10 Great Places for Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage trips are a great addition to a business trip or for a quick weeeknd away or even for a longer family vacation. First 10 reasons why it is great –

  1. Weather has cooled off
  2. Crowds are less (if you pick the destination right) – like Long Island Fall Foliage
  3. Apple Cider
  4. Harvest Festivals – like Pennsylvania Fall Foliage in Amish country
  5. Close to East Coast population centers
  6. Apple Cider
  7. Can be done on a tight budget
  8. Can spend lots of money (e.g. Cruise to see Maine Coast Fall Foliage)
  9. New England Fall Foliage makes the quaint and historic towns even MORE quaint and historic
  10. You can still do all the usual vacation stuff – golf, museums, theme parks, zoos, etc.

And, 10 destinations:

  1. Vermont
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Upstate New York – Fall Foliage Trips, Catskills Fall Foliage , Adirondack Fall Foliage
  4. Central Park, Alley Park, Prospect Park – New York City Fall Foliage
  5. Massachusetts Fall Foliage in the Boston suburbs (e.g. Concord, MA)
  6. DC, Virginia and Maryland Fall Foliage – its not just the Cherry Blossoms that are famous, here
  7. Virginia Fall Foliage is at its best in the Shenandoah, and Blue Ridge Mountains.
  8. Colorado Fall Foliage just a month or two before the skiers arrive. Enjoy the Colorado Rockies Fall colors less than an hour from Denver.
  9. New Mexico Fall Foliage for a different experience
  10. Fall Foliage in the Four Corners region – don’t expect crowds.

And an honorable mention for Pittsburgh for Southwest Pennsylvania Fall Foliage. Who would guess that one!

The Parsons are in Minneapolis!

And we are having a blast! We only got here yesterday and have already explored the area around our hotel (we walked all over Downtown Minneapolis), went to the Walker Art Center, and out for a nice family dinner. Today Rick started his slew of business meetings and the girls and I spent the entire day at the Mall of America, which was just thrilling—what a world in there! The girls particularly liked the Park at Mall of America, but I was a big fan of the shopping part of the Mall of America. Not it’s after midnight and I should really be getting to bed because I know the girls are going to wake up early and make me take them down to breakfast…

In store for tomorrow is the Science Museum of Minnesota or the Water Park of America. And then also in the next week we’ll visit the Como Zoo. For our last two days, we’ll be staying near Itasca State Park, which is Minnesota’s oldest state park with over 100 lakes. and hopefully the weather will be nice because the Parsons are going to try something new and exciting—we’re going to be camping out! We borrowed a whole slew of gear that we brought with us and we’ll be renting a car, parking it, and then will hike and camp for two days. The girls are really excited—in fact is was their idea (I guess it’s obvious that it wasn’t mine or Rick’s idea…).
Wish us luck!!

Five Days of Disney

Seth Stevenson asks a shrewd question in Slate: Why would anyone want to go to Disney World every year? And as an elementary school teacher who sees the same kids go to Disney World year after year after year, I’m curious to know his answer.

Stevenson explains that Mr. Walt Disney did not just create a company and open a few theme parks, but created a Disney ideology—he calls it Disneyism. Walt Disney’s career arc is comparable maybe to L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame, who also grew up in middle America and exploded into the mass-market. The “Disney-as-religion”, as Stevenson calls it, is indoctrinated into Disney visitors from the overabundance of souvenirs available to the five weddings a day that take place at the iconical Disney castle. Utopianism spills out of Disney’s ears and captures children and parents, convincing them that because things are so cheery, they must be doing something good.

I think Stevenson’s point (I didn’t get through the treatise he wrote on the subject) is that people flock to the Disney Empire because the Walt Disney Co. has done a fantastic job transforming the ordinary into the magical. The movie rides at MGM Studios are larger than life; the innovations at Epcot are sensational.

I’ve never been to Disney World, and if all Mr. Stevenson says is true, and all that my hundreds of students say is true, Disney World probably is just a bit as magical as it seems. I will probably take our kids there when they are at an age where they’ll love it and remember it. But only once. I certainly don’t need my (future) intelligent, creative children being sucked into believing that it’s an every summer sort of trip. And besides for the fact that I think my wife and I would go crazy, I think about all the other places that I want our (again, future) kids to experience, like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.

The Disney empire in the U.S. includes:

Business trip to Austin, Texas

I’m in Austin, Texas for five days, spending three nights at the Hilton near the Austin Convention Center, and two nights at the Lake Austin Spa Resort, which I am really looking forward to (last two nights). As you know by now, I don’t ever plan a business trip without a significant pleasure portion. I’ll really be busy this trip (not like my last trip to Jackson, Wyoming where I spent most of time out on the green), but of course have scheduled some time at the Barton Creek – Crenshaw Cliffside Course, which, coincidentally, I just wrote about in 10 Great Places to go for the Green, so that’s certainly a highlight.

Here are my goals for the week: Get work done, golf, eat some good BBQ and Mexican food, and get a few massages. That shouldn’t be too hard. One of my coworkers suggested the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum—does anyone know if that’s worth going to?
Continue reading

Daytime visits to Washington, D.C.

Homeschooling the kids for the year was a success, though I do have to admit, having them in day camp for the summer is making me reconsider. For one, I have the whole day to myself, free to run errands and work on some freelance editing work that I’m very behind on. Also, the girls seem to be having fun. Not that they don’t have fun learning at home, and not that they don’t get plenty of social time, with the “homeschool school” and other group activities and playdates that they’re always busy with. I guess before I make any drastic decisions (the plan is to homeschool for one more year) I should remember that camp is always more fun than school, right? Anyways, the nicest thing about summer so far is that I’m free to go into Washington, D.C. and meet Rick for lunch. I’ve actually been going almost everyday, bringing some work with me so I can sit away from the distractions of home and focus, and visiting some museums while I’m in the area. I’ve been enjoying the alone time, but I do miss my girls!

My Washington, D.C. travels so far have brought me to museum classics like:
National Gallery of Art
National Portrait Gallery
National Building Museum
Phillips Collection
Folger Shakespeare Library
Library of Congress
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

I’ve been to all of these before, but usually with other people and it’s nice to go at my own pace.

Rick has only two business trips planned this summer. One to San Antonio, Texas that I think we (the girls and I) may skip (I’m not sure I can deal with the heat down there), and one to Minneapolis, which coincides perfectly with the end of camp. So, more about that later!

Asthma Capitals of the U.S.

My 4 year old son has mild asthma and I was looking something up on WebMD when I came across this article about the worst asthma cities in the country. The article takes into account various different factors, including asthma prevalence, poverty levels, asthma death rates, air quality, and pollen scores. This report was put out by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Of course Atlanta made it to the list (where we live now), and Knoxville, Tennessee is the number one worst place for asthma and Memphis is number five, and those aren’t too far from where we used to live. So now I feel a little guilty that maybe I’m perpetuating Justin’s condition by living in the wrong spots… Maybe next we’ll move to Alaska. Here’s the list:

10. Greensboro, North Carolina (from No. 8 in 2007)
9. St. Louis, Missouri (from No. 28 in 2007)
8. Greenville, South Carolina (from No. 34 in 2007)
7. Charlotte, North Carolina (from No. 14 in 2007)
6. Allentown, Pennsylvania (from No. 16 in 2007)
5. Memphis, Tennessee (from No. 30 in 2007)
4. Atlanta, Georgia (from No. 1 in 2007 – an improvement!)
3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin (from No. 7 in 2007)
2. Tulsa, Oklahoma (from No. 25 in 2007)
1. Knoxville, Tennessee (from No. 4 in 2007)

Other cities from the Top Ten last year include
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Raleigh, North Carolina, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

The saddest part of this study is that a leading cause of death in asthma patients is the lack of health care in poverty stricken areas. Pollution is a huge factor, but with proper health care, asthma can be controlled.

New Orchid Species Discovered at Yosemite

Okay, so this discovery is already a year old, but I came across this MSNBC article just now as I was planning my last trip to Yosemite National Park (I went with some buddies last week).

There is a new species of orchid that can be found only in the wet meadow of Yosemite. The flowers have long spears with yellow colored mini ball-shaped buds. It’s not the appearance which stands out and helped with its discovery, but its smell, or rather, I should say, stench. Botanist Alison Colwell likens the smell to sweaty feet—and she’s right, I recently discovered for myself.

Meanwhile, I had fun up there. I went with four other guys, one of whom just got married last night, so it was a sort of bachelor long weekend adventure. We hiked Yosemite and went rafting on the Merced River. We stayed at the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino where we lost a shitload of money and drank a shitload of alcohol—which is why, come to think of it, why we lost so much money.

But hey, you’re only young once.


(Thanx Alison Colwell / AP and MSNBC)