This week, we've gathered editors and writers from around the world for a special extended edition of the podcast. Our travel experts discuss the 13 cities and regions that made this year's Top Destinations list. Find out what it took to make the cut, how you can get there, and the what to see and do once you've arrived.
Read our feature story "Frommer's Top Destinations for 2008."
To listen this episode, click the "play" button on the MP3 player below.
Top Tips from This Podcast
See transcript below for links to more information.
- New Orleans, LA: Infrastructure is coming back, the primary tourist areas were not affected by Katrina. Try to visit soon, before the natural charm of the area is taken over by corporate tourism.
- Cardiff, Wales: Visit Cardiff Bay, Millenium Stadium, the Millenium Center.
- Seoul, South Korea: Surprisingly accessible to visitors from the US. You can find the very modern right next to some ancient sites.
- Saint Lucia: American Airlines has opened up a non-stop route to the southern part of the island which has a different feel from the northern cruise-stop part of the island.
- Kosrae, Micronesia: Truly a destination to "get away from it all". 3000 miles from Hawaii.
- Bras d'Or Lakes, Nova Scotia: Has a very old Celtic feel, go kayaking to the undeveloped shores of the lake.
- Essaouira, Morocco: A UNESCO World Heritage site with an old 18th/19th century fortified town feel. A great spot for windsurfing and surfing.
- The American Whiskey Trail: Highlights various spots across Kentucky, Tennessee, also Pennsylvania, Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Celebrates America's love of bourbon and whiskey.
- Exit 0, Garden State Parkway, New Jersey: More of a theoretical exit, as there is no Exit 0. Visit Cape May which is more laid back than the typical Jersey Shore. Also try Wildwood and Ocean City.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.Announcer: Welcome to the Frommers.com travel podcast. For more information on planning your trip to any one of thousands of destinations, please visit us at www.Frommers.com.
Kelly Regan: Hi, and welcome to the Frommers.com podcast. I'm Kelly Regan, editorial director of the Frommers Travel Guide, and today, I'm moderating a round table discussion of some of my fellow editors and travel experts at Frommers as we talk about the top destinations of 2008. Every year, the editors at Frommers reach out and we gather to talk to our authors who are based all around the world.
We take a survey of the travel landscape and we identify ten or more destinations that we feel are places not to be missed in the coming year. These could be cities or countries that are just coming into their own as tourist destinations, places that are down and out that have managed to reinvent themselves, or even spots where change is in the air and, creating kind of a "see it now" sense of urgency.
Today we'll be talking about the places on our list for 2008, and joining me to discuss our top destinations are David Lytle, who's the editorial director of Frommers.com and my fellow host of the podcast; Jason Clampett, who's the editor at Frommers.com; Mark Hempstel, who's our Frommers editor in the UK; and Gene Channon, who is our Frommers editor based in Canada. David, Jason, Mark, Gene-
Jason Clampett: Hi.
Kelly: Thanks so much for joining me today.
Mark Hempstel: Hi.
Gene Channon: Glad to be here.
Kelly: We have thirteen destinations on our list this year, and we're going to talk about a few of them in more depth today, but to tell people, to get the suspense out of the way and tell people what those destinations are, this year, the places that we've chosen as the top destinations of 2008 are Denver, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; The American Whiskey Trail, which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, and parts of Virginia; Exit 0 on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, which I'm very excited to talk about later; Cardiff, Wales; Essaouira, Morocco; St. Lucia; Quito, Ecuador; Romania; Seoul, South Korea; Bras d'Or Lakes in Nova Scotia; and finally, Kosrae, Micronesia.
I guess I'll start, just to kick it off, by a brief discussion about our pick of New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is starting its third year post-Katrina now. I think it's clear from everyone who's been watching the news that it still has not fully recovered from the disaster. There's a lot of rebuilding that's still going on, a lot of infrastructure problems that remain, and a lot of people who haven't come back, but in many ways, I think it remains a vital destination, and a very important one for tourists to be visiting now. I think this is definitely a time when New Orleans is at a crossroads.
The infrastructure's coming back, but slowly. The primary tourist areas, as everyone knows, were not really heavily affected by the flooding. Many of the streetcars have resumed service. The major hotels and restaurants have mostly reopened, and you feel a kind of excitement in the air that it is coming back.
At the same time, I think it's really at a crossroads where I think that city's going to change soon, and I think people are starting to worry that New Orleans might be affected by kind of a Disney-fication, and that more relaxed zoning laws are going to bring in larger corporations who are going to try and put their stamp on the area and maybe take away some individualistic flavors. Reason to put it on the list is really to say, "go now", because we see the city changing and we're not exactly sure what those changes are going to be.
Gene: It's running the risk now that if it remains vibrant, that it's going to be an ersatz version of what New Orleans once used to be.
Kelly: Sort of an Epcot version of New Orleans, in a way, and I think that that's something that residents are very concerned about, and as people who are concerned about the state of travel, that's something that we're concerned about as well.
That's my take on New Orleans. I wanted to move on now to talk about another city which has been in the process of reinventing itself, and has really evolved in a very exciting way, and that's Cardiff, Wales, and so, Mark, I wanted to hear from you a little bit about what you're seeing happening in Cardiff and what it is that makes it such a great place to visit it.
Mark: Well, then, Cardiff's on our list for 2008 because it has really captured an identity, again, I think. It's got a real sense of energy and verve about it at the moment, and around areas like Cardiff Bay, which have been completely rejuvenated, and with iconic structures like the Millennium Stadium and the Millennium Center, there's a real excitement about Cardiff at the moment and there has been for about five years now.
I think also, we should make a point- you know, it's Europe's youngest capitol city and, well, that its roots can be traced back to about 600 B.C. when the Celts invaded Europe. It's got a real; I think that's reflected in its sort of youthful feel and sense of fun. I mean, right at center, you've got Cardiff Castle, which is an ancient monument with Roman roots, but exactly it's a place of excitement as well, just kind of peacocks and ducks and geese and the grounds. You can go to a Welsh banquet at night...
Mark: There's rock concerts held there, you can do archery, there's reenactments, and... The big thing is being at docks, really, the docks, where once handled more cull than any port in the world. During the First World War, Dumont began to fall, and then, in the Depression, the economy went down and-
Mark: in the Second World War, Cardiff was bombed, and so, really, it did take Cardiff from being a small town at the beginning of the 19th century to a larger standing, but now many of the docks have been decommissioned in same ways as the coal pits have. The waterfronts got a new kind of exciting lease of life- you've got new buildings, you've got historic sites next to each other, you've got a lot of attractions. You've got lots of restaurants and coffee shops.
Kelly: It's really a place now to go and hang out.
Mark: I mean, it's so much like being a native, in a way, because when the barrage was built, from one side of the remaining docks, that you know, you've got a big sort of vast freshwater lake. You've got the Millennium Center there, which has got the giant lines of poetry cut into the copper-colored roof and they've got opera and musicals and plays there-
Mark: at quite a bit of prices, and then on top of that, you've got a sort of example of New Wales, really around the corner there's lots of things to do for, in a day with family and at night. I think there's a real sense of Welsh identity in Cardiff at the moment, and the feel that there's a real sense of excitement about the place, and then you've got the city center itself with pedestrian-ized shopping streets, Victorian arcades, and quiet atmospheric indoor markets-
Mark: and places like the Millennium Stadium, where you know, if you go there, if you can get tickets, for say, a Welsh rugby match even if you're not interested in rugby would be a fantastic experience. So, there are lots to do and for people into different things, there's a Cardiff Bay, there's a Wetlands Reserve, there's educational science centers for kids.
If U.S. travelers are coming over, then you're about three hours from London by car, you're about two hours from London Paddington by train. When you're in Cardiff, you can get to great day trips like Bristol and Bark, which are lovely for the day to look around. So I think, you know, it's a great sense of stuff happening in Cardiff at the moment, the cultural and music scene with people like Stereophonics, Super Furry Animals, there's lots too, and Doctor Who's there now, they've got a Doctor Who.
Yes, and Christopher Eckleston, he was in Heroes as well, which was open in the U.S. and now over here, and also the other things, there's great places to stay from top-end like the Hilton or, Star Heights has like, St. David's Hotel and Spa to more budget-end stuff like Holiday Inn and Travelodge, so there's lots to choose from, whatever your budget.
Kelly: Well, yes, so, not just for rugby and Doctor Who fans. A much broader appeal than that. Jason, I wanted to pop over to you and ask you about Seoul, South Korea, which is another one of the destinations on our list. This is another place that's seeing unprecedented numbers of visitors coming, and why is it that you think people are visiting Seoul now?
Jason: I think, following the Korean War, they spent so many years, just kind of gearing up, similar to after WWII in the U.S. where everybody was focused on factories and productivity, it was a great place to live and it thrived economically but there wasn't anything interesting going on for visitors. You would be like going to a great efficient office park.
But it has really developed its own terms of entertainment and electronics and technology, so that now, Korea is seen throughout a lot of Asia, as the place where TV shows are made. You have Korean shows dubbed in Japan. The leading soap opera in Japan is a Korean soap opera.
Way, that when we think of Tokyo as an exciting city, Seoul has become the same way. But then also it has stuff that is very accessible to people coming, especially from the US, because it has such a long a investment by the US military in the last 40 years or so there.
There is definitely these cultural links that exist there and things that make visiting there familiar to English speakers in an environment which otherwise would be very unfamiliar and throws a lot of people off.
On top of that, you also have the world cup there, six years ago, that was shared with Japan at the time, but that made it open up, "We're going to treat our visitors very well. We've got these new hotels" so their entire tourist infrastructure is very young.
Kelly: But what is interesting also though, you have this real modernity there, but it co-exists alongside some really ancient sites as well.
Jason: They have a lot of parks in the city, but they also have a lot of "low-fi" things--really crazy places.
Jason: They've got training stations. They've got these drinking tents that pop up. They aren't these fancy restaurants or whatnot; they're very simple. You've got all-night markets that happen throughout the city, side by side with the very modern. You have some very basic things, which are also thrilling.
Kelly: It sounds like it is definitely a very accessible destination even for people who might not be thinking of traveling to Asia.
Jason: I was going to say that Korean Air is a great airline. Even though it is a long trip, even if you are in economy, it's going to be much more comfortable than really flying to LA from New York.
Kelly: To kind of jump back to some places that are closer to the US for people who might not be wanting to take such a long trip, we usually try and feature a couple of beach destinations on our list every year. And this year we picked Saint Lucia and I know that you've been there recently. So I wanted you to talk a little bit more about why we're picking Saint Lucia now and what is it that should make people want to go.
David: Just a couple of weeks ago, American Airlines opened up a non-stop route to Hewanorra International Airport, which is in the south end of Saint Lucia. It's one of the Windward Islands closer to South America than it actually is to the United States.
There was only one other non-stop route in the US and that was from Miami meaning that anybody who wanted to get there had to fly through Miami. The more popular Caribbean destinations are typically those you can get too quickly. It can be a great pain to have to keep changing planes, and by the time you get to your vacation destination you need another vacation from your flight.
So now that this non-stop route has opened up, it really opens up the South End of Saint Lucia, which is completely different from the North End. The North end is where the cruises stop, dock in Castries, sort of a charming town but you also have your typical cruise flavor to it.
Kelly: Lots of duty free shopping and things like that.
David: Exactly--Tanzanite shops. But also in the North End, they're starting to build all of these--there's a new Country Club up there, golf course, that all of these newer hotels that are being built now have access too. Saint Lucia used to be known as the Sandals crowd, and it's sort of slipping into an older, more established set for those people who can afford higher end vacations.
You have some really fantastic hotels down at the South Side as well. I stayed at a place called Jade Mountain, which is, every time I told people where I was staying as I went around the island, they were like, "Oh, my God, you're so lucky that you're going to be able to stay there."
[Kelly Regan laughs]
David: It's a hotel within a hotel. It's a new property. It's sort of a club within a hotel. It's its own separate building on the Anse Chastanet which is a protected cove with beach and there's a hotel there that has a protected marina so that people can snorkel there. It helps replenish the fish population so that their fishing industry is always viable.
These rooms are truly stunning. You have three walls. The fourth wall looks out over the bay and you look at the iconic Pitons, which are two vertical peaks that sit out on the bay that St. Lucia's known for. And so you can swim in your infinity pool in your room and sort of look out over this view and just feel really, really special.
Those rooms are really pricey and that's not for everybody. Those rooms can run anywhere from $1500 to $5000 a night.
David: You can do something that's much more affordable. You can stay at a place like Ti Kaye which is in the same bay as Morne Chastanet, just around the corner. And those rooms run $150 a night and you still get a view of the Pitons, so you can get the same grand vista and not have to break your budget.
David: And one of the special things that actually I'd like to say about St. Lucia before we move on is they have these great things called "jump-ups" on Fridays. Basically, it's a community fish fry. A couple of towns do it. One of them is Anse-la-Raye - it's a little fishing village.
You can go and just walk up and down the street and all these people have set up tables in front of their house and they have -- some organizations like church groups have tents set up and you go in and you just sort of go "I want that boiled lobster. I want this octopus." And you can just taste all of this really wonderful food and two dollars a pop for whatever you want to try.
David: A great way to meet and intermingle with locals. And after you're done eating the band strikes up and then you get to dance in the town square until two, three in the morning then try to find your way back home.
Kelly: That sounds fantastic.
David: St. Lucians are also, I would say they're very gracious as a people and they're more than willing to help. People love to talk your ear off at the jump-up if you want to take the time to talk to them, which is something that people should be doing more when they travel as opposed to staying aloft down in your all inclusive.
Kelly: Of course. Of course. That's one of the driving reasons behind why we picked St. Lucia. To really go full out and get about as remote as it's possible to get, Jason, I wanted you to talk a little bit about Kosrae in Micronesia because I think if you're looking to get away from it all I think it's a little hard to get away from it all further and stay on planet Earth.
Jason: I'd never heard of it until last April when the former South Pacific writer Bill Goodwin sent in this story. And the story was called "Like the Island Used to Be: A Quick Trip to Kosrae", or Kosh-ree, is I believe how it's pronounced. And the fact that he had "A Quick Trip" in the title was very funny because it's not a quick trip. It's almost 3,000 miles from Hawaii.
I'm still not sure how many times he changed planes, but it involved a flight to Tokyo, and then Guam, and then basically on a plane that kind of bumped different islands before he got there, almost like a bus, so he stopped...
Kelly: Almost like a puddle jumper kind of thing.
Jason: Exactly. And since it was landing on atolls and a small island it really was... they were puddles that were jumped, for real.
Kelly: All right!
Jason: It's an island that Bill talked about. It's basically going back 40 years in time to what islands used to be like, and it is part of the Federated States of Micronesia. It's a small island. It's about 42, 40 square miles or so, but it has great beaches and it has one thing that some of the other places don't have is that it has old ruins.
It was a royal setting; they had dug canals, all ruins now. It's a long trek. To get up there you have to go through a mountain stream and things like that to get there. I sound like I don't know a ton about it but they don't really know a ton about it.
David: They're not quite sure who built it or when. You'll find paradise, basically. Head there, go ahead and spend two weeks getting there on small planes. You may never come back.
Kelly: You are getting away from it all. There are still some things to do, but for the most part...
[David and Jason talking over one another]
Jason: It's a popular dive spot. You're so far away from it that there are high rise hotels, they're only 7, 500 people or so that live there. Everything is laid back, I doubt if your Blackberry will work.
Kelly: There is no way that that could not be a good thing.
Kelly: They were telling people to get away from it all; I don't think you necessarily need to go quite that far to get away from it all. Gene, I wanted to bring you into the conversation because one of the places that you are going to talk about was the Bras d'Or Lakes in Nova Scotia, which it's a very well key kind of get away and pretty outdoorsy. So I wanted for you talk to that for a little bit and tell people what it is that makes such a great place to visit.
Gene: I think it's really one of those cases of "off the map, hidden gem" kind of places in that a place like Cape Breton Island is really well known for its natural beauty that has everything, but it's a place that was built on a tourist economy. So you're always balancing that little bit of kitschy stuff that you get with it at the same time. Bras d'Or Lakes are where a lot of people who work in the industry go to get away from all that.
It's an inland sea within the island and it really has that feel of almost a cottage country. It's very remote and undeveloped and there's very little infrastructure but it's so close, two hours from Halifax, very close to Cabot Trail that you can feel that you're already on the tourist path, if you just want to take a little step over there, it's the perfect time of place for that.
Kelly: There's definitely some cultural stuff there but there's also the outdoors attractions are really the reason that people would go.
Gene: There's a lot of great stuff like that. There's a great nesting spot for bald eagles actually, and they have a couple hundred nesting places there. It's a very large lake, it's about 750 miles around and most of that shoreline is undeveloped, so you can paddle off from the town end and suddenly be in the Lakes in the midst of nowhere and it is just great.
And the Kayak King is a good example as something that's really strong there. There is a guy from that area who built himself as the Kayak Guy who is writing a book on paddling excursions on the Bras d'Or Lakes exclusively. I think he had nine expeditions in it and he's calling it the first volume of his series of kayaking expeditions on Bras d'Or Lakes.
Gene: So, it's very easy to step out of yourself that way. At the same time like you say, there are a few things around people who grew up in Nova Scotia that have kind of often had summer places there, so Alexander Graham Bell is one example. Most people know him for the telephone but he invented quite a few different things, the first hydrofoil for example. He has a summer home on Bras d'Or Lakes and he did the testing for the world's first hydrofoil going up and down this lake.
Kelly: There's big historical interest there as well.
Gene: Yes. It has a lot of the old Scottish feel to it; it has very deep Celtic roots in the area. There were I think it is 15, 000 Gaelic people speaking there a couple of years ago and a lot of that has been undisturbed. I think part of the reason is it has a lot of the same geography that you'll find in Scotland. It has that same feel of the locks within the lakes because there's a lot of hills and little mountains around Bras d'Or Lakes. So the topography is actually really similar, but it's still a lot of its natural beauty.
Kelly: It is on Cape Breton Island where there is a pretty significant tourism infrastructure. It sounds like it's something that's relatively easy to get to even though it feels very remote over there.
Gene: It is, but it's mainly because the tourism infrastructure on Cape Breton is all the around the coast and doing the Cabot Trail drive and all that, but you only have to go in maybe about half an hour inside of there and you're right off the tourist spot and to in this area.
David: I have a question.
David: What's their accommodation there are people who are going up to a vacation or is it somebody else's lake house or are there B & Bs or is there any hotel around the Lakes?
Gene: There's not much of the hotel thing but there are a lot of the B & Bs and that sort of thing. A lot of great camping facilities, too. Is that something that you like? One of the nice things is there's a real people feel, people letting people into their interior homes. I was talking to someone who was there very recently and there's a lot of cabin that were built by hand and they went and had breakfast with the woman before she went off to work. But it's a real warm home invitation sort of feels the place; he woke up to cattle outside of his window grazing in the field. So there's no excuse not to relax there.
Kelly: OK, well, I wanted to jump into another destination on the list and I wanted to bring Mark back into the conversation because Mark, he's been to Morocco several times and we've a forthcoming "Frommer's Complete Guide, First Edition, to Morocco" and that'll be coming out in early 2008. One of the places that we wanted to feature in Morocco is Essaouira which has long drawn people even such as Jimi Hendrix and Orson Wells. It is a town on the Atlantic Coast and he thought it was a nice alternative to a getaway from more popular tourist spots like Marrakech. So Mark, why don't you talk about that for a little while?
Mark: Yes. I think you're right, it is a getaway. I think a lot of people who don't see Morocco or go to Marrakech or maybe just to Marrakech as their entry point. I think it's a rare welcome respond antidote or most of that about the craziness of Marrakech. It's a funny fishing town. Its airport is improving getting bigger but it's smaller and it's calmer than Marrakech. It's a bit more chilled out, there are few Westerners. It's still a three hour from the UK but it's very different. So it's another world really.
Kelly: A lot of the budget airlines fly to Morocco so it's actually a quite affordable spot to visit from the UK.
Mark: Very recently, the European Union signed an open sky aviation agreement with Morocco which removed a lot of the capacity of restrictions between Morocco and the rest of Europe. So it's meant that in practical terms, there's been an increase in the amount of flights back to and from Morocco and that's driven prices down. So you can get a good deal out there. It's already close to Marrakech.
The Moroccan Tourism Board is paying a lot of money into its tourism infrastructure in about 2004, then they have plans to invest about US$10 billion and increased tourism infrastructure with a goal of getting around 10 million tourists a year about 2010. So that's their ultimate aim apart from ad campaigns in order to hopingly bring awareness about places like Essaouira and may even further make the travelers go often to Marrakech. It's reasonably priced and you have got a range here of boutique and rehab accommodation.
The actual city in mid themes is really something to say. It's kind of an 18th, late 19th century of fortified town, it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. You've got pretty white houses with blue doors and windows and workshops and bazaars and cafes and the locals are just in junipers. You've got this smell different spices and fish.
It's a sunny day, the fishermen painting their boats, so they got their haul in for the day as if you have seen dreams and it's quite hard to beat really. It's really a nice place; you don't have to lay by yourself. You can sit around drinking mint tea and watching people go by. I mean, it's a big thing, there's a beach, it's already open beach and the fish you've got and north eastern trade winds blowing. It's a real spot for kite surfer and wind surfers, so it's great to watch them jumping about in the surf as well.
Kelly: In the larger cities of Morocco, people feel the hustle and bustle, so this is kind of a nice alternative to that.
Mark: People try to mix up their holiday. They've got the Atlas Mountains as well to go hiking. So in between of the more bright light of Marrakech and they can go here at Essaouira before trying the Atlas Mountains.
Kelly: I want to talk a little bit about driving tourist and some of the spots that we've been talking about is you definitely see by car, but what are destinations on the list is a destination that you're meant to see by car because it's actually not a destination per se but a driving route that we're recommending and, David, that's the American Whisky Trail, this is a suggestion that you had made. It's fascinating because of the cultural issues that are swirling around, driving to see these distilleries that are often times in dry counties.
Kelly: Why don't you talk a little bit about what it is that makes this an interesting trip for people to take?
David: Isn't it ironic that you go to visit a distillery where they make rye whiskey, or Tennessee mash, or bourbon, only to discover that you can't taste it once you get there. What you can do is you get what's called the "Angel's" share, which is they open the lid on the fermenting cask. You can waft your hand over and...
David: ... you get drunk off the smell. I mean, it's pretty potent.
Kelly: You just breathe in as much as you can.
David: What the American Whiskey Trail actually is, it's to one degree it is a marketing scheme that has been created by the Distilled Councils of America. But there's real value to it because it highlights America's love of bourbon and whiskey, and it fueled a large part of the economy around the founding of the country. In fact...
David: ... it sort of kicked off this whole thing because they had renovated and reopened one of the country's largest distillers, which was George Washington. They have rebuilt his distillery and found his recipes; they are now starting to make it Mount Vernon whiskey again.
David: So you can go learn about America's first president. I think you can actually drink on Mount Vernon's, you can enjoy some of it there. But this also really highlights various spots across Kentucky, Tennessee, also Pennsylvania, Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Not all of it is along any specific route, but it does highlight the making of spirits in America.
David: The great thing is actually you can go stay someplace like in Nashville or Memphis. These were all sort of day trips outside of there for Tennessee whiskey, or you can go in and stay in Bardstown, or Boonesville in Kentucky, and view distilleries--especially my favorite Makers Mark, it's just a short ride out. You can stay in B&Bs all along the way; you just sort of deal with the locals.
Kelly: This is also some of the most beautiful countryside in the country driving through Kentucky and through Tennessee, and the foothills and mountains. It's really fantastic!
David: Actually I think one of the best times to go would be to go in the spring season when it's Easter. It's a great time to go late March to mid-April after winter has sort of melted away, and they've had some spring rains. The hills in Tennessee and Kentucky first open with Dogwoods and Redbuds, and it's just this sort of intoxicating mix of pinks and whites and that really fresh spring green.
David: Just that alone, taking that in as you're driving around is gorgeous.
Kelly: I think the scenery is probably beautiful at any time of year, but I think that would definitely be the highlight of a visit.
We're almost out of time, but I cannot let our podcast end without mentioning the destination on the list that is the closest to my heart, which is Exit Zero on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. I am a "Jersey" girl by birth, and I feel that New Jersey is kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of U.S. states where it doesn't get much respect. I think people tend to have this extremely mistaken impression that it is all "Sopranos" and "toxic waste."
I think that part of our reason for making this selection is just to point out that is not the case. There is no Exit Zero per say, but mile marker zero on the Garden State Parkway is actually in Cape May New Jersey, which is at the very southern tip of the state. It's a place that many people might not know about and certainly a place that people might not associate with what's commonly thought of as the "Jersey Shore, " which are the beach resorts that are sort of more along the central coast of New Jersey where you get a lot of that muscle head, ethos.
But Cape May is really a beautiful Victorian town. A lot of the architecture there dates from the last 19th Century. It's a very, very quiet laid back place. There are beautiful B & B's there. It's a very romantic getaway, and it's actually developing a reputation as a very popular getaway for gay couples, as well as straight couples. It's a very open town in that respect.
One of the things you would definitely want to do going down there and it's a bit of a trek to get there. It's about 90 miles from Philadelphia. It's about 125 miles from New York City. It does require some time investment to drive, but one of the things you do down there, there's great birding at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, and also some of the most beautiful beaches that you'll ever see down at the very tip at Cape May Point State Park, where there's a lighthouse that is the second tallest operating lighthouse in the United States.
I think what we would recommend that people do is go down the shore, as they say in New Jersey, but keep going down to the end of the shore and check out Cape May, but there's a couple of towns north of Cape May that are also worth a visit that are quite different, actually, in their feel.
One of them is Wildwood, which is just north of Cape May. Wildwood really saw a heyday in the '40's and '50's, and there's this fantastic architecture that you'll find there with these motels that are all along the water, and within the town itself.
They call it do-wop architecture, because it dates from the 40's and 50's, but that's this kitschy sort of space age looking Jetsons architecture. The roofs are shaped like boomerangs. They have kind of faux tike Polynesian decor with lots of thatched roofs. It's very over the top, and it's really a lot of fun.
All along in Wildwood, and also in Ocean City, which is the other town which is a little bit north of Wildwood, there are great boardwalks. Wildwood itself actually has multiple amusement parks on the boardwalk. It's a great family destination. It's also just... For people who love kitsch, it's a great place to go.
You have your requisite tattoo parlors and crappy t-shirt shops, but there's also great vintage amusement park rides. An enormous Ferris wheel that you can ride at night, and you kind of come up and you see the beach on one side and you see the town on the other.
My personal favorite boardwalk activity is to play ski ball, which you'll find all along there, but I think that this is my pitch to make New Jersey a slightly more respectable travel destination than many people might believe.
My one last pick is in Ocean City. Also on the boardwalk, there is a fantastic pizza place that really embodies some of the best of New York/New Jersey style pizza, and it's called Mac and Manco's. It's on Ninth Street at the boardwalk in Ocean City. They make the pizza right there in front of you. It's crispy thin crust, slightly sweet tomato sauce, and gooey cheese. Like I said, it's featuring some of the best of what you consider to be New York or New Jersey style pizza.
We're pretty much out of time, but I couldn't let it go without giving my pitch to the further respectability of New Jersey as a valid travel destination. That's all the time we have for today. There are several destinations on the list that we didn't get to. To read more about the top destinations of 2008, you can go to www.Frommers.Com. We'll have an article there that discusses our destinations and the reason why we picked them.
David, Jason, Mark, Gene. Thank you so much for being here. This was a great conversation. I really enjoyed it.
Jason: Thank you.
Mark: Thanks Kelly.
Gene: Thank you.
Kelly: Join us next week for another conversation about all things travel. I'm Kelly Regan, and we will talk again soon.
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