Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Nature and Art Blend Perfectly at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MichiganI had spent a fair amount of time walking around Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of the most beautiful historic districts in the United States, before heading downtown for a phenomenal dinner at San Chez Bistro. Over drinks with some locals, I was encouraged to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, only five miles away. The following day, I took their advice. I was extremely glad that I did. Read more >

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A Walk in the Arkansas Woods

Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, ArkansasI emerged from a remarkably inexpensive 90-minute spa treatment at Buckstaff Bathhouse, one of the still-functioning historic spas along Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas. Having been bathed, steamed, massaged, wrapped, and pampered, my rubbery limbs and relaxed mind clamored to be coddled in one of the spa’s inviting Adirondack chairs on its front terrace, but a glorious autumn day beckoned me to commune more with nature. So I headed to nearby Garvan Woodland Gardens for a slow amble through the forest, but it turned out to be so much more than a mere walk in the woods. Read about the delightful surprises at Garvan Woodland Gardens >


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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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Stunning Nature Within the City: Beautiful Banff

Banff, AlbertaThere are very few places I’ve visited where I could step out of a shop or restaurant in the middle of a town and almost immediately enter a forest. The Irish city of Killarney is one of them, with Killarney National Park at its doorstep. Banff is another. This astoundingly attractive town within the boundaries of Banff National Park in Alberta boasts a spectacular setting in the Canadian Rockies that you can easily explore without ever getting into your car. Read more >


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Come Sail Away on the World’s Best Boat Rides

Maligne Lake, Alberta, CanadaWhen the summer heat becomes too oppressive and you’re tired of sitting in enclosed air-conditioned rooms, one of the best ways to cool off is to hop on a boat, whether it’s your own private tricked-out yacht or a workaday municipal water ferry. A refreshing breeze kicks in as the speed increases, cooling your overheated skin and providing a pleasant reprieve. The ride gets more interesting, of course, when you’re traveling and you find yourself on a luzzu in Malta, a paddleboat on the Alabama River, a pletna in Slovenia, or a high-speed catamaran in Saint Martin. Read more about the world’s top five boat rides >


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Day-tripping to Lokrum, Dubrovnik’s Next-door Island Neighbor

Lokrum, CroatiaWhen the enormous cruise ships sailed into Dubrovnik, Croatia, and discharged hundreds of tourists who jammed the main street of the Old Town in search of thimbles and shot glasses with a picture of the city on them, it was time for me to escape for a while. One of the best and easiest ways to retreat from the hordes is to hop on a ferry for the short cruise to Lokrum, the green island just about 2,000 feet — yet an entire world — away. Read more >