Friday, January 17, 2014

Top spots to visit in 2014

So where are the best places to visit in the United States in 2014?

CNN provided suggestions in a recent article, 50 states, 50 places for 2014.

Here are their suggestions for the Pacific Northwest states:

Idaho: Craters of the Moon National Monument
Located in eastern Idaho, Craters of the Moon National Monument is a 750,000-acre preserve filled with dormant volcanoes that last erupted 2,000 years ago after 13,000 years of activity. Early astronauts trained here in preparation for moon walks. I've been here a couple of times, but never crawled inside the caves that dot the landscape.

Montana: Miles City Roundup
The Miles City Roundup celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. There's the usual rodeo events that attract top rodeo cowboys. The Bucking Horse Sale takes place at the same time. It is 64 years old this year.

Oregon: Hells Canyon
Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America, at some places more than a mile separates the canyon bottom with the area's highest mountains. Hells Canyon offers spectacular scenery (been there, done that) in the eastern part of the state, and is the dividing line between Oregon and Idaho. The canyon is popular with those who like to run river rapids. (The Snake River runs through the canyon.)

Washington: San Juan Islands
It's pretty hard to beat the San Juan Islands when it comes to scenic beauty. CNN suggests taking a ferry ride from Seattle north to the islands, particularly when it's whale-watching time. My preference is to drive to Anacortes and ferry hop between the islands. Ferry hop long enough and you'll end up on Canada's Vancouver Island.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Harris Beach State Park

Harris Beach State Park
Harris Beach State is a gem on the southern Oregon coast. Located on Highway 101 north of and within the city of Brookings, the park makes a pleasant stopover, particularly if you are traveling in an RV. You just can’t beat the winter full hookup rate of $22 per night.

Harris Beach, however, is more than a pleasant place to spend the night. It’s home to the largest island on the coast of Oregon, Bird Island. The island is a National Wildlife Sanctuary and is a breeding site for the tufted puffin as well as other rare birds.

The park also offers great watching of the gray whales that migrate along the coast every year. The park designates a week each in December and March as whale watching weeks.

The park is named after George Harris, who migrated to Oregon in the 1880s to raise cattle and sheep.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cranberry Sweets

Bandon is a pleasant stop on Oregon’s south coast. It has one of the country’s top golf courses at Bandon Dunes. We’re not into golfing, but we definitely enjoy Old Town Bandon with its quaint shops and boutiques as well as getting shrimp cocktails to go and eating them on the city pier while watching playful seagulls. We especially like visiting Cranberry Sweets, a candy shop we discovered on our honeymoon trip to San Francisco.

Lots of cranberries grow in the Bandon area, which makes it a natural for cranberry jelly treats that were first made in 1962. Cranberry Sweets has since expanded to more than 150 jelly candies, cookies, salt water taffy and chocolates. Flavors include marion berries, raspberries, key lime and licorice. Pumpkin pie is a holiday favorite; they even make fudge out of cheddar cheese.

Cranberry Sweets provides ample free samples of almost everything on sale. The array is mind-boggling and reminds me of the old potato chip slogan, “bet you can’t eat just one.” You lose if you agree to a bet like that. You can also watch candies being made almost every day

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spirit Mountain Casino

Spirit Mountain Casino
Like Indian casinos everywhere, the Spirit Mountain Casino in western Oregon was established to create economic diversity for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. It reportedly is Oregon’s busiest tourist attraction, since more than three million people visit it annually.

Besides 90,000 square feet set aside for gaming, the casino has more than 250 hotel rooms, live big-name entertainment, five restaurants, and an RV park. The casino bills itself as the Northwest’s top casino. If customer service is any indication, I certainly can’t argue with that claim. Every casino employee treated us with utmost respect and went out of their way to make sure we felt welcome. We stayed in their \free RV park, and only did minimal gambling, though we did eat all our meals at their restaurants. The food was plentiful and good. The casino offers free on-demand shuttle service throughout its complex.

The casino is located on Highway 18 between Lincoln City and McMinnville and Lincoln City where it connects with Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is made up of 27 tribes from Oregon, Washington and northern California, though not all are involved with the casino