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A sense of your place

I’ve enjoyed reading the comments in the New England thread [1] below, and they’ve given me an idea for what could be a good thread for this lazy, snowbound (for some of us) Sunday. One of the reasons I loved living among New Yorkers and Texans was that both sets of folks had a strong sense of place, and a love for their regional particularity. Sometimes the pride of place was a bit much to take, but if you live in NYC or in Texas, you have a lot to be proud of. Anyway, in our increasingly homogenous culture, I love finding examples of regional distinctiveness. Having never been to New England, except for a short summer jaunt to Vermont (which was great) in the summer of 2001, I found myself wondering just now where one would go if one had 10 days to see the “real” New England.

In that spirit, let’s do a thought experiment. Say you have a couple coming to the region where you live (or, if you’re an expat, where you call home), and these people have 10 days to spend exploring. They want to know where they should go in order to experience the essence of your region. Money is really no object, but time is. They can’t possibly see everything there is to see, and if they try to see too much, they’ll only scratch the surface of the place. So you have to decide where they can go in that 10-day period, and what they can do, to have the essential experience of your place.

What would you tell them, and why?

I’ll start. If somebody wanted to experience the essence of the South, I would advise them to divide their time between the upper South and the lower South. There are so many different kinds of Southern, of course, but I would propose starting out in Charlottesville, Va., and working my way down through the Carolinas to end up in Charleston. That’s an eight-hour drive if you go straight from Charlottesville to Charleston, but I would suggest stopping in Chapel Hill on the way, and, if it doesn’t seem like too much, spinning out to Asheville. Spend the last day and night in Savannah, Ga., before flying to New Orleans for the last four or five days.

New Orleans is a pretty clearly distilled version of the South, one that is both deeply Southern but also remarkably European. It’s like every place in the South, but also like no place in the South. Plan for a good three days there. Make sure to have done your culinary research, and eat at the best places (and by “best,” I don’t mean most expensive). Have a drink at the Napoleon House. Lunch at Galatoire’s. Dinner at Bayona, and then one at August. Po-boys at Domalise’s, oysters at the Acme. Cochon, Herbsaint, and on and on. Did you read “A Confederacy of Dunces” before you came? I know you did. Be sure to take a day to go up the River Road toward Baton Rouge, and visit old sugar plantation houses. End up in St. Francisville, and go see Rosedown. Depending on when you go — and please don’t go in the summertime — try to get tickets to an LSU football home game, and be sure to show up for tailgating.

If this itinerary seems like too much traveling and not enough staying in place, I would propose starting out in Charleston and spending the first five days in and around the Charleston-Savannah area, then going on to New Orleans.

Obviously there are plenty more great places in the South to see besides these. I haven’t mentioned Tennessee and Kentucky, or the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, or the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coast. I’ve never been to Oxford, Miss., but I’m going to get there, to make a pilgrimage to Square Books. [2] Still, the rule is you have to come up with a reasonable itinerary for greenhorns to follow for 10 days. I think a good alternative would be to start in Memphis and work your way down the Mississippi by car for 10 days, but I just can’t see wanting to experience the essence of the South without visiting the Carolinas. But that’s me.

OK, so, let’s say my wife and I are planning to spend 10 days in your city or region. What should we plan to see? Where should we stay? Go.

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "A sense of your place"

#1 Comment By Dean On October 30, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

Your question is rigged.

I come from the northern Plains. We don’t have a cuisine or any of that stuff. There is nothing to see, at least as most people understand sight-seeing.

We work hard and go to bed early. We are pioneer people still.

Also, we find the South incomprehensible. It’s not personal, but we don’t even want to visit. It’s a cultural thing.

#2 Comment By Rod Dreher On October 30, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

It’s not personal, but we don’t even want to visit.

Well, that’s not true. Trust me, I have seen y’all’s conventioneers, staggering around the French Quarter.

You could try, at least, to answer the question. What if someone actually wanted to see your region? My folks drove through the Dakotas once, and thought the Black Hills were pretty great. I’m not talking about “see your region” in the sense of find fun things to do. I’m talking about a kind of cultural tourism, in the sense of wanting to see and do the things that would give them a decent sense of the things most expressive of the sense of that place.

Maybe it’s not much more than Wal-Mart and hot dish, I dunno. But I doubt it.

#3 Comment By JonF On October 30, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

I’ve been to most of the places Rod suggests. Of them, Savannah is my favorite, old and beautiful and traditional and hospitable (and bit more humane than Charleston, which has an air of uppitiness about it). As a Michigan native by origin the South is almost a foreign country and I don’t think I would want to live there (Florida where I did live does not count as The South), but like many “foreign lands” it’s pleasant to visit.

Parts of the South are becoming more northern. Baltimore where I live now hasn’t been a true Southern city in generations. Northern Virginia and the urban belt of North Carolina has had so much migration from elsewhere (including some Michigan friends of mine to the latter) that they have ceased to be uniquely Southern. And Florida of course is a world unto itself.

#4 Comment By Dmitri Aleksandrovich On October 30, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

I am not a Californian, I am a “SanFranciscan”. I still have a deep sense of pride (and that’s not always a good thing) that I was born in San Francisco (what natives call “The City”) and I’m not one of the Prius driving, latte drinking, wine snobbing, rainbow flag sporting (even if they’re not homosexual), yuppie transplants that try to pass themselves off as modern bohemians around here.

My San Francisco loves bloody prime rib, Guinness on tap in the local pub where you can still smoke in the back, the bells of the neighborhood parish, fresh produce at the corner market and the deals on cigarettes from the Polish owned liquor store down the street. The San Francisco I love is the city of the foggy Avenues and the sound of street cars passing by on their way to Ocean Beach. That’s my sense of place, but I’ve always been torn between my birthplace of San Francisco and my mother’s birthplace of Kansas City, Missouri. I love both cities.

#5 Comment By Charles Cosimano On October 30, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

The South would be wonderful it it weren’t for Southerners.

I couldn’t resist it.

#6 Comment By VikingLS On October 30, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

Rod I teach composition to ESL students. Would you mind if I use part of this as a writing assignment?

#7 Comment By Rod Dreher On October 30, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

Sure, Viking, I’d be pleased.

I hope somebody reading this is actually interested in answering the question and coming up with a general itinerary for a visitor to your city or region!

#8 Comment By Rod Dreher On October 30, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

Charles, you rightly surmise that the seed of [3] will surely find no purchase in the South, but a man who has had such experience with what you call the “BDSM community” ought not be so quick to dismiss a region that is home to lower Bourbon Street.

#9 Comment By Park Hyun On October 30, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

Originally from the Pacific NW, and there’s no finer place to visit. Come in September, watch the Anthony Bourdain NW episode on Netflix, and do the following:

*Bumbershoot music festival: because, c’mon, it’s Seattle!

*Go see a Sounders game: We care about soccer. A lot. Suddenly, the game you never cared about is a ton of fun.

*Geoduck hunting: supposedly illegal in parts. Practically unenforceable. Go for it! If you don’t catch anything, go to the restaurants around the Market and get it grilled.

*Camping: hit the Olympic peninsula and march out to the ocean. You think you know forest. You don’t.

*Vancouver: shiny, bright lights. Nice people. Stop by the Indian reservations on the way from Seattle, do some gambling if that’s your thing, buy some awesome wood carvings. Cheesy? Yeah, but YOU’RE A TOURIST. It’s okay.

*Victoria: on the way back from Vancouver. Have high tea at the Empress Hotel.

*San Juans: from Victoria, take a series of ferries around the Sound. Stay in boutique hotels and have incredibly fresh food. This is the America of political campaign ads and laxative commercials.

*Portland: hit Voodoo Donut and try the bacon maplebar. Head over to the coast to Seaside and then Cannon Beach. Drink wine for free at the art galleries then walk down the coast all tipsy. There’s supposedly also a trick-table coffeehouse here. The tables very, very slowly move downward or spin. Good for pranks.

#10 Comment By MH – Scientismist On October 30, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

New England is a small but diverse region. So I would suggest that they sample each major region to get a sense of the place.

Go to Boston and see the historic sites, the Museum of Science, and the Aquarium. Eat a dinner of beef and red wine at Sal de la Terre which is nearby.

Now rent a car and drive out route 2 to Vermont. Along the way stop at Lexington to see the battle road and Concord to see Walden pond and the heritage sites.

Vermont is all about nature and quaint small towns. Quechee gorge is just over the border and a nice short hike. Eat lunch in town at the local diner and go to the country store. Trust me, every town in Vermont has a good diner and quaint country store, it’s the law.

Now swing over 89 into New Hampshire and go to Lake Sunapee. Here you can either swim, hike, or bike. Be sure to ask one of the locals about the upcoming presidential primary, at this point you won’t have to say much. New Hampshire is a bit of a write off with regards to dinning out, but you should be able to find a place with passable bar food.

Now go to the seaside. Do you like rocky Maine coasts or sandy Massachusetts beaches? Maine you say, well drive five hours to Bar Harbor Maine to Arcadia National Park. Rent some mountain bikes and ride on the carriage roads. If you like lobster and steamers you won’t go wrong anywhere. You can go camping or stay at a hotel, both options are fun.

On this trip you’ll notice that each state and the residents have its unique character. This trip left out Rhode Island and Connecticut, but they can be seen another time.

#11 Comment By jaybird On October 30, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

If you’re coming to Michigan & The Great Lakes, start out in Detroit and see the graveyard of 20th century American industry. The Detroit Institute of Arts is still a world-class museum, and afterward, you can hit Slow’s BBQ and marvel at the stately ruin of the Michigan Central Station across the street, which is probably the new symbol of the city and region. If you’re here in the winter, you can do ice-skating at the Campus Martius park, or if you’re here in the summer, you can take an evening stroll along the waterfront Riverwalk, which is vastly, vastly improved over the last ten years. As long as you stay right downtown it’s actually a pretty nice place – very manageable traffic,easy to find parking, a lot of good restaurants and music clubs like the Lagerhouse, which is where The White Stripes got their start, and Lafayette Coney Island for your 24-hr chili dog craving. Comerica Park and Ford Field are great new stadiums, and of course there’s The Joe if you’re a hockey fan. And be sure to take a photo of yourself standing next to The Fist at Jefferson and Woodward.

For the rest of the state, I honestly think Michigan has the best beaches in the world, for the three or four months out of the year you can swim here. White sand, clear, fresh water and nothing that wants to eat or poison you lurking beneath the waves. If you’re coming to the Great Lake state, you simply have to take the four-hour drive north to the Sleeping Bear State park to climb the 400-ft white-sand dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan. From there it’s just another hour or so to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge, linking the Mitten to the U.P. I try to cross it at least once a year. The culture of the U.P. is much more like Minnesota or Canada, and the terrain is much more rugged and wild.

When you’re in the U.P. you have to check out the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and then head to Marquette, named for the famous French Jesuit Missionary, Father Jacques Marquette. It’s the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, sitting right on the shores of Lake Superior. It’s home to Northern Michigan University, so it’s like a little Ann Arbor in the rugged North woods. Many great restaurants serving fresh seafood from the lake and several good breweries and nightclubs/music joints for the college crowd. You can also check out Presque Isle park, just outside the city limits, and stand the Black Rocks overlooking Lake Superior, which are some of the oldest exposed rock on the face of the Earth, clocking in around 3 billion years old. It’s a great place to sit with your honey and watch the sunset or sunrise. My wife and I went up there many times when we were dating. It’s one of my favorite places ever.

The people here are friendly, if a bit gruff, and have a great down-to-earth/no pretension attitude, and a sort of resigned cynicism and black humor that I find very appealing. Being that Rod is from Louisiana, (I was actually born in Louisiana myself) I think he’d find much of the same sort of general attitude and culture, going back to the 18th century French influence (many streets and cities here are French in origin – Gratiot, Lafayette, Cadieux… even Detroit itself is French for “The strait”) to the sort of hapless prospects of many of the city’s residents. For all the crap Michigan and Detroit have gotten in the media pretty much my entire life, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

#12 Comment By Liam On October 30, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

It really depends on the time of year. I would give different itineraries depending on the time of year.

#13 Comment By Brandon On October 30, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

Square Books is a definite must while in Oxford. Big Bad Breakfast for breakfast, Ajax Diner for lunch, dinner at City Grocery for upscale, or Old Taylor Grocery for downscale (decent catfish, though it’s more of an attraction for the atmosphere. It’s also BYOB). And of course Rowan Oak, then head over to the cemetery to pay your respects to our region’s greatest writer. Pick up some Lazy Magnolia Rebel Ale while you’re there, and see if anyone is playing at Proud Larry’s.

I’m from Memphis, so I’d definitely include Oxford in the itinerary. Maybe a hop over to Nashville for a day (if you do Third Man Records, Bongo Java Coffee, dinner at Jackson’s and a movie at the Belcourt are good bets). For Memphis I’d include the Stax Museum, a must for some Memphis music history that’s an infinitely superior experience to the hells that are Graceland and Beale Street. The Ornamental Metal Museum is the only one of it’s kind in the country, and gives the visitor a glimpse into the very strong handicraft culture here. They also offer blacksmith classes. The Cotton Museum is a good history of King Cotton and how it shaped Memphis culture and economy for centuries, and is housed in the former cotton exchange building (forgive their new Monsanto-sponsored room). The Shell is an outdoor amphitheater where Elvis and Johnny Cash played some of their first shows, and it’s still a great place to hear our finest local talent (usually for free).

As far as food goes, Payne’s BBQ on Lamar Ave is best pulled pork sandwich in the land and is always a Bright Week selection. Ghost River Brewery’s pale ale is unbeatable and they’re very generous with the samples when you take the Saturday tour. Bryant’s is a great breakfast place where you can feed three or four people for less than $10. They do biscuits like no one (I like the classic sausage biscuit, my wife prefers the fried bologna, egg and cheese). Soul Fish has great catfish and is in the heart of midtown, my neighborhood which many a bumpersticker proclaims “is Memphis.” Some other Memphians fired back with bumperstickers that claim Midtown is Pretentious. Both are to some extent true.

While doing all this listen WEVL 89.9, especially on Wednesdays.

#14 Comment By dhoff On October 30, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

Mohonk is nice this time of year – [4]

#15 Comment By mm On October 30, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

Since Durham is somewhat infamous, I always take my visitors on the Crime Scene Tour.

#16 Comment By JonF On October 30, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

For Michigan I would also advise a day trip to Ann Arbor. Do lunch at Zingermann’s Deli, visit the UofM campus and the Arboretum (if it’s June the extensive peony garden may be in flower). This will also provide an antidote to the sense of rustbelt doom Detroit may leave.
And maybe spend a day or in one of the small towns up north: Grayling, Gaylord, Petosky, Cheboygan, Charlevoix– they all their own local charm. In late summer don’t miss Traverse City and the farmer’s market with its fruits and berries, jams and jellies and local vintages– but fair warning, you may sample so many that you end a bit ill.

#17 Comment By Reader John On October 30, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

Greater Lafayette, Indiana:
1. Purdue University campus, including the Edward C. Elliott Hall of Music (which seats about 6,000) and the building built “clean” on giant shock-absorbing springs because in nanotechnology, background seismic activity moves building by more than the stuff they’re trying to work with.
2. A downtown that has come back from the brink (it helped that we’re a county seat so government and lawyers remained all along) without a single Chain restaurant, but several decent restaurants and a brewpub. Retail below, residences above, and 10 stories is the tallest thing around. Real nightlife, including homegrown music, though I’d walk you around by day, too, so we could look up at the ornamentation on some nice 19th-century buildings. Two restored Catholic Churches and an Episcopal Church that’s even older (not to mention Trinity U.M.).
3. Tippecanoe Battlefield, where William Henry Harrison met Tecumseh’s brother, the Prophet. Fort Ouiatenan, misplaced archeologically, but each fall the site of the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, drawing re-enacters and tourists.
4. The Celery Bog in West Lafayette. And the Bridge that keeps sinking into it (like Lucy and Charley Brown, they keep rebuilding: “This time it won’t sink. Really. Trust us.”)
5. I’d show you the hidden biotech industry, but it’s hidden. Seed genetics is a lot of it.
6. I’d also show you the Caterpillar and SIA plants, though I’d mention the tax incentives and infrastructure used to bribe the latter, especially, and how I’m tiring of corporate welfare.
7. The Bob Rohrman Performing Arts Center at Lafayette Jefferson High School. A former principal was a genius at raising money from Alumni (Rohrman made his money in cars, not art), though we don’t yet have a Brian Lamb Media Center.
8. Our Carnegie Library, which was The Library when I was a kid and now is the Tippecanoe Arts Federation headquarters.
9. Our Simon Mall and out countless strip malls, just to see if you’ve got any ideas on how to repurpose them when sanity returns. Maybe you could bring James Howard Kunstler with you.

#18 Comment By Mr. Pickwick On October 30, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

Oregonian here. What really defines Oregon is the diversity of the landscape: rocky coastline, rain forest, orchards, volcanic peaks, desert, rangelands, dryland farms. As a result, the Oregon lifestyle is closely connected to the land. You can hit all of these land types in a ten-day trip, but it would be hectic (distances are long here, and the more scenic roads should be taken slowly). So my recommendation would be a loop that picks up a few of these regions.

Begin in Portland with breakfast at the knotty pine paneled Original Pancake House (I recommend the sourdough pancakes). Walk the rose gardens during the day and tour the city on our integrated system of light rail, streetcar, bus and aerial tram. Dine downtown at Higgins Restaurant (it’s organic, seasonal and local, with Wendell Berry quoted on the menu).

The next day or so, wander south from Portland through the Willamette Valley, stopping at farm stands to sample marionberries, filberts and all kinds of vegetables. Be sure to sample Tillamook ice cream. Worship at one of the Mennonite churches near Albany and get included in one of their potlucks.

Next, make your way east over the Cascade Range and into the High Desert of central Oregon. Eat at rustic Cowboy Dinner Tree near Silver Lake, where the steak runs 26-30 oz. in size. Be ready to pay cash, because they don’t have electricity to run a card scanner.

Later, head north to the Warm Springs reservation to get some Indian fry bread and pick huckleberries. Then take a three-day whitewater raft trip on the wild Deschutes River, cooking trout over the campfire at night.

Next make your way to Mount Hood, and eat at Timberline Lodge up at high elevation with incredible views. Finally, circle back to Portland through the Hood River Valley (stopping to buy pears and cherries at local orchards) and the Columbia River Gorge. While in the Gorge, hike up to some of the waterfalls, and buy fresh-caught salmon in Cascade Locks from Native American fishers.

Oregonians are an independent sort, and almost everyone is outdoorsy in one way or the other. Some of the hipsters in the People’s Republic of Portland can be cold. But get out into the timber, farming or ranching communities, or onto the rivers, hiking trails and ski slopes, and the welcome warms up considerably. Show an interest in regional foods and outdoor pusuits, and you’ll make friends quickly.

#19 Comment By VikingLS On October 30, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

Ok in the state I was born in:

Kentucky, like most states in Appalachia, has a distinct highland and lowland culture.

So starting in the eastern mountiains you can see Lily Cornett woods, one of the last old growth forests in the eastern US and hear about how Lily Cornett preserved his forests and how much fun he had at the expense of timber speculators. Generally mountain people are a bit more reserved than lowland southerners. There are still some locally owned cafes and a lot of antique stores where you can talk to some locals.

You can visit Cumberland falls, the 2nd largest waterfall in the east. Time it right and you can see one of only two predictable moonbows in the world. Stop off in nearby Corbin and see the original KFC. It’s part fast food place, part museum. The museum is free.

You can head up to my hometown of Berea Ky where my alma mater Berea College educates low income students free of charge. Go down to Old Towne and visit with the local craftsman. You can buy excellent fudge and chocolate there. If you come on the fourth Saturday you can dance New England Contra at the folk center. Come during the traditional music festival and the campus will be broke out in fiddles and mandolins.

Heading out of the mountains into the Bluegrass around Lexington you can see horse farms and the Kentucky horsepark. Time things right during the spring and fall and go to Keeneland, our beloved local racetrack. Many people dress up to go to Keeneland, though feel free to dress casual.

Lexington itself is a residential, tech oriented city. If you want to see something distinctly Lexington you need to get inside New Circle road. I recomend Billy’s Barbecue for some of the best pulled pork north of the piedmont.

I can’t tell you much about Louisville other than the Ali Museum is there and The Spaghetti factory is supposed to be very good eating.

Heading west the cave country combines magnificent natural caves, including Mamoth Cave, the largest on Earth, with a lot of tourist kitch. Come in the summer and Glasgow Ky has famous highland games.

Furhter west Kentucky Lake and Lake Barley have excellent stripped bass fishing and the land between the lakes, which lies between them (duh), is a huge wildlife area.

You really can’t do all of those things at the same time so it’s going to depend on when you come.

#20 Comment By Park Hyun On October 30, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

Mr. Pickwick,

Sounds like we’re crossing paths here. What are your recommendations for the incredible Oregon coast? What do you do when you’re in northern Cascadia (ie Washington and BC)?

#21 Comment By Mr. Pickwick On October 30, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

Thanks for the inquiry, Park Hyun. Re Oregon coast: in my view, most of the towns have seen better days. Coos Bay and Astoria, for example, once prospered from booms in timber, fishing and shipping. As a result, they still have some cool old homes and buildings. And a few funky eateries now. The resort towns are spotty, in my opinion. Cannon Beach is the nicest, with some good places for clam chowder (I have forgotten the names). When in Tillamook, be sure to go to the dairy to see cheese made. Unfortunately, the worst weather in Oregon is along the coast (mostly cold and cloudy). When we do the coast, we picnic on the beach (make a campfire) and cook salmon. As for Washington and BC: wish I got up there more often. Cheers!

#22 Comment By VikingLS On October 30, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

I like Astoria a lot. I used to anchor there when I was working for Lindblad. Also the town can claim to be home to two of my favorite movies, not bad for a town its size.

I’d also mention the town of Hood River if I was you, great town with cool people and a great location. Of course one of the reasons I like Hood River is getting there mean we were out of the desert. 🙂

#23 Comment By Anglican On October 30, 2011 @ 8:52 pm

Minnesota and Western and Northern Wisconsin constitute the region I live in. The other parts of Wisconsin being in the Chicago orbit. I recommend Lake Superior in both States. Going on the lake theme, doing the cabin thing here is a must, even in the winter Lake stuff is important, such as ice fishing, I would strongly suggest that to someone from down south. The Boundary Water Canoe area is another outdoors must visit. I would say that the outdoors stuff is key here, and why someone should come here. Going fishing on Lake of the Woods or one of the other large lakes on the Canadian border is something I would suggest.

Getting to food, Walleye is big deal, fishing in general is, but Minnesota is particularly proud of Walleye and it is a fine eating fish. We also brew good beer in this area, and brewery visits are possible, one I would recommend is Schell’s in New Ulm which has been in business since the 1860’s. We also grow good apples in the river valleys and produce some reasonably drinkable wine.

The Twin Cities have lots of good art and music,culture,etc. and are well known and appreciated for such, but I would commend guest to get out of the cities. Beyond the Lake Superior area and the Northern Minnesota lakes, another fine part of Minnesota and Wisconsin is the river valleys that make up the border of both state. They are filled lots of fine old river towns founded in the 1850’s and 1860’s. They could also give New England a run for it’s fall colors money. The St.Croix and Mississippi River Valleys in particular are worth visiting if one likes nice small towns, and natural beauty. Driving the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River is nice. A lot of these towns are have strong a German and Catholic flavor. For all the talk of Scandanavian Lutherans, Minnesota has in places a strong German culture that persists in places. The Area around the river south of the Twin Cities is called the bluff region and is lovely even when you go further in from the river, into more small towns with a German Catholic flavour, with smaller groups like the Amish. The Bluffs region in Southeastern Minnesota is my favorite part of the state. Also oddly the bluff regions is the northern most range of the Timber Rattle Snake, so yeah we got Rattlesnakes and most people don’t know it. Go to Whitewater or Frontenac State Parks for that. The views of the river and Lake Pepin from the later are glorious.

That is my recommendations on what my region has to offer. Minnesota and Wisconsin are definitely places with a strong identity and I strongly disagree with someone who says we don’t have much culture. In our quiet,sometimes smug self satisfied, way, we definitely have a sense of place and regional culture, defined by our weather,landscape and our historical immigration and settlement patterns. Its worth a visit.

#24 Comment By Eric Piper On October 30, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

There are so many wonderful places in the US. I was raised in the Midwest, but ended up in northern Massachusetts. Since moving, my wife and I have hosted family and friends many times and never seem to get tired of showing them the places we’ve discovered.

The first place we take people is our home. We rent on an old horse farm with stone fences, an old barn, chickens and goats, rabbits, ducks, dogs, cats, and people stopping by to take care of their horses. MIT owns most of the land nearby and keeps it wooded and undeveloped, so the farm can feel quieter and more remote than it actually is.

There are some nice restaurants in the area, but the place that is the most fun to go to is a lively Italian counter-service restaurant in Groton. It is owned by a Brazilian man and his wife, and with all of the bustle and wonderful food feels like a slice of Boston’s North End out in the countryside.

Concord, MA is always a part of our itinerary for being home to two different revolutions: the first shots of the American revolution took place on the North Bridge, and a generation or so later the circle of writers and thinkers around Emerson (the Alcotts, Thoreau, and even
Hawthorne) led a quieter revolution for independence of thought.

In the summer, we often take guests for a swim at Walden Pond and then go out for ice cream at nearby Kimball’s Farm in Westford. Ice cream is a religion in New England, and there are stands all across the area that serve their own home-made flavors. On sundays from June to September, the town of Hollis, NH has a terrific flea market where venders sell anything from old farm equipment to tie-died Jimmi Hendricks t-shirts to antique rifles.

If it is fall, the area around Mt. Monadnock can’t be beat for the bright
oranges and reds of its trees to the pure running streams.

I’ve never had guests at Christmas, but some day it would be wonderful to bring visitors to my wife’s Christmas concert at an old church converted to a town arts center. People from our community – often homeschoolers but also software programmers and retired engineers – sing carols or play instrumental music on the piano, cello, or guitar.

If we had more time, I’d take guests to Castine, Maine, where my grandmother grew up and one of the few towns in the US to have its elm trees survive the Dutch elm disease. Even without the last stop, though, there is a lot to show people!

#25 Comment By Surly On October 30, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

Oregon native, Seattle transplant here. I see a couple of posts from my compatriots but I would alter things a bit.

10 days: Land in Portland. Stay at the Benson or the Hotel deLuxe (it still makes me want to clean myself to say that instead of the Mallory Hotel). Drink water from one of the four-barrelled fountains installed by Sam Benson, who wanted loggers to drink water and not beer. Go to Powell’s on 10th and Burnside and get lost. Then wander through the Park Blocks from north to south. If you are there in the summer, be sure to hit Washington Park and the Rose Test Garden. Take the Light Rail either from the airport when you arrive, or around. Rent a car and go to the Oregon Wine Country in Yamhill County on your way to the Oregon Coast. If you can only hit one Oregon beach, hit Oswald West State Park–known as “Short Sands Beach” to us old timers.

I would then send you into the central Cascades and ultimately to Bend, but you wanted to see Seattle so hop on the Amtrak anywhere from Eugene north and go to Seattle.

In the most unchurched city in North America check out St. Demetrios Orthodox Church, St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, St. Mark’s Cathedral or University Presbyterian on Sunday. After church, drive to Edmonds and catch a ferry to Whidbey Island. Spend some time in Coupeville, but drive up to Oak Harbor and hear the Sound of Freedom.

On a weekday, tour the Pike Place Market, the Seattle Center and the Gold Rush Museum. Drive up I-90 and hike to the top of Mt. Si.

If you must, do the Seattle Center things: EMP, Space Needle, etc.

You probablly have a few days left–take the Clipper to Victoria and wander around and go to the Provincial Parliament, Chinatown, and the Museum. Clipper back and fly out of Seattle.

#26 Comment By justin m On October 30, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

Don’t.let Dean fool you. The Dakotas are sublime. And not just the Black Hills (which are gorgeous in their own right). The Great Plains are an acquired taste; something a wine lover can appreciate

#27 Comment By Elizabeth Anne On October 30, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

I live in Madison, WI, and I’ve been telling Rod for at least 3 years he needs to visit.

First off, let me strongly recommend June. May through the end of October are spectacular, but June is particularly amazing. Although if you’re coming from points South, July and August are popular becuase we’re much more comfortable. “Hot and Humid” here is 85 with 80% humidity. From there, it depends on what you like. Amazing parks (Devil’s Lake is one of the most popular state parks in the US), the Dells are popular but touristy. But for foodies it’s all about downtown. Our farmer’s market is one of the best out there. Stop by Fromagination while you’re on the square, then head down to the Essen Haus for one of the over two hundred beers they keep around. Check out the Malt House, too, while you’re at it.

And you can’t miss The House on the Rock.
I won’t tell you anything about it. It’s better to go in completely unprepared.

#28 Comment By Park Hyun On October 30, 2011 @ 10:29 pm


I second the shout-out for Madison. I was there in August, and it was perfect. I wish I could put that in italics. PERFECT.

Mad respect for your town. What a wonderful, all-American city. I really fell in love with it after only a month. Of course, I hear the winter is a bitch, but what can you do? Snowmen, I guess.

#29 Comment By Leapold On October 30, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

Small Mississippi River town in Southeastern Minnesota. I’d just say “come”. Sit down in the park, surrounded by 3 Lutheran Churches, one Methodist, one Episcopalian. Have all the beauty of a New England autumn without any of the headaches. There is such a feeling of space here. When the glaciers came through and carved out the river valley, they were generous. When the train goes by at night and blows its horn, the sound echoes forever. That sound means home.

This place is home. I was able to come back because by age 28 I had glutted myself on freedom and adventure and just wanted peace enough to think.

#30 Comment By Leapold On October 30, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

Hey, Anglican, I guess you’re recommending my neck of the woods!

#31 Comment By Gene Callahan On October 30, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

New England, starting from the NY border:


1) Drive on 35 into Ridgefield, CT. Park and walk the downtown.

2) Drive down 7 to the Merritt Parkway. Take it east to New Haven. Drive to the top of West Rock and enjoy the view.

3) Drive down Whalley Avenue to the city center. Take a walk around the green and the Yale campus. Get some pizza. Head east out of the city and stay at a B&B in Stony Creek.


4) Take off east again on 1-95. Stop off in Mystic and visit the seaport.

5) Continue to Rhode Island. Tour the mansions in Newport. If it is summer, go for a swim at Horseneck Beach just across the line in Massachusetts. Stay in New Bedford.


6) In the morning visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Then up to Boston. Tour the commons and Beacon Hill. Catch a Celtics or Red Sox game. Stay at a hotel in the city center.


7) Up the coast to Maine. Drive as far as Portland and stay over night there. Eat some lobster.

8) Turn inland and head towards Lake Winipesauke in New Hampshire. Tour the lake shore. Go for a swim if it is summer.


9) Drive up Mt. Washington.

10) Drive west to Hanover. Tour the Dartmouth campus. Stay at a B&B in the Connecticut River Valley.


11) South, down the Connecticut River Valley, to Augustus Saint Gaudens’ house and gardens in Cornish.

12) Head northwest to Woodstock, Vermont. Tour downtown. Just outside of town visit the Billings Farm and Museum. If it is May, attend the Sheep Shearing Festival. Stay at the Woodstock Inn.


13) Hike in the Green Mountains.


14) Take Route 7 south into the Berkshires. In Stockbridge, Massachusetts, tour Naumkeag. Stay in Stockbridge.


15) Continue south to the Litchfield Hills in Connecticut. Visit downtown Sharon. Continue south to Kent Falls. Hike to the top of the falls. Stay in Washington at the Mayflower Inn. Enjoy the spa.

DAY 10

16) Back to New York!

#32 Comment By Elizabeth Anne On October 30, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

Park: Well, there’s a reason we drink a lot…

Yeah, in all seriousness, the winters ARE a bitch. But they’re only really bad for two or three months, and we console ourselves that the slowly unfurling spring, the sparkling summer, and the long, crisp golden autumns are more than sufficient recompense. Plus, it creates the strong sense of community we have here. Winter is the thing we all share and all have in common. It’s the one thing we can complain about together, help each other through, and harden ourselves to. Strong climates make strong people. Hoo-ah.

And, again, beer.

I also think there’s a reason George R. R. Martin’s series is so popular up here. We think it was inspired by the northern weather. Winter Is Coming indeed…

#33 Comment By MH – scientismist On October 31, 2011 @ 9:22 am

Gene Callahan, I like your tour,

Elizabeth Anne, indeed a common enemy helps unite people. An impersonal one like a season has the advantage that you can’t fight it, so cooperation against it is the only way.

#34 Comment By Julana On October 31, 2011 @ 10:16 am

Here in central Ohio, it’s common to hear locals say of it, “It’s a good place to live, but you wouldn’t want to visit.”
People don’t come here on vacation, except to go to Cedar Point in Upper Sandusky.

For weekend trips we:

visit to one of the country’s best zoos, developed under the leadership of Jack Hanna. Nice aquarium, manatee rescue site.

visit the Franklin Park Conservatory, especially in January and February. Plants and Chihuly glass.

get away from it all, NE to Holmes County, the center of Amish country, with rolling hills, cheese factories, comfort food, and the Walnut Creek Amish flea market.

go north a couple hours, and take a ferry to the islands of Lake Erie. Rent a bicycle, tour a wine factory, breathe. See the site of Perry’s Victory and the Peace Memorial.

go NE, visit the Rock and Roll museum in Cleveland (still haven’t done that).

see the Buckeyes, the Crew, or the Blue Jackets in action. Or the Reds or the Cavaliers (when LeBron was there).

go SE over the border into Charleston, WV, to see the beautiful mountains; some people go rafting.

go SE to hike the deep gorges of the beautiful Hocking Hills: Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cove, Conkle’s Hollow, Cedar Falls, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs. Especially in autumn!

go SW, and cross the Ohio river at Cincinnati to stroll Newport on the Levee. Eat German food; drink German beer in the Hofbrauhaus. Visit Ikea.

go west to Dayton to see the Art Museum, whose founders include Orville Wright and the brothers who started National Cash Register.

Have heard Toledo has a good art museum, with some contributions from Libbey glass.

#35 Comment By Gene Callahan On October 31, 2011 @ 11:22 am

MH, thanks. I don’t know how the little smiley face got in there, but there you are.

#36 Comment By Kris D On October 31, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

Reno, Nevada. I know most people only think of gambling when they think of Nevada, but the great outdoors here is really great. Less than an hour to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the world, Lake Tahoe. Close to good skiing. Close to the desert which brings home the importance of solitude (except for Burning Man). Virginia City, home of the Comstock, which shows you what people will put up with when there is money to be made.

#37 Comment By Sam M On October 31, 2011 @ 11:23 pm

Yes. Come to Western PA. Not Pittsburgh. The woods.

The number one priority would be a daylong backwoods bar tour. Go to Cougar Bob’s, the Bluejay, the Mountain Inn. These places are dying slow deaths, but for now, we still have them. Go when it’s snowing. Bring a designated driver. It is my favorite thing to do.

As for the sights, go the the Kinzua Viaduct. It was the eight wonder of the world when it was built. It blew over in a tornado a few years ago. It’s kind of cooler now.

Go to Bradford and visit the Zippo factory.

Go for a drive through the woods with someone who can talk to you about trees, and how the forest you are in is a bizarre, man-made artifice.

Go to Renovo. Cross the bridge to South Renovo. Drive throught the neighborhood until you get to the missile. It’s a war monument. It strikes me as odd that it’s not a tank or a cannon or even a statue. No sense of marshal vigor. A missile. Between two houses.

Go to a high school football game. If it’s winter, a wrestling match.

Then again, what do I know? When my wife and I got married, we did our honeymoon by gettinginto out car and driving. We ended up in Niagara Falls one night. The next morning, I made a huge detour and made her go to a place called “Balls Falls” because I thought it was hilarious and wanted a picture there. Then we ended up in Hamilton, Ontario. I hear it’s the Pittsburgh of Canada.

I am not a very good tourist.