Magic and Charm in Philadelphia

Intricate mosaic at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Intricate mosaic at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

I’ve been to Philadelphia a few times since it’s an easy train ride from my home in New York City, but my most recent trip was by far the most fun. A girlfriend and I decided to take a quick, last-minute trip down backpacker-style. With no heavy luggage in tow and just a short time to prepare, we played everything by ear, skipped all of the major tourist sites—and had the best time. Here’s a rundown of what we saw and did.

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Memorable Experiences in the Heidelberg Castle District

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg is a vibrant university town set amongst some of most beautiful scenery Germany has to offer. This pulsating small city has an impressive Castle District with roots reaching back to the 13th century. There is a week’s worth of things to do here, but like many visitors I had just two days to experience the magic. Deciding where to concentrate my efforts was a challenge, but I decided to focus on the Castle District for a first-time, two-day stay.

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Vancouver Island: From One Town to the Next

Maple Bay, on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, provides quintessential Canadian views

Maple Bay, on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, provides quintessential Canadian views

Vancouver Island is often dubbed one of the best islands in the world, though it isn’t studded with towering palm trees or soft white sand beaches. It is a land of steep mountains, cobalt lakes, and dense forests growing right up to the island’s 2,136 miles of shoreline. On Vancouver Island—the largest off the west coast of North America—visitors come face to face with a variety of experiences, from small towns and outdoor adventures to modern city living amid urban landscapes. This quintessentially Canadian terrain also teems with bald eagles, black bears, and orcas. It would make sense then, with so many points of interest, that an oft-preferred way to discover Vancouver Island is to spend several days road tripping through its varied regions.

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A Day in Los Olivos

The landscape is Santa Ynez Valley as seen from Refugio Ranch Vineyards

The landscape is Santa Ynez Valley as seen from Refugio Ranch Vineyards

On one side the Pacific Ocean glitters, beckoning surfers and sun worshippers. On the other side, tall coastal grasses and the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, punctuated with oak and sycamore trees, hint at what’s to come. I am driving along US Highway 101 approaching the Santa Ynez Valley, just two-and-a-half hours north of Los Angeles, California.

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