Going “Abroad” Stateside

Solvang, CA

Big summer vacations are looking a little different this year. Summer has typically been the time when big trips to Europe and other countries are planned, thanks in part to long school vacations and cooperating weather. Graduates head off for one last trip before starting the 9-5 grind and many honeymooners make plans for a trip abroad after a June wedding, which is a popular month for marriages.

However, for most of us, trips abroad are definitely off the table this summer but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the different cultures offered in a trip to a foreign country. We found a few places right here in the US that will provide you the opportunity to enjoy a bit of Europe while never leaving the country!

Solvang, California:

The solvangusa.com website describes this California town as “A little slice of Denmark in Southern California.” Solvang, which means “sunny field” in Danish, was founded by three Danish immigrants in 1911, after purchasing 9000 acres of land in the Santa Ynez Valley. The town features Danish-style architecture, four wooden windmills and even has a replica of Copenhagen’s famed The Little Mermaid statue. The Elverhoj Museum of History and Art is a great place to learn the history of the town. Visit one of the authentic Danish bakeries and sample some aebleskiver, a sweet Danish pastry akin to a doughnut hole. Plan to stay at Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort, which is about 45 minutes from Solvang, and book one of our unique accomodations choosing from cabins, cottages, a tipi, or covered wagon.

St. Augustine, Florida:

St. Augustine, Florida at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.

Not only is historic St. Augustine the oldest city in America, dating to the mid-1500s, but it might also give you the feeling that you’re in Spain. Founded by a Spanish expedition, the Spanish influence on the town remains with the town’s grand plaza, the narrow streets and the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the US. Don’t miss Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, a 15-acre waterfront park on the site where it is said the city was orignally founded. Make sure you sample some Minorcan Clam Chowder while here – it’s a specialty of St. Augustine featuring the datil chile pepper said to have been brought over from Minorca, an island off Spain. Book a stay at a colorful cottage at Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee and you’re just 2 hours from historic St. Augustine.

Cottages at.Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee, FL 

West, Texas:

Plan a cozy cabin stay at at Bay Landing RV Campground in Bridgeport, Texas, and then plan a day to drive the “Kolache Trail.” The what, you say? The Kolache Trail is actually quite long, stretching from West, Texas, which is about an hour and a half from the campground to Shulenberg, which is a good four and a half hours away. The trail hits some of the best Czech bakeries that serve up these tasty pastries with all kinds of fillings – poppyseed, apricot, prune, and more. If you don’t want to make the whole drive, definitely plan a day trip to West, Texas, which is recognized as the Czech Heritage Capital of Texas. There are plenty of bakeries, restaurants, and shops that pay homage to the Czech heritage here.

New Glarus, Wisconsin:

Cabin at Yukon Trails RV & Camping Resort in Lyndon Station, WI 

In 1845, representatives of the Emigration Society of Canton Glarus, Switzerland, were to sent to find land in America’s midwest. The result of their efforts was an  establishment on more than 1200 acres of land in Wisconsin’s Green County, which became “New Glarus.” More Swiss settlers followed and the communtiy remains today true to its Swiss heritage.  Swiss-style architecture set among the rolling hills of the area will have you feeling you’re really in the Alps. Specialty shops, a brewery, and eateries serving authentic Swiss cuisine add to the charm of this little town. Nearby New Glarus Woods State Park is great for biking and hiking. Spend the day in New Glarus and then spend the night at Yukon Trails RV & Camping Resort, in Lyndon Station, which is approximately 75 miles away.

Five Things to Do In……Houston/Lake Conroe, Texas

Glamping views in Lake Conroe • Willis, TX

A winter getaway to Texas will provide much in the way of cultural diversity, rich history, great food and music and, of course, moderate weather (average daytime highs are around 65 degrees in winter). There’s also plenty of great fishing and hiking in the area. We’ve highlighted five great things to do if find yourself Texas-bound!

  1. Space Center Houston: Housing more than 400 space artifacts, Space Center Houston is one of the city’s top attractions, welcoming close to 1 million visitors annually. It has the world’s largest collection of moon rocks and lunar samples, as well as space capsules, lunar modules and robonauts, which are humanoid robots, one of which currently serves aboard the International Space Station.
  2. Cockerell Butterfly Center: With more than 100 species of exotic butterflies and insects making their home here, this is a must-do for nature lovers. Also, the Center houses the Rainforest Conservatory, a three-story glass structure that acts as a simulated rainforest and has plenty of butterflies alighting on the exotic plants here. Don’t miss the 50-foot waterfall!
  3. Lone Star Monument & Historical Flag Park: Displaying 13 flags that flew during the history of the great state of Texas, this beautiful 3.5-acre park is worth the trip. Located in Conroe, visitors can also see The Texian, a 14-foot bronze sculpture by Conroe artist Craig Campobella, that depicts a soldier of the Texas Revolution.
  4. Distilleries, vineyards, and breweries: Starting with distilleries, you can find more than 10 dotting the countryside between Conroe and Houston where can sip spirits including vodka, whiskey, and rum. Check out distillerytrail.com to see locations in the area, as well as all across Texas. Blue Epiphany Vineyards (blue-ephiphany.com) in Conroe has a tasting room as well as a schedule of special events while Wild Stallion Vineyards (wildstallionvineyards.com) in nearby Spring offers a tasting room and an upcoming spring concert series. Beer lovers will appreciate the craft brewers in the area which include B52 Brewing, set on seven wooded acres complete with a tap room and beer garden, and Southern Star Brewing Company, which offers tours and has plenty of events including Trivia and Tacos Thursdays and live music and food trucks on Fridays.
  5. Fernland Historical Park and Museum and Memory Garden: Located in Montgomery, Texas, Fernland has several historic homes that have been relocated to provide a hands-on educational opportunity for visitors. The homes depict life in early Texas and are examples of early Texas architecture. All the homes date to the 1800s and range from rustic cabins to a Greek-revival home build in 1845.

Cozy cabins • Lake Conroe • Willis, TX

While exploring all the Houston and Lake Conroe areas have to offer, make a cozy cabin at Lake Conroe your homebase, where you can also relax by the pool and take in views of the lake from your deck.

Cider Sippin’ Spots

Cider Sippin’ Spots

When they say everything old is new again, they may very well be talking about cider. Did you know cider was America’s beverage of choice during Colonial times? In fact, the Mayflower possibly carried the first cider press to be used in America aboard the ship that also brought the Pilgrims to our shores. Of course, they couldn’t do anything with it until the apples were harvested from the first apple trees planted here after they first landed. Fast forward some 500 years, and cider is again very popular. To clarify, that’s hard cider versus soft cider. The difference here being that hard cider has an alcohol content while soft cider can be enjoyed by all ages! And, while Americans may not be drinking the 35 gallons of hard cider they apparently averaged annually during Colonial days, they are certainly taking it up once again, as evidenced by the popularity of cideries sprouting up across the country. To produce cider, according to ciderscene.com, there are four steps. Pick, press, punish, and produce. Again, a differentiation is required. The apples used for cider are typically not the same apples that you would eat or cook with. Cider apples tend to be dryer and less sweet. The four-step result is a crisp, refreshing alternative to other spirits, including beer and wine. Here are some cideries to check out this fall season:

Bishop Cider (Dallas, Texas):  Gluten-free and vegan friendly, the people behind Bishop Cider began making their own cider at home because they felt the commercially available cider in Texas was “trash” because it was too sweet. Started in 2014, Bishop Cider Co. now offers a variety of ciders and has a tasting room that typically offers six different ciders on tap. For more information, and to check out the unique Cidercade, visit www.bishopcider.com.

Bay Landing • Bridgeport, TX
Bay Landing • Bridgeport, TX

(Nearest Petite Retreat option is Bay Landing in Bridgeport, about 80 miles away)

Cider Bite (Portland, Oregon): Another cidery that grew from the idea that there was just no place to get good cider, the Cider Bite bills itself as a Cider House and focuses not only on making exceptional cider, but also on the history and production of cider. In fact, founder Jeff Hanneson’s great-grandfather was a cider-maker. Offering 32 ciders on tap, cider flights, and nibbles, the Cider Bite is the place to get your cider cravings satisfied. Visit www.ciderbite.com for more information.

Mt Hood • Welches, OR
Mt Hood • Welches, OR

 (Nearest Petite Retreat option is Mt. Hood in Welches, about 36 miles away)

Santa Barbara Cider Company (Santa Barbara, California): Come visit and see what’s on tap for the day as they offer 12 rotating taps of their delicious cider varieties which may include a coffee-based cider, a tea-infused cider, or one of several fruit ciders. All ciders are gluten-free and the cider makers say the majority of the ingredients they use can be found in your own kitchen cabinets, like cinnamon and brown sugar. They do have a tasting room and food trucks and other food providers are on hand during the weekends for nourishment while enjoying the cider offerings. For more information, visit www.sbcider.com.

Rancho Oso • Santa Barbara, CA
Rancho Oso • Santa Barbara, CA

 (Nearest Petite Retreat option is Rancho Oso, about 30 miles away)

Island Orchard Cider (Ellison Bay, Wisconsin): Visit the Tasting Room and Cider Pub in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin, where you can see the cider making process as well as enjoy the flavors of Island Orchard. Visit www.islandorchardcider.com for more information.

(Nearest Petite Retreat option is Tranquil Timbers in Sturgeon Bay, about 36 miles away)

Give me a T for Texas, and for Tennessee!

Natchez Trace • Hohenwald, TN
Natchez Trace • Hohenwald, TN

The only states that start with T in the list of fifty, nifty United States, both Tennessee and Texas have a variety of reasons to visit them. Tennessee comes first in terms of being admitted to the Union, which happened on June 1, 1796, making it the 16th state (it was also the last state to leave the Union during the Civil War, as well as the first state readmitted toward the end of the war). Texas was the 28th state admitted in 1845, however, Texas comes first in size. As the second biggest state, Texas measures in at a whopping 268,581 square miles while Tennessee comes in 34th at 41,220 square miles (Texas can fit about six Tennessees in it!). But, when it comes to things to do and see, they are pretty equal!

Music: In terms of music destinations, Texas has Austin while Tennessee can boast both Nashville and Memphis. Nashville has the Ryman Auditorium, which was the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, a space that helped launch many music careers including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn.  There is also the new location of the Grand Ole Opry at Opryland, which is just a few miles outside the city. The city is also home to countless honky tonks where singer-songwriters play in hopes of achieving their dreams. The District is where you can listen to music to your heart’s content with its lively nightlife scene.

Lake Whitney • Whitney, TX
Lake Whitney • Whitney, TX

 Memphis is home to Beale Street, a major tourist attraction that has been designated as a national historic landmark and is lined with blues clubs and BBQ joints. Memphis is also where Elvis got his break at Sun Studio, which is still standing and offers tours of the place where he was first recorded. Of course, there is also Graceland, Elvis’ mansion, another major tourist attraction chock full of Elvis paraphernalia. Austin, Texas, is known for its two major annual music festivals: South by Southwest, held in March, and Austin City Limits, held in October. The city also has a vibrant music any day of the week. There are more than 250 live music venues offering everything from classical and jazz to rock, blues, and country.

Lake Conroe • Willis, TX
Lake Conroe • Willis, TX

History Both states are rich in history – Texas history can be traced back to the early 1500s with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors while British traders came upon a Cherokee town called “Tanasi” in the early 1700s. In terms of famous battles, Texas has the Alamo while Tennessee has the infamous Civil War event, the Battle of Shiloh. Visitors can see the site of the Alamo which is located in the heart of San Antonio. The 300-year-old Spanish Mission is open to the public and battlefield tours are available. Shiloh National Military Park, operated by the National Park Service, can be toured through both ranger-guided and self-guided options. It is considered one of the best preserved and most pristine of the Civil War Battlefields. Dallas has the unfortunate history of being the city where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Visitors can tour The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza which chronicles the events of that fateful day in November through exhibits and historic displays.

 Must-Sees Don’t miss the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas Hill Country, and Big Bend National Park in Texas. In Tennessee, must-sees include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and Nashville’s Centennial Park with its replica of the original Parthenon in Greece. (Petite Retreats can be found at Bay Landing in Bridgeport, Texas, which is outside of Dallas, and Natchez Trace in Hohenwald, Tennessee, which is an hour and a half outside of Nashville and three hours outside of Memphis. Colorado River and Medina Lake are near Austin and San Antonio.)

Medina Lake • Lakehills, TX
Medina Lake • Lakehills, TX