MEMBERS SHARE THEIR HEALTHY GETAWAYS
Not long ago, we asked SFA members to tell us about their favorite getaways and vacation spots -- especially exercise-friendly places where mature adults can conveniently enjoy wholesome physical activity.
Below are some of the surprising responses we received!
"Savannah's not exactly out of the way, but parts of it do remind me of another place and time. Whenever I go there, I always wind up getting a good workout, too. That's because I can't stop walking when I'm in Savannah. There's too much to see just around the next corner.
"You can stroll through square after manicured square of historic homes, architectural gems lovingly restored to the splendor and grandeur of their distant pasts. You can wander along the river front, checking out the shops and restaurants (not to mention the working ships and tugboats or the towering sculpture of Savannah's hopeful Waving Girl, forever watching for her sailor to return home from the sea).
"You can spend a whole day exploring the sprawling old cemetery made famous by the book
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Now that's one haunting and mysterious-feeling place! Then you can head out to Tybee Island for a walk on the beach. I'm a healthy senior citizen, and I always keep comfortably active throughout my stays in this lovely little city."
"Don't get this confused with well-known Independence, Missouri. The Independence in Kansas is a small, little-known town. I wonder if it's still as neat as it was back when my wife and I chanced upon it ten years ago while traveling with our toddler. Boy, it sure was a charming surprise then!
"It was getting dark and we were tired of driving. We needed to find a motel, and we ended up at one in Independence, Kansas. The next morning we discovered that the tiny town had a HUGE park like none we'd ever seen before. It was full of whimsical, artistic statues inspired by nursery rhymes and bedtime stories. They were large, brightly painted, exquisitely formed, and also functional for children. Across several acres, our kid kept busy running in and out of Indian teepees, sitting on benches with friends like Little Miss Muffet and her giant spider, 'riding' horses and elephants, climbing through the home of the old woman who lived in a shoe, and much more. He also took a ride on a kid-sized train and, nearby, explored the real thing: a genuine antique steam engine.
"And that wasn't all! There was a Gothic castle encircled by a moat and inhabited by dozens of lively monkeys. A sign said that some early monkey-astronauts had retired here from the national space program. This was only the beginning of a fantastic zoo. There was a lake and island populated by elegant swans as well as a hectic warren where prairie dog heads kept popping up and rabbits scampered above and below the ground. There were shady stone staircases leading down, down, down to cool, mossy habitats for bears, big cats, and other exotic animals. All appeared content and well cared for. In larger preserves, we spied ostriches, llamas, and buffalo! One mesmerizing sight always seemed to lead to another that special day and, before we knew it, we'd taken quite a hike. I bet people of any age would react the same way.
"This magical place wasn't crowded and there was no entrance fee. A local resident said that a wealthy citizen had left an endowment to the town for the park's creation and ongoing maintenance. We fell in love with our unexpected find and stayed on an extra day in the little town that felt like fairyland!"
St. Augustine, Florida
"Well, there's some traffic in the St. Augustine area, and parking downtown can be challenging. But it was worth it to our extended family, because the venerable city entertained all of us, from the kids to the grandparents. We enjoyed traipsing around the authentic old fort in St. Augustine's historic district, where costumed 'soldiers' shot off canons at certain times each day. It was loud, so they had us cover our ears before they fired! Nearby we walked down the city's original cobblestone streets, regularly ducking into cheerful shops, avant-garde art studios, and quaint dining establishments.
"But the thing we liked best was the Lightner Museum. A long-ago luxury hotel, this immense mansion now is filled with curious collections, for example, vast displays of old buttons, hats, toys, and early American braided hair art (intricate creations that family members used to weave from the silken locks of loved ones). The kids were mystified by a shrunken head and a real stuffed lion. The rest of us were entranced by, well, everything. This museum is crammed with treasures, including the weird and the bizarre, but also the rare and the beautiful. Ambling through the many floors and expanses of the Lightner made for a stimulating mental and physical workout, not to mention a memorable intergenerational activity for our family."
Pacific Coast Highway, California
"I'll never forget driving almost all the way up the Pacific Coast Highway with a friend. For most of the trip, there were no buildings -- just rugged cliffs, pounding waves, sea spray, and a totally natural experience. Once I saw a herd of black and white cattle grazing in a pasture with the beach as a backdrop! Along the way, we ate at rustic roadside cafes with breathtaking views. At one park where we stopped to picnic, a steep hill in the woods led down to a gurgling stream where an energetic family was camping. While I watched them swim, friendly squirrels ventured up to me begging for handouts.
"During that same vacation I got to see the giant redwood trees. Deep in the forest, nature and time had hollowed out one big old tree in a special way that made it seem like a little house. My companion and I fantasized about living in the tree: 'Look, here's the front door. That opening in the opposite side of the trunk can be the back door. And over there is a small window!'
"You wouldn't think you could get much exercise on a road trip, but we did because along the way there were so many interesting places to get out and walk. Mainly, I couldn't believe that such a famous route could seem so peaceful, and they don't call it scenic for nothing!"
Canaan Valley, West Virginia
"OK, I'll tell you where my secret getaway is: Canaan Valley Ski Resort. It's great for downhill and cross-country skiing, ice skating, and hiking. The mountains are enchanting, and I never fail to see lots of deer. I especially enjoy observing the little knobby-kneed fawns and knowing they're safe to roam here unhunted.
"Sometimes I aim a little farther south in West Virginia and visit Pipestem State Park. When the weather's temperate, Pipestem is terrific for golf, swimming, horseback riding, and wildflower hunting. When it's snowy, Winter Place is nearby for skiing. At Pipestem, I like to rent a cozy cabin with a great stone fireplace for warming up after brisk walks through the nippy air."
New Orleans, Louisiana
"Let me just start out by saying that I'm no spring chicken. Been to New Orleans maybe forty times in my life. Never lived there. But after that first visit, just always kept wanting to go back again (and again). I've driven cars to get there, ridden Greyhound buses to get there, flown to get there. I always loved the irrepressible characters who call this funky old city home. Always loved the French Quarter, the jazz, the Garden District, the street cars, the Mississippi, red beans and rice! Loved walking off red beans and rice at the Audubon Park Zoo.
"Then devastation. From afar I followed news of the winds, the flooding, the pain. This couldn't be happening to my quirky, raucous, irreverent ... graceful, stately, refined ... adopted city! Not that hallowed place. Not the lady I could always take pleasure in knowing was down there being her lusty-gutsy-pious-prayerful self, being original, being one of a kind, being the Big Easy, whether I ever broke away for one more visit or not.
"Hours, days, weeks, months. Things are beginning to reopen now in New Orleans. I'm not gonna rush it. Waiting till she feels up to receiving callers. Waiting till she wants to kick up her heels a little once more. Then I'm there, man. As soon as I know she's truly ready, not just being nice, but really feeling better, I'm letting the good times roll in New Orleans again. And this time I'll love her even more than I ever did before."
Niagara Falls, Canada
"My husband Ben and I are older, and we're not athletes. Between his history of heart problems and my arthritis, we have to be careful about the types of trips we plan. No rock climbing or underwater cave diving for us! But we did enjoy our visit to Niagara Falls. We spent a day on the Canadian side of the Falls where there are beautifully landscaped gardens, easy-to-access landings from which to view the mighty waters, and plenty of even walkways for getting about. We had to park our rental car a very long way from the main attraction, but a shuttle bus appeared quickly to cart us into the village. I felt tingly all over while walking beside the big river as it approached its 'point of no return.' Then came the thrill of witnessing that unstoppable, never-ending avalanche of water and mist. Oh, the power of it!
"Ben and I lingered into the night at Niagara Falls. We would walk a little, stand a little, sit a little, then walk a little more. It was just the right amount of exertion to make us feel pleasantly tired, but not in the least bit exhausted. As darkness fell, gentle pastel lights illuminated the cascading spectacle, ending the perfect day romantically for a couple married more than fifty years!"
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