Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Hurry to Many Glacier Hotel Before It’s Just “Hotel”

Although I’ve visited many national parks over the years, I had never stayed at one of their famed lodges overnight. So, when I headed to parks in Montana and Wyoming, the time seemed ripe. My first one was tucked deep inside Glacier National Park, way up in Montana at the Canadian border. With basic and rustic, but comfortable, accommodations, Many Glacier Hotel rightly prides itself on its excellent restaurant, century-old structure, and one of the most dramatic settings in the Rocky Mountains. But head there quickly: Global climate change is permanently erasing the park’s famed glaciers at an alarming rate. Read more about it >


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Organized Nature in a New Zealand Botanic Garden

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, New ZealandJust a couple of blocks from my hotel, I wandered into Christchurch Botanic Gardens to find out what ordered beauty looks like in New Zealand. I had already bounced around the country for three weeks, completely enthralled by its untamed and spectacular nature, from azure lakes and national parks to snow-capped mountains, unspoiled beaches, geothermal wonders, and caves both chunky and delicate. Now it was time to see what could be done with nature when Kiwis get their hands on it. Read more about it >


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Go Take a Hike — in Arkansas

Petit Jean State Park, ArkansasFrom my hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I drove about 70 miles, mostly up Scenic Byway 7, a two-lane, curvy, hilly road flanked by trees that occasionally sweeps through a blink-and-you-miss-it town. My destination was Petit Jean State Park, the oldest state park in Arkansas and one filled with both natural beauty and some pleasant surprises, courtesy of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. Read more >


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Three Days in the World’s First National Park

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National ParkI had wisely chosen early autumn as the time of year to visit Yellowstone National Park. Post–Labor Day, the school year had begun a few weeks before, the summer crowds had dissipated, and the weather had cooled substantially — perfect conditions for spending three full days in the oldest and most diverse national park in the United States. Read more >


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A Day in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia

If I had known better, I would have dedicated more than one day in Stanley Park. But that’s in hindsight. In the present, however, I was marveling at everything about Vancouver’s first park, created in 1888 on lands used by indigenous peoples long before the British came and created the British Columbia colony. Sweeping views, nature in the heart of one of Canada’s largest cities, plenty of attractions — you will find it all here in the biggest park in the city and one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world. Read more about it >


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Lake-Hopping in the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. This long range of dramatic peaks runs on both sides of the border of Alberta and British Columbia. Within their folds, I thrilled at the countless gems in their treasure trove — blissful mountain towns, waterfalls, rushing rivers, plenty of wildlife, canyons, historic hotels, glaciers, and more photo-worthy vistas than you can imagine. And, of course, there are the lakes — tremendously beautiful bodies of water of all shades of blue and green that hold unbeatable natural allure as well as a few secrets and mysteries. Read more >


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Earth, or Middle Earth? A Hike Through New Zealand’s Wonderfully Weird Landscape

Waimangu Volcanic Valley, New ZealandFrom Robertson House, my lovely bed and breakfast in the town of Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island, I drove for only about 20 minutes to the surreally beautiful Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Almost as soon as I began my 2½-mile hike here, I fully understood why Peter Jackson chose to film The Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand. Clearly, this was what J.R.R. Tolkien had in mind when he was creating his world of Middle Earth back in the 1940s. Read more >


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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 >