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FREE is GOOD! Part 3 of a 3 part series

Posted: July 1st, 2013 by

Macy's 4th of July Parade flickr image by Joyce Andes

Macy’s 4th of July Parade
flickr image by Joyce Andes

Why not Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our country? You might head over to Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing for the Philadelphia Orchestra Neighborhood Concert or simply watch the fireworks at the Philly 4th of July Jam.

If Philly is not on your mind, perhaps the beauty of the Smoky Mountains is calling your name – so head over to UNC’s Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to hear live music by Kenny Mann and Liquid Pleasure, and a spectacular light up the sky fireworks display. You don’t want to miss the watermelon eating contest as well . . .

Flickr image by NYC Marines

Flickr image by NYC Marines

Nashville “Music City” 4th of July celebration is a must attend event . . . “ If there’s one thing Nashville knows how to do, it’s throw a party.” . . . . “Get ready for a day full of FREE LIVE MUSIC (including The Band Perry), family fun and incredible fireworks in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee at the Lawn at Riverfront Park.”

Flickr image by Curtis Palmer

Flickr image by Curtis Palmer

Why not “Spend the Fourth of July in the Nations Capital and celebrate with fireworks and festivals,” featuring an Independence Day parade with marching bands, patriotic floats; and then there’s the 90-minute music extravaganza with a “rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture” and live canon fire!

Want to learn more, look at the links at the end of the blog.


No doubt your town or city has something planned, so why not grill up those hamburgers and hotdogs, then head on down to the fireworks display where the echo of ooohs and ahhhs can be heard as we celebrate America’s birthday! For more details on these events check out these websites:

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FREE is Good! (part 2 of a 3 part series)

Posted: June 11th, 2013 by

What’s the buzz about, you ask?

Coker Aboretum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Wikemedia image

Coker Aboretum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Wikemedia image

There are FREE tours on each 3rd Saturday at the North Carolina Botanical Garden located in one of the most beautiful University campuses in the nation: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This includes Coker Arboretum. June 23rd and June 29th both feature “Honey beehive and summer wildflowers and pollination tours,” where you will learn that “bees are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the world’s food and produce. You’ll also be treated (rain or shine) to a 60-minute long tour of the Display Gardens and get a close-up look at their new pollinator garden. For more information about events, check out http://ncbg.unc.edu/calendar/

A special footnote: Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the display gardens (inside fenced areas) but leashed dogs are allowed on the Piedmont Nature Trails.

Not into flora and fauna? Well, how about salty seas and sailors?

Wikimedia image is of the rotunda steps leading to Memorial Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy

Wikimedia image is of the rotunda steps leading to Memorial Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy

You’ll need a valid government ID (such as driver’s license or passport) to enter the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, but entry to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum is FREE. The museum has been housed in various locations at the Academy since it was founded in 1845. It underwent a complete renovation in 2007 and 2008, officially reopening in 2009. Some of the exhibits feature the story of the U.S. Navy, “the largest collection of seventeenth and eighteen-century ship models on public display in North America,” and virtual restoration of old ship models and the building of new ship models. You might want to visit this website to get additional information on exhibits and your visit to the U.S. Naval Academy’s Museum: http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/org8_Visit.htm

USS Barry Display Ship, decommissioned November 1982 - Wikimedia image

USS Barry Display Ship, decommissioned November 1982 – Wikimedia image

USS Constitution Wikimedia image

USS Constitution
Wikimedia image

No matter if your interests are in tall ships, like the USS Constitution aka “Old Ironsides” the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world still afloat (docked in Boston Harbor), or more modern day sea vessels, like the decommissioned battleship USS Barry where History comes alive at the U.S. Navy Museum at the Washington Navy Yards in Washington DC. You can tour both for FREE, and by the way, if you can’t visit Boston any time soon, take a virtual tour of the USS Constitution. For more information and details, visit http://www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution/visitor_info.html
and http://www.hnsa.org/ships/barry.htm

Be sure to look for part 3 in this 3 part series where we will explore FREE 4th of July events.

FREE is Good! (part 1 of a 3 part series)

Posted: May 29th, 2013 by

beach by vlitvinov
Schools out, and while many folks plan their summer vacation well in advance, there are that many more who don’t. All, however, face the daunting task of where to take the family, especially if children are involved. Pets are also often a consideration as to whether to leave them with a caretaker or pack their leashes and include them in the summer fun.

The cost of getting away can be a factor, and often dictates how far one can go and how long they can stay. Let’s face it, vacations can be quite costly; I have therefore collected a montage of fun or interesting places for the family, focusing on FREE. I have even included a post script where the family pet is concerned. Read on . . .

marine helicopter by ahisgettAlabama bound? Why not visit the U.S. Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where admission is FREE and it has a kid-friendly environment. A Trip Advisor review stated, “Interesting and kid friendly . . . our 9 year old especially loved it as there was a helicopter he could climb into.”

An interesting factoid: Fort Rucker is a U.S. Army Aviation Center training military, civilian and international personnel in aviation and leadership skills and is situated in SE Alabama near the Florida and Georgia State lines. It is also near Enterprise Alabama, a city that built and dedicated a monument to an agricultural pest, the Boll Weevil (the only monument of its kind in the world).

A popular outdoor recreation area is Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park

A popular outdoor recreation area is
Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park

Families who live in or near Arkansas are indeed lucky. Check out their on-line calendar featuring FREE FUN ACTIVITIES and EVENTS for the entire year, including the 28th Annual Steamboat Days in Des Arc, or the 42nd Annual Smackover Oil Town Festival and you won’t want to miss Donkey Day: The True Spirit of Independence on the 4th of July in Mountain View.

You might easily hear the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” when visiting the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest near Louisville, Kentucky. Admission is FREE but there may be a ‘nominal’ Environmental Impact Fee for vehicles during the weekends and holidays. Some events to look for during the summer months include ECO Kids Discovery Day on June 1st, then on June 2, bring the whole family for FREE Fishing Days at Berhneim’s Cedar Pond and Holly Pond.

Photo courtesy St. Louis Zoo.org

Photo courtesy St. Louis Zoo.org

Admission to one of the most well-known Zoos in North America is FREE; however, there are nominal costs for various attractions at the St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri. If you get there early, during the first hour of operation, you can ride the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel FREE, featuring “64 colorful hand-carved wooden animals, representing protected and endangered species at the Saint Louis Zoo,” or visit the Children’s Zoo at no cost as well. Another FREE thing in St. Louis is simply observing the iconic Gateway Arch.

Be sure to read part 2 of this 3 part series on FREE is Good!

We Remember . . .

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 by

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Arlington National Cemetery Wikimedia Commons Image Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – Arlington National Cemetery
Wikimedia Commons Image

Memorial Day is seen differently by many.  There are those who see it as a 3-day holiday, time to gather with friends and family for a backyard BBQ or a picnic in the park.  Others look at it as the start of summer vacation.  Depending on the area you live you might appreciate the warmth it brings; a real end to late spring winter-like weather.  Often young people see it as the official ending of the school year with visions of sleeping late or playing the day away. Late May is also a gardeners’ delight.  No matter how you view Memorial Day, there is one constant for the last Monday in May It is a Day of Remembrance.

Three years after the end of the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established Decoration Day (with the first large observance held at Arlington National Cemetery) a day set aside to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers, on May 30, a time when most flowers were in bloom throughout the country. 

Memorial Day Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Memorial Day
Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Major General John A. Logan declared, in 1868, “to decorate graves with the choicest of flowers of spring time. . . we should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. . . let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

There has been some dispute though as to the birthplace of Memorial Day with approximately 25 places named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, and although many were in the south, the official birthplace of Memorial Day was declared in 1966, when Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day; then by an act of Congress in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday and to honor those who have died in American wars.  In December 2000, Congress passed The National Moment of Remembrance Act, to remember all of America’s fallen heroes.

Interestingly enough, tourism bridges all that is associated with Memorial Day, for the likelihood of travel is a given.

Viet Nam War Memorial Wikimedia Commons Image

Viet Nam War Memorial
Wikimedia Commons Image

Here is a list of some events taking place on Memorial Day ‘Weekend’ 2013

• Saturday, May 25 – 1:00-5:00 pm & May 27 – FREE admission – National Veterans Art Museum – Chicago, Illinois – Exhibit: Tenacity and Truth: People, Places and memories – Note: May 25 – 11:00 am – Wreath Laying Ceremony, Richard J. Daley Center Plaza, Chicago, IL – Parade to follow at Noon – on State Street (from lake Street to Van Buren Street) – For more information visit: www.nvam.org

• Monday, May 27 – 5:45 pm. (FREE admission) – across the river from downtown Wilmington, NCUSS Battleship North Carolina – 48th Annual Observance – visit www.battleshipnc.com/Events/MemorialDay

• Friday, May 24 – Monday, May 27 – Atlanta JAZZ Festival – Atlanta, GA / Chastain Park, Piedmont Park / Loews Atlanta Hotel – for complete schedule and details visit: www.atlanta.net/visitors/atlanta-jazz-festival.html

• Sunday, May 26 – National Memorial Day Concert – 8:00 p.m. (FREE) – West lawn of the U.S. Capitol – Washington, D.C. For more information visit:dc.about.com/od/specialeventphotos1/ss/MemDayConcert.htm

• Friday, May 24 – Electric Run – 8:20 – 11:00 pm – Begin from Home Depot Center – (Carson) Los Angeles, California. Check website for cost and details: www.electricrun.com/losangeles

• Here are some other sites to visit with details about their Memorial Day Weekend Events:

Please join our company and employees, and our franchises, in taking a moment to reflect in appreciation for those persons who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

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Awe-Inspiring Tourism Sites: For the Nature-Lover in All of Us . . .

Posted: May 9th, 2013 by

I just recently read the latest issue of Vacations where they featured 12 awe-inspiring U.S. preserves. I have always enjoyed nature, as I’m sure many of our blog readers do, so I thought why not join in and feature some lesser know but equally ‘awe’ inspiring natural habitats that just might encourage you to load up the family and hit the road…

orange-chinned parakeet flickr sussexbirderWildwood Wildlife and Nature Center (aka Zoo of the Northwoods in Minocqua) is the 2nd largest zoo in Wisconsin, where you can get “up close and personal” while you have lunch at the all new Jambo Hut overlooking the Giraffe Serengeti habitat area, or with kiddies in hand you might want to have an interactive Budgie encounter where over 500 beautiful parakeets intermingle with the zoo’s guests. For those not into new-found feathered friends, you might want to bottle feed any number of animal bottle babies in their interactive petting zoo. Note: flickr photo of the two orange chinned parakeets is by sussexbirder

Perhaps one of the most unusual ‘animal type preserve’ is Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, just south of Atlanta, where more than 1,000 exotic, wildlife and domestic animals call home, living side-by-side, as witnessed in these photos. The only way to do this sanctuary justice is to simply point you to their website.

Maybe you’re not into areas of confinement: if so, then the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway provides plenty of wide-open spaces, impressive any time of year, but more so in the Spring and Fall seasons when millions of migrating birds rest their wings and refuel at the Byway Wetlands. The region is filled with other species as well where you can find “burrowing owls to bobcats.”

The 77-mile Byway, including a stretch of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas, connects two of the “world’s most significant wetlands” (Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge), and may very well change your vision of the Sunflower State.

Cheyenne Bottoms - photo by dr da wittCheyenne Bottoms is the largest interior marsh in the United States and one of the “most important shorebird migration stopover points in the Western Hemisphere where more than half of all shorebirds that migrate east of the Rockies pass through this 40,000-acre lowland” . . . and surely a favorite of ‘peepers’ also known as bird watchers.

It is said “there remain only a handful of natural places on this planet that display a vast, timeless, landscape,” places like the wetlands treasure, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Others include the Serengeti, the Everglades and the Amazon . . . all a wonder to behold.

bl tail jr wikimiAnother phenomenon that is part of this ecological wonder is the presence of the black tailed Jack Rabbit, where in Kansas it is a sport to hunt Jack Rabbits on horseback and with Greyhound dogs. These rabbits can run up to 40 mph and leap up to 25 feet in one bound. There are also bison, prairie dogs and the not so well known “magic muck” which sustains life for the many species that have a temporary or permanent home in the wetlands.

The beauty of nature is captivating, and we indeed are fortunate to have places such as the Zoo of the Northwoods, Noah’s Ark, and Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway. So, if touring Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, or ‘scoping’ out lava in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not on your list this year, perhaps Kansas, Wisconsin and Georgia are on your mind . . .

Time to Hit the Road . . . . Take in the Sites . . . . Lots to See and Do!

Posted: April 16th, 2013 by

Soon it will be summer – time to think about weekend excursions, week-long vacations or simply just getting away. How about unique architectural tourist finds? They say, “don’t judge a book by its cover” but in Kansas City it’s the book covers that will entice you to look a little deeper. Add to this mix a couple of festivals and we’re off to a good start.

kite by flythebirdpathBy the way, if someone tells you to ‘go fly a kite’ you might be visiting Kansas City, and they just might be talking about Lee’s Summit, just south of KC, where the MCC-Lonview Flights of Fancy Kite Festival is taking place on April 20th. The KC Kite Club is holding this one-of-a-kind event (in the region) on the picturesque grounds at the MCC-Longview campus. Along with the world’s largest windsock (three stories high and 200’ long) you’ll be treated to an inflatable maze, face painting and plenty of great food like the Chartroose Caboose, and KC Poppers.

Kansas City Central Library Wikimedia image

Kansas City Central Library
Wikimedia image

Kansas City Central Library 5th Floor Wikimedia image

Kansas City Central Library 5th Floor
Wikimedia image

While your in KC, you’re sure to get the kids excited in reading again when you drive by the Kansas City Public Library and see the ‘community bookshelf’ . . . where Kansas City, Missouri residents were given an opportunity to select book titles that would appear on a unique wall front of the central library’s parking Garage. You may not check out a book, but you’ll definitely want to check out the 5th floor and play a little chess where the king and queen chess pieces are over 5’ tall.

Bullock County Courthouse Wikimedia image

Bullock County Courthouse Wikimedia image

For 34 years the Chunnenuggee Fair has taken place in Union Springs, Alabama . . . in the historic downtown area where the 1872 “Second Empire Bullock County Courthouse” still stands. CHUNNENUGGEE is an American Indian name for the long, high ridge that extends from NE Bullock County through SW Bullock County, which was also the name for a settlement (around the 1830’s – 1860’s) about five miles northeast of Union Springs in southeast Alabama. Mark April 27, 2013 for this day-long fair, featuring made-from scratch cakes, plenty of BBQ and other scrumptious southern food, live music, crafts and games.

A little bit of Trivia: Bullock County was named for Col. Edward C. Bullock who has a prominent descendant; academy-award-winning actress, Sandra Bullock

Longaberger Company, Dresden, Ohio Wikimedia image

Longaberger Company, Dresden, Ohio
Wikimedia image

The distance is not too great between Muskingum County (city of Dresden), where the Longaberger Company is located to Vinton County (city of McArthur) where the Wild Turkey Festival has taken place over the past 25 years – mark your calendar for May 2-5 for this year’s Wild Turkey Festival featuring a car show, carnival rides and games, nightly live performances, a Grand Parade and crowing of the Wild Turkey Festival Queen. So stop by and pick out a picnic basket at the unique building built to house American manufactured baskets of all types at the Longaberger Company, then trek on down to McArthur where plenty of great food and fun awaits the whole family.

So there you have it; touring a giant picnic basket, playing with larger-than-life chess pieces, kite-flying, or simply joining in on the fun of a local festival might just be the way to kick-start your late Spring or early summer leisure time.

Not Necessarily Off the Beaten Path . . .

Posted: March 1st, 2013 by

I just love being a curator of tourist-ific information to pass along to visitors to our travel blog, Get-packin, so when I happened upon another great travel website I became quite excited , especially when it comes to conjuring up places to visit – you know, those out of the way places found along the nation’s byways . . .

beartooth mountain by B.S. TownsendI hope to whet your appetite for some new travel finds using this great resource! There are recommended byways in 46 states plus a dozen or more multi-state byways reflected, such as Beartooth Highway which meanders across the rugged Beartooth Mountain Range, providing a dramatic view and unparalleled wildlife watching in the states of Montana and Wyoming. There are also more than a dozen local resources through a variety of Chamber of Commerce offices located in both states.

Civil war buffs in particular; or for that matter anyone interested in America’s history, will appreciate this 180 mile Journey Through Hallowed Ground byway, that encompasses the beauty and history of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Here you can take a journey and see nine presidential homes and sites, more than a dozen national and state parks, at least 50 or more historic towns and villages, nearly a dozen historic homes, 100’s of Civil War battlefields and 1,000’s of historical sites. No matter where you start from, the journey from Gettysburg to Monticello will be one you will soon not forget.

Some highlights of this journey might be:
• Leesburg, VA – “a school in Leesburg, VA named for Frederick Douglass was the first built and paid for by African-Americans”
MonticelloPresident Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farm near Gettysburg
• Monticello – home of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States
• Harpers Ferry National Park

Also a good resource for learning which route to take is to click on the print n go tool. This not only identifies the route you need to take but it includes accessibility information as well as bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and a detailed map.

new river gorge bridge and sandstone fallsIf you’ve ever watched the movie “Coal Miners Daughter” about the life of country music legend, Loretta Lynn, then you might find the Coal Heritage Trail of interest (although Lynn hailed from Kentucky where there were many coal mines as well). Here you can get a first hand look at the history and culture of the coal industry, as well as breathtaking views in rustic West Virginia, especially during early fall when a kaleidoscope of autumn hues covers the landscape with gold, red, orange and brown foliage. A key attraction in this area is also the world’s second largest single arch steel span, the “New River Gorge Bridge” . . .

so creek falls and dilophosaurusFolks who are prehistoric fans and fact finders will find the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway of major interest, as they journey in search of culture and archaeology where dinosaurs once roamed the land of Colorado and Utah. The excitement of a new discovery, along with breathtaking panoramas of these beautiful western states is definitely worth traveling along this byway.

If you’re looking for something a little tamer, then why not drive along A1A Scenic Highway Historic Coastal Byway in Florida with miles and miles of golden sand beaches. Be sure to bring along the sun tan lotion, sun glasses and a blanket to spread out, perfect for watching those beautiful east coast sunrises, or for those of you looking for that perfect sunset on the California coast, your route is the San Luis Obispo North Coastal Byway.

Your ticket for all these wonderful travel experiences and confirmation as to why we call our home “America the Beautiful” is www.byways.org . . . why not take time to explore a byway near you and capture these travel memories to last a lifetime.

February . . . It’s All About Fenders and Foodies!

Posted: February 1st, 2013 by

I had meant for the title of this blog to be “February . . . it’s all about Feathers, Fenders and Foodies,” but alas, one of the two teams going to the Superbowl this year are not birds of a feather so to speak. Although honorable mention will be given to the Superbowl’s venue in the big easy – a touristy site if ever there was one, at the end of this blog.

Daytona 500 practice run

Daytona 500 practice run – Image from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve always thought of February as being a ho hum month, except for Valentines Day of course. If you’re one of those outdoorsy types; you know, snow bunny, skier, skater, angel wings maker, and are fortunate enough to live where snow flakes abound then you probably favor the month of February. For many others though this is the time of year when most days are dreary, some cold, possibly some snow and ice, but for the most part just blah! There are exceptions though, like sunny Florida, where tourism seems to shine even on a cloudy day.

Snowbirds have flocked to this coastal state for eons, escaping frigid temperatures in the northern climes, and automotive race fans, ever faithful to their sport, have been heading southward, since 1959, when the much anticipated DAYTONA-500, a major sports and tourist event has grown by leaps and bounds every year with more venues added pre and post race; so much so that you can virtually go from one event to another for the entire month.

A typical scene around South Beach - flickr image by Phillip Pessar

A typical scene around South Beach – flickr image by Phillip Pessar

It’s not just about roaring engines and sand and sea though; for instance, if you’re a “foodie” then the don’t-miss event is in South Florida (which precedes the Daytona 500 this year). The SOBEWFF (South Beach Wine & Food Festival) isn’t nearly as old as Daytona’s premier event, but with the presence of Food Network’s royalty; i.e., Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri, Paula Deen, and many other well known celebrity chefs, its’ ever-growing audience of foodies and Food Network coverage has made this a must attend tourist ‘food’ event.

By the way, while you are traveling along the highways and by-ways in the sunshine state, why not take a detour and visit some of these touristy sites:

Dolphin flickr image by Just Taken Pics

Dolphin flickr image by Just Taken Pics

• Fort Lauderdale – In the pink at Flamingo Gardens or Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin World
• Fort Myers – Take me out to the ball game at Boston Red Sox Spring Training
• Orlando – Mind blowing WonderWorks Orlando or Universal CityWalk
• St. Augustine – The original Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum or Black Raven a Pirate ship

. . . or try one of these two scenic routes. For more ideas, go to http://www.visitflorida.com/insiders/Off-the-Beaten-Path

• Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway and Tamiami Trail
Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway

Black bearFor those of you who won’t be taking a virtual tour of Florida, you may want to visit Florida’s lost tourist attractions to see what you may have missed long before foodies and fenders were the big thing in the sunshine state.

That is, unless your destination is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, located at 1500 Sugar Bowl Drive in New Orleans. Here fans will be treated to a football blow out ala 49’rs versus the Ravens, cool jazz, and all the Po-Boys, Gumbo, Craw Fish Etoufee, Jambalaya, Muffulettas and Beignets they can wash down with those famous Hurricane drinks from Pat O’Briens and other French Quarter eateries and establishments along “Rue Bourbon.”

We all know the month of February is a short month, so let’s make the most of it . . .

The greatest resource for travel to Florida is www.visitflorida.com and if you’re heading to the big easy,visit New Orleans tourism site.

. . . “Run, Forest, Run!” . . .

Posted: January 15th, 2013 by

During the holidays I watched one of my favorites, a re-run of Forest Gump; and while viewing the scene where he begins to run a long-distance marathon from here, there and everywhere, an idea formed for a blog.  Why not write about marathons?

I can honestly say I have never run in a marathon, but I have participated in a number of volksmarches, have hiked in the forest and up a mountain or two, and have done my fair share of jogging around the neighborhood, yet I am always eager to hear who came in first at a number of marathons taking place throughout the year.

The Brandenburger Gate in Berlin, Germany provides a historical site for runners in the Berlin Marathon - flickr image by Klearchos Kapoutsis

The Brandenburger Gate in Berlin, Germany provides a historical site for runners in the Berlin Marathon – flickr image by Klearchos Kapoutsis

I think of a marathon as site-seeing on foot.   Factor in location, popular tourist areas; and take into account a variety of segments including sports and a marathon’s appeal  for men, women and children as well as many cultures.  Age also seems to be a minor factor.  There are also special causes for motivation and inspiration. Marathons run the gamut from Charity runs like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Jingle Bell Run in support of the Arthritis Foundation.  There are major marathons such as the Boston Marathon and the Peachtree Atlanta Road Race.  There are also special interest runs such as the Skinny Pig Run to Eat Group in Oregon or corporate sponsored events like the Waco Professional Firefighters Association Miracle Match Marathon and the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Marathon.

Site of Boston's Freedom Trail, flickr image by r h

Site of Boston’s Freedom Trail, flickr image by r h

I did a little fact finding, and according to Wiki Answers there are 245 Marathons in the United States; however, further research on numerous marathon-related sites would say there are many more.  Some are categorized as marathons, others as half or mini-marathons and there are even a few ultra marathons.  Note below is one websites’ list of the top ten (although I’ve only listed the first five). The ranking can vary depending on what marathon website you are looking at.  I’ve also noted some touristy information related to the location of the marathon . . .

Top Marathons in the World – Top Popular Attraction – Great Lesser Known Attraction
London Marathon in April -Trafalgar Square – Pollocks Toy Museum

Berlin Marathon in September – Brandenburger Gate – Dammsmuhle Palace

New York City Marathon in November – Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty – The Brick Theatre

Chicago Marathon in October – Buckingham Fountain – Garfield Park Conservatory

Boston Marathon in April – Freedom Trail – Emerald Necklace

London's Trafalgar Square - flickr image by kevgibbo

London’s Trafalgar Square – flickr image by kevgibbo

One last note:  Don’t forget the food, so when in London – its all about the tea, so check out Brown’s Hotel.  Whenyou have finished the race in Berliln, head over to Zwolf Apostle, where you can find “over the top religious décor and tasty thin crust pizzas named after the 12 Apostles,” plus a cool location under the railway arches – or for classic German fare try Schleusenkrug, a class beer garden.


Vito & Nicks Pizzeria, Chicago, Illinois - image courtesy of V&N photo gallery

Vito & Nicks Pizzeria, Chicago, Illinois – image courtesy of V&N photo gallery

Noting Food Network’s Guy Fieri’s finds on his show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, you might want to try out “Mo Gridders” BBQ Restaurant and Auto Repair Shop where the truckers go in New York City.  If you’re running in Boston you won’t want to miss “The World’s #1 Sandwiches” at Sam LaGrassa’s . . . or after your run in the windy city of Chicago, you’ll want to try the pizza at Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria, who have been serving up a delicious thin crust pizza for 84 years!

There you have it: Recreation, plenty of site-seeing, and good food! 

Symbol of IVV (International Federation of Volkssports)

Symbol of IVV (International Federation of Volkssports)

Note: “The (Volkssports International Federation) IVV sanctions non-competitive events in walking, biking, swimming, skiing, skating, and shoeshowing. Walking is the most popular of the Popular Sports – known by the German term Volkssports, thus the walking events in the USA are often called volksmarches or volkswalks. Volks translates as “people” or “popular.”  These are typically a 10K (6.2 mile) trek . . .

In the end, whether you are a serious runner, you have a special cause, or you just want to meander through the countryside, get out in 2013 and do it!

And, although we didn’t mention it, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep after a good walk or run!

References used:









Stretching Your Travel Dollar . . .

Posted: January 5th, 2013 by

It’s time to get down to leisure!  2013 was ushered in with some in trepidation, thanks to the political landscape over the past several months.  The news has been filled with impending disaster of the ‘fiscal cliff’, with many on edge with anticipation for the worst yet to come, halting any thought for the future, let alone planning a vacation.  Perhaps now is the time to be innovative when it comes to minimal to no discretionary income for a brief get-away, a weekend excursion, or an all out vacation.

This brings to mind my involvement with the USO while living in Germany.  One220px-Tour_Eiffel_Wikimedia_Commons of the many things USO does for its service members and their families is to provide economical recreational opportunities.  We lived in a very scenic area of Germany, less than a Berlin-zoodays drive to many popular attractions; such as Paris and the Eiffel Tower; Bavaria and its Black Forest;  Berlin and its famous zoo;  Belgium, home of the original French Fry and Luxembourg, a tiny country and home to several famous war memorials. 

Many may  not be familiar with the USO and its dependence on volunteers, and this my blog readers, is how some of my volunteers were able to venture into the French countryside, or tour a crumbling castle, or visit the famous art gallery ‘Le Louvre’ and so on.  Become a volunteer; drive a tour van, or earn a free seat on a tour. 

Today, there are numerous websites featuring volunteer opportunities tied to travel; however, they may not necessarily be FREE, but as the title says ‘Stretching Your Travel Dollar’, might just be the way to get out and go in 2013!

Teaching & Temples, a volunteer opportunity  - shown is Angkor Wat, a symbol of Cambodia

Teaching & Temples, a volunteer opportunity – shown is Angkor Wat, built in the 12th century, a symbol of Cambodia – wikimedia image

You might want to check out www.i-to-i.com/volunteering-and-sightseeing.html  where you can volunteer to work with wildlife, or put your carpentry skills to work.  Maybe you’re a born teacher, like working with children or love to teach sports.  How about helping to conserve the earth?  Health care, education, agriculture and construction are areas that need volunteers; and, in many cases these are in far-away lands, like Cambodia, where you can broaden your own horizon.

Don’t forget staying at home has its advantages too.  I searched: www.free-attractions.com and found some pretty cool things to see and do. 

Want to trek through history, going back to 1850; well you can do so at Oakland Oakland-cemeteryCemetery; Atlanta, Georgia’s oldest cemetery and a “supreme example of a Victorian cemetery.”  Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind is one of the famous buried here.  By the way, you can volunteer to work at Oakland Cemetery — a great opportunity for history buffs. 

And . . . for the nature lover, the next time you’re near New York’s Bronx Village, why not meander throughout the 250 ‘exquisite’ acres of the New York Botanical Garden; visit some of their 50 gardens, or stop by their landmark conservatory.  Nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss opportunity (note: there is an admission cost, but if you buy a New York pass you can visit over 70 top New York attractions – now that’s really stretching your travel dollar!  Prices vary based on the number of days and additional features you select.

Are you the adventurous type?  Did you know there are approximately 58 national parks in the U.S.?  In some cases there is no admission fee, while there may be minimal costs for touring in your car, or entering some areas as well as camping fees.  Visit www.nps.gov for more information.

beale street memphis by cwwycoff1If you’re a music lover, like I am, and need a little exercise, why not ramble up and down Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana or on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee . . . and while it pays to pay to hear someone to play, you can still catch the strains of some mighty good blues and jazz drifting out of local nightclubs and record stores at no cost to you!

Why not share a FREEBIE with your fellow blog reader … let us know of some fun thing to do, or a great place to visit or see in 2013!