Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The War That Didn’t End All Wars

National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MissouriOn July 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb nationalist. Exactly one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and within a month, almost all of Europe was embroiled in a vicious “war to end all wars.” That, obviously, did not pan out. Combined, combatant and civilian deaths totaled 22 million, making the First World War one of the deadliest modern wars. Overshadowed by the Second World War, it often doesn’t receive its rightful respect. But the National World War I Museum and Monument in Kansas City, Missouri — one of the best history museums in the United States — gives it the honor and recognition it deserves. Read about it >


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Royal Yet Modest at Oslo’s Oscarshall

Oscarshall, Oslo, NorwayOn the western side of Oslo, Norway, the enclave of Bygdøy occupies a scenic peninsula that has become home to some of the country’s wealthiest citizens, residing in one of the most fashionable areas of Norway, complete with its most expensive properties. So it’s no surprise that when the royals wanted to build a summer palace, they chose this area. Today, that palace, named Oscarshall after its founding king, is open to the public, and I headed there on a gorgeous April day to see how the royals lived, royally yet not overtly sumptuously. Read about Oscarshall >


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Viewing and Creating Art at the World’s Best Glass Museum, in Corning, New York

VasesUpstate New York is often shunted aside by visitors who tend to descend on downstate, on New York City, and unjustifiably so. In this vast expanse I explored the magnificent State Capitol in Albany, had a blast in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, hiked in the gorges in Ithaca, marveled at outstanding architecture in Buffalo, and soaked in Niagara Falls, one of the world’s top five waterfalls. On my way home from this romp around my home state, I made a stop in Corning, a small, charming city of about 12,000 people that means one thing for most of us: glass. Here, glass is far more than just a mirror or your orange juice pitcher. And nobody explains, demonstrates, and shows it better than the Corning Museum of Glass. Read more about it >


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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 >


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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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War: What Is It Bad For? Images at War Photo Limited in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some people may argue that we live in safer times, that the occurrence of war is less frequent than only a century ago, and that the seemingly endless stream of violence that inundates us is really the result, not of actual rising numbers of belligerent actions, but of manipulative media executives and lightning-fast technology that brings the latest flare-ups into our homes immediately. Others say the world has become alarmingly dangerous, that no safe place exists, and that today’s headlines verify it all: North Korea’s aggressive saber-rattling, an unstable and benighted U.S. president constantly vomiting warlike rhetoric, sanguinary Islamist extremists happily murdering everyone, from senior citizens to infants to themselves, without a second thought.

What does all this have to do with travel? Quite a bit: It has closed off entire countries to us, has put us at unease in even “safe” locations, and has lengthened security queue times everywhere, from airports to museums to arenas. Fortunately, many of us will never experience war firsthand. But if you want a good look at its endless ramifications, War Photo Limited, a fantastic little museum in Dubrovnik, Croatia, is one place where you can experience it — safely — through the work of talented individuals with cameras, an instinctive sense of timing, and a touch of luck. The gripping and disturbing images on display will haunt you, but they will also make you appreciate everything that you have. Read more >


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Seattle’s Art World at Its Most Brilliant

Seattle Art Museum, WashingtonAnother gray, wet day in Seattle had me searching for indoor activities. The tall, black, steel man with the hammer on a downtown street corner caught my eye, even through the rain and from under the shelter of my umbrella. Unperturbed by the tail end of the morning rush hour, he maintained a steady and soundless rhythm as he beat at the air high above the corner of University Street and 1st Avenue. He also lured me to the building behind him, which quickly ended my quest: the Seattle Art Museum. Read more >


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Get Your Motor Runnin’ at the Gilmore Car Museum

Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, MichiganEven if you could not possibly care less about cars and the automotive industry, you can’t leave Michigan without having developed, at the very least, a passing fascination with them and the urge to head out for a beautiful drive. To cultivate that seed of interest, or to fuel a passion that you already have, cruise over to the expansive Gilmore Car Museum in tiny Hickory Corners — one of the largest car museums in North America. Read more >


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Peeping Into Kitchens and Hiding From the Soviets in Tallinn’s Kiek in de Kök

Kiek in de Kok, Tallinn, EstoniaDeclared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, survives as one of Europe’s best preserved medieval fortifications. As I emerged from my hotel, the wonderful Savoy Boutique Hotel, every day, I was completely enchanted by its beautiful churches, cobblestone streets, old merchant houses, and medieval gates around its perimeter. The city’s most distinctive feature — the defensive wall around it — incorporates a couple of dozen towers. One particular tower, Kiek in de Kök, boasts an unusually wild history. In the 16th century, soldiers joked that they could look through the windows on the top level into the kitchens of the homes beneath them, and, in the 20th century, criminals and punk rockers could flee from police during the Soviets’ crushing 50-year-hold on Estonia in the tunnels underneath the tower. Read more >


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Navigating Your Way Through the Largest Art Museum in the United States

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkIf you’ve ever visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, you know it is the leading art museum in the city, the largest in the United States, and one of the best in the world. If you’ve never been there, here’s a tip: Do not try to see it all in one day. You will fail. Its collection of every kind of art, from paintings, photographs, sculptures, and ivory carvings, to jewelry, musical instruments, Fabergé eggs, and samurai swords, is far too deep to conquer in one visit. Instead, pick a few things you’re particularly interested in and save the rest for another time—and be prepared to walk a few miles within the museum itself. Still too overwhelming? Then read about the top five things you must see and do >