Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Victorian Grandeur in Old Louisville, Kentucky

Old Louisville, KentuckyKentucky was rapidly becoming a state with boundless surprises for me. I fully anticipated the caliber of the bourbon, the excitement of the horse races at Keeneland Race Course (but was shocked by the lack of litter after 8,000 people left following the ninth race), and the beauty of the landscape — flat valleys dotted with horse farms, and cresting and falling hills covered in thick trees. The fantastic quality of the food, however, was eye-opening, and the friendliness of the locals astounded me on a daily basis. One of the biggest surprises was the state’s architectural treasures, especially in Louisville, where I explored the third-largest historic district in the United States, crammed with fantastic homes from the Victorian Era one after the other on peaceful, tree-lined streets. Old Louisville offers a step back in time to a century ago and provides one of the best city walks you’re likely to find in the country. Read more >


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Detroit’s Gem of an Office Building

Guardian Building, Detroit, MichiganRich in architecture, teeming with milestones in industry and music, but vexed by crime, corrupt politicians, and a collapsed population and tax base, Detroit, Michigan, is a perplexing place. On the one hand, prospective visitors are put off by its remarkably bad reputation. On the other hand, it’s one of the most intriguing cities in the United States that I’ve ever been to — and without a problem. From my base at the fantastic Inn on Ferry Street, I explored everything this city has to offer — delicious ethnic foods that range from Arabic to Polish, the outstanding Detroit Institute of Arts, the ruins of Brush Park and the decimated automotive industry, and its famed architecture, including one of my favorite skyscrapers in the world, the Guardian Building. Read more about it >


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Kraków’s Divine Churches

Church of the Transfiguration, Krakow, PolandKraków, like most other major cities in Poland, has lived through a tumultuous history. From glory days as the nation’s capital to a widespread conflagration that burned it to the ground, from being shunted aside under the Austrian Empire to resurgent pride when its most famous resident, Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, from intense air pollution from Soviet-built steelworks to its role as the country’s leading tourist destination, Kraków is a survivor. And, for centuries, its sturdy citizens have steadily found courage and hope in the city’s gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Kraków, Poland >


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Philadelphia’s Old Churches Always Offer Something New

Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaWith so many historic sites to see in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ranging from Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite to the massive food mecca inside Reading Terminal Market (one of the world’s best indoor markets) to the oldest residential street in the United States, it’s hard to pick which ones to head to when you have only three days in the city. My recommendation is to sprinkle visits to some beautiful churches into your itinerary; you’ll be rewarded with artistic beauty and some fascinating tales. Read about the top five churches in Philadelphia >


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Denver’s Most Noteworthy Buildings

Malo Mansion, Denver, ColoradoWhile attending a meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians in downtown Denver, Colorado, I had ample opportunity to duck out before, between, and after sessions to explore — what else? — the architecture of Denver. While the mountains and fantastic natural surroundings come to mind first when thinking about the Mile High City, its built environment is pretty noteworthy, too. Read more about the top five buildings in Denver >


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To See or Not to See: Denmark’s Kronborg Castle

Kronborg Castle Chapel, Helsingør, DenmarkThe decision is easy: yes, see it. But why the modified Shakespearean reference? Kronborg Castle, in the city of Helsingør, Denmark, is the setting for Hamlet. Although both the castle and the city capitalize on that distinction, it’s not true: Fictional Hamlet and his friends and enemies didn’t act out their tragic storylines here. Nevertheless, you can get your fill of their tale here as well as an abundance of history and architecture that has nothing to do with the prince of Denmark. Read more >


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In a City of Skyscrapers, Churches Still Grace Manhattan

Church of the Incarnation, New York, New YorkMore than 100 churches of most denominations pop up all over the island of Manhattan in New York City. Over the course of my life, I had been to only about five of them. That just seemed wrong, especially because some have been permanently closed, and it’s probably only a matter of time before these remarkable structures with their architectural marvels are razed. The time seemed ripe to become a traveler in my hometown, so I made it a mission to see as many as possible before they disappear. My quest proved to be an incredibly rewarding journey. Read about the top five churches in Manhattan >


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Kansas City’s Union Station Is More Than Just a Mecca for Train Lovers

Union Station, Kansas City, MissouriTrain stations have always appealed to me, partly because they harken back to a more romantic, glamorous age of travel, partly because they are the gateways to going somewhere else (and who’s not excited by that?), partly because they’re often fantastic structures. Yesterday’s grand old stations that survived the wrecking ball have been repurposed, now that rail travel has been so severely decimated, becoming destinations in and of themselves. Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, is one such success story of restored glory. Read more about it >


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Croatia’s Best Museums

Croatian Architecture MuseumFor one of Europe’s smaller countries (26th in size; 30th in population), Croatia boasts an impressive abundance of museums. Zagreb alone has 30. They cover the usual suspects — art, archaeological, ethnographic, historical, natural science, and so on — but you’ll also be able to pop into a railway museum, or one dedicated to arts and crafts. Their collective total of more than five million objects reflects the depth of things to see, learn about, and shape your understanding of this complex country — that is, when you can tear yourself away from Croatia’s gorgeous beaches and outstanding national parks. Read more >


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Roaming the Halls of America’s 80th Largest House

E.W. Marland Estate, Ponca City, OklahomaCruising through the quiet streets of Ponca City, Oklahoma, I passed by the Poncan Theatre (opened in 1927 to a crowd of 1,200 people), City Hall (built in 1916 as an auditorium), and the Ponca City Library, in a Spanish-influenced design to complement City Hall, across the street. Just a few minutes away, I reached my destination, the fantastic E.W. Marland Estate, a 55-room palace on 30 acres built like an Italian villa for lawyer, oilman, Congressman, and governor E.W. Marland and his wife in 1928 — a mansion that they lived in for fewer than three years. Read more about one of the best house museums in the United States >