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What’s Happening Travel Guide



By Gwen DeRu
Summer may not be officially over, but Fall, pumpkin spices, football games, Talladega Superspeedway Geico Race and scenic rides are all over the place.

Enjoy the Southeast of America!

Here are a few places for those that want to get that last bit of summer and for those that are looking forward to the fall colors and walks in the parks.

What’s in ‘MY’ bag… this time!!
Let’s see what is going on in the ‘Ham, this weekend, and a few other places around the southeast!!
Autumn is the ultimate time of year for food festivals, and with the changing of the seasons on the horizon, it’s time to start planning trips that allow you taste the best the country has to offer. Harvest season means festivals that celebrate local produce, while other events feature the best beer, barbecue, oysters, and more. To satisfy taste buds for Middle Eastern food, Birmingham, Alabama has one of the country’s best Middle Eastern food festival, this weekend.

PPT Amin& Sultan33RD ANNUAL MIDDLE EASTERN FOOD FESTIVAL – Saint George Middle Eastern Food Festival sponsored by the parish community of Saint George Melkite Catholic Church, will bring a unique taste of the Middle East to Birmingham this weekend, starting today.  Nightly entertainment includes Amin and the Sultans Band from New York and folk dancing performed by the church’s own youth. Food will be served all day, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Various vendors and booths will feature hand crafted olive wood from the Holy Land, Byzantine icons and literature, glass jewelry made from the church’s original stained glass, and St. George’s Middle Eastern food cookbook, “Our Favorite Recipes.”
It started out as an international festival because the parish members were descendent of immigrants from Lebanon, Eastern Europe, Italy and Greece.  After an influx of Middle Easterners from Lebanon and Palestine, it was changed to a Middle Eastern Festival.  Last year over 8,500 people came to enjoy homemade foods, a live band, lively dance and informative church tours!
Homemade foods include Kibbee, rolled grape leaves, Mediterranean style chicken and a tasty selection of vegetarian foods such as spinach pies, falafel, and hummos. Desserts and pastries include Kaak (date anise cookies), Mamoul (nut and semolina cookies), Zalabieh (fried anise flavored doughnut) and buttery Baklawa.
Downtown delivery will be available for lunch on Thursday and Friday with a $75 minimum order. For takeout and delivery call (205) 492-9621. A drive through service will operate until 7 p.m.
Saint George Melkite Catholic Church is located in the heart of Birmingham’s Southside, at 425 16th Avenue South. Visit us at www.saintgeorgeonline.org or on Face Book .

Most weekend getaways, come fall, replace ice cream with hot chocolate and beach trips for fall foliage. But if you’re in the market for year-round sun, no matter your home base, there are fantastic quick weekend escapes for everyone and some no more than a three hour drive away!

The first spot on the list is the Talladega Superspeedway Geico 500 Weekend.  If you drive or love cars then racing at Talladega Superspeedway is the place to be October 17-19.  Go to www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

When it comes to gastronomy, Savannah never disappoints. This Southern belle is an epicenter for Creole flavors and classic dishes like shrimp and grits, while the city’s leading chefs play with emerging trends without going overboard, making it a dream gastronomic getaway destination. And between meals, the city’s tree-lined squares provide an enchanting way to burn off some indulgences. Toast to your epicurean escape at Circa 1875, an upscale pub and restaurant oozing with classic Parisian charm. Or at the end of a day spent exploring in town, wind down the night at Pinkie Master’s, one of Savannah’s most legendary dive bars.  For a sexy splurge, the Bohemian Hotel, on the River Walk, boasts luxurious rooms complete with handsome touches like wooden and velvet headboards, driftwood chandeliers, and artwork from the owner.

tybeepierThe perfect little beach town for that last little bit of summer…
TYBEE BEACH, GEORGIA is an All America Hamlet –
If you want to see Tybee, rent a pastel beach cruiser from Fat Tire Bike Rentals, (912) 786-4013.   The land is flat and there are not many cars.  So you will only need one gear to cruise at the pace of family friendly island 30 minutes from Savannah.  Head to the 239-year-old Tybee Lighthouse and then to McQueen’s Island Trail, a 6-mile rails-to-trails conversion that gives the natural beauty.  Then take in the sunset at A-J’s Dockside Restaurant, (912) 786-9533.  With some steamed shrimp under the umbrella on the patio or you can kayak or paddleboard.
Don’t miss the sauteed shrimp or crab cakes at the North Beach Bar and Grill, (912) 786-4442.  You should definitely try to save room for dinner at Sundae Café’ (912) 786-7694, a former ice-cream shop that serves coastal classics like tuna and jumbo shrimp stuffed with crab wrapped in bacon. Try the Tradewinds Ice Cream (912) 786-8454, any hour for Jelly Fish ice cream and shaved ice.  You can rent a cottage at TYBEE COTTAGES (912) 786-6746 for a week, or the Lighthouse Inn Bed and Breakfast, (912) 786-0901.

MUSIC CITY FOOD + WINE FESTIVAL is this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday.
The epicenter of country music has established itself a foodie destination, and the Music City Food + Wine Festival serves as the perfect exhibition for the city’s best bites. Learn secrets to crafting the best sushi with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and how to whip up the perfect paella with James Beard Award winner Michael Symon. The Grand Taste, running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days, is the ultimate destination for sampling the best of Nashville’s culinary scene.

Forget the Passport: Visit One of the Best U.S. Islands
At just 12 miles long and five miles wide, Hilton Head may be small, but with its abundance of shopping, sports, restaurants, trails, and pristine beaches, this South Carolina island truly has something for everyone. Hilton Head is especially famous for its golf courses, but that is hardly all it has to offer. Try a peaceful, natural retreat by hiking or biking on the island trails, play a game of tennis, or experience the natural fauna of the island through an afternoon of birdwatching. Of course, you’re on an island for a reason — so hit one of the many strings of clean, white beaches to get your fill of sun and surf.

This Fall, get out and enjoy the land, the colorful leaves, the waterfalls, the pleasant and cool air and so much more.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. for good reason. There are more than 100 species of native trees, including scarlet oaks, maples, sweetgums, and hickories, which put on a jaw-dropping autumn display of gold, orange, crimson, and purple. With 800 miles of scenic roads and hiking trails, you could spend days exploring these stunning forests. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is ablaze in fall color from early October through early November. On the Tennessee side of the park, the tourist town of Gatlinburg sits just beyond with a dizzying array of accommodations. The family-owned Historic Gatlinburg Inn is less than a mile from the park, and does a commendable job of maintaining a quiet B&B-like atmosphere in the heart of downtown.

Nothing embodies classic Americana quite like small towns, some of the best places in the country you don’t hear about every day with a vibrancy of their own and year-round appeal. There are detour-worthy towns all over the U.S. that have strong cultural offerings or great outdoors adventures, in addition to standout dining and lodging options. For your next small-town getaway, why not head to this remarkable spot.

One small town with a population of approximately 12,788 is Beaufort, South Carolina.  Not to be confused with its North Carolinian namesake, Beaufort (pronounced byoo-fort) has everything you would hope for in a small Southern town: antebellum mansions, Spanish-moss-covered trees, and a picturesque seaside location on Port Royal Island. What makes Beaufort unique is the local Gullah culture, which traces its roots back to West Africa’s so-called “Rice Coast” and can still be seen in the town’s culture, food, and local language. Beaufort also offers access to a plethora of water sports, so set aside some time to enjoy South Carolina’s notoriously warm waters in addition to your perusal of the town’s history. For the freshest seafood, head to Saltus River Grill  to enjoy their decadent raw bar and watch the sunset from the outdoor patio. Be sure to pick up a locally made sweetgrass basket before you leave, one of South Carolina’s traditional crafts.
The nearly 200-year-old home-turned-hotel at The Rhett House Inn makes for a classically Southern experience, with antiques bedecking the beautifully maintained historical building. Breakfast, afternoon tea, evening hors d’oeuvres, and dessert are included in the price, and don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a meal on the wrap-around porch.

The best river towns in the U.S. have a natural exuberance, a playful energy not unlike the bubbling water that flows through them. Maybe it’s the towns’ proximity to the mountains, like beacons beckoning adventure, or the fact that river town residents live there by choice, not chance, having made quality of life, scenic beauty, and active outdoor pursuits like kayaking and whitewater rafting a priority. Then again, it could be the beer—microbreweries tend to open up near rivers, which provide a plentiful source of pristine water for making handcrafted brews.

On the southern tip of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in Northeast Georgia sits tiny Tallulah Falls, a lesser-known river destination with a big water scene. The town takes its name from a series of six waterfalls that drop the Tallulah River 500 feet in one mile—a natural phenomenon made possible by the rocky chasm known as the Tallulah Gorge that the river runs through. Come spring and fall, scheduled “whitewater” releases send the water from a dammed section of the river, aptly named Lake Tallulah Falls, into the gorge, creating Class V+ rapids that draw the region’s best kayakers and whitewater rafters.
Insider Tip: Tallulah Falls may be too small to support the microbrewery culture found in most of America’s best river towns, but makes up for it with its idyllic location in wine country.

Here is plenty of what to enjoy in North Carolina.
The hipster of America’s best river towns, Asheville pulses with an active, outdoorsy vibe that permeates everything from its farm-to-table restaurants to its work-hard, play-harder tech firms. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the confluence of the Swannanoa and the French Broad rivers, Asheville boasts 18 craft breweries—the highest number per capita in the nation. Rafters and paddlers get to choose from three acclaimed rivers (French Broad River, Nantahala River, and Nolichucky River) serving up everything from family canoe outings to fast-moving whitewater.
Insider Tip: Asheville is also known for its waterfalls, including the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, which are easily accessed by driving along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.

Asheville is the envy of many cities with its beautiful mountains and proximity to great rafting locations such as the French Broad River, Nantahala River and Nolichucky River. Outdoor magazine named Asheville the top whitewater destination in the U.S.
The French Broad River’s long, peaceful stretches are ideal for calm water floats and family canoe trips, while its whitewater rapids can also be exciting for kayaks and canoe enthusiasts. The wide river winds through Pisgah National Forest mountainside, offering eight miles of small and large rapids, with occasional placid pools perfect for swimming.
The Nantahala River is ideal for families and beginners, but offers options for those with more experience. The river meanders through the beautiful Nantahala Gorge, and even the most inexperienced paddler will enjoy this beautiful river that is dam-controlled, making water releases regular and predictable.
Adventurous rafters can challenge the fast-moving Nolichucky River. Hemmed in by one of the steepest and most beautiful gorges in North Carolina, the river requires considerable maneuvering around rocks and boulders to get through its many rapids and pools as it runs through the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests.

You actually don’t need to pack a lot of extra gear to include a whitewater trip in your vacation plans. Here’s a basic list. And once you know which river guide company will be guiding your trip, contact them to find out if you’ll need any specific items for your trip.
•       A towel and change of clothes
•       Sturdy shoes or river sandals
•       A bathing suit and/or shorts and a T-shirt
•        Sunscreen
•       Waterproof cameras
•        Sunglasses

Many trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway lead to waterfalls, depending on the season and rainfall conditions. The Graveyard Fields Loop, found at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 419, allows easy access to a number of waterfalls flowing from Yellowstone Prong. The trails at Graveyard Fields are well mapped, but can become slippery in wet conditions. Nearby Transylvania County is home to 250 amazing waterfalls including Triple Falls, Looking Glass Falls and Toxaway Falls. Here are a few more favorite waterfalls in the region.

To experience some of the many breathtaking views, follow the Blue Ridge Parkway south from Asheville to N.C. 215. Take 215 south to U.S. 64 and continue west through Lake Toxaway, Sapphire, Cashiers and Highlands. Follow 64 through the colorful Cullasaja Gorge where numerous waterfalls – including Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls and majestic Cullasaja Falls – cascade close to the highway. In Franklin, turn north on U.S. Highway 441 and head to Dillsboro. From there, hop on U.S. Highway 23 and drive straight back to Asheville.

The highest waterfall east of the Rockies, Upper Whitewater Falls drops 411. A trail along rugged terrain leads to the falls. Wildflowers abound throughout the year. Take 240-West to I-26-West. Go to the Asheville Airport/Brevard Exit (exit 40) and take a right onto 280 and follow it toward Brevard. Drive west on U.S. 64. At Sapphire, turn left on NC 281 and go south to the Whitewater Falls entrance.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is also a connection point to a scenic loop that meanders through a part of the Pisgah National Forest once owned by George Vanderbilt. From Asheville, take the Blue Ridge Parkway south and exit onto Highway 276 at milepost 412. On this drive you will pass the CRADLE OF FORESTRY, which is a great place to stop and learn more about the birth of forestry in America, and several hiking trails are available on the property. Look for the trailhead on the left past the Cradle of Forestry to take a short hike to Moore’s Cove Falls or continue south on Hwy 276 where you can park and walk down stairs to see the breathtaking beauty of the 85-foot Looking Glass Falls. Sliding Rock is also along this stretch of scenic road. You may want to stop for lunch at one of the many scenic picnic spots. The Pisgah Ranger Station, located further down Hwy 276, can provide more information on activities in the area. Continue on 276 until you reach Highway 280. Follow 280 east back to Asheville. Exit to I-26 back into town.

Located at milepost 316.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of where US 221 crosses the Parkway and south of where NC 181 crosses the Parkway, this series of falls are along the Linville River as it cuts through a steep gorge. An easy trail to the upper and lower falls starts from the Visitor Center.

The trail to Crabtree Falls begins in the Crabtree Meadows picnic area located at mile post 339.5 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A steep descent nearly one mile down the mountain takes you to the base of the falls where you can view the 100 foot drop of the Toe River.

ChimneyRockParkHickoryNutFallscroppedHICKORY NUT FALLS AT CHIMNEY ROCK
A .75-mile trail offers a leisurely walk through hardwood forests of oak, hickory, maple and basswood harboring abundant plant life, including rare and endangered wildflowers and old favorites such as Jack-in-the-pulpit and Solomon’s-seal. The reward is 404ft Hickory Nut Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Dainty white blossoms of Lady rue and grassy fronds of Deerhair bulrush thrive in the waterfall’s mist. Deerhair bulrush is a grass-like plant with small knobs at the end of shiny, wiry leaves, found growing out of the cracks along the rock and cliff wall near Hickory Nut Falls.

This is one of the best train trips to take this Fall!  Though it is often not the most expeditious means of travel, train rides are as much about what you see along the way as where you’re going. During the autumn months, rail passage offers the perfect opportunity to experience the best foliage across the country, leaving you with nothing to do but admire the view. Here is a great trip that will take you past some of the most spectacular autumnal scenes in the U.S.

Home to more than 125 varieties of trees, 1,000 kinds of flowering plants, and more than 300 different animal species, the western mountains in North Carolina are the ultimate place to see spectacular fall colors in full bloom. Found inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the rail company of the same name offers passengers the unique opportunity to experience one of the country’s most beautiful national parks from inside a train car. After exploring the Smoky Mountains Trains Museum, hop aboard for one of the fall foliage train rides or check out one of the food-themed journeys or the masquerade train on Halloween.

Expansive views, towering trees, and dramatic geology are just some of the astounding features of America’s most beautiful hiking trails. From routes beside glaciers in Alaska, to pathways balancing on rocky ledges overlooking the rugged coast of Maine, these trails practically demand that hikers carry a camera. And while there will never be universal agreement, here is one of the most beautiful hikes in the Fall.

RED RIVER GORGE 500-mile trail system
A canyon system on the Red River, the Gorge is perhaps best known as a world-class rock climbing destination. Unique geological features such as natural stone arches, hidden caves, exposed rock faces, and giant sandstone cliffs ensure that every hike in the Red River Gorge’s forested trail network is beautiful, or as some like to say, a Jurassic wilderness experience.
Insider Tip: For the best day hike, take the Bison Way Trail to the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, the backbone of the forest’s trail system. Then, go up the aptly named “Indian Staircase” offering a panoramic view of the gorge, and continue to the Cloud Splitter Arch, which requires squeezing through a narrow split to reach the scenic landmark.

With a stunningly diverse range of landscapes and climates, the U.S. is filled with countless scenic roads from coast to coast. Mountains, valleys, forests, canyons, coastlines —you’ll see all of these and more when you embark on the best drives in the country. Though you can find beautiful stretches of highway just about anywhere you look, here are a couple of the most beautiful ones. Get ready to be inspired!

Cruise against the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains on 469 miles of natural splendor. Nestled among more than one hundred species of trees as well as habitats for 59 species of birds, the Blue Ridge Parkway brings nature lovers amazingly close to constantly changing landscapes. Make time to stop at Milepost 5.8 at the Humpback Rocks for hiking trails and scenic picnic opportunities amidst the 19th-century farm buildings and natural rock formations. The Marby Mill at Milepost 176, originally built as a sawmill and gristmill, now stands as a landmark and gathering place for the community, with live music on Sunday afternoons. The best sunrises and sunsets can be seen from Waterrock Knob, Milepost 451.2.

CADES COVE DRIVE in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
The Cades Cove Drive is an 11-mile, one-lane scenic loop around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Free and open to the public, from sunrise through sunset, the drive brings riders deep into a region where bears and deer roam free. Along the paved road, you’ll pass deserted yet well-preserved cabins, stores, barns, and mills dot the way. Pick up the $1.50 guidebook at the beginning of the loop for an informed tour as you cruise along. The speed is kept to a low average of about 10 mph throughout the loop to optimize wildlife sightings.

This is a great location for a visit to a stunning hotel in an unexpected place. HOTEL DOMESTIQUE is one of the most unexpected places to stay over night – If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to sit still on vacation then, book a stay at Hotel Domestique. This 13-room modern property, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, has a huge selection of bike trails in the area.  Explore the nearby vineyards, guests can also rent a high-end Carbon BMC bike for a hosted group ride, or break a sweat at the fitness studio or the pool. The guest room décor is a mix of Mediterranean and modern; rooms have wrought-iron beds, French doors, and soaking tubs to help ease sore muscles.
Insider Tip: Nearby Greenville has more than 100 restaurants on its Main Street and is becoming known for its crafts beers and distilleries. Dark Corner Distillery produces moonshine and corn whiskey using traditional techniques.

This is the Southeast!  It’s Pumpkin Time and Fall is just around the corner with holiday celebrations close behind.
(Look for more of this What’s Happening Travel Guide, next time!)

The South awaits your visit….NOW…Where is your favorite place to visit in America?  Did we hear you say the southeast?  WELCOME!

We want to know what you like in this issue and what you would like to see.  Email me at gwenderu@yahoo.com

If you are interested in future guides or more information, contact Gwen DeRu at (205) 251-1666 or email: thelewisgroup@birminghamtimes.com or gwenderu@yahoo.com
(Some taken from Fodor Travel)