Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Alabama’s Arrestive Attractions

Fort Conde, Mobile, AlabamaAdmitted to the United States as the 22nd state in 1819, Alabama has been producing two centuries of noteworthy events, from key civil rights movements to thrilling Crimson Tide football games to launching a highly successful eponymous country band. It has also been a place of firsts: Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas a legal U.S. holiday (1836), the first place in the world to introduce an electric street trolley system (1886), and the first place in the Western Hemisphere where an open heart surgery was performed (1902). And, of course, it keeps track of all that in the nation’s first state archival agency, created in 1901. From the hilly highland rim in the north to its white Gulf Shore beaches, Alabama is filled with more than enough sites, attractions, and points of interest to make your vacation here complete. Read about the top five things to see and do in Alabama >

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Terrific Food and Beer on Tap at Albany Pump Station

Albany Pump Station, Albany, New YorkFacing the elevated roads of US Route 9 and then Interstate 787 that lead into Albany, New York, Albany Pump Station doesn’t have much of a view. But that won’t matter as you cross the cobblestone parking area and enter the century’s-old buildings that house this brewery and restaurant. This unique venue serves up more than a dozen home-brewed beers that have won awards and both national and international competitions, and plates of food that would satisfy even the most voracious appetites. Read more >


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Beyond the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, San Antonio, TexasOne of the largest cities in the United States — seventh, by population, and 13th by land area — San Antonio is known for quite a few attractions, particularly the revitalized and reimagined River Walk, and, of course, the Alamo, both of which snare the majority of visitors to this Texas city. Given its vast geographical size (461 square miles), you’ll need a car to take in some of the other highlights, such as the McNay Art Museum, the San Antonio Botanic Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the King William Historic District, one of the top 10 U.S. historic districts. But a fairly compact core easily offers up most of the city’s best — and most memorable — achievements in its built environment, and wise travelers will happily stray from its top two attractions to find them. Read more about the top five buildings in San Antonio, Texas >


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A Taste of Russia in Finland at Helsinki’s Šašlik Restaurant

Šašlik, Helsinki, FinlandAll around Helsinki, I kept coming across big and small reminders of Russia’s influence in the city and throughout Finland, which was part of its massive neighbor from 1809 until its independence in 1917. You may still hear some Russian conversations, although, even though it’s the third most spoken native language in Finland, Russian now represents only 1 percent of native languages spoken. You’re more likely to see evidence of Russia’s sway in, for instance, the statue of Emperor Alexander II standing before the striking Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, and the gorgeous Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. You’ll also find it in the cuisine, and one of the top Russian restaurants in the Finnish capital, Šašlik, immediately transported me back to the era of the Romanovs. Read more >


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Contemporary Fare in a Victorian Setting at Billy’s in Lincoln, Nebraska

After a guided tour of the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln — one of the top five U.S. state capitols — I headed back to my rental car, parked in the leafy residential neighborhood adjacent to the grounds of the capitol. The dull-green Victorian-style house with a pitched roof, lawn statues, and red, white, and blue bunting caught my attention. On second glance, I noticed the sign that read, Billy’s Restaurant. Intrigued by this location for a restaurant, I made an impromptu decision to lunch here. My choice was rewarded with a terrific meal in a lovely setting, and a new Iranian friend. Read more >


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A Royal Park for Commoners in Tallinn, Estonia

Kadriorg Park, Tallinn, EstoniaThe built environment of Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, is a treasure trove of architectural grandeur and styles, an enchanting conglomeration of beautiful churches, defensive walls and gates, towers, museums, palaces, and houses with eye-catching weather vanes. There are parks, too, particularly along the eastern fringe, but I wanted to spend a full day experiencing the city’s best park — without the tourist crowds that fill the streets of Old Town — so I hopped on a convenient tram and headed to Kadriorg Park, built by a Russian czar and open to the public ever since it was established exactly 300 years ago. Read more >


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Sampling Little Italy’s Best at La Scala in Baltimore, Maryland

I had already sampled the surf in Baltimore, Maryland, at Oceanaire Seafood Room, and now I wanted to try the turf. So I crossed over Eastern Avenue Bridge spanning a narrow inlet of the Inner Harbor and entered the city’s Little Italy, where red, white, and green lights stretch across a few streets and the aromas of Italian cooking waft from the neighborhood’s handful of restaurants and cafés. Of these, La Scala Ristorante, consistently rated one of the city’s best Italian restaurants, grabbed my attention with its promise of a delectable meal and possibly a game of bocce. Read more >