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That time when a bear broke into our minivan on a family vacation in the Smokies

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As we checked in and got directions to our mountain cabin, we were told we might encounter bears on the property.

Don't feed them, we were warned.

OK, we said. Got it.

Not long after completing a 600-mile, nine-hour road trip from Chicago, we followed a winding road to an area just west of downtown Gatlinburg, Tenn., the gateway to Great ...Read more

The fires could not quench the beauty of California's wine country

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NAPA VALLEY, Calif. -- As I floated 2,500 feet above this storied wine-producing valley in a hot air balloon, all I could see below was a vast mosaic of greens. Greens in every shade -- from palest lettuce to soft sage to vivid emerald. Soaring over the Mayacamas Mountain Range, a tantalizing view of Mount St. Helena (not to be confused with ...Read more

What's around the Fillmore

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The Fillmore stands near the confluence of three neighborhoods. Here's what to visit in each.

Fillmore District

For a jazzier scene in a throwback setting far smaller than the Fillmore, step across Geary Boulevard to the Boom Boom Room at 1601 Fillmore St. Once known for its association with John Lee Hooker, the Boom Boom Room is a long, ...Read more

Museum of Ice Cream staying for the summer in San Francisco

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It will be a sweet summer in San Francisco.

The wildly popular Museum of Ice Cream is extending its run yet again. You can immerse yourself in icy-creamy goodness and flop into that pool of sprinkles anytime between now and Sept. 3. Tickets for the latest extension went on sale last week.

And there are new whimsical art installations at the ...Read more

Feel the music at the Fillmore

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SAN FRANCISCO -- It's 10 minutes to showtime. Step up to the three-story Italianate brick box at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard. Avert your eyes from the payday-loan operation that takes up much of the ground floor. Submit to a brief search by security.

Then climb the stairs, grab an apple from the giveaway bin and check out the hundreds ...Read more

How to plan your next trip around a 'walk-cation'

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On my latest trip to Chicago, I consumed nine tacos, three doughnuts, an Indian crepe, a giant tamale, a mound of carnitas, a bowl of pasta and a table full of Vietnamese food. How did I not gain 15 pounds? Well, I also walked 8 to 10 miles per day -- which is typical for me when I travel.

Exploring a city on foot has so many benefits. I ...Read more

New airline seating proposal a stand-up idea

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For those in the economy section of an airplane, flying is already an experience that falls somewhere between tolerable and miserable on the comfort spectrum.

And that experience is not likely to get much more comfortable if Aviointeriors Group has its way.

The Italy-based aerospace interior design company recently unveiled its latest seat ...Read more

Legoland wants you to spend the night with knights and wizards

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Here are some of the highlights of Legoland's new 250-room Castle Hotel, which boasts 2,100 Lego models crafted from more than 3 million Lego bricks.

GRAND HALL:

Greeting guests in the lobby is a 5-foot tall Lego model of a bearded wizard standing atop a pile of Lego spell books. With the tap of an oversized button, a spiraling chandelier ...Read more

Away from the theme parks, Orlando area offers dining thrills

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Local food blogger Ricky Ly is guiding me through the iFresh supermarket, an Asian store in the Mills 50 district of Orlando, Fla..

Taiwanese pastries are among the specialties, he explains, gesturing to a 20-foot-long display case filled with everything from mango cream cheese buns to pineapple buns with dried pork. A minute later, we're ...Read more

Legoland's latest hotel: A castle

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CARLSBAD, Calif. -- You might call it Lego on steroids.

From the moment young kids are greeted in the hotel lobby by a towering Lego wizard who stages a surprise light show to when they crawl into their bunk beds and gaze up to see a shooting star, they are transported to a medieval castle inhabited by more than 2,000 Lego-crafted characters.

...Read more

Deeper than a few coats of mascara: America's gayest city is just joyful

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PROVINCETOWN, Mass. -- The cross-dresser in a Bette Midler wig approached us in a bathtub on wheels.

Cruising down Commercial Street, Provincetown's main street (or, um, main drag), she was handing out fliers for her "Electra! Bathhouse to Broadway" show that evening. She wore a mermaid costume and heavy rouge -- and, upon closer inspection, we...Read more

Taco trucks and beyond: San Antonio, home to Final Four, has a winning food scene

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SAN ANTONIO -- My good friends Ariela and Elliot are longtime New Yorkers who fled the Big Apple for Austin two years ago, got priced out and ended up in San Antonio. It's a common story these days.

When I meet up with them in San Antonio, along the hipster-y St. Mary's Strip, I begin to understand why they chose this city 80 miles to the ...Read more

Inn-Escapable: Seattle's sleek Thompson Hotel at Pike Place

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Seattle's award-winning architects Olson Kundig are behind the Thompson Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel with a stunning glass facade that sits at the edge of downtown's Pike Place Market. The hotel, and particularly its rooftop bar, The Nest, have become a bit of a landmark since they opened in 2016 -- a place, dare we say, to see and be seen.

A...Read more

Soak up the scenery, silence on a houseboat journey along Florida's St. Johns River

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Somewhere in the deep green heart of central Florida, an eagle's cry pierces the morning quiet. Soaring through the sunrise, she surveys her domain before landing in a cypress tree high above the St. Johns River. As she fortifies her nest, an alligator bellows from the riverbank. Together, they play a primeval role in a story that predates ...Read more

Wintering in Alaska

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After spotting a moose, I spot the "Mushing Mortician." Along the Iditarod Trail, in Alaska's snow-coated wilderness, 57-year-old funeral home owner Scott Janssen barks, "Straight! Straight!" to his sled dogs barreling toward a checkpoint 311 miles into the famed, grueling and controversial 1,000-mile race. Nearby, canine teams rest on scattered...Read more

Seattle's new waterfront: Pike Place Market and beyond

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SEATTLE -- Open since 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the United States. That historic significance -- and those iconic waterfront views over Puget Sound-- draw 10 million visitors a year to its dark alleys and cramped, creaky stairways.

But "cramped and creaky" don't do justice to what is ...Read more

A secluded historic temple on windward Oahu holds clues to a rich culture and history

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KAILUA, Hawaii -- It was like a watercolor dream, blurry at the edges, filled with jungle greens and cerulean sky. It was quiet and lush in a way that only Hawaii can be.

Was this place real or had I dreamed it? After all, it had been more than 50 years since I first saw it and more than three decades since I last laid eyes on this heiau, a ...Read more

Rainy day on Maui? Here are 5 great things to do beyond the beach

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MAUI, Hawaii -- So you came all this way and, oh, it's raining. Hey, you're still on Maui. Are you really going to get all cranky?

Often you can drive a few miles -- or wait 10 minutes -- and you'll have sunshine again.

But there are days when spongy gray clouds cover the whole island and it's not the beach weather you'd bargained for.

"We've...Read more

Finding the aloha spirit in three Hawaiian Islands

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The Hawaiian Islands hold a special, almost mystical, appeal for many mainland Americans and Asian visitors, myself included. Recently I traveled to Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai to see which island I liked best, and to discover new places to stay and activities not to be missed.

I began my odyssey in Oahu, the most well-known and populous ...Read more

As he hangs up his hat, Seattle Times travel editor names Top 10 trips

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Over my 20-year career writing travel stories for The Seattle Times, a question I've fielded (happily, I should say) when meeting someone for the first time was almost as predictable as the number of pretzels I got flying Coach: What's been my favorite trip?

I usually fudged. Prettiest place? Nicest people? Most fun? Educational? How does one ...Read more

 

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