Whether it’s an over the top home display like in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation or the professional wonderland of Walt Disney World, nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit better than a good ole Christmas light display!
I grew up in the small town in southern Illinois that is known for Candy Cane Lane so a trip to “see the lights” is something I just HAVE to do at least once a year. Call it an addiction if you must, but I’ve gone as far as Niagara Falls, Canada not for that famous waterfall but to see the "Winter Festival of Lights".
So, when we pulled into Duluth, Minnesota back in late summer and I immediately began to see the requests on social media for volunteers to set up for the Bentleyville "Tour of Lights", my excitement started to build. Not only would I have a Christmas light display in town, but it was going to be in walking distance!
The Bentleyville "Tour of Lights" opened on November 17th, I was there opening night and twice just this week. I never expected anything as elaborate and beautifully done as this! It really is magical! With every visit, I'm in awe and manage to see something new.
One of my favorite places to see waterfalls in northwest Wisconsin is Amnicon Falls State Park. Located 15 miles east of Superior, Wisconsin near Lake Superior, it is one of the easiest places to visit waterfalls on the Lake Superior Waterfall Tour.
This is a small park, with only 2.4 miles of hiking trails. The best part of the trail, a 1/4 mile easy loop, is right off the parking lot. This is where you will find four named waterfalls, three smaller unnamed falls and a historic bridge. None of these waterfalls are very large but they are all very picturesque. The park is small enough to see the highlights in under an hour; but, if you are a true waterfall lover, bring your lunch, you could easily spend most of a day.
In 2018, Wisconsin designated the road through the Bayfield Peninsula as Wisconsin’s fourth scenic byway. Named the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway, this 70 mile segment of State Highway 13 winds its way around the South Shore of Lake Superior and provides sweeping scenic views of beautiful forests, pristine beaches and the “big lake” itself. Along the way you will visit quaint harbor towns full of historic architecture, historic fishing villages, small orchards and fruit farms and the home of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Bayfield, at the center of the byway, is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area.
Known as a fantastic summer destination, I decided to visit in autumn to experience the Bayfield Peninsula in a way that so many visitors never get a chance to do. It is a much quieter time with most of the tourist destinations closed but it's a great time to "get back to nature" and the fall colors are off the wall!
Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans started to arrive in New Orleans and wanted a neighborhood to call their own. It took thirty years to happen but in 1826 when Jacques Livaudais failed to show up for divorce court preceding he lost ownership of the family plantation to his wife. In 1832, she moved home to France and sold the property to a group of businessmen that saw this land as American’s answer to the French and Creole dominated Vieux Carre. They parceled it off into a grid of 80 city blocks and it became part of the Village of Lafayette.
Wealthy Americans flocked to build mansions here. With plenty of space each mansion was surrounded by huge lawns and gardens some spanning full city blocks which earned the area its nickname the “Garden District”. That nickname stuck and the Garden District became its official name when the neighborhood was annexed into New Orleans in 1852.
While the lawns are no longer as grand as they once were, the mansions are still just as impressive as they were the day they were built. A visit to the Garden District offers a chance to see an entire neighborhood of preserved mansions from the 1800s and displays a melting pot of architectural styles that were “new” for the time period in which they were built.
The Garden District was recognized for its architectural and cultural significance in 1972, when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and then again in 1974, when it was declared a National Historic Landmark. Most recently, the Garden District was designated as a Historic District in June 2007 by the Historic District Landmarks Commission.
Whether you choose to take a guided walking tour from one of the many local tour companies or just do it yourself, a visit to New Orleans is incomplete without a visit to the Garden District.
Sitting along the banks of the Ohio River in a quiet little town in southern Illinois is a cave called Cave-In-Rock. The first recorded history of Cave-In-Rock was in 1739 by French explorer M. DeLery who mapped the limestone cave and named it, “caverne dans Le Roc” which after being translated into English is still the name it bears today. Although, much of its history is unsubstantiated, the local folklore that surrounds this cave started almost immediately after its discovery and tells a story of river boat pirates, bandits, fugitives, and murderers.
I have always loved this beautiful old chapel. As early as four or five years old, I can remember staring out the car window in excitement and maybe with just a touch of trepidation as I waited to get my first glimpse of it anytime my parents drove down Route 37. It became even more interesting to me when I discovered that it was built by an ancestor of mine and that the two most prominent tombstones on either side are ancestors too.
I have been planning this image for a long time. It could be called, "Memories of my Youth", for when cemeteries were scary places to visit. In my mind's eye as a five year old, this is what the Goddard Chapel looks like...
Only a 30-minute drive west of Duluth, Minnesota, on the edge of the St. Louis River, is a little logging town in the North Woods called Cloquet. This town began as a group of small settlements around three sawmills: Shaw Town, Nelson Town, and Johnson Town, and today it has a population of a little over 12,000 people.
Many people would be very surprised to learn that this quiet little town has a unique tie to America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Cloquet, is the location of the only functioning gas station ever designed and built by Mr. Wright. It is also the only piece of Wright’s Broadacre City project ever to be constructed.
This is the closest I have been to a blue heron…
With wildlife, I’m convinced that no matter how much you try to plan ahead it's really just dumb luck that you are in the right spot at the right time.
Of all the botanical gardens I have visited in the United States, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the Big Island of Hawaii is my favorite. It spans 40 acres of untouched rain forest and is home to over 2,000 species of tropical plants. However, it is not just a botanical garden but also a breathtaking tropical nature preserve and sanctuary. With its multi-tiered waterfall, numerous streams, and a picturesque oceanfront walk along Onomea Bay, this garden has earned its reputation as one of Hawaii's most magnificent destinations.
The adventure begins before you even reach the Garden…
Step back over 160 years in time at the beautiful Historic Bowens Mills. Once a thriving community, farmers brought their grain here to the 1854 grist mill to be milled into flour and meal. Visit the antique apple cider press that sits ready for another fall apple season.
In the western portion of the state of Nebraska you’ll find Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway. This is a historic 144 mile route from Ogallala to the Wyoming border that roughly follows the path the pioneers took almost 200 years ago. While there is much to see and do here, I have chosen the amazing geological formations that those brave pioneers saw along the way to be the topic of this post.
With my interior design background, I am always interested in unique and interesting architecture. The Painted Churches on the Big Island of Hawaii certainly fall into that category. If you are an architecture or art lover or just like to visit churches, I would consider the painted churches as must-sees.
Just be aware, these painted churches don't give away any of their secrets on the exterior. It's necessary to go inside to discover their beauty!
I have a funny story about that! On one of our visits to St. Benedict's, my husband was out in their fantastic garden, mostly trying hard to stay out of my way. :-D He was enjoying the quiet and the birds when a car hurriedly wheeled into the parking lot. This guy jumped out of the car and loudly proclaimed, "I'm not sure why they call this the Painted Church. It's just white!" Before my husband could tell him to go inside, he was back in his car and had sped away.
ATTENTION: Car Lovers, Auto Geeks and Gearheads...
If you have never visited Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford for a car show, you don't know what you are missing!
I have a confession to make; I was 50 before I read the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can hear the collective gasp of all the shocked women that are currently reading this post….blasphemy, I KNOW!
In my defense, when I was about the age when all the other little girls were madly absorbing these books, playing "Holly Hobbie" dress up and dreaming about being Laura, my local librarian marched me over to the adult section of the town’s public library and handed me an Agatha Christie novel. I never stepped foot in the children’s section of the library again.
When I look back, I’m really not sure what I was doing when the television series came out because I didn’t watch that either. Oh, I saw an episode or two but without the background of the books; I just really didn’t get it. Maybe, it was just too “girly” for me; I hated pink, didn’t play with dolls and was the only kid in my neighborhood with a complete football uniform, shoulder pads and all.
Needless to say, my husband was more than a bit skeptical when I tossed out the idea of driving up to DeSmet, South Dakota, for a “Little House on the Prairie” weekend.
Visiting Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii had been on my bucket list since 2006. At that time, we were on a seven month assignment on Maui and had hopped over to Hilo for a weekend visit. We planned to hike the volcano, see waterfalls and drive down into Waipi'o Valley. I had done all the research, rented the jeep, was raring to go, and then we simply ran out of time. Not realizing how much larger the Big Island was to the other islands, I failed to plan for the driving time. Plan accordingly, from Hilo, it is an hour and fifteen minute drive and from Kailua-Kona, you are an hour and a half away. That's no stopping to take pictures or sightseeing but straight drive time.
Fast forward 11 years to 2017, when I received the news of the Big Island assignment my first thought was, "I finally get to see Waipi'o Valley!"
When you hear someone refer to "The Bridges of Madison County," I bet your first thought is the movie with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. If you are an avid reader, it's the best-selling novel that preceded the film by a few years. Many people are not aware that those beautiful covered bridges Clint's character went to photograph are located in a picturesque area of Iowa less than an hour's drive from Des Moines.
The official name for this area is Covered Bridges Scenic Byway. It is one of Iowa's newest scenic byways. At 82 miles long, this byway is packed with beautiful natural places and unique destinations like John Wayne's Birthplace. There's enough to see and do in Madison County to fill a two- or 3-day weekend.
If you are like me, you may need a second trip to see and experience it all!
National Geographic calls the spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes through central Nebraska “one of the greatest wildlife phenomena in North America”. If you are a birder, a wildlife photographer or just a nature lover, I really consider this a “must do” for your bucket list!
In 2017, I was lucky enough to spend the entire migration season in Nebraska with the Sandhill Cranes. It had been on my bucket list for quite some time. I had gotten a small taste of it about 10 years ago when my husband completed a 2 month assignment in Grand Island. That year, we left at the beginning of March when the cranes were just starting to arrive but what I saw in those first few weeks literary blew my mind!
Sometimes what's going on behind the scenes is just as good as the image created....
My husband is a medical traveler. He fills in at hospitals all over the United States that are short-staffed. Contracts typically start at 13 weeks long, but sometimes they can get extended for up to a year.
It's a very different life. I like to say it's a little like a substitute teacher only with temporary relocation. Sometimes those locations are absolutely amazing and sometimes, not so much; but, it is always interesting. I have discovered so much beauty in areas of the United States that some people might think they would never want to visit. We have been very lucky getting some great locations, so I have no complaints!
I am the 8th photographer in 4 generations of my family. Back in 2006, my husband accepted a job traveling, and I jumped at the chance to go with him.
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