Monthly Archives: April 2010

*Event* – Littleton Museum – Littleton, Colorado

From Sheep to Shawl

Littleton Museum – April 17, 2010

Littleton Museum Sheep Closeup Observe the process from shearing the sheep to working the wool and making the shawl during the springtime event at the Littleton Museum on Saturday, April 17th. Free special program events are scheduled from 10am-3pm around the 1860s Farm at the museum.

The museum complex includes two living history farms depicting earlier times in the Littleton area – one in the 1860s and one in the 1890s. Animals breeds at the farms are  authentic to those early settlers would have raised on local farms. Wool from the Churro sheep is especially popular with weavers. Demonstrations on Saturday will include shearing, washing, carding, spinning and weaving.Littleton Museum Sheep

Also currently on exhibit at the museum is a collection of 19th century Rio Grande weavings on loan from the Albuquerque Museum. “Wonders of the Weavers, Marvelas de los tejedores,” runs through June 27, 2010.

When You Go: Littleton Museum, 6028 S. Gallup Street, Littleton, CO is open Tuesday – Friday 8am-5pm, Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 1-5pm. Closed Mondays and Holidays. FREE.



Related Post 

A Walk Through Littleton History 

2010 Fiesta San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Parties with a Purpose

San Antonio - Vendor With tax season at a close San Antonio prepares for the biggest party of the year. Truly a citywide celebration, Fiesta San Antonio begins today. More than a hundred scheduled events continue through April 25, 2010. The tradition reaches back 119 years when citizens decided to honor the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto.

Horse-drawn carriages, bicycles decorated with fresh flowers and floats carrying children dressed as flowers comprised the first parade. At the 1891 parade half the participants went one direction, the other half headed the opposite way pelting each other with blossoms as they passed – thus the name, the Battle of Flowers Parade. The 2010 version steps off down Broadway on Friday, April 23.

San Antonio - River Parade Dancer Additional parades have been added over the years including the popular Texas Cavaliers River Parade and Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade. The Fiesta Military Parade takes place on the parade grounds at Lackland Air Force Base April 21st. The King William Historic District sponsors a fair and parade; even canines get in the act with an official Fiesta Pooch Parade.

Every single official 2010 Fiesta event is sponsored by a local nonprofit group or military organization. Arts, performances, feasts, sports, music and balls attract more than 3 millSan Antonio - Alamo with Flowersion attendees during the eleven days.

Many Fiesta events honor Texas’ rich history and heritage. One of the most solemn is the Pilgrimage to the Alamo (April 19. 2010). In tribute to the Alamo heroes a procession of historic, civic, patriotic, military and school groups walk in silence from the Municipal Auditorium to the Alamo. As each group places a floral wreath on the greensward the names of the Alamo defenders resound from inside the famed walls.

The Alamo: These Sacred Walls (April 21, 2010),  presented by a living historian dressed in period attire, tells the story of historical events leading up to the Alamo siege, the siege itself and its aftermath.

San Antono - Rodeo Queen Much more festive is A Day in Old Mexico & Charreada (April 18 and 25, 2010). This event carries on the tradition of Charreria which originated in 19th century Mexico as a way for the gentry to prepare horses and riders for war. Over time Charreria evolved into an equestrian competition featuring horse reining, bull riding and roping skills.

Today’s charros (traditional horsemen or cowboys) wear the traditional clothes and use horse equipment as required by the Federation of Charros in Mexico.  Young women demonstrate their riding skills in the colorful Escaramuza; six or twelve member teams execute precision movements while riding sidesaddle and wearing ranchera dresses. In addition to the Charreada there’s plenty of mariachi music, Mexican ballet folklorico, food and drink.San Antonio - Rodeo


San Antonio - Dancer










A Night In Old San Antonio – NIOSA – attracts a huge gathering  to La Villita Historic District four nights during Fiesta (April 20-23, 20San Antonio - NIOSA10). Friends and strangers meet and feast in the 18th-century Spanish neighborhood in the heart of downtown San Antonio. More than 250 food booths arranged in 15 ethnic areas serve  up everything from Armadillo eggs (jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheddar cheese and baked in a biscuit-batter) to ZiegenBock beer.

Entertainers on a dozen stages provide music for noshing and partying – polka at Sauerkraut Bend, country & western at Frontier Town, The Sabas Trio at Villa Espana.

When we visited San Antonio during Fiesta San Antonio, we loved all the events we could cram into four days, from morning to late night. I can’t quite imagine keeping up the pace for all 11 days – but, it might be fun to try. If you’ve ever enjoyed time in San Antonio or haven’t yet visited this unique city, I suggest putting a late April visit on your destination list. Whether it’s the Sticky Wicket Croquet Tournament, Pinatas in the Barrio or Miss Margaret’s Victorian House Tour there’s a Fiesta event to match your interest. And remember, all the proceeds support one of the sponsoring non-profit organizations – join in as San Antonio parties with a purpose.

San Antonio - Male Riders San Antonio - Restaurant


San Antonio - Art Fair

San Antonio - River Parade

San Antonio Highlight

Although not one of the official Fiesta events one of my favorite San Antonio experiences is the Sunday Mariachi Mass at Mission San Jose, one of the churches comprising San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

San Antonio - Mission

San Antonio - Mariachi Band

The church at Mission San Jose is an active parish with a full mass schedule. The Sunday12:30pm mass is a bilingual/mariachi worship attended by parishioners and tourists. The welcome is warm but it’s advisable to arrive early since the church frequently fills to capacity. Please dress and behave appropriately.

Spring Barrel Tasting – Grand Junction, Colorado

Barrel Into Spring

Grand Valley Winery Association

 Mt. Garfield and Vineyard - A2010

Barrels are tapped and last fall’s harvest sipped and swirled during the annual “Barrel Into Spring” weekends at wineries around Grand Junction, Colorado. Eight members of the Grand Valley Winery Association host visitors two weekends each spring, April 24-25 and May 15-16 in 2010. Each winery pours current releases as well as the first tastings of the 2009 vintages – a sneak-peak into their potential.

Sampling at Plum Creek Tickets for each weekend – good for Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend – are limited so this is not an overly crowded shoulder to shoulder experience. A commemorative wine glass, passport and map awaits ticket holders at their assigned first winery. After that everyone is on own. You’ll welcome to spend as much or as little time at each venue as you choose. It would be a real rush but I’ve met people who have visited all eight in one day. Cyclists set a more leisurely pace pedaling along the rural roads between wineries.

Participating Wineries:

Food and Wine at GR Food, the perfect wine companion is not overlooked during the tastings. Each winery features dishes to showcase their wines. At one it may be an Italian deli-like spread, at another a German theme built around their Gewurztraminer. From cheese to chocolate tasters learn great pairing tips. You may even go home with a couple of new recipes.

At Carlson Vineyards, owner/winemaker Parker Carlson encourages everyone to get a plate of food before coming to the tasting table. As the different wines are poured he suggests trying it with the lamb, the duck, etc. Italian-born chef Brunella  Gualerzi of il Bistro Italiano in downtown Grand Junction works with Parker planning and preparing these perfect pairings. At the first barrel tasting Carlson Vineyards Sign several years ago a jovial Gualerzi shared a story as she offered a plate of grape kabobs drizzled with caramelized sugar. “When I was growing up Italy we always had a two week vacation at the beach. Ever morning at eleven a vendor carrying a wicker basket would come down the beach calling, ‘Cry kids, cry kids that your mommy will buy you a kabob’. I hadn’t thought about them for years but decided to make them for today.”

Depending on your interest the weekend offers a great opportunity to increase one’s wine knowledge. A presentation or tour is offered at eacBennett Price at DeBequeh location. Bennett Price of DeBeque Canyon Winery may share his years of experience demonstrating the wine-making process with carboys, tubing and airlocks. At Canyon Wind Cellars you can tour Colorado’s only underground wine cellars. Experience the difference  that varietal blending makes, or sample the flavors imparted by oak barrels from America verses France. Leave with a greater understanding of terroir and viniculture.

Spring barrel tasting weekends seem well designed for both the casual sipper and the connoisseur stocking their private collection. The participating wineries offer a 15% discount on wines purchased by event ticket holders. You’ll see those intently taking notes of each tasting while others are simply enjoying a casual weekend getaway.

Grand Junction and the Grand Valley region of Western Colorado offer numerous outstanding options for getaways. From the sandstone formations of Colorado National Monument to the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River to the serenity of fly fishing on Grand Mesa, fruits direct from the orchard or fine dining you’ll want to return again and again.

Vine Weather Vane When You Go: Barrel Into Spring tickets for the May weekend are $60 if purchased before April 19th. Tickets for the April weekend are $65. The event usually sells out, don’t go without making reservations.  Lodging, dining and activity information available at the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau. The participating wineries all have tasting rooms regularly open to the public. Stop by the Grand Junction VCB at 740 Horizon Drive to pick up a free map to Colorado’s Wine Country and tour any time of year.

Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma’s Museum District

Three in One Triangle

Museum of Glass The east end of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass deposits us on the rooftop plaza of the Museum of Glass. Several temporary outdoor exhibits join the permanent Water Forest by Howard Ben Tré along the terraces and reflecting pools. On clear days – yes, you can experience a bright, blue sunny day in Tacoma – Mt. Rainier rises over the city in glaciated splendor.

Clad in stainless steel, a distinctive 90-foot tilted cone symbolizes the city’s transformation from industrial to cultural center. Architects took inspiration from the wood burners found at sawmills when the regional economy prospered from lumbering. A grand staircase wraps down the cone to the museum entrance.

The cone houses the core of the museum’s commitment to glass – The Hot Shop Amphitheater. Tiered seating accommodates 200 visitors while teams of artists experiment, demonstrate and create with molten glass in this arena for art. Cameras transmit live video to large screens providing up-close viewing of the process while a narrator explains terminology, materials and techniques, and answers questions from the entranced audiencHot Shop Audiencee. Not in Tacoma? Watch the Hot Shop in operation live via web streaming.

When entering the working studio we note the heat and roar of gas furnaces where batch glass is melted to temperatures over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A team member gathers molten glass on the end of a blowpipe. With the first breath of air we see the magical beginnings of an art form dating from the time of Christ. As the objects are shaped and blown they require reheating in the glory hole to keep the piece malleable. Other team members prepare colors and additional molten materials. The artist keeps the pipe in perpetual Artist in Hot Shopturns using and resisting the powers of gravity and centrifugal force.

The narrator tells us that the artists we’re seeing come from Rhode Island, the Midwest and California, each with 8-10 years of experience. Some observers stay for 15 minutes while others spend hours watching the intricate choreography and teamwork as a fine glass sculpture evolves. Differing perspectives and viewing angles intrigue as we circle the Hot Shop on the elevated walkway – stopping often to observe the action below.

The museum dedicates exhibition space to contemporary art in all medias. In the Education Studio guest artists lead visitors in interactive, experience-based learning activities. Daily docent-led tours focus on either the current gallery exhibit or the architectural structure and outdoor installations.

We pause our museum tour for a restful lunch in Gallucci’s Glass Café overlooking the water. Before leaving we make sure to browse the Museum Store where we find glass art made in the Hot Shop as well as pieces from an array of contemporary artists, a broad selection of books, jewelry and gift items.

Tacoma Union Station The west end of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass leads to additional cultural attractions and city center. The Washington State History Museum relates man’s encounters and influences through multi-media presentations. No dusty shelves of relics here. From early Native Americans and sea explorers to the aviation industry the story of the Pacific Northwest unfolds. We return twice during our stay to this innovative facility to tour the quality permanent and temporary exhibits.

The Tacoma Art Museum completes the museum triangle. Collections include European Impressionism, Japanese woodblock prints, American graphic art and Northwest Art. Not surprisingly, the museum holds a large public collection of Chihuly Glass representing major series of his works from 1977 to present.

Union Station Window An added bonus to the museum triangle is the former Union Station now serving as a Federal Courthouse. The restored Romanesque building features a six-story rotunda – a perfect gallery for Chihuly artwork. A 1,000-piece chandelier hangs under the central dome and a massive arched window is adorned with 27 monumental sized glass creations Chihuly named the Monarch Window.

I used to considered Tacoma the half-sister to Seattle but after spending several days and exploring the museum triangle we found her a worthy sibling rival.

When You Go: The Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitor Bureau is a helpful resource in planning your Tacoma and surrounding Pierce County visit.

Related Blog – Bridging Tacoma in Glass

Governor’s Residence at the Boettcher Mansion – Denver, Colorado



Govenor's Mansion Front Delve into Colorado’s history and culture at the Monday at the Mansion series presented by the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund. When the fund was launched in July 2008 First Lady Jeannie Ritter said, “This is the 100th anniversary of the Residence and we want to protect it for the next 100 years so future generations of Coloradans also can enjoy it. This fund will build on the tremendous work of my predecessor, Frances Owens, when it comes to opening up the Residence to the public.”

Monday at the Mansion 2010 Schedule

  • April 12 – Art and Jazz – Colorado Style! – Champagne reception, the Jazz Connection and paintings from the First Lady’s Plein Air Art Show and Auction.

  • May 10 – Rekha Ohal Rekha’s popular whimsical music played on the 1914 Steinway piano in the Mansion’s Drawing Room and reception in the Palm Room.

  • October 11 – In the Buff – The University of Colorado’s all male a cappella choir shares harmony and their unique style; plus, the Autumn Garden Reception.

  • November 8 – Program to be announced.

  • December 13 – Rocky Mountain RingersRing in the season at the Mansion beautifully decorated for the season, reception with holiday treats and music by the Rocky Mountain Ringers.

Admission is $20 prior to the event and $25 at the door. Registration is required; or by phone at 303-837-8350, option 4.

Find It!

Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion
Governor’s Residence at the Boettcher Mansion

Oklahoma City Museum of Art – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

All That Glass – Chihuly Glass, That Is

OKCMA - Entrance Chandilier Circling the block in search of a parking space we’re already in awe of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Chihuly Glass collection. A 55-foot tall glass tower comprised of 2100 separate hand blown glass pieces dominates the atrium entrance. The Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower stands three stories tall on a black granite reflecting pool. This remarkable piece is only the beginning of one of the most comprehensive collections of Dale Chihuly glass in the world.OKCMA  - Entrance Chandilier Closeup

Whether trying to take in the entire tower or studying the multitude of individual pieces twisting and turning in one small segment we’re struck by the artistry and complexity of the structure. As Chihuly admirers we’ve seen many installations of his works in various settings around the country, this is truly an outstanding (and upstanding) original.

Before researching this trip we didn’t know that the Oklahoma City Museum of Art had such a large collection of Chihuly glass – Seaform Bowls - B one of their permanent exhibits. The first time I saw a Chihuly exhibition (in West Palm Beach) I fell in love with the Seaforms; they’re the first pieces I see at the OCMA. More subtle in color than many of the works, the form and fluid patterns in the Seaform pieces stand out – especially in the dark display cases. I can imagine these creations floating in the depths of the sea.

Chihuly is an artist always moving into new arenas, challenging the limits and gaining inspiration from a broad spectrum. The museum showcases works throughout his career and from many of his series – Ikebana, Chihuly - Macchia Forest and Reflections-n Putti, baskets, spears and Jerusalem Cylinders. The Macchia Forest pieces deserve close attention. Macchia is Italian for spotted. Not only are these giant freeform bowls spotted with intense color, the exterior and interior colors are different. A layer of white opaque glass separates the two sides. As light shines through the pieces the wall shadows fascinate as much as the glass. When I think of the beginning glob of molten glass and see the final size and complexity of construction I can’t help but wonder, “How do they do that?”

We stop to watch a continuously running video compiled from a number of filmings of the Chihuly crew in action. Watching the teamwork required gives new appreciation. It’s also fascinating to see the variety of installations he’s done around the world and how he ties them into the environment and culture.

Chihuly - Ceiling and Hall-n

Ceilings are a favorite Chihuly display technique; many admirers have stood in awe of the Bellagio ceiling in Las Vegas. It’s so large and with so many pieces I find it almost impossible to take in. At OCMA the ceiling combines hundreds of pieces from the Persian and Seaform series. I absolutely couldn’t resist the urge to lay down on the floor to look straight up into the layers of color and shapes. I could study this for hours. As one moves under the ceiling the lighting and shading makes each view unique. Again, the wall shadows and reflections are worthy of notice.

For more ceiling photos click below.

The Chihuly Waterford Crystal Chandelier in the lobby of the Museum’s Noble Theater shouldn’t be missed. In 1996 Dale Chihuly spent time at the Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland. Working with the glassblowers and Chihuly - Waterford Chandelier-n etchers there they created two crystal chandeliers. One was hung over a canal as part of the Chihuly Over Venice installation. The other came to Oklahoma City for the Museum of Arts Dale Chihuly: The Inaugural Exhibition and later was purchased by the Museum. His chandeliers have never been among my favorites, some strike me as too over the top. However, the over 200 lead crystal pieces come together in an exquisite work of creative art.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art and all that glass proved to be an outstanding highlight of our Oklahoma art tour.

When You Go: The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is open daily except Mondays and major holidays.

Chihuly - Boat with Orbs-n

Enjoy additional Chihuly Glass at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Chihuly Bridge of Glass – Tacoma, Washington

Bridging Tacoma in Glass

Ceiling Panel DayA - Blog Light streams through thousands of handcrafted glass objects resembling purple sea urchins, red reeds, and ruffled clamshells. We stand beneath a 50-foot ceiling along a portion of the pedestrian Chihuly Bridge of Glass which spans Interstate 705 in Tacoma, Washington. The longer we observe the art forms inspired by the sea the more details surface to our appreciative eyes.

The unique bridge and public art showcase features the creations of world-renown glass artist Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma native son. More than 200 museums hold collections of Chihuly pieces. Here, three distinctive installations reflect the creative leaps Chihuly hasBridge at DuskA - Blog introduced to glass art and sculpture.

Dedicated in July, 2002, the 500-foot-long bridge links downtown Tacoma with the Thea Foss Waterway and the Museum of Glass. Below the structure, railroad tracks and the interstate spur run into the city.

Those walking across the span encounter the glass ceiling of the Seaform Pavilion, two ice blue CryCeiling Panel at NightA - Blogstal Towers jutting skyward, and the Venetian Wall displaying 109 Chihuly sculptures. With traffic zipping underfoot visitors pause to view and photograph.  Someone points to a buttery yellow form almost three-feet in diameter and comments on the undulating rim. Soon, complete strangers join in a show-and-tell of favorite colors, shapes and overlays.

Ceiling at NightA - Blog


          Ardent admirers assume a prone position on the walkway, gazing upward. The flow of glass and color seems to pulsate – reminiscent of a gentle tide on a sandy beach. A slightly different angle produces an iridescence similar to an abalone’s inner shell. The ceiling incorporates 2,364 individual glass pieces.

Each of the glacial blue Crystal Towers standing 40 feet above the bridge deck are made of 63 large hollow Polyvitro crystals, not glass. Chihuly comments, “As with glass, it is really light that makes the Polyvitro crystals come alive."

The 80-foot long Venetian Wall showcases a colorful array of creations from three Chihuly series;

  • Venetians – inspired by Venetian Art Deco glass 
  • Ikebana – in the spirit of traditional Japanese floral arrangements
  • Putti – popular 16th & 17th century European art figures representing Cupid – the Roman god of love. Chihuly places his unique Putti atop classical vases.

Wall of Works DayA - Blog Wall of Works NightA - Blog

As fascinating as the pieces are in natural daylight they become ever more dramatic under fiber-optic illumination at night. After dark illuminated colors intensify in contrast to night skies and pieces glow from reflecting headlights. Day or night strolling the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is the most artful way you’ve crossed an Interstate highway.

When You Go: The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is open 24 hours a day. A spectacular free display of original art in public places.

Chihuly Bridge of Glass - Tacoma, Washington
Chihuly Bridge of Glass – Tacoma, Washington

Blue Ice DayA - Blog










Related Post – Tacoma’s Museum District

Lee Richardson Zoo – Garden City, Kansas

Hidden Gem in Garden City

Garden City Zoo - Entrance When we found ourselves spending the night in Garden City, Kansas I nosed through the local information to get a feel for the community. The first fact that jumped out at me was that Garden City, population around 28,500, had a zoo. I was intrigued. How large a zoo? What kinds of animals? How did this city in southwestern Kansas come to have a zoo?

Two weeks later we once again spent the night in Garden City on our return trip from Oklahoma. Before I left town I had to see the Lee Richardson Zoo for myself . After a early morning drive through I was even more impressed and intrigued. The story got more interesting with a bit of research.

Of the seven Kansas zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Lee Richardson is the oldest; founded in 1927 as a joint effort between the city and the local chapter of Izaak Walton League. The original intent was to house species from the local area. Committee members were charged with finding animals to donate. The first to arrive were two skunks brought in by Lee Richardson.

Today the zoo is home to over 300 animals representing over 110 species from North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. Located in Finnup Park south of downtown, the zoo covers more than 50 acres which one can circle on a drive through or walk the many intertwining paths. Walk through admission is always free as is drive through before 10am. After 10am the fee is $3 for one zoo trip.

Garden City Zoo - Camel Because we wanted to get back to Denver before an impending snowstorm hit we didn’t have time to do the zoo justice. As we made our morning visit the only other people around were employees and construction crews working on new facilities. It would have been great to leisurely stroll the pathways. Instead, from the car we noted the majestic African Lion watching as we passed by. Jaguar, bison, red kangaroos, antelopes from Asia, Africa and North America, one and two hump camels (Dromedaries from North Africa, Bactrian from the Gobi Desert)  – even on a short visit we could see the wide range of the animal world represented.Garden City Zoo - Two-Hump Camel

Habitats looked well cared for, large trees provide summer shade and signage was attractive and informative. For instance, I learned that the Bactrian camels – the two hump variety – can withstand temperatures from –20 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The humps store not water as commonly assumed by are fat reserves. To learn even more visitors can use the cell phone audio tour feature. At each location the blue cell phone emblem appears just dial up the number on the sign. The service is free. Want to try it from home? Dial 620-805-3002 and enter any number between 1-42 when prompted.

Garden City Zoo - Sign Nearly a quarter of a million people visit the Lee Richardson Zoo each year. Obviously I was the one in the dark; now, I know we have a definite reason to return.

When You Go: Visit the Lee Richardson Zoo – labeled the Oasis of the Plains – 7 days a week. The Zoo is open from 8am-6:30pm from April 1-Labor Day and from 8am-4:30pm from the day after Labor day to March 31.

Lee Richardson Zoo - Finnup Park, Garden City, Kansas
Lee Richardson Zoo – Finnup Park, Garden City, Kansas

When in Garden City:

We recommend the Holiday Inn Express for overnight lodging. Nothing extra fancy but everything worked plus the room and public areas were well maintained. Linens, bath amenities and complementary breakfast met or exceeded the company’s standard. Appreciated the warm cookies in the evening and the bowl of shiny crisp apples for road food.

Looking for local dining instead of the nationwide chains we were directed to Samy’s Spirits/Steakhouse in the Clarion Hotel. Since this is BEEF country we decided to go with the Monday night special – prime rib dinner for two. This included the soup and salad bar (Bob says the vegetable beef soup was the best part of the meal), choice of potato, veggie (asparagus that evening), warm bread and 10 ounce cut of prime rub per person. Bob requested an end piece and they were able to accommodate. Plus, for dessert one generous slice of Black Forest Torte was included. We took ours to go; couldn’t manage dessert until the next day.

Small Town Gems – America

Discovering Small Town America

Toledo IL Courthouse While researching a post I’m working on I stumbled on an interesting website – Small Town Gems. I don’t know who publishes the site but it clearly states it is not supported by advertisers related to the featured towns. They do list their criteria and disqualifiers. The lists are organized by state with Highest Recommendation, Approved, Disqualified and Hall of Shame categories. The site has a copyright date of 2002 and there is no indication of when it was last updated.

I probably spent an hour browsing states I’m most familiar with, reading comments and viewing pictures. Of towns I have a fair base of knowledge about I find myself in general agreement with Small Town Gems’ assessments. My biggest sticking point is in the definition of “Small Town”, some of the places included are much larger than my interpretation. For instance  – St. Charles, Missouri. Yes, the old portion of town along the Missouri River certainly qualifies as historic and well preserved but the town’s overall size, proximity to St. Louis, sprawling suburbia and plethora of businesses strung along I-70 are disqualifiers in my opinion.

This threw my mind into gear thinking of charming, surprising, intriguing and quirky small towns I’ve visited and enjoyed.

  • TNHP - Church in Arch Tumacacori, Arizona – Doesn’t really qualify as a town but I love the old Jesuit mission at Tumacacori National Historical Park. South along the frontage road is Santa Cruz Chili and Spice company – a must shopping stop and north of the mission four generations of Wisdoms serve delicious Mexican food and mix a darn good margarita at Wisdom’s Cafe.

                        Additional Related Posts:

                        Tumacacori NHP, Santa Cruz Chile and Spice, Wisdom’s Cafe 

  • Ouray, Colorado – Yes, the town is totally based around tourism but the scenery makes it worthwhile. Jeep tours, mining history, hot spring pools, restaurants and lodging from historic hoteAbbott's Lobster Dinersls to cabins and campgrounds are found in the “Switzerland of America”.
  • Noank, Connecticut  – Most of this village east of Mystic is listed on the National Historic Register. Houses and churches dating back to 1840 line narrow meandering streets. Follow the traffic to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough for a New England seafood feast.
  • Sawtooths - Idaho Stanley, Idaho – Scenery, scenery and outdoor recreation in the Sawtooth Mountains. The first time I visited Stanley tourist facilities were minimal but that has improved to meet demand. Far enough off the beaten path not to be overrun.
  • Elsah, Illinois – As soon as you leave the Great River Road (along the Mississippi River) and enter the village you’re in another place and time. Love to stay in one of the B&Bs, soak up the peace or bike the Sam Vadalabene Trail.
  • New Harmony, Indiana – Founded almost 200 years ago as an utopian, communal community, New Harmony combines history, idealism, tranquility plus modern creature comforts at the New Harmony Inn.
  • New Harbor, Maine – This was just the kind of New England coastal village I’d been seeking for two weeks. Lobster boats at the dock unloading their catch, down-to-earth restaurant above the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse dock serving fresh seafood, ferry service to Monhegan Island, art galleries and the historic Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. All without feeling like a tourist trip. Can’t wait to go back.
  • Glen Arbor, Michigan
  • Hamilton, Montana
  • Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
  • Arroyo Seco, New Mexico
  • Yachats, Oregon
  • Seaside, Washington
  • New Glarus, Wisconsin
  • Centennial, Wyoming

Travel gems are always very subjective. My selections are based on visiting these small towns, not assessing the potential for relocation.

I would love to hear from readers of this post some of their favorites. Your favorite could be my next travel “discovery”. Why are they a favorite? Is it scenic, historic, artsy, an oddity or have a personal/emotional attraction? Please comment.


Fort Larned National Historic Site – Larned, Kansas

Santa Fe Trail Guardian

Fort Larned National Historic Site

FLNHS - Post Hospital The year is 1868. Mail stages and wagon trains loaded with trade goods await military escort westward along the Santa Fe Trail. The tepees of a band of Cheyenne Indians stand just outside the fort expecting to receive their first rations as promised by the Medicine Lodge Treaty signed the previous year. A wounded 7th Cavalry soldier seeks warmth in a rocking chair near the stove in the post hospital. The place – Fort Larned in southwestern Kansas.

March 2010 – A 37-starred flag unfurls in the stiff Kansas wind over a quiet Fort Larned National Historic Site. From 1859–187FLNHS - Flag8 the Fort was an  important link along the Santa Fe Trail. Today nine of the original stone and timber buildings and the reconstructed Blockhouse echo with the history of the march to the American West. First established to protect traffic along the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Larned later served as an agency for the Indian Bureau and, after the Civil War, soldiers from he Fort protected Santa Fe Railroad construction.

Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive until late afternoon on our trek across Kansas and had less than an hour to explore Fort Larned. What we did see captured our interest and imagination. In the Visitor Center an informative receptionist set the stage for our visit. Her extensive knowledge and enthusiasm came through in each sentence. With our time limitations we skipped the orientation slide show and the museum deserved more attention than our quick walk through provided. We were eager to see some of the Fort’s refurbished buildings and snap a few photos.

FLNHS - Fire Buckets We noted walls that talk with century-old graffiti – names and dates etched in the soft stone building blocks. Stepping into the Company C Third U.S. Infantry Barracks we’re surprise at the detail of the furnishings – fire buckets to coffee grinders, uniforms and firearms. Imagine the level of activity when this building housed and fed 150 men. The east half of the barracks replicates the post hospital, again in fascinating detail – more than we can observe during one visit.

The Shops Building recalls the multitude of tasks  undertaken at the Fort – bread baking in the brick oven, blacksmithing, carpentry, tinsmithing, saddlery. We’ll have toFLHS - Uniforms return to further explore the New and Old Commissaries, Blockhouse, Quartermaster Storehouse, two Company Officer’s Quarters, and Commanding Officer’s Quarters. We only scratched the surface of Fort Larned. And, we did not scratch our names in stone.

During the summer season staff and volunteers serve as living historians. Dressed in period clothing they share details of Fort live. Special weekend events further replicate the 1860s era. Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend as many as 70 re-enactors bring the Fort to life in the time of the Indian Wars. Other special events include:

  • Labor Day Weekend – Indian Wars living history event
  • Candlelight Tour – 2nd Saturday of October – An evening walk through vignettes depicting the Fort’s history. Limited attendance, reservations open two weeks prior.
  • Christmas Past – 2nd Saturday of December, 6:30-9pm – Old fashioned Yuletide celebration with soldiers, hot apple cider, cookies, Santa and carols. Free.

FLNHS - Sign When You Go: Fort Larned National Historic Site is open daily 8:30-4:30 year round except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day. Admission is FREE. The Fort is located 6 miles west of Larned, Kansas just south of KS156. Great Bend, Kansas is 27 miles to the northeast, Hays 63 miles north and Wichita 130 miles southeast.

Map picture

Also Visit The Santa Fe Trail Center – Museum and Library. The facility is located 2 miles west of Larned and 4 miles east of Fort Larned NHS. Indoor and outdoor exhibits interpret the importance of the Santa Fe Trail in the country’s push westward.