Going to Disney World but want a break from overflowing Orlando? The comparatively crowdless seaside town of Vero Beach is a two hours’ drive from O-Town’s attractions and offers up clean beaches and affordable places to stay. One, the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa was recently purchased by Kimpton, which means all those perks we love about the punchy hotel brand (kid-sized bathrobes, goodie bags, in-room goldfish)—along with a cocktail hour for adults and a pet-friendly policy—are now in effect.
No one who knows me would ever mistake me for a mountaineer. Though I’ve happily met all manner of challenges on flat ground (including Patagonian glaciers, Australian desert, and Costa Rican rainforest), high-altitude adventures have always set me whimpering.
So recently, I decided to test my fear of heights in the cushiest possible way: with a customized, weeklong guided foray into the Italian Dolomites.
Hoping to get rid of dated impressions and open up its programs to adults of all ages, the 34-year-old educational travel organization Elderhostel recently changed its name to Exploritas, a combination of the words ‘explore’ and ‘veritas,’ to promote their mission of pursuing “adventures in lifelong learning,” particularly among baby-boomers.
"Elder was kind of a turnoff for me, and I'm beyond living in dorms with a backpack on my back. . .That was kind of the vision I had of it. But when I started seeing the opportunities and talking to somebody who had done it, obviously it's not the case," Jack Pickard, a 62-year-old from Ohio told the Wall Street Journal.
When not out and about in the world, I am a modern armchair traveler—vicariously visiting the corners of the planet online. I’ve spent whole evenings in South America via GoogleEarth on my iTouch; am addicted to the TravelandLeisure.com and NYTimes.com slideshows; and check in on my bookmarked travel blogs with religious regularity.
Right now, TheAccidentalExtremist.com, a collection of tales of trips gone bad (or somewhat awry) by writers both amateur and celebrated, curated by adventure writer Christian DeBenedetti (with whom I worked at National Geographic Adventure magazine), has me hooked.
I just returned from my third trip to Monte Argentario, a dramatic peninsula two hours north of Rome on the Tuscan coast. My sister married a Roman who grew up going to a place called Cala Moresca (or the Moorish Cove), and he's since introduced us to the area, which is better known to Italians than to Americans. (It's a place locals save for themselves.) Here are some of our favorite stops, plus a couple new discoveries:
Back in May, my fiancé and I were all geared up for a trip to St. Martin—until, 24 hours before our flight—Dan realized his passport had expired. After spending a good hour researching expedited passport fees, and realizing there was no way we were leaving the country, I called Jet Blue and priced out fares for all of its beachy destinations—from Long Beach to Fort Lauderdale. Turns out sunny Orlando was the cheapest to fly to (by hundreds of dollars). We reserved a rental car, and the next morning we were off—with no hotel rooms reserved, much less an idea of where we’d end up.
There are plenty of reasons to avoid Amtrak like a bout of indigestion: the frequent delays, the diner food, you get the idea. (No wonder sales have dwindled; only five billion passenger miles were logged in 2000, compared to 17 in 1960.) Still, I’ve always wanted to take a long-distance train trip.
When it comes to German beer, I have some experience--and the scars to prove it. I once received a dozen stitches in my scalp from a misunderstanding with a car door after a long day at Oktoberfest. I have had my hand stomped on by an elderly woman in a drunken crowd of revelers while downing Kölsch at Karneval in Cologne. At the oldest bier hall in Munich, I pulled a back muscle while tapping a massive wooden beer keg (in only two strokes!) with a 20-pound wooden mallet.
What I have not done, however, is roam the hillsides of Bavaria in search of the finest Noble Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops, or watch how the artisans at Bamberg’s Schlenkerla Brewery concoct their wondrous smoked beer, or explore the history and artifacts at the German Hops Museum in Wolnzach. I confess I have never witnessed the malting process.
It’s enough to make you weep.
But that’s easily corrected on the seven-day Samuel Adams Hopfenpflücken (“hop-picking”) Adventure, organized by the high-end tour company Abercrombie & Kent.
Summer’s here and the time is right for packing your towel and sunscreen, hailing a cab to the heart of town, and hitting the beach. Four of our favorite (faux) city beaches:
Paris-Plage, a network of three sandy oases set up every July and August along the Seine’s Right Bank, complete with chaises longues, boules courts, and palm trees.
Copenhagen’s Havnebadet (“harbor baths”), an industrial pier in Islandsbrygge converted into a beach club and park with space for 600. Barbecue pits, a volleyball lawn, and great city views add to the scene—and you can actually swim in the newly cleaned-up harbor.
Istanbul’s Suada, a chic swimming club by day and bar/disco/sushi restaurant by night with an Olympic size pool—floating in the middle of the Bosphorus.
And, not least, the latest incarnation of New York’s Water Taxi Beach, this one on Pier 17 next to South Street Seaport, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge (the original WTB, pitctured above, is across the East River in Queens). The new location, which opened Memorial Day weekend, has the same trucked-in beach sand, picnic tables, and DJ’s after dark, but it also offers an expanded menu that adds fish tacos to the usual burgers and dogs, plus—wait for it—mini-golf and skeeball. If that doesn’t release your inner 10-year-old, who knows what will.
(For the best real city beaches, check out this slideshow.)
Peter Jon Lindberg is Travel + Leisure's editor at large.
Photos courtesy of Rui Pereira (Paris-Plage) and Isuru Seneviratne (Water Taxi Beach, Queens)
Last week I checked in with Shaun White (above), the red-headed snowboarder of winter Olympic fame. The 22-year-old athlete, who also happens to be a pro skateboarder, has signed on to make appearances at Skate Cayman, a summer-long skateboarding camp on Grand Cayman (a fine locale for the world’s second largest skatepark).