Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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 >


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Hurry to Many Glacier Hotel Before It’s Just “Hotel”

Although I’ve visited many national parks over the years, I had never stayed at one of their famed lodges overnight. So, when I headed to parks in Montana and Wyoming, the time seemed ripe. My first one was tucked deep inside Glacier National Park, way up in Montana at the Canadian border. With basic and rustic, but comfortable, accommodations, Many Glacier Hotel rightly prides itself on its excellent restaurant, century-old structure, and one of the most dramatic settings in the Rocky Mountains. But head there quickly: Global climate change is permanently erasing the park’s famed glaciers at an alarming rate. Read more about it >


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Organized Nature in a New Zealand Botanic Garden

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, New ZealandJust a couple of blocks from my hotel, I wandered into Christchurch Botanic Gardens to find out what ordered beauty looks like in New Zealand. I had already bounced around the country for three weeks, completely enthralled by its untamed and spectacular nature, from azure lakes and national parks to snow-capped mountains, unspoiled beaches, geothermal wonders, and caves both chunky and delicate. Now it was time to see what could be done with nature when Kiwis get their hands on it. Read more about it >


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Topeka’s Engaging Gage Park

Doran Rock Garden, Gage Park, Topeka, KansasI had spent enough time indoors in Topeka, Kansas, with visits to the wonderful Kansas Museum of History and to the neo-classic Great Overland Station, and an acrophobic climb up the spiral staircase to the outdoor observation platform at the state capitol, one of the top five capitols in the United States. Now it was time to head outdoors, and I hopped in my rental car to the city’s fantastic Gage Park, where Topekans and visitors of every age can enjoy an entire day outside. Read more about Gage Park >


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Go Take a Hike — in Arkansas

Petit Jean State Park, ArkansasFrom my hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I drove about 70 miles, mostly up Scenic Byway 7, a two-lane, curvy, hilly road flanked by trees that occasionally sweeps through a blink-and-you-miss-it town. My destination was Petit Jean State Park, the oldest state park in Arkansas and one filled with both natural beauty and some pleasant surprises, courtesy of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. Read more >


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Go Farther in the Dells

If you can get past the garish attractions and crass commercialism littering the small city of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin — the mini golf courses, the cheap motels, the haunted houses, the axe throwing, the world’s highest concentration of water parks — you’ll receive a handsome reward. Declared a State Natural Area in 1994, the Dells of the Wisconsin River is one of the most scenic and unspoiled spots in the entire state, and, ironically, the place that begat all that tourist tat to begin with. Read more >