Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Visiting a Grand Estate From Another Era in Miami

Vizcaya, Miami, FloridaMiami is a very sexy city. Its sleek architecture, trendy and outstanding restaurants (such as Havana 1957, Toscana Divino, and PM Buenos Aires), and very pretty people make it nearly impossible to imagine it as the swampy backwater it once was. Somewhere along the way, around 1900, Miami took off, but you can still visit one of the precursors of the city’s current glitz and glam at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a grand 1916 estate on Florida’s Biscayne Bay that still continues to attract the glitterati. Read more >

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The Big Easy’s Enduring Allure

New OrleansSometimes relegated to merely America’s party city for dipsomaniacs and forever linked to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana, manages to transcend both through its history, culture, and a palpable vibe that can’t be replicated. One of the most distinctive cities in the United States, NOLA is many things to many people: rambunctious, mysterious, unsettling, tempestuous, unfettered, joyful, unforgettable. No matter what your disposition, this 300-year-old city boasts an undeniably magnetic drawing power that will keep you enthralled throughout the year, not just during its legendary Mardi Gras celebrations when all discretion is jettisoned. Read more about the top five things to see and do in New Orleans >


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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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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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War: What Is It Bad For? Images at War Photo Limited in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some people may argue that we live in safer times, that the occurrence of war is less frequent than only a century ago, and that the seemingly endless stream of violence that inundates us is really the result, not of actual rising numbers of belligerent actions, but of manipulative media executives and lightning-fast technology that brings the latest flare-ups into our homes immediately. Others say the world has become alarmingly dangerous, that no safe place exists, and that today’s headlines verify it all: North Korea’s aggressive saber-rattling, an unstable and benighted U.S. president constantly vomiting warlike rhetoric, sanguinary Islamist extremists happily murdering everyone, from senior citizens to infants to themselves, without a second thought.

What does all this have to do with travel? Quite a bit: It has closed off entire countries to us, has put us at unease in even “safe” locations, and has lengthened security queue times everywhere, from airports to museums to arenas. Fortunately, many of us will never experience war firsthand. But if you want a good look at its endless ramifications, War Photo Limited, a fantastic little museum in Dubrovnik, Croatia, is one place where you can experience it — safely — through the work of talented individuals with cameras, an instinctive sense of timing, and a touch of luck. The gripping and disturbing images on display will haunt you, but they will also make you appreciate everything that you have. Read more >


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Turku Castle Reigns Supreme

Turku Castle, Turku, FinlandFinland’s oldest city and its former capital, Turku is located about two hours by train from where I was staying in Helsinki, the superior Hotel Kämp. The country’s sixth-largest city has plenty to see for a full day trip, from its 700-year-old cathedral to a fantastic museum built over a 14th-century archaeological site, but Turku’s most famous landmark is the one I wanted to visit most — the largest castle in Finland. Read more >


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Seattle’s Art World at Its Most Brilliant

Seattle Art Museum, WashingtonAnother gray, wet day in Seattle had me searching for indoor activities. The tall, black, steel man with the hammer on a downtown street corner caught my eye, even through the rain and from under the shelter of my umbrella. Unperturbed by the tail end of the morning rush hour, he maintained a steady and soundless rhythm as he beat at the air high above the corner of University Street and 1st Avenue. He also lured me to the building behind him, which quickly ended my quest: the Seattle Art Museum. Read more >