Included in our trip to Maryland and the OU-West Virginia game was a beautiful day of sightseeing in Pennsylvania. By staying with family at their weekend home at Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, we were in a great location to see several nearby locations of interest.
Fallingwater was designed on the basis of cantilevers so that some of the rooms and outdoor areas extend over the falls of Bear Run. The design concepts were based on “organic architecture” and the home encompasses elements to include the outside. Corner windows in the bedrooms open from the corner, giving an unimpeded view of the waterfalls below.
A swimming area in the stream can be accessed from a glass-enclosed area in the living room, and the driveway went from the bridge over the stream to the back side of the home and up the hill behind to a four-car carport (which is now enclosed and used as a small visitors’ auditorium). Quarters for the household help are also part of this second building.
We were in awe of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural genius once again. Native stone and steel features painted in his notorious Cherokee red help the structure fit the setting.
From Fallingwater we began the drive back, stopping at Ohiopyle State Park. The park is highlighted by the rushing waters of the Youghiogheny River. We enjoyed the impressive falls that extend along Highway 381. A narrow park area with several overlooks provides a pleasant resting spot and views of the falls.
The day trip from Deep Creek Lake to Fallingwater back through Ohiopyle to Deep Creek gave us a delightful taste of the area and a desire to return to take in several other destinations, including Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. Maybe on our next trip…?
We really enjoy taking trips. We enjoy driving on some trips, seeing parts of the United States that we haven’t seen before – or sometimes reliving memories of past trips to the same destinations. When time isn’t of the essence, a driving trip is probably the most educational, at the least.
Sometimes, however, it pays to weigh the economics of flying or driving. When you drive, you really should consider the depreciation that the mileage may cause on your car and the cost of gasoline. And you have to add in the cost of lodging if your trip is more than a day trip.
As we planned our driving trip to Morgantown, WV for the OU-West Virginia football game, we began to re-think our plans. This would be approximately 2400 miles, 19 hours each way! Sure we could push it and spend only one night out, but driving for 9-10 hours for two days in a row would probably mean we couldn’t move for two days after that!
To break it down to two nights out would be much more reasonable, but of course, more expensive. We were guesstimating $90-$100 per night for lodging, so that would add $400 to our trip.
We also had decided to visit family in Columbia, MD. They also own a weekend place at Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, only 50 miles from Morgantown, so they were looking forward to joining us for the football game, too.With all of that in mind, we decided we would see what it would cost to fly. Checking with American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, I found that the cost of flights was still more than the cost to drive. I then checked Kayak.com, to see if by any chance there might be a different carrier that would meet our needs.
I like checking flights and hotels through Kayak, because it provides a cost comparison of Hotwire, Priceline, Expedia, Cheapoair, and Travelocity. Generally they are pretty comparable, but occasionally one may have a discount that is better than the others.
This was definitely the right move, because Kayak showed fares on Delta Airlines that were notably cheaper than the others I had checked! I went directly to Delta’s website then, and made the reservations. We saved several hundred dollars, several days, and were set for a great trip of visiting, sightseeing, and cheering on the Sooners!
Before Hurricane Isaac was a twinkle in the weatherman’s eye, our family headed to Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida for some get-together get-away time. Florida is not necessarily the ideal place to be in the hottest part of the summer, but with a swimming pool and ocean waves to wash the sand and sweat away, we didn’t suffer too much.
This was an extended-family group totaling sixteen, so some activities were planned in accordance with the numbers. While dinners together were noisy and probably a challenge for wait staff, they were definitely fun.
We stayed at the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Beach. This hotel has buildings on each side of Seabreeze Boulevard, connected by a 2nd floor walkway. With our rooms on the beach side we were able to catch the sea breeze and observe the beach volleyball courts.
The hotel offered the Beach Bar & Grill, the Wreck Bar, and Dos Caminos restaurant, and we took advantage of each of those, along with eating at nearby restaurants. The Wreck Bar was interesting because of the beautiful aquariums set in two walls and the windows which gave an underwater view of one of the swimming pools. One evening we walked a couple of blocks to the Oasis Café, which had porch swings for seating. We had one ‘dress up’ dinner at the 15th Street Fisheries; and another evening we took the water taxi to Pirate Republic, where the seafood was exceptional. Our favorite place for breakfast was a block from the hotel, the Bahia Cabana. Seating was outside at picnic tables, and watching boats come in and out of the marina kept the kids entertained.
Ft. Lauderdale has many interesting sights, but we most enjoyed taking a water taxi tour along the intercoastal waterway. While still at home, I had purchased a Groupon for a tour of the waterway; but we discovered that we didn’t need to do that. The regular water taxi route comes with a running commentary about the homes and yachts and businesses, along with some of the history of the area. I would recommend checking the water taxi schedules and picking a day when you enough time to take the full route. Huge mansions line the waterway and a few have served as movie locations, businesses, etc. There are also some stops that have commercial areas with shopping and restaurants.
I know that our group of sixteen didn’t begin to see all the marvelous sights that Ft. Lauderdale has to offer, but the combination of those we saw plus the beach and ocean made it a vacation that had something for everyone, from 7 to 70!
Branson, Missouri is not an unusual vacation destination for people in the center of the country. We spent part of our honeymoon there MANY years ago, and we traveled to Silver Dollar City several times when our children were young. But it had been probably 30+ years since we’d been there when we went recently.
What a change! Super highways, heavy traffic, Las Vegas-type shows, big hotels, shopping malls… It was quite a shock to compare to our memories.
We stayed at Big Cedar Lodge, ten miles south of Branson, in a condo, and the accommodations couldn’t have been more ideal. Big Cedar was originally begun in the 1920s as a 300-acre private estate. It changed hands a couple of times following the Great Depression before being purchased by Bass Pro Shops’ owner Johnny Morris in 1987.
It has been expanded and now is truly a resort, with pools, a spa, stables, a marina, restaurants, a shop, and numerous lodge rooms, condos, and cabins. The Ozark Mountains location exposes the guests to nature and beauty.
Branson also boasts Tanger Mall for premium discount shopping, an main attraction for some of the visitors.
Many tourists travel to Branson, though, for the shows. The variety of shows covers the gamut — country, rock n’ roll, magic, comedy, and other musical acts. There are many large theatres, including Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Baldknobbers Theater, Andy Williams’ Moon River Theater, and many more.
We enjoyed Legends in Concert at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, where Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Shania Twain, Barry White, and the Blue Brothers entertained. The star impersonators were very good, as were the dancers and back-up singers.
Dinner at restaurants overlooking Table Rock Lake affords the opportunity to watch a $7.5 million water fountain spectacular, synchronized to light, sound, music and fire. There were many sightseers enjoying it and the lovely evening at the Boardwalk.
We will need to schedule a return visit to Branson some day, because we ran out of time. We toured one winery but there are more to explore; and we never made it to Silver Dollar City, to see how it has undoubtedly changed in the last 30 years. And we’d definitely like to enjoy some time on the water at Table Rock Lake, boating or fishing or just enjoying the beautiful scenery.
It seems we just barely skimmed the surface of Branson, Missouri!
As one of the great Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon has been photographed and described and videoed and written about endlessly. It is still quite breathtaking when seen from the South Rim the first time.
The drive into the Grand Canyon National Park really gives no ‘preview’ of the canyon itself. Anxious to get our first glimpse, we immediately went to the Grand Canyon Visitors’ Center at Mather Point. After watching an informative video at the center, we walked the short distance to the South Rim and saw exactly what all the excitement is about.
The Grand Canyon spans as much as a mile in some places and is a mile deep. From some of the viewpoints the visitor can catch glimpses of the Colorado River below, and a few trails can be seen below the rim. For those hardier than I, there are backpacking trips, mule rides to Phantom Ranch, or river rafting trips on the Colorado. Actually, when we returned to Oklahoma, we found out a friend is getting ready to take the six-day rafting trip. His view will certainly be different than ours!
We stayed at Maswik Lodge within the national park. There are also two historic hotels, El Tovar and Bright Angel. Reservations for these must be secured well in advance.
It is easy to get a variety of perspectives of the canyon by boarding one of the park’s free shuttle buses. These buses run a regular schedule daily that includes half a dozen or so stops along the South Rim. The shifts in light from sunrise to sunset emphasize the depth of the canyon and the geologic variations of the rocks. We made it a point to be there one morning for sunrise, to take the shuttle during the day, and to return for sunset. Each event was equally impressive.
While the Grand Canyon may be marked off my bucket list, I took advantage of many photo opportunities, and the pictures will be wonderful reminders.
I asked around and was advised that I should purchase a Rick Steves guide. I did and found it to be just what we needed. No wonder Rick Steves’ Italy has been the best-selling international guidebook sold in the United States.
Rick Steves has been a travel writer since 1980. He has written more than 50 guidebooks and other travel resources. He also writes a syndicated newspaper column on travel and often appears on TV as an authority on travel in Europe. His column appears periodically in The Oklahoman and on NewsOK.com.
And now, we in the Oklahoma City area have the opportunity to learn from Rick Steves in person! He will be lecturing at Oklahoma Christian University on March 10, 2012. This event will be at 7:00 p.m. in Hardeman Auditorium at the university. Steves’ topic will be “Cultivating a Global Perspective through Travel.”
If you would like to attend the Rick Steves lecture, tickets are $10 and are available by calling 405-425-5488 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information go online to www.oc.edu/ricksteves.
When taking a trip to northern Florida in the winter, one of the things you quickly discover is that many of the locals head further south for the winter. This means that you need to be sure to call ahead. Is the fishing trip you were planning on still available? Is that restaurant you were dying to try open?
Panama City Beach has a number of amusements for children, including a Ripley’s Believe It or Not, several miniature golf courses , marine displays, etc. However, we didn’t see any of these open the week we were there.
Just a quick few notes about places to eat while in Panama City Beach… besides Margaritaville, that is, since I already mentioned it earlier.
Because of the timing of our trip, we wanted to be sure to have a good place to watch some good Oklahoma-based basketball and the BCS National Championship, so we spent one afternoon at Buffalo Wild Wings at Pier Park. It’s good to know that you can go almost anywhere and still catch anything from that championship game to OU women’s basketball to the OKC Thunder games, isn’t it. And don’t be afraid to ask the manager to tune in to the game you want to watch, if it isn’t already on one of the screens. The servers and managers are most accommodating.
Salty Sue’s offers great seafood and barbecue. We stopped in there for a seafood dinner and were so impressed with the food and service and friendly owner, we returned another day for the $5.99 barbecue sandwich special. The owner told us that he had been serving barbecue for over 30 years but had expanded the menu when he rebuilt the building a few years ago following a fire.Another very good place had been recommended to us by an Oklahoma City friend (thank you to Kristin Larson of The Cookie Princess), so we knew we wanted to eat at Sharky’s. We dined on crab cakes and crab legs until we were happily miserable. The food was delicious, and once again, the friendly staff made it even better. Our waitress that evening was a college student (Gulf Coast Community College and Flordia State University – Panama City share a campus in Panama City) who was originally from Russia. She came to the U.S. by herself to go to college and has since married and will stay in Florida. Her degree in chemistry will undoubtedly give her lots of professional opportunities. But, I digress…
We drove in to Panama City one day to check out the marinas (for that fishing trip that wasn’t to be), and wound up at a local establishment there, Gracie Rae’s, which had wonderful oysters and calamari. It was fascinating watching the bartender prepare for the lunch and dinner crowd by shucking hundreds of oysters.
When we were in PCB before, we enjoyed most of our breakfasts at Another Broken Egg, and we returned, just to be sure it was still as good as ever – and it was.
On our previous trip we had also had breakfast at Oceans, which is part of the Edgewater Resort properties. We decided to try it for dinner one evening and found it to be just as good for that meal. Soup, salad, steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables – all were very tasty.
On our final evening we decided we should find a special place, so after reading through numerous brochures, we decided Montego Bay Seafood looked like just what we were wanting. We had a little trouble finding it because the sign had been blown down, and when we walked in, we were more than a little dismayed. It was small, more of a local diner type of restaurant, with a few chairs at a bar, a few booths, and a few tables in the center. We decided we would brave it, though, because the reviews we had read gave it glowing marks. Each of us ordered something different and no one was disappointed in the least. While the ambiance may have been lacking, the food was not!
As you can tell, we love to eat!
Some people like to travel to a new destination with each trip they take, while others prefer to return repeatedly to the same destination, or at least the same locale. Those in the second group may choose to purchase a timeshare property. This gives them the flexibility of returning to a particular condominium, while also allowing them the capability of using points to vacation in different spots.
We recently joined a friend who used some of his accumulated points to secure a condo for a week at Panama City Beach, FL. When we visited PCB in September, we were on an OU football trip and had very little time to relax, enjoy the beach and sightsee. Spending a week there in January gave us the opportunity to do some of that.
This trip to Florida was a driving trip, so we saw lots of interesting countryside as we drove east on I-40 to Memphis and southeast to Tupelo, MS and from there, on to Florida. It was a pleasant start to the trip to eat dinner on the outside patio at Vanelli’s, an Italian and Greek restaurant in Tupelo. Quite a change from the cold temperatures we left behind in Oklahoma!
Interestingly enough, by the time we checked in at our condo in Panama City Beach the next evening, the cold temperatures had arrived there and it was too cold to sit outside for the “Volcano Nachos” at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at Pier Park.
Sometimes we forget that great road trips are right here in Oklahoma. Hitting the Turner Turnpike to Tulsa can be a good drive, particularly when the trees are so colorful in the Fall. Another option, of course, would be to meander to Tulsa via Route 66, if you prefer the scenic route.For a short overnight get-away, the Hard Rock offers good food, lovely accommodations, and of course, entertainment. After following the signs to the hotel lobby at the west side of the hotel (not the lovely big portico on the east side that you see as you approach from the highway), you can check in and get settled in one of the large and comfortable rooms, with all the standard amenities.
A good place to start the evening is the Center Bar. Its placement allows you to look out over a large gaming area, a great place for people-watching. The noise of slot machines clanking and bells ringing for winners is constant.
The Hard Rock has a number of choices for dining. The Perfect Cup offers coffee and pastries, a nice quick breakfast stop, and the Wild Potato Buffet is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the top of the Tower is McGill’s, a steak house with a view. Recently added is La Cucina, where Italian cuisine is served for lunch and dinner. Of course, the best-known restaurant at the Hard Rock is Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. It shares the same great menu that Toby Keith’s in Bricktown has.The Joint is the Hard Rock’s concert venue where 2700 people can enjoy big-name entertainers, like Kenny Rogers, Gretchen Wilson, and the Irish Tenors. The Hard Rock website lists upcoming concerts and tickets can be purchased online: http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com/thejoint/Pages/default.aspx.
Of course, the Hard Rock is a casino, so several thousand electronic slot machines and blackjack and poker tables keep the excitement going for a fun evening.
A final stop before calling it a night might be at one of several other spots – the C:Note, Friction, or Cabin Creek, all of which offer music and drinks. Or maybe a final call to the Center Bar is the perfect ending for you.
The Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa is owned and managed by the Cherokee Nation, so enjoy an overnight get-away with beautiful Native American art and the Hard Rock’s signature displays of movie and entertainers’ memorabilia.