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Spring Skiing

Skiing is universally considered a “Winter Sport,” but when it comes to ski vacations, the smart money is on spring, as in spring skiing. If you can only take one big trip a year, it can be hard to hold off until March or April when you watch the Weather Channel and see blizzards pounding the country, but as they say, patience is a virtue, and there are good reasons to skip over December, January and February. In fact, I can give you four excellent reasons to spend the cold winter months working out indoors in anticipation of your big trip.

I (Heart) National Parks

Lots of events have conspired over the last few years to bring the fragility of the environment into the spotlight. As a self-proclaimed eco-geek, I couldn’t be happier. About a month ago, President Bush announced his National Parks Centennial Initiative which, among other things, would fund $100 billion dollars over 10 years to prepare the parks for the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016. I wouldn’t even want to imagine our country without our Grand Canyons, Shenandoahs, and Yosemites–that would eliminate some of my fondest vacation memories.

New Orleans Soul

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in New Orleans for this year’s Mardi Gras festivities. As I do with any getaway, I did my research before I left and found out that popular areas such as the French Quarter and Garden District were up and running, ready to accommodate tourists once again. I hadn’t been to NOLA since pre-Katrina times and was eager to see this rebirth with my own eyes.

I wondered if the contagious spirit of this vibrant city would infuse its visitors just as it did in the past. Would the courtyard at Pat O’Brien’s still be packed with intoxicated tourists who go there to knock back a Hurricane or two before begging for beads on Bourbon Street? Would freshly baked beignets topped with heaps of powdered sugar still beckon patrons to Café Du Monde’s canopy-covered patio? Would jazz musicians dot the sidewalks, propelling those make-you-wanna-dance tunes through the air for all to hear? Basically, would all-things-NOLA still make New Orleans, well, New Orleans?

The Year of the Pig

The Year of the Pig begins on Sunday, and condom sales are super sluggish in China and South Korea. You can read that line again, but it’s not a non-sequitur. This Chinese New Year, the presiding pig sign brings especially good fortune to anyone born during its reign. As a result, lots of people are getting busy trying to make babies. And I mean lots: Many Chinese maternity hospitals are booked up for the rest of the year, and a population surge is expected across the country, according to CNN.

If this sounds like a compelling reason to learn more about Chinese culture, you need not dig a hole to China. The good news for those of us on a limited budget is that there are Lunar New Year celebrations taking place much closer to home.