The off-season is the perfect time to visit NC’s Outer Banks

MANTEO, N.C. — So maybe it wasn’t the nicest message I ever sent my son. Especially since the whole point of our off-season beach getaway was to leave our many worries behind in Pittsburgh, and simply chill. “Just in case: Dad and I are about to go up in an airplane,” I texted him, attaching […]

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Into the (Wild) Woods of New Jersey

                    WILDWOODS, N.J. — Beach vacations, done right, have a magical way of getting you to eat, drink and do things you’d normally steer clear of on a regular weekday. Take roller coasters. I hadn’t been on one in years, ever since a wild ride on […]

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George Mason’s Gunston Hall plantation offers a look at 18-century Virginia life

MASON NECK, Va. — George Washington’s Mount Vernon tends to get all the attention when it comes to historic homes in the Washington, D.C., area, and deservedly so: One of the most-visited Colonial sites in America, the white mansion with its 21 elegantly appointed rooms offers an authentic glimpse into the 18th-century plantation life of our first president. And […]

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A day at the beach, without sand or surf

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Summer is quickly coming to a close but if you’re headed to the nation’s capital before Labor Day, there’s still time to squeeze in a quick trip to the beach. Just don’t worry about packing sunscreen, a beach bag or even a bathing suit. “The BEACH” exhibit at the National Building Museum’s Grand […]

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Stunning, reliable cranberries are steeped in Thanksgiving’s heritage

BROWNS MILLS, N.J. — Love ’em or hate ’em, cranberries have long been part of America’s culinary history. Even before Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gave orders in 1864 for the tart ruby berries to be given to Union soldiers as part of their holiday meal, cranberries were common on the table. Native Americans ate them and […]

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Chasing fall’s colors in Virginia’s picturesque Shenandoah Valley

LURAY, Va. — Some years ago, fresh out of college and poor as church mice, my husband and I set out on our great honeymoon adventure. Our three-day drive from Pittsburgh to jobs in Miami would take us through Virginia’s picturesque Shenandoah Valley. To humor my father, we agreed to stop at Luray Caverns. Good call, […]

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Autumn shows its colors at Ricketts Glen State Park

BENTON, Pa. — Fresh air and blue skies are easy tonics for the stressed-out city life.  Still,  I was in a pretty foul mood when I rolled into Ricketts Glen State Park in this scenic, woodsy corner of northeastern Pennsylvania. Equally distracted by my growling stomach and the country tunes wailing on my car radio, I’d missed the rustic […]

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Put-in-Bay, Ohio’s party island

PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio — The party starts early en route to Lake Erie’s South Bass Island. Minutes after the drive-on/drive-off ferry pulls away from the dock on Catawba Island a few miles west of Sandusky, Ohio, T-shirt-clad passengers on the lower deck start popping beer cans. Their grins are as broad as the sprawling green lake churning behind them. It doesn’t matter that the 3-mile journey […]

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The huge Minnesota State Fair is big on decadent food creations

ST. PAUL, Minn. —  The smell washes over you in the parking lot, even before you reach the long lines that snake out in every direction at the ticket booth. The sweet, sugary aroma of cotton candy mixed with the earthy scent of manure. Weird, but also strangely appropriate. This is a state fair, after all, where horses, […]

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Kinzua colors: Reborn bridge offers spectacular views of Pennsylvania fall foliage

MOUNT JEWETT, Pa. — Even before its tattered remains were reimagined as a spectacular walkway over one of Pennsylvania’s prettiest gorges, the Kinzua Viaduct was one for the history books. When it rose some 300 feet above the ground more than a century ago, the structure was the largest and longest railroad bridge in the world — higher even than […]

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Into the woods in Cook Forest

LEEPER — Summer weekends in Cook Forest, a registered national natural landmark known for its old-growth hemlocks, usually involve this: Paddling or tubing on the lazy Clarion River. Climbing the teetering, 87-foot fire tower built as a firemen’s lookout in 1929 and then scrambling across the rocky ledges at nearby Seneca Point Overlook. (You can see for miles at both […]

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Boston: The cradle of liberty still rocks

BOSTON — It was by happenstance, really, that we came across the memorial. This was a trip to see the historic sights and taste the seafood for which this capital city is famous. Our hotel was on Copley Square, a name that sounded vaguely familiar. Coming up from the subway station with our bags, peering […]

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