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This year why not resolve to see the world—to visit small one-traffic-light towns and get lost in large cities. To dive in and really get a taste of the local flavor—wherever that may be. Here are five unexpected destinations to get you dreaming of the possibilities complete with where to rest your weary head once you get there.
Martial Arts Match-Up, Quad Cities, Iowa/Illinois
After reading Carla Richmond and Garrett Cornelison’s Midwest martial arts adventure, we now know what 2012 has in store for us: A Kung Fu class or five at John Morrow’s Academy. The talented Mr. Morrow, a seventh degree black belt, has been educating the Quad Cities in the way of martial arts for over 30 years. There is something about Morrow and his no frills approach to the art of Kung Fu that makes us want to buckle down and learn the discipline. Not only is he is committed to the studio but the Guinness World Record champion for most back handed push ups in 60 seconds continues to attempt record-breaking tests of strength on a near daily basis.
Where to stay: Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport, Iowa. Originally built in 1915 during the lead up to the roaring ’20s, the hotel’s original grandiosity has recently been restored. The historic building has been a temporary home to many presidents including Obama, Hoover, and Nixon—who even has a suite named in his honor. Be sure to check out the bowling alley in the basement and get a peek of the Golden Room, a meeting room most likely used by the presidents. It’s the closest most of us will ever get to the Oval Office.
Roadside Prehistorics, Cabazon, California
We love a good roadside attraction which is why the Cabazon Dinosaurs made it on our list. The two giants created by sculptor Claude K. Bell of Knotts Berry Farm fame were used to entice Interstate 10 traffic to his Wheel Inn restaurant. The 150-ton Apatosaurus, Dinny the Dinosaur, and Mr. Rex, a 100-ton Tyrannosaurus Rex now house a creationist museum and gift store. The attraction also features an open-air collection of robotic dinosaurs and a dino dig where children can uncover gemstones and fossil replicates of dinosaurs buried during “the great Flood of Noah’s day.”
Where to stay: We’ll be crashing nearby at the Movie Colony Hotel in Palm Springs, California. This hotel has some old timey Hollywood glamour that we hope will rub off on us. Designed by Albert Frey in 1935, the boutique hotel has a beautiful pool with mountain views. We can’t wait to take advantage of their California wine service at sunset while we cozy up to the firepit. That is, after we spend a day cruising around on their complimentary bicycles.
Southern Secondhand Charm, Canton, Texas
We’ll have to time our visit to the Lone Star state just right so that we’ll have plenty of browsing time at First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas. The small East Texas town is home to the world’s largest outdoor trade days. Crowds gather every month to shop for antiques, secondhand, and handmade crafts. Could there be anything better than chatting with collectors and craftsmen in between bites of funnel cake?
In the 1850s, the first Monday of the month was when the circuit judge did his rounds in Canton. People gathered in the Courthouse square to watch the court proceedings and trade goods including produce and livestock. It’s unlikely we’ll be buying any horses or cattle during our visit, but knowing that’s how it all started is enough to put us in an antique-buying mood.
Where to stay: The effortlessly chic Belmont Hotel with it’s amazing views of the Dallas skyline. The hour’s drive from Canton is worth the stay at the renovated motor lodge that still holds on to it’s Art Deco charm. When we’ve had our fill of Texas fair food during the Trade Days, we’ll dine on southern BBQ at the hotel’s adjourning SMOKE restaurant. A choice of outdoor movies, live music, art shows, and even tarot card readers in constant rotation should keep us plenty entertained.
European Art House, Paris, France
We can’t go to Paris without taking in art—and lots of it. Right up there with a trip to the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou is a visit to 59 Rivoli. The art collective located on the Right Bank in an abandoned mid-19th century building overtaken by artists in 1999 and later renovated in 2006 by the city. Now open to the public, the building houses studios for 32 artists. We’re intrigued by it’s rebellious past and looking forward to seeing true Parisian artists at work. And to help us out on our artistic journey we’ll be using the Paris art guide Slash to guide us in the right direction.
Where to stay: We’re carrying on our artist motif with a stay at Hotel Amour. Located on the Right Bank, rooms at this chic hotel have artwork everywhere including R-rated photographs by (who else?) Terry Richardson. Some rooms are stark and minimalist while work by French graffiti artist André decorates the walls of others. It’s edgy decor compliments the scene in the courtyard bar most evenings. No televisions or phones will be found in the rooms, but if you’re doing Paris right, you won’t mind.
Beach Getaway(s), Puerto Rico or…Boston?
No trip itinerary is complete without one hot beach location. However, we couldn’t pick just one. We have to see the bioluminescent waters of Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. A natural wonder of the world, the Bioluminescent Bay at Puerto Mosquito glows when microscopic organisms in the water are agitated. We will of course be visting Vieques’s white sandy beaches during the day as well. Speaking of sandy beaches, we’re also curious to hear the Singing Beach outside of Boston. Sounds are generated when wind travels over the sand dunes or people walk on the sand of this Manchester by the Sea hotspot. A combination of the round sand, silica, and certain humidity is responsible for the musical phenomenon.
Where to stay: The eco-friendly lodgings at Hix Island House on Vieques seems just about perfect. We won’t be turning down the complimentary fresh bread, farm-fresh eggs, and Puerto Rican coffee available on a daily basis. We’re tempted to travel to the Singing Beach and stay in Boston—particularly at the Back Bay Hotel. The former Boston Police Department headquarters is now a beautiful 225-room hotel located downtown. Who could say no to a beach trip that includes a visit to Fenway?
Any off the beaten track (or not) spots we should know about? Chime in below…