Walk the Freedom Trail and Experience over 250 years of History

The Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond

Every city has its iconic landmark. In Boston, it’s the Freedom Trail: an instantly recognizable 2.5-mile walking route of red-brick path inlaid on city sidewalks connecting 16 Revolutionary-era historic sites from the Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1974, Boston National Historical Park was established. The National Park Service opened a Visitor Center on State Street where they give free maps of the Freedom Trail and other historic sites as well as sell books about Boston and US history. Today, people walk on the red path of the Freedom Trail to learn about important events that led to independence from Great Britain.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History nerd that I am, I can’t get over how much has happened in such a small area. I love that you can take your time walking it. 

Traveling on the Freedom Trail shows you how small historical Boston was. The trail is free, and clearly marked and you can walk at your own pace. Be sure to wear your comfy shoes as you’re in for an awesome hike.

Old State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Common and Public Garden

The Freedom Trail kicks off at this iconic park that dates to the 1630s when it was a common cow pasture for the Massachusetts Bay Colony and sits adjacent to the Boston Public Garden. Both are still beloved and used public spaces where you might see yuppies jogging, sunbathing, or catching a free run of Shakespeare on the Common performances in the summer. Brand-new hotel The Newbury’s rooftop Italian restaurant, Contessa is currently the hottest dining reservation in Boston and it offers one of the best views of the Public Garden.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park Street Church

This historic church sits in the heart of the city’s Ladder Blocks, a prime neighborhood for wandering thanks to its outstanding examples of 18th- and 19th-century commercial architecture spanning the city’s historic Theater District from the Omni Parker House Hotel to a historic Stone Mason Grand Lodge. The area includes everything from Victorian Gothic and Spanish Baroque to Art Deco design. It’s here that you’ll find Brattle Book Shop, one of the country’s oldest antique book shops located steps from the Common.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old North Church

A five-minute walk from this oldest church building in Boston (built-in 1723) is the North Bennet Street School, a private vocational school established in 1881 where the crafts of cabinetry, jewelry making, locksmithing, piano technology, violin maintenance, and preservation carpentry are still taught. The school operates from a fabulous gallery store where you can find hand-bound books, marbled papers, and furniture pieces for purchase.

Union Oyster House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

King’s Chapel

One of the city’s best-kept secrets is the Bostonian-loved Athenaeum, a members-only library dating back to 1807. For a small donation, you can tour the premises which house more than 100,000 volumes of books, 100,000 paintings, and one of the most significant collections of primary materials from the American Civil War. Head to the fifth-floor reading room for one of the city’s most gracious, elegant spaces, and some serious perusal.

Paul Revere Statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Public Market

You’ll find an indoor, year-round marketplace featuring about 30 New England artisans and food producers housed under one roof offering fresh foods, prepared meals, crafts, and specialty items. Residents and visitors alike can find seasonal, locally sourced food from Massachusetts and New England including fresh produce, meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, seafood, baked goods, specialty items, crafts, and prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Everything sold at the Market is produced or originates in New England, as the seasons allow.

Paul Revere House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paul Revere House

Oh, the North End. What’s not to love about Boston’s little slice of Italy? You can hardly take a step down Hanover Street without crossing a must-eat restaurant or café and it’s tough to go wrong. Directly on the trail, you’ll find local go-to’s like Bricco and Mare Oyster Bar as well as the homey Mamma Maria, a restaurant set in a restored townhouse in North Square. Take a few steps off the Freedom Trail at Battery Street and you’ll find All Saints Way, a famous and privately owned alley filled with religious trinkets and memorabilia that pays homage to the neighborhood’s Roman Catholic roots. And another few minutes off the trail at waterfront Commercial Street is Boston Sail Loft, a classic preppy dive bar overlooking the water that’s perennially packed with locals.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

U.S.S. Constitution

Launched in Boston in 1797, USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat and earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere. You’ll find three of the neighborhood’s favorite eateries just minutes from Old Ironsides. Try local, seasonal plates at Dovetail, wood-fired pizzas and craft beers at Brewer’s Fork, as well as croissants and other treats at an outpost of the local-loved cafe chain Tatte.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bunker Hill Monument

You’ve finally made it to the Freedom Trail’s terminus: Boston’s most iconic obelisk and the site of the Revolution’s first major battle. And likely you’re going to save your shopping for the end of the schlep because Charlestown has no shortage of adorable boutiques. Your hit list should include needlepoint pillows and Bunker Hill Flag valet trays at Place & Gather; local pottery, alpaca throws, and hand-dipped candles at Monroe Home & Style; and fresh flowers and bath products from Junebug. By visiting even just these three shops here in this tiny corner of Boston, you’ll get a great sense of what this region’s many artisanal makers are up to.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

When you think about Boston, Harvard and M.I.T. are the brains of the city and its soul might be Faneuil Hall or the State House or the Old Church. But I think the pulsing, pounding heart of Boston is Fenway Park.

— John Williams

The Storied History of Old Ironsides

Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!

USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Naval officers and crew still serve aboard her today. The USS Constitution is operated by the United States Navy, a partner to the National Parks of Boston. Across the pier from Constitution in Building 22 is the USS Constitution Museum. The Museum serves as the memory and educational voice of the USS Constitution and provides engaging and hands-on experiences for all visitors. Here you can explore how the ship was built, sailed, and preserved.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located inside Boston National Historical Park as part of the Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown and part of Boston’s Freedom Trail, USS Constitution is open for public visitation, FREE OF CHARGE, throughout the year.

Before independence, the thirteen American colonies enjoyed protection from pirates and foreign navies under the British Royal Navy. However, once the United States gained recognized independence the young nation had to defend itself. Congress authorized the construction of the six warships in the Naval Armament Act of 1794. These warships became the new United States Navy. Each of the six was built at different seaports along the eastern coast.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The wooden-hulled, three-mast USS Constitution was launched from Hartt’s shipyard in Boston’s North End on October 21, 1797. It was designed to be more heavily armed and better constructed than the standard ships of the period.

The ship served initially in the French-Quasi war and later became the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet fighting its first engagement against Barbary pirates of North Africa.

Related: Boston Freedom Trail

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The greatest glory for USS Constitution, however, came during the War of 1812. It was during this war in the battle against the HMS Guerriere the ship earned the nickname Old Ironsides when the crew of the British ship noticed their canon shots simply bounced off the ship’s strong oak hull they proclaimed: “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!”

Later, it continued to serve as a flagship in the Mediterranean, African, and Pacific fleets into the 1850s. During its time as African Squadron flagship, it captured its last prize, the slave ship H.N. Gambril in 1853. It was also a training ship during the Civil War and carried freight to the Paris World Fair of 1878 until it finally retired from active service three years later continuing light work until designated a museum in 1907.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The USS Constitution received numerous visitors over the years but deteriorated and required extensive restoration work again. President Roosevelt placed the ship on permanent commission in 1940 which protected the vessel somewhat from further deterioration and it was assigned to serve as a brig for officers awaiting court-martial.

The funding for true restoration finally came in the 1970s in preparation for the US Bicentennial celebrations. Indeed, an entire tract of land in Indiana was set aside to supply the white oak needed for repair work. The grand ship sailed again leading a parade of tall ships through Boston Harbor for Operation Sail firing its guns for the first time in over 100 years.

Boston skyline from USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most comprehensive and historically accurate restoration to date occurred from 1992-1996 and the ship sailed under its power for its 200th birthday in 1997 then again in 2012 to commemorate its victory over the HMS Guerriere that earned its nickname. A further restoration project was conducted from 2007-2010 which returned the ship as accurately as possible to its original War of 1812 configuration.

Boston skyline from USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the ship keeps a crew of 60 officers and sailors to aid in its mission to promote understanding of the US Navy’s role in war and peace. The crew is all active-duty Navy sailors—an honorable special duty assignment. It is also crewed, maintained, and restored by the civilian Navy staff of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

Related: Lucky A: USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to the USS Constitution itself, there is also a museum you can visit which has a lot of interesting artifacts and exhibits covering the history of the landmark. Whether you’re interested in period artwork, arms, and armament from the time, navigation equipment that was used hundreds of years ago, or historic texts describing the story of Old Ironsides, there’s plenty to see here that will please any history buff.

There are almost 2,000 different artifacts and 10,000 archival records you can see at the USS Constitution Museum. There is simply no way I could describe them all here, so check the USS Constitution Museum Collection list to find out what you can see on your visit.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know before you go

The USS Constitution is located at the end of the Freedom Trail. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the Copp’s Hill Burial Ground. One can walk there easily by following the Freedom Trail.

An excellent way to get there is by using the MBTA Water Shuttle which is a bargain at $3.25.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have an MBTA Subway Pass it is free and is a short boat ride over to Charlestown which also doubles a scenic harbor cruise.

A shuttle departs from Boston’s Long Wharf at the New England Aquarium and will whisk you over to the USS Constitution in 10 minutes.

Related: Corpus Christi: City by the Sea

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The USS Constitution is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis during their operating hours. Be aware that visitors must pass through a security inspection and show federal or state photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport before embarking on USS Constitution. Visitors under the age of 18 do not require a photo identification card.

Worth Pondering…

Old Ironsides

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!

   Long has it waved on high,

And many an eye has danced to see

   That banner in the sky;

Beneath it rung the battle shout,

   And burst the cannon’s roar;—

The meteor of the ocean air

   Shall sweep the clouds no more!

—Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935)

10 Amazing Places to RV in August 2022

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in August

Learning never exhausts the mind.

—Leonardo da Vinci

Italian painter and polymath Leonardo da Vinci was a luminary of the Renaissance era—he not only painted such famed works as the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper, ” but was also an architect, inventor, and military engineer. In his lifetime, he sketched concepts resembling the modern-day bicycle and a flying machine and drew some of the first anatomical charts on human record. His words and life’s work remind us that broadening our horizons is healthy: Exploring new fields and skills will only create a richer life.

This August, I’ll not lament the fleeting days of summer. No, I will embrace it: There is still much to see and do—and places to travel in an RV. August is a time for lazy exploration and taking advantage of the last drops of the season while recharging for the months ahead. There are routes to be taken, mountains to climb, seafood to be eaten, and lakes to discover. Get out there and make the most of it.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in June and July. Also, check out my recommendations for August 2021 and September 2021.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climb a Mountain 

Mount Lemmon, an oasis in the middle of the desert, is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. The area offers hiking, camping, and fishing. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Sky center.

Guadalupe River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tube down the Guadalupe River

Tubing down Guadalupe River is about as Texan as it gets, and this state park welcomes you with four miles of river frontage. Just one hour from San Antonio and two hours from Austin, Guadalupe River State Park is also one of the more popular camping destinations in the state, particularly during the summertime when swimming in its cool waters is extra appealing for families and kids. When you’re not tubing, paddling, or taking a dip, embark on its hiking and biking trails. 

Related: The Best Stops for a Summer Road Trip

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Admire Breathtaking Red Rock in Sedona

Due to its distinctive culture, Sedona is truly a place unlike any other. Visitors can navigate remote canyons, rejuvenate at an energy vortex site, and experience the ancient culture of the Sinagua people. Throughout the red rock are multitudes of secluded viewpoints, cliff dwellings, and well-preserved petroglyphs. In downtown Sedona, you’ll find a vibrant art community dense with unique shops and galleries. Hikers and adventurous-types will enjoy the various trails in Red Rock State Park and the renowned Pink Jeep off-road adventure tours.

Deep sea red shrimp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

70th Annual Delcambre Shrimp Festival

The Town of Delcambre, Louisiana, located about 20 miles southwest of Lafayette is home to one of the area’s most productive shrimp fleets. The town devotes an entire weekend to honoring this economic lifeblood.

The Delcambre Shrimp Festival (70th annual; August 17-21, 2022) is home to one of the best 5-day festivals in South Louisiana. The festival has gained its popularity by providing a variety of delicious dishes and top-notch entertainment including National Recording Artists. Enjoy signature shrimp dishes like boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp sauce piquante, shrimp salad, and many more. Every shrimp dish consumed at the festival is prepared by volunteer members of the festival association. If you’re not in the mood for shrimp, the festival also offers a variety of other “festival” foods, cold beer, cold drinks, and water. Souvenirs, t-shirts, hats, posters, etc…

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit all seven of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks

Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes national parks in Alberta, Kootenay and Yoho national parks in British Columbia, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia. The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems, and deeply carved canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess an exceptional natural beauty that attracts millions of visitors annually.

Related: Summer 2022: 18 Best Things to Do in America

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a Taste Bud Tour at Blue Bell Creameries

Learn what all fuss is about at one of the most iconic creameries in America. Can’t decide which flavor is for you? Try them all because, hey, it’s only $1 a scoop! Since 1907, Blue Bell Ice Cream has won a special place in the heart of Texans. Many would say it’s the best ice cream in the US. For anyone caring to dispute that claim, you can’t know until you try it for yourself and there is no better place to do that than straight at the source. See how the scrumptious stuff is made and learn about the history of the iconic brand before treating yourself to a sample at Blue Bell’s ice cream parlor. At just $1 a scoop, it’s one of the best things to do in the US to beat the heat this summer! 

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk your Way to 17 Historic Sites

The Freedom Trail is a red (mostly brick) path through downtown Boston that leads to 17 significant historic sites. It is a 2.5-mile walk from Boston Common to USS Constitution in Charlestown. Simple ground markers explaining events, graveyards, notable churches, other buildings, and a historic naval frigate are stops along the way.

Most sites are free; Old South Meeting House, Old State House, and Paul Revere House have small admission fees; still others suggest donations. The Freedom Trail is a unit of Boston National Historical Park and is overseen by The Freedom Trail Foundation and the City of Boston’s Freedom Trail Commission.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trail was originally conceived by local journalist William Schofield who since 1951 had promoted the idea of a pedestrian trail to link together important local landmarks. Mayor John Hynes put Schofield’s idea into action. By 1953, 40,000 people annually were enjoying the sites and history on the Freedom Trail.

In 1974, Boston National Historical Park was established. The National Park Service opened a Visitor Center on State Street where they give free maps of the Freedom Trail and other historic sites as well as sell books about Boston and US history. Today, people walk on the red path of the Freedom Trail to learn about important events that led to independence from Great Britain.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History nerd that I am, I can’t get over how much has happened in such a small area. I love that you can take your time walking it. Traveling on the Freedom Trail shows you how small historical Boston was. The trail is free, and clearly marked and you can walk at your own pace. Be sure to wear your comfy shoes as you’re in for an awesome hike.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NH’s Largest Lake

Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire located in the Lakes Region. It is approximately 21 miles long (northwest-southeast) and from 1 to 9 miles wide (northeast-southwest) covering 69 square miles—71 square miles when Paugus Bay is included—with a maximum depth of 180 feet. The center area of the lake is called The Broads.

Related: Best States for a Summer Road Trip

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake contains at least 264 islands, half of which are less than a quarter-acre in size, and is indented by several peninsulas yielding a total shoreline of approximately 288 miles. The driving distance around the lake is 63 miles. It is 504 feet above sea level. Winnipesaukee is the third-largest lake in New England after Lake Champlain and Moosehead Lake. Outflow is regulated by the Lakeport Dam in Lakeport, New Hampshire, on the Winnipesaukee River.

Experience the beauty of Lake Winnipesaukee during a narrated scenic tour aboard the historic M/S Mount Washington. Learn about the history of the region and local folklore surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in New England.

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grandest of Newport’s Summer “Cottages”

The Breakers is a Vanderbilt mansion located on Ochre Point Avenue in Newport along the Atlantic Ocean. It is a National Historic Landmark, a contributing property to the Bellevue Avenue Historic District, and is owned and operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County. The Breakers is the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages” and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America.  Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century.

The Breakers is the most famous of the Gilded Age Newport Mansions for good reason. It’s breathtaking in scope and scale. The design of this grand home was inspired by European palaces and every room is more lavish than the last.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the Richest Fossil Beds in the World

People are drawn to the rugged beauty of the Badlands National Park. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here.

The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today. Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Badlands were formed by the geologic forces of deposition and erosion. Deposition of sediments began 69 million years ago when an ancient sea stretched across what is now the Great Plains. After the sea retreated, successive land environments including rivers and flood plains continued to deposit sediments. Although the major period of deposition ended 28 million years ago significant erosion of the Badlands did not begin until a mere half a million years ago. Erosion continues to carve the Badlands buttes today. The rocks and fossils preserve evidence of ancient ecosystems and give scientists clues about how early mammal species lived.

Related: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Summer Road Trip

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Administered in two units, Sage Creek and Conata Basin, the area is open for backpacking and exploration. The Badlands was the filming location for both Dances with Wolves and Armageddon

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

These National Parks are ALWAYS FREE

Click through for a look at national parks you can enter for free—everyday

Why wait for a National Park Fee Free Day when you can visit these 10 natural beauties for free all year round? The U. S. is filled with free parks just waiting to be explored. Finding a list can be tough so we pulled together a few of our favorites to get you and your family out the door exploring America’s best idea.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Canyon de Chelly National Monument

For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons—longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. In the place called Tsegi, their homes and images tell us their stories. Today, Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyons.

Montezuma Well National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Montezuma Well National Monument

Visit the spot where life began, according to Yavapai legend, at Montezuma Well National Monument. Although access to the nearby Montezuma Castle National Monument costs $10, the Montezuma Well is free to access. There, you’ll see Native American ruins alongside the well and follow a nature trail as it winds below trees beside Beaver Creek—all part of what makes it one of Arizona’s hidden gems.

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colorado and Utah: Hovenweep National Monument

Discover six prehistoric villages that once housed more than 2,500 people between A.D. 500 and 1300, and you can still see multistory towers clinging to the edge of rocky cliffs. The park is a designated International Dark Sky Park, making it one of the best places to go stargazing.

Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts: Boston National Historic Park

There are no fees at the federally or municipally owned historic sites within Boston National Historical Park. This includes Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill Monument, Bunker Hill Museum, USS Constitution, and Dorchester Heights Monument.

New Mexico: Aztec Ruins National Monument

Pueblo people describe this site as part of their migration journey. Today you can follow their ancient passageways to a distant time. Explore a 900-year old ancestral Pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms. Look up and see original timbers holding up the roof.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico: El Malpais National Monument

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails. While some may see a desolate environment, people have been adapting to and living in this extraordinary terrain for generations. Come discover the land of fire and ice!

El Morro National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico: El Morro National Monument

Discover an oasis in the desert at El Morro National Monument. The natural watering hole is tucked at the base of colorful sandstone cliffs. Walk the Inscription Trail to see thousands of petroglyphs and inscriptions that bear witness to the visitors who sought refreshment there throughout the centuries.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico: Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New York: Saratoga National Historic Park

Here in the autumn of 1777 American forces met, defeated, and forced a major British army to surrender. This crucial American victory renewed patriots’ hopes for independence, secured essential foreign recognition and support, and forever changed the face of the world.

North Carolina and Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway

A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other: a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles protecting a diversity of plants and animals.

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

4 Epic Places to Watch the Leaves Change

Leaf-peeping season is coming

All the leaves are changing, the temperature is falling, and the sky is gray… well, not yet. I’m just mentally preparing for fall. I love the crispness in the air perhaps because it triggers a snowbird response in me that tells me it’s time to start packing the RV for travel to warmer climes. Georgia O’Keefe said, “I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again,” and while that’s not really the whole story of what I did this summer (I’m guessing Georgia O’Keefe wasn’t dealing with back-to-back years of a COVID pandemic), it’s pretty close!

Cooler weather is around the corner and with it comes the changing of the seasons and the changing of the leaves. Here are four epic places you can usher in autumn and her sea of color.

Omni Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

The Omni Mount Washington Resort is the quintessential New England four-season luxury resort. Plan a fall foliage visit where you will be wrapped in the White Mountains red, orange, and yellow canvas. The resort offers a number of outdoor activities where you can experience the best White Mountain vistas.

Omni Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The resort is set amidst nearly 800,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest offering the opportunity to enjoy any number of outdoor activities including mountain biking, horseback riding, disc golf, hiking/walking, fly-fishing, rock climbing, and just plain exploring.

The Omni’s Donald Ross-designed course offers golfers spectacular mountain views that are particularly gorgeous during the fall foliage display. Enjoy a scenic ride on the Bretton Woods Skyway Gondola for breathtaking views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range. The 12-minute ride up takes you to the new Rosebrook Lodge. For the adventure seekers, a Bretton Woods Canopy Tour can literally immerse you in the gorgeous autumn foliage.

Omni Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whatever road you choose to travel in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, you’ll find easy driving, fabulous scenery, and a wealth of recreation. Nearby scenic attractions include Mount Washington Cog Railway, Crawford Notch State Park, Franconia Notch State Parkway, and Mount Washington Auto Road.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee

The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala. The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall is a beautiful time of year on the Cherohala Skyway. Cool weather arrives and the changing leaves are spectacular. The leaves begin changing color as early as September in the higher elevations and continue through mid-November in lower elevations. The dogwoods, poplars, and sourwoods are some of the first to transform. The red oaks, hickories, and white oaks change later and often hold their leaves until late fall.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are several spectacular scenic vistas on the Tennessee side. Brushy Ridge and Turkey Creek overlooks are good picnic spots. You’ll pass the turn-off for Indian Boundary Waters which offers great camping and back road dual sport/jeep explorations.

On the North Carolina side, Huckleberry Knob (near MP 8) is one of the favorite stops for visitors. At 5,560 feet, it’s the highest peak in the Unicoi Mountains. It’s an easy 2.4-mile roundtrip hike in the Nantahala National Forest with only a 400-foot elevation gain along a former forest service road.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brasstown Bald. Northeast Georgia Mountains

Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest peak, so take note to visit early. The colors will change sooner on this peak than in other places in the Georgia Mountains. The Brasstown Bald Visitors Center sits atop Georgia’s highest mountain at 4,784 feet above sea level. Surrounded by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, its cloud-level observation deck offers stunning 360-degree views of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and valleys. On a clear day, one can see four states.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unique circular building is home to an 8,000 sq. ft. museum featuring interactive cultural and natural history exhibits. A short film about the dramatic weather and changing seasons at Brasstown Bald plays regularly in the mountain top theater. The summit can be accessed from the parking lot by shuttle service or hiking the half-mile Summit Trail. Additional hiking trails are also available. A gift shop offers forest-related merchandise including locally made goods. A small fee is required for park entry and the shuttle bus. Enjoy picnicking, hiking, and scenic views.

Additionally, the surrounding areas of Blairsville offer Vogel State Park and several fun waterfalls.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston in the Fall

It’s leaf-peeping time in New England and you don’t have to go any further than Boston Common to see fall colors. Boston is at its most beautiful in the fall. As the leaves turn, Boston’s parks put on an unforgettable show complementing the historic architecture. While you’re there, walk the Freedom Trail to explore some of the city’s historic sites—walk the 2.5-mile red line leading to 16 nationally significant historic sites. 

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two centuries separate the creation of the Boston Common and the Public Garden and what a difference that period made. In 1634 the Common was created as America’s first public park; it was practical and pastoral with walkways built for crosstown travel. In contrast, the Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. It was decorative and flowery from its inception featuring meandering pathways for strolling.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

Free Things to Do in America

From Kentucky to Vermont and Utah, fun times don’t have to cost a lot

Just because the temperature has dropped a few degrees doesn’t mean you have to stay at home watching Netflix.

If the winter blues are making you stir crazy, fear not: There’s plenty of excitement to be had across America. From sampling maple syrup in Vermont to following the Freedom Trail in Massachusetts, you don’t have to leave the U.S.—or break your budget—to have an amazing adventure.

Check out these seven fun activities you can enjoy in these states for free. Note that, in 2020, it’s imperative to check websites and social media updates beforehand to ensure that your destination is open and accepting visitors at the time you arrive.

Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Vermont: Taste Maple Syrup

Don’t leave Vermont without sampling some authentic maple syrup. You’ll find plenty of maple farms in the Green Mountain State, and some of them offer free tastings. At Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, for example, you can get free admission and try four grades of pure Vermont maple syrup.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Massachusetts: Follow the Freedom Trail

You can’t follow the yellow brick road in Boston, but you can follow a red line that guides you along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail. Visit 16 official sites that are significant in the history of the American Revolution, from the Old Corner Bookstore to the site of the Boston Massacre.

And don’t forget about Faneuil Hall, which hosted America’s first town meeting. These days, you can shop, eat, and enjoy live musical performances in the market.

Buffalo Trace Distillery tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Kentucky: Drink Bourbon

Kentucky is known for its bourbon, so why not take a tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort? All tours are complimentary, and the Trace Tour doesn’t require a reservation. You’ll see bourbon barrels and get to sample some of the best local liquor. Extend your travels on the Bourbon Trail.

Shiner beer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Texas: Tour a Brewery and Sample Beer in Shiner

Speaking of beloved American beverages… Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week, where visitors can see how every last drop of their popular brews get made. Tours and samples are free. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer to states across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Virginia: Wander Colonial Williamsburg 

Explore Colonial Williamsburg in the city of Williamsburg. Visitors typically drop a bit of cash to tour the 18th century buildings in Colonial Williamsburg, but if you keep your wanderings to commercial shops and the city streets, you don’t have to spend a dime.

You’ll be highly entertained as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg and viewing free outdoor entertainment like re-enactment actors firing cannons. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Utah: Explore the Valley of the Gods

This little valley near Bluff, Utah is filled with sandstone formations and starry night skies. Located in the southeastern corner of Utah it is out of the way of the main national park loop.

To drive through the Valley of the Gods you will take a 17-mile, unpaved loop. Similar to Monument Valley, but only a quarter of the size, it remains quiet and peaceful.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Ohio: Experience the Past in the Present in Holmes County

The Amish have established themselves in the Holmes County area, and it is estimated that one in every six Amish in the world live in this area. The Amish choose to live a simple way of life, which is clearly evident by the presence of horses and buggies, handmade quilts, and lack of electricity in Amish homes.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the byway you will be treated to the typical, yet breathtaking sights of Amish Country: teams of huge, blonde Belgians pulling wagons of hay, farmers working in the fields and of course, beautiful views of lush, green farmland, large white houses, and red barns.

Worth Pondering…

America is laced with nooks and crannies, good places that go undiscovered by many mainstream travelers.

Boston Freedom Trail

The famous Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick trail through Boston’s historic neighborhoods that tells the story of the American Revolution

Boston, a large, metropolitan city packed with revolutionary history, cultural venues, and sophisticated shopping and dining opportunities. A jaunt around “town” is like opening an American history textbook.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston has some of the worst driving and parking on the East Coast; its winding, angled roads meandering like the old cow paths they originally followed. But, don’t let this deter you; you will be rewarded many times over.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston had been a thriving city long before the United States itself existed. Founded in the 17th century, Boston has been the center of attention in New England since the colonial period. Today, Boston continues to boast some of the best attractions to be found in the Northeastern US. As the “Cradle of the Revolution”, Boston is full of history like no other city in America. For over 350 years, some of the world’s greatest patriots, writers, thinkers, athletes, and artists have called Boston their home, leaving an indelible mark on this incredible city in the process.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A trip to Boston is necessarily a trip into American history. Boston was the center of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s, and the monuments to those glorious times still stand.

Faneuil Hall (1742) was a meeting place for revolutionary leaders, and it now houses dozens of shops and restaurants. Built by wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1741, this imposing structure is the place where the Sons of Liberty proclaimed their dissent against Royal oppression.

Old State House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old State House (1713) was the site of the colonial government and is open for tours.

The oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston, the Paul Revere House (1680) today serves as a museum.

Paul Revere House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The oldest church in the city of Boston, the Old North Church (1723), and its famous signal lanterns are still in use.

The site of the Boston Massacre where five colonists died in 1770 has been preserved.

The First Public School was in Boston; some of its graduates include Sam Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built as a Puritan house of worship, the Old South Meeting House (1729) was the largest building in colonial Boston. No tax on tea! This was the decision on December 16, 1773, when 5,000 angry colonists gathered here to protest a tax…and started a revolution with the Boston Tea Party.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjacent to King’s Chapel (1688), the first non-Puritan church in the colonies, the Granary Burying Ground has the graves of patriots John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

USS Constitution (Old Ironside), The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even the Boston Tea Party is commemorated in a floating ship museum, not far from the floating museum aboard the USS Constitution, America’s first great warship. Launched in Boston in 1797, America’s Ship of State earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On our National Park ranger-led tour, we visited sites along the Freedom Trail and heard about the American Revolutionary story, the people who lived here, their courage, and what they risked striving for freedom.

State House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Freedom Trail, the red-brick line through the city takes us on a tour of 16 sites in Boston’s history for two and a half miles, including Boston Common, the State House, the Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel, the site of the first public school, Old South Meeting House, the Old Statehouse, the Boston Massacre Site, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Freedom Trail was created in 1951 to set recognize and set aside a cluster of historically significant building and locations in downtown Boston.

We began our 90-minute ranger-led tour at the Old State House and concluded at the Old North Church, five sites along the Freedom trail that highlights Boston’s role in the American Revolution. The other sites, prior to and following our ranger-led tour, were on our own.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.

—Samuel Adams