Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Saturday in the Park

Unisphere, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, QueensThe lyrics from the Chicago song kept infiltrating my thoughts as I strolled around Flushing Meadows–Corona Park on a Saturday morning. It wasn’t the park they were singing about (Manhattan’s Central Park) back in the early 1970s, it wasn’t the fourth of July, and I didn’t hear anyone singing Italian songs. Yet, I did spy a man selling ice cream, and there were people laughing, so there was a bit of an overlap. Even without it, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park is a fantastic place to spend the day. The fourth-largest park in New York City occupies about 900 acres of land in northern Queens County. Far beyond just trees and grassy fields (of which it has an abundance), the park also is home to myriad cultural, historical, and sports facilities and attractions to keep you entertained for more than just a Saturday. Read about it >


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Back to School

Lawyers' Club, University of Michigan, Ann ArborClasses are about to start again (cheers from parents, groans from their children). For travelers, it’s the perfect time to visit college campuses as they return to life. These academic oases can draw you in with special events, performances, and exhibitions that are open to the public, whether it’s at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta or at the Nitobe Memorial Garden at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. But even if nothing is going on, I’ve found that their inviting grounds and attractive buildings remain appealing all year long. Read about the top five college campuses >


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A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose, But Some Places Grow Them Better

Kilkenny Castle, IrelandGarden cultivation of roses began several millennia ago, starting way back in Babylon, ancient China, and the Roman Empire. Long admired for their color, their fragrance, and their beauty (some royalty used them as legal tender in the 17th century), the world’s most popular flower has achieved fame not only in horticultural circles, but also in song (“Yellow Rose of Texas”; “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”), war (The War of the Roses), adages (“bed of roses”; “I never promised you a rose garden”), and cinema (The Rose; The Rose Tattoo). This international symbol of love is tended to in dedicated gardens around the world, some of which have truly perfected the art. Read about the world’s top five rose gardens >


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The World’s Best Urban Parks

Watching a group of Asian senior citizens practicing the slow movements of a choreographed dance. Making friends with a red squirrel. Hearing someone rail against the evils of plutocracy. Standing under a 165’ Douglas fir. You never know what you’ll find in a city park, and that’s one of their many attractions. And the best parks that make all that possible smack in the middle of a city do it in unforgettable style. Read about the top five urban parks >


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This Place Is for the Birds

Quite literally, Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in New Zealand is a home for our feathered friends. Along with a selection of reptiles, invertebrates, and aquatic creatures, birds have found a mostly predator-free place to thrive. At Pūkaha, conservation and education efforts have been bringing threatened species into the consciousness of visitors for more than 50 years. And they do it in a delightful way to keep you thoroughly entertained. Read more about it >


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The Best American Botanic Garden

Missouri Botanic Garden, St. Louis, MissouriSpring has sprung, and after the nightmare year everyone on earth has just experienced, we all need a little serenity and peace outside our four-wall quarantines. Botanic gardens are one of the best places to achieve that, to surrounded yourself with enduring beauty while unconsciously destressing and lowering your blood pressure. One of my favorite spots for that is the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis — the second-largest botanic garden in North America, blooming with more than 6.5 million specimens, and the most beautiful in the United States. Read about it >


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The Best of New Zealand’s Biggest City

St. Mary's in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, New ZealandAfter an entire day in airports and on planes, from New York to California to New Zealand, the temptation to stay in my comfortable king-size bed in my darkened hotel room and hibernate for a day was eroding my will to go out and explore. But Auckland has too much to experience to sleep it all away. So, after a restorative power nap, I began poking around the largest city in the country. Read about the top five things to see and do in Auckland, New Zealand >


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Exploring Alberta’s Largest Botanic Garden

Pine conesJust outside of Edmonton, Alberta’s largest botanic garden unfolds over 200 acres. More than 60 years old, it’s a peaceful place to wander among myriad trees, flowers, plants, seasonal edibles, and a terrific Japanese garden. It’s also the home of some serious botanical research by the University of Alberta. And it gets even better when you stumble upon the annual apple workshop. Read about the University of Alberta Botanic Garden >


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A Chinese Oasis in the Midst of Portland, Oregon

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland, OregonMore than 50 Chinatowns can be found dotted around the United States, from the West Coast (especially in California, where at least 16 of these mini-Chinas thrive) to the East, where the Chinatown in Manhattan is getting a little too big for its britches and is encroaching on its equally well-established neighbors. I found one in Portland, Oregon, which also happens to boast a stellar Chinese garden, one of the most authentic located outside China. Read about it >


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European Nature at Its Finest

Plitvice Lakes National Park, CroatiaAfter spending more than a week in urban Croatia, in Dubrovnik, Split, and Zagreb, and enjoying their myriad attractions (not to mention lots of fine red Croatian wine), it was time to see one of the most beautiful national parks not only in this Balkan nation, but in all of Europe. So I hopped on a bus for a two-hour ride from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park and then spent a glorious day exploring this outstanding attraction. Read about it >