Category: American travel

Hot Huntsville

                                                     Early Masonic lodge in Huntsville

Huntsville is hot. No, it’s a super nova! Known as Space City for its marvelous museum focused on the US space program and associated “space camp’ (more in a future article), Huntsville, in far northern Alabama (close to Tennessee), is a great destination for a family vacation.

When Huntsville was designated the site of a convention I attended, my first reaction was “Why Huntsville?” But Huntsville offers a lot. In 1950 the city was tiny, but then it became the center of rocket development for the US. Engineers poured in, and today the city has the highest number of engineers per capita than anywhere in the US. Forbes lists Huntsville in the top 10 smartest communities in the world. These smart people have been very proactive in converting a sleepy Southern town into a fantastic city.

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Get Thee to the Brooklyn Flea

The venerable Williamsburg Savings Bank Building in downtown Brooklyn stood for years as the tallest building around. Its clock tower served as the timepiece for the surrounding neighborhoods, and its clock face was the largest ever at the time. Built in 1927 in a modernized Byzantine-Romanesque style that is hard to duplicate today, with large amounts of limestone and marble accompanied by beautiful mosaics and tinted windows, it was, and remains, an architectural masterpiece. Eventually it was eclipsed by taller buildings, converted in part to luxury loft condominiums, and today the old bank floor with its 63-foot-high ceiling is the centerpiece of one of the coolest uses you can think of … a Saturday flea market known as the Brooklyn Flea.

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If the Stetson Fits, Wear It

Stetson. Today the brand is almost synonymous with Texas itself, despite the fact that only some of the hats are made here, and the company started in Philadelphia. Since the beginning of the Stetson Hat company in 1865, the company has grown to be the largest hat manufacturer in America. Many of its hats are made in a Garland factory, along with those of Dallas’ home-grown Resistol brand which it acquired. You can tour the process and come away with a better understanding of what goes into making each hat. It takes many highly skilled artisans using some modernized equipment but mainly relying on older machinery which is no longer manufactured and, even if it were, using outdated designs replacement of which would be extremely costly. Upgrading a single sewing machine capable of specialized stitching (and there are rows of them), for example, would cost about $25,000.

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Main Street America Close to New York City

 Two and one-half hours of easy driving north of New York City, on the fashionable east side of the Hudson River, you hit the town of Hudson, N.Y. You can reach Hudson by train using Amtrak, too.

What you’ll find is a town that has, in recent years, been discovered by people who once lived in Brooklyn and those who like to get away from Brooklyn for a weekend. They have flooded the town creating a Mecca of sophistication in the middle of rural New York. Because they have bid up prices, don’t expect to find real estate here for a steal anymore. You missed those days. But if you’re looking for an unusual, quiet, rural town for a vacation, Hudson is a place that hasn’t yet been overrun by tourists.

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When Dallas was Las Vegas

Hideaway roulette wheel in mirrored box

 Layover in Dallas-Fort Worth? Near DFW airport, take time to visit the #1 attraction rated by  Trip Advisor in the area. You’ll need to take a taxi to arrive. Make advance arrangements to visit this little-known, off the beaten trail, one-of-a-kind place that is a hidden treasure, a place steeped in history, an attraction that you skip at your peril, a Texas Historic Landmark since 2004. It’s also a place where in the 1930’s a huge treasure passed hands nightly, reputedly ½ million dollars—worth a lot back more back then!

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New York Isn’t All City

                                                              The goat gives evil eye

When people think of New York, they think of the Big Apple, New York City, but New York is also home to a great rural life worth exploring.

Drive a mere one and one-half hours north of the center of The City and you’re smack dab in the Catskill Mountains with its farms, ski resorts, and rich history.

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Eating Korean without Traveling to Asia

My wife and I decided we’d like to experience Korea without flying nearly ½ day to actually visit. An Asian friend (she happens to be Chinese) clued us into a fantastic “Little Korea” area of Dallas that is not well known but certainly will be soon. You can be one of the first non-Asians to discover it.

Little Korea is fascinating. There you will find many Korean bar-b-que restaurants. We decided to head for one of the newest, Gen, a concept out of California whose first store opened in this area in October after a long opening delay. The wait was worth it. If there is a Little Korea in your city, I’m sure it’s very similar.

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American Diner

Diner car exterior

If you haven’t eaten in a true “diner,” you’re missing out on one of the quintessential remnants of American history. The largest number of remaining diners are spread through New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. In Texas, the closest thing to a diner is a Waffle House, whose design intentionally mimics that of the original diners.

What makes diners special? They serve very large, sometimes greasy meals (main dish, side and drink) for around $10, and usually include classic American desserts on the menu — things like especially delicious homemade cheesecake, apple and blueberry pies — that you cannot easily duplicate elsewhere. The food offerings have great variety, but you typically won’t find a paper menu. Rather the menu is posted on a board on the wall. Today (for some unknown reason) many diners are operated by Americans of Greek descent, so the menu and desserts include Greek specialties along with “New York” favorites.

Diner car inside (more…)

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Fun on Trains

Lots of retail

Do you like striking up a conversation with a total stranger? Maybe you like people watching. In either case, you should consider a trip on America’s trains. It’s a great way to meet and observe fascinating people while seeing a lot of scenery.

America’s trains are not as fast as Japan’s and not as luxurious as the Orient Express, but they offer a unique charm. They usually have quiet cars where people aren’t supposed to talk loudly, so work or sleep comes easier. There are snack bars and some have white tablecloth dining rooms with white-gloved waiters. Amtrak could be extended to go more places, but there is no way you could ride the entire system as it is today.

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National Parks of New York City

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National parks in New York City? Yes, there are 10. You probably already know one of them — the Statute of Liberty National Monument and nearby Ellis Island form a park. All are fascinating. On this centennial of the national park system, I thought we’d look at national parks in the Big Apple. Wherever I go the national parks never cease to live up to their great reputation. While many national parks attract a large number of visitors, the national parks of New York City aren’t super busy.

Only one national park in the New York City is suitable for camping out. The Gateway National Recreation Area is spread over multiple New York City boroughs and New Jersey. It consists of many refuges for local wildlife, mainly native birds and small animals. Its 27,000 acres are hard to summarize, so check it out online. There is no entrance fee but there are parking fees. Campsites for people who would rather sleep outdoors during their New York City visit are available.

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