoid long TSA security lines — especially on the weekend before Christmas, the day after Christmas and on Jan. 2.  AAA’s economist John Heimlich expects 86% of the airplane seats to be filled with paying passengers, up from 85% last year.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled or delayed due to a major storm system making its way across the Midwest and headed for the East Coast of the US. Meteorologists predict that another storm on the West Coast may throw a wrench in travel plans next week; so before you head out the door, check out our weather forecast tool — powered by WeatherTrends360 — to find out if these 2 storms will affect your Christmas travel plans.

And if you’re headed to a big city, download The Layover app or peruse our airport guides to find out how you can kill some time during a lengthy layover.

A survey released today from YourTango.com, along with Ford Motor Company, shows that couples use road trips for “quality time” — giving them the chance to reconnect and strengthen their relationship.

In the survey of more than 1,000 couples, 91 percent have taken road trips together, with 84 percent agreeing that the experience strengthened their relationship. Road trips allow for more than quality time, though, with 63 percent of respondents agreeing that they are affectionate with their partner while driving — holding hands or sharing a kiss at a red light. Who doesn’t like a little romance on the road?

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Today marks the beginning of the 3-day Monterey Jazz Festival in arguably one of the most beautiful parts of California. Entering its 55th year, it’s the world’s longest-running jazz festival, with acts like Tony Bennett and Esperanza Spalding performing this weekend. You don’t have to be a jazz fan to appreciate that kind of star power.

Photo by Cole Thompson

 

Can’t make it to Monterey this weekend? Visit the gorgeous seaside town vicariously with this video from our go-to beach gal, Marianela, at Point Lobos State Reserve Park. Or plan a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. And next week, the Ghost Adventures crew investigates the Point Sur Lighthouse, right outside of Monterey.

Want to plan a music festival getaway? Let our Music Festival Guide help you decide where to go — just pick the month and pack a bag! Or if you’re looking to really get away, learn about the new music festival cruise trend!

SturgisSturgis Rally

The 72nd annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is now in full gear — and so is the action. From the Black Hills to the Badlands, thousands of motorcyclists have descended on the area to celebrate the freedom of the open road — and maybe set a record or two. This year, stuntman Toby Baker returns to Sturgis to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the longest-running ride through a tunnel of fire. That’s 230 feet, 2,900 degrees. That’s just one of the highlights this week. READ MORE

Travel Channel has teamed up with Rand McNally on their annual road rally adventure — Best of the Road — to search for the best small towns across the country. Watch the small-town showdown tonight at 8|7c on Travel Channel.

Best of the Road

Hosted by our resident comedian, Bert Kreischer, the show will follow 3 teams as they road-trip across America to find the best small towns in the categories of food, beauty and fun. Town winners are awarded the prestigious title of Rand McNally’s “Best of the Road.”

Our road warrior videographer, Allison Otto, joined the RV as it toured the country from Washington, DC to Seattle.  From meeting Joplin, MO’s celebrity cat to touring Danville, KY’s miniature world, Allison captured small town wonders from coast to coast. Check out her photos all the way from Rt. 66’s Carousel Park to a traditional Kentucky BBQ.

Watch a sneak peek of the teams’ adventures. And don’t miss America’s best small towns being revealed tonight!

Join Travel Channel as we make our way across the United States and then down to Cancun and Costa Rica. See what’s on this week’s itinerary and join us for a quick getaway!

Start the week off with Bizarre Foods America tonight at 9|8c when Andrew samples the unique cuisine of Miami – check out our Bizarre Food of the Week for a sneak peek! And don’t forget to enter to win a trip to Miami – maybe you could try the bizarre foods yourself …

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The Best of the Road RV continues to make its way across the country searching for America’s best small towns. Our road warrior,  Allison Otto is capturing the wonders of Small Town America.

Check out Allison’s latest dispatch from the road, where she gets a taste of small town life — one bite at a time:

Biting into a hot, fried cinnamon-apple pie in Gainesville, TX; sipping a salt-rimmed prickly pear margarita in Santa Fe, NM; enjoying a freshly charred romaine salad drizzled with a blue cheese cream and balsamic reduction in San Luis Obispo, CA: This is how I discovered America on this Best of the Road journey.

Strawberry tart from Café Eccell in College Station, TX.

The sweets, the spices, the savories—I’ve been truly lucky on this trip to sample so many of the unique, creative dishes this country has to offer and the variety of meals that make American cuisine my favorite in the world. But what kind of traveler would I be if I didn’t share my finds with you all? So here–in no particular order—are five of the best:

1. Prickly pear margarita from the Coyote Café in Santa Fe, NM: Try this signature drink in the evening in their rooftop cantina with a bowl of chips and the café’s fresh guacamole. Heaven!

2. Strawberry tart from Café Eccell in College Station, TX: Pattie Sears, a College Station resident since the 1960s and a member of the College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this tart— filled with Bavarian cream, topped with apricot-glazed strawberries and chocolate shavings in an almond-lace cookie shell– was a can’t-miss in College Station! I savored every single bite while listening to Pattie’s stories of College Station’s history. Thanks, Pattie!

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The Best of the Road RV continues to make its way across the country searching for America’s best small towns. Our road warrior,  Allison Otto,  is capturing the wonders of Small Town America.

Check out Allison’s latest dispatch from the road, where she meets Joplin’s celebrity cat that’s survived nearly nine lives:

When the Best of the Road RV stopped in Joplin, MO, I had the great fortune to film Percy Katz, a Russian Blue cat and former stray who is the official greeter at the Joplin Museum Complex and has gained a bit of celebrity status. Since Percy, who has greeted visitors from around the world for the last 12 years, is the unofficial mascot of the town, his cancer and a subsequent kidnapping episode made front-page news in Joplin.

Percy, Joplin’s celebrity cat, poses for his close-up.

I was a bit nervous to film Percy, as cats aren’t always interested in posing for the camera. But Percy was wonderful, and with the help of museum director Brad Belk (and a bag or 2 of cat treats) we got some fun shots for a web video. It was obvious how much Percy means to the community. Percy even “wrote” a regular history column (with the help of the museum staff, of course) for the children’s section of the local paper, and every year he donates to Joplin’s humane society.

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