Tag Archives: summer

Stepping Into America’s Big Backyard.

APR-Yurts-03Summer’s soft opening happens this weekend with the Memorial Day holiday. Backyard barbeques will be heating up and gas will be pumping to move folks along the highways and skyways. After a long winter of wicked weather across the country, and strange climate conditions happening around the planet, it’s a great time to contemplate how you’ll spend your summer and maybe consider some new experiences and destinations.

Summer offers the perfect excuse to eek out a long weekend—at least once a month—to get out of town, or even to stay in town and finally see and do all of the things you keep meaning to experience. Summer let’s us off the hook. No matter how old you are, there’s something about dreamy summer that awakens our inner child…if we let it. In an age of always being shackled to some device, listen up and heed the call to disconnect and enjoy all of the great opportunities summer sends your way. From simply enjoying a slurpy slice of watermelon to learning something new like stand-up paddle boarding, there’s loads of great stuff waiting for you.

Montana buffalo in their own backyard.

Montana buffalo in their own backyard.

Maybe this is the summer you go big when it comes to travel, in which case I’d like to throw a suggestion your way. Go on safari.

Before you say, “Yeah, right!”— hear me out. Everyone always thinks Africa when they hear safari and, yes, many of the countries on that continent will expose you to incredible, life-changing experiences. But the reality for many folks is that for whatever reason they can’t cross the breach in their mind to even contemplate that kind trip as a reality. The distance, the flight, the cost—these are common roadblocks I often hear people talk about. So how about an American safari? There are some pretty unique experiences lurking in this big backyard.

Did someone say road trip? On the Great Plains of northeastern Montana, the American Prairie Reserve (APR) is 273,000-acres of protected wild grassland teeming with wildlife. This place is the perfect excuse to grab your best friend, or family, pack up the car with snacks, unplug, and shake up the brain with word games. If being on the road for a long stretch of time isn’t your thing, you can fly or take Amtrak to reach the APR and book a rental car from that point. The part I really like about this place is you can go highbrow or lowbrow.

If you’re into cushy digs and aren’t one to skimp on comfort, then Kestrel Camp is the best of both worlds. Opened in 2013, the five luxury yurts here are individual sanctuaries that rival some of the camp accommodations you’d find in African countries. The plush beds, hot showers, and a panoramic view to top it all off makes these climate-controlled, safari-style tent bungalows one sweet treat. You’ll dig into your wallet a little bit on this one but with the money you’ll save on flights, transfers, hotels, and all of the little add-ons, it’s a smart choice. The chance to spend time in one of the few untouched reaches of wilderness in the U.S. and experience it alongside biologists and naturalists is all part of the adventure. I love that APR saw the light and created this experience. They even have sundowners!

The lounge at Kestrel.

The lounge at Kestrel.

Anyone who camps knows there’s nothing like slipping your sleeping bag out of your tent to soak up a starry, starry night. If going back to basics is your thing then Buffalo Camp is the perfect spot. Made up of 4 tents and 7 camper sites, there may be no potable water but at $10 a night in this rustic stretch of paradise you’ll be stealing heaven. Situated near this campsite are hiking trails, biking options, and a prairie dog town. For anyone who likes an unstructured vacation, appreciates nature, and wants to be unencumbered of their “stuff,” the simplicity and stillness that you’ll find here makes this campsite pure bliss.  There’s no cellphone coverage here (which will hopefully enhance the feeling that you’ve left it all behind), and service is also limited in other parts of APR, which might have you shouting yippee!

A low impact platform awaits your home away from at Buffalo Camp.

A low impact platform awaits your home away from home at Buffalo Camp.

Regional campgrounds are also available in the nearby Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge but no matter which accommodation you choose, it’s all about conservation and that’s one of APR’s best experiences. For anyone with kids, it’s a great way to introduce the little ones to nature on a different scale and stoke their interest in animals and travel. If you’ve never been on safari than indulging in one closer to home may inspire you to make the leap next year to Africa. It’s closer than you think.

Summer’s calling. The older you get the quicker it goes, so don’t let the season fly by without indulging in a different kind of travel. Your younger heart and soul will thank you.

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The NSA, Edward Snowden, and the South of Italy.

Italy's Palinuro beach. (Photo credit: G. Nepi)

Italy’s Palinuro beach. (Photo credit: G. Nepi)

Fires, drought, tornadoes, and a relentless heat wave across much of the US.  July pretty much did us in. Now August is here and the government’s put a crimp in our travel plans.

Some people mark Labor Day as the end of summer, not me.  My friends are familiar with my mantra of “summer’s not over ‘til I say it is.”  September sometimes turns out to be the best month. The heavy heat is off your back and most days are clear blue skies. In which case—unless Mother Nature unleashes some more of her relentless wrath for messing with her ground work—by my count there are seven or eight perfect weekends left to get lost. If you can tack on a Friday and/or Monday, all the better.

If you’d planned on any Middle East travel…well, we know what happened to that itinerary. Talk about things getting hot. But let’s get back to August, the quintessential summer month. Now we’ve been told that we’ve got to watch our backs if we’re out there flying the friendly skies internationally. Seasoned travelers roll with these punches and tend not to get freaked out by this type of information. This is when flexibility comes in handy.

Summer in Moscow.

Summer in Moscow.

And then there’s Edward Snowden. For weeks I’ve wondered what the hell he’s been eating in that Netherland of the Moscow airport he’s been calling home. As a food snob, the thought that he’d been subsisting on processed airport cuisine made me cringe. But this young man has friends in high places, so I’m sure he was well-tended. He’s obviously not a traveler. For a man who did work for the folks who play in secrets and shadows, he should have read Ian Fleming in his spare time. Sure, Russia just granted him asylum but of all the places to hole up, he picked the birthplace of the KGB. Poor planning Mr. Snowden, you should have consulted with a travel agent.

Jumbo Rocks campground at Joshua Tree. (Photo credit: Nate2b)

Jumbo Rocks campground at Joshua Tree. (Photo credit: Nate2b)

There are plenty of weekend adventures out there waiting for you. It’s sometimes a little too easy to put a getaway—whether it’s camping, a beach house, or a quick flight—on the back burner.  If friends invite you somewhere, go!  There are always chores to do, especially if you’ve got kids, but you’ll never regret having made the trip. Besides, that’s what the cooler months are for. An Italian barber my guy goes to told him, “September? Phew, Italy in the South–it’s gorgeous!  It’s still hot enough to swim and everyone’s still going to the beach.”

Sounds like an excellent plan to me.

Get Your Flicks and Kicks.

And babe, don’t you know it’s a pity
That the days can’t be like the nights
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city
–Lovin’ Spoonful

Manhattan Skyline Sunset

Manhattan Skyline Sunset (Photo credit: Justin in SD)

Spending the dog days of summer in New York City can be…hellish. Anyone who’s already used up vacation days, or can’t spring for one, knows that when it sizzles like this there are few options to stay cool. But nothing’s worse than holing up in your apartment with the air conditioner cranking, missing out on the spectacular neon-pink sunsets and warm breezes of these hot summer nights.DogConorFieldmanBoals

Luckily it seems like this season nights in the city—and the surrounding boroughs of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island— hold some pretty cool offerings for outdoor music and entertainment. The best part is, plenty of it is free and depending on where you go, you can bring your own food and drink. Last week, I—and hundreds of fellow New Yorkers—danced the night away at a silent disco that was part of the outdoor Midsummer Night Swing series at Lincoln Center. Dancers and spectators wore a perpetual grin, and the place was rocking. Whatever side of the floor you were on, the night was magic.

Midsummer Night Swing's Silent Disco.

For visitors and locals, the metro area offers a spice rack of entertainment. If you’re a resident and haven’t enjoyed any of this goodness, times a wastin’.  It’s sometimes easy to keep to your own part of town, but have some fun, play tourist and visit the other boroughs.  Here’s what’s ready and waiting for you:

From opera to jazz, folk, rock, world music, or classical, you can still catch some of the best performances and musicians at the Free Summer Concert series happening all around the town from Central Park to Van Cortlandt Park. Beck will play a benefit concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on August 4th. It’s sold out but don’t let that stop you. Pitch a blanket on the grass outside the bandshell and you can still enjoy the show.

Hot fun at Celebrate Brooklyn. (Photo credit:  Ryan Muir)

Hot fun at Celebrate Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Ryan Muir)

The Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library offers culture and arts events. Check out their unique book and writer discussions on the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Norman Mailer, or stomp the night away at their outdoor Plaza Swing Series.

Coney Island beachside flick. (Photo credit: Coney Island Fun Guide)

Coney Island beachside flick. (Photo credit: Coney Island Fun Guide)

Drive-in movies may be a thing of the past around here but luckily you can catch a flick in the park or on the beach. From Wreck-It-Ralph to Argo, Free Summer Movies is a great back-to-basics way to enjoy a hot summer night. A special shout out goes to Coney Island, The Rockaways, and Staten Island. These areas are showing true grit in rebounding back from the beating they took from Superstorm Sandy and are running movies for folks of all ages.

Last but not least, today is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and the folks at Madiba, the South African restaurant, will throw their annual celebration. “This restaurant was built on Nelson Mandela’s ideals of love,” said Madiba manager Denis Du Preez. “It doesn’t matter if we light a candle, put a flower out or just put up a picture on his birthday—it’s about the people who come here and rejoice with us and celebrate our hero.” Starting at 6:30pm, they’ll be pouring free Brooklyn Lager and will release lanterns into the night sky.

The town is hot!  Throw on your shorts and flip-flops and celebrate the summer nights—and don’t forget your good will, and blanket or beach chair.  Wherever you are, stay cool and enjoy!

Peace.