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Traverse City: An Amazing Blend of Award-Winning Wines & Foodie Delights

Feast Through Traverse City

Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll discover that you’re just as likely to find a vintage glass of one-of-a-kind wine as you are to enjoy a bottle of pale wheat ale or imperial stout. The up-and-coming Traverse Wine Coast is home to nearly 40 wineries, thanks to a stroke of geological luck that it shares with some famous wine regions of Europe. Not to mention an expert group of innovative farmers, cultivators, and producers who love creating prestigious wines that add a singular culinary ‘spark’ to this food-friendly region.

A Unique Twist on Classic Winemaking

Midwest Magazine has named Traverse City among the Top Five Food Towns for two years running, and this genuine love of creating spectacular food and drink is part of the reason why the region has produced such a wide variety of internationally-acclaimed wines for pairing. The unique geographical conditions are another factor in the region’s success. Many of the vineyards front to the 100 miles of coastline that make up Traverse Wine Country’s two main peninsulas: The Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. Lake Michigan and the bay both offer a protected environment for the grapes to grow, and cool air and nutrient-rich soil add to the high-quality yields.
In fact, The Traverse Wine Coast is situated on the 45th parallel, which is exactly the latitude at which the world-renowned Bordeaux and Piedmont districts of France and Italy sit. This ideal locale has created a thriving center of viticulture, with nearly 13,000 acres of grapes and proud bragging rights as the 5th leading grape producer in the United States. The area’s top selections include Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, as well as Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Grigio. These premier Northern Michigan wines can be easily recognized by their well-balanced, fruit-driven flavors that are crisp and clean, allowing for the perfect pairings with a diverse range of culinary dishes.

The Vineyards of Traverse City

‘Must See’ Vineyards of the Old Mission Peninsula

Chateau Grand Traverse

Just eight miles north of Traverse City sits a world of its the Chateau Grand Traverse Estate. It is Northern Michigan’s oldest winery, having opened its doors in 1974. Sitting on 122 prime acres of land, the winery has its own contemporary wine tasting room and production facility. Visitors here are among the lucky ones to taste the superbly-blended MichMash line that’s only available in-state. You can also enjoy the O’Keefe family’s generosity with a free wine tour of the vineyards and winemaking facility, including a presentation of the growing and production process from ‘vine to glass.’ Their mouthwatering house-made delicacies include smoked paprika almonds and hand-crafted crackers with fresh fig jam.
The vineyard also boasts a 6-room Inn where you can take in amazing views of the rolling vineyards, Traverse Bay sunsets, and the beautiful Bowers Harbor Park. The vineyard’s generosity continues with a complimentary bottle of their finest signature wine for overnight guests on a private balcony surrounded by serene woodland landscapes.

Mari Vineyards

Michigan native, engineer, and Oak Island star Marty Lagina was determined to plant “grapes that wouldn’t grow” in the region to create wines that honor his Italian heritage. Successfully cultivating the Old World varieties of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes took lots of hard work, some innovative technology, and a bit of a rebel spirit, but today you can literally enjoy the ‘fruits’ of his labor with his award-winning lines of Pinot Bianco and Merlots blends.
Mari Vineyards offers you the chance to take a tour of the 3,000 square-foot wine cave that’s buried 10 feet underground as you hear the inspiring true story of the vineyard’s signature ‘Row 7’ origins. They also offer a newly completed, two-tiered tasting room that provides three unique seating options including an outdoor patio. Here you can savor an incredible selection of their citrus, berry, apple, peach, nut, and chocolate-infused selections. The vineyard sits on 60-acres of breathtakingly scenic land and is conveniently located just off of the main thoroughfare of Center Road.

‘Must See’ Vineyards of Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail

Laurentinde Winery

The husband-and-wife team, Susan & Bill Braymer, have taken a lifelong passion for visiting some of the country’s most epic vineyards and turned it into a world-class boutique winery on the shores of Lake Leelanau. Named after the glacier that helped form this grape-loving landscape over 10,000 years ago, Laurentide Winery focuses on fabulous food pairings with its distinct selection of 14 varietal wines, including the region’s first estate-grown, award-winning Sauvignon Blanc.
Here you’ll find amazing culinary creations paired together with Gold Winning blends such as the 2018 Harvest Stompede Sausage, Peppers, & Onions with 2016 Emergence White. Besides their family-style fireside or outdoor patio tastings at their on-site facility, the dynamic duo also gives educational tours of the vineyard and have an attached public wine library that’s open to everyone. Visitors can also take in the captivating artistic displays spread throughout the winery that help supports the local artistic community. Laurentide is part of the ‘Sleeping Bear’ Wine Loop that starts at southern Lake Leelanau and runs north across the namesake Bay.

Tandem Ciders

You can enjoy a taste of Michigan’s ‘other’ prize-winning fruit-forward artisanal drink at this unique stop along the North Wine Loop that showcases some of the region’s most acclaimed hard ciders. Tandem Ciders was born out of a cycling trip across England taken by another husband and wife team, Dan Young and Nikki Rothwell. The couple fell in love with the country’s amazing apple concoctions. With a focus on supporting regional growers, all their fruit is locally sourced, and the rustic-style tasting room is housed in a big white barn that encourages community socializing.
Tandem’s signature ciders feature a diverse array of top regional apples including Red Delicious, Cortland, Rome, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Winesaps. Ciders such as the ever popular ‘Smakintosh’ and British-inspired ‘Scrumpy Little Woody’ are served up fresh with a tasty menu of eclectic area favorites, including the Black Truffle Fromage Blanc, Raclette Cheese Fruit Plate, and the ever-popular Pickled Eggs with a side of Great Lakes potato chips. Tandem’s fun community vibe encourages camaraderie and helped win it a spot on this renowned Midwestern wine trail.

Most Popular Wine Tastings & Festivals

The wineries of Old Mission Peninsula and nearby Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail each feature many popular tastings that showcase fresh and fabulous regional and international food and wine pairings along with fun social scenes. Winter Warm Up takes place each January along the Old Mission Peninsula and features unique wine and comfort food pairings from 9 vineyards, plus a commemorative souvenir mug. Leelanau Peninsula answers back in February with its winter wine tasting extravaganza, Taste the Passion, which includes 40 tastings for just $40. In June, Old Mission helps kick off summer with Rosé Between the Bays showcasing a diverse range of delicious pink wines.
One of the best things about the region is the fun wine-centered festivals that occur throughout the year. The most famous of these is the month-long Traverse City Uncorked that includes an incredible array of special tastings, tours, and springtime celebrations in May. Late June sees the launch of the Traverse City Wine & Cider Festival at the historic Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where great music, spirits, and artistry mix in a vibrant celebration of the creative arts. September’s ‘Harvest Stompede’ features a fun-filled vineyard race followed by wine and food tastings at 22 Leelanau Peninsula wineries, where owners have been known to throw in a few extra complimentary tastings! True to its reputation as a foodie paradise, Traverse City has created a celebration that features a friendly competition for the best wines and most beloved comfort foods at November’s Great Mac N’Cheese Bakeoff.
With most wineries open year round, The Traverse Wine Coast makes a spectacular destination for wine, food, and cider lovers alike. Whether you’re looking for a romantic wintertime getaway or a singular summertime sojourn, consider a journey into the land where the lakes conspire to create some of the most exceptional wines on the planet.

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The Best of Camping and Hiking in Portland, Oregon

You may come to Portland, Oregon for the unique culture, but you’ll want to stay for the breathtaking scenery. Not to mention top-notch camping sites and many hiking hot spots that plunge through some of the most awe-inspiring wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Portland is one of the very best cities in the U.S. for mixing outdoorsy adventures with urban delights. It is an ideal getaway that captivates travelers from all over the world. With so many great options to choose from in the Greater Portland area, read on for some camping and hiking musts that you will want to consider on your trip to Rose City.

The Many Escapes of Forest Park

One of the reasons Portland’s iconography tends to be on the green side is because of Forest Park. Forest Park is a sprawling, 5,100-acre urban oasis only a quick 20-minute drive upriver from the trendy Pearl District. Within the park, the hiking opportunities are as diverse as they are exhilarating. For those looking to recharge, try Ridge Trail. Hikers here treck down a narrow path cut into the pristine wilderness and emerge overlooking St. John’s Bridge and the majestic Willamette River. For more visual extravagance, the Lower Macleay Trail is a relatively light hike filled with moss-coated hemlocks, towering firs and ferns, and Portland icons like the old Stone House and Victorian-era masterpiece Pittock Mansion.
While there are more than a few options for the less seasoned hiker, those looking for a more strenuous workout won’t be disappointed either. The Tolinda Trail offers a steep climb to the locally famous Leif Erickson Drive, with beautiful scenery along the way. Although it can be a little bit on the muddy side, the trail–generally about three miles roundtrip–is a terrific option for the adventurous hiker or anyone looking for a great workout.
The most famous of them all, however, is the Wildwood Trail, which is a series of different trails rolled into one. It is known for being loaded with wildflowers during the summer bloom. Along the Firelane 15 section in the northwestern portion of the trail, you’ll escape the crowds and find a blissful refuge in a region of the park. Known for its mossy scenery, grassy knoll (near Kielhorn Meadow), and potential for an elk or mountain beaver encounter, this trail is tough to beat. Though many of the best parts of Wildwood Trail require a short trip in the car, you can take the light rail from the city’s center to the beginning of the trail in Washington Park. All in all, the Wildwood Trail has 40 miles of hiking, with 27 miles of it resting within the limits of Forest Park.
Additional tips:
Hiking in Forest Park is optional year-round, but some additional preparation might be needed if you go during the winter or following a rainstorm. Many locals are not bothered by hiking during a rainstorm. A rain slicker and some good hiking boots can be the key to a true Oregonian adventure at Forest Park. Because Forest Park has about 70 miles of trails overall, checking out the park map and exploring on your own can be the best way to go.

Camping in Greater Portland

One of the go-to campgrounds for Portlanders is at Beacon Rock State Park, a preserve located along the gorge just north of the Columbia River. Although technically in the state of Washington, Beacon Rock is only a 45-minute drive east from central Portland and offers a range of tent-camping options surrounded by nature. Hikes overlooking the river and the spectacular greenery of both Washington and Oregon are on full display.  Come see local icons like Rodney Falls, Hamilton Mountain, and Hardy Creek’s Pool of the Winds. Although the park doesn’t take camping reservations, it does have a 200-site group campground in addition to a 26-site main campground.
Heading west to the edge of the wondrous Tillamook State Forest, the Gales Creek Campground offers another terrific experience along with direct access to some of the best natural features in the Pacific Northwest. Loaded with sky-reaching alders, maples, and Douglas firs, Gales Creek Campground is known for its serene and peaceful setting. Visiting Tillamook State Forest has even more options for exploring the Oregonian scenery, including a temperate rainforest that is one of the wettest spots in the U.S.
If you’re in the area, you may find your way to Mt. Hood National Forest, located about an hour southeast of Portland. At the Riverside Campground, you can enjoy amazing views of the Clackamas River as well as hiking and biking in the national forest. Although the river tends to be extremely cold in most parts, those with an adventurous spirit can journey to the south end of the campground for a dip in the crisp waters of the Clackamas during the summer. With its natural seclusion, undeniable beauty, and advantageous location, Riverside remains a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Also consider:
For a less adventurous wilderness escape, the family-friendly Jenkins Camp-Estate Rivendale is known for its balance of modern lodging and its vast estate containing many outdoor activities. Looking out over the Tualatin Valley, the Jenkins grounds are not lacking in beauty, especially during the late spring and early summer.

Underrated Hiking Gems

Just across the Columbia River from Beacon Rock State Park–on the Oregon side–lies the Eagle Creek Trail. Here, you can make your way along the river toward the thunderous Tunnel Falls. Especially breathtaking in the winter months, the 12-mile roundtrip Tunnel Falls portion of the Eagle Creek Trail can be a transformative experience, showcasing both the unbeatable scenery of the area as well as the region’s raw natural power.
For those looking to stay closer to the city, meanwhile, the Marquam Trail is tough to beat. Less than 10 minutes from Downtown Portland, Marquam Trail picks through lush green spaces to Council Crest, the highest point in Portland. From Council Crest, you can expect to see magnificent views of the city along with glimpses of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and more. The Marquam Trail to Council Crest is particularly great for having a scenic picnic during the warmer months of the year.
Although you could have a great time skipping about Portland’s many outstanding microbreweries and famous eateries, the pure magic of the area is in the region’s natural offerings. With abundant options for hiking and camping in Portland, there are few places in the U.S.–or elsewhere–better suited for exploring the best features that nature has to offer.

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The Top 5 Festivals in Nepal

What comes to your mind when you think of Nepal? If you are like most people, you probably envision beautiful scenic landscapes, sacred religious temples, and brightly colored handmade goods. Nepal is also famous for its fun and vibrant festivals. If you are thinking about visiting the country soon, you should try to experience at least one event before you hop on a flight to go back home. Just remember to run errands, stock up on groceries, and do other important tasks before the festivals start, since some of the local businesses may close during the events. Below you can find more information about the five best festivals in Nepal.

The Holi Festival – March

Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is considered one of the most popular festivals in Nepal and marks the arrival of spring. The week-long event is primarily celebrated in the Hindu community since it symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
The Holi festival celebrates the death of Holika, a person who tried to kill Lord Vishnu’s loyal follower Prahlada. According to an Indian religious story called Mahabharata, Holika was the sister of King Hiranyakashipu. The king was jealous and only wanted the townspeople to worship him and not Lord Vishnu. Despite his threats and intimidation, Prahlada refused to stop worshipping Lord Vishnu. In a fit of rage, King Hiranyakashipu ordered his sister to burn Holika to death for his defiance. However, Lord Vishnu protected Prahlada and allowed him to survive the fire while Holika burned to death. Once the townspeople found out about the miraculous event, they threw water and colored powder on Prahlada to bless him and denounce evil.
To this day, crowds of people honor the memory of during Holi by splashing water and throwing colored powder everywhere to bestow blessings on each other. If you want to experience the Holi festival in person, try to wear light colored clothes so you can easily see the vibrant colors.

The Buddha Jayanti Festival – April

Both the Buddhist and Hindu community participate in the Buddha Jayanti festival. The April event is supposed to commemorate the life and death of Lord Buddha, who was born on the Western plains of Nepal in a town called Lumbini. Buddhists from all over the world come to join the procession and show their respect for Lord Buddha.
The temples and monasteries in Lumbini open their doors during the Buddha Jayanti festival so people can come inside and pray or give an offering. Many people bring flowers, scarves, and candles to place on or near different statues of Buddha. You may also be able to hear the echoes of monks chanting ceremonial prayers and beating drums while you walk through the streets. Sermons promoting world peace and compassion are also commonplace during the Buddha Jayanti festival.

The Indra Jatra Festival – September

Indra Jatra is an extravagant annual street festival that is meant to give honor and thanks to the god of rain Indra. Both Hindus and Buddhists come together to celebrate the occasion for eight days in September.
The Indra Jatra festival is usually only observed in the capital city of Kathmandu. Many people flock to the city so they can see masked performers called Lakhay tell the story of how Indra came to Earth using interpretive dance. Spectators can also enjoy a parade of chariots and dance around ceremonial poles. Every year, the Hindu priests choose one young village girl to represent the spirit of Kumari during the festival. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see her riding in one of the main chariots as the Living Goddess Kumari.

The Dashain Festival – September and October

Dashain is considered to be one of the most important and longest Hindu festivals in Nepal. The event commemorates the victory of good over evil and usually lasts around 15 days. The celebration occurs between September and October and ends on the day of the full moon.
The locals usually perform many rituals (including animal sacrifice) during the festival. If you go, you’ll probably notice the villagers building a large tent-like structure with bamboo and rope. Once the base is secure, they’ll attach a home-made swing inside of it and take turns riding it. It’s also not unusual to see hundreds of colorful kites in the sky since there are multiple kite competitions over the two weeks. If you didn’t get the opportunity to swing with the locals, you can always purchase a kite from a local vendor and enter one of the competitions if you want to participate.
A common Dashain ritual is to tidy up the house so that the goddesses will be tempted to visit and bestow prosperity and good wealth onto the family. Another is to offer several gifts like animals and other food products to the goddess Durga. It’s customary for the older generation to place a mixture of rice, yogurt, and red vermillion on the foreheads of children to give them their blessings at the end of Dashain. Overall, the annual tradition is a time for everyone to feast on delicious food, open presents and spend lots of time with loved ones.

The Tihar Festival – October and November

Another festival you should try to see while visiting Nepal is the Festival of Lights or Tihar. The Tihar festival is meant to pay homage to Yama, the God of Death and Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Similar to the Indian festival of Diwali, the event is celebrated during October and November and can last up to five days. Each day has different rituals and traditions.
In contrast to the wild and colorful celebration of Holi, the Festival of Lights is a time for people to sit down and reflect on the past year and what they’d like to accomplish in the next. It also marks the end of the lunar calendar. Tihar is a time of prayer and spiritual renewal to the Nepalese community. Many families come together over the holiday to eat large meals and exchange gifts with each other. People also use decorative candles and lanterns to celebrate the occasion since it serves as a visual symbol of how the light will always triumph over the darkness. If you look up into the sky, you may also be able to see colorful lanterns and fireworks that are supposed to help usher in a prosperous and healthy new year.
This list of popular festivals merely scratches the surface of what Nepal has to offer. There are a variety of national and regional festivals every month dedicated to different deities and special occasions that you can explore during your time there.

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Romantic Taiwanese Getaways for Nature Lovers

Nature Lovers

This little island nation was nicknamed “the Beautiful Island” by the Portuguese for a reason. It is full of verdant forests, charming seascapes, and some of the friendliest locals in the world. Taiwan is the perfect place for a romantic getaway, and here are some of the best locations in particular:

Hualien, Taiwan

This lovely coastal city located in Northeastern Taiwan has an unhurried mountain town feel, perfect for long, lingering walks and meaningful memories. The Taroko National Park, a 92,000-hectare national park is one of Taiwan’s nine national parks, featuring all-natural mountains, gorges, rivers, and cliffs. You can take a guided day tour of the Taroko Gorge, or make your own way through the winding mountain paths or alongside the rocky Qixingtan Beach.
In addition, Hualien also features a Cultural and Creative Industries Park–former industrial spaces that have been converted into art venues including art exhibits and craft shops. If you come at the right time, you can be treated to street performers and music shows as well! There are even opportunities to go whale and dolphin watching in Hualien, with a high likelihood of successful sightings, particularly between April and October.
And don’t forget the food: for an authentic Taiwanese night market experience, check out Dongdamen Night Market, located on Zhongshan road and open from 5:30 to 11:30 pm, daily. This subsection of a larger bazaar and events area is home to three main market lanes, including Futing Market (featuring Taiwanese food), another street representing mainland Chinese dishes, and Aboriginal street, a lane filled with local vendors offering aboriginal style snacks and gifts. Hualien is the perfect romantic vacation spot for nature-loving foodie couples from anywhere around the world.

Tamshui, Taipei

If you prefer a more citified feel for your love story, remember to check out Tamshui, Taipei–known for its famous Lover’s Bridge which lights up at night as live musicians serenade diners at the local restaurants along the river. Located near Tamkang University, Tamshui is a beloved spot for college-aged lovers and is a top dating spot for university students and visitors alike.
Even during the day, couples can rent bikes and ride along the peaceful coast, perhaps stopping in to visit Fort San Domingo (one of the oldest European style buildings in Taiwan) or Tamshui Old Street (full of delicious foods like the iconic fish balls and Ah Gei) for an unforgettable date.

Pingxi Sky Lanterns, Taipei

Have you ever wanted to release your own burning lantern into the night sky as a declaration of your love? After Disney released Tangled in 2010, viewers everywhere have swooned at the romantic scene where Rapunzel and Flynn sing to each other as floating lanterns glow like stars in the inky night air.
Pingxi (also known as Shi Fen) was literally awarded the “most romantic place in Taiwan” in 2014, made famous by the movie “You Are the Apple of My Eye” which also featured a romantic scene involving the releasing of a sky lantern.
If experiencing a sky lantern has always been your dream, you need dream no longer: Visitors to Pingxi are given the opportunity to decorate and release their own sky lanterns, as well as stroll along the rustic railway, hand in hand, or explore the Pingxi Old Street–a street built into a hill with a train track going overhead.
If you are looking for a memorable place and activity to declare your love to your significant other, or even pop the question, you can’t go wrong with Pingxi and its famous sky lanterns! During Chinese New Years, particularly, tourists are invited to release a Chinese lantern into the sky.

Brown Boulevard, Taitung

This picturesque path located in the center of the island nation is perfect for a romantic lovers’ bike ride. Featuring a wide expanse of green rice fields, only one solitary tree, and zero telephone poles, Brown Boulevard has long been considered an ideal backdrop for wedding photography or just a relaxing location to travel through, hand in hand. Made famous because of a Mr. Brown Coffee commercial, this verdant paradise road is nestled in the rustic Chishang township of Taitung County and is closed to non-agricultural vehicles, making it safe and peaceful–perfect for exploring and enjoying.

Penghu Islands

If you love aquatics, consider bringing your beloved to Penghu, a group of islands and islets located off the west coast of Chiayi County. And if you and your loved one appreciate history, check out the Penghu Living Museum, which offers insights into centuries of Penghu culture, from religious beliefs to child-rearing practices.
Qimei’s most arresting feature is a double heart of stacked stones, an ancient but well-preserved fish trap located in the deep green-blue ocean and visible from the sky above. It is often said to represent eternal love and is the perfect backdrop to a romantic picnic, wedding proposal, or wedding photo shoot.

Yang Ming Shan, Taipei

Yang Ming Shan is an epic vantage point from which to view Taipei’s sparkling night scenery: the Yang Ming Shan National Park features a hidden volcano and is particularly beautiful during flower season, with sakura blossoms in full bloom.
There are also numerous restaurants with spectacular views located near Yangmingshan national park, including The Peak, which offers private seats for couples and a large menu with many selections; Back Garden, a Mediterranean-Bali themed outdoor restaurant, and Sleepless, the iconic spot for couples in love since 1986. Any and all of these elegant restaurants provide the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal after a day of hiking and exploring, and a time to talk about matters of the heart.
No matter where you go in Taiwan, an emerald land full of unspoiled nature and unique adventures, you will be sure to make one-of-a-kind memories with your significant other by your side. The most important thing is to enjoy each other and the land, and remember that, in the words of the great Charles Schulz: “in life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.”