Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy 4th of July -- travel ideas

It's hard to believe 2010 is halfway over, but besides proving that time is moving faster than ever, the first of the month heralds something fun: the 4th of July. Independence Day!

The 4th of July is a great time to hit the road, so if you're unsure where to go to enjoy yourself, I've pulled together a short list of little-known destinations that evoke different aspects of our sweet Land of Liberty. Normally, I would segue from that homage to "America the Beautiful" to point you toward Pike's Peak, the Colorado Rocky mountain that inspired the song many years ago, but alas they moved the 2010 date of the Pike's Peak Hillclimb, which took place last week.

Still, I have a big handful of other highly recommended spots to head for this weekend - in fact, if you've spent any time in a doctor's or dentist's in the past couple of weeks, you may have got a free preview, since some of this blog post has been featured in none other than People Magazine (last week's issue -- see picture above, in which I am next to PBS film-maker Ken Burns!).

There are even more ideas in my July "Drive of the Month" column elsewhere on, and here are some suggestions covering a wide variety of interests, all over the country.

Warm Springs Georgia: FDR’s Little White House
Whatever your politics, no one would deny that being President is a demanding job. Faced with the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt kept his head clear by retreating far away from Washington DC, escaping to the pine forested mountains of central Georgia. As often as he could from the early 1930s until 1945, “FDR” unwound at a rustic wooden cabin he built near the low-key resort of Warm Springs. When not attending to affairs of state, FDR spent his time swimming in the natural hot spring waters, recuperating with fellow sufferers of the disabling, polio-induced paralysis FDR struggled to overcome for most of his adult life. Pres. Roosevelt’s admirable combination of personal strength and gentle good humor helped carry the nation through its darkest hours, and his former “Little White House” has been preserved as an inviting and informal state park, with a fascinating museum showcasing everything from FDR’s hand-controlled car to the dozens of hand-made walking sticks carved for him by admirers all over the world.

FDR's Little White House is covered in the "Southern Pacific" trip in Road Trip USA (with lots of great pics in the book that don't fit on the website.)

Rochester NY: National Toy Hall of Fame
To get a sense of what people did for fun before computers and video games took control of our leisure time, take a trip to an unexpected destination: Rochester, New York. Along with a wonderful old-fashioned amusement park (Seabreeze, overlooking Lake Ontario), and a great minor-league baseball stadium (home to the Class AAA Redwings, who are hosting the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees on Sunday the 4th of July, with a free fireworks show after the game), this lively Great Lakes city is home to National Toy Hall of Fame, where kids of all ages can play with a greatest hits collection of battery-free toys: Hula Hoops, Tonka Trucks, Slinkies, classic board games, you name it, it’s here.

Rochester and the entire Erie Canal corridor across upstate New York is covered in the "Oregon Trail" route along US-20.

Polson, Montana: Miracle of America Museum
Out in the wide-open spaces of western Montana, near Glacier National Park on the shores of idyllic Flathead Lake, a rambling indoor-outdoor museum displays a seemingly comprehensive collection of everything and anything “Made in America” that has in turn made America great. Dubbed the “Smithsonian of the West”, and officially called the Miracle of America Museum, this five-acre assembly is a mash-up of Grandma’s attic meets Grandad’s garage, multiplied by a hundred or more. Objects are arrayed according to “pop cultural” importance rather than traditional museum-speak, including everything from Korean War helicopters (“As Seen in MASH”) to a sod-roofed frontier cabin (“Like in “Little House on the Prairie”), lending the whole complex a friendly, ad-hoc charm. Climb aboard an old logging train, and away you go on a hand-made tour of American history.

Polson is part of the "Border to Border" route from the Canadian Rockies down to Mexico along US-93.

San Simeon, California: Hearst Castle
Even in our day of ostentatious wealth and celebrity excess, no building has yet outdone the fabulous mountaintop palace constructed by media mogul William Randolph Hearst back in the “Roaring Twenties”. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from a quarter-million acres of central California’s Big Sur coast, the 50-plus bedroom mansion known as Hearst Castle welcomed a who’s who of 1920s society and culture: Charles Lindbergh, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joan Crawford and more. Plus, since almost all the buildings and furnishings were arranged by noted architect Julia Morgan ofter being taken from genuine medieval and Renaissance-era historic monuments which Hearst bought (or stole) and shipped here from Europe, Hearst Castle doubles as a bona fide art & architecture history lesson, so you can save the trans-Atlantic airfare while soaking up the sunshine.

Hearst Castle is covered in the Pacific Coast Highway chapter and new mini-book, too.

Happy Independence!

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Blogger Cathy and Dick said...

Hey, Bisbee Arizona is the best place in the USA to be for the 4th of July - check it out on our blog at

1:26 PM  

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