Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Nature and Art Blend Perfectly at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MichiganI had spent a fair amount of time walking around Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of the most beautiful historic districts in the United States, before heading downtown for a phenomenal dinner at San Chez Bistro. Over drinks with some locals, I was encouraged to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, only five miles away. The following day, I took their advice. I was extremely glad that I did. Read more >

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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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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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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 >


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When Nature Has Fun: The Best Natural Curiosities

Hoodoos, Alberta BadlandsMalta’s Azure Window. Aruba’s Natural Bridge. New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain. Four of Australia’s Twelve Apostles. All were beautiful, quirky sites carved by the forces of nature, and all were destroyed by the very same forces. If you are fortunate enough to have seen them before their demise, you undoubtedly have a fond memory; if not, you’re out of luck—they’re gone for good. But fear not: Plenty of other one-off oddities still exist around the world. You just have to make sure you get to them before storms and erosion make them things of the past. Read more about the world’s top five natural curiosities >


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Good Things, Small Packages: New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, New ZealandHailing a taxi to a national park seemed like an odd thing to do. Especially a water taxi. But in New Zealand, sometimes odd is normal. And, in this case, odd was better, too. An approach by water to Abel Tasman National Park set the tone for a terrific hike through some unspoiled nature in one of the world’s best countries for undisturbed environments. Read more >