If you ask me, one of the very best things about living in the United…
School’s out, and with that, prime travel season has arrived! Here’s a few destinations that shine in June.
For many travelers, Ireland tops their must-visit destinations. I say go off the beaten path and visit the Northern Headlands! Located at the very tip-top of the country, this area remains one of the most virtually unexplored, ruggedly beautiful and remote places I’ve visited.
Why go now? Summer in Ireland is fast and precious! Music festivals (check out Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival for the youngins), or The Band Festival for those of us done with our crop top days), great hiking, golfing… get outside and enjoy the fleeting weather!
What to eat: Pub food, of course. I love the Rusty Nail. Owned and operated by Maresa and Enda McDonagh, this restaurant specializes in locally-sourced fare. They’re known for their seafood chowder, made with fish that’s so fresh you can still taste the ocean.
Where to stay: Ireland has no shortage of B&Bs, but there’s something special about Drumcorroy House. This Failte Ireland Farmhouse, near Donegal Town, offers spectacular views of the Blue Stack Mountains and Barnesmore Gap, County Donegal. Not only that, but owners Martina and Patsy O’Sullivan invite guests to join them on their farm, watching the suckler cows, sheep, and their hard working border collies. Add in a traditional Irish breakfast and you may never want to leave this lovely place.
Bring Donegal home: In 1956, Eddie Doherty learned to weave Donegal’s signature tweed textiles by hand. Today, he’s the only artisan weaver left, using Donegal wool to hand weave pure wool blankets and tweed. Bring one of his creations home and own a piece of history.
Mingle with the locals: In the picturesque village of Meenaleck, you’ll find Tabhairne Leo (aka Leo’s Tavern). Originally opened by Leo and Maire Brennan in 1968 as an entertainment venue, music always played an important role in their family. The family was a major part of the famous group Clannad, and from there, Moya and Enya went on to become world famous solo musicians. You just may find these women performing in Gaelic at Leo’s!
Jet lag cure: Nothing like fresh air to help align your circadian rhythm. Visit the Slieve League Cliffs. Rising almost 2000 feet from the Atlantic, the majestic cliffs are over twice as high as the famed Cliffs of Mohar, and so remote that they’ve remained largely untouched. Connect with the Slieve League Center to book outings, like a boat trips, hikes, kayaking and more.
Want more tips? Read on.
Hot Springs National Park
Nicknamed “The American Spa,” this National Park surrounds the north end of the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Yep, a national park in a city—unexpected, right? It’s said to be the most accessible, as well as the smallest, National Park in the country. It’s said good things come in small packages, and you’ll find that true here.
Why go now: Because school’s out and the whole family will love it.
Where to stay: Sometimes historic hotels are a little too, well, historic. The Waters strikes the perfect balance between cool architecture with modern rooms. It’s in the heart of everything, with rooms that feel like your own little sanctuary. [link]
What to eat: Hello, barbecue! Try McClard’s for some of the best in the south. Open since 1928 and feels like it, in the best way possible.
Spa treatments with a side of history: Want that old school bathhouse experience Hot Springs is famous for? Go to the Buckstaff, which has been in business since 1912. Be warned: their services are very true to the era, so don’t expect a soothing Enya soundtrack, flickering candles and cucumbers on your eyes. Super-hot water, an aggressive steam, and yes, you’re buck naked!
Fresh Air Alert: Visit Garvan Gardens, the University of Arkansas’ 210-acre botanical garden. You’ll find over five miles of trails, an award-winning Asian garden, bridges, waterfalls, a Children’s Adventure Garden, and more. Bonus: Golf cart rides available on a first come first served basis!
Mingle with the locals: On the first and third Fridays of the month, Hot Springs hosts a Gallery Walk and an Antique/Boutique Walk, respectively. Galleries and shops stay open late and offer live music and complementary refreshments while you browse for that one-of-a-kind find.
Best place for a Selfie: Atop Hot Springs Mountain Tower, a 65.8 meter-high observation tower built of lattice steel on Hot Springs Mountain. Great view of town!
Attention cyclists: Hot Springs has 186 miles of mountain biking trails including: The Northwoods Trails, Cedar Glades Trails, Entergy Park, The Greenway and three IMBA Epic Rides, ranging from the heart-pumping 33-mile Womble Trail to the grueling 108-mile Ouachita National Recreational Trail.
Detroit is a city in transition. Over the past 60-some years, the population dropped from 1,850,000 to less than 700,000. I’d be remiss to not mention the severe urban decay—it’s said that there’s over 80,000 abandoned buildings within the city. All this might bring you to a bleak assessment of the Motor City. I beg to differ. Detroiters are a resilient, resourceful bunch. Always a city of innovation and heart, that spirit remains even amidst the chaos.
Why go now: Great weather, and there’s so much revitalization happening here that you’re sure to be inspired!
Where to stay: Housed in the city’s former Fire Department Headquarters, the Detroit Foundation Hotel melds historic with modern luxury. In addition to chic rooms, and top-notch dining in the Apparatus Room, the hotel offers complimentary car service. Hop in a Lincoln Continental or Navigator between 8 AM – 8 PM for rides within a three-mile radius. How Detroit is that?
What to eat: Did you know Detroit has its own pizza style? You’ll find square pies, made with a thicker focaccia-style crust, topped with ingredients like pepperoni and brick cheese and finished with red sauce. What makes these pizzas especially unique is the industrial blue steel pan used to bake the pies—similar to pans used by auto workers. Open since 1946, Buddy’s claims Detroit-stlye pizza originated in its kitchen. Though they’ve since opened many additional locations, try to make it to the original on Conant Street.
Listen to live music: In its 85 years, many notable jazz and blues artists graced the stage at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway. It’s Detroit’s oldest jazz club in continuous operation. Go for old time supper club-style food and cocktails paired with incredible live music.
Urban farm to table: Currently, there are more than 1,400 farms operating in Detroit. Book an Urban Agriculture Bike Tour with Wheelhouse Direct and see how food goes from garden to fork, visiting a variety of different farms and market gardens in the downtown and east side neighborhoods.
Mingle with the locals: Eastern Market is vibrant, year-round, and one of the oldest in the country. Since 1891, this district has brought farmers, artisans and makers together for a shared food and cultural experience. The Saturday market operates from 6am – 4pm weekly, with locals and out-of-towners stocking up on fresh produce, baked goods, meats, cheese and more.
Asheville, North Carolina
This city offers a balanced blend of creative, urban spaces and natural beauty. If you can’t decide if you want a city trip or country one, pick Asheville and you’ll get both.
Why go now: Its elevation makes Asheville cooler than much of North Carolina this time of year. Though still hot, you’ll find lots of places to cool off (including a waterslide made by Mother Nature… keep reading!)
Where to stay: Want to experience life as a Vanderbilt (at least for a night)? Book a room at the Inn at Biltmore Estate. Yes, it’s a splurge, but it’s probably the closest thing you’ll get to a Downton Abbey experience in the states. For something more down-to-earth, book a cabin from Willow Winds, just 20 minutes from downtown. That’s part of the beauty of Asheville—it’s a city that’s so intertwined with nature that you can easily get both on your trip.
Where to eat: Check out Chai Pani, an Indian chaat house known for sandwiches, salads, and eats bursting with flavor. Try lamb sliders, seasoned with cumin, ginger, chillies, mint, & cilantro; and a desi salad, with shredded white & red cabbage, carrots, scallions, and roasted cashews topped with toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, and sev, with a cumin-lime vinaigrette.
Best drive: Hello, Blue Ridge Parkway! This scenic route connects two National Parks (Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains), with Asheville right along the route. The parkway is 469 miles of pure beauty, and taking a day trip along the road is delightful. Here’s where I stopped.
DIY souvenir: Head over to The River Arts District: a pocket of old, abandoned factories has been resurrected into a vibrant neighborhood–home to artists’ studios and galleries (many open to the public!). You can even sign up for a class and make something to take home with you.
Must-do: The Biltmore Estate. In 1889, George Vanderbilt purchased 125,000 acres in western North Carolina. His vision: to create a palace… er… private home that rivaled opulent European castles. Builders completed the 250-room home in 1895. A visit to the Biltmore includes self-guided audio tours, although you may opt for a guided tour. Recommended! Be sure to also check out more unique things to do in Asheville on your trip!
Get your iPhone ready for some great video: Hot? Humid? Cool off at Sliding Rock, a 60-foot long natural waterslide.
What would be your favorite destination to kick off summer travel? Share in the comments!