My wife and I recently visited Niagara Falls this past August in our quest to escape some of the summer heat. I had been there two earlier times as a child and a parent. The town of Niagara has seen betters days. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to be there at night. It is run down and the areas near the falls are tacky. I was also disappointed to see the casinos on the Canadian side of the river. We took the proverbial pictures of the falls, but not of Niagara.
We discovered Niagara on the Lake in Canada, a short drive from the falls. On the way we stopped at a number of wineries before we hit the town and Wow! what a contrast between Niagara, NY and Niagara on the Lake in Canada.
There were flowers everywhere, in window boxes, along the street, on street posts and in store windows. There were quaint shops with a wide variety of wares along with ice cream shops bed and breakfast inns and restraints. We shopped a while then had a drink at the country club along Lake Ontario and the mouth of the Niagara River across from Fort Niagara, NY.
Yes, central Florida does have a fall season; it happens to be in December and January. The colors are the same as you would find in the northern part of North America, but without the hills, mountains and miles of trees. we can enjoy limited fall colors in the warm weather.
Watching the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile go down the street is something that will catch your eye. The first Wienermobile was created in 1936 by Karl Mayer, nephew of Oscar Mayer, founder of the company. There are six Wienermobiles that crisscross the country every year. You can’t miss a hot dog driving down the road. I have had unusual luck seeing them on the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana campus. The company recruits drivers from college campuses. When a college student is selected as a hotdogger, he/she attends “Hot Dog High.” Here they learn how to be a good ambassador for Oscar Mayer. When the Hotdogger hit the road they make visits to charitable organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Red Cross Foundation, and retailers selling Oscar Mayer products. They provide goodwill, enhance public relations, and hand out thousands of wiener whistles.
I usually see them every year on campus. This last time I was able to take a quick peak inside before they started their next excursion. It was extremely roomy and comfortable looking.
The beginning of the what is now Grand Ole Opry began in 1925 at the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, moving from place to place until it found its “permanent” home at the Ryman Auditorium in 1943. Country talent graced the halls of the auditorium from 1943 to 1974 when it moved to its current location called the Grand Ole Oprey.
The Ryman Auditorium has quite a history. Originally built as a church by Thomas Ryman, a wealthy riverboat captain, it was called Union Gospel Tabernacle and later after it use expanded, the name was changed to the Ryman Auditorium. The building was later given a second floor in 1897 and a stage in 1901 where national and international talent performed (John Phillip Sousa’s Peerless Band, The Imperial Russian Ballet, Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Edward Strauss and his Vienna Orchestra, CarusoKatherine Hepburn, Bob Hope). Lectures by leaders of their time gave public lectures (Susan B. Anthony Booker T. Washington, President Theodore Roosevelt, President William Howard Taft, etc.).
Today the Ryman Auditorium has live radio country music performances with audiences four times per week.
Because the Ryman Auditorium had deteriorated a new build was built called the Grand Ole Opry. It opened on March 16, 1974. It continues to host top names in country music and comedy as well as offer new talent while packing in crowds of enthusiasts every week.
We attended the 9:00 pm show and it went until 11:30. The music and comedy were great. Well worth the price of admission, but buy your tickets ahead of time. Depending on the time of the year, it may be hard to get into the show.
The general honkey tonk area of Nashville runs from second through fifth streets on along Broadway. The buildings have become historical landmarks and can be modernized from the inside, but must remain the same on the outside, some dating back to the late 1800’s.
From about 10 am to late morning the next day you can find good bands in all of the bars, many without cover charge, they survive on tips. We found the music and food a great way to spend an afternoon unwinding .
Built initially as a two story log cabin, Jackson later built a mansion on his farm. It is very impressive from both the front and back and laid out on a very expansive lawn.
The grounds around the house are beautiful, especially the garden. In the garden you will find three graves. Those of Andrew and Rachel Jackson and Alfred “Jackson.” Alfred was a slave born on the estate. He was freed after the civil war, but stayed on with the house until he died at 99 in 1901. His log cabin is close to the house and remains as he left it. He was the first tour guide of the mansion.
Wikipedia describes glamping as a combination of “glamor and camping with the amenities.” It is usually associated with tent style of camping and in some cases retro style RVs. My definition of glamping is more for the “average Joe.” For us, it is an RV, trailer or motorhome, with flush toilets, bath and showers, hot and cold running water, a fully functioning kitchen with at least one bedroom. Prices for this type of new home on wheels may run from $15,000 to hundred’s of thousands of dollars. Within a few minutes we were set up with all of the amenities of home, albeit smaller.
During our first trip we stayed at KOA’s. They are all different, but also have basic minimum standards. One had a beautiful pool, offered live entertainment in the evening and a pot-luck every Tuesday. The same venue had shuttle service to the honkey tonk district of Nashville. All had many amenities for outdoor games, snack bar, easy access and friendly people.
I captured some of the RVs that were in the campsites where we stayed.
We took a drive to Orlando just to hang out for a few hours. We avoided the big theme parks, Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios and went to a building near International Drive that housed the Orlando “eye,” Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the Orlando Aquarium. At first I was a little underwhelmed based on the size of the building.
The first thing we did was ride the “eye.” The most interesting thing to me was to look over part of Orlando that was packed with touristy things do do, like go to a bone museum, restaurants (some excellent, some fast food and everything in between), water parks, and lots of shops.
It is easy to see why Walt Disney changed his approach to building Disney World. The original Disney Land is locked in by the types of business we say in Orlando, but far away from Orlando’s Disney World.
Weedon Island is a nature preserve along the coast of St. Petersburg,FL. Full of mangroves and open areas, the area is rich in natural wildlife, both in the salt water, on the ground and in the trees. There are guided tours, and kayak rentals to go out on your own, however, if you chose this rout, make sure you know your way around the mangroves or have a good map and sense of direction.
Our weather was cloudy with some sprinkles, good weather for kayaking in FL where it can be very hot and humid from May through September.