Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The Firehouses That Burn the Brightest

Jasper Fire Hall, Jasper, AlbertaThe word “hero” is employed far too often to describe someone who simply does his or her job, or someone you might have a shred of admiration for. In fact, the word is quite in danger of verbicide. The shortstop who makes a great catch is not a hero; your favorite reality star is certainly not a hero. In a world that is seriously lacking in true heroes, it’s heartening to know that there is one group that deservedly earns the accolade every day: firefighters. And societies have acknowledged their selfless bravery and critical role by constructing some highly impressive buildings for them from which they perform their duties. Read about the world’s top five firehouses >

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The Eeriest Places on Earth

Nevada City, MontanaIf you’re planning to visit a fabricated haunted house for Halloween, or to attend a party in a costume that’s anything but frightening, I have an alternative: Go to an authentic ghost town. These abandoned places teem with vacated, decaying buildings and with the spirits of a long-vanished population. You’re unlikely to run into a vampire or a sexy French maid; a rolling tumbleweed is more probable, or the hint of an odd susurration carried on the wind that blows through the silence of these eerie, deserted places. You can find them all over the globe, from Chile to Italy to Japan, and they will give you a thrill, and a chill, like no other locations in the world. Read about the top five ghost towns >


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Dream Bigger: White Is Not Only for Christmas

Church of St. Charles at the Four Fountains, Rome, ItalyAs winter wonderlands start to pop up around the globe, white takes center stage in the form of unique flakes, shiny skating rinks, and Santa’s beard. But snow, ice, and St. Nick’s facial hair don’t hold a monopoly on the pure, unspoiled beauty of white. In fact, some of the world’s best occurrences of white have nothing to do with gelid winters and aren’t seasonal at all. Read more about the world’s top five whites >


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Custer’s First Choice: Sage Creek Grille

The small city of Custer, South Dakota, served as my base for exploring the region’s Black Hills National Forest and the treasures within its boundaries: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the world’s 10 most beautiful drives, and two of the world’s top 10 caves and caverns. Once I returned to the town at night, dinner was never more than a little walk from my hotel, and one of the best I had was at Sage Creek Grille, an unpretentious little place where you can contemplate which pieces of artwork you’d like to take home as you enjoy your evening meal. Read more >


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Rapid City, South Dakota’s Five Best Delights

Chapel in the Hills, Rapid City, South DakotaA pleasant, easygoing vibe permeates South Dakota’s second-largest city. Compact enough to see largely by foot, it seems populated entirely by friendly people who made me feel welcome in their hometown. Often used as a base for exploring the nearby Black Hills, it’s perfectly situated to enjoy the region’s stellar outdoor activities, from trout fishing to hiking around granite peaks to exploring some of the world’s top caves and caverns. But the city itself, and some of its unique attractions, deserve a little time and attention, too. Read more about the top five things to see and do in Rapid City >


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Sunday Driving, Any Day of the Week

Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park, South DakotaRemember when you would get in your car with your family or a friend or two and go for a leisurely drive, with no particular agenda or destination? If so, it’s probably a memory from a long time ago, when driving wasn’t a hassle, when roads weren’t littered with potholes and road ragers, when traffic was light, and when gasoline and tolls were affordable. But anyone eager to hit the road just for the heck of it shouldn’t be discouraged. There are still plenty of places where a casual drive — punctuated by mesmerizing scenery — is delightfully possible. Read more about the top five drives in the world >


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More Than the Goddess of Wisdom: Minervas in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Since it opened nearly 40 years ago, Minervas has expanded to 10 locations in the upper Midwest. But its original venue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is still the most elegant. I came upon it by accident, while I was roaming around the downtown area and admiring the artwork of the annual SculptureWalk dotting the sidewalks. The unassuming brick building featured an outdoor seating area of about a dozen tables protected from the street by globular planters overflowing with pink and yellow flowers and occupied by happy diners enjoying both their meals and the view of the historic 90-year-old State Theatre across the street. That — and the tantalizing menu under glass — was more than enough for me to step inside for dinner. Read more >