Get Away to Lake Country

Recently, we wrote about some fabulous, exotic spots for a July vacation, some of them halfway around the world. Here are some much closer to home lakeside vacation spots that offer fabulous summer vacation times.

Sandpoint, Idaho – Perched on Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint will gladly play host to your boating, wakeboarding, fishing, kayaking and paddleboarding adventures. Here, you can also dig your feet into a yoga class on the beach or lace up for hiking on Schweitzer Mountain. Every August, Sandpoint throws The Festival, two weeks of music, art and grub, all on the pristine shores of the lake. Check into a lakefront bungalow at Dover Bay, which gives you easy access to nine miles of walking and biking trails hugging the forests, wetlands and waters of the lake. Then, raise a glass of Huckleberry Cream Ale at Laughing Dog Brewery and toast a day well spent. Wow your companions at the Floating Restaurant in nearby Hope, which is exactly what it sounds like, with insane wild huckleberry pancakes at Sunday brunch.

Mountain View, California – Dubbed the “Best-Kept Secret in Silicon Valley,” Mountain View is a sporty town about an hour outside of San Francisco. Start with a trip to the Boathouse for yoga, windsurfing, Olympic class sailing lessons and more. Ditch your suit and rent a bike at the Boathouse to survey the sloughs and salt flats that feed into San Francisco Bay. Fuel up at Tied House (grab a keg to go) or Cascal, for Pan-Latin tapas. Come nightfall, give your sore muscles a rest at Dinah’s Garden Hotel, an art-filled mainstay since the 1950s. If you can time your visit, catch a show at Shoreline Amphitheater which will host acts like Dead & Company, Weezer, Chris Stapleton, and Dave Matthews Band this summer.

Kenosha, Wisconsin – Conveniently located between Milwaukee and Chicago, this unassuming dot on the map has the best catch rates for salmon and trout on Lake Michigan. This summer boasts several festival draws, ranging from Taste of Wisconsin in July to Cheese-A-Palooza in September. When you’re done relaxing at one of the town’s five beaches, climb a lighthouse at the Southport Light Station Museum or hop aboard one of Kenosha’s electric streetcars along the shores of Lake Michigan. Beer lovers will be pleased to learn of and drink at Kenosha’s three small-batch brewers, Public Craft Brewing Co., R’Noggin Brewing Co. and Rustic Road Brewing Co.

Sandusky, Ohio – Parasailing and airboating are two items to check off your Lake Erie bucket list. Amusement park enthusiasts should carve out a day for Cedar Point, which debuted the record-breaking Steel Vengeance coaster this spring. Meanwhile, motorcyclists flood the place every Memorial Day Weekend, during which Sandusky hosts Ohio Bike Week, the largest motorcycle event in the Midwest.
Unwind at Hotel Kilbourne, a waterfront boutique hotel known for the craveworthy OH Taco and its water views. For something different, catch a ferry from downtown Sandusky to the Lake Erie Islands a few minutes away. Favorites include Kelleys Island for the Glacial Grooves geological wonder and Put-in-Bay on Middle Bass Island, home to the what’s billed as the world’s longest bar, Beer Barrel Saloon and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, from which you can pretty much see Canada.

Bloomington, Indiana – It may not elicit the name recognition of Crater Lake or Lake Tahoe, but Lake Monroe is Indiana’s biggest body of water, boasting a 10,750-acre surface area and surrounded by woodsy terrain and back country trails in Hoosier National Forest. Set out for the day with a boat rental from Fourwinds Marina or grab a kayak or paddleboard with Lake Monroe Boat Rental. Rainy day? Try indoor climbing at Hoosier Heights or blow off steam at Urban Air trampoline park, followed by an excursion to Upland Brewery’s The Wood Shop, a tasting room and production center devoted entirely to sours. If you’re not staying at Fourwinds on the waterfront, we’d point you towards a cabin at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort or Acorn Resort. It’s a find on Airbnb with a hot tub, pizza oven and an inviting common area for you and up to 11 pals.

Moneta, Virginia – Old Dominion’s largest lake, Smith Mountain Lake, spans 500 miles of shoreline and three counties. Kick off your vacation at Bridgewater Plaza, a bustling marina with putt-putt, art galleries and plenty of restaurants. When you’ve wrapped up a guided fishing tour or are all spent from your day, enjoy dinner aboard the Virginia Dare, a 19th century-style sidewheeler cruise. When you’re ready for rest, find salvation at Gills Creek Marina & Lodge. Once you’re feeling restored, give yourself a jolt of energy at Homestead Creamery’s Farm Market or swap sweets for ‘shine at Franklin County Distilleries to sample moonshine in the tasting room. For craft beer fans, a necessary pit-stop is the beer garden or pub at Sunken City Brewery named for the flooding that took place over 50 years go to make Smith Mountain Lake.

Horseshoe Bay, Texas – This Hill Country getaway is only about an hour outside of Austin, but you’ll feel eons away from the rush of city life. Slip into the vacation mindset at Horseshoe Bay Resort, perched on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson. Tee off at one of three celebrated golf courses, with views overlooking the lake. Once you’ve earned your liquor, head to Save the World Brewing Co. in Marble Falls or book a coach tour to some of the more than 30 wineries within 90 minutes of Horseshoe Bay. For lakeside afternoons, the full-service marina can hook you up with pontoon boats, ski boats, kayak rentals and more or hop aboard a sunset cruise before dinner at the resort’s Yacht Club, where you can dock your ride a few steps away at the boat slip.

Duluth, Minnesota – Navigate the rocky ridgeline above gin-clear Lake Superior on the Superior Hiking Trail. If you have the time, hit some of the 93 free back country campsites and conquer the entire 310-mile-long trail. You might want to book the Split Rock Lighthouse kayak tour with Positive Energy Outdoors. The largest freshwater lake in America also plays host to many summer festivals, including the All Pints North Summer Brew Festival in July and the Bayfront Blues Festival in August. Not into festivals? Soak up North Shore views of the lake at The New Scenic Cafe, whose regularly changing menu highlights some of the best of Minnesota’s wines. A must-visit while in town is Vikre Distillery, which in addition to using local grains and Minnesota oak barrels, distills its gin, aquavit and seasonal spirits with water from Lake Superior. When all that activity and lakefront imbibing tires you out, catch ZZZs at one of Duluth’s many campgrounds or Pier B Resort, where you can spy ships in the Duluth-Superior Harbor or park your boat in their private docking area.

Santa Rosa, California – A trip to Sonoma County doesn’t have to be all about wine. Instead, venture to 350-acre Spring Lake, a veritable Arcadia complete with oak woodlands, meadows and the blossoming of wildflowers in the spring and summer. From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, the Spring Lake Swimming Lagoon offers free admission for both lap swimming and water play at the floating water park. Cool off in the shade of redwoods before diving into a plate of cheesy garlic bread and a pint of its renowned Pliny the Elder at the Russian River Brew Pub. This summer, enjoy Funky Fridays beside the Historic Hood Mansion with live music. Another big draw: this June’s Country Summer Music Festival featuring Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town, Toby Keith, Maren Morris and others. While in town, also be sure to hang up your swim trunks for an afternoon and meander through Historic Railroad Square for a booze-filled time of sipping wine and cider at tasting rooms, and hitting up a farmers’ market. Lug your produce back to an Airbnb for a cookout, or stay in the square at Hotel La Rose, which first opened its doors in 1907.

Kirkland, Washington – Start summer vacation off right at Bottle and Bull, an Ernest Hemingway-inspired restaurant with a killer happy hour menu and smoked trout ravioli that will linger in your memory long after the last bite. Only 12 miles outside of Seattle, the eastern shore of Lake Washington provides visitors a small-town feel, with plenty to do. If you’re missing your workouts back home, consider torching your core with a paddleboard yoga class with Northwest Paddle Surfers, who also are boat rental outfitters. When thirst for an adult beverage calls, tackle The Cross Kirkland Corrdior, a nearly six-mile biking and walking route that connects you to Flycaster Brewing, Maelstrom Brewing and Chainline Brewery. For lakefront vistas, post up at Woodmark Hotel, which also has a spa and two restaurants begging for a sunset meal, Beach Cafe and Bin on the Lake. If you’re more of a downtowner, book at The Heathman Hotel, close to galleries, wineries, restaurants and shops.

Great Spots for an Exotic July Vacation

A posh Italian resort town, a summer ski trip and some other getaways are perfect summer destinations. Put these spots on your “must go” list.

Cartagena, Colombia – Planning a trip to Cartagena in July is a no-brainer. A number of airlines offer direct flights from New York at just under 5 hours. With no time difference, visiting the seaside city over a long weekend is easier than ever. What’s more, you’ll avoid the crowds that flock to the bustling port during the holidays, and also have your pick of great hotels. Among the best are Casa San Agustin, Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa and Tcherassi Hotel & Spa. All are located within the walls of the old city.

Lake Como, Italy – There’s no better time than July for a bucket list-worthy trip to Lake Como. You really can’t go wrong any week of the month. Book a room at the iconic Villa d’Este and you’ll feel right at home: the hotel has been hosting a July 4th Gala for its American guests to enjoy since the 1920s, complete with a cocktail party, gala dinner, dance performance and, of course, fireworks on the lake. Don’t be surprised if your fellow attendees aren’t from the US – as it turns out, non-American visitors love participating in the revelry too. It’s a great celebration.

French Polynesia – July is one of the most festive times to vacation in the South Pacific because Bastille Day celebrations are in full swing. Locals and tourists partake in the Heiva festival which includes drumming, dancing, singing and rowing competitions. With more than 100 islands to choose from, you can’t go wrong when deciding where to stop first, but The Brando, a private island located on a three-mile wide lagoon, is widely considered the area’s most luxe resort. Between snorkeling, sunbathing and meditating on pristine beaches, the exotic getaway is truly an escape you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Kenya, East Africa – July marks the beginning of the Great Migration in Kenya, wherein wildebeests and zebras attempt to dodge the enemy – crocodiles – as they make their way across Mara River. With cooler temperatures and clear blue skies, the mid-summer month is an ideal time to experience the Kenyan safari you’ve been talking about for so long.

Zurich, Switzerland – Zurich is perfect place to visit if you enjoy traditional summer activities minus the unbearable heat. The average temperature is in the low 70’s during July, making it an ideal time to take a dip in one of the city’s 18 outdoor bathing spots. From a cultural perspective, you can immerse yourself in Swiss art while taking in the scenic view of the Alps at the lakeside sculpture festival which takes place from mid-June to the beginning of August.

Baden-Baden, Germany – Located not far from Zurich, this charming yet lively spot is known as one of the most famous spa towns in Europe. What’s best about this destination is that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. There’s Merkur Mountain for the active tourists seeking a view, art exhibits and monuments for the history buff and an endless amount of spa options for those looking to unwind. With temperatures in the mid to high 70’s, July is one of the most pleasant times to enjoy all this city has to offer.

Mount Hutt, New Zealand – It’s entirely possible to get your powder fix in the middle of summer – as long as you don’t mind flying halfway around the world. New Zealand’s ski season runs from June to mid-October, which, despite being a fairly “off-peak” travel window for tourists, promises unbelievable conditions for snow bunnies. Just two hours outside of Christchurch, you’ll find the country’s stunning southern alps – and plenty of space on the slopes.

Quebec, Canada – Travel to Quebec in July to experience the electricity of the city when it plays host to one of the world’s largest music festivals. The annual Quebec City Summer Festival takes place July 5-15 in various indoor and outdoor venues through the city. The renowned festival has come to be known for its eclectic musical selection, and this year’s line up does not disappoint. Acts range from The Weeknd and Neil Young, to The Chainsmokers and Dave Matthews Band.

Palm Beach, Florida – If you’re looking for a quiet weekend away head to Southern Florida. “People don’t realize it’s a year-round destination,” says Nick Gold, the public relations director at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, who adds that during the season, hotel rates drop by 30 to 40 percent. “I think it’s one of the most underrated times to visit. Plus, it’s less crowded than the Hamptons.”

Namibia – For those seeking an isolated adventure unlike no other, this desert escape is exactly what you’ve been waiting for – thanks to the orange dunes, cobalt blue waters, and what seems to be an endless horizon. Try kayaking with seals or cruising in a houseboat while elephants and giraffes drink from the waterside. To make your experience even more unforgettable, book a lodge at the soon-to-open Omaanda Resort. The micro-village consists of 10 luxurious huts located on a private 9,000-acre wildlife reserve. Or, check out Little Kulala, where you can request that your bed be made up underneath the stars.

Science Says Being Overweight Means You Live Longer

OK, so you’re packing a few more pounds than the doctor says you should be. That just might give you some extra life. We’re not talking obese here, just a bit overweight. It’s not like you’ll live forever but doctors might not be quite honest when addressing the health risks associated with people whose BMIs – that is, Body Mass Indexes – are between 25 and 30, ranked as “overweight” on the BMI scale.

BMI is the chart healthcare professionals swear by to determine a person’s percentage of fat based on their weight and height. Doctors have lectured on and on about the dangers of being “overweight,” but it might actually be better for you to have a little extra weight than to be at a “normal” BMI.

Wikipedia says “The generally accepted view is that being overweight causes similar health problems to obesity, but to a lesser degree.” But papers regarding the dangers of being overweight, like the Journal of the American Medical Association’s paper regarding “Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity,” you find statements like “Overweight was not associated with excess mortality.”

In fact, the findings are that people who are overweight actually live longer than people who are in the normal weight range. Translation is that being a little overweight might be, well, normal, while being considered of normal weight by the BMI chart you might actually be mildly underweight.

While research supports the idea that people within the “overweight” category are healthier and live longer, science and the doctors who recognize this issue are still unwilling to make the call and change “overweight” to “normal” for the charts.

This also suggests that the dangers of being within that category may be grossly over-exaggerated since doctors are continually finding out that “overweight” people actually tend to live longer, healthier lives than those within the “normal” weight groups.

Of course, at some point, the more weight you put on, the worse your health will become, because obesity is still damaging to your body – high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin issues, hormonal problems and many others. But where that point actually begins has been called into question.

So if you go to the clinic and your BMI is a little higher than “acceptable” to your doctor, don’t freak out and call off carbs. You just might be within a totally healthy weight group. You might be able to enjoy a longer life than your skinnier friends.

Far from the Maddening Crowds

If you enjoy travel, but hate the crowds at the world’s most popular places, here’s a look at the 10 least-visited realms around the world. You may find the food just as delicious, but less expensive. The beaches may be more tranquil without the mob scene. And you likely will get a better deal on your hotel room.

To figure out which destinations can best give you that off-the-beaten-path experience, we took a long look at the annual United Nations World Tourism Organization’s “Tourism Highlights” for 2017. Statistics in the report are from 2016.

The UN did not have data for every country in the world, but from the reports they did have, these are the least visited countries around the globe.

Tuvalu (2,000 visitors) –Tuvalu turned out to have the absolute least number of visitors – just 2,000. The fourth smallest country in the world, the Polynesian island nation is located in the South Pacific and has a total land area of just 10 square miles. Part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Commonwealth realm, Tuvalu doesn’t have much to do outside of beach activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and sunning. Traditional culture has been kept quite alive here, with traditional dances being performed on special occasions, particularly at town halls.

Kiribati (5,000 visitors) – The former British colony of Kiribati is a central Pacific island nation that saw just 5,000 visitors in 2016. Its beaches are pretty untouched and stunning to see, perfect for boating and yachting. Some of the islands have prominent World War II sights, having been the site of some intense fighting, and guided tours are available to see and learn about the shipwrecks and the remains of tanks, planes and amtracs. Phoenix Islands Protected Area, one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, is also located in Kiribati. There you can discover coral reefs and hundreds of species of fish.

Niue (8,000 visitors) – Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands, with a land area of about 101 square miles. Just 8,000 people visited the country in 2016, which is impressive considering its population that year was approximately 1,600. The South Pacific island nation, located 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand, is surrounded by a coral reef and has limestone cliffs and caves along its coast. A tropical rainforest takes up approximately 20 percent of the land area and is full of gorgeous and diverse flora and fauna. Cycling, diving, fishing, golf, kayaking and snorkeling are popular tourist activities on the island.

Montserrat (9,000 visitors) – Montserrat is a British territory in the Caribbean, measuring approximately 10 miles in length and 7 miles in width and with just 25 miles of coastline. It looks like coastal Ireland and, in fact, many Montserratians have Irish ancestry. It has been referred to as “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.” Montserrat was once a popular vacation spot before 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit the island, damaging over 90 percent of its structures. In 1995, the island took another hit when the Soufrière Hills volcano erupted, burying its capital in ash and mud and forcing evacuations as well as airport and seaport closings. The island is still quite beautiful, however, and 9,000 visitors came in 2016 to enjoy its tropical forests and quiet, secluded beaches.

Marshall Islands (10,000 visitors) – Situated halfway between Hawaii and Australia, the Marshall Islands is a Pacific island nation right near the equator. The tropical climate is hot and humid. A mere 10,000 visitors made it to the country, which has suffered from flooding due to climate change as well as pollution. For a more tropical island experience, venture out to one of the outer islands.

American Samoa (20,000 visitors) – An unincorporated U.S. territory, American Samoa is another South Pacific destination, made up of five islands and two coral atolls. With an area of just under 77 square miles, it’s only slightly larger than Washington, D.C. Just 20,000 visitors came to American Samoa, which has wonderful beaches and beautiful coral reefs perfect for snorkeling, as well as a rainforest where you can go hiking in the mountains near the capital of Pago Pago.

Solomon Islands (22,000 visitors) – Located in the South Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Islands saw only 22,000 visitors. Part of the Coral Triangle, it’s a prime destination for scuba diving, which has a significant part to play in the country’s tourism industry. A lack of infrastructure has held back growth in the industry, however, and caution is advised to tourists, particularly after dark.

Micronesia (24,000 visitors) – Officially known as the Federated States of Micronesia, Micronesia has four states made up of about 607 islands located in the western Pacific Ocean, just north of the equator. Just 24,000 people visited the country, likely due to the heavy rainfall that occurs all year but particularly from June to December when typhoons pose a particular threat. Diving and swimming are popular endeavors here, and the traditional culture of the islands is also a big draw. From 1947 until 1994, its government was administered by the United States, which continues to be responsible for Micronesia’s defense; as a result, the local currency is the U.S. dollar and U.S. citizens may live and work freely there.

Sierra Leone (54,000 visitors) – Tourism in the West African country of Sierra Leone has suffered as a result of the civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002 as well as an Ebola outbreak that lasted from 2014 to 2016. Just 54,000 visitors came to visit the country, which has just one international airport. As a result, the country has a largely unrealized potential for tourism, with fantastic beaches and an interesting colonial heritage. A Muslim-majority nation with a significant Christian minority, it’s also considered to be one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the world. Locals are known to be very welcoming of foreigners, with most of them speaking English.

San Marino (60,000 visitors) – Claiming to be the oldest sovereign state in existence as well as the oldest constitutional republic, San Marino is a landlocked microstate within north-central Italy. Just over 24 square miles and with a population of just over 33,000, San Marino received approximately 60,000 visitors in 2016. Its biggest attractions include the medieval town hall, the Cathedral of San Marino and the Three Towers of San Marino, depicted on the country’s flag and coat of arms.