Getting the flavor of...
Amherst, away from the dorms
People associate Amherst, Mass., with its three universities, but the Pioneer Valley town has become “a vibrant destination all its own,” said Jon Mael in The Boston Globe. Though fall is the liveliest season, because it brings in visitors drawn to colorful foliage, Amherst’s eclectic museums offer something for everyone year-round. At Amherst College, the Beneski Museum of Natural History exhibits an impressive range of minerals and fossils, including a giant mammoth skeleton. Art and literature enthusiasts might prefer the Emily Dickinson Museum, located in the poet’s 19th-century home, or the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Founded by the illustrator known best for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it’s America’s only full-scale picture-book museum. “For a cozy place to stay,” the 1740s Black Walnut Inn is “hard to beat.” At dinnertime, try a gumbo popover or shrimp scampi at Judie’s restaurant, a local favorite whose skylit dining room overlooks downtown and its “multitude of shops, bakeries, and interesting people.”
Hawaii’s ultimate hula celebration
“To love Hawaii is to love hula,” said Hanya Yanagihara in CNTraveler.com. “And to love hula is to wait all year for the islands’ most prestigious competition.” Held every Easter weekend in Hilo, a small town on the Big Island, the Merrie Monarch Festival is a fiercely competitive celebration of a 1,600-year-old tradition. Some 20 dance troupes perform two kinds of hula. The first, kahiko, or ancient hula, involves no music—just dancing, drumming, and chanting. The second, auana, or modern hula accompanied by song, is what most people think of when they hear “hula.” Contestants spend months preparing their synchronized routines and elaborate costumes, and by the end of the event, “the air is redolent of bruised flowers.” The raucous festival takes place in an arena, and it’s like “a cross between Burning Man, the Super Bowl, and the Miss America Pageant, but with a lot more mud.” At the end, the troupes’ elderly teachers totter up on stage for one final dance. “In that moment, you can hear the islands sing.” ■