Why more people don’t visit Virginia’s Northern Neck is to me “a source of bafflement,” said Guy Trebay in The New York Times. If you want history, it’s here. Once known as “the Athens of the New World,” this small peninsula on the Chesapeake Bay was the birthplace of George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe. The ancestral home of Robert E. Lee, Stratford Hall, is “in my eyes one of the architectural wonders of the nation.” Still, “there is nothing Ye Olde about the Northern Neck.” Though blessedly overlooked by the hordes on nearby I-95, it’s rich in working farms, houses of worship, and finds like the great crabmeat omelet at the Car Wash Cafe in Kilmarnock. If nothing else, take a walk along the Stratford Hall cliffs, where bald eagles seem “as common as crows.” Any citizen watching our national bird riding the thermals off the Potomac River “would be challenged not to be stirred by the beauty of this land.”
California’s Coachella Valley
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Less than two hours from downtown Los Angeles lies a different California, said Christopher Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. You have to wait until February for the camel and ostrich races held at the annual Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival, but Coachella Valley never wants for eccentric entertainment. On your way to Palm Springs, stop to see Cabazon’s towering concrete dinosaurs, built by sculptor Claude Bell from freeway scraps and now owned by a pair of creationists. Spring for the $24 ticket to ascend two miles up Mount San Jacinto on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, then head into town, where “the people-watching is top-notch.” A 26-foot statue of Marilyn Monroe temporarily stands at a central intersection. In Indio, don’t miss Shields Date Garden, founded in 1924. Order a date shake at the counter, then “duck into the theater in back to watch a free video on the sex life of the date.”
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