Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Enjoy a Fine Southern Dinner Amid 400 Years of History

One of the oldest houses in the United States, circa 1737, was almost wiped off the map when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 and demolished huge swaths of the very vulnerable city of Biloxi, Mississippi. Yet, this venerable building — nearly 400 years old and now the home of Mary Mahoney’s Old French Restaurant — survived, but not without some scars: A line above the fireplace mantle in one of the dining rooms indicates the highest level of the floodwaters, and occasional gusts of wind rattled both the winds and my waitress, who looked apprehensively outside, the roar of Katrina’s locomotive strength permanently etched in her memory. Read more about this unique Southern restaurant >

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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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Lucas Park Grille’s Marvelous Menu in a Revitalized Area of St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis often gets a bad rap, continuously ranked among the worst U.S. cities for murder rates and overall violence, and suffering a 90-year population plummet. But that should not deter you from visiting the Gateway to the West and exploring more than just its iconic arch. One of the most positive, and under-reported, stories to come out of St. Louis is the successful and ongoing revitalization of the Washington Avenue Historic District. Since the late 1990s, sturdy buildings from the late 1800s through the 1920s have been redeveloped as apartments and condos, prompting a surge of young people to move into this neighborhood and spurring a growth in the number of restaurants. And one of the best places to dine here is Lucas Park Grille. Read more >


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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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Terrific Food and Beer on Tap at Albany Pump Station

Albany Pump Station, Albany, New YorkFacing the elevated roads of US Route 9 and then Interstate 787 that lead into Albany, New York, Albany Pump Station doesn’t have much of a view. But that won’t matter as you cross the cobblestone parking area and enter the century’s-old buildings that house this brewery and restaurant. This unique venue serves up more than a dozen home-brewed beers that have won awards and both national and international competitions, and plates of food that would satisfy even the most voracious appetites. Read more >


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Beyond the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, San Antonio, TexasOne of the largest cities in the United States — seventh, by population, and 13th by land area — San Antonio is known for quite a few attractions, particularly the revitalized and reimagined River Walk, and, of course, the Alamo, both of which snare the majority of visitors to this Texas city. Given its vast geographical size (461 square miles), you’ll need a car to take in some of the other highlights, such as the McNay Art Museum, the San Antonio Botanic Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the King William Historic District, one of the top 10 U.S. historic districts. But a fairly compact core easily offers up most of the city’s best — and most memorable — achievements in its built environment, and wise travelers will happily stray from its top two attractions to find them. Read more about the top five buildings in San Antonio, Texas >


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A Taste of Russia in Finland at Helsinki’s Šašlik Restaurant

Šašlik, Helsinki, FinlandAll around Helsinki, I kept coming across big and small reminders of Russia’s influence in the city and throughout Finland, which was part of its massive neighbor from 1809 until its independence in 1917. You may still hear some Russian conversations, although, even though it’s the third most spoken native language in Finland, Russian now represents only 1 percent of native languages spoken. You’re more likely to see evidence of Russia’s sway in, for instance, the statue of Emperor Alexander II standing before the striking Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, and the gorgeous Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. You’ll also find it in the cuisine, and one of the top Russian restaurants in the Finnish capital, Šašlik, immediately transported me back to the era of the Romanovs. Read more >