Exciting American Vacations

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The United States is a large country that offers many opportunities for different vacations. You can examine American history in various locations, you can experience the great outdoors with camping, swimming, fishing and hiking, and there are plenty of upscale resorts and spas as well as two coasts to enjoy. You don’t ever have to leave our shores to find excitement and pleasure. In this Travel Talk we will offer suggestions to assist in selecting a vacation for which no passport or foreign language guide is needed.

This spring there is the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. You could plan to be in Lexington, Ky. from about May 2 to May 6 to take in all the southern style events taking place around the actual horse race.

To be in the middle of it all, you might see if you can get accommodations at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort in Lexington. There is so much going on before the running of the race as well as a chance to see which horse might win the 2012 Triple Crown.

What’s to do before the race? You could plan to visit a horse farm for starters. See how these horses are cared for… some get better care than humans.

At one of the horse farms they might even throw in a barbecue.

As soon as you arrive, or even before, obtain detailed information on the activities around the Derby and reserve your spot at some if possible. You may even wish to tour one of Kentucky’s whiskey distilleries and enjoy some sampling.

I would advise seeing a travel agent who can obtain information for you; but check out details on the Web as well to get an idea of activities taking place and sites to see. Perhaps joining a tour group may be the best plan, with the tour company obtaining all the tickets you will need.

The running of the Derby is almost a world event and many people will be present to witness the race at Churchill Downs. Tauck Tours is one company I am aware of that is running tours to the Derby. Phone 1-800-468-2825.

For more southern hospitality, you might consider visiting Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Ga.

Drive, fly or take the train to the Atlantic Coast. After checking into your hotel, be sure to have dinner in the historic district at 45 Bistro in Savannah’s oldest hotel, the Marshall House. You will taste Southern cuisine like never before.

A trip to historic Savannah has to include visiting the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, followed by a visit to the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, chronicling the great Atlantic trading era. As you drive along Savannah’s streets you will see homes that date back in our history that are well kept and the owners are proud of their history. You’ll see some 1,000 restored buildings. And, take time here to walk the sidewalks to really see the history.

You can visit Fort Pulaski National Monument, where military history was forever changed during a Civil War battle. Plan to spend a night at Hilton Head Island and perhaps stay a night at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort, which is right on the seafront. Be sure to take an early morning walk on Hilton Head’s beautiful beaches before heading north to Beaufort. There, you can explore the local cobblestone streets to take in this charming town.

Now, on to Charleston. This is one of the more important seaports on the East Coast. Take a harbor cruise to fully experience the area with all of its history. You can even take a plantation tour to witness what you may have seen in Gone With the Wind…Tara. Today, you will see only the good things that happen on a plantation. There will be no slaves and no Civil War, but a tour here will give you an idea of what life is like today in the rural South. If you visit during the peak of summer, expect hot, humid weather.

If you are an American history fan, try visiting some Civil War battlegrounds and cities where the Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Begin in Philadelphia, America’s first capital; while here, see and visit Independence Hall, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and ride in a horse-drawn carriage back in time along cobblestone streets to see the Liberty Bell; and visit the National Constitution Center, where you can view the multimedia presentation Freedom Rising.

Not far out in the countryside is Amish Life in Lancaster County. Here, you will see the beautifully cared for farms and get a feeling of how these people live. In some ways it’s like stepping back into the mid 1800s. You will find these people friendly in the small villages and enjoy seeing them travel by horse and buggy. It’s a look into the earlier times of America.

Cross the Mason Dixon Line into West Virginia and Virginia to experience the South as it was during the Civil War period. The towns and villages are interesting to walk around, with many shops to interest you. If you can, make time to visit historic Williamsburg and get a sense of life in colonial times. This was the old colonial capital and heart of the economic and political hub of Britain’s largest colony in the New World. One night, dine in a colonial tavern to get an even greater sense of old times.

In Williamsburg you can visit the Capitol Building, Raleigh Tavern, the Governor’s Palace, Bruton Parish Church and well cared for colonial homes and shops.

Then head to Jamestown to explore the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. You can attend an informative lecture examining the influence of the Powhatan, English and African cultures and see exhibitions of colonial history, homes and shops.

Next, if you are making an extended tour of the East Coast, you will want to see Washington, D.C. You will never forget a visit here; seeing all the historical buildings, monuments and the center of our government.

A few years ago, I lived just outside D.C. in Reston, Va., which was a 25-minute drive into the city. I joined the Smithsonian Institute, which included 53 museums in and about the city. Often, we would attend informative lectures and entertainment sponsored by the Institute.

Even if you are driving a car, keep it parked for the day in Washington, D.C. and join a one-day tour, which will include many of the important sights you should not miss. The tour bus will do all the parking and maneuver the traffic, leaving you time to sightsee. Among the sights will be the War Memorials, the White House, the Congressional Buildings, the Supreme Court, and many more that you may have read about and seen on the news.

You can also visit the theatre where Lincoln was shot and the place he was taken for his last hours. There is much traffic here so take my advice and book a day tour. You’ll be glad you did.

Perhaps a tour in the Great Lakes country is of interest to you. Book a tour for this itinerary. You would fly into Traverse City, Mich.

The next day, sightseeing begins with a tour of the Music House Museum, showcasing antique musical instruments and music-making machines, then journey along Lake Michigan’s west coast. You’ll drive through sand dunes and take a boat to Mackinac Island for a couple days’ visit, staying at the famed Grand Hotel. This is a deluxe resort dating back more than 100 years and claims the longest front porch in the country. Comfortable chairs and rockers line the porch, so you can view activity on the lake. There are no automobiles allowed on the island and transportation is by horse-and-carriage or bicycles.

During a visit here, you can tour Fort Mackinac, which once guarded the Straits of Mackinac 220 years ago. You can also tour the town on foot and snoop the interesting shops. Also available is a sail to Saginaw Bay and cruise up the Saginaw River.

Once you leave here, drive over to Dearborn and explore the Henry Ford Museum with its magnificent collection of cars.

You can journey home from Detroit.

Soon, we will continue our American Vacations exploit talking about tours to New England as well as cruising inland waterways on the East Coast.

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