Stephen Travels

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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 >


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Splendors and Surprises in Ireland’s Killarney National Park

Ross Castle, Killarney National Park, IrelandSmack in the middle of the town of Killarney in western Ireland, my hotel, the fantastic Foley’s Townhouse, originally a coaching inn from 1795, provided exceptionally easy access to Killarney National Park, just a 15-minute stroll away. It was the first time I ever walked from my bedroom into a national park. That unbeatable proximity is a pleasant introduction to this outstanding park, which not only boasts the features you would expect to see in a national park, but a few surprises as well. Read more >