American Escapes 2006
Festivals: May - September
Festival Nation: The Adventurous Summer
'Tis the season for microbrew celebrations, barbecue blowouts, and outdoor jams. Get to these adventure outposts when they're at their liveliest.
1. George, Washington
Sasquatch! Music Festival (www.sasquatchfestival.com)
What's Going On: More than 40 of the nation's hottest indie and rock bands play live at America's most stunning outdoor venue—the Gorge Amphitheatre, sited on cliffs above the Columbia River Gorge.
Acts in This Year's Lineup Everyone Seems to Go Crazy For: Arctic Monkeys, Beck, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, We Are Scientists.
Stay Awhile: Escape the crowds to the Cave B Inn, a new spa and winery overlooking the Columbia Gorge and the concert venue ($350; www.cavebinn.com).
2. Moab, Utah
Moab Arts Festival (www.moabartsfestival.org)
What's Going On: Moab's annual gathering of red rock-inspired artists show off their Southwestern jewelry and pottery.
It's No Santa Fe, But: The fest coincides with two somewhat more momentous events—the long Memorial Day weekend and the final days of cool weather in Canyon Country. Wait a month and it's scorching.
Stay Awhile: Mountain bike the classic, natural-arch-studded White Rim Trail, a three-day ride in Canyonlands National Park ($645; www.rimtours.com).
3. Seward, Alaska
Fourth of July (www.sewardak.org)
What's Going On: Alaskans celebrate the Fourth of July as if the Declaration of Independence were signed yesterday. Their patriotic epicenter is Seward, a town of 3,000 residents sited on a resplendent fjord, which hosts an annual seafood-and-fireworks bacchanal.
Gonzo-Footrace-of-the-Year Award: The three-mile (5-kilometer) Mount Marathon dash up and down a 3,022-foot (921-meter) peak.
Stay Awhile: Paddle the glacial icebergs of Northwest Lagoon ($949 for three days; www.liquid-adventures.com).
4. Piercy, California
Reggae on the River (www.reggaeontheriver.com)
What's Going On: Thousands of dreadlocked northern Californians congregate amid the tall trees for the largest weekend reggae festival in the world.
Number of Bob Marley's Sons Who've Played Here: Five, and all of the original Wailers too.
Stay Awhile: Redwoods road trip! Head north up U.S. 101, into the heart of Humboldt County.
5. Telluride, Colorado
Telluride Mountainfilm Festival (www.mountainfilm.org)
What's Going On: Outdoors-obsessed artist-intellectuals descend on the Rockies for four days of adrenaline-pumping films and thought-provoking seminars.
Best Intermission: Hike the five-mile (8-kilometer) round-trip Bear Creek trail.
Stay Awhile: Bed down at the New Sheridan Hotel ($100; www.newsheridan.com), right downtown.
6. Vail, Colorado
May 31-June 4
Teva Mountain Games (www.tevamountaingames.com)
What's Going On: The nation's top outdoor-sports festival, with competitions open to both pro athletes and amateurs.
Tip: From the Adventure Race Course Designer: Billy Mattison, the 1998 Eco-challenge winner who created this year's course, recommends arriving a week before the games, lest the 8,000-plus-foot (2,438-plus-meter) altitude afflict your lungs and spoil your plans for victory.
Stay Awhile: Vail's most luxurious resort, the Sonnenalp ($150; www.sonnenalp.com) offers huge summer price breaks.
7. Austin, Texas
Austin City Limits (www.aclfest.com)
What's Going On: It's the festival that inspired the PBS series—dozens of chart-topping bands descend on Texas's hippest town just as the sweltering summer heat breaks.
Packing List: Two inner tubes for floating on Lake Austin—one for you and one for your cooler full of ice-cold Shiner Bock beer.
8. Tryon, North Carolina
Blue Ridge BBQ Festival (www.blueridgebbqfestival.com)
What's Going On: More than 90 teams gather in Tryon to compete for $20,000 and a spot in the national championship in Kansas City, Missouri. Spectators eat their trial efforts.
Pre-Chow Advice: Whatever you do, do not confuse pepper sauce (chopped red peppers soaked in vinegar) with hot sauce (very spicy, peppery taste).
Stay Awhile: Make nearby Asheville a jumping-off point for exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park (www.nps.gov/grsm).
9. Damascus, Virginia
Appalachian Trail Days (www.traildaysinfo.com)
What's Going On: Twenty-thousand thru-hikers and thru-hiking enthusiasts descend upon hapless Damascus (pop. 1,000) for three days of live music, gear demos, and impromptu drum circles.
Arm Yourself: It's traditional for townies to wage war (using water balloons, fire hoses, and food) against visitors during the annual Trail Days parade. Your secret weapon? Twinkies.
Stay Awhile: If you haven't time to trek all 550 miles (885 kilometers) of the Virginia Appalachian Trail, hike nine miles up nearby Mount Rogers, the state's tallest peak (5,729 feet or 1,746 meters).
10. Rockland, Maine
Maine Lobster Festival (www.mainelobsterfestival.com)
What's Going On: Mainers gather to eat nearly 25,000 pounds of fresh-caught lobster on the rocky shores of Penobscot Bay.
Ain't Maine Quaint: In the annual Lobster Crate Race, contestants run out into the chilly bay atop a floating string of tippy wooden crates. The record? 3,007 crates without a slip.
Stay Awhile: Book a three-day paddling trip in Boothbay Harbor ($695; www.h2outfitters.com).
11. Burlington, Vermont
Vermont Brewers Festival (www.vermontbrewers.com)
What's GoingOn: Thirty-five East Coast microbreweries (Long Trail, Magic Hat, Dogfish, to name a few) pour more than a hundred types of beer amid live demos, music, and barbecue chow.
Best Over-Brew View: On Friday night, festivalgoers gather on the shores of Lake Champlain to watch the sun dip below the Adirondack Mountains.
Stay Awhile: Head for the Inn at Essex ($229; www.vtculinaryresort.com), the northernmost campus of the New England Culinary Institute, to soak up the suds with posh eats.
12. Chicago, Illinois
Muddy Buddy Series (www.muddybuddy.com)
What's Going On: A one-day, beginner-friendly adventure race on a farm 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Chi-town. Two-person teams run, bike, and negotiate obstacles such as hay bales, monkey bars, and climbing walls. The course ends with a team crawl through a 50-foot-long (15-meter-long) mud pit.
How Not to Dress Up Your Bike: Jill Theobald, who won the women's race last year, recommends costuming your ride so that you can spot it easily at the start of the cycling leg. Sound advice, sure. But her bike's outfit? "A pink, fuzzy boa and pink duct tape." No bicycle deserves that.
13. Cheyenne, Wyoming
Cheyenne Frontier Days (www.cfdrodeo.com)
What's Going On: A real-deal Western blowout—the largest outdoor rodeo in the world, complete with bull riding, calf roping, and stage acts like country-and-western star Carrie Underwood and redneck comic Larry the Cable Guy.
Stay Awhile: After watching the pros, drive north to the Triangle C Dude Ranch ($2,100 a week; www.trianglec.com), near Jackson Hole. Each Friday guests at the dude ranch participate in their own rodeo; test your mettle astride a bucking bronco or try a safer event like barrel racing.
Pick up the May 2006 issue for 38 amazing family escapes, wild beaches, and cool festivals; Sebastian Junger's lessons from the road; and the best bikes for summer.
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