As we began to compile a complete list of National Parks for this piece to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, I was shocked and dismayed to realize how few of the 59 officially designated parks we’ve visited. Fortunately, we’re already planning a future family road trip to visit some of the many parks still on our bucket list.
The NPS was created by Congress through the National Parks Service Organic Act on August 25, 1916. Run by the US Department of the Interior, the agency was designed “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
This century-old concept has since been applied to more than 6,ooo national parks in nearly 100 different countries around the world. To honor the idea that helped give birth to ecotourism and conservation, we’ve gathered nearly 50 of our travel blogging friends to write mini-guides to all 59 US National Parks.
We hope our list of national parks will prove to be an evergreen resource, paying tribute to what documentarian Ken Burns called “America’s best idea.”
The Finger Lakes are 11 glacial lakes, all of which are shaped like fingers, located in the central region of New York state.
The region is perhaps best known for its impressive gorges, which were shaped by water and ice over some 10,000 years. As the rain water flowed down these steep cliffs, it formed hundreds of Finger Lakes waterfalls that you’ll find dotted all around the area.
Last June we packed up our car and headed out for a road trip in search of these stunning waterfalls. There are so many, we couldn’t possibly see them all during our brief visit. But here are a few of our favorite Finger Lakes waterfalls to inspire your next awesome road trip:
Congo Square is quiet now. Traffic forms a dull drone in the distance. A lone percussionist taps out ancient tribal rhythms on a two-headed hand drum. An air compressor used in Rampart Street road construction provides perfectly syncopated whooshes of accompaniment.
Shaded park benches are surrounded by blooming azaleas, magnolia trees and massive live oaks that stretch to provide welcome relief from the blazing midday sun. It’s an oasis of relative solitude located directly across the street from the French Quarter.
Congo Square is quiet now, but in the 18th and 19th centuries this “Place des Nègres” would teem every Sunday with slaves (given the day off under France’s Code Noir) and free people of color. Over 500 people would gather here in fur, fringe, shells and bells to celebrate their African and Creole cultural heritage, playing music, singing and dancing, buying and selling goods in the market.
This area– now part of Tremé, New Orleans‘ oldest African-American neighborhood– was the only place in America where African and Afro-Caribbean people were allowed to preserve their cultural traditions for over a century. When these traditions were blended with those of the European colonialists, it gave birth to a distinctly American fusion that continues to define our nation today.
Congo Square is quiet now. But it’s here that the seeds of American culture as we know it were sown more than 200 years ago. And the scents, sounds and sights that originated here have never been more vital to New Orleans than they are now, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
It’s a chilly October morning when we head out with Captain Chris Ludford of Virginia Beach’s Pleasure House Oysters. We step onto his boat loaded with oyster cages, colorful baskets, and various other tools of the oyster farming trade, sitting on massive coolers made to keep his harvest fresh for the local farm-to-table restaurants that serve them.
There’s a crisp breeze and clear blue skies as we pass by Pharrell Williams’ palatial summer home and cross the gaping mouth where the Lynnhaven River feeds into Chesapeake Bay. It’s only 8AM and, other than a few squawking Gulls and Cormorants resting in the shallows at low tide, there’s not a single soul within sight. It’s a tranquil, picturesque scene.
But as we struggle to wake up while nursing huge cups of steaming hot coffee to ward off the chill, Captain Chris– a full-time firefighter who has been fishing these waters since he was a kid– has already been out for hours, and is clearly pumped to show us his passion project.
New Orleans may be best known for its lively culture– swinging jazz, the colorful costumes of Mardi Gras Indians, delectable Creole and Cajun cuisine– but the city has a notorious dark side as well. Voodoo, colonial occupation, the Civil War, pirates, slavery, and an “anything goes” attitude towards excessive behavior all led to a dark, twisted history that continues to shadow the city today.
In his book Haunted Houses, author/paranormal expert Richard Winer wrote, “Take 100 of the most enthusiastic ghost hunters and ask them to name America’s Most Haunted City. Most will spring to their feet yelling, ‘New Orleans!’” We didn’t understand why until we took a Haunted French Quarter Walking Tour, during which we learned more about the historical stories that color the dark underbelly of New Orleans.
According to our guide, Denise Augustine, New Orleans earned its title as “America’s Most Haunted City” partly because of its proximity to the Mississippi River. “Spirits are energy,” she says, “and energy is magnetized by water.” That proximity also caused the city’s serious struggle against Yellow Fever, as well as its longtime strategic occupation by French, Spanish and Union Army forces.
As a result, New Orleans has dozens of history-based tales of murder, tragedy, sinners and saints, from the mysterious massacre of the Sultan’s House and the Civil War spirits said to haunt the Beauregard-Keyes House to the Witch of the French Opera House and Voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s grave at St. Louis Cemetery.
Here are a few of our favorite macabre tales from Haunted New Orleans…