Experience Louisiana’s Christmas Eve Bonfire Tradition

Experience Louisiana’s Christmas Eve Bonfire Tradition

Leave it to the Cajuns to redefine the meaning of "Christmas lights". For miles along the levees of the Mississippi River, Christmas Eve in St. James Parish, Louisiana is ushered in by over a hundred enormous bonfires. Although not everyone agrees on how the Christmas bonfire tradition began, most people do agree that there's a real beauty to the 20-foot flames that light up the night sky. Some believe it began as a way to light the path for those attending Christmas Eve Mass after dark. Others think it was started as a…Read more
Asheville NC’s Mecca of Gingerbread Artistry

Asheville NC’s Mecca of Gingerbread Artistry

There's a spicy-sweet smell wafting through the air in Asheville, NC. That's because the biggest gingerbread throw-down in the U.S. happens here at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Gingerbread artists from across the country converge here in November for the chance to have their creation take top prize in the National Gingerbread House Competition. These ain't your grandma's gingerbread houses! Those who compete in Asheville are decorating masters, elevating a simple recipe of flour, sugar and spices to extremely detailed, complex, artistic tableaus of holiday scenes, animals, and vehicles - with precision, beauty…Read more
Visit the Spirit of Christmas Past in Williamsburg, VA

Visit the Spirit of Christmas Past in Williamsburg, VA

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia is a living time capsule of a thriving early American colony. No matter what season you come, you leave life as you know it behind. You become an 18th century traveler to the early years of the American Revolution, a time when our country's freedom and independence was taking shape. But visit during the month of December, and you'll step back into Christmas 1775.  All of the original homes, shops, taverns and public places that stood more than 300 years ago are entirely decorated in a festive array. The city…Read more
Weston, WV: You’d Have to Be Insane To Enter This Asylum

Weston, WV: You’d Have to Be Insane To Enter This Asylum

Are you looking for a truly spine-tingling adventure this Halloween? Then head out to Weston, West Virginia, where you’ll see one of the most impressive (and haunted) structures in the country, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Construction began in 1858 but was delayed due to the Civil War. It was completed in 1881, and this enormous structure is the largest hand-cut stone building in America. (It is the second largest in the world, surpassed only by the Kremlin.) It was built to house 250 patients but by 1950 it reportedly contained over 2400 patients! Conditions were…Read more
5 Uniquely New Orleans Things to do for Halloween

5 Uniquely New Orleans Things to do for Halloween

  Right around now, people across the U.S. are doing typical Halloween activities like pumpkin picking and hay rides, costume parties, haunted house attractions, etc. But in New Orleans, Louisiana, things are FAR from typical.  With a flair for the macabre and a close connection to the spirit world, NOLA is a city that celebrates the haunted, the spooky, the mysterious all year long. That's why there's just no better place to visit this time of year!   Here are just a few uniquely New Orleans ways to celebrate Halloween:     1.…Read more
South Alabama Raises a Monument to a Pest

South Alabama Raises a Monument to a Pest

In Enterprise, Alabama, at the intersection of College and Main Streets, there’s a 13-foot tall monument that holds above her head an object of great admiration and honor: a boll weevil.  In further reverence to this shiny insect, there is a street called  Boll Weevil Circle, a strip mall called the Boll Weevil Plaza and a Boll Weevil Inn. Your country music plays on radio station Weevil 101 (call letters WVVL).  Why all this glory for what most consider an insidious pest? Early in the 1900s, boll weevils invaded the U.S. from Mexico, eating…Read more
Put on Your Lederhosen! It’s Oktoberfest in Helen, GA

Put on Your Lederhosen! It’s Oktoberfest in Helen, GA

  It's in the air: the smell of schnitzel and beer, the sound of the oompah-pah band.  It's time for one of the oldest and best Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States in Helen, Georgia! Helen is a charming alpine city tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Chattahoochee River.  Although it's only an hour and a half drive northeast of Atlanta, Helen's Bavarian-styled buildings and cobblestone streets will have you thinking you somehow arrived in Germany. Helen's famous Oktoberfest began on September 19 this year and runs through October 27.  You…Read more
Whooping It Up for Whooping Cranes in North Alabama

Whooping It Up for Whooping Cranes in North Alabama

Although you'll most likely drive into into Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in North Alabama, most of its visitors arrive by air. That’s because most visitors here are birds – many, many birds. In fact, 285 species have been identified on this 35,000-acre tract along the Tennessee River between Decatur and Huntsville. The most storied and conspicuous of Wheeler’s visitors are whooping cranes. These giants stand up to five feet tall and have wingspans of almost eight feet. A few whoopers, North America’s most famous endangered bird, plus thousands of slightly shorter sandhill cranes…Read more
Richmond, VA: Rich in Civil War History

Richmond, VA: Rich in Civil War History

  I saw the movie “Lincoln” recently, and it reminded me how less than 150 years ago, a large part of Richmond, Virginia had been burned to the ground. Back then, Richmond was the capitol of the confederacy, and when the Union army was threatening to capture Richmond, retreating Confederate soldiers set fire to as many buildings as they could. But in practically no time, Richmond bounced back and emerged from the smoldering rubble of the Civil War to become an even more important and economically powerful city than before!   Richmond is…Read more
Charleston, WV: Catch Up on Culture in the Capitol

Charleston, WV: Catch Up on Culture in the Capitol

Mention the southern city of Charleston and most people will think of South Carolina.  But West Virginia features a Charleston too, and it happens to be the state capitol and the largest city in WV (not to be confused with another WV city called Charles Town). Home to a variety of exciting cultural and recreational attractions, it's a city well worth visiting.  And, if you're into history you can't miss the Cultural Center near the State Capitol building. As you enter the Center, you are greeted by its Great Hall, a beautiful space…Read more