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'Hiker trash,' a fat rattlesnake and fickle Mother Nature: What it's like to trek 800 miles on the Arizona Trail

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SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. -- Fat drops of rain tap out a mournful melody on the nylon ceiling stretched over my head. Peeking out from under a thick down quilt, I watch tiny rivulets of water drip down the sides of my tent and sigh.

It's not supposed to be raining here, at the entrance to Arizona's Saguaro National Park. Not in March. Not ...Read more

California Central Coast adventure: Zipline tandem, rip through sand dunes

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I brace my feet against the floor of our dune buggy as we rip through the spectacular, wind-formed sand dunes of Oceano. And despite my fear and sensory discomfort -- bump, jiggle, thud goes my head -- one word pops out of my mouth: "Woo-hoo!"

I'm by no means an adrenaline junkie. My family and I have come to San Luis Obispo County, Calif., for...Read more

Where to see fall color: 3 great autumn drives in Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Along the narrow country lane, rolling waves of autumn color covered the hills. I was cutting through bluff country on my way from the National Eagle Center, in Wabasha, to Whitewater State Park, in Altura, about 30 miles apart. But I didn't take the straightest route. It was autumn, after all, and the sun was shining.

I wish I ...Read more

Musical roots run deep in Nashville — the city that dominates new PBS series 'Country Music'

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jay McDowell is a nerd, he's quick to point out. The head nerd, in fact, of the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Or at least that's what the multimedia archivist, the official title on his snazzy black and gold business card, calls himself as he leads a small group of visitors through the fascinating exhibits, ...Read more

Museum Day in September means free admission at more than 1,300 venues

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Get into a museum without getting out your wallet on Sept. 21 thanks to Smithsonian magazine's Museum Day.

The annual event, now in its 15th year, gives people tickets for free admission to one of 1,300-plus museums and cultural institutions across the country.

Admission is always free at Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. -- and some of ...Read more

It's all about the barbecue at no-frills Arkansas diner with unpredictable hours — and a James Beard Award

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MARIANNA, Ark. -- Deep in the Arkansas Delta is a barbecue joint whose owner repeatedly attracts national attention, without seeking it out.

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner brings international and close-to-home foodies into Marianna, one of the state's poorest communities, with a population around 4,100. It's estimated that at least one-third of the ...Read more

See ya, Celine. Hello, Gaga. Vegas is getting a millennial makeover

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LAS VEGAS -- Of all the ways to burn through cash in Las Vegas, zip lining 12 stories above the throngs at the outdoor mall known as LINQ Promenade may be the most thrilling. Next to hunting down zombies in a virtual reality game, seeing Lady Gaga in concert or hanging out at an arty day club with DJ Marshmello working the decks.

Say so long to...Read more

12 rookie mistakes to avoid on your Bangkok trip

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Beautiful, cultured and frenetic, Bangkok is one of the world's most intense, energetic cities, and if you want to slip seamlessly into the frantic pace of life here, there are a few things you need to know. From common pitfalls to pointers that will help you see the best of the city, here are 12 rookie mistakes to avoid on your Bangkok trip.

1...Read more

A guide to catching fall colors at Indiana Dunes National Park: Where to eat, sleep and hike

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PORTER, Ind. -- When Indiana Dunes jumped categories from national lakeshore to national park earlier this year, it joined the elite ranks of the country's most hallowed natural wonders, 61 sites whose esteemed members include Yellowstone and Yosemite.

The Dunes' climb up the National Park Service ladder is really just a matter of perception. ...Read more

In Starved Rock country there's no excuse to go hungry, from crispy fried chicken to creamy peanut butter pie

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OTTAWA, Ill. -- Sometimes you just need to get in a car and drive, out to the edge of Chicago, through the suburbs and past the exurbs, to a place where the highway is straight and smooth and the sky shows you where it meets the land, or at least the treetops, in all four directions.

I do this now and again, on Interstate 80, and usually I end ...Read more

7 Florida boat tours: The classic way to see the scenery

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When tourists came to Florida back in the days before Disney, they still went on "rides." But in Old Florida, those rides were boat tours not roller coasters.

Seeing Florida by boat is still one of the best ways to enjoy all it offers.

On a floating getaway, you can reach places where there are no roads and glimpse views you can't see any ...Read more

6 rookie mistakes to avoid on your Spirit Airlines flight

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When perusing flight options, we've all come across prices that seem too good to be true. Although such deals are tempting, it's easy to fall prey to hidden fees and unreliable service without proper research. Spirit Airlines has developed a reputation in the travel community for doing just that. While some of this criticism is merited, Spirit ...Read more

Columbus may very well be Georgia's coolest cat

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Columbus, on the far western side of Georgia, isn't near an ocean, a sea or even the Gulf of Mexico. So, then, you might think it odd to see a tanned surfer dude -- or maybe a surfer chick -- strolling around downtown with a surfboard under one arm and a wetsuit under the other.

That's because Columbus, the second largest city in Georgia after ...Read more

'The Waltons' fans have plenty to celebrate in this corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains

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SCHUYLER, Va. -- Deep in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, miles from any multilane highway (or any straight road for that matter), through dense forests of Virginia pine and over trickling streams, I heard a familiar voice.

"Illi-noa? Why that's a ways away from he-uh, suh."

The woman at the front desk of the tiny museum I was ...Read more

From the soil to suds and spirits: Where to find creative cocktails and beer on Wisconsin farms

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DANE, Wis. -- We're ready for a bit of day drinking at 1:30 p.m. on a Monday and know where to begin.

A tree-lined driveway near Dane, 20 miles north of Madison, leads to expansive lawns and a farmhouse with pillars and shutters. Doors are locked, but on a chalkboard is this: We'll be right back. We're touring the rickhouses.

Sprinkled through...Read more

Horror film 'Us' coming to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights

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Horror fans looking for a new adventure this year at Halloween Horror Nights will be happy to learn that Universal Pictures' "Us" is coming to Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort this September.

Themed after Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele's blockbuster horror film, the Us mazes in Florida and California will ...Read more

Palm Beach area spans the spectrum of art culture

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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- What do you think of when you hear Palm Beach mentioned as a travel destination -- other than that you probably can't afford it? Mar-a-Lago and the Trump clan? Worth Avenue and its phalanx of uber-expensive fashionable stores? A mecca for international jet-setters, once favored by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Kennedys...Read more

Gentle manners, strong cocktails, historic homes in Savannah

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Even before you leave the airport in Savannah, Ga., it's obvious you've landed in a more genteel place than the one you left -- "that gently mannered city by the sea," as Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With the Wind," once described it. A bow-tied gentleman is playing Gershwin on a baby grand in the terminal's skylit atrium, a space lined ...Read more

Want to see more of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House? Now you can

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LOS ANGELES -- Visitors may finally set foot in the sunken living room, the dining room and the conservatory of Frank Lloyd Wright's famed Hollyhock House in Los Angeles' Barnsdall Park, even though they still have to cover their shoes with paper booties and keep their hands to themselves. And more rooms upstairs and down are expected to open to...Read more

Old-fashioned road trip leads to East Tennessee culinary gems

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The tastes of Tennessee are much more than its iconic confectionary delights of Goo Goo Clusters and Moon Pies and the savory taste of Bush's Baked Beans, all of which originated and are made in the Volunteer State. A Southern meal is a special thing, and finding unique places with great plates and ingredients sometimes requires the effort of ...Read more