The capital of live country music
If the world of country music has an afterlife, said Lauren Wilcox in The Washington Post Magazine, it probably looks a lot like Branson, Mo. Set in the northwestern Ozarks, the self-proclaimed “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” has a permanent population of only 7,000. But more than 8 million visitors a year come here to listen to such stars as Mel Tillis, Mickey Gilley, and Andy Williams. Branson was mostly known as a fishing-and-hunting destination until 1983, when Roy Clark, co-host of the TV show Hee Haw, opened a theater here and began booking entertainers. Today Branson ranks as “one of the nation’s most popular tourist destinations.” The Oak Ridge Boys perform at the 4,000-seat Grand Palace up to 35 weeks a year. Another popular performer is Russian-born comedian Yakov Smirnoff, whose patriotic act includes a waltz with a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty.
Touring the Niagara Wine Trail
Western New York’s rural Niagara County is “the newest kid” on the vineyard block, said Larry Price in the Detroit Free Press. In the past decade, nearly a dozen new wineries—seven since 2004—have opened in this fertile region on the shores of Lake Ontario. New York wines have long played “second fiddle to California’s better-known labels,” but New York’s own Finger Lakes and Long Island wines are now well established. The new Niagara wineries benefit from a micro-climate that dates back thousands of years, to a time when “receding glaciers created fertile soil for growing” premium grapes. Warm Lake Estate, whose Pinot Noir vineyards are among the largest east of the Rocky Mountains, is a must-visit: Wine Spectator named its Pinots “the best in New York state.” The oldest winery on the trail is Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, whose 19th-century plantings produce premium Cabernet Sauvignons.
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