As a travel writer, I receive travel-related press releases on a daily basis. While many focus on European, Asian, and South American destinations, plenty are potentially of interest to travelers in America. Unfortunately, though, I don't have the time – or inclination – to report everything that comes my way, but certain items have definitely piqued my curiosity in the past. How else, after all, would I have learned about the “Pickpocket King”  – whom I featured in a late December post?
So, imagine my delight on Monday when I received three notices about places that I've enjoyed in the past.
Gayot's top restaurant picks
First, I was notified that Gayot.com  – an internationally renowned guide to dining, hotels, travel, and lifestyle – has recently published its 2012 restaurant issue , which includes thematic lists like the “top 40 restaurants in the U.S.,” the “top 10 insider picks in the U.S.,” and the “top 10 new restaurants in the U.S.” Happily, I noticed that the top 40 includes one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans – Chef John Besh's Restaurant August  – a downtown eatery that just happens to be a top pick in my upcoming Moon New Orleans  guide. I was also excited to spot Emeril's Delmonico , another New Orleans restaurant mentioned in the book, on Gayot's list of the “top 10 steakhouses in the U.S.” In addition, I spied The Dining Room at Little Palm Island , a resort that's included in my Moon Florida Keys  guide, on Gayot's list of the “top 10 romantic restaurants in the U.S.” So, did any of your favorite eateries make the cut?
Vermont's Norman Rockwell Museum
Ever since I was a child, I've been a fan of Norman Rockwell's nostalgic advertisements and Saturday Evening Post covers. If you appreciate his work, too, then you might also enjoy a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont  (654 Rt. 4 E., Rutland, 802/773-6095 or 877/773-6095, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily), which, according to the New England Travel Report , is now open for the spring-summer-fall season. Established in 1976, the museum contains a fascinating, chronological display of more than 2,500 magazine covers, calendars, advertisements, and other illustrations produced by Rockwell between 1911 and his death in 1978. In general, the museum reveals his evolution as an illustrator, commemorates his Vermont years, and connects his work to the political, economic, and cultural history of America. While visiting, be sure to stop by the on-site gift shop, which offers a wide array of Rockwell's art, including prints, figurines, plates, and Post covers.
Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede
Meanwhile, if you're planning a family vacation to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, or Branson, Missouri, the kids might appreciate an evening at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede  – a touristy dinner and show experience that portrays a friendly rivalry between the North and the South by combining impressive horsemanship, buffalo stampedes, musical productions, and audience participation with a four-course meal. As I discovered on Monday, the Branson locale (1525 W. Hwy. 76, Branson, 417/336-3000 or 800/520-5544, show times and ticket prices vary), which has just kicked off its 18th season, is now featuring a “Rumble in the Treetops” lumberjack competition that includes trick riding, barrel races, and other entertaining activities. Of course, according to owner Dolly Parton, “To see those log-rolling lumberjacks toss one another in the water is the best part of all!”
So, where have you traveled lately?
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of the Little Palm Island Resort & Spa  © 2012 Daniel Martone / Text © 2012 Laura Martone
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Michigan , Moon Florida Keys , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans , which will be published in fall 2012.