Category Archives: Outdoors

Coastal Splendors: Galveston Versus Corpus Christi


Photo credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau


Your Pick: Galveston or Corpus Christi?


Photo credit: Visit Corpus Christi’s Facebook page

Along the Gulf Coast, the Texas cities of Galveston and Corpus Christi are blessed with natural wonders such as miles of beaches or a plethora of parks. And while man-made structures have come into the scene, they’re serving as an addition where visitors and locals can enjoy the sights and tastes of nature’s bounty.

Here’s where you can explore the coastal splendors of both Galveston and Corpus Christi.

Seawall Beach Expansion May 2017

Photo credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Galveston’s Beaches and Parks

With beaches, Galveston’s got quite the range, with them being doubling as state parks. On the island’s west end, Galveston Island State Park puts you right near the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay and also near wildlife. It’s coastal refuge for birds, so birdwatchers can put their binoculars to good use, and it also provides opportunities for taking in its waters and lands. Visitors can swim and fish in certain areas, and also hike or bike along four trails encompassing different habitats.

The 10-mile Seawall Urban Park provides a leisurely stretch along its boulevard, along with much beach, restaurants and tourist attractions including the amusement park, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Stewart Beach is quite family-friendly with amenities like restrooms and chair and umbrella rentals, while East Beach can draw a bit more of a livelier crowd.

Moody Garden Aquarium

Moody Gardens/Credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Galveston’s Waterside Spots

Galveston’s got some major waterside spots too. Its best known attraction of this kind is Moody Gardens, a part-amusement park and part-leisure/wellness stay with various restaurants and an on-site hotel. Its latest addition is the Aquarium Pyramid, which holds exhibits such as a Jellyfish Gallery and habitats encompassing locations ranging from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, to the South Pacific and North Pacific.

Based on Pelican Island, Seawolf Park has a fishing pier, picnic spots and a playground, but is most noted for being the home of a World War II submarine, USS Cavalla and a destroyer escort called USS Stewart.

Then there’s the Texas Seaport Museum, where visitors can climb aboard ELISSA, a preserved 19th-century tall ship and see an adjacent museum and theater. Plus, Galveston contains a concentration of Victorian homes within its downtown area; they date from the mid to late 1800s. Must-see houses include the Ashton Villa, an Italianate villa that was the first mansion built in Galveston, and the prominent Bishop’s Palace, which reminds you of a castle due to its stained-glass windows, bronze sculptures and exquisite fireplaces.


Corpus Christi’s Beaches

As for Corpus Christi, this city in the South Texas Gulf Coast is also plentiful in sand and surf. Let’s start with beaches. Along the Corpus Christi bay, McBee Beach gets all ages of beachgoers but is still picturesque with calm and clear waters.

Locals appear to flock to Whitecap Beach, noted for its white sands and one entrance to the Padre Island Seawall, a mile-long pathway serving bikes, joggers, and walkers. Then the Padre Island National Seashore is cited as the world’s longest, undeveloped barrier, with its residents being a multitude of bird species.

Named after the wild horses that once roamed here, Mustang Island is 18 miles of beautiful coastlines, beach area, and various fish and waterfowl. It’s also the neighbor of Mustang Island State Park.



USS Lexington / Photo Credit: Visit Corpus Christi’s Facebook page


Corpus Christi – Waterside Attractions

Located just across Corpus Christi’s Harbor Bridge, North Beach has two top city attractions: the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier turned museum. North Beach also has a good variety of places to eat and drink and bayfront views, with the cities of Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Portland offering waterside opportunities like, fishing, boating, sailing, and kite surfing.

Corpus Christi’s Northwest side offers some of the best bird watching opportunities for bird lovers such as Hazel Bazemore Park, where each spring and fall people gather to watch thousands of hawks fly overhead. Labonte Park, at the city’s entrance, offers great views of the Nueces River as well as fishing and kayaking opportunities.

On Corpus Christi’s Southside, the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center provides some urban serenity with floral exhibits and gardens and trails that could lead to birds and butterflies. And downtown’s Marina Arts District co-mingles boat slips, restaurants, and artisans together.

So, which Texas city would you like to see first: Galveston or Corpus Christi? To get your trip planning started, choose from these recommended lists of Galveston and Corpus Christi hotels.

This post is part of’s Underdog Cities program.

EscapeMaker Opens Farm Escape Pop Up Shop



Have you heard of the term “agritourism”? Find out more by heading to South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan. EscapeMaker, a company that offers ideas for local and regional trips, has opened a pop-up shop promoting agri-tourism (travel inspired by working farms or other agricultural sties) now until April 24 inside the seaport’s historic Fulton Stall Market on 207A Front Street.

Presented by Amtrak, the EscapeMaker Pop Up Shop will be open to the public Thursdays and Fridays, from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors will find information for planning vacays that will get them out into countryside areas. Details will include ideas for farm escapes, wine and craft beer trails, apple picking locations, and local getaway packages.

Along with the shop, EscapeMaker will hold three Sunday tastings of various food and wine samples inside the market and onto Front Street. They are free and run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The schedule includes:

April 10th – Local Craft Beer, Cider & More
April 17th – Local Wine, Cheese & More
April 24th – Local Farms & Family Getaways

For more info, visit this link.

Visiting Kennebunk/Kennebunkport, Maine

photo 2(90)Recently, a work assignment brought me up to southern Maine, specifically to Kennebunk and its neighbor, Kennebunkport. Typically, Maine gets many visitors during the summer months, but I discovered that these two towns offer day-to-day attractions to see, do, and dine at year-round. In fact, Kennebunkport puts on a holiday celebration called Christmas Prelude every December.

Though some shops and restaurants may change their hours (or shut down completely) during the colder seasons, your chances of exploring much of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are pretty good.

Here are my recommendations:

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Get a culinary lesson through Table Maine. Started by the Kennebunkport Resort Collection in February 2015, Table Maine is a weekend culinary program of classes led by local chefs and offering kitchen techniques on food/beverage subjects such as mixology or preparing meat or seafood dishes. Coursework extends to viewing demonstrations, hands-on lessons, and even local restaurants putting on “pop up” dinners. Depending on the subjects, pricing for classes and events usually start at $35 and go as high as $105.


Go bike riding. By the water, through town, or even on a nature trail, Kennebunkport has places to trek to on your bike. One recommended route is on the scenic Ocean Avenue. This road leads on a route with views of the sea, beaches, restaurants, and the presidential Bush family’s compound at Walker’s Point (but don’t go too far there). Mountain bikers can try  the trails at the Edwin L. Smith Preserve of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, which has acquired and preserved various natural areas. If you don’t have — or didn’t bring — a bike, consider renting a set of wheels from Kennebunkport Bicycle.


Find nature at protected reserves. Just over a 10-minute ride from Kennebunkport, the town of Wells has two nature reserves that can be seen on foot. I spent some time at The Wells Reserve at Laudholm, which has a network of trails that you can walk along and notice the different habitats in this protected coastal ecosystem. The trails stay open year-round, range from easy to moderate, and are mainly self-guided. An admission fee is charged from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day. Not far from Wells Reserve, consider stopping by the Rachel Carlson Wildlife Refuge. This reserve has designated visitor use areas that enable the public to do activities such as kayaking or viewing wildlife.


Do some antiquing along Route 1. Known as the Maine Antique Trail, this road doubles as a map for 42 miles of over 50 antique stores. Kennebunk contains a few, including Armada Antiques & Collectibles. The shelves and display cases inside this two-level building must get a lot of looks. Merchandise from dinnerware, to books and periodicals, to sports memorabilia, to even relics from another era can be browsed through.

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Stop at the Wedding Cake House. Said to be the most photographed house in Maine, this Gothic style home off of Route 35 in Kennebunk is literally eye candy. Supposedly, this bright yellow house with white trim was built by a sea captain as a wedding gift for his bride. Today this place is privately owned, but most people might stop to get a glimpse or photo.


Learn about Kennebunk’s history at the Brick Store Museum. Although this museum was closed on the days that I was town, I think it’s worth a visit. Said to be one of the few U.S. museums to open during the Great Depression, this venue serves as part arts institution, part historic site, and part archives center. Its three buildings date back to the 1800s, but inside, rotating exhibitions highlight the town’s overall legacy through its people and objects.

Where to Eat and Drink


Get local and seasonal flavor at Salt & Honey. In Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, this restaurant has been dishing out comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner since opening in May 2014. Its changing menu offer staple dishes and New England favorites, particularly with ingredients like Maine blueberries and lobster. Consider the fish and chips combo with a finely breaded North Atlantic haddock.

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Order breakfast at Boulangerie. In Kennebunk, this village bakery produces artisanal breads, croissants, baguettes, focaccia, sticky buns, meat pies, and other flour-based delights. The location is very rustic – a barn dating back to the 1900s – with indoor and outdoor seating for plopping down and savoring a breakfast treat or afternoon snack. Get  their chicken meat pie and monkey bread!

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Grab some lunch at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill. With one location in Kennebunk’s historic Lafayette Center, this family-friendly place has good pub fare. The venue serves up American food for patrons of all ages – burgers, salads, apps, and wings plus gluten-free options – and the scene is pretty casual.

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Do dinner at The Ramp Bar & Grill. Under Pier 77, in Kennebunkport’s Porpoise Harbor, the tiny yet lively waterside venue has both a local and tourist following. What you’ll first notice are the football helmets hanging above the bar, but the lunch and dinner servings run the gamut from New England seafood favorites, finger foods, to more fork-required dishes like traditional penne Bolognese and a Greek meze.

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Shop at H.B. Provisions. At this general store and deli, also in Kennebunk, pick up a souvenir or order a sandwich, specialty wrap, burger, or panini. There’s table space for sitting down and just watching the shop work, and you can also get some groceries while you’re at it. While eating, take a good look at the walls and see photos of some famous shoppers.


Tour the Shipyard Brewing Company at Federal Jack’s. At this eatery in Kennebunkport Harbor, Shipyard first brewed its craft beer in 1992. Although its main plant is now in Portland, visitors can still see and learn more about Shipyard on tours at its location in the same building as Federal Jack’s. A seven-barrel system uses state of the art technology to produce house and seasonal ales, plus stouts and IPAs, and keeps its upstairs pub neighbor supplied with continuous suds.

Editor’s Note: My visit and itinerary was scheduled through the Chamber of Commerce for Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. However, the list is all based on my suggestions and experiences.


Get Adventurous in Urban NYC with OutdoorFest

If the thought of exploring the great outdoors in New York City involves a lot of head shaking, Sarah Knapp will be quick to change your mind. She’s the organizer of OutdoorFest, a 10-day outdoor/adventure festival (May 30-June 8) happening across all five boroughs.

offmetrobanner4Using local resources to offering everything from hiking excursions and yoga classes, to sailing and surfing lessons, and even community service projects, OutdoorFest’s schedule of curated events cater to different activity levels and personal interests. Knapp recently shared with me what went into putting on this event and what she hopes New Yorkers get out of it.

Juhu and Ruth Surfing LH-4

OutdoorFest Founder Sarah Knapp -Credit: Larson Harley

Tell me how and why OutdoorFest got started.

OutdoorFest began in October 2013 when I left my job at an outdoor guiding company. I knew that the idea of an outdoor festival within a city was something that had enormous potential and was something that not only I needed, but many other New Yorkers I had met along the way as well.

How will this event change perceptions about having to leave NYC to enjoy the great outdoors?

One of our goals at OutdoorFest is to change the way we view our lives as city dwellers. Yes, part of New York’s identity is the “concrete jungle” but that doesn’t mean we can’t find hidden gems, that we can’t continue to pursue our passions in an urban environment, and that we can’t connect with people who do the same.

Yoga Beach by Tys

Where there any places within NYC that you were surprised to learn about? 

I always knew about surfing in the Rockaways but I never knew about the vibrant surf community out there. It’s really an incredible, supportive network for local outdoor athletes.

Are these various activities suitable for different levels?

They are definitely for different levels – which is actually one of my favorite parts of the outdoor community. OutdoorFest will be accessible to die hard enthusiasts as well as newbies looking to dip their toes in the water for the first time.

CentralPark by Ben T.
Offhand, I wouldn’t think of NYC having an outdoor community. What is this community like? And, of course, what would they get from participating in OutdoorFest?

New York’s outdoor community is definitely still growing – and I hope that OutdoorFest can provide support as well as inspiration for that year round. The community now is very much centered around niche sports – climbing, caving, running, surfing and on. I think the assumptions are that outdoor enthusiasts don’t live here when in fact they very much do. I think the contrasts that you find in New York’s community are fascinating: doctors, artists, and attorneys who also double as cyclists, paddlers and more.

OutdoorFest provides the structure to connect people to the local resources – that means both organizations and people. For both amateur and more experienced outdoor athletes this means new people to explore with, new places to go, and more organizations that support/share their passions.

Registration for OutdoorFest events is now under way. See a full schedule and sign up at Spaces can fill up quickly.