No mater how many incredibly scenic drives I experience around the world, there's always one…
Mt. Hood Region, Oregon
I love a versatile destination, and if that’s what you crave, Mt. Hood and its surroundings fits the bill. You’ve got the more urban vibe of Portland mixed with the lush Willamette Valley and the gorgeous backdrop of Mt. Hood—a glacier-covered dormant volcano.
Where to stay: Doesn’t Oregon feel like the epicenter of the Tiny House movement? If you’re not ready to commit to sleeping in your kitchen every night, why not just try it out for a weekend? The Tiny House Village at Mt. Hood (https://www.mthoodtinyhouse.com/) offers a unique way to experience the Portlandia vibe while surrounded by the nature of the Pacific Northwest.
Where to eat: Head in the town of Government Camp for a pint at Mt. Hood Brewery. Pair pizzas, burgers and fondue with an Ice Axe IPA or Hogsback Oatmeal Stout. Dogs are allowed on the patio, and get their own special menu featuring stock-sickles— all-natural jumbo stock ice cubes; ½ pound cheeseburger patty; and peanut butter bacon biscuits using the brewery’s spent grains. How can you not love that?
Pinot paradise: Due west of Mt Hood is the famed Willamette Valley wine region. Dubbed “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast in 2017, you’ll find incredible pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling and more. Planted in 1978, St. Josef’s is one of the original Oregon wine pioneers. (http://stjosefswinery.com)
Opt outside: Did you know you Timberline Lodge and Ski Area offers the longest ski season in North America? Really, you can ski in the middle of the summer! However, you’ll have access to a lot more runs during the colder months. The ski area also offers snowshoeing, sledding and snowcat rides to the mountain top.
Mt. Hood in the Movies: Does the Timberline Lodge look familiar? Dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, this National Historic Landmark is perched near the top of Mt. Hood. You may remember it as the exterior of the hotel featured in The Shining. I don’t think it’s haunted, but if you catch your significant other maniacally typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” you may want to get the heck out of there!
Want more Mt Hood? Go here!
Huntsville, Alabama is more than just a hub for scientists. You’ll find incredible artists, delicious soul food, live music, and tons of rich culture. These are just a few reasons why Huntsville is a place to love.
Where to stay: Drop your bags at the AC Hotel downtown Huntsville. Located in the heart of town, you’re near historic and art venues such as the Huntsville Museum of Art and the Japanese Bridge. The hotel’s veranda looks over Big Spring Park—the perfect place to enjoy one of their signature gin and tonics after a long day of sightseeing.
Where to eat: If you want great local food, head to a strip mall. It’s there you’ll typically find unique restaurants that specialize in home cooking. In Huntsville, it’s G’s Country Kitchen that hits the spot. Try the black eyed peas, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and fried chicken that’s made with love.
Claim to fame: Houston is probably the city you most associate with NASA, but it’s actually Huntsville that’s home to many of the brains that put man on the moon. Today, it’s home to the second largest research park in the United States and to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. It is here they developed the rockets that put the first U.S. satellite into orbit and sent men to the moon.
To infinity and beyond: Visit the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, a permanent exhibition to showcase the hardware of the space program. If you go, talk to the docents! They’re mainly NASA Marshall Space Flight and military retirees. These individuals share their passion and knowledge with camp trainees, staff and museum guests.
Gym class finally gets fun: I still have nightmares about gym class. However, that’s all changed at the former R.L. Stone Middle School. Today, it houses a variety of businesses, including Straight to Ale Craft Brewery. Located in the former gymnasium, it still boasts a basketball hoop, lockers and other gym mainstays. Try the Lily Flagg Milk Stout, named after a prize cow honored as one of the world’s best butterfat producers in 1892 at an exposition in Chicago.
Get outside: Situated on a magnificent 167-acre site overlooking the city, Burritt on the Mountain allows visitors revisit the lives of farmers from the 1800s. If you go, bring your hiking shoes! The nature trails at Burritt are perfect enjoying the wide variety of wildflowers in spring or the colorful mountain foliage in fall. Burritt’s trails circle around Round Top Mountain and connect to the LandTrust of Madison County and Monte Sano State Park.
Art, amidst the science: Visit Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment, the largest privately owned arts facility in the United States. This huge historic factory building has been redeveloped into 148 working studios for over 200 artists and makers, 6 galleries, a theatre, and performance venues.
I love any place that seamlessly melds art, history, culture, food and style. That’s precisely why I’m drawn to Savannah, Georgia. From incredible architecture to its storied squares (there’s 22 in the city) and supernatural residents, Savannah has it all. Here’s what to do when you’re there.
Best Known For: Its roots as one of the original 13 colonies and the oldest city in Georgia, with the antebellum architecture and historical sites to prove it.
Where to stay: With so many historic old homes, you can’t go wrong with a B&B. The Galloway House dates back to 1895, and has been everything from a private home, funeral parlor, and now bed and breakfast. Guests receive a complimentary bottle of wine on arrival, something you may need on hand if you happen upon one of the alleged ghosts that hang out on property.
Where to eat: The biggest name you need to know is Chef Mashama Bailey, the woman behind The Grey. Housed in a renovated bus station, this place celebrates southern cuisine with a modern twist. Great oysters; blue crab; smoked lamb with roti and tzatziki sauce; grits and gravy and more. Her other spot, the Grey Market, is a lunch counter-meets-bodega, with yummy items for there or to go. Think bagels, coffee, and eggs for breakfast; tuna salad, burgers; classic soda fountain drinks, beers and cocktails the rest of the day.
Where to shop: In 1978, the Savannah College of Art and Design opened its doors. Since then, the city has exploded with creative businesses. Shop SCAD’s unique retail gallery, featuring everything from bags and prints to fine art and jewelry—all from students and alumni. https://shopscad.com/:
Walk the Historic District: Genteel and Bard created an interactive walking tour, complete with discreet earbuds that allow you to hear your guide, snippets from storytellers, and digital photos and videos to help explain things along the way. The journey starts at Collins Quarter Cafe before traveling by some of Savannah’s most stunning downtown locations, including The Green-Meldrim House, Colonial Park Cemetery, Jones Street, and LaFayette Square, just steps from The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Hauntings, year-round: It’s said that Savannah is the most haunted city in America, and I know better than to argue with ghosts. There are many ways to learn about (some of its supernatural residents. Go all-out with Savannah’s Hearse Ghost Tour, where you and your best buds get to ride around atop an actual hearse (you can’t make this stuff up). http://www.hearseghosttours.com/
Have a Beach Day: Just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah you’ll find Tybee Island. It’s the perfect little beach town, with cozy cottages, a bustling pier, seafood restaurants (the Crab Shack has live baby alligators on the property!), ice cream shops and fun ways to get out on the water (rent a kayak or paddleboard, or book a sunset cruise).
Read more about Savannah here.