Five great Fourth of July destinations

Arguably the most American holiday of all (sorry, Thanksgiving!) the Fourth of July occupies an undeniably special place in the hearts of millions. Remarkably, the enthusiasm of so many for the holiday seemingly floats independently of patriotism. It’s a family holiday, a time for picnics and fireworks and the sheer enjoyment of hot summer temperatures. The following are a few places where the Fourth of July can be celebrated with some attention to history, or, if you prefer, hot dogs and fireworks.

1. Bristol, RI. Bristol Fourth of July Celebration.

Since 1785, Bristol, Rhode Island has continuously held a Fourth of July Parade, the nation’s longest-running. Bristol does it up for several days around July 4, with a visit by the USS Squall, concerts, a drum corps show, a parade, a fireworks display, and a ball. This is the Fourth of July at its New England best, small-scale and dripping with historical significance.

2. Philadelphia, PA. Wawa Welcome America! Festival.

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted in Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love has pride of place in the history of the emergence of the United States as an independent nation. The Welcome America! Festival is one of the country’s biggest, an 11-day celebration featuring a food festival, a photography exhibit, a block party, fireworks, a parade, and a Bell Tapping Ceremony, in which descendants of signers of the Declaration of Independence ceremonially tap the Liberty Bell.

3. Brooklyn, NY. Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The Fourth of July and hot dogs are inextricably linked, and Nathan’s hot dog eating contest on Coney Island in Brooklyn, held on the Fourth of July, only intensifies the association. The event’s nexus of competition and gluttony is enjoyable and mind-blowing to watch. For those who cannot make it to Brooklyn, don’t fear. ESPN will broadcast the competition.

4. South Lake Tahoe, CA. Star Spangled Fourth – Lights on the Lake.

The largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi River is held on the south shore of Lake Tahoe on the evening of July 4. The size of the Lights on the Lake fireworks display itself is a big deal, and the lake’s enormous reflective surface adds significantly to the effect. Fireworks are set off from a small island located in the center of Lake Tahoe. Local radio stations KRLT and KOWL even soundtrack the fireworks display.

5. Washington, DC. General Pageantry in the Nation’s Capital.

The nation’s capital may be the most obvious choice for an Independence Day getaway, but it is indeed a great place to celebrate the holiday. In addition to a parade, fireworks, and concerts at the US Capitol and Washington Monument, there are special events scheduled at the National Archives and the White House Visitor Center.

(Image: Flickr/Ed Yourdon)

Westin hotel to layoff employees after protests over pay cuts

The Westin Hotel announced it would cut the jobs of almost 50 employees at its Providence, Rhode Island hotel. The layoffs come after several months of demonstrations at the hotel.

According to the Providence Journal, the hotel workers were notified Friday that their jobs would be farmed out to a subcontracting firm at the end of the month.

Demonstrations began in March when the 200-member hotel workers union called for a boycott of the hotel after learning that Westin management wanted to impose wage cuts, health-care cost increases and increased work loads.

The union, whose contract expired in October, says it will continue to call for a boycott.

[via The Providence Journal]

Top Caribbean bolthole to offer iPads to guests

Lighthouse Bay Resort, an exquisite Barbuda resort recently tipped by Vanity Fair’s George Wayne as an appropriately majestic honeymoon location for Prince William and Kate Middleton, already cocoons its guests in utter bliss.

It offers isolation along a miles-long stretch of insanely stunning beach; a skilled chef who produces wonderfully personalized meals; an appealing list of activities, all gently on offer; and free long-distance telephone and use of laptops-and, as of this coming week, use of iPads on the property.

In stocking its rooms with iPads, Lighthouse Bay will advance a luxury hotel micro-trend. Back in April, Gridskipper noted that several hotels had begun to incorporate the iPad tablet into their amenity tallies. One of the hotels mentioned in that round-up, Rhode Island’s Ocean House, at the time planned to offer iPads as a basic amenity for guests; the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Berkeley in London (the latter reported in Gadling) both provide iPad in selected suites.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Ale House Inn ups the ante by providing iPads to guests in all its “Deluxe” rooms. By providing four iPads for its nine suites, Lighthouse Bay provides similarly broad guest access to iPads. Next season, Lighthouse Bay plans to roll out iPads in all of its nine suites.

The iPad is still very new and it’s unclear how broad its adoption will be. But if this micro-trend continues and luxury hotels will soon be providing the magic tablet for guests in greater numbers, the iPad may progress from amenity to utility fairly quickly.

Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Newport, Rhode Island

There’s a lot to love about Newport, Rhode Island. The beaches, the boats, the sunsets, the nightlife, the festivals and the quaint downtown district make Newport a New England favorite. Rhode Island’s favorite beach town is hopping in the summer months, so if you plan to take part in the adventures you’ll need to book ahead. Located just a foot-and-car bridge away from the center of town is Goat Island, home of the Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel. I hopped over the bridge for a weekend getaway to check out the Hyatt and was pleasantly surprised by the hotel’s ability to shed its chain-status and blend in with the boutique brands in Newport.

The Rooms

Thanks to the recent renovation that replaced a parking lot with green space and opened up the views to Newport Harbor, nearly all the rooms at the Hyatt are ‘waterfront’ rooms, which means no matter what your location you’re bound to have a great view. Each room is designed with a nautical theme, apparent by the white sheets, blue blankets and tan throw pillows. Each room comes with T-Mobile wireless Internet hook-up ($9.95/day), a separate work area, Portico bath products, HBO, HBO family, on-demand programming and delivery of a daily newspaper. My room 3314 was in the Captain’s Quarters of the hotel – a section of the hotel set aside from the main lobby area, and perfect for travelers like me who appreciate the sound of silence. The added bonus to these rooms are the private balconies, which provide perfect views of The Pell Bridge.

One of the best parts of the hotel caters to families: on the same floor as the indoor pool (the perfect place for kids on a rainy day) and the fitness center are rooms big enough to be called suites, but priced as regular hotel rooms due to foot traffic they acquire. I wouldn’t recommend these rooms for a couple wanting some alone-time or a solo traveler needing some privacy, but for a family of four needing a great value and options to cure mid-afternoon boredom, these rooms are a great fit.

The Bathrooms

The bathrooms are a decent size and rooms are a tub/shower combo. Each bathroom features Portico bath products and free toothpaste (a fun bonus from the hotel). As part of the hotel’s eco-friendly initiatives, room service will only supply fresh towels if you ask.

%Gallery-92815%Restaurants & Room Service

The hotel has four different dining options for guests: The Windward Restaurant, Pineapples on the Bay, Five33 Lounge and The Galley – a Coffee Bar. Windward Restaurant is the hotel’s main dining option, offering seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant hosts a buffet breakfast, complete with omelet station, as well as lunch and dinner options that range from specialty pastas to seafood favorites. Tip: try the clam chowder. It’s packed with clams, onions and potatoes and served with grilled bread that’s great for dipping. A New England favorite!

Pineapples on the Bay is the hotel’s poolside dining and bar option. It wasn’t open on my visit, but I did get a look at the gigantic s’mores pit that is opening at Pineapples Memorial Day weekend, just in time for the summer season. The hotel’s bar, Five33, was recently redone and adds a classic twist on typical bar flare. The dark wood bar and tables are offset by muted red and gold chairs, and a steel-encased fireplace separates the bar from the rest of the hotel. You can order appetizers, dinners and desserts here, and if you’re lucky, you might even be treated to a little live music, thanks to the grand piano that graces the bar area.

The Galley – a Coffee Shop – serves Starbucks coffee and hotel-made pastries for guests on the go. The venti coffee and fresh-baked croissant was a perfect wake-up call before my morning walk to the hotel’s on-site lighthouse (keep reading).

Room service is available and the hotel makes every effort to deliver within 30 minutes of your call (that’s what they tell you when you order).

The Spa

Stillwater Spa is one of Rhode Island’s award-winning spas and offers a suite of options for guests. There were a few weddings happening the weekend I was there, which meant plenty of up-dos and last-minute makeup touches, but the spa was big enough that it didn’t seem chaotic. On a summer day, the spa’s private deck would be open for guests to lounge and order lunch and cocktails for groups. During the off-season, the spa’s relaxation room plays host to parties and individuals just before their treatments.

The spa prices are comparable to any high-end spa. Manicures and pedicures range from $40-$65; massages range from $75-$300; hair and makeup is based on private consultation but start at $18 for a basic haircut.

The Pool/Outdoors Area

In the summertime, this place is hopping. While the hotel’s indoor pool is a great option for rainy days, the outdoor saltwater pool is a great way to spend a summer day. Located directly outside from the spa and adjacent to Pineapples, the outdoor pool also features great water views. In a few weeks, the outdoor s’mores pit will be complete, which means a lot of late-night sugar snacks.

The Hyatt books a lot of weddings, which means a lot of party space is made available for guests. During my stay at the Hyatt, there were two weddings and one Army Ball. One of the more unique aspects of the hotel was the clambake section, available for private parties adjacent to the hotel’s outdoor wooden-tent space. Note to travelers: If you’re booking this area be advised that the backdrop is the water, and on the water are boats (oftentimes cruise ships). While the staff at the Hyatt do everything they can to make your wedding wonderful, they cannot move the cruise boats from the water in an effort to keep the boats out of your pictures (as requested by one blushing bride).

Additional Amenities

While the Hyatt hasn’t bought into the free WiFi pledge we’re pushing, there is a business center with free Internet for those guests not wanting to pay the $9.95/day charge.

If you’re driving, you can valet the car for $15.00/day or self park for $10/day. Both options come with 24-hour in-and-out privileges.

No worries if you don’t want to drive – the hotel has a free shuttle van that drops guests off in town, and picks back up, every 30 minutes. It’s a great way to familiarize with yourself with the boutiques, restaurants and bars in downtown Newport without the hassle of finding parking.

The Bottom Line

Newport, Rhode Island is full of things to do and see any time of year. If you want something in the middle of town that’s within walking distance to the boutiques and restaurants, try a B&B (and prepare to pay for it during the high season). If you want something a little more private, a stay at the Hyatt is a good choice. It’s a big enough hotel that caters to just about every traveler’s taste, but tucked away so you’ll avoid the raucous Newport evening crowd.


20 great bike rides

For many travelers, the default mode of transport is a plane or a car, but they’re certainly not the only options. Have you ever considered adding a bicycle ride to your next trip? Riding a bike has a number of advantages over other forms of transportation. You’ll move slower, no doubt, but with that slowness comes an increased awareness of your surroundings, a chance to get some fresh air and exercise and the sense of accomplishment that comes with a great ride. Whether you’re looking to ride across the USA or simply take a leisurely pedal around a nearby town, Gadling has compiled the following list of 20 great bike rides. Take a look below!

Mackinac Island, Michigan
Straddling the divide between Lake Huron and Michigan, Mackinac Island transports bikers to the simpler days where horse drawn carriages and bicycles were the main modes of transportation. Not having to worry about sharing the road with motorized vehicles, with the exception of emergency and service vehicles, this island is a cyclist’s haven. With 3 bike rental outfits to choose from, anyone can enjoy this National Historic Landmark filled with Victorian charm on 2 wheels and after a visit here, you will not want to return to the hustle and bustle of the 21st Century.

Newport, Rhode Island
It is understandable that images of the renowned Newport Mansions are the first to come to mind when you hear “Newport, Rhode Island.” Admittedly grand on the inside, riding by these mansions from the outside and through the surrounding parts of town are just as breathtaking. Take the path passing by the Newport Harbor, Brenton Cove, Ocean Ave, and of course Bellevue Ave where you get a feast for the eyes with the famed Marble House, The Elms, and Chateau sur Mer, among other grand homes and before long, you can understand why the rich chose this location as their summer playground.

Monterey Bay, California
California’s Monterey Bay is filled with many options for a scenic bike ride. The famous 17 mile drive meanders through Pebble Beach but those who prefer skipping the entrance fee can be rewarded with an equally scenic ride on what some dubbed the “Poor Man’s 17 Mile Drive”. Drive down to the Asilomar State Beach where parking can usually be found and ride along the coastline through the town of Pacific Groves where in the spring you may come upon the harbor seal pups lounging on the sand and frolicking in the ocean. Do not forget to bring binoculars for those otter sightings as you bike through Monterey and Cannery Row.

Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii
When one thinks of Maui, biking is probably not on the top of the list. However, they would be missing one of the best bird’s eye view experience. Although Haleakala National Park eliminated commercial downhill bike tour operations a few years back, bikes are still allowed. Those wishing to bike downhill from the summit can rent bikes from Haleakala Bike and experience unparalleled views of the island itself as they bike down. Two tips for riders: Have someone drop you off at the summit so you will not have to ride back up to pickup your car and wear layers that you can peel off as you descend from 40 degree temps at the top to 80s at the bottom.

Napa Valley Silverado Trail, California

Although not along a coast or body of water, the Napa Valley Wine Country is a beautiful place for a scenic bike ride. Start in picturesque Yountville and take the less crowded Silverado Trail that parallels CSR 29. You will find yourself surrounded by the yellow mustard fields in the spring and vineyards that stretch for miles that for a moment, you might think you were in Tuscany. You can not go wrong with a bike ride here any time of year. After an invigorating ride, you can enjoy a leisurely picnic and a wine tasting or two at a choice of wineries, including Duckhorn and Rutherford Hill.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

South of the famous Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming’s other gem, Grand Teton NP offers hundreds of miles of hiking trails but biking paths are harder to find. Since accessibility is limited in areas, joining their “Scenic Guided Bike Ride” would be the best and safest option. The bike tour will have you riding through open prairies, under the peaks of the Teton Mountain Range, and through sagebrush flats where you may spot where the buffalos roam.

Sausalito/San Francisco, California
Marin County’s Sausalito is reminiscent of a coastal Mediterranean town with its colorful houses clinging to the hillsides and houseboats along the north end of town. Riding through downtown will offer you views of the SF skyline and the bridge in the distance and those who are on a mission to chase that mirage can ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and back or through San Francisco and return by ferry.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
New England’s Martha’s Vineyard south of Cape Cod is a popular spot for celebrities but knows how to retain its low key atmosphere. With over 44 miles of bike trails and roads available, there are options for beginners and advanced riders alike. The “down-Island” route is mainly flat, great for beginners and families while the “up-Island” route is for more experienced riders. Either way, you will get to experience the versatility of this place with its changing landscapes from the gorgeous waters and beaches to the meadows to the red Aquinnah Cliffs. Before long it will seem like everything is a vista point.

Lake Tahoe, California
Tahoe, known for its ski slopes and casinos may find that it may still be a hidden gem for mountain biking. Northstar Ski Resort opens up its lift access for downhill mountain biking adventures in the summer. Just purchase a lift pass and you can take the lift up and bike down. For those less adventurous, get a “pedaling only pass” to access the park and cross country ride for free from a choice of beginner to advance trails all with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and trees.

Coronado, California
San Diego County’s picturesque coastal community offers a village atmosphere with a downtown filled with shops, restaurant, and theaters. With many bike friendly areas to choose from, you are treated to ocean views, architecture, and history including the home of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. He was so in love with Coronado, many erroneously thought his vision for the Emerald City must have stemmed from the Hotel del Coronado. Erroneous or not, anyone can see how a place like Coronado can be so inspirational.

— The above was written by Joyce Zee, Seed contributor.

Rock Creek Park Trails, Washington DC (5-50 miles)
Suggested starts: N. Pitt St and Second St. in Alexandria or Dupont Circle in DC

There are so many great bike paths in the DC area, but this is one of my favorite rides, from Alexandria’s Old Town with its many federalist buildings, along the Potomac River, past Reagan National Airport and Arlington Cemetery, across the river at Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, and then into Rock Creek Park. There are a few tricky transitions, particularly around the Lincoln Memorial, and the path is very popular on weekends. Parts of the Rock Creek Park roads are bikes-only on weekends. You can take your bike on Metro for the return trip too.

Mississippi River trail to Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis Missouri (20 miles)
Suggested start: Commercial St. and Carr St., downtown St. Louis

St. Louis is my hometown now and this is a frequent route because it is relatively flat and has some great views both of the River and the industrial side of the city. You can see the Arch at many points along the river, as well as pass multiple levees and locks. It ends at a bridge that is closed to car traffic and figured prominently in the movie “Escape from New York”. There are links to other trails that cross the river and you can return on the Illinois side, for some variety. Few services along the way, bring lots of water.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City (5 miles)
Suggested start: Park Row and Centre Streets, New York City, across from City Hall

This is the one iconic ride in Manhattan that anyone can do, and while packed on the weekends (and you share the path with pedestrians), during the week it can be very enjoyable. It is a bit of a climb too. Finding the path on the Brooklyn side can be a challenge, and if you want more than the bridge ride you can travel across Chambers Street in Manhattan and connect with the path along the Hudson River along the West Side Highway.

Crater Lake Rim Road, Oregon (33 miles)
Suggested start: Rim Village parking lot

This road circles Crater Lake, a volcanic caldera that contains almost pure water of the most amazing color blue. The road is only open during July and August since at more than 7,000 feet it is snowed in the rest of the time. There is light auto traffic but the views are unparalleled of the lake and the surrounding mountains. If the 33-mile ride isn’t sufficient, you can hike down to the lake in one spot too. Only attempt this if you are in excellent shape and have ridden at altitude before.

St. Michaels to Easton, Maryland (36 miles)
Suggested Start: Courthouse on Washington St. in St. Michaels

This part of Maryland is completely flat and very picturesque. You will be near water and boats and biking on very rural (meaning little traffic but plenty of ruts) roads. There is even a short ferry to take across the Tred Avon River that runs frequently. There are numerous historic buildings that date from colonial times and dozens of B&Bs and restaurants to take advantage of when you are done biking. Some of the roads are in poor condition so better to use a heavier mountain or hybrid bike for this trip.

Shelter Island, New York (10-50 miles)
Suggested start: Greenport, NY ferry terminal/Long Island Railroad train station

Shelter Island is a small island that is nestled between the two forks of Long Island, and is a biking paradise. The roads are well maintained, there is hardly any traffic, and while it has hills, you are never far from water and great views of the Peconic Bay . You can do many trips in the area, including a circle one that takes in both ferries, but starting in Greenport is best for the variety of services, restaurants, and places to stay nearby. Plus, you can take your bike on the Long Island Rail Road to there too.

Saltspring Island, British Columbia, Canada (~30 miles)
Suggested start: Sydney, BC ferry terminal

This trip will take some planning but is worth it because you have virtually no traffic once the cars leave the ferry, have lots of interesting places to visit, and you’ll be biking through some of the most spectacular scenery in North America. There are dozens of small islands that are perfect for biking and BC Ferries and the ferry from Sydney is a good place to start. Saltspring Island is one of the bigger islands in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, and you can take other ferries to other islands as well as Vancouver Island to continue your exploration.

Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach, California (10-40 miles)

Suggested start: Dockweiler Beach State Park

The best beach bike path is very crowded in summer, but great the rest of the year. You visit the Venice Boardwalk, go around the Marina Del Rey’s many boat docks, underneath the flight path of LAX airport, and past many surfers to end up in trendy Manhattan Beach. Parking is difficult, and finding your way around the Marina can be a challenge.

Death Valley, California (10-100 miles)
Suggested start: Furnace Creek Visitor Center

There are no water views on this ride but you are traveling between two lovely mountain ranges with hardly any traffic. Skip the summer months, but this ride is great the rest of the year when temperatures are more moderate. You can go up to a century to Jubilee Pass (1300 foot) or more moderate distances. The road is a bit rough in spots and no shoulders.

Paradise, Mt. Rainer, Washington (40 miles)
Suggested Start: Nisqually Entrance of the park

This is another trip for very experienced cyclists. You are riding on narrow mountain roads with no shoulders and at altitude, and this route will rise more than 3,000 feet in the 20 miles it takes you to get to Paradise. The good news is that the return trip will take no time at all and it is a breeze. The best time to do this ride is in late August or September. Weekends can be crowded with cars. The views of the mountains are unparalleled.

— The above was written by David Strom, Seed contributor.

Need more inspiration to get outside? Keep reading!