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They say all dogs go to heaven, but if I were a Yorkshire terrier or a golden retriever or even a toy poodle, I'd want to spend my time on Earth on the Paradise Coast in southwest Florida.


 


The cry "Remember the Alamo!" has inspired generations from 1836 to the present. And this year, with many events planned to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo occurring in San Antonio, it's the perfect time to visit the place The History Channel named one of America's top 10 historic sites.


 


You don't travel 900 miles from Springfield to Kiawah Island, S.C., for the nightlife. Unless you count sunset hikes under a sea of constellations or drinks in the grand lobby bar of The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

You come to quiet Kiawah Island for the 10 miles of uninterrupted beach. 

 


 

Royal-wedding fever swept across Great Britain last month, infecting Anglophiles on this side of the pond.

"The King's Speech" was crowned Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. And in Kansas City, thousands are flocking to the award-winning exhibit "Diana, A Celebration" at Union Station to feast their eyes on Princess Diana's wedding gown and drool over her tiara. 

There seems to be no shortage of love for our British brethren. So why not pay them a visit in London?

 


You need to get away from Springfield for some R&R, but you don't have much time. Where can you go to pack a lot of living in just a few short days? Here are five terrific destinations that are calling your name.

Some people are lured to Amsterdam because they're curious about the Red Light District's sex shops. Others come because they've heard you can buy more powerful substances than caffeinated beverages in canal-side coffee shops.



The spirit of the old American West, romanticized in myriad Westerns, is alive and well in Cheyenne, Wyo. You only have to step off the "stagecoach" (American Eagle jet) to start soaking up cowboy culture.



 

Before I met my husband, when I was single and looking, I often joked to my friends and family that my future soul mate was probably in some faraway place like Zimbabwe.

As it turns out, I was somewhat close.

 


An unsolicited brochure, which easily could have been dismissed as junk mail, launched a journey that landed Mike and Suellen Funk at the University of Oxford in England for three weeks this summer.



Ah, Tucson. I first caught a glimpse of you when I attended a writers' conference in 1997, and it was love at first sight.



Why are you going to Tunisia? Why not go somewhere normal? Remember the movie 'Patton?' " 



 

The subtle clues were good signs that wildlife was in the vicinity of our cabins near a creek: seagulls flying through the forest canopy and two bald eagles perched in the treetops.


 


Everything's bigger in Texas, including the metropolitan areas of Dallas and Houston - both prime vacation hot spots for Midwesterners hoping to escape November's chill. But why stay in one of these big, congested cities when you can relax in the Texas 'burbs?



On Sept. 11, 2001, we Midwesterners shared in our nation's grief and horror during that day's terror attacks. We were shocked, scared and mad.

But a television screen provided some emotional distance when we watched the World Trade Center towers crumble that day, and later when we saw the recovery workers find bodies, or nothing at all. We couldn't appreciate how it felt, on a gut level, to witness these events.

However, a little museum in a Manhattan loft gives visitors a good idea.


Two weeks in Italy sounds like a long time, yet it wasn't enough to see all the country has to offer.


Monterey is the California dream, before it got tarnished.


When you think of vacationing on islands, those blissful outposts of carefree fun, do you visualize the South Pacific? The Mediterranean? Or somewhere else, just as exotic, with an exorbitant price tag to match the distance you have to travel to get there?



When Katie Smithenry had a chance to visit a college friend in China, she didn’t hesitate. Smithenry and her mother took the 18-hour flight from Chicago to the Hong Kong International Airport in late February.



In Cuba, the most jarring case of culture shock is the distance between the worlds of visitors and those who live there.


The first thing you notice upon arriving in Stowe is the intense green. Not only are the mountains, forests and meadows green, but the very air smells green. Welcome to Vermont, where the air is clean and suitable for drinking in deeply. When you take in a lungful, it's akin to a deep religious experience or a seven-course gourmet meal in a five-star Paris bistro. Environmentalists will feel as if they've landed in the Garden of Eden.


Less than 20 miles separate America's first permanent English settlement (1607) in Jamestown, from the last battle of the Revolutionary War (1781) in Yorktown. Located strategically in between these two historical areas is the second capital of Virigina: Colonial Williamsburg.


Is there anything that you can't do in San Francisco? While there on a recent visit, I examined fruit flies through a microscope at the Exploratorium, rode a big red fire engine across the Bay to Sausalito, toured the Boudin Bakery Museum and watched workers make sourdough bread, enjoyed the hysterically funny and campy "Beach Blanket Babylon" musical, saw Painted Ladies on a Victorian Home Walk tour, savored exquisite French cuisine at Restaurant Jeanne D'Arc and, oh yes, I left my heart. And that was just in the first 24 hours.

 


At the top of the 163-foot lift hill on The Voyage, a wooden roller coaster at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., the view was exhilarating: "It went up so high it almost went up in the clouds. I could almost see the parking lot where we came in," 9-year-old Preston Reynolds said.

 


Think of Minnesota and fishing, hockey tournaments and maybe a Bob Dylan song spring to mind.

And there's even less to do when it snows, right?

Wrong.


Although Karen Witter works in a museum all day, she still picked a city with plenty of museums for her to visit on her recent vacation.


The view from the hammock is a stunning combination of cerulean water, verdant plants and exquisitely sculptured rock that molds the coastline.


Four hours from Springfield is a winter playland of ski slopes, snow sculpting, quaint and elegant shops, premium hotels and restaurants -- with dancing horses and a blizzard of holiday lights to top things off.


In the shade of Barcelona Cathedral's ornate, 230-foot-tall spires covered with construction scaffolding, oboists and trumpeters begin playing a moderately fast yet somber song. In front of them in the square, passers-by suddenly put down their bags and join hands to form a circle. They begin to dance, holding their arms up triumphantly while stomping and kicking their feet in unison. While eating tapas at a café on the square, my mother and I and my dear friend from college watch with amazement as the locals perform the Sardana, a traditional Catalan dance that takes place every Sunday.


"Paris makes you want to live forever." That's what my husband said as we walked the streets of the City of Lights. In Paris, you never want your time to end. It sweeps you up in its arms like a dancer and twirls you around, dizzying you with its lights, smells, sights and touch. In a moment, you feel you're a part of it, like a stranger who becomes your best friend. The historical splendor of the stones and steel is as welcoming as a soft bed.


There's something special about massive red sandstone rock formations towering over a beautiful and fragile desert environment that calls me to explore the region. Edward Abbey once served as a seasonal ranger in the area and in his famous book titled "Desert Solitaire," had this to say: "This is the most beautiful place on earth."


It's the fastest and most exciting two minutes in sports. Imagine several tons of fluid fury and power thundering down a dirt track for thoroughbred bragging rights and the coveted blanket of roses.


I spent my first evening in Myrtle Beach blinking back tears. Not because I was sad. Far from it.


Winter can be a long, slow grind, especially for baseball fans. The cold and snow only serve as reminders that sunshine, green grass and the crack of the bat are still so far away.

Some fans, though, have the perfect cure for the winter blues: a trip to Florida or Arizona for spring training.


Steve Hayden and Richard Lashbrook have traveled extensively in the United States because they are both American Kennel Club dog show judges, and they judge regularly at shows around the country.


Just what do you bring to a birthday party for a city that's now officially 150 years old? If you're heading to Denver, then be sure to bring your Crocs, those bright and colorful rubber shoes that are designed to give you happy feet.


When everything came together - three weeks off, the right vaccinations, helpful relatives the Reisers jumped at the chance to take the trip of a lifetime, and they went on safari to South Africa.


Although the Drake family has been to several different locations for family vacations, this April's trip to South America was a first. The family went to Peru and the Galapagos Islands at the end of what would be considered the rainy season in Peru and Ecuador.

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