Oh, The Places You Should Go: North America

Make 'The New World' New Again

From Tops (of Mountains) to Bottoms (of the Atlantic)

washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 21, 2007; 3:12 PM

Quebec personifies French fashion and "all things chic," but Quebec City also captures a distinctive Amerindian, French and English history with its cultural center. Alongside the Saint Lawrence River, Quebec City is separated into two parts: Lower Town and Upper Town (the Old Quarter). Resting above Cap-Diamant, the Old Quarter is the only walled-in city in North America, as well as a UNESCOWORLD Heritage Site. Home to Quartier Petit Champlain, one of the oldest commercial districts the world, Quebec City visitors can have their fill of Euro-inspired galleries, bistros and shops.

A great vacation spot any time of year, it is the Carnaval de Quebec, the third largest carnaval in the world (behind New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro), that attracts the snow-enthusiast. Among the 300 annual festival events from January through February, Carnaval must-sees include the snow sculpture show, La Grand Vireé (dogsled race) and canoe race. And if the festivities are not enough, ski-lovers can take the shuttle to Mont-Sainte-Anne Mountain Resort, the premier expert ski resort in Eastern North America, which caters to all levels of experience with 65 trails and free admission for kids six and under.

For a special treat, stay a night at the Ice Hotel, the first all-ice and snow-created lodging of its kind in North America. Thanks to Mother Nature, the Ice Hotel offers a unique architecture each year and stays cool with entertainment in the ice bar and reception hall. Getting married? Set your date for the ice chapel -- but remind guests to bring their hats and gloves! Average Quebec City temperatures for the winter months run around nine degrees or less.

If You Like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Try Beale Street in Memphis

For wild nightlife mixed with homegrown music, a vacation to the birthplace of rock n' roll is a must. Beale Street Memphis is known as the home of blues and one of the hottest entertainment districts in the country. With over 25 clubs and shops lining the world-famous street, there's something for everyone. Stop in at former President Bill Clinton's preferred restaurant, Blues City Café, for ribs and later, if you need an "attitude improvement" or want to "bring out the animal in you," try the Monkey Shine or another of Wet Willies 17 daiquiris, which you can mix and match to customize your own flavor.

Culture buffs can have their pick of museums and exhibitions in Memphis, but an afternoon in Graceland is particularly fun for music fans. Relive Elvis's life story and road to fame as your tour the rooms of his breathtaking mansion. Highlights include his automobile collection, the jungle room and the Elvis store where you can retrieve all your favorite Elvis tunes of the past.

The "City of Kings" is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum, which chronicles the Civil Rights Movement through 20 unique and educational galleries. An $11 million exhibition called "Exploring the Legacy" was built to connect the museum to the Young and Morrow building and the Main Street Rooming House where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed. "Exploring the Legacy" is dedicated to answering three questions: "What happened after Dr. King's death? Did the Movement die in Memphis? What is the legacy of the Movement nationally and internationally?"

For your sleeping pleasure, curl up in a luxury room at the Grand South's Peabody, Memphis, a historic icon since 1925 known for its red carpet duck parade at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

If You Like Cancun, Try Ambergris Caye

This time of year, it's hard to fight the lure of a beachfront spring break with all the fixins -- warm sun, white sand, surfside cocktails and relaxation -- just not the spring-breakers themselves. To experience the Caribbean coast without all the crowds, head to Ambergris Caye in Belize.

Stretching 200 miles long and slightly less that two miles wide, Ambergris Caye is Belize's largest island and most popular vacation spot. On this trip, you can pack your wallet and your suitcase lightly. The island is inexpensive and typical island-wear involves bare feet, a T-shirt and shorts. What brings most tourists to Belize is its 190 mile long barrier reef -- the second largest coral reef in the world. Snorkeling and scuba trips, lessons and certification programs range in price from $30 to $200 and are available less than a quarter mile off the shore.

After a day at the beach, you'll want to take advantage of the island's cornucopia of culture and food influences. Aside from Spanish and Mexican restaurant varieties, Ambergris Caye is known for its delicious seafood. Sample seasonal lobster, squid and shark for dinner, and opt for a healthy, fresh fruit dessert of mangoes, pineapples and coconut. If you eat too much, you won't have to walk far to hear the sounds of reggae and Latin music and dancing.

If You Like the Grand Canyon, Try Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire

So you've seen one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but you've yet to sow your wild oats when it comes to desert jaw-droppers? Red Rock Canyon is the perfect stop for outdoor junkies and Las Vegas wanders alike. Less than an hour's drive from downtown "Sin City," Red Rock Canyon is one of the most awe-inspiring places to hike, climb, bike or run in the Southwest. With peaks over 8,000 feet, the magnificent colors of the red rocks and the petrified sand dunes are enough to occupy anyone for a day or two.

The Valley of Fire, Nevada's oldest and largest state park, is known for its magnificent red sandstone formations, petrified wood and 3,000-year-old Indian petrogryph. If you can rent a car, you can experience the "Best Scenic Drive in Southern Nevada" to its maximum and head just six miles further to Lake Mead for a day of sun-bathing, swimming and boating. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit the Mohave, as summer temperatures can get as high as 120 degrees, but climbers, photographers and road trip lovers will have a wonderful vacation in Nevada any time of year.

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