Three Perfect Days: Nova Scotia
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Nova Scotia

By The Hub team , August 04, 2015

Story by Nicholas DeRenzo | Photography by Chris Sorensen | Hemispheres, August 2015

Canada's second-smallest province tends to conjure images of picturesque lobstering villages, rocky beaches, lonely lighthouses and cold weather. It's true, the winters here can be harsh, but Nova Scotians generate their own kind of sunshine. In fact, the province's defining characteristic is a pervasive sweetness. You can see it everywhere: from the candy colors of its clapboard cottages to the cutesy nickname for non-locals (“come from aways") to the syrupy sauce atop the province's trademark late-night snack (a beef-and-pork gyro glazed with icing). It's a place that, even on the foggiest days (and there are many), could never be described as gloomy.

Day 1 Graphic

In which Nicholas goes museum-hopping and tackles the mythic donair

Morning in Halifax means passengers streaming off cruise ships at the bustling seaport, eager to stretch their legs. I'm feeling no such cabin fever, having just awoken in my large, luxurious bed in the nearby Prince George Hotel. Cup of coffee in hand, I stand at my window, looking out over the city's historic downtown.

Breakfast is nearby at Norbert's Good Food, a sunny eatery inside the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market. Established in 1750, this is North America's oldest farmers market, and its current cavernous home accommodates more than 250 vendors on weekends. Norbert's is well named. Everything on my plate—eggs, bacon, potato rosti—is sourced from the owner's farm or one of his neighbors'. Outside, ships and sailboats drift by, continuing the maritime tradition that has been the backbone of this town for centuries.

Carrie-Ann Smith, Chief of Audience Engagement at the Canadian Museum of ImmigrationCarrie-Ann Smith, Chief of Audience Engagement at the Canadian Museum of Immigration

Between 1928 and 1971, more than a million immigrants landed next door, at Pier 21, the Ellis Island of the Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island). Today, the old redbrick terminal houses the Canadian Museum of Immigration, which was given a $30 million overhaul this summer. I'm here to meet Carrie-Ann Smith, the museum's chief of audience engagement and the brains behind its transformation.

“Listen, Ellis Island was built as a palace; Pier 21 is a shed," Smith says, standing in the expansive entry hall. “But it had this beat-up wooden sign that said 'Welcome Home to Canada,' which I think is just lovely." She's designed a museum that's heavy on interactivity: Visitors are invited to pack virtual suitcases, try on period clothes or set tables for dinner. “They wouldn't let me add a seasickness-inducing machine," she says. “I wish the whole building rocked."

Smith wants to show me her city, so we head outside. As we approach the curb, cars practically screech to a halt to let us cross. Overbearing courtesy, Smith says with a laugh, is one of the province's defining traits. “If you even think about crossing the street here, they stop. Sometimes I pace on the sidewalk, so they don't feel obligated." Fighting politeness with politeness: the Canadian way.

“Every postwar smart aleck came to Canada. I met a Polish man who, when he arrived here, saw a sign saying 'Drink Canada Dry.' he likes to say,'And I've been trying to ever since!'" —Carrie-Ann Smith

We stroll past Pizza Corner, an intersection named for its concentration of pizzerias. At night, with its mix of tourists and Haligonians spilling out of bars, the place has the feeling of Times Square writ incredibly small. Many of these revelers are on the hunt for Nova Scotia's most iconic after-hours snack: not pizza, but donair, a local riff on the gyro supposedly concocted in the 1970s by a Lebanese pizzeria owner (regular gyros were deemed too exotic for local tastes). The lamb was swapped out for beef and pork, and the garlicky yogurt sauce became a sweet white glaze made from evaporated milk and sugar, with a splash of white vinegar and garlic powder.

“That sauce is just candy," Smith says. “Maybe I've never been drunk enough to enjoy it." Despite her warning, I assure her I'll try one tonight.

Next, I head to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which features exhibits on two catastrophes: the 1912 sinking of the Titanic (survivors went to New York; the dead came to Halifax) and the 1917 Halifax Explosion. Though less famous abroad, the latter is a city-defining tragedy; two ships, one filled with ammunition, collided and caused the largest man-made blast of the pre-nuclear age, flattening much of the city and killing almost 2,000. These century-old nautical incidents still loom large and in unexpected ways. The Five Fishermen restaurant, for example, was once a funeral home where Titanic victims were kept before burial. Across the street, the city's oldest building, the 1750 St. Paul's Church, has bits of wood and iron from the explosion embedded in it.

Lobster at the South Shore Fish Shack in Lunenburg

BOOM!

As I leave the museum, a huge blast rings out—bad timing, to say the least. A passing woman notices my expression and smiles in a don't-worry way. “We're not under attack," she says. “That's just the noon gun." Every day, it turns out, the city's hilltop fort fires off a cannon at midday (the ritual has its own Twitter account, @HalifaxNoonGun, with the same Tweet repeated every day at the same time: “#boom").

Feeling a bit #hangry, I head for lunch at 2 Doors Down,chef Craig Flinn's ode to elevated classics. Hearty menu items like smoked potato chowder, crispy haddock burgers and chicken dinner poutine—pulled chicken, cheese curds, peas, stuffing and gravy atop a pile of fries—are the kind of rib-sticking dishes you'd need to get through a Canadian winter.

Winter is also a theme at the nearby Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where I find Inuit carvings and folk paintings depicting the kind of weather you wouldn't send a dog into. A highlight of the collection is the relocated one-room cottage of the province's most famous folk artist, Maud Lewis, who died in 1970 at the age of 67. Life was hard for Lewis, who stood under five feet tall due to juvenile arthritis, but you'd never know it from her home, in which every surface is painted with an ecstatic array of flowers and butterflies and birds.

Halifax is a hilly city, which works in my favor after my gravyful lunch. I make my way up a steepish slope, pausing in the city's old Grand Parade, bracketed by monumental City Hall, a late-19th-century sandstone pile dominated by a seven-story tower (its clock fixed at 9:04 to mark the Explosion), and the white Georgian facade of St. Paul's. From here, it's a few minutes up to the city's most recognizable landmark: the Halifax Citadel, aka Fort George, which was established here by the British in 1749 to keep the French at bay.

The Tangled Garden in Grand-Pré

The strategic value of the star-shaped fortification's hilltop position—225 feet above sea level—has given way to its sightseeing potential. From the ramparts, I look out over the city's bristling steeples, the forested harbor islands and the smattering of small-fry skyscrapers (the tallest tower here, Fenwick Place, is 322 feet). Closer by are the kilted reenactors of the 78th Highlanders troop, who march in formation in the dusty courtyard below. Oh, right: Nova Scotia. New Scotland.

In the fort gift shop, I'm grilled about my travel plans by the woman behind the counter. Tomorrow, I tell her, I'm heading to LaHave, a coastal town about 70 miles southwest of here, to meet an indie singer named Jennah Barry. “Oh," she says, “I went to high school with her!" Small world. Smaller province.

Heading back into town, I stroll past broad Halifax Common and the Crayola-colored clapboard houses of the North End, a trendy neighborhood that was once the city's industrial heart. I'm having dinner at Field Guide, a hip new eatery (chalkboard menus, yellow metal bistro chairs) run by chef Dan Vorstermans and his wife, Ceilidh Sutherland. Despite the modern flair, the food tastes deeply of the land. A salad of turnips, sorrel puree, cured egg yolk, pickled beets and watermelon radish comes topped with seasonal fiddlehead ferns. “We all went up to Ceilidh's parents' house in Tatamagouche to pick them," the waiter says.

Pan-fried gaspereau, a local river herring, is served with crunchy fried roe sacks and black garlic mayo. There's even a high-minded nod to the donair I've heard so much about, in the form of a steamed bun in which Vorstermans restores the original lamb and adds a bit of lamb liver for “an earthy, gamey, mineraly flavor," plus a sweet but nuanced sauce of house-made condensed milk, fresh garlic and apple cider vinegar.

After dinner, I head across town to Argyle Street, a strip of Anglo-Irish-Scottish pubs, many with live music (heavy on the fiddle) streaming out the windows. I'm here to have a drink with Andrew Al-Khouri, a former “Master Chef Canada" finalist who hails from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia's version of the Scottish Highlands. Fittingly, I meet Al-Khouri at the Loose Cannon, a wood-paneled pub with more than 70 Scotch varieties. After a shot of Glenora Glen Breton—North America's first single-malt whiskey, also from Cape Breton—I find myself once again discussing donair.

The Halifax Citadel Royal Artillery and the cannon that fires off the daily noon gun

“They asked us to submit an audition dish, and I did donair gnocchi as a joke," the chef says of his reality TV stint. “Most people made Wagyu beef—mine cost $1.50 to make." Al-Khouri has spent years drawing inspiration from the late-night snack. In college, he invented the donair omelette after passing out drunk on top of one and trying to figure out what to do with its mangled remains. Since then, he's come up with duck donair poutine and a frisée and beet salad served in an edible donair-meat cup.

Al-Khouri suggests we go get a couple of donairs for the road. A minute later, we're at Mezza Lebanese Kitchen. “He's from New York," Al-Khouri tells the guy behind the counter, “so make him the best donair ever!" It's messy, meaty and weirdly sweet. In other words, perfect.

In which Nicholas traces the Lighthouse Route and makes beachside s'mores

Halifax has long served as an entry point to Nova Scotia, but my plan for today is to see what lies beyond. I set out early and wind down the coast to the South Shore, which looks and feels like rural Maine. Fifteen minutes outside the capital, I'm surrounded by pine-studded islets, pristine lakes, rocky beaches and cottages with brightly colored Adirondack chairs pointing out toward the sea.

Like pretty much everyone who travels the Lighthouse Route, I pull into Peggy's Cove to get a look at the trail's namesake—a perfect white lighthouse on a wave-beaten promontory, shrouded in photogenic fog. Just behind me is an equally lovely lobster-fishing village. It's the kind of view that makes you entertain relocation fantasies, although the porcupine waddling across the street as I depart might be overdoing the cuteness a bit.

Andrew Al-Khouri, Cook and “Master Chef Canada" contestant (and yes, he's eating a donair)

After a quick stop for coffee and snacks at the cozy bookstore/bakery Biscuit Eater, farther down the coast in Mahone Bay, I'm on to Lunenburg. This colorful cod-fishing town is home to the continent's best-preserved planned British colonial settlement, dating to the 1700s—a distinction that has earned it the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. It'd be easy to do a drive-by gawk, but I'd like to get a closer look, so I've set up a tour with seventh-generation Lunenburger Shelah Allen, who co-owns Lunenburg Walking Tours.

We meet at the town's turreted High Victorian showpiece, the Lunenburg Academy, where Allen went to elementary school. “This is gallows hill, surrounded on three sides by a graveyard—lots of fodder for children's imaginations," she says. “People always expect it to be scary or haunted, but I have to say, 'Sorry! Happy building!'"

“What's awesome about Nova Scotia is that it's the kind of place where you'll find yourself drinking in a kitchen with ten fiddle players." —Andrew Al-Khouri

As we stroll the surrounding streets, Allen points out a cod atop a church weathervane. “People always ask if the fish is a Christian symbol," she says. “And I say, 'Sort of—it's a symbol of what we're most thankful for.'" She also introduces me to a renowned architectural flourish that originated here, the Lunenburg Bump, a protruding window in which the lady of the house would sit and knit, to see and be seen. “I think of it as early Facebook," she says.

Allen is quick to note that Lunenburg isn't too precious about its heritage. “We don't wear costumes," she says. And while the pink and blue and red buildings may look fanciful, they house hardware stores and bars. This is a working town.

We head down toward the waterfront to grab lunch at the South Shore Fish Shack, where Allen insists I order the lobster. “The water's super-cold, the shells are harder, the meat's sweeter—we have the best lobsters in the world here," she says. “Though people from Prince Edward Island would say we're full of crap." I hate to take sides in a Maritime dispute, but the lobster is pretty amazing.

The colorful houses of Lunenburg

On my way out of town, I stop into Ironworks Distillery, which occupies an 1890s blacksmith shop. Along with dark rum (a nod to the province's rum-running days), the distillery makes liqueurs with flavorings like cranberry and a hearty local fruit called arctic kiwi. I grab a bottle of apple vodka, which still tastes faintly of the fruit grown in the province, and receive a perfectly Nova Scotian outburst when my credit card doesn't swipe. “Oh turtleneck!" says the cashier, and then, under her breath, “That was me swearing."

After a short ferry ride across the LaHave River, I stop at the LaHave Bakery. The place feels like an old general store, with wooden shelves loaded with fresh bread made from locally milled grains. It's the perfect spot to meet Jennah Barry, a rootsy redheaded spitfire singer-songwriter who recorded her indie folk-pop album, Young Men, just across the river, and who lives nearby “on top of this hill, in a little cabin I built."

Barry clearly has a kinship with the area, especially this bakery. “This is the hub," she says. “If you don't know where anyone is, you just come here. None of my friends have cell phones, which is great. When people say they'll be somewhere, they'll really be here. We're the least apathetic people in the world."

How does being from Nova Scotia play into the way people perceive her? “People see me as this sweet rural girl," she says. “I don't feel like an apron-wearing country girl … though I guess I am? I will say I am a very aggressive driver."

Peggy's Point Lighthouse

And if this whole singing thing doesn't work out? “I always have a job waiting for me in PEI," she says with a laugh, noting her resemblance to the neighboring province's most famous export, Anne of Green Gables.

Next, Barry takes me upstairs to meet her friend Jesse Watson, owner of Homegrown Skateboards. Here, in a raw attic space that houses a bowl for testing boards, Watson crafts decks out of Canadian hardrock maple and sells T-shirts with slogans like “Too much moxie breeds mayhem in the streets"(from a 1965 Life headline about skateboarders). Talk turns to this year's once-in-a-lifetime winter.

“It was arctic, full-on," Watson says. “No one could go out, but there was this weird romance of isolation."

“You get kind of squirrelly," adds Barry. “You get up to weirder stuff, because you have to." As for what counts as weird in these parts: “We're going to an Under the Sea costume party tonight, and everyone's congregating here to finish up their costumes," says Watson, who will be going as a shark head.

“And I'm gonna cut a hole in this blue tarp," says Barry, “and be water."

The Luckett Vineyards phone booth

I'm sure I could have whipped up a mean kelp get-up, but I have to head farther south before nightfall. I'll be staying at the White Point Beach Resort, a 1928 family retreat overlooking the Atlantic that calls to mind the Catskills lodge in Dirty Dancing. A sign by the entrance reads, “Children and bunnies are everywhere," and there's truth in advertising. The lawn around my swank-summer-camp beachfront cabin is hopping with domesticated rabbits that escaped and multiplied decades ago. The resort hands out paper baggies of rabbit food by the front desk, but I can't help but feel they'd do better handing out packets of rabbit birth control.

After a dinner of deliciously rich planked salmon chowder and homegrown mussels at the resort's Elliot's Dining Room, I head to the beachside bonfire for s'mores, served with a rotating slate of Nova Scotia–born products, including haskap jam, made from a dark blue Japanese berry that's fast becoming this region's superfood du jour. It shows up everywhere here.

I take a stroll on the beach until my sugar high wears off and then head to bed, where I'm warmed by a crackling fire. And yes, it took this city boy quite a few tries to get it going.

In which Nicholas pretends to know about wine on the shores of the Bay of Fundy

I start my day at Elliot's, watching surfers brave the chilly Atlantic, as I dig into pancakes and chorizo hash slathered in maple syrup (remember, it's all about nostalgic Canadiana here). Then I'm on the road, heading across the province to the up-and-coming Annapolis Valley wine region, on the Bay of Fundy. Separating Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the bay boasts the world's highest tides. There can be a 50-foot difference between high and low tide here, as more than 100 billion tons of water drain out twice daily, stranding boats (and unlucky fish) on the dry seabed.

Within two hours, pine forests open up to rolling meadows, weathered barns and dairy cows, then the tell-tale geometry of wine country—rows, rows, rows. I end up in the college town of Wolfville, where I'll be staying at the Blomidon Inn, which occupies a stately 19th-century sea captain's mansion.

Jennah Barry, Singer-songwriter

First, a reenergizing cup in nearby Grand-Pré, at Just Us! Coffee, Canada's first fair-trade coffee roaster. It's the kind of café where your barista may discuss the subtle distinctions between Peruvian and Ethiopian beans, but it's also just a casual hangout (as evidenced by the farmer parking his John Deere out front). Next door, I duck into the Tangled Garden, which feels like the cottage of a friendly sorceress. Dried flowers, grown outside, hang from the rafters; jewel-tone bottles and jars line every shelf, filled with things like cherry anise hyssop jam and rose petal and lavender vinegar.

For lunch, I'm meeting Gillian Mainguy, director of the Atlantic Wine Institute. A native Ontarian—which makes her a CFA, or “come from away"—she has a back-slapping, shoulder-punching manner. We're not in Bordeaux anymore, Toto. This newly hip wine region is racking up the accolades (a local sparkling wine recently beat Champagne at a global competition), but it hasn't let success go to its head.

“We're getting a lot of hype among wine geeks," Mainguy says. “But we want to be approachable. We never want to be snobby." We meet at Luckett Vineyards, where her husband is winemaker. “Which," she promises, “isn't the only reason I took you here!" Owner Pete Luckett is a British entrepreneur behind the local Whole Foods–style market Pete's Frootique, and his heritage crops up in clever ways, including the red phone box in the middle of the vines (offering free calls within North America) and wine names like Black Cab, a red made from sun-dried grapes.

“I used to live in Toronto. I got super - overwhelmed, because there was so much noise stress. When I got back to Nova Scotia, the music just came pouring out of me—tons of musicians come out of here." —Jennah Barry

Over steak and mushroom pie on the patio, we talk about the terroir here. The cold climate makes it ideal for crisp whites, including the region's first appellation variety, Tidal Bay, a blend of Nova Scotia–grown grapes. Ten area wineries offer takes on the signature blend. I'm a wine novice, but I taste grapefruit and lychee. “There's definitely a pucker there," she says, “It pairs beautifully with Nova Scotia lobster." Like a bracing spritz of lemon.

Next, it's a 10-minute drive to Grand-Pré National Historic Site, a peaceful refuge of manicured gardens and songbird-filled woods dedicated to the 1755 expulsion of the French-speaking Acadians by the British. They'd go on to resettle as far south as Louisiana, where they became known as the Cajuns. While they were once dominant throughout Nova Scotia, the Acadian presence has been all but wiped out, save for a few Francophone towns founded when the Acadians were allowed to return home decades later.

A surfer at White Point Beach Resort

Inside the site's 1922 memorial church, I meet ranger François Gaudet, a descendant of the expelled who sees his own return to the area as an act of historic defiance. “I'm an artifact of the deportation," he says. “I should not be here. I should not speak French. I consider myself a miracle." He points out a statue of Evangeline, the heroine of an 1847 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem about the expulsion.

“If it weren't for Longfellow, we might not even know about the Acadians," he says. “The poem used to be required reading in schools, but the newer generation doesn't know about that story." With that, the park's resident cat strolls by, brushing against my leg. Her name? “Evangeline, of course."

The surrounding farmlands were reclaimed from the bay by an ingenious system of Acadian dikes that tamed the Fundy's fearsome tides back in the 1680s—a plan so inventive the area was named Nova Scotia's third UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012, one of only 16 in all of Canada. I drive through the valleys, stopping at Fox Hill Cheese House, a dairy farm where swallows tumble in the breeze, and at Gaspereau Valley Fibres, a yarn store watched over by a small herd of alpacas.

A bunny at White Point Beach Resort

I finish my evening with a dinner of rabbit torchon and salad with brown butter vinaigrette at Le Caveau restaurant at the Domaine de Grand-Pré winery. Kenan Thompson from “Saturday Night Live" is also here at the winery, sipping Tidal Bay. This, I think, is the new Nova Scotia, a place where New York celebrities rub shoulders with dairy farmers, where winemakers out-French the French.

After dinner, I drive up to the Blomidon Lookoff. In the half light, the land below looks like a faded patchwork quilt. It's not the most dramatic scenery I've encountered here, but it's among the most significant, reclaimed from the sea by age-old ingenuity. Up here, I appreciate the connection Nova Scotians have with the land. You hear them tell of it when they recount stories both historical and personal. As Ironworks Distillery co-owner Pierre Guevremont told me earlier, while we sipped his flavored spirits, “The rhubarb liqueur is our most emotional product, because everyone has a link with their grandmother's backyard. We all have a rhubarb story."

Hemispheres senior editor Nicholas DeRenzo is looking into opening a donair food truck in Brooklyn.

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Weekend inspiration: Savannah

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The key to visiting Savannah in the summer? Planning outdoor and indoor activities, so you can enjoy all of the treasures this charming Southern city has to offer. If you only have a few days to spend here, it is even more important to plan your time and itinerary carefully. Luckily, we've gathered the best of the best to visit in historic Savannah with carefully planned air-conditioned stops along the way. Put on your walking shoes, grab some sunscreen and get ready to explore.

Day 1

Before your trip, make sure to make reservations for dinner at The Olde Pink House restaurant in advance. Adjacent to the Planters Inn, this popular spot has been serving Southern food at it's finest at one of Savannah's oldest mansions. While there, make sure you order the fried chicken — voted one of the best in Savannah and it does not disappoint. The braised pork shank is also a must-try. From there walk over to Leopold's Ice Cream. Choose a fancy pre-made ice cream or create your own treat. A Savannah tradition, this shop has been serving the best ice cream in Savannah since 1919.

Abe's on Lincoln | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

If you're looking for a dive bar instead of ice cream, drop in to Abe's on Lincoln. Create your own artistic rendition of Abraham Lincoln on your napkin, and your creation might end up on the ceiling where other patrons' artwork is displayed.

Day 2

The next morning get started before the crowds and visit the Waving Girl Statue. This statue commemorates Florence Martus who (from 1887-1931) became the unofficial 'greeter' of Savannah and waved at every ship that came into port. From there head down River Street to Huey's on the river for beignets and their potato casserole. Don't worry about the calories, you will walk them off.

Hueys on the river

Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

River Street

Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

After Huey's, stop by the Savannah Bee Company and sign up for a mead tasting. For just a few dollars you will get to taste all sorts of variations and flavors from all over the country. Interestingly mead, created from fermenting honey, is one of the oldest alcohols in human history. Evidence of mead in clay pots dates back to 7000 BC. After you've had a few sips of mead and tasted the honeycomb, head out for a bit of shopping. We recommend Broughton Street, especially 24e and the Paris Market.

Artillery - Savannah The Artillery restaurant | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

Stop by Juliet Gordon Lowe's birthplace (Girl Scout's founder) to see when the next tour is and make a reservation. Go to Husk for lunch while you wait. Husk, founded by James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock, uses local ingredients in his ever-changing, scrumptious menu. After your tour of Ms. Lowe's home, put on your finest and head over to Artillery for a fancy cocktail and then on to The Collins Quarter Restaurant.

The Collins Quarter - Savannah Collins Quarter restaurant | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The Collins Quarter restaurant is an Australian take on Southern food and is exquisite. Get the hot chicken — it's delicious. Wander over to Chippewa Square after dinner where the movie Forrest Gump was filmed. The exact bench he sat on for the movie is no longer there, but everything else in the park is the same. Nearby on Bull street is another boutique, Red Clover, you should stop at if you're in the market for a gorgeous new frock. End the evening with dessert at Chocolate by Adam Turoni. Adam's shop feels like you stepped into wonderland, complete with a grass floor and bookshelves full of delicious treats.

All that's left is to head home full of southern food and southern hospitality.

P.S. If you have a few extra hours rent a car and go see the Wormsloe Plantation. The entrance will take your breath away. Also check out the Bonaventure Cemetery where poets, revolutionaries and the founders of Savannah have ornate gravestones in a picturesque, photo-worthy setting.

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How to prepare for your child's first flight

By Benét J. Wilson

Traveling can be stressful at times, even when you're flying solo. But imagine what a child must feel, especially as they prepare to take their first flight. The key to any successful first flight is to take a cue from the Girl Scouts motto: be prepared. I'm a mother who started traveling the world with her child since she was 10 days old. So if you're planning your child's first flight soon, read on for my helpful tips to make your child's first flight a success.

Before the flight

Make sure to choose your seats as soon as you book your flight. Since restrooms are usually located at the back of the plane — and also near the front of the cabin, depending on the aircraft — you may want to choose seats near those areas so you won't have to go far if you and your child need the restroom or you need to change your baby's diaper. Additionally, children oftentimes enjoy looking out the window during a flight, so you may want to opt for a window seat so they can see other planes, a busy tarmac or clouds once you're up in the air.

Most airlines, including United, allow a child under the age of two to sit on a parent's lap. But if it fits within your budget, you could consider buying them their own seat and, depending on the child's age, bringing a government-approved child seat for them to use in the purchased seat. This allows you and your child to travel more safely and comfortably, and can help create a better sense of security for your child if they're used to the child seat you bring along.

Make sure to prepare your kids prior to the flight. Although airplanes can be exciting, they can also be scary for kids at first. Take time to explain what to expect during your journey, from the time they arrive at the airport until the plane lands at your destination. You can tell them about the kinds of people they will meet, such as gate agents, flight attendants and pilots, and the different events that occur, like boarding, the flight attendants' safety message and the sound of the aircraft engine during takeoff. This way they can enjoy identifying the people and events that make up their first flight.

two kids playing on a tablet at the airport

At the airport

To avoid any unnecessary stress, print your boarding passes or download them to your mobile device before arriving at the airport. Also plan to check your baggage as soon as you get to the airport so you don't have to worry about carrying along extra gear.

You can check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you're unsure about what's allowed past security checkpoints, but baby formula, breast milk, food and medications aren't subject to the 3.4 ounce liquid restriction, so you're able to bring larger amounts of those items with you. Just make sure to let TSA officers know right away that you're carrying those items so you're not slowed down during the screening process.

After you've made it through security and are waiting at the gate, make sure your children have entertainment to keep them occupied while you wait. While most flights offer entertainment, there may be times when the inflight entertainment is not available, so bring toys, games, a tablet, coloring books or whatever it takes to keep them occupied and happy during a flight. If you're traveling with babies or toddlers, be sure to double check your diaper bag and make sure it has clothing, baby wipes, lotion, toys and extra bottles. Also, pack a favorite blanket and pillow for inflight naps.

You'll also want to carry various snacks, such as sandwiches, fruit, nuts, crackers or popcorn, and account for possible delays because food options may be limited. It's also a good idea to pack empty sippy cups or water bottles to fill up with inflight beverages.

On board the flight

When it's time to board your flight, you can take advantage of United's policy that allows families with children two and younger to pre-board. This will give you that much-needed time to stow your items and get you and your children in your seats so you're comfortable and ready for your flight.

By request, strollers can be checked at the gate at no additional cost. Before boarding starts, simply ask the gate agent to put a baggage tag on the stroller and you can leave it at the bottom of the jet bridge as you board the plane. When you get to your destination, your stroller will be waiting for you on the jet bridge after you exit the plane.

Once you're on board and settled, it helps to have a bottle on hand during takeoff and landing because it can help alleviate ear pressure for babies and toddlers. For older children, tell them what's about to happen and encourage them to look out the window to see what's going on before take-off. While in the air, create easy access to all the things you need to keep your children entertained and happy, and before you know it, you'll be on the ground again in no time. With just a little preparation, flying for the first time can be an exciting experience for both you and your child.

United heroes: Saving the life of a newborn

By Gladys Roman , August 13, 2018

Pediatrician Elizabeth Triche was so touched by how our employees went above and beyond to transport her critical ill newborn patient from Saipan to Guam then Honolulu to San Francisco and from there to their final destination of San Diego, that on July 27, she wrote the heartfelt note below to CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby.

"Mr. Munoz and Mr. Kirby,

I am writing to give you my greatest gratitude for running a company that just did everything possible, every step of the way, to allow us to get our critically ill newborn with a fatal heart defect to life-saving emergency specialty care in San Diego.

Geoff Larson [Customer Service De-escalation Senior Manager] had given me his cellphone number one month ago and said to call if we ever needed any help getting patients to critical care. When I did call 3 days ago, he burst into action. We exchanged at least 10 emails and phone calls over the next 36 hours as he opened seats on fully booked flights, got us cleared to use oxygen (a process that usually delays our exit by 48-72 hours), and called on colleagues to make sure that all of our "special handling needs" in the airports were met. He emailed me as our first (of 4) flights arrived, letting me know that he was available to help with any glitches.

In Honolulu they held everyone on the plane so that we could get TSA and customs clearance first, gate side, avoiding our having to carry a sick baby in a car seat through an entire airport to customs. Helpers met us at each destination as gate agents from our departing cities warned the gate agents at our next arrival destination that we would need a wheelchair and help with bags.

Finally, as we were 30 minutes from our final destination, the pilot of United Flight 284 on 7/26/2018 from SFO to SAN called me up to the front of the plane to chat, as [there was] fog in San Diego. He wanted to know if the baby would be adversely affected if he [diverted] the flight to LA to refuel. We truly appreciated his taking our patient into account.

Ultimately, we arrived in San Diego without any major mishaps, and our newborn is currently undergoing definitive treatment for his condition.

Mr. Larson and his colleagues at United helped to save a life yesterday, as this baby may not have survived to make the flights had we had to wait for an open seat. Now that he has gotten to care, he will likely have a great chance at a normal life.

I just wanted everyone know that there are truly compassionate, dedicated people working for your organization."

Thank you to all of the employees for being a living proof of our United spirit and exemplifying our core4 standards.

We fly Australian firefighters to wildfires

By Gladys Roman , August 10, 2018

As parts of Oregon and California continue to battle blazing wildfires that have already consumed thousands of acres of land, we stepped up to help and flew a group of Australian firefighters to Boise, Idaho, over the weekend.

We created an extra section to fly a group of firefighters from all over Australia to Los Angeles International Airport, where they departed on a flight to Boise, Idaho on August 4.

Australia/New Zealand Contingent Field Liaison Officer Barry James explained that firefighters were selected to come help based on their qualifications, and they're all proud to support their fellow firefighters in the United States.

"We're flying to Boise for a couple of days of training and then we'll be splitting up. Some of us are going to Northern California and the rest are going to Oregon for a six-week deployment," explained Officer James, who flew United for the first time, but said it won't be his last. "It was an awesome, awesome experience; it was really hospitable," he added.

Our Los Angeles based employees and crews made sure the firefighters felt their appreciation by giving them a special welcoming message in the gate area, where they thanked them for their hard work.

"It was such an incredible honor for us at LAX to meet and fly these men and women, who are sacrificing their time and putting their lives on the line to help us battle the wildfire devastation in this part of the country," said LAX Station Operations Control Manager Maggie Ronan. "The crew in general was just outstanding. They were all so honored to fly this group and felt it was amazing that United built the extra section for their journey. There was a very special energy felt on the flight as we closed up to send them off to BOI."

We're teaming up with leading disaster relief organizations to provide aid to those impacted by the California wildfires. We will match up to $50,000 in total donations made to our charitable partners, Airlink, American Red Cross, Americares, North Coast Opportunities and Shasta Regional Community Foundation. For more information and to make a donation California Wildfire relief efforts, visit our CrowdRise fundraising campaign.

Lots of sweat, lots of on-time departures: Summer on the ramp

By Ryan Hood , August 10, 2018

It's 10:30 in the morning and the temperature gauge already reads 89 degrees. The Texan summer sun beams down from above. Heat waves emanate from the ground. Sweat glistens atop Ron Davis's shiny, bald head.

This isn't bad at all, Davis says. "I played high school football. Two-a-day practices? Those were hot. Some of the really hot days out here? Those feel more like three-a-day practices. We got it easy today."

A few gates down, employees revel in the "relief" that this weather feels like compared to the prior week.

"This is nothing," quips Tom Saavedra.

"A few clouds up there and a bit of a breeze – it's our lucky day," Leroy Taylor chimes in, a wide smile on his face.

Air temperature nearing 90 degrees. Tarmac temperature eclipsing 100 degrees most everywhere you step. 10:30 in the morning. And this is "easy". Welcome to life as a United ramp service employee at Houston's George Bush International Airport (IAH) in the summer.

United isoperating more than 500 flights out of Houston each day this summer, and thanks in part to the hard work of our ramp service employees, more flights have left Houston on time this summer than any prior summer.

How? Hydration and nutrition have played huge roles.

United ramp employee hydrating on the job

Posters with hydration reminders adorn the walls of ramp break rooms and hallways. It's the first topic of every meeting. Regular reminders are sent out over the group's radio system.

Employees have a flight schedule to keep, but as leaders, we have to provide them with the tools to do their job, says Gary Snead, a United supervisor based at IAH. "That includes keeping them fit to work in the summer heat."

And provide they do. Here are the resources deployed in an average summer month on the ramp in Houston:

  1. Over 10,000 bags of ice, totaling more than 100,000 pounds of ice.
  2. 313, 5-gallon water coolers refilled at least four times per day.
  3. An athletic trainer on site.
  4. One day a month, the IAH ramp holds a fruit & hydration day, where supervisors distribute over 1,000 pieces of fruit to our sun-soaked employees.
  5. 1,000+ cooling towels distributed.
  6. 10 misting tents

The increased focus on hydration has helped increase productivity, and it's also resulted in a record-low number of heat-related illnesses among employees.

You take care of the employees, Snead says, "and the employees will take care of your operation."

That's proved true around the world, as we have flown more customers this summer than ever before, all while topping our competition in on-time departures in recent months. Our 13,000+ ramp service employees have played a huge role in that.

Summer heat? It's been beat.

Top 7 things to experience when visiting Las Vegas

By Matt Chernov

When picturing Las Vegas, you probably see shimmering lights, felt-covered poker tables and the ecstatic sound of slot machines. But the truth is that the city offers visitors far more to experience than just gambling and excess. Located on the edge of the vast Mojave Desert, this uniquely American destination is constantly reinventing itself with every passing day, which makes it an ideal vacation spot for virtually every type of traveler. To help you get the most from your next trip to Vegas, here are seven attractions in and around the city that you won't want to miss.

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The Neon Museum

Since 1996, this magical outdoor art gallery has collected hundreds of old and discarded neon signs from the Las Vegas strip and displayed them for visitors on a 2-acre plot of land. With so much colorful history available to see, it's no wonder that the Neon Museum is one of the city's top Instagram spots. Though new signs are constantly being acquired and refurbished, many date back to the glory days of the 1950s, when Vegas icons like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. were the entertainment headlines at the casinos.

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

Red Rock Canyon

This stunning nature preserve is just a 15-mile drive west of Las Vegas, and is the perfect place to experience all the scenic beauty that Nevada has to offer. Red Rock Canyon features 26 clearly marked hiking trails, indoor and outdoor conservation exhibits and a plethora of majestic wildlife and desert flora to view. There's even a picturesque waterfall, so bring your camera along with your sunscreen and bottled water. A variety of educational programs are held each month, including a popular “Bats in Our Belfry" presentation in which rangers take visitors on a bat sightseeing tour of the canyon.

The Mob Museum

Because the birth of Las Vegas is intricately connected with organized crime, this fascinating museum is a must-visit for anyone who wants to understand how a dry Nevada desert became a worldwide symbol of glitz and glamour. Filled with amazing artifacts, vintage photos and life-size recreations of some of the city's most infamous residents, the Mob Museum focuses on both the gangsters who built Las Vegas and the law enforcement heroes who pursued them. A rotating collection of exhibits brings the town's colorful history to life in a way that no movie or book could ever hope to duplicate.

The Hoover Dam in Nevada

The Hoover Dam

A monument to man's industrial spirit and a marvel of American engineering, the spectacular Hoover Dam is located less than an hour's drive from Las Vegas — and it's truly an unforgettable sight to behold. Tours of the 726-foot-tall dam are highly encouraged and will fascinate young and old alike. While you're in the area, why not spend some time cruising the beautiful waters of nearby Lake Mead, which was created by the dam itself. Boat tours are available all week long from several locations around the lake, so advanced reservations are not needed.

Dig This Last Vegas

Are you visiting Las Vegas with children? If so, then this one-of-a-kind experience should definitely be on your travel itinerary. Dig This Last Vegas lets you and your kids drive and safely operate heavy duty construction equipment like bulldozers and excavators on a massive outdoor playground in the heart of the city. Anyone who grew up with toy tractors and plastic earth-moving machines can now climb behind the wheel and try them for real. With the help of trained instructors, kids as young as 8 years old can make their dreams of operating a genuine Caterpillar D5 bulldozer come true at this hands-on attraction site.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Spring Mountain Ranch

This Nevada state park is a relatively short drive from downtown Las Vegas and will instantly transport you back to the region's historic past. The perfectly preserved old west-style ranch is an excellent place for an afternoon picnic when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the casinos. Thanks to the lush green surroundings and man-made lake, the temperature at Spring Mountain is noticeably cooler than you might expect of the hot Nevada climate. Explore further as gentle hiking trails allow you to stretch your legs in comfort while you navigate some of the loveliest scenery in the entire state.

Lotus of Siam

Widely considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States, Lotus of Siam earned its prestigious James Beard Award the hard way; by serving incredibly delicious Northern Thai dishes every day for the past 19 years. Owner and head chef Saipin Chutima recently opened a second location in Las Vegas, which means you'll have no trouble making reservations while you're in town. Considering that top foodie magazines like Gourmet, Saveur and Bon Appétit have praised this restaurant's incredible dishes for almost two decades, you'd be wise to book a table in advance. Try their crispy rice salad with house-made pork sausage for a flavor that will make your taste buds sing.

Getting there

When you're ready to experience the fun and excitement of Las Vegas, book your flight at united.com or by using the convenient United app, and share your story on social media with the #UnitedJourney hashtag.

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The 8 most underrated American road trips

By The Hub team

You've gotten your kicks on Route 66. You've wound through Highway 1. So how do you take another quintessential American summer vacation without repeating yourself? Good thing this country is not lacking in incredible vistas and varied landscapes—trust us: there is so much more than purple mountains majesty and amber waves of grain (although, those aren't so bad themselves). From badlands to waterfalls, here are eight American road trips to consider.

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RELATED: 10 Waterparks Worth Traveling for

View of the Rockies in Colorado RondaKimbrow/Getty Images

Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, Colorado

This western road trip through and around the Rocky Mountains has three separate routes that converge in Leadville, Colorado (the highest incorporated town in the country at 10,152 feet above sea level). There's no rule against traversing all three, especially since each is pretty short (82 miles total). First, take in the five enormous mountains surrounding Leadville, two of which are the tallest in the state. Head up through Tennessee Pass and cross the Continental Divide to reach the majestic town of Minturn for incredible fields of wildflowers. The route through Independence Pass toward Aspen has unbelievable views of the Rockies and Twin Lakes. Driving along the Arkansas River through Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain is ideal for spotting ranches, old mines and—fingers crossed—some Colorado wildlife.

Overseas Highway in FloridaFilippoBacci/Getty Images

Overseas Highway, Florida

You do not need a boat to enjoy the Florida Keys, and we can prove it. The Overseas Highway is one of the most unique roads in the country, as it basically island hops along Florida's hottest vacay spots like Islamorada (home of the Florida Brewing Company) and Marathon (home of Long Key State Park). The Seven-Mile Bridge is a highlight nestled into the 113-mile trip, so make sure to cross during the day for sprawling views of turquoise water and boaters galore. Other fun pit stops: Swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, snorkel with sea critters at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and pose for a selfie at Southernmost Point Buoy, the farthest south you can get on the continental U.S.

Columbia River Highway, OregonJason W Lacey/Getty Images

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

This stretch of highway was the first of its kind to be officially declared a National Historic Landmark, and it's easy to see why. Set out from Troutdale, Oregon, and immediately you'll see the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. Get ready for a roller-coaster decent as you roll into Crown Point—the 600-foot drop toward the Columbia River is designed specifically for road trippers as it curves and winds through lush green forests. There are at least six notable waterfalls you'll pass along the way; step out at Multnomah Falls for a pic of its stunning bridge. Once you hit the town of Mosier, consider trekking through a tunnel of lava rock on the Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead. The road officially ends after roughly 70 miles at The Dalles, conveniently close to the Sunshine Mill Winery. Treat yourself to a glass of the wildly popular Nirvana, a white blend with touches of honey and melon.

Hana Coast Highway, HawaiiBobbushphoto /Getty Images

Hana Coast Highway, Hawaii

While Hawaii's island of Maui is a hot destination for tropical romance, the Hana Coast Highway is not for the faint of heart. The road is affectionately called the “Divorce Highway" in honor of its precarious turns and proximity to the edges of tall cliffs. That said, the frequent waterfalls, black sand beaches and eucalyptus trees along the country's lengthiest rainforest highway make the trip totally worth the adrenaline rush. Though it's only 52 miles, the 25-miles-per-hour speed limit (with blind spots and one-lane bridges galore; this is a very good thing) makes it a two- to three-hour trip. But we have a feeling you'll happily take your time—the views from Kahului to Hana are beyond breathtaking.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New MexicoScott_Walton/Getty Images

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New Mexico

If you're in the mood for dry heat and history up close, the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is calling. West of Albuquerque is Chaco Canyon, an important ceremonial site for the Pueblo peoples between 850 and 1250 A.D. After taking in the incredible expanse of the canyon, drive south through the towns of Crownpoint and Grants toward the El Morro National Monument. Ogle the 2,000 or so signatures weary travelers have carved into the sandstone over centuries. Continue east through the Zuni Reservation to Zuni Pueblo, an arts community still practicing ancestral traditions and ways of life. Cap off this winding 360-mile desert tour in Farmington, where you can see Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins, both of which date back to the 1050s.

The Black Hills and Badlands, South DakotaAndrewKrav/Getty Images

The Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota

Together, the Black Hills and Badlands National Park in South Dakota offer 5 million acres of grassland, forest and rock formations. Might we recommend not hitting it all in one day? Instead, start out on the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway near the town of Interior. Check out the millions-year-old (literally) jagged geographic deposits before heading north to Spearfish Canyon, home of sky-high pink limestone and gorgeous waterfalls. Meander down through Black Hills National Forest to check out Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park and (drumroll, please) Mount Rushmore. Set aside a few days for the entire 232-mile journey because you'll probably find yourself either driving slowly to take it all in or stopping the car every few miles to hike or swim.

View of one of Minnesota's many lakes from North Scenic DriveNickJKelly/Getty Images

North Shore Scenic Drive, Minnesota

For a truly otherworldly experience, drive along the coast of the biggest freshwater lake in the world: Lake Superior. The northern Minnesota gem means ample opportunity to really get away from civilization. (Heading off the beaten path into the Boundary Waters just north of the coastline leaves you with no cell service, almost complete solitude and a chance to catch the northern lights!) Start your drive in Duluth and head north, scoping out the many lighthouses dotting the rocky coastline on your right and the distant Sawtooth Mountains on your left. Everywhere else is covered in pine and birch trees—and crawling with wildlife. Beaches pop up along the 142-mile ride, although Lake Superior is notoriously chilly, reaching 65 degrees Fahrenheit max during the hottest months of the year. But, in the height of summer, this might be exactly the cool-down you need.

Holcy/Getty Images

Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway, Maine

For the ultimate, rugged New England road trip, you must drive the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. On the western side of the state, near New Hampshire, the lake is flanked by Rangeley Lake State Park and rolling hills of trees, flowers and wildlife. Start at Smalls Falls, and let the Appalachian Mountain ridgeline be your guide on this 36-mile tour. The route is straightforward but provides sights of everything from lakes and rivers to valleys and farmland. Swift River and Mooselookmeguntic Lake (who named this lake?) are outstanding photo ops. Summer is always a good time to visit when it comes to temps, but come autumn, the bright colors pop along this route, and might just be worth a second trip.

RELATED: The Most Serene Spot in Every Single State


This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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10 U.S. islands that feel exotic

By The Hub team

Want to escape to somewhere truly memorable? Here are the best island getaways without leaving the country.

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As much as we all wish to see every corner of the globe, it can be a challenge to do it all with limited funds and vacation time. Luckily, the United States is diverse enough to offer an array of exotic locales — from golden beaches to volcanic islands — all on our own home turf. Here are our picks for the ten most exotic destinations that don't require a passport.

Dry Tortugas, Florida

Turquoise water, tons of green sea turtles and white-sand beaches with visibility seeming to stretch to forever. Sounds like the Caribbean, right? Wrong. The Dry Tortugas, 67 miles off Key West into the heart of the Gulf of Mexico, pack epic snorkeling alongside Southern stingrays, parrotfish and schools of Creole wrasse — all just a ferry or seaplane ride from the Conch Republic.

San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands, WashingtonSan Juan Islands, Washington/Shutterstock

With conifer forests thick along its coasts and a marine climate with cool summers and mild winters, the San Juan Islands of Washington state feel a lot like Norway. Both destinations are renowned for sea kayaking as well as whale-watching tours, and yet the San Juans are a three-hour drive — and a ferry hop — north of Seattle. Plus, with alpaca ranches and lavender farms covering the hillsides, the experience also includes a touch of Peru-meets-Provence.

Assateague Island, Maryland

Assateague Island, MarylandAssateague Island, Maryland /Shutterstock

Like Portugal's Soajo Mountain, Maryland's Assateague Island is home to wild horses — more than 150 in total. These feral ponies have free range of the beaches, marshes and forests. For the best viewing, try the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge's Wildlife Loop Road, a three-hour walk. For a more unique spectacle, time your visit with the annual pony swim, held every July, wherein a group who call themselves the saltwater cowboys wrangle up the horses, leading them on a swim across the Assateague Channel.

Sapelo Island, Georgia

The Spanish moss hanging from live oak branches gives Sapelo Island, Georgia, an only-in-the-Southeast feel, but its golden-sand beaches feel a bit like the islands off Queensland, Australia. Reach it only via boat: either the DNR ferry or private vessel. Once ashore, walk the hiking trails through dunes and maritime forests to encounter hundreds of bird species, including the Chachalaca bird — which otherwise requires birders to travel to either Mexico or Central America to cross off lists. Stay the night and you might even spot a bobcat.

Culebra, Puerto Rico

Culebra, Puerto RicoCulebra, Puerto Rico /Shutterstock

Culebra, a satellite island of Puerto Rico, is often referred to as one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, and for good reason. Its sugar sand beaches are mostly undeveloped, lending it the feel of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Like the BVI, Culebra lacks any of the large, major hotel chains. Instead, it has a sleepy charm, appealing to those content to kayak, snorkel and beachcomb.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, HawaiiKauai, Hawaii /Shutterstock

One of the wettest places on the planet, Kauai packs its mountains with unending greenery, punctuated by a dozen epic waterfalls. This makes it every bit as lush and exotic as Tahiti, but at a fraction of the flight time. Worth the splurge, a helicopter tour of the Na Pali Coast — where Jurassic Park was filmed — shows visitors more highlights than they could see in a week of hiking.

Elizabeth Islands, Massachusetts

Just south of Cape Cod lie the Elizabeth Islands of Massachusetts, including Penikese and Cuttyhunk, two of the only inhabited islands in the bunch not owned by the Forbes family. Cuttyhunk in particular still exudes British flavor, carried over from 1602, when it was the first British settlement on the new coast. Experience it at Avalon Inn, one of the few choices when overnighting. To see more of the neighboring isles, book a day cruise to explore beaches and see wild harbor, harp and gray seals.

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

Daufuskie Island, South CarolinaDaufuskie Island, South Carolina /Shutterstock

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, is perhaps best known as the home of the Gullah people, a community of African Americans in the lowcountry who speak their own creole language called Geechee. To get a feel for the people and their culture, stop by the Historical Foundation to hear local stories and legends, as well as chat up the local guide, who's been on island for decades.

Cedar Key, Florida

Cedar Key, FloridaCedar Key, Florida /Shutterstock

Over-water bars, weathered and leaning on stilts, give the fishing village of Cedar Key off Florida's Gulf Coast a back-in-time vibe, like that of Bocas del Toro, Panama. But, unlike Bocas, Cedar Key averages in the low and mid 80s, making for more pleasant conditions for sea kayaking, for which the area is renowned. The Suwannee River empties into the Gulf roughly 10 miles north of Cedar Key, and the sound separating the two is lined with uninhabited islands, perfect for any boaters to enjoy day picnics and exploring.

Aleutian Islands, Alaska

Aleutian Islands, AlaskaAleutian Islands, Alaska /Shutterstock

Alaska's Aleutian Islands, a chain of 14 volcanic outposts that string out west of the state, remain one of the most remote places on the planet. Sea kayakers treasure the destination, willing to brave the inclement weather for chances to see grey, minke, orca, sperm and humpback whales, as well as walrus, seals and sea lions. From these islands, it's possible to view the Northern Lights year-round. For those who aren't into roughing it, know that there is lodging at places like the Grand Aleutian Hotel on Unalaska Island.


This article was written by Brooke Morton from Islands and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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