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Alabama

Taking the Plunge

Step into the waves in Gulf Shores - Flickr/florador

It's hard to describe the magic of scuba diving to a land lubber. When I slip beneath the surface and slowly descend down the anchor line, I enter another world. Venturing into the aquatic animal kingdom and weightlessly flying over reefs and wrecks, I’m overcome with the contrasting emotions of both adrenaline and tranquility at the same time.

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Utah

Our Fall Weekend in Ogden

Mountains around Ogden - Flickr/p-duke

A family’s weekend getaway to Ogden features plenty of fall fun at the Harvest Moon Celebration, plus the interactive Treehouse Museum and the Dinosaur Park.

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South Carolina

Making Memories at North Myrtle Beach

Beach by Cherry Grove Pier – Flickr/Chris Meller

Autumn was approaching, and with it, the start of my daughter’s freshman year of college and my son’s first year of high school. With so much change on the horizon, our annual family beach vacation to the South Carolina coast was instilled with new meaning. My wife and I had both vacationed with our parents in North Myrtle Beach since we were kids. The tradition had grown to include our children, too. This year wouldn’t be the last, but certainly the last of an era.

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Florida

Craft on Tap

Craft brew in Gainesville – Flickr/Chris Lexow

My elbows are comfortably resting on the bar at the Gainesville House of Beer as I sip a hard-to-pronounce but easy-to-enjoy Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss brew.

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Kentucky

Taking a Bite Out of Lexington

Great sandwiches in Lexington, KY - Anthony/Flickr

You never forget your first bourbon ball. I tasted mine nearly two decades ago. Allow me to explain. Bourbon balls, invented in Kentucky, are chocolate-covered candies infused with real bourbon (another Kentucky creation known the world over) and topped with a pecan. If you can delay your gratification, and that's a big if, roll the confection in your mouth, letting the semi-sweet chocolate slowly melt on your tongue, followed by a hit of the earthy, caramel-like bourbon and the slight crunch of the pecan.

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Kentucky

Hats Off to Edna and Lexington

Antique Shop in Lexington - Flickr

I've called in some favors and scored tickets to the Keeneland Race Course and Breeders' Cup World Championships, the world's leading horse auction house and racetrack. It's the first time Lexington is hosting the event and I've invited my mom. Now there's a hat to buy. Or a "crown" as my 82-year-old friend and "surrogate mom" Edna calls it. Edna may be the single most stylish person I've ever met. Back in the day, she attended equestrian events up and down the Eastern Seaboard. And even though it's months away, I need her help to get a topper worthy of the race.

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Louisiana

Plate Lunch Paradise

Delicious Plate Lunch - Flickr !

Though most visitors to Lafayette might sooner associate the area with our more famed Cajun and Creole culinary fare (jambalaya, crawfish, and gumbo), it is the rice and gravy-centric plate lunch that fuels the people of Louisiana's Acadiana region. Consisting of meat, a gravy-covered starch, a pair of vegetable sides, and a simple piece of bread — and often all served on a single plate — the plate lunch emphasizes speed, affordability, and caloric heft.

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South Carolina

A Wild Ride

Skydiving South Carolina – Flickr/Andy Ciordia

South Carolina's Olde English District stirs in my imagination scenes of battle-ravaged Revolutionary War countryside, 18th Century plantations, colonial farms, and deep-rooted southern graces. On my first trip here, back when I was a high school student, I was introduced to a centuries-old America, a place to go antiquing in tumbledown homes, sip peach tea on the porches of colonial mansions, and indulge in five-course suppers. When my friend and fellow travel writer, Austin Howard, told me to expect more from South Carolina, "this is a fantastic place for hiking, biking, driving, and riding," I was skeptical. When he offered to show me endless eastern forests, some of the country's best ATV courses, skydiving, soaring, and more, I had to reconcile the South Carolina in my mind with the one Austin was trying to place in my heart.

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South Carolina

History Comes to Life

Rose Hill Plantation – Flickr/kingary

Ever since our kids were old enough to enjoy the rides, it's been a family tradition to celebrate the end of summer with a weekend trip to Carowinds Amusement Park in Fort Mill, S.C. This year I thought it would be fun to extend our trip by a day or two and venture beyond the park gates to check out some of the more educational sites nearby.

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Kentucky

The Heart of Bourbon Country

Bourbon Capital of the World – Flickr/Brent Moore

I've challenged my Atlanta-based friend Barb to join me at The Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, Kentucky, the bourbon capital of the world. I'm mad for small batch brown liquor, but Barb doesn't "do" spirits. It requires some cajoling on my part, but Barb, who originally hails from North Carolina, is more than a little horse crazy, so I upsell that aspect.

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Kentucky

Beautiful Bardstown

Nelson County Courthouse – Flickr/Brent Moore

Sometimes the town you vacation in seduces you. You imagine living there: walking the litter-free, tree-lined streets, hanging out in the coffee shop, volunteering at the museum. You eat at a bistro and the couple next to you offers to share an appetizer when you ask if they like what they are eating. You peer at flyers taped onto the windows of realtors' offices and think, "That house looks nice."

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Tennessee

Making Memories

Grotto Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Flickr/Timothy Wildey

Spring break was upon us and I was determined to do something fun with my two sons and husband. I wanted to make some lasting memories with my family, like my father did for my siblings and me. My favorite memory was when he took us camping in the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I remembered the great times we had sitting by the campfire, discovering new hiking trails and fishing in the nearby creek, and decided a four-day cabin trip to Gatlinburg would be perfect for our family adventure.

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South Carolina

The Iris Festival

Purple Japanese Iris at the Sumter Iris Festival – Flickr/Kim Wright Photography

"If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." My friend gave me the magnet when my eldest daughter, Lauren, left for college. She was the first to go, but with three more kids at home, I had my hands full and I managed pretty well. My husband, on the other hand, was a bit of a wreck. Lauren is a daddy's girl, and it had been hard for him to see her go. Every Memorial Day Weekend it was a tradition for the two of them to go camping. But last Memorial Day Weekend, our daughter didn't come home. She had a new boyfriend and wanted us to come to her.

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Georgia

Eating Up Hospitality Highway

Georgia BBQ-Flickr

Some people travel to see the sights. I travel to eat. The essence of a place comes through the food on my plate. Anyone who has scarfed down asada tacos in San Francisco, or New Orleans gumbo can attest to this truth.

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South Carolina

Awash in Good Times

Beaufort Water Festival parade – Flickr/TheDigitel Beaufort

Beaufort, South Carolina is characterized culturally, emotionally and economically by the presence of water. And that is precisely what's been celebrated, every year for the past six decades, at the Beaufort Water Festival. We drink it, paddle and sail upon it, picnic and party beside it. Surely, water merits its own 10-day celebration.

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Tennessee

Living the Romantic Dream

Gatlinburg outdoor wedding – Flickr/Courtney + Jesse Brown

Like so many young girls, Shannon dreamed of having a wonderful wedding. "It doesn't have to be big and fancy," she would say, "But it will be in a place of great beauty."

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South Carolina

Crafty in Gatlinburg

Inspiring Gatlinburg – Flickr/Gabriel King Photography

I was sorting through some old boxes in the attic when a smooth piece of wood, carved into the shape of a little cat, caught my eye. As I turned it over in my hand, I was suddenly 8 years old again, sitting in a rocking chair on my aunt's front porch. When I was young, my family made the trip each summer to the Smoky Mountains to visit her and escape the South Carolina heat.

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South Carolina

Sumter Entertainment

Sumter Opera House – Flickr/That Guy Doug

"10 cents?" asked my eleven-year-old in utter disbelief. It's always hard explaining to our kids how much things used to cost back in the "good old days," but for some reason, they had an especially difficult time digesting the fact that a movie ticket in 1936 was only a dime.

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Georgia

How to Witness Coastal Georgia's Natural Wildlife

Tri-Coloured Heron Jekyll Island – Flickr/m2ms1916

The Golden Isles is an area known for its natural and picturesque beauty. This includes the area's maritime forests, sandy beaches, and untouched marshlands, as well as its array of native wildlife. A variety of animals call the Golden Isles their home and witnessing these animals in their environment can be a rewarding experience like no other. While on vacation in the glorious Golden Isles, keep an eye out for the diverse species of birds, marine life and land mammals that inhabit this quaint seaside community

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Georgia

Music to My Ears

Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Alpharetta – Flickr/Bradley Huchteman

From intimate acoustic venues to outdoor amphitheaters, chef-driven dining experiences to locally owned restaurants, eclectic boutiques to acclaimed chains, Alpharetta, Georgia is a must visit destination with a little taste of everything to please the music and entertainment lovers, foodie fanatics and savvy shoppers in your crowd.

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