Aspen isn’t just for winter, this quaint mountain town is gorgeous year round
Aspen is a small, laidback town in Colorado, famed for its skiing thanks to the breathtaking Elk Mountain range of the Rocky Mountains, which surround it. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that Aspen is only worth seeing during the winter months. In May, the glorious Independence mountain pass opens, and people embrace all the great outdoors has to offer including spectacular scenery and fresh mountain air.
Everyone from billionaires to mountain bikers, families, out-door fanatics and young couples.
Here is a highlight reel of some of our favourite snaps from our visit ...
Where to stay- Our favourite foodie-friendly hotels in Aspen
This gorgeous luxury hotel has 179 rooms and suites, with the option of butler service if you really want to treat yourself. Take one of the St. Regis’ cruiser bikes for the day and pedal through Rio Grande Park.
Five on-site food/drink options include: Chef’s Club, Velvet Buck, Mountain Social, Splash Pool Bar and in-room dining, so it’s the perfect place for those who love great food.
One of the few 5-star, 5-diamond hotels in Colorado and the only ski-in, ski-out hotel on Aspen Mountain, it’s a special experience staying at Little Nell. Two restaurants and three bars featuring world-renowned chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers ensure a memorable dining experience.
An Aspen landmark since 1889, this elegant hotel has a wealth of restaurants and foodie activities to enjoy. Take in a tipple at the iconic J-Bar, indulge in American cuisine at Prospect restaurant or lounge in the Living Room, the social hub of Aspen. Guests can also partake in a variety of special culinary events with Executive Chef Rob Zack, join wine tastings with their resident wine director and learn the art of baking desserts with their pastry chef.
Where to eat – Our favourite restaurants in Aspen
Meat and cheese
This specialty food store, farm shop and restaurant located on Restaurant Row features an amazing team of young chefs, bakers, picklers, brewers, butchers and charcutiers, making it a must-visit destination for foodies.
The place to go for delicious French cuisine and an impressive wine list. With over 5,000 bottles of wine, the wine list is a staggering 100 pages, making it a destination for wine connoisseurs.
Located within a 120-year-old Victorian house in downtown Aspen, Matsuhisa Aspen opened in 1998 as the first Matsuhisa location outside of Chef Nobu’s original Beverly Hills restaurant. It remains the place to get fabulous sushi in Aspen.
What to see and do in Aspen
We’ve rounded up our favourite things to see and do to help you make the most of your time during your visit.
Aspen Art Museum
Get your art on at the Aspen Art Museum, curated by internationally renowned American curator Courtenay Finn.
The Aspen institute
This innovative centre explores issues around the mind, body and soul. They host an interesting programme of talks year round.
Top tips for your springtime visit to Aspen
Northern California’s idyllic Napa Valley is home to around 400 wineries and tasting rooms, so choosing just five to highlight is a challenging task. I decided to make it easier by choosing my own personal favourites, starting with Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga.
Sterling sits high above the valley and visitors are transported up to the winery by aerial tram. The breathtaking pastoral views along the way are in stark contrast to the imposing white façade of the winery itself, which was inspired by the architecture of the Greek island, Mykonos. Having disembarked, you are greeted with a glass of wine to enjoy while taking the self-guided tour of the winemaking process, all the way through from grape to glass. It’s both interesting and educational, and once you finish this part of the Sterling experience, you will be more than ready to taste some of their wines. There are a few options to tempt you, depending on your pocket and your palate, but I can recommend the food and wine pairing, which matches your wine to cheeses and charcuterie.
If sparkling wine is more to your taste, you can do no better than a visit to the Schramsberg estate, tucked into the densely forested slopes of Diamond Mountain. It is home to the oldest hillside vineyards in the Napa Valley and is a registered historic landmark. Schramsberg has also played a role in world history. One of its wines was used for President Nixon’s 1972 ‘Toast to Peace’ with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai, and its sparkling wines have been served at official State functions by every U.S. President since.
Winetasting is by appointment only, in conjunction with an educational tour through the caves. A tour guide shares the rich history of Schramsberg and its 125-year-old caves, introduces you to the classic method of producing sparkling wine, and then invites you to sit and taste five limited production wines paired with specially selected cheeses.
Still staying in the northern end of the Valley, and if you would like to enjoy some spectacular art along with your wine, try Clos Pegase. The architectural design of the winery was the culmination of a competition instigated by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and both the winery building and the grounds are replete with dramatic sculptures and paintings.
The connoisseur cave tour and tasting offers visitors a splash of wine while they learn about the history of the winery, visit the production area and taste wine directly from barrel. The tasting culminates in the Cave Theatre with a seated tasting of current and library wines paired with selected artisanal cheese and charcuterie. I have attended opera evenings in the atmospheric Cave Theatre with its wonderful acoustics and naturally cool environment.
In complete contrast to the postmodern feel of Clos Pegase, Castello di Amorosa is a winery modeled on a thirteenth century Tuscan castle. I was living in the Napa Valley when this was under construction and it stirred mixed feelings. For me it seemed both wholly out of place but also tantalizingly, and in many ways, admirably audacious.
Castello di Amorosa was a labour of love for its owner, Dario Sattui – a renowned wine entrepreneur with a fascination for medieval architecture. He set out to make small lots of primarily Italian-style wines and showcase them in an authentic, medieval castle setting. There are 107 rooms on eight levels above and below ground, covering over 120,000 square feet. Key details and building techniques are architecturally faithful to the 12th and 13th century time period so admired by Sattui and the castle boasts a moat, a drawbridge, defensive towers, an interior courtyard, a torture chamber, a chapel, a knights' chamber and a great hall. In many ways the wines are almost incidental – the supporting act to this extraordinary replica out of time and place. Castello do Amorosa has to be seen to be believed.
My first three recommendations are all located between Calistoga and St Helena, but if you head further south along Highway 29, you can see the iconic Opus One winery on your left. The building literally rises out of the earth and through a conflation of classical European and contemporary Californian elements, gradually discloses its distinctive beauty. The winery, like the wine, joins New World and Old World aesthetics. Modern materials – California redwood and stainless steel – are juxtaposed with cream-colored Texas limestone.
Visits to Opus One are by appointment only and there are two tours to choose from: the Estate Tour and the Double Vintage Tour and Tasting. The former offers an overview of Opus One's history, aesthetics, vineyards and winemaking, and leads guests through the winery, winery production areas, and concludes in the Grand Chai with a taste of the current vintage of Opus One. The latter offers a more intimate experience. Beginning in the Salon, guests are escorted through the winery and then into the Private Library with a formal seated tasting of two vintages. A visit to Opus One is a sublime experience that it hard to follow.
My final recommendation is Domaine Carneros, a few miles outside of Napa. It was inspired by the classic 18th century Château de la Marquetterie in France - home of Champagne Taittinger – complete with a grand staircase, formal gardens, expansive outdoor terraces, a marble-floored fireside salon and magnificent views of vine-covered hills.
Domaine Carneros is a hugely popular venue and there are many tasting options to choose from, all of which are listed on its website. My personal favourite, available exclusively by reservation, is a visit to the Sparkling Suite, which offers couples an opportunity to book their own private château balcony overlooking the splendidly verdant vineyards. The Sparkling Suite includes a private tasting for two of Domaine Carneros sparkling wines and Pinot Noirs, paired perfectly with caviar, charcuterie and all the necessary accouterments. You will leave feel spoiled and special and possibly a tiny bit amorous.
But the Napa Valley has more to offer than wine - it’s a cycling destination of note. There are two roads that run through the Valley: Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. Highway 29 is a main thoroughfare and gets particularly busy at weekends, whereas the Silverado Trail is much quieter, with specifically designated bike lanes. Having cycled both, I confess to preferring the gently rolling rhythm of the Trail.
And if you prefer to slow down the pace you can opt for the quiet backroads, or go off road altogether onto the dirt tracks that traverse the vineyards. An exciting project is the construction of the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a walking / cycling route that will begin at the Vallejo Ferry boat terminal (bringing passengers from San Francisco) and extend 45 miles to the northern tip of the Napa Valley. The trail will run roughly parallel to Highway 29, and allow visitors and locals the chance to hop on a bike, walk or jog through this iconic wine-growing region.
The Napa Valley is a small but perfectly formed destination for wine lovers and cyclists alike, offering abundant sunshine, friendly locals and some of the best food I have ever eaten. Enjoy!
My debut novel Learning to Speak American published by Twenty7 (£7.99 for an original paperback) is based on my experience of renovating a derelict house in California’s Napa Valley.
The Vanderbilt Grace is an historic boutique hotel in Rhode Island just minutes from the delightful waterfront of Newport.
Originally built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a scion of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, the 1909 property is a vintage Newport mansion that has been restored to its former glory and is one of the few private homes of the era to operate for guests as a luxury boutique hotel.
The hotel boasts a gorgeous spa, a fitness centre and an indoor and outdoor pool. The Vanderbilt Grace also has two restaurants on site, including Muse, which focuses on using seasonal local ingredients. With so many amenities in such a stunning location, guests won't want to leave!
For those who wish to explore the lovely waterfronts of Newport, the hotel is within easy reach of the coastline, making it a great base for your next escape to Newport.
Indulge in a bit of colonial splendour at this historic luxury hotel...
Need a bit of inspiration for your visit to the US? Check out some of these events across the States...
Across the USA – Centennial of the USA National Parks Service (throughout 2016)
The national parks are uniquely American with almost 300 million visitors each year, and the National Park Service (NPS) officially turns 100 on 25th August 2016. With approximately 22,000 permanent employees, the NPS is also made up of 221,000 volunteers in the parks. Special events will take place throughout 2016 as the centennial kicks off a second century of stewardship of the USA’s national parks.
To celebrate the occasion, the Brand USA giant-screen film will hit cinemas across the world from 12th February 2016. The ‘National Parks Adventure’ film, narrated by Academy Award® Winner, Robert Redford, has been produced by MacGillivray Freeman and will be shown in 3D at selected IMAX® and large screen cinemas. Presented by Expedia, Inc., Robert Redford will take audiences on the ultimate off-road adventure into the nation’s awe-inspiring great outdoors and untamed wilderness told from the perspective of national parks ambassador and world-class mountaineer, Conrad Anker, as well as adventure photographer Max Lowe. www.VisitTheUSA.com
New Hampshire – Overnight at the Summit of Mt. Washington (select weekends January – March)
A rare opportunity to spend a night at the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the highest peak in North Eastern America (known for its weather extremes). The Mount Washington Observatory is offering overnight trips, which include a night at the top at the Weather Station at 6,288 feet above sea level, a full day of sightseeing, an alpine adventure and a hearty dinner. www.discovernewengland.co.uk /www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/summit-adventures/overnights.aspx
Arizona – Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon (16 – 17th January)
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series makes running fun with options for all fitness levels. Known for live music and excitement, the Rock ‘n’ Marathon in Arizona is a relatively flat course that runs through three of the Southwest’s most scenic cities – Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. www.experiencescottsdale.com / www.visitarizona.com
Utah – Sundance Film Festival (21 – 31st January)
Founded in 1978, around 50,000 film lovers will flock to Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah, for Robert Redford’s world famous film festival. The 10 day spectacle brings together film stars and regular film fanatics as the most original storytellers together for its annual programme of dramatic and documentary films, shorts, New Frontier films, performances and music events. The most celebrated film festival in North America, some of the world’s leading directors, including Quentin Tarantino and Mike Newell first gained fame following their films being premiered at the festival. www.sundance.org/festivals / www.visitutah.com
Michigan – International 500 Snowmobile Race 2016 (2nd February)
Penned as the biggest event in the snowmobile-racing world and a thrilling experience for riders and motorsports fans, the 48th Annual International I-500 Snowmobile Race invites visitors to experience the thrills of NASCAR on a one-mile oval track, where drivers accelerate to speeds of over 100 miles per hour with no Hans devices and no padding. www.i-500.com / www.michigan.org
Iowa – Grant Wood and Marvin Cone 125th Birthday Celebrations, Cedar Rapids (6th February – 15th May)
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art will celebrate both Grant Wood and Marvin Cone’s 125th birthdays in 2016 with a special exhibition, ‘Grant Wood and Marvin Cone: Barns, Farms and America’s Heartland’, focusing on their shared interest in Iowa’s rolling countryside, farms and the people who inhabit them. The two artists began their lifelong friendship in Cedar Rapids, attended high school together and were an active force in the Stone City Art Colony. The exhibit will run from 6th February until 15th May, 2016. As well as this exhibit, Cedar Rapids will install 30 life-sized, six-foot tall statues of the father and daughter from Grant Wood’s famed piece, ‘American Gothic’, starting in May.www.traveliowa.com
California – Super Bowl 50 (7th February)
Held at the Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California (the home stadium of the San Francisco 49ers), this is the first Super Bowl in the San Francisco area since 1985. A week-long series of public events will take place in the region including the NFL experience and the Super Bowl Fan Village for tourists to join in with. www.sfbaysuperbowl.com / www.VisitCalifornia.co.uk
Connecticut – Eagle Flyer Vintage Train Rides (14 – 16th February)
A vintage train ride through Connecticut’s wintry landscapes in search of wildlife and Bald Eagles. This 2.5 hour eco-tour on the Essex Steam Train provides a unique view of the Connecticut River Valley from the cosy confines of charming vintage rail cars. Stopping at Deep River, Chester and Haddam, travellers can learn more about the wildlife from an on-board conservationist. www.essexsteamtrain.com/special-events/eagle-flyer / www.discovernewengland.co.uk
Alaska – Fur Rendezvous Winter Carnival (26th February – 6th March)
Visitors heading to Alaska to observe and take part in the Iditarod dog-sledding celebrations starting on 5th March are also able to experience Alaska’s Fur Rendezvous Winter Carnival which, in 2016, will take place from 26th February. The largest winter festival in Alaska, ‘Fur Rondy’ as it’s fondly known celebrates the end of the long winter months with a range of events which represent the pioneering spirit of the Alaskans. www.alaskatravel.com
South Carolina – 10th Charleston Wine and Food Festival (2 – 6th March)
The BB&T Charleston Wine and Food Festival has quickly risen in the ranks of nationally-acclaimed food festivals during its decade of existence and has become a hotbed of culinary activity, historic landscapes and irresistible charm set in the beautiful city of Charleston. The festival is a celebration of Charleston’s culinary excellence and renowned culture which benefits scholarship programmes for the culinary and hospitality workplace. www.charlestonwineandfood.com / www.discoversouthcarolina.com
New Jersey – Atlantic City Restaurant Week (6 – 12th March)
The table is set for the 8th annual Atlantic City Restaurant Week, which runs from 6 – 12th March at participating restaurants in and around Atlantic City, New Jersey. To help take the bite out of the cost of fine dining, participating restaurants offer special three-course dishes at reduced prices. The Atlantic City chefs are already busy preparing menus for the most discriminating appetites. Gift certificates can be ordered in advance. www.acrestaurantweek.com / www.visitnj.org
Hawaii – Honolulu Festival (11 – 13th March)
The Honolulu Festival is Hawaii’s premier cultural event, promoting understanding, economic cooperation and ethnic harmony between the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim region. Each year, the festival draws thousands of new and returning spectators looking for an experience beyond Hawaii. The three day extravaganza includes dance performances and traditional art from Japan, Australia, Tahiti, Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Hawaii and the rest of the U.S., culminating with a spectacular parade. Admission to all festival events is free, ensuring that all visitors can take part in the festivities. www.gohawaii.com/uk
Washington, D.C. – The National Cherry Blossom Festival (20th March – 17th April)
Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates spring in Washington, D.C., the gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. The festival produces and coordinates daily events featuring diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty and community spirit. Events are primarily free and open to the public. www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org / www.washington.org
Louisiana – 30th Festival International de Louisiane (20 – 24th April)
Festival International de Louisiane is a free entry festival that has been enabling visitors to enjoy varieties of music, food, art and heritage in Lafayette, Louisiana, since 1986. The festival is a family-orientated event to celebrate the French cultural heritage of south Louisiana – primarily a combination of French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences that contribute to the cultural melting pot that Louisiana has become renowned for, in a celebration with food (ranging from local craft beer and BBQ to crepes), art and music (last years’ line-up included Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo as headline act, with music experiences including Rhythms & Roots and Soul Express Brass Band).www.festivalinternational.org / www.louisianatravel.com
Vermont – 50th Anniversary of the Vermont Maple Festival (22 – 24th April)
Taking place at the end of the maple season, the hugely attended Vermont Maple Festival has been a popular event for 50 years, attracting visitors from throughout the USA and many other parts of the world for all sorts of fun with the maple including maple treats, as well as entertainment on Main Street, a youth talent show, Fiddlers’ Variety Show, carnival, arts and crafts, an antique show, a variety of foods including pancake breakfasts, cooking demonstrations and competitions, as well as fun for the children including face painting.www.vermontmaplefestival.org / www.vermontvacation.co.uk
North Carolina – Merlefest (28th April – 1st May 2016)
Merlefest is all about music, memories and moments in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The event celebrates ‘traditional plus’ music in memory of Eddy Merle Watson, the son of the music legend Doc Watson who called his music ‘traditional plus’, meaning the traditional music of the Appalachian region plus whatever styles he felt like. Visitors will be surrounded by music, food and shopping opportunities, as well as beautiful scenery and walking trails. www.merlefest.org / www.uk.visitnc.com
Tennessee – Memphis in May (29th April – 14th May)
Memphis in May is a renowned festival celebrating music, culture and food, with major events each weekend such as the Beale Street Music Festival (29th April – 1st May), an International Festival (2 – 9th May) and a World Championship Barbecue Cooking contest (12 – 14th May). With legendary acts at the Beale Street Music Festival in past years including Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Al Green, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran, this highly anticipated event set against the mighty Mississippi is expected to attract visitors from across the USA and a number of international travellers. www.memphisinmay.com / www.tnvacation.com
Kentucky – Kentucky Derby Festival (7th May 2016)
The Kentucky Derby, the USA’s greatest horse race, on the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack since 1875, takes place on 7th May 2016. A multi-week celebration of the Kentucky Derby itself takes hold with festivities ranging from steamboat and hot air balloon races to marathons, celebrity events and the ‘Thunder over Louisville’ fireworks display. www.KentuckyDerby.com / www.KentuckyTourism.com
Florida – Invictus Games ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (8 – 12th May)
The inaugural Invictus Games in London 2014 used the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women. The next Invictus Games will take place at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Osceola County, Florida in 2016.
Indiana – 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Festival (29th May)
The world’s largest single-day sporting event is back for its 100th running! Known as the Greatest Spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts the best open-wheel drivers from around the world as they battle through 200 miles to get to the finish line in hopes of winning the famous Borg-Warner trophy. Tickets for the 2016 race (29th May) start at $50 (approx. £32). To celebrate the anniversary of this iconic event, guests can expect a number of surprises and celebrations in addition to 500 Festival traditions like the nation’s largest half marathon, the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (7th May). indianapolismotorspeedway.com/events/indy500/buy-tickets /www.visitindy.com / www.visitindiana.com
North Dakota – Medora Musical (June – September)
Billed as the "Greatest Show in the West", the Medora Musical is held in the outdoor splendour of the Burning Hills Amphitheatre in the North Dakota Badlands. This western musical variety show is great family entertainment, full of high-energy song and dance routines, yodelling and clog dancing and a star-spangled, patriotic finale. A portion of the show, recognised as one of the top 15 North Dakota USA events and festivals is dedicated to the 26th U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt. In 2015, the Medora Musical celebrated its 50th anniversary.www.medora.com/do/entertainment/medora-musical / www.ndtourism.com
Nevada – America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride (5th June)
This annual bicycle ride around Lake Tahoe has built a reputation for not only its spectacular scenery, but also its great food and support. The event, held the first Sunday in June, includes a boat cruise, 35-mile fun ride and a 72-mile ride around the lake, as well as a 100-mile century ride. The course circles the lake with a challenging 800-foot climb to a vista point overlooking the serene Emerald Bay. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Lake Tahoe Bikeway, the plan to build and interconnect bike lanes and trails around Lake Tahoe – and is the culmination of the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society of America’s National Team in Training spring fund-raising programme. www.bikethewest.com /www.travelnevada.com
Illinois – Lake Michigan to host America’s Cup (10 – 12th June)
Lake Michigan, Chicago has been chosen as the first freshwater venue to host America’s Cup racing in the event’s 164 year history. The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago, a qualifying event for the 2017 America’s cup in Bermuda, with take place at Navy Pier, a special time for the location as the pier’s centennial year. The catamarans, which will race at 40 mph close to the shore, can be viewed by visitors with ticketed viewing areas, entertainment and VIP hospitality set up for fans. www.americascup.com / www.enjoyillinois.com
Oklahoma – 28th Annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival (10 – 12th June)
On the days when over 1,200 American Indian artists and dancers from throughout North America come together at the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma, the gathering becomes the epicentre of Native American art and culture. Today one of the most revered performing and visual arts events of its kind, the Red Earth Festival’s kaleidoscope of paintings, sculpture and pottery; beadwork, basket ware and jewellery set the benchmark for Native American festivals across the continent. The unforgettable spectacle of tribal dress-clad, deeply skilled dancers in full performance completes this unique event. www.redearth.org / www.travelok.com
Kansas – The Symphony in the Flint Hills (11th June)
Each year since Chase County, when Kansas rancher Jane Koger first assembled an all-woman orchestra to celebrate her 40th birthday for the first ever ‘symphony on the prairie’, the legend has grown. In 2016, thousands of appreciative music lovers will once again gather for the Symphony in the Flint Hills to drink in the magic of symphonic music wafting on the evening prairie breeze, framed by never-ending pastures and an endless sky tinged by a vibrant orange Kansas sunset. The event this year will take place on the land of rancher, Ed Bass, South Clements Pasture in Chase County. www.symphonyintheflinthills.org / www.travelks.com
Delaware – Firefly Music Festival (16 – 19th June)
The woodlands in Dover, Delaware will be transformed in to a music-lovers haven from 16th to 19th June for the Firefly Music Festival which last year saw performances from Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, Morrissey, The Killers and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Visitors can experience far more than music while at the event, which has a craft beer bar, ‘The Thicket’ – an exclusive party experience nestled in the woods and an arcade scene, which last year debuted ‘The Beercade’. The four-day festival is situated in driving distance of a number of gateway cities including Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C. with a number of reserved campsites and hotel accommodation in the vicinity. www.fireflyfestival.com / www.visitdelaware.com
Maryland – Taste of the Valley Food and Wine Festival (18th June)
The third annual Taste of the Valley Food and Wine Festival, in Hagerstown, Maryland offers visitors the opportunity to sample the culinary choices and wines from the diverse vineyards in the area. The festival includes amateur wine tasting and judging, sampling wines from around 20 wineries in the region and a fine arts and crafts fair. www.valleywinefest.net / www.visitmaryland.org
Colorado – 100th Anniversary of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (24 – 26th June)
First completed in 1916, the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second oldest motor sports race in the U.S. and a long standing tradition in Colorado Springs and the Pike Peak region. The race takes place on a 12.42 mile course with 156 turns, beginning at 9,390 feet and finishing at the 14,115 foot summit of Pikes Peak. Visitors can watch the big event on 26th June from designated viewing areas as competitors and vehicles struggle to finish in the thin air at the summit as well as taking part in the fan fest on 24th June.www.ppihc.com / www.colorado.com
Nebraska – 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials (26th June – 3rd July)
The CenturyLink Center in Omaha will be hosting around 1,400 swimmers on their journey to becoming a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. These trials will take place June 26-July 3, 2016 with tickets available for visitors to spectate. www.usaswimming.org /www.visitnebraska.com
Missouri – National Tom Sawyer Days (4th July)
2016 marks 140 years since Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer, in his home town of Hannibal, Missouri – Mark Twain mania reaches its height over July 4th weekend when 100,000 people turn out for National Tom Sawyer Days, a special time marked by a small-town parade, fireworks, fence-painting contests and the crowning of the town’s new Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, a competition among local 7thgraders (12- to 13-year-olds) since the 1950s. www.visitmo.com
Maine – 100th Anniversary of Acadia National Park (8th July)
2016 will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of Acadia National Park. Throughout 2016, all who love Acadia will come together for a yearlong, community-based, world-welcoming celebration of the Acadia Centennial. www.DiscoverNewEngland.co.uk
Montana – North American Indian Days (Mid-July)
North American Indian Days, an annual celebration and the largest and most impressive of Blackfeet tribal events, has been celebrated for more than 61 years. The days host Native Americans from every region of the United States and Canada. Featured events include traditional drumming and dancing contests, powwows, the crowning of Miss Blackfeet, a parade, a fun run and more. The celebration takes place in Browning, Montana. www.browningmontana.com/naid.htm / www.visitmt.com
Alabama – W.C. Handy Music Festival (22 – 31st July)
The 35th W.C. Handy Music Festival, named in honour of the father of the Blues, takes place in July 2016 and is an annual 10-day festival designed to present the music of the Shoals in northwest Alabama. Over 200 events take place ranging from mini-concerts to headliner acts, plays and art exhibits. The Shoals includes the cities of Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals and is easy driving distance from Nashville, Memphis and Birmingham. www.wchandymusicfestival.org / www.deep-south-usa.com/alabama
Wyoming – Cheyenne Frontier Days (22 – 31st July)
Cheyenne Frontier Days is the largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration in the world. The 10-day festival features the world's best PRCA rodeo action, slack events, concerts, professional bull riders, parades, pancake breakfasts, a carnival, Old West Museum, Indian Village and Western entertainment. This event offers excitement, non-stop activities and Western hospitality at its best. Ticket prices vary per event. www.cfdrodeo.com / www.wyomingtourism.org
Rhode Island – Newport Jazz Festival (29 – 31st July)
The Newport Jazz Festival features three full days of jazz on three unique stages at Fort Adams, one of the National Park system’s national treasures situated at the mouth of Newport Harbor with panoramic views of the Newport Bridge and the East Passage.www.Newportjazzfest.net / www.DiscoverNewport.org / www.DiscoverNewEngland.co.uk
Spotlight on: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Top Places in Minneapolis to Get Your Culture Fix...
Minneapolis, you really are too much. Miles of sprawling Mississippi riverfront trails and parks, the gorgeous chain of lakes right in the middle of the city, serene and architecturally wonderful churches, exciting warehouse district, landmark Nicollet Mall walking area, funky Uptown entertainment district, historic and beautiful cemeteries, the old cobblestoned streets of St. Anthony Main lined with newly renovated grain elevator lofts, the Northeast arts district with its ever growing brew pubs… **inhales deeply to catch breath**
I mean really, how does one narrow your culture offerings down to 10 places? Impossible! So please, show our travelers an amazing time as they explore this suggested list and hopefully stumble upon all of the hidden and not so hidden additional gems you have to offer along their journeys.
Walker Art Center ▪ 1750 Hennepin Avenue
It’s hard to miss the façade of the Walker Art Center, located along the border of stunning Loring Park and Lowry Hill neighborhoods near downtown Minneapolis.
The striking geometric and glass shapes emerge from the backdrop of older brownstones in the distance, commanding your attention.
Admission is free on Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., as well as all day long the first Saturdays of each month, and the outdoor sculpture garden, where you will find the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, is free to explore at your leisure.
If you are visiting in the summertime, ensure you play a round of artist-designed mini-golf, and grab a hot dog, beer, or wine at the food truck.
The Walker also showcases free films in its Open Field area on Monday nights in August, the most popular of which is the Internet Cat Video Festival, where you will find many passionate and creatively attired viewers from all walks of life. Find a park, a movie and an evening that fits in well with your travels and experience the camaraderie of picnicking with local Minneapolitans.
Orpheum Theater ▪ 910 Hennepin Avenue
Originally opened in 1921, the equisitely restored 2,600-seater Orpheum Theater, is a wonderful place to see some of your favorite Broadway shows such as Motown – The Musical; Pippin; Annie; and Kinky Boots, to name a few.
The Orpheum has also had the honor of hosting the opening of some more notable productions including The Lion King.
The Oprheum has also hosted well-known musicians such as Bob Dylan, who returned to Minneapolis in November 2014 for a three-night run of shows. Dylan previously owned the theater from 1979 until 1988, when he then sold it to the City of Minneapolis.
State Theater ▪ 805 Hennepin Avenue
The magnificent State Theater was considered one of the most elaborate and technologically advanced theaters in the United States when it opened in 1921, and it’s easy to see why.
The State Theater has hosted live Broadway touring productions such as Avenue Q, Sweeney Todd, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as well as numerous concerts.
Pantages Theater ▪ 710 Hennepin Avenue
The beautiful Pantages opened in 1916 and was originally 12 stories tall. Today it has been completely renovated and is of much shorter stature, standing at only two stories tall.
The Pantages hosts all types of world-class performances including theater, comedy, and music, and is well known for its phenomenal acoustics.
First Avenue ▪ 701 North 1st Avenue
If you’re lucky enough to see one of your favorite musicians play at First Avenue while on your travels, then well done! The venue has two floors, but allows concertgoers to feel intimately close to the performance, with the main stage right at eye level.
Many musicians are obsessed with playing this friendly venue filled with deeply passionate and appreciative music lovers. The building opened in 1937 as a Greyhound bus station, but by the early 1980s was well positioned at the forefront of the Minneapolis music scene by none other than Prince himself.
Many well-known bands that came out of Minnesota initially rocked this venue, including The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Semisonic, and The Jayhawks. For locals and music lovers, First Avenue still serves as “Your Downtown Danceteria Since 1970”.
Lab Theater ▪ 700 North 1st Street
Prepare to be awed. Possibly the most romantic theater in all of Minneapolis, the cozy and exceptionally beautiful Lab Theater is a wonderful venue to see local theater boasting percussive dance or live jazz bands.
Many eclectic independent productions are hosted here, and with the intimate sight lines of the performance space, you can almost reach out and touch the performers, although we wouldn't recommend it!
Patrick’s Cabaret ▪ 3010 Minnehaha Avenue
Patrick’s Cabaret, which opened in 1986, is a grassroots theater supporting emerging artists of all genres, and is also deeply involved with the LGBT community.
Formerly a firehouse, the converted space brings life to mixed artist disciplines in an intimate setting, seating approximately 100 people.
Often edgy, experimental, improvisational, and provocative, you will find a variety of shows here, including dance, open call cabaret nights, and singer/songwriters, to name a few.
Many shows push social and political boundaries, so having an open and artistic mind is a must. This is not your grandma’s theater. Tickets are generally around $10, and 100% of ticket sales go directly to the artist.
Patrick’s is also one of a number of venues where you will find shows participating in the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the largest non-juried performing arts festival in the United States.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) ▪ 2400 3rd Avenue South
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a fine arts museum with a collection of approximately 80,000 objects spanning years of world history, including “one of the finest and most comprehensive Asian art collections in the country.”
In this expansive and exquisite building, you will find everything from 40,000 year-old artifacts to world-famous masterpieces. There are no entrance fees to the museum, except special exhibitions, so even travelers on a tight budget can take in the beauty of the MIA. Truly a must see if you are visiting the city for the first time!
A few other museums worth mentioning: The Museum of Russian Art, the American Swedish Institute, and Allen Christian’s House of Balls, are all equally magnificent places to spend an afternoon.
Guthrie Theater ▪ 818 South 2nd Street
The Guthrie Theater has been a Minneapolis staple since 1963, “performing theater classics in an atmosphere removed from the commercial pressures of Broadway.” Here, you will find productions such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, My Fair Lady, and A Christmas Carol.
In 2006, construction was completed of a new $125 million modern theater building along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. The Guthrie was named one of GQ Magazine’s 10 most important buildings of the 21st Century, Architecture Magazine’s Best of 2006, and Travel and Leisure’s Design Award in 2007 for best cultural space.
Minneapolis truly is a culturally rich destination. For more information on what to see and do in Minneapolis, visit http://www.minneapolis.org.
Spotlight On: Minneapolis
Minneapolis' best bars to wet one's whistle during the cold winter months...
By Matt Rydeen
A true Minneapolitan could wax poetically about the bars in this beautiful city all night long. Minneapolis is home to the most unique places to wet your whistle in all of the United States.
Taking in gorgeous views of the downtown skyline reflected casually along the Mississippi River’s surface, one could easily lose track of time altogether. Even in the autumn, with the trees burning brightly red and yellow and a slight chill in the air, St. Anthony Main captures romantics at heart with its endless charm.
When old man winter settles in over the city, it is as if time has slowed almost to a complete stop. A few brave souls embrace the snow-covered landscape with a variety of activities to keep the blood flowing, from ice skating to snow shoeing to snowboarding and skiing.
But really, what does one do when the streets have yet to be plowed and the cars are buried beneath impossibly heavy blankets of snow? Retreat to one of any number of the city’s wonderful dive bars, of course!
The camaraderie and warmth of the locals coupled with the sinfully amazing spirits is the perfect combination with which to survive even the fiercest snowpocalypse.
Here's my top five favorite winter haunts in Minneapolis...
1900 Marshall Street NE
In 2003, the original location for this tiki-themed paradise was in a converted A&W Drive-In restaurant. Hipsters, business folk, and suburban housewives alike gathered beneath straw thatched umbrellas next to giant wooden totems with jeweled eyes, sipping knock-you-on-your-ass cocktails like the Leilani’s Fire Bowl, “48 ounces of liquor-on-fire nonsense,” or, for the less adventurous, wine in a box in a bag with a straw -reminiscent of kids’ juice boxes with a touch of homeless-chic.
Suzi, in her raging psychosis, quickly outgrew the space, and in 2010, she moved into flashier digs right along the river’s edge. The eclectic patrons are decidedly similar, and you can still count on your service staff to be heavily tattooed and pierced. Psycho Suzi’s boasts three indoor bars — the Shrunken Head, the Forbidden Cove, and Ports of Pleasure — with the house band, Exotik-A-Go-Go, playing wonderfully ethereal tunes every Friday and Saturday nights.
And what’s the best part about the new location, you might ask? The enormous Polynesian-themed riverfront patio, of course! One of the best outdoor patios in the city (as well as dog-friendly).
Parking can be a bit of a challenge. It is best to take a cab (yay, more tiki drinks for you!) or, at the very least, spring for the valet.
A bit of foreshadowing: Psycho Suzi’s alleged sister, Betty Danger, will be opening a Country Club “for the other 99 percent,” featuring a taco and beer hut, mini-golf, and a 60-foot, slow-moving Ferris wheel, with gondolas designed to accommodate eating, drinking, and view-taking. You can join her at the “country club on crack” sometime in November of 2014.
617 Central Avenue SE
Remember those tacky velvet paintings of dogs sitting around playing poker while drinking and smoking cigarettes? No? Well the giant mural on the outside of the Otter’s Saloon might refresh your memory: well-dressed otters socialize at the bar while sipping cocktails beneath a sign that reads “U Otter Stop Inn.”
The space itself is quaint yet inviting, with a long bar, friendly bartenders, and a few tables tucked inside the triangularly shaped building. Don’t miss happy hour from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day, or spin the wheel anytime and “let the Otter choose your shot!”
The Otter also boasts karaoke 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with an enormous catalogue of songs to choose from − also available to browse online.
2021 Hennepin Avenue
When isn’t it happy hour at Liquor Lyle’s?
During their self-proclaimed “World Famous Happy Hour,” which seems to be almost any hour I’ve ever been at Lyle’s, any cocktail is 2 for 1. Rail and top-shelf pours alike.
Lyle’s is a classic, seedy dive bar, with a great juke box, darts and pool in the back room, and a fantastic menu of greasy, mouth-watering bar food. Saddle up at the large, rectangular bar, or choose from the numerous red vinyl booths throughout – you will feel right at home in this friendly, large-ish space.
Donnie Dirk's Zombie Den
2027 N 2nd Street
The unnatural neon green sign above the bar reads “Undead Frank Lives.”
In 2009, one of Minneapolis’s most notorious bars, Stand Up Frank’s, closed for good. The former bar was a sketchy, narrow space allegedly frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes.
The transformation to Donnie Dirk’s was something straight out of the kitschy pages of old-school Las Vegas. Reputed to be one of the best zombie den’s in the world, Donnie Dirk’s is definitely one of my all-time favorite winter haunts.
Cozy up, order one of the many delicious specialty cocktails, a.k.a. “Zombie Poisons”, and watch a zombie flick while the snow flies outside the heavily black-curtained windows.
There is a “Bat Phone” to order delicious morsels delivered straight from its sister bar, Psycho Suzi’s, if you find you can’t bear to face the outside world – and zombie killing kits in the bathrooms, just in case.
The Vegas Lounge
965 Central Avenue NE
Every great night of bar-hopping should end at the Vegas Lounge.
From the moment you step inside this unassuming space, you will feel as though you have entered a small-town, northern Minnesota bar. The friendly staff and patrons, meat raffles, bar bingo, and cheap strong drinks make the Vegas Lounge a great place to show up half in the bag expecting to have an amazing time making new best friends and then forgetting them all in the morning.
Voted best karaoke bar in the Twin Cities by the well-respected local offbeat newspaper the City Pages, you can sing your heart out 7 days a week from 9 p.m. to close. Get there early if you intend to sing, as the requests start piling up before you know it – although it’s more likely that all of your friends will have already sang without your noticing while you’ve been “busy” making out with that hipster in the corner.
Minnesot-ah good times
Spotlight On: Bemidji, MN
By A.A. Miln
With the new series of Fargo gaining international acclaim, the small town of Bemidji, MN, has become somewhat famous despite its humble nature.
Renowned for its blazing snow storms and locals possessing over-the-top Scandavian accents and a love for tatertot hotdish, there's a lot more to this town than the somewhat negative stereotypes that prevail.
While the winter months can definitely be unforgiving with temparatures dipping to Siberian lows of -50F, the summer months are glorious, with temperatures soaring to the 80s-90s. Given the extreme influx of temperatures throughout the year, locals are a hearty bunch who take pride in their ability to withstand all seasons.
If you're planning a visit, June-August are the best months to enjoy favourable weather. During the height of summer, locals enjoy the great outdoors and all it has to offer from fishing to water skiing or simply enjoying a boat cruise around one of the many lakes in the area.
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
No trip to Bemidji is complete without visiting the statue of folklore hero Paul Bunyan and his trusty companion Babe the Blue Ox. Every year thousands of visitors flock to have their photo taken with this plaid-clad lumberjack, who at 18ft tall, towers over visitors. Totally kitsch, it needs to be seen to be believed!
The great outdoors
Other excursions worth embarking on include a visit to Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and Buena Vista State Forest, both of which offer traditional camping in the heart of the Northwoods. Just be careful that you don't leave any food out, as you may have some unwelcome company in the form of black bears or racoons, which are one of the many mammals that call Minnesota home!
Bemidji sporting excursions
Minnesotans love any excuse to enjoy the outdoors and with this comes a passion for outdoor sports of all varieties.
Fishing is an obsession for many, and anglers are spoilt for choice when it comes to great fishing spots. Lake Bemidji is often heralded as one of the best fishing lakes in Minnesota, with fishermen visiting in droves to catch Walleye, Northern Pike, Muskies, Bass and Sunnies.
Minnesota law dictates that both residents and visitors must apply for a fishing license before one can even think about their bountiful catch. Licenses can be purchased from a variety of shops and are available for as little as 24 hours or the entire fishing season.
For more information on fishing in Bemidji, visit http://www.visitbemidji.com/summer/fishing.html.
The Bemidji Town & Country Club is the best golf course in the area. Located on the North Shore of Lake Bemidji, majestic Norway pines surround the manicured greens, providing a picturesque and serene spot - perfect for a day of relaxing golf. After a round of golf, unwind with cocktails in the North Shore Grill Bar and Restaurant.
Fish is fabulous and fresh in Minnesota given the abundance of lakes in the state. After all, they don't call it the Land of 10,000 Lakes without reason!
Sparkling Waters Restaurant
One of the more upmarket restaurants in town, Sparkling Waters offers a wealth of delicious entrees including Walleye Almondine or Top Sirloin and Quail. In the summer months, enjoy cocktails or entrees on the patio overlooking the lake, hence its namesake.
If it's Italian you're after, than look no further than Tuttobene. This delightfully chic Italian restaurant in downtown Bemidji serves up authentic Italian fare in a relaxed environment. Offerings include a variety of dishes such as Ricotta Cavatelli (fresh cavatelli, house-smoked cheddar, broccolini and mustard crumbs) and Wild Snowcrab Ravioli (fresh pasta, snow crab, chives, cherry tomato and smoked prosciutto).
Culture vultures will love the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, which regularly features a variety of plays.
For a schedule of what's on, visit http://www.thechieftheater.com.
Whatever you get up to in Bemidji, you're certain to feel relaxed as the laidback vibe and friendly attitude are contagious. Find out for yourself why it's the coolest little town in the Northwoods...
For more information on Bemidji, visit http://www.visitbemidji.com.
Roosters and romance - Fall in love with the island of discovery...
By A.A. Miln
While it's becoming increasingly difficult to find bits of Hawaii that are truly unspoilt from modern day commercialism, Kauai still possesses some of the charm that many of the Hawaiian islands lack.
The Garden Isle
The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain, and the fourth largest of the Hawaiian islands, this beautiful island also known as the “Garden Isle,” is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Emerald valleys, tropical rainforests and soaring cliffs juxtaposed against the crystal clear blue ocean, demand awe from even the most seasoned traveller.
As soon as you arrive, it becomes apparent that this is a destination like no other. Many parts of the island remain remote, accessible only by sea or air, adding to its mystical allure.
Wherever you go, you're certain to find amazing hospitality and a carefree attitude embraced by all of the locals. And surprisingly, you'll also find yourself surrounded by a more than a few more unique island natives - roosters.
Locals often debate how the roosters came to arrive on the island, with one of the theories revolving around Hurricane Iniki, which Hit Kauai in 1992, decimating chicken farms and setting them free to roam. However they came to live on the island, they don't appear to be going anywhere any time soon. That being said, once you've settled into your surroundings, you'll hardly notice their presence - even with the inevitable 4 am morning crows!
Whatever you do, ensure that you allow yourself enough time to truly relax. Whether you're an adventure enthusiast or a sun lounger lizard, there really is something for everyone.
Must-see destinations in Kauai
For those visiting the North Shore, sail around the Napili Coast, take in the art galleries at Hanalei Town or visit the Kilauea Lighthouse, a wildlife sanctuary with sensational views. If you're heading to the East Shore, a.k.a 'Coconut Coast', take in the amazing Opaekka Falls or the Fern Grotto, a popular wedding destination. If your travels take you to the West side of the island, check out the famous Waimea Canyon or Hanapeepee Town, Kauai's 'biggest little town'.
Hawaiian Coffee - Kauai Coffee Company
Regardless of which side of the island you choose to visit, ensure that every day is spent enjoying the sun upon your face with a mug of premium Hawaiian coffee in hand. With the internationally renowned Kauai Coffee Company on the island (the largest coffee estate in the U.S.), you're never far away from a great cup of coffee.
If like me, you're looking for the perfect equation for the 'good life', start with sun, sea, sand, scenery and sensational coffee and you're half way there.
Until next time - Aloha.
For more information on Kauai or Hawaii, visit:
For killer coffee, visit http://www.kauaicoffee.com.
From majestic mountains to slick cities to rural areas and stunning beaches, there's something for everyone in North America.