13 Summer Travel Ideas: USA

It’s too early for me to be awake. I was watching my nephew shoot off bottle rockets next to a raging bonfire in BackWoods, USA last night (Greensboro, Pennsylvania). To nobody’s surprise, that lasted all night. But I’m up and I’m happy it’s July 4th. I’m in Morgantown, West Virginia for it, getting ready to embark on an afternoon of one of the most American things out there: a BBQ. I’m either feeling groggy or generous or both, but I want to help you plan your travels this summer across the USA if you haven’t already done some planning. Here are some summer travel ideas, straight to you from The Anti Tourist.

1. Spokane, Washington

Go biking, kayaking, wine-tasting, live-music-watching, or out to eat in this city that surprised me last summer. I had a blast in the blazing heat and you will, too. The Davenport is the main hotel downtown and I swear on my life that it’s haunted.

2. California (Santa Cruz and farther north)

SoCal is gorgeous in its own right, but during the summer, head north–preferably on a road trip up the 101. Between Santa Cruz, The Redwoods, and all that is offered in San Francisco and San Mateo County, you’ll keep yourself busy and wonder why you hadn’t explored more thoroughly before now.

3. Maine

Maine makes for a great summer getaway. You’ll hit a lot of cities on the east coast, but once you hit Maine, you’ll get some much-needed peace and quiet. Try out The Cliffhouse for top-of-the-line oceanside rooms and a rockin’ spa. HINT: you can also bring your dog(s).

Need more ideas? OK. Here you go. 10 more USA summer travel ideas:

4. Pamper yourself at NYC Spas.

5. Visit Asheville. Stay in a B&B in Asheville.

6. Go ghost hunting in Texas, stay here, eat at the Mighty Cone (serious about that last one–FRIED FOOD in ICE CREAM cones, what??).

7. Speaking of ghosts, go to Dudleytown in Connecticut.

8. Colorado is good for more than its slopes. Check out the state in the summertime. Stay at the Boulder Canyon Inn, check out the Bat Cave!

9. Hit the streets of DC. From cool clubs with caves for basements to bed and breakfasts that will give you way too much wine, DC is a sweet city that comes alive in a way we like during the summer. Worship both Jehovah and the Gods of Rock and Roll at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue/Music venue!

10. Go zip-lining in Hocking Hills, Ohio. While you’re there, go Hot-Air Ballooning too, because, why the hell not? How about a Lunchbox Museum? How about flying lessons from a crazy (crazy AWESOME) man?

11. Hike, ride horses, and do other country thaaangs while staying at a B&B in Pennsylvania.

12. Turn off your phone and check into a cottage in Oregon.

13. Go caving. Anywhere. The caves will keep you cool during the hot summer months. Tennesee and Kentucky are full of ’em, but check out a full list of USA Caves to map out your underground route.

Now quit talkin’ about getting away this summer and just do it.

By: Elizabeth Seward

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Sixth & I Historic Synagogue: Far from your average temple.

Wedged between the Verizon Center with its constant muddy flow of out-of-town hockey fans and the strip of assorted Asian restaurants that DC laughably calls Chinatown is a gem of a building called the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Not only is this Washington, DC institution a spiritual temple, named by Newsweek as one of the Top 25 Most Vibrant Congregations in the country, but it is also a temple to music: I’ve seen some of the most ethereal shows of my life there.

The synagogue’s devotion to a diverse cultural program mirrors its dedication to a non-denominational, inclusive congregation. Any given month, you can see a Pulitzer Prize-winning author speak one evening and the next see the latest indie darlings rock out on the very same stage on which services take place. Sixth & I narrowly escaped a fate as a nightclub in the early 2000s, reopening in 2004 fully renovated and sparkling with promise. I’m sure it would be been a spiritual experience of another kind to sweat the night away under the gleaming dome, dancing on the balcony that overlooks the sanctuary, but many more people are able to enjoy the building’s stunning architecture in its current incarnation.

With stellar acoustics that make any voice that much more resonant, any bass a little more rich, and an awe-inspiring atmosphere that demands an audience’s rapt attention, any band would be lucky to play Sixth & I. The calendar is extremely well-edited, inviting such young talents as Jose Gonzalez, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, and most recently Beirut to play their hallowed halls. Each of these shows was better than the one before, since the combination of acoustic resonance and subtle lighting is stirring when mixed with the unique talents of each of the artists. Sixth & I consistently hits the sweet spot, selling out shows without ever seeming to sell out like other music venues in the area, never compromising the quality of the performers for a packed calendar. If you’re the type who likes to enjoy their tunes with a little buzz, hit up Oya or Proof for happy hour beforehand—there’s no food or drink in the sanctuary. Or you can take the advice of Beirut’s Zachary Francis Condon and his bandmates, who teased the crowd with their beers and then suggested a brief intermission so we could run to the corner liquor store. Luckily, Sixth & I is as intoxicating a venue as any anti tourist can find in a city saturated with mediocre sound systems and dingy stages: here’s to being lucky enough to catch a show there on your next trip to DC.

By: Leeza Papalanis

Founding Farmers: Good Eats in Washington DC

When my Los Angeles-born-and-bred friend suggested Founding Farmers for our first reunion since she fled chilly DC for La-La land, I’ll admit I thought she had bought into the West Coast health obsession and was trying to convert me to the Church of Organic Bullshit. From the moment I stepped through the revolving doors into the downstairs dining room and was greeted by the precious hostess until the moment I wedged my overstuffed self out those same doors–any preconceived notions I had about organic fine dining were entirely dashed.

I really have to tip my hat to Founding Farmers’ founding fathers for their total commitment to the concept: they’ve managed to become the first restaurant in DC, and the first full-service, upscale-casual restaurant in the country, to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. You would think that you’d pay dearly for their wholehearted devotion to farm-to-table and organic ingredients, but I’m happy to report that their prices were shockingly low. Small plates average about $7 each, but each decadent bite packs a punch that will leave you slightly daunted at the prospect of an entree. The main courses are similarly reasonable considering the hearty portions and willingness of the competent and friendly waitstaff to pack it up. Cocktails are on the spendy side, hovering around $11, but if the abstemious offerings are any indication, I’m sure every sip is its own special paradise.

I was pleasantly surprised when our server placed a large menu in front of each of us: when it comes to menu options, more is usually more, and in the case of Founding Farmers, there’s truly something for everyone. Fried green tomatoes were served with a signature “Green Goddess” sauce of avocado, garlic, and mayonnaise that tasted like it was prepared by Demeter herself. The lobster mac and cheese was so tart and rich that after three bites, we were each leaning back in our seats, rolling our eyes and moaning since the sheer hedonism had robbed us of our verbal skills. Each luscious word describing the drinks on the cocktail menu was intoxicating—I laughed out loud at the blurb below “Death in the Afternoon”: “‘Pour one jigger of absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.’ -Ernest Hemingway.” Were I not struggling through the second fortnight of a teetotalling month (cleansing myself of the indulgences of the month prior) I would have happily followed Papa Hemingway’s advice. At least Executive Bar Chef Jon Arroyo would have, as each alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink on the menu is made to order with all-natural ingredients. I opted for the hand-shaken iced tea sweetened with agave and brown sugar, while my friend chose the unsweetened version. We both agreed that mine was the better choice, and worth the $4 no-refill price tag for the perfect blend of fresh and sweet every time.

The decor was modern without being chilly, comfortable but never sloppy: soft light radiates from cotton-swathed cloud lamps and from white and black ceramic birds. I felt as though I had walked into an incredibly chic farmhouse, perhaps one that Anna Wintour would live in if Conde Nast acquired Town & Country. Recycled wood interior and silo-shaped booths absorb sound so even at capacity the noise was never distracting. Jarred fruits and vegetables line the walls both upstairs and down, but an especially sweet touch was the faux graffiti scrawled on the bathroom walls. Instead of the usual “Tiffany <3s Chad,” patrons of Founding Farmers can ponder rules of etiquette while washing their hands in a trough-like ceramic sink (fully automated, natch) or using the incongruous but totally appropriate cutting-edge hand dryer. Those wasteful paper towels are so very 2008, or hadn’t you heard?

By: Leeza Papalanis

Meskerem: Fabulous DC Ethiopian

Throughout my travels, I’ve yet to notice so many Ethiopian restaurants in any one place than I have noticed in Washington DC. Riding on the train of thought that the merrier come alongside more, I decided to take a seat and be merry at one particular Ethiopian restaurant in the Adams Morgan section of DC: Meskerem.

I was seated by the window and greeted by a friendly waitress, decked out in Ethiopian-style clothing.

The food was nothing short of delicious and I highly recommend the Ethiopian pale ale served at Meskerem. Reasonably priced and right in the heart of a vibrant section of DC, I urge you to check it out.

Photo: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2376/2208941757_d206e8ab6c.jpg?v=0

By: Elizabeth Seward

Bohemian Caverns: As Awesome As It Sounds

If you find yourself in Washington D.C. in search of the perfect bar/restaurant, I urge you to check out Bohemian Caverns. My experience there was oriented around an inauguration party thrown by Brightest Young Things (keep up with these guys, by the way. They know how to throw a party and do so routinely in the D.C. area). While the typical night at Bohemian Caverns isn’t associated with BYT, the point of the Caverns is clear enough: awesomeness.

Perfectly named, the Bohemian Caverns is a 4 floor party complex with a bar on each floor. The basement (my favorite spot, hands down) is a sprawling cave that’s been turned into a drinking hole/live music venue.

The main floor boasts an elegant dining menu, full bar, tvs, and great music..
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DC Inns-A Bed & Breakfast Experience To Remember

(The patio of Woodley Park)

Have you ever wanted to travel without having to feel like a total stranger, entrapped in a sterile hotel with no one to communicate with? As you might guess, this feeling of comfortable travel is one I’m always on a hunt for. (Hence the purpose of this site!) Some hotels do really go above and beyond, and for those hotels, I am grateful. I, however, prefer to embark on the experience of the inn when I can, particularly that of the bed and breakfast. But finding a good bed and breakfast isn’t quite as simple as it seems. Sure, we’ve got the internet as a sprawling resource these days, but I am still impressed when I find a bed and breakfast that really gets it all right. And DC Inns gets it all right.

DC Inns is, collectively, two different inns that are about one mile away from each other. Located in the Dupont Circle and Woodley Park sections of DC, the inns have been turned over and transformed into elegant, yet cozy, homes to travelers in less than a decade.

(The room at Woodley Park)

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Thai in DC? Thaiphoon.

Looking for a great place in D.C. to score some Thai food that you know will be tasty and cheap? Try Thaiphoon. I happened upon Thaiphoon first from reading great reviews on Urban Spoon. I then mentioned the joint to my innkeepers in D.C. and they reaffirmed for me that the D.C. chain is best known for…well, everything. After sitting down to order my meal, I knew exactly what everyone was talking about.

It was a Saturday night. The place was packed. And still, the service was phenomenal. I was attended to immediately, catered to when I asked for my food to be extra spicy, brought my food and drinks within minutes of ordering, and delighted to see my bill when it came.

And who doesn’t like a pun-filled name like Thaiphoon, anyway?

By: Elizabeth Seward