Posted on

The Adventurer’s Guide to Costa Rica

Surf in Costa Rica

Whether you’re into water sports, hiking (or zip lining) through jungles and rainforests, or exploring volcanoes, Costa Rica has an incredible number of opportunities to experience thrills and challenges.

Ziplining and Canopy Tours

You can go ziplining in many places. However, there aren’t many places where you can experience the kind of natural wonders that surround you in Costa Rica. This is an adventurous activity that people of all ages and physical conditions can enjoy. Here are a few of the country’s best zip lines, canopy tours, and aerial trams.
Canopy Safari is one of the oldest zip lining tours in Costa Rica. They also offer many other activities in their incredible rainforest location, including rafting, a Tarzan swing, and walking tours. They have a Serpentarium, butterfly garden and a Cayman pond on the premises as well.
Jaco Aerial Tram Tour is an aerial tram is good for people who are reluctant to try ziplining but still want to get amazing views of rainforests and jungles. Of course, you can also do both if you’re so inclined! The Jaco tour provides great views of the ocean as well as the forest.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is renowned for its incredible diversity of plants and animals. It’s especially great for bird watchers, with more than 400 species of birds including the Quetzal, which is only found in this region. You can observe this amazing reserve for yourself by ziplining or taking an aerial tram tour, which gives you a bird’s eye view of this unique spot. Another favorite activity in reserve is hiking on the Sky Walk Suspension Bridges that are located throughout the forest.

Water Sports

Wherever you go in Costa Rica, you’ll be close to water. It has coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, making it one of the best places in the world to enjoy beaches and water sports. As you venture inland, you’ll also find an abundance of rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. Here are just some examples of where you can find the best water-based activities.

Rafting

Costa Rica offers world-class rafting in a unique tropical environment. You can choose between day trips and multi-day adventures along the country’s many rivers. You can also select trips based on your experience and how challenging an experience you’re seeking (rapids are classified between Class I to Class VI).
Corobici River Float in Guanacaste. This river is classified between Class I and II, making it a good choice for beginners and anyone who wants a relaxing yet beautiful journey with lots of incredible wildlife, especially birds.
Rio Pacuare This river offers a moderately challenging Class III rafting adventure through a rainforest that flows towards the Caribbean. You also have great views of the majestic Talamanca Mountains.
Naranjo River is Class IV+ river is for you if you want serious whitewater action in addition to beautiful scenery. This river presents challenges such as canyon walls and many technical narrows that will test your skills.

Snorkeling and Diving

If you want to get a close-up view of the incredible marine life in the waters around Costa Rica, make sure you go snorkeling or diving. Scuba diving gives you the fullest experience, but you need to be certified. There are, however, quite a few diving schools where you can get your certification. Snorkeling is a simpler way to get a memorable look at the pristine waters.
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places for snorkeling and diving in the entire Caribbean. In addition to an incredible diversity of fish, you’re likely to encounter dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees.
Manuelita Coral Garden is a protected area has gentle waters, making it a good choice for novice divers. The coral reef attracts many large sea creatures such as black tip sharks, hammerheads, marble rays, and others.
Caño Island Biological Reserve offers amazing diving and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean all year round. You can find many experienced diving tours in this area. The most famous diving spot is called Devil’s Rock, which has a dramatic underwater landscape of peaks and valleys.

Surfing

You can enjoy spectacular surfing in many parts of Costa Rica, on both the Pacific and Caribbean beaches.
Nosara is a region is popular for holistic and yoga retreats as well as surfing. Playa Guiones is the main surfing beach. It’s also a protected area for sea turtles and other wildlife, so it’s good for encountering wildlife.
Puerto Viejo is one of the best surfing spots on the Caribbean coast. This area attracts many top surfers who come to test their prowess against the legendary Salsa Brava surf break.
Dominical is popular beach town by the Southern (Pacific) coast. The ocean here can produce powerful waves, so it’s not ideal for beginners. However, there are some spots where the waters are calmer. You can also enjoy the bars, eateries, and shops in this trendy area.

Explore Wildlife

If you visit Costa Rica, you’re bound to see lots of beautiful and exotic animals such as birds, fish, reptiles, monkeys, and many others. If this is one of your priorities, however, you can make it a point to visit national parks and other areas known for the species that most fascinate you. The following are some suggestions for finding particular types of animals.
Birds – Costa Rica is famous for its biodiversity. There are an estimated 850 species of birds alone. Fortunately, you can’t help but see many beautiful tropical birds when you’re anywhere in this country. However, some of the best spots for bird watching include the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (mentioned in the section on ziplining), Palo Verde National Park, and Los Quetzales National Park, where you have the best chance of seeing the Quetzal, Costa Rica’s most iconic bird.
Big Cats – Costa Rica has a few big cats such as ocelots and jaguars. They are hard to spot in the wild, though you might be lucky and spot one in a rainforest. One place to see big cats is at a wildlife sanctuary such as the one at La Paz Waterfall Gardens National Park.
Monkeys – There are many species of monkey in Costa Rica. Some of the most common are Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, and spider monkeys. One of the best places to see monkeys is the Corcovado National Park.
Three-toed Sloth – These tree-dwelling animals are found in rainforests. If you want to see lots of sloths and learn all about them, visit the Sloth Sanctuary in on the Caribbean coast.
Reptiles – You’ll see lizards and snakes everywhere in Costa Rica. Geckos and iguanas are especially numerous. If you’re not an expert, be wary of snakes as some are deadly. It’s wise to learn a little about Costa Rica’s snakes, especially if you’re venturing into forests and jungles. Other common reptiles include sea turtles, crocodiles, caimans, and black ctenosaur lizards.

Visit Volcanoes

Costa Rica is full of volcanoes. There are, in fact, more than 60 in total. Hiking a volcano is an adventurous activity you can try in almost any part of the country. Before planning your trip, be sure to check on the volcano’s current status. Climbing an active volcano adds some extra adventure though even inactive ones are well worth exploring. Here are a few of the most popular volcanoes to visit.
Turrialba Volcano – If you want to hike a volcano close to San Jose, the capital city, this is the closest. However, for safety reasons, the national park in which the volcano is situated is not always open to visitors.
Arenal Volcano – At more than 5,000 feet, this is Costa Rica’s most famous volcano. Currently inactive, the last eruption was in 1968. One of the advantages of visiting this volcano is that you can also enjoy bathing in some of the numerous hot springs in the area.
Irazú Volcano – This volcano is quite close to San Jose and is Costa Rica’s tallest active volcano at over 11,000 feet. It last erupted in 1994.

Lots of Opportunity for Adventure in Costa Rica

We’ve looked at just a few of the many types of adventure you can find in Costa Rica. Aside from the unparalleled natural beauty and wildlife, you can find world-class resorts, top quality cuisine, a growing arts scene, and versatile nightlife. Few countries offer a greater diversity of activities and attractions. There are many reasons to put Costa Rica at the top of the list for your next adventure tour.

Posted on

Quebec City Cathedrals: A Canadian Treasure Hunt

Quebec City Cathedral

You don’t have to be on a spiritual quest to enjoy these amazing places. History buffs, art lovers, musicians, and ghost hunters all love to visit cathedrals when they are traveling. If you’re curious, in Quebec City, Quebec, there are an abundance of gorgeous cathedrals to visit that will inspire you with their soaring spaces and untold treasures.

The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec first opened it’s doors in 1664. Some of the most noted architectural features are its two asymmetrical towers, a neo-classical facade, and a baldachin of gold which appears to float over the main altar. Bask in the colorful glory of the incredible stained glass windows, as well as three Casavant organs.
The cathedral has seen its share of trials and tribulations. During the British siege in 1759, the church was bombarded and burned down, and then rebuilt exactly according to the original plans. It burned down again in 1922 and again was rebuilt exactly as before.

Standout Experience

Visitors can see the “Holy Door”, one of the only seven Holy doors in the world officially recognized by the Vatican. It is a very significant symbol of a spiritual experience, giving pilgrims the chance to collect lost parts of their lives. The Holy Door has a life-size relief of Jesus Christ in it, whose hands are worn from thousands and thousands of pilgrims touching them over the course of the centuries. Currently, the door is closed until next Jubilee in 2025.

How to Visit

The best way to enjoy this cathedral is through a self-guided tour. A map will guide you to all the cathedrals highlights and give you in-depth information on them. Visitors can explore daily from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. weekdays, 7:00 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and 8:00 a.m until 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Quebec City’s Notre-Dame Cathedral is located at 53 Rue Sainte-Famille, Québec, QC G1R 3V6, Canada.

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

This is the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Quebec. Tucked in the heart of Old Quebec, The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was built between 1800 and 1804 in the British Palladian style of architecture. The classic, austere exterior, gives little hint to the marvels that exist inside. The carved white columns and soaring proportions are just the first thing that catches the eye. An amazing array of stained glass, sculpture, and artwork awaits while strolling the interior of the cathedral.

Standout Experience

Listening to the famous bells at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is and experience that is not to be missed. The bells began ringing in 1830, and they are the oldest bells of their kind in Canada. They were forged by Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the same London foundry that made Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. The Quebec City Guild of Change Ringers, a team of 8 people, is required to ring all eight of the heavy bells. For the full effect, visit on special occasions like Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

How to Visit

Over 150,000 people visit the cathedral each year, and there are several types of tours available. The public is welcome to take free, self-guided tours any time the cathedral is open, mid-May through mid-November, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Guided tours are available for $6 mid-May through mid-November, Monday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 12:30pm to 16:30 p.m. It is also possible to arrange a group tour any time of the year with a reservation.

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica

This cathedral is 19 miles outside of Quebec City, and according to over a million and a half visitors each year, it’s worth the trip. According to the Catholic Church, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica is said to be the place of many healings and miracles in its 350 year history. It is one of the only 5 national shrines in Canada, and is one of the oldest pilgrimage destinations in North America.
The cathedral’s soaring towers can be seen for miles around. They stand above the St. Anne’s Fountain, near the site where a crippled man was said to be healed by placing three stones in the church’s foundation. The fountain was installed in 2008 as part of the 350 year anniversary celebration of the cathedral. Another unique site is the “Scala Santa”, a staircase that is an exact replica of the Scala Santa in Rome that Jesus ascended to meet Pilate.

Standout Experience

There is nothing like this cathedral’s basilica anywhere else in the world. The Romanesque Revival cathedrals historic basilica will leave you amazed. The roof rises 100 meters into the air, and it is decorated everywhere you look with stained glass windows. There are over 240 stained glass pieces depicting an incredible array of scenes and stories. The basilica’s copper doors were created by the artist Albert Gilles, and the sanctuary itself is filled with additional sculptures and paintings dating back centuries.

How to Visit

The public and pilgrims are always welcome to the cathedral, located at 10018 Ave Royale, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, QC G0A 3C0, Canada. You can visit the Basilica, Shrine Store, Information Center, and other chapels and shrines year round, 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The information center is open July through May, and the Monestary’s Reception Desk is open year-round to answer visitors questions..
Any trip to Quebec is greatly enhanced by taking a tour of the city’s magnificent cathedrals. They are an intimate part of Quebec City and the surrounding area, tying visitors to the past with their architecture, craftsmanship. Canada is an an amazing country to visit and full of surprises, and the cathedrals of Quebec will take truly your breath away.

Posted on

Best Camping Locations in the Orlando Area

Camping in Orlando

For those who love the outdoors, this is great news. While Orlando does have much to offer for outdoor lovers in the way of amusements, sunbathing, and water fun, there is a whole other side to this amazing city, and that other side is the camping locations. Let’s take a look at some of the best camping options in the city of Orlando and the surrounding area so that you can really get in touch with nature on a whole new level.

The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Families, couples, and singles can have a truly unique camping experience when they visit the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort! Spend some time camping in this re-creation of an American Frontier, where you will enjoy the amenities that made Disney World famous in a different atmosphere. You’ll find 750 acres of campgrounds, in addition to recreational activities that include pony, wagon, and carriage rides, the Fort Wilderness Archery Experience, Campfire Sing-a-longs and much more. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert camper or if this is your first time ever on a camping trip, as this campsite caters to people of all levels. Rent a golf cart or ride a bike along the trails as you take in everything that is offered. Now, you can experience Disney World in a way you never imagined as you have the time of your life on this ultimate camping expedition!

Moss Park

At Moss Park, you’ll experience camping at it’s best. Located in the heart of Orange County, Florida, this campsite is great for families, couples, and small groups who want to see wildlife and the beauty of nature in one of the best environments in the entire Sunshine State! Have the best of both worlds as you enjoy the fun of the wilderness or choose to spend some time at the beach area that is located within the park. Go fishing or hiking, or spend some time singing around the campfire. The amenities are wonderful, accessible, and accommodating, ensuring that your camping trip goes as smoothly as possible. The atmosphere is peaceful, completely letting you enjoy everything that surrounds you. Partake in the Scandinavian sport of orienteering, something that you won’t find at many other places! Go kayaking on the lake, hiking along the trails, or enjoy some bird watching at one of the best-kept secrets of Orlando! Tent and RV camping are both available for convenience. Great for leisure and intermediate campers, this is a place you will surely want to come to time and again!

Winter Garden RV Resort

This is camping, Florida-style! Everyone from single people to large families or groups will enjoy coming to Winter Garden RV Resort, as there is so much to see, do, and enjoy. With over 350 sites, the grounds offer amenities such as swimming, games such as shuffleboard, and many other outdoor activities. Set up camp and get in tune with nature, as you will be surrounded by pine trees and wildlife in its natural habitat. Intermediate and expert campers will feel most comfortable here. There is no shortage of things to do at Winter Garden RV Resort, as you embark on a camping trip that you won’t soon forget.

Orlando/Kissimmee KOA Holiday

Whether you choose to stay in a fully furnished deluxe cabin or set up a tent at one of the sites, you’ll want to soak up everything that Orlando/Kissimmee KOA Holiday has to offer! As one of the best campsites in Central Florida, this Kampgrounds of America location appeals to everyone from children to adults. All levels of campers will feel right at home, as the campgrounds offer a castle-themed playground and jumping pad for the little ones, a pool, hot tub, and sauna, bike rentals, and more. Enjoy a game of horseshoes, and don’t forget to stop by the general store to pick up supplies for making s’mores by the fire! With plenty of recreation and welcoming surroundings, Orlando/Kissimmee KOA Holiday will soon become one of your favorite places to enjoy the camping trip of a lifetime.

Orlando NW/Orange Blossom KOA

Another Kampgrounds of America location in Central Florida, Orlando NW/Orange Blossom KOA is a place where families, couples, and groups can create wonderful Florida memories! Amenities for campers of all levels include a pool, dog park, bike rentals, and much more. Meet new friends and bond with those you came to the campsite with as you participate in activities such as corn hole tournament boards, or gather at the playgrounds for some fun. You’ll see some of the most amazing wildlife that you could have ever imagined as you observe cardinals, raccoons, Eastern box turtles, and sandhill cranes. Keep an eye open for the turkeys, green tree frogs, and armadillos, and don’t forget to have the camera ready! Your camping adventure will be nothing short of amazing at Orlando NW/Orange Blossom KOA, thanks to the well-maintained grounds, fishing, boating, and overall wonderful outdoor nature experience. This campsite is truly relaxing and as friendly as can be! You and your group will have a personal experience at this location that is known for being a “slice of paradise”!
Now, you know exactly where to go when you want to experience Orlando from a different perspective! These wonderful campgrounds offer an experience like no other, as you step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and kick back in the true tranquility of nature. You’ll find peaceful, open spaces that allow you to enjoy Florida like never before. Enjoy your love for the great outdoors, taking in all of the scenic beauty that surrounds you at these hidden gems throughout Orlando and the surrounding area!

Posted on

An Ecotourist’s Guide to 3 of Panama’s Most Awe-Inspiring Natural Wonders

Panama Eco-tourism

One of the most exotic locations to experience natural pampering with a unique cultural twist is the southernmost Central American country of Panama. This breathtaking region links to South America via its border with Columbia and its singular sustainable customs showcase amazing eco-adventures, intriguing historical sites, and magnificent ocean backdrops.
Here indigenous and Latino communities welcome those seeking a one-of-a-kind scenic escape highlighted by superior wildlife conservation and stellar outdoor activities and accommodations. Take a look at why Panama is inspiring an increasing number of visitors to experience her awe-inspiring sights, sounds, and eco-friendly scenes that are spread across nearly 30% of the country.

Communing with Nature at Coiba Island National Park

The 38 islands off of Panama’s Pacific Coast play host to many of the country’s 10,000 native plants, 1,500 trees, and over a thousand bird species, garnering them the nickname ‘The New Galapagos.’ They are part the Gulf of Chiriquí’s Coiba National Park Marine Reserve, a 430,000-acre natural wonder where 700 marine species and numerous mammals thrive amidst a breathtaking background of white sand beaches and crystal clear aqua waters. UNESCO named Coiba Island a World Heritage site in 2005 because of its untouched biodiversity, and its central location makes it an off-the-beaten-path locale that’s still less than 200 miles from the bustling capital of Panama City.

Eco-Activities at and around Coiba Island

The diverse marine life at the islands makes scuba diving a favorite activity, and visitors have been known to encounter curious sea turtles, eels, white-tip reef sharks, and a wide array of colorful tropical fish. One of the favorite spots for both snorkeling and diving is Granito de Oro Island because of its unique volcanic formations that create a protected coral reef environment. On the east side of Coiba Island sits the enormous 350-acre Bahia Damas Reef, home to hammerhead sharks, manta rays, Pacific-spotted dolphins, and even humpback whales that have been known to interact with swimmers.
Wildlife also abounds in Coiba’s abundant rainforests, where coconut palms sway gently next to huge Espave trees. The park includes many miles of hiking trails that allow you to spot animals such as howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, white-tailed deer, and black iguanas. Coiba Island itself is a bird lover’s paradise and is home to several species found only in the region, such as the rust-colored spinetail and brown-backed dove. The island of Rancheria (aka Coibita) even houses a small research outpost of The Smithsonian Tropical Institute. The park’s numerous fun scuba diving, bird watching, hiking, and wildlife accredited eco-tours offer exciting day-trip and overnight adventures that will guide you through an impressive array of immersive ecological experiences.

The Nearby Eco-Retreats of Santa Catalina

The newest regional hotspot, Santa Catalina, is just an hour and a half boat ride from Coiba Island and is home to several restorative mind-body accommodations, including the community-centric Santa Catalina Retreats. Here, world-class yoga and surfing experiences await, as do connective adventures with the people in this relaxing, holistic fishing and farming village. Enjoy an oceanfront escape that combines modern, sustainably-built accommodations, adventurous wellness activities, fresh multicultural cuisine, and relaxed local rhythms. Santa Catalina is the primary jumping off point for the day and overnight trips to the beautiful landscapes of Coiba National Park.

Enjoying Biodiverse Adventures at the Panama Canal Watershed

The enormous Panama Canal Watershed was created when the mighty Chagres River was dammed near the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean in 1914 to create a canal passage that ran to the Pacific Ocean. It encompasses over 800,000 acres of pristine landscapes and provides drinking water and hydroelectric power to key parts of the nation. While the surrounding environment may have shifted course due to its creation, the canal mimics the natural opening that was present for millions of years.

Eco-Activities within the Canal Watershed

Today visitors can find numerous eco-adventures at and around the canal zone, including an amazing journey to Chagres National Park. Located just 30 miles from Panama City on the east side of the canal, this enormous nature preserve spans 300,000 acres and offers a diverse array of exciting outdoor experiences. The park’s namesake river showcases exciting Class II-III whitewater rafting experiences, and seasoned hikers can also experience historic guided tours along the legendary 16th century Camino Real (Royal Road) a Spanish route that takes you through rainforests and rugged mountain passes of the region. Here you’ll enjoy hands-on cultural and historical exploration as well as hospitality from the indigenous people who live along the trail.
Not to be outdone by its eastbound neighbor, the west side of the Panama Canal boasts its national park, known as Soberania. One of its major attractions is its diverse bird population, which is especially prominent along the famed Pipeline Road. The Audobon Society recorded a world-record 525 species at this location, including ground cuckoos, colorful trogons, brightly-marked toucans, crested eagles, and Broad-billed motmots. The 100-foot observation tower at the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center allows for optimal viewing these avians as well as sightings of two-and-three toed sloths, tamarin monkeys, coatimundis (raccoons), and over 100 other mammals, such as the forest’s elusive wild jaguars.
Kayakers can enjoy day trips along the 165 square miles of beautiful Lake Gatun, a waterway that was created when the Chagres River was dammed over 100 years ago. A boat trip from the park across the lake takes you to Barro Colorado Island, one of the oldest tropical research centers in the world. Visitors can also visit two other amazing research preserves: Punta Galeta sits along the Caribbean coastline at the northern tip of the canal minutes from Panama’s sixth largest city of Colon, and Punta Culebra Nature Center is located at the Pacific entrance to the canal in Panama City.

Eco-Friendly Watershed Lodging

Inside Soberania National Park sits the rich cultural, spiritual, and ecological warmth of the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Here, you’ll find an open environment where the local Embera and Wuanaan people provide educational and artistic exhibits highlighting their holistic interactions with the environment. The resort also showcases an innovative wellness spa, an aerial tram, Lake Gatun boat expeditions, and Panamanian eco-guides with expert knowledge of the area. These innovative accommodations are just half an hour from Panama City and within minutes of the Canopy Tower Eco-Lodge, where wildlife watchers can get a ‘bird’s eye view’ from their treetop level bedrooms. Voted by the Ancient Forests Foundations as Best Ecolodge, the Canopy Tower offers a healthy mix of local and American family-style dining and a culturally rich, environmentally-integrative approach to tourism.
For those interested in staying closer to Chagres National Park, Los Altos de Cerro Azul overlooks the park and provides many unique bed and breakfasts, lodges, and hotels that blend seamlessly into the surrounding natural landscapes. Fan favorites include the Mandalas Lodge and La Semilla Ecolodge, where trekkers receive a refreshing welcome and a relaxing experience that includes an enchanting bird observatory, a rejuvenating Turkish bath, miles of local trails, and day trips to nearby Lake Bayano.

Hiking The America’s Largest Inhabited Volcano at El Valle

A short trip west along the Inter-American Highway from Panama City will take you to the lush mountain panoramas of the Anton Valley. Here you’ll find the majestic village of El Valle, which is located within the crater of the second largest inactive and inhabited volcano in the world. The valley is teeming with enchanting cloud-encased mountain peaks that reach up to 3,800 feet, and pre-Columbian stone petroglyphs which have yet to be deciphered. Multifaceted experiences await you in and around this timeless and vibrant Panamanian village.

Eco-Activities of El Valle

El Valle provides an eye-opening view of Panama’s unique ability to combine serious sustainability with even more serious fun. One of the visitors’ most talked-about experiences is the canopy zip lining tour that winds through the valley’s forests and over the amazing 115-foot Chorro El Macho Waterfall. Here you can catch sight of the native blue Morpho butterflies swooping over the pool below the falls, as you swing through the region’s unique ‘cloud forests’ which form when the fog lifts off the fauna and flora that’s spread across the jungle floor. Mountain climbers can try their stamina on the valley’s highest peak, Cerro Gaital which stands at approximately 3800 feet, a height at which you can get a stunning view of the village’s volcanic crater.
Besides world-class mountain hiking and breathtaking waterfalls, El Valle is also home to a thermal hot springs, an orchid center that features environmental presentations, fun horseback riding, and biking adventures, and even a one-of-a-kind sojourn into ‘The Valley of the Square Trees‘, where right angles replace circumferences, and researchers trying to solve the puzzle of a phenomenon seen nowhere else in the world. With her numerous jaw-dropping treasures, El Valle holds a little something for every eco-lover on your list.

Eco-Friendly Mountain Accommodations

The year-round spring-like temperatures make El Valle an ideal place to stay in Panama, and one of the most celebrated accommodations in the region is The Canopy Lodge. Built into the hills of the vibrant valley, this nature lover’s retreat allows you to experience the region’s mysterious cloud forests right outside your bedroom window, and take an extraordinary multi-day bird watching tour to the area’s most famous sites. The lodge also features its library, family-style dining, and environmentally-integrated swimming pool, and is just steps from Chorro El Macho waterfall. Many other ecologically-conscious accommodations also dot the landscape of this magnificent mountain town.
If you’re ready to bring more light, laughter, and community-engaging natural adventures into your world, there’s an abundance of eco-friendly adventures that await you in Panama. The country’s breathtaking mountains, rain forest, oceans, and islands offer you unparalleled cultural and outdoor experiences amidst a landscape of unbridled natural beauty and awe-inspiring ecological delights.

Posted on

Dine Like A Local: Must-Try Foods When Visiting New Zealand

Feast Through New Zealand

You may not be aware New Zealand is part of the Polynesian Triangle—along with Hawaii and Easter Island—bringing a certain taste and culture to its cuisine, along with the fact that the Pacific Ocean surrounds it.
Here we’ll discover native dishes with a Poly-Asian influence along with fresh seafood and delectable desserts. Without any further adieu, here are some favorite dishes and treats enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

The Maori Experience

The Maori tribe is an important cultural part of New Zealand’s heritage and their cuisine is a favorite among these indigenous people. As they say, when in Rome, but in this case, when among the natives, you should always sample some of their traditional favorites you won’t find elsewhere in the world.

Hangi

Their method of cooking meat and vegetables in an underground oven known as Hangi has been used for thousands of years. Remembering their Polynesian neighbors to the North, this is remarkably similar to a Hawaiian Luau. Since traditional Maori Hangi takes many hours to prepare, it’s usually reserved for special occasions and made in large quantities. Prepare yourself to be overfed and well-indulged when enjoying this delicious and traditional dish. Enjoying Hangi is more of an experience than just a meal, as there are several events you can plan to attend that feature Hangi.

Kumara

Kumara is a sweet potato planted and enjoyed by the early Maori settlers for centuries. Usually served inside Hangi as mentioned previously, there’s plenty of other ways to enjoy this starchy vegetable. Baked, boiled, or fried, be sure to sample this native favorite while you’re in New Zealand.
For budding chefs or those staying in accommodations that allow cooking, you can purchase Kumara at grocery stores like Countdown Otaki.

Sensational Seafood

With over 9,400 miles of coastline and plenty of folks who love to fish, New Zealand is home to some sensational selections of seafood. It’s hard to pick out just one or two among so many tasty items to choose from. Below are a few favorites to consider.

Crayfish

Also known as a “poor man’s lobster” in America, the taste and texture of crayfish are surprisingly similar to their more expensive crustacean cousin. You’ll still pay a fairly hefty price in New Zealand for a full crayfish since they’re enormous compared to the tiny ones caught in the Louisiana Bayou and other parts of America.
Many restaurants in New Zealand are extremely proud of their unique presentations of crayfish. A couple of spots to sample this popular type of seafood are Sails Restaurant or Harbourside Ocean Bar and Grill.

Kina

Kina is the local name for a type of spiny sea urchin commonly captured on the coast. While the exterior appears painful with its spiky outer shell casing, the interior is fleshy, edible, and delicious.
Served in a variety of ways be sure to enjoy this local favorite in an upscale restaurant located close to the shoreline. Another way to experience the Kina is in their natural environment when going snorkeling in the Bay of Islands.

Paua

Paua is the Maori name given to a type of sea snail or abalone. Considered a delicacy like other types of snails, they’re often consumed raw but also enjoyed in curries or fritters.
Similar to abalone, they also have a beautiful shell used for jewelry, ashtrays, and more. You’ll often find Paua in quaint seafood spots offering fish and chips like George’s Takeaway.

Delectable Desserts

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

If you’ll be eating ice cream while you’re visiting New Zealand, but sure to do the Hokey Pokey. This creamy treat is made with caramelized honeycomb which gives it a unique, sweet taste that sets it apart from traditional ice cream. Whether it’s served in a cone or cup, locals enjoy Hokey Pokey either by itself or alongside other desserts.
While you’ll usually find Hokey Pokey almost everyplace ice cream is served, be sure to check out Giapo Ice Cream in Auklund where they specialize in making and serving this sweet treat.

Jaffas

Jaffas are candy-coated chocolate balls with a distinctive orange flavor and there’s even an annual race held to honor them in New Zealand. Held in Dunedin, the Cadbury Jaffa Race is popular among locals and tourist who enjoy watching the competition.
The event begins on Baldwin Street during the “World’s Steepest Street Party” including live music and entertainment. Three different races are run for charity with up to 25,000 candies released down the steepest street in the world. Held annually in July, you don’t have to compete to enjoy them since they’re available at most grocery and convenience stores.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is made from the native bush by the same name. It’s a sought after item on the international marketplace known for its many medicinal qualities. There are plenty of places to sample this sweet and healthy treat from dedicated honey shops to supermarkets and health food stores.

Pavlova

While it sounds a little bit like the Greek pastry known as Baklava, New Zealand’s Pavlova is a completely different dessert platform. Along with other types of signature dishes native to this region, there’s a heated debate among local restaurants about who is responsible for the creation of this particular cuisine, New Zealand or Australia.
Pavlova is often filled with meringue, whipped cream, kiwi, and other seasonal fruits and it’s simply scrumptious. You’ll find this tasty pastry in local bakeries and served in many restaurants.
So there you have it! A great list of eats and treats to try when you’re visiting stunning New Zealand. Let’s face it, part of the fun of traveling is enjoying the local cuisine and in this case, the more unusual and unique, the better.

Posted on

How to Eat Like a Local in Ethiopia

Feast Through Ethiopia

Here is some practical advice on how to blend in and eat like a local and several popular restaurants and cafes you should visit while you’re in Ethiopia’s capital.

How to Eat Ethiopian Food Like a Local

There is one thing you should know before you go to an Ethiopian restaurant in Addis Ababa: many locals don’t use silverware. Ethiорiаnѕ prefer to eat with their bаrе hаndѕ. Although silverware may be available in some establishments if you ask the waiter, you should bid farewell tо trаditiоnаl cutlery like knives and forks if you truly want to eat like a local during your vacation.
Ethiopian diѕhеѕ are traditionally ѕеrvеd to individual guests on a Mеѕоb, which iѕ a colorful tabletop stand made out of woven ѕtrаw. The server will remove the Mesob’s lid once your food is ready to uncover your meal inside. You can also order everything family-style, so the food is served to everyone on one big community platter or plate.
Meat is usually reserved for special occasions in Ethiopia. Restaurants usually buy meat from nearby farms and use fresh, locally sourced vegetables. Many Ethiopian meals are served with injera, a popular bread made from fеrmеntеd teff flour. The main ingredients of your meal are usually ѕеrvеd on tор оf the spongy injera bread. All you have to do is tear off a рiесе of Injera and use it to scoop up the food in the center if you want to start eating. Your ѕеrvеr will also probably рlасе some extra fоldеd injеrа in a small basket next to thе serving trау or Mesob so that you won’t run out.
It’s also custom for you to scoop up ѕоmе fооd and fееd it to a loved one if уоu are оn a date. Known as “gursha” in Ethiopian culture, feeding someone is considered an act оf kindnеѕѕ аnd demonstrates your deep sense of rеѕресt for the оthеr person.
Remember to wash your hands beforehand since you’ll be using them as utensils. Certain restaurants may also bring out a bаѕin of wаtеr and ѕоар so you can clean them at the table and won’t have to bother to get up and go to the bathroom.
Now that you’ve learned how to eat like a local, here are several Ethiopian restaurants and cafes you should visit while staying in the capital:

Moyos Cafe

Do you get cranky in the morning without coffee or breakfast? If so, you should consider stopping by Moyos Cafe to enjoy some Ethiopian coffee, freshly squeezed juice and pancakes smothered in strawberries to start your day. Other breakfast items include omelets, fruit cups, waffles, and French toast. Since Moyos Cafe is a favorite among the locals, try to get there as early in the morning as possible.

Effoi Pizza

Effoi Pizza specializes in cooking Italian Ethiopian cuisine, which means that each gourmet pizza pie has a unique blend of Italian pasta sauce and tasty Ethiopian spices. Their most popular dish is a vegan pizza with roasted eggplant and toasted zucchini with pesto and cheese. Meanwhile, meat lovers prefer their Tsedei pizza since it has ground beef, salami, and spiced sausage as toppings. In addition to serving Italian beverages, Effoi Pizza also serves traditional Ethiopian drinks like Tej (honey wine) or Suwa beer. The restaurant has been serving the local community since 2007 and has four locations throughout the country. If you make an effort to visit Effoi Pizza during your trip be prepared to wait for a table since it’s one of the most popular hangout spots in Addis Abba.

Mama’s Kitchen

If you want to catch a live show while you’re in town, head to Mama’s Kitchen. The glamorous and upscale restaurant, located in the heart of Addis Ababa, is a favorite among music lovers since they have live music and entertainment every day. The modern restaurant serves everything from traditional Ethiopian food to shish kebabs and BBQ. There is also a beer court and cocktail bar happy hour specials and specialty house cocktails if you want to relax and have a drink while listening to the music. Make sure that you check out their sophisticated VIP lounge, complete with red leather couches and gold accented decor. We recommend that you look up the restaurant’s event schedule and make an online reservation so that you can check their availability before leaving your hotel.

Dashen Traditional Restaurant

Are you traveling in a large group? If so, you should visit Dashen Traditional Restaurant. The casual venue has an outside garden terrace and bar that is the perfect place to eat with a group of friends. They serve traditional Ethiopian meals on Mesobs and large community platters. Their most popular dish is beef tongue and chicken stew. Dashen Traditional Restaurant also features live musical acts several nights a week.

Brundo Butchery Bar and Restaurant

Brundo Butchery Bar and Restaurant is famous for its fresh meat. Their most popular dish is kitfo, which is raw ground beef that is mixed together with a blend of different spices and butter. If eating raw meat doesn’t interest you, you can always order kitfo leb leb since it’s the same type of meat but fully cooked. Another favorite among locals is the cooked beef tips. Brundo Buthcery Bar and Restaurant also has several varieties of Tej beer and fermented honey wine.

Kategna Restaurant

One of the first things you will notice when you step inside Kаtеgnа Restaurant is the delicious smell of fresh spices and herbs. Although the restaurant has a contemporary decor, don’t be fooled. Kategna specializes in serving traditional Ethiopian meals with injera bread. They also host elaborate coffee ceremonies for guests during the day. The restaurant draws both a local and international crowd due to its proximity to several high-end hotels, so be prepared to make friends from all over the world when you dine at Kategna Restaurant.
Regardless if you want to try Italian Ethiopian pizza or eat kifto with injera bread, there are various dining options for you to choose from in the city of Addis Abba. After all, we can’t think of a better way for you to explore the Horn of Africa than by sharing several flavorful meals with your friends and family members.

Posted on

A Taste of the French Canadian Cuisine in Quebec City, Canada

Feast Through Quebec

With French Canadian heritage and local ingredients, some of the most talented chefs in the city create mouthwatering recipes that will leave you wanting more. From breakfast to the last bite of dessert, Quebec City is home to restaurants that will have you savoring every bite.

Légende

Légende is a restaurant that features the most delectable seasonal dishes. A place that truly captures the culture of Quebec City, Légende has a charming and rustic environment that is as warm and welcoming as the food itself. The culinary story passes from each guest to the next and lives strong in the hearts of the locals. Dishes are meant for sharing, and there is also a tasting menu. Food offerings such as Venison Carpaccio will enchant your taste buds, and there is an extensive wine list from which you may choose. The menu changes frequently due to the availability of local ingredients, so you will find different delicious choices each time you visit. Eat indoors and enjoy the quaint surroundings, or outdoors as you admire the sights that the city has to offer. While you may not know precisely what meal is in store for you until you get there, one thing is for sure: it will be one of the best meals you have ever enjoyed!

Le Continental

When you are looking for savory French cuisine to complement the culture of Quebec City, Le Continental is the perfect place. The upscale atmosphere speaks for itself, and the food is prepared tableside for an experience you won’t soon forget. Start with an appetizer such as Garlic Snails in Shells, Ravioli of Sweetbreads with Truffle Oil, or Slices of Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Chopped Red Onions. Soups include selections such as Cognac flavored Lobster Bisque and Onion Soup with Gruyère Gratin. When it comes time to choose the main course, you’ll find choices such as Snow Crabs and Hollandaise, Sautéed Veal Chop and Fresh Thyme Juice, and much more. The plate of cheese served after the main course is just delightful! Each cheese is made with local raw milk for a taste that you will love; you’ll enjoy goat cheese and an ever-changing variety of other cheeses. Save room for dessert, because specially prepared treats are the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. There is no better place than Le Continental to enjoy the ambiance of Quebec City.

La Planque

This amazing gastropub is the perfect way to relax after a whirlwind day of sightseeing in Quebec City. Serving plenty of New Canadian fare, this restaurant is a quaint hideout for tourists and locals alike. With a rustic environment, you’ll feel right at home in comfortable surroundings. You’ll feel as if you stepped into another world as soon as you walk in the door of La Planque, where everything tastes delicious, and everyone is there to serve you! The staff believes in making each customer smile with excellent service and top-quality food. Music is always playing to add to the feel-good environment. You won’t want to miss out on appetizers such as Foie Grass, Canadian Oysters, and Gravlax of Salmon. Dinner is equally as delectable, with offerings that include the Play of Beef for two, Turlo Pig, Supreme of Pintade of Cape St – Ignace, and much more. Desserts are mouthwatering, with options including Chocolate and Cranberry Brownies, Caramelized White Chocolate Cake, and Financial with Amenlanche and Zestes d’orange.

Buffet de l’Antiquaire

Buffet de l’Antiquaire is a diner-style restaurant serving some of the traditional food for which Quebec City is famous. Everyone is considered part of the family at Buffet de l’Antiquaire, and the ambiance is friendly and inviting at all times. The restaurant has been catering to tourists for more than four decades, and the staff loves answering questions about the history of the establishment, so ask away! Whether you come in for a quick coffee break or to enjoy a full meal, you do not want to leave Quebec City without visiting this charming spot. Stop by for breakfast and enjoy the Pain Dore or perhaps a perfectly prepared omelet. Later in the day and in the evening, satisfy your hunger with Poutine, Galvaude, or Spaghetti Au Smoked Meat. Looking for just a hot, soothing beverage and a pastry? The menu includes espresso, chocolat chaud, cafe au lait, and everything in between. For dessert, choose from options such as Shortcake aux Fraises, Crepe Dessert Fourree a la Creme Glacee a la Vanille, Fraises Et Chantilly, or the Dessert du Jour. You’ll love every last bite!

1640 Bistro

If you want to enjoy the view of Quebec City along with world-class cuisine, 1640 Bistro is the perfect place. You can sit on the terrace overlooking the magnificent city as you gaze at Château Frontenac and savor the quality time with your company. See live musicians and enjoy chef created plates that are a mix of French cuisine and European culture. From morning to evening, guests are always welcome. Come for breakfast and enjoy dishes such as La Poutine Matinale, and L’Assiette Brunch. If you prefer to stop by for lunch or dinner, selections include Charbroiled Quarter Chicken, Tagliatelle Pasta with braised pork and spinach, Duck Confit Poutine, and much more. This is the perfect place to get in touch with the atmosphere that Quebec City has to offer. Come with your significant other and feel like you are falling in love again over your romantic meal. The dessert menu will make you swoon, as the offerings include delights such as Caramel Cheesecake, Apple Tatin Tart, and a daily dessert that makes for a pleasant surprise. The service is nothing less than impeccable, making you feel at ease and right at home.
Now you know the best places to go for a delectable meal when you plan your trip to Quebec City, Canada. The city has a somewhat enchanting feel, making you feel as happy and special as possible! There is no better place to enjoy the French, Canadian, and European cuisine than this over the top, amazing city.

Posted on

3 Magical Towns in South Africa For Art Lovers

African Towns For Art Lovers

The bigger cities are cultural meccas of colorful creativity, individual expression, and vibrant invention. Many wanderers have been stopped and enthralled by the treasures found there, yet artists are often drawn to smaller towns where the quiet calls and even the skies seem airbrushed by a painter’s hand.

Clarens is Playful

Clarens is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Free State,” but those familiar with the enchanting town know it as the ultimate artist’s hideout. It rests comfortably beneath the Maluti mountains, a craggy range that embodies the American West. Multi-colored sandstone formations and pristine rivers and streams dress up the landscape. Nature here is canvas enough for outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of trout fishing and white water rafting on the Ash River. Scenic cycling trails and bird watching adventures also await.
The town of Clarens is an eccentric town full of quirky character that is just a few hours from both Johannesburg and Bloemfontein. The village square is bustling by day with over fifteen unique art galleries, charming antique stores, and cafes. You may want to check out the Robert Badenhorst Gallery where both emerging and established fine artists are showcased. Stop by the Highland Coffee Roastery for a cup of heavenly coffee. Clarens is a friendly and walkable community, so you can take your time and explore.
In the evening, Clarens transforms from lively to subtle, quietly enticing the romantic and hungry to experience fine dining. You can reserve a table at Clementines with its upscale country menu and relaxing ambiance, or keep it cozy and casual at The Artist’s Cafe. There are several lodging options in town when you are ready to call it a day. You can sleep in style at the Mont d’Or Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel with all the frills, or opt for a quaint B&B like Patcham Place in the heart of the village. Self-catering cottages are also available.

Prince Albert is Crafty

Prince Albert in a hidden gem in the Karoo Desert where craftmakers, photographers, and story-weavers animate imagination. The picturesque Swartberg Mountains in the distance frame a living gallery bursting with cultural pride and rich history going back to the year 1762. Be sure not to bypass the Fransie Pienaar Museum where you will be mesmerized by the extensive collection of earthenware, fossils, and olden musical instruments. An onsite distillery produces local moonshine, called witblits, available for tasting and purchasing at the museum’s shop.
The off-the-beaten-path town of Prince Albert is alive with an artistic vibe spanning the creative genres and straining the poetic norms. Karoo Looms is not to be missed on a visit to town. The weavery was established in 1983 and has since delighted all with its highly-skilled spinning and weaving of beautiful mohair rugs. You can take a stroll down Kerkstraat (Church Street) with its quaint woodworking and pottery shops as well as outdoor cafes.
Dining choices are plentiful in Prince Albert, and a slow relaxing dinner with a glass of local wine at the Gallery Cafe is the perfect way to close out the day. Owner Brent Phillips-White uses ingredients from local sources including those from his own garden, planted to supply the restaurant. You might want to try the black wildebeest fillet for an authentic South African experience. You can stay the night at one of the community’s unique lodging establishments like the historic De Bergkant Lodge. The tranquil Cape Dutch homestead offers comfortable, spacious suites with elegant features and cool antique accents. Large swimming pools and natural green terraces invite peaceful relaxation.

Nieu Bethesda is Dynamic

Nieu Bethesda is mostly known for The Owl House, a tribute to outsider art by Helen Martins. The friendly, small village is also home to a growing number of creative types who appreciate its serene lifestyle and breathtaking vistas. The gurgling of fresh spring water running through the town’s working furrow system serenades while Compassberg, the Eastern Cape’s highest mountain, keeps vigil over the idyllic setting. You can take a leisurely donkey cart tour with Jakob van Staden who cheerfully shares his extensive knowledge of his hometown and its history.
Nieu Bethesda may appear to be a sleepy village at first glance, but the interesting and talented characters who have gathered there bring a colorful animation to the area. Charmaine Haines, an acclaimed South African ceramicist, was inspired by the natural environment and chose to open her studio in the village as did renowned sculptor, Frans Boekkooi. The Bethesda Arts Centre is an incredible testament to textile arts celebrating Bushman mythology through vibrant tapestries crafted by the indigenous artists of ǀXam descent. You might also want to check out Dustcovers Bookshop for rare books sourced from all over the world.
The Brewery and Two Goats Deli is the ideal spot to enjoy a delicious lunch and a cold glass of ale in the shade of pepper and pear trees. The almost-hidden rustic pub makes its own cheese, hand-roasts its coffee, and brews its own craft beer for a fresh and authentic experience. Dinner at The Tower Restaurant finds you comfortably seated in a quaint old tower with a pleasantly mysterious ambiance. The menu is varied and includes Karoo Lamb, Cottage Pie, and vegetarian dishes. Accommodations in Nieu Bethesda are homey and sometimes quirky. Self-catering cottages like Murrayfield Guesthouse and Rustpunt Cottage are clean and affordable options for a one-of-a-kind South African adventure.
South Africa has much to offer both travelers and residents, from its rich diversity to its awe-inspiring landscape. Cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg exude cultural charm and modern amenities, but sometimes it’s a good idea to take the roads less traveled. You never know what treasures you may find there.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.