“Where is a safe place to travel?” seems to be a question that is implied, if not asked outright, lately. With volcanoes stranding people in Europe, social unrest in certain European cities, and robberies, kidnappings, and worse in Mexico and the Caribbean, it’s no wonder that people are concerned about their safety while traveling.
Two of our favorite destinations are Hawaii and Alaska, but anywhere in the U.S. is not only safe, but also more affordable than overseas travel. We have seen an increase of bookings for Disneyland this year. Canada is safe also, now that the G20 summit in Toronto is over.
Following are some interesting destinations and unique vacations here “at home” and in our northern neighbor: Mackinac Island, San Antonio’s Riverwalk, New Orleans Christmas, Churchill’s polar bears.
A lovely seven-day excursion to Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel can be enjoyed in September and October. Leaving from Chicago, you will stop at Traverse City to see the sand dunes along Lake Michigan, as well as the Soo Locks, built in 1791 to connect Lake Superior with the other Great Lakes. You can step back in time on Mackinac Island, since transport is by horse-drawn carriage, since no cars are allowed.
Fort Mackinac was originally built during the Revolutionary War when the island was a fur-trading outpost.
Of course, the highlight is a two-night stay at the Grand Hotel, known for its 600-foot front porch and beautiful gardens. Take afternoon tea at the Grand, or just relax in a rocking chair.
Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, where you can stroll over a 239-foot long authentic 19th century replica of a covered bridge. Charming shops line the streets, the most famous of which is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.
San Antonio’s Riverwalk, once described by Ernie Pyle as “America’s Venice,” is beautiful any time of the year, but especially so when it’s all lit up for Christmas. From late November on, you can be serenaded by carolers while enjoying a dinner cruise on the river. Visit the historic Mission San Jose, or shop in the authentic Mexican Marketplace. Remember the Alamo? The chapel and the Long Barracks are all that’s left of this famous place where Davy Crockett fought the Mexican army and died for Texas liberty. Tour the museum and watch the IMAX movie, “Alamo — the Price of Freedom.” You can also visit the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin, and the “Texas White House” at the LBJ Ranch. Don’t forget the German village of Fredericksburg.
Christmas New Orleans style can be experienced in late November or early December. Oaks Alley Plantation, located along the Mississippi and featuring a quarter-mile-long canopy of 300-year-old oaks, will be all decorated for the holidays. You can have a hands-on cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking, located in an old molasses warehouse in the French Quarter. Also worth a visit is the National World War II Museum, with interactive displays and artifacts. But the main attraction has to be the Celebration in the Oaks, with its choirs, dance performances, seasonal displays, millions of lights, and real snow, set in the ancient oak groves of City Park.
If you want something a little more on the wild side, don’t pass up a trip to see the polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba in October. You can fly to and from Churchill from Winnipeg, once a 1920s boomtown. Safely and comfortably view the polar bears, and possibly also Arctic foxes, ptarmigan, caribou, and ringed seals from the Tundra Bus. The large over-inflated tires do not harm the Tundra ecosystem. The buses are well heated, have washroom facilities, and an outdoor viewing platform for that up close photo op. Polar bears can stand 10 feet tall and weigh more than 1,300 pounds. They return to the seal feeding grounds along the Hudson Bay every October in anticipation of the winter freeze. Enjoy true northern ambiance and cuisine at Churchill’s newest accommodation, the Lazy Bear Lodge. You can also have an opportunity to witness the spectacular light show of the Aurora Borealis.
For any of these land vacations, cruise vacations, rail vacations, or airline tickets, visit Cruise Port Travel at 900 W. Driftwood Dr. in Payson. Visit our Web site www.travelpayson.com for past travel and Alaska theme articles.