Top 10 Staff Favorites

Here's the scoop on our personal travel secrets.

Top 10 Staff Tips

France Ruffenach

1. Hog Island Oyster Company, Tomales Bay, California
Once a year, I gather friends, bottles of Grüner Veltliner, and an over-stuffed picnic basket, and make the trek to Hog Island's old general store-turned-oyster shack. We order trays of Kumamotos, Sweetwaters, and French Hogs and head to a picnic table. As the sun dips beyond the shimmering bay, we shuck and eat, Hog Wash (the house mignonette sauce) running down our arms. Reservations recommended for weekend picnics; 415/663-9218 or hogislandoysters.com. ―Features Writer Susan C. Kim

2. Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
The joy of my first visit to this 28-mile-long strand between the Pacific Ocean and Willapa Bay surprised me like the thrill of a teenage kiss. Infatuation became love for the scenery (dunes, forests, lighthouses); the creativity of the local people (entrepreneurs, writers, artists); the history (Lewis and Clark lore galore); and the cuisine (oysters, salmon, cranberries). The peninsula's seven diverse towns still cater to my whims; 800/451-2542 or funbeach.com. ―Senior Editor Susan Haynes

3. Cliff Walk Newport, Rhode Island
Give me a few hours and I'll give you one of the greatest excursions in America. The 3½-mile-long Cliff Walk meanders past some of the most astounding homes ever built on this side of the Atlantic―including The Breakers, a 70-room palace constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt II as a summer "cottage." Just when you think you've passed the most remarkable garden or the most incredible Chinese tea house, you'll find another surprise; 800/326-6030 or cliffwalk.com. ―Executive Editor James H. Schwartz

4. Beach massage, Montpelier Plantation Inn, Nevis, West Indies
To be truthful, I've had only one seaside massage, but I can't imagine anything topping that experience at Montpelier Plantation Inn, a 17-room Relais & Châteaux property. Under a shade tree on the inn's private beach―isolated enough to ensure privacy―a masseuse set up her table and I slipped under a crisp, white sheet. As she worked the knots from my back, her hands seemed to keep time with the waves. While this might have been my first beach massage, it certainly won't be my last; 869/469-3462 or montpeliernevis.com. ―Copy Chief Susan Cullen Anderson

5. Village Cheese Shanty, Leland, Michigan
More than 75 imported and domestic cheeses tempt taste buds at the Village Cheese Shanty, which carries everything from aged Cheddar to locally made raclette. Enjoy your favorite (or daring) find between slices of pretzel bread while dipping your toes in Lake Michigan and sipping regional wine. Open May to October; 231/256-9141 or leelanau.com/cheese. ―Editorial Assistant Jacquelyne Froeber

6. Captiva Island, Florida
Stow the car keys and grab your flip-flops. Crushed shell paths and sand-speckled walkways lead to boutique shops, art galleries, and delicious eateries―all accessible by foot on this 4.5-mile island. Relax under a pink-and-gold-splashed sunset at The Green Flash restaurant (239/472-3337), where if you're lucky, the elusive "green flash" may appear over a piña colada topped with melon liqueur cocktail created in honor of the (extended) happy hour event; Royal Shell Vacations, 800/656-9111 or royalshell.com. ―Jacquelyne Froeber

 

7. Marsh cruise, Edisto Island, South Carolina
While visiting Edisto Island, a contact offered a sunset sail through the tidal marshes surrounding the island. Who could resist? A gentle breeze nudged the boat through channels enveloped by lush green grass. Deep within the slender reeds, birds cooed, insects chirped, and frogs rounded out the chorus. A great egret skimmed the water for a fresh catch and a curious dolphin kept us company. A golden-red sun sliding into emerald grass made this experience magical; 843/869-3867 or edistochamber.com. ―Vicki J. Weathers

8. Georgia Sea Grill, St. Simons Island, Georgia
I've never been fond of seafood. It took working for a magazine about the coast to expand my palate. While visiting St. Simons Island, I sampled jumbo lump crab cakes with Cajun rémoulade and Parmesan-crusted grouper at the Georgia Sea Grill. It was quite an introduction. Chef/owners Alan and Kimberly Worthley prepare every dish to order with the freshest seafood possible. Locals rave about the crispy fried calamari. And I can't wait for my next culinary adventure; 912/638-1197 or georgiaseagrill.com. ―Craig Hyde

9. Lakeside Oasis, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago's lakefront overflows with great parks and restaurants, but after a day of museum-hopping and Magnificent-Mile shopping, I retreat to the lawn near The Field Museum and John G. Shedd Aquarium. I sit at the top of a hill overlooking docks and watch the sailboats pass by, but it's also perfect for a picnic or game of catch. If you want to give my spot a try, visit from late spring to early fall―or bring a very heavy coat; 877/244-2246 or choosechicago.com. ―Abigail B. Millwood

10. Café Du Monde, New Orleans, Louisiana
I love the beignets―pronounced ben-YAYS; little pillows of dough drenched in powdered sugar―at this famed French Quarter coffee stand. But I hate the indifferent-to-awful table service. So I order at the takeout window. Then I find a bench along the Mississippi River, just a few steps away. I watch the barges and oceangoing freighters or just gaze at the river hypnotically sliding by, happily dribbling sugar all over my shirt; 504/525-4544 or cafedumonde.com. ―Steve Millburg

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