Wanderlusters and road trippers may not be ready or able to travel yet, but they can dream and plan, even enjoy a sampling of longed-for destination while waiting. Books, magical accouterments and other items and experiences can keep the dream alive until the time is right to go.
In a year when fresh air and wide-open spaces are what travelers are craving, the Adirondacks in upstate New York is the answer to that call of the wild. At its heart is the largest state park in the continental United States, the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park.
A protected and pristine, sometimes mysterious and always natural playground, it offers hiking, paddling, fishing, biking, birding, wildlife viewing, skiing and other outdoor activities set amid dozens of mountain peaks, miles of trails and thousands of lakes and ponds. Not to mention spectacular waterfalls that keep the oohs and ahs coming, from roadside dips and cascades to the Grand Flume at the vertical-walled wonder known as the Ausable Chasm — the oldest natural attraction in the country.
Between planning a trip and arriving, Adirondack-bound travelers can experience the flavor of the region. Adirondack-inspired apparel and made-in-the-Adirondack crafts, local pottery and photography, handcrafted art and jewelry, chocolates and cheeses and tree syrups and more can be ordered from Adirondack shops and artisans.
Have edible Adirondacks delivered to your door with A Taste of the Adirondacks Gift Box from Saranac Lake’s Village Mercantile. It is full of North Country delicacies, including everything maple: chaga tea, syrup, sugar nuggets — even dog biscuits. Savor a feast for the eyes with "The Adirondacks: Season by Season," a book by hiker and photographer Carl Heilman available through Lake Placid’s Bookstore Plus.
Fancy a Celtic getaway? Look to Moray and Speyside for a quintessential Scotland experience. The coastal community along Moray Firth on the North Sea is home to Johnstons of Elgin, the 223-year-old mill that produces that most iconic of Scottish fashions, the classic tartan. Free mill tours demonstrate the process.
This region is also whisky heaven: More than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries are in the Speyside area, including such famous names as Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Glen Moray, which produces a single-malt Scotch whisky available in the United States.
Bordering the Moray Firth, Banffshire alone has 29 distilleries, including Ballindalloch Single Malt Distillery. Some 40 distilleries beckon connoisseurs to the Malt Whisky Trail, including the historic Dallas Dhu. Now a museum, it offers audio-guided tours about the history of Scotch malt whisky. Also on the trail: Speyside Cooperage — the only place in the United Kingdom to experience the ancient art of coopering.
Of course castles and castle ruins come to mind when thinking about Scotland and several are here, including Ballindalloch Castle, a private castle that is primarily a family residence, the 13th century ruined Balvenie Castle and the ruins of Duffus Castle — a fun spot for a picnic.
Stoke dreams by bringing home classic Scotland (johnstonsofelgin.com) or scents inspired by the Scottish Highlands — like wild mountain thyme — from Island of Skye Candle Co. (skyecandles.co.uk). Travel the dream later with information at visitscotland.com and morayspeyside.com.
No matter how or when you plan to arrive, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida is magical for Muggles of all ages. The HP books and movies are a perfect way to stay immersed in Potter-land, but studying the Marauder’s Map and practicing spells and perfecting wand techniques also keeps everyone engaged.
While dreaming about exchanging Muggle money for Gringotts bank notes at Diagon Alley and taking the "Forbidden Journey" inside Hogwarts Castle in Hogsmeade — and riding the Hogwarts Express between the two — plan a savory strategy. You’ll want to sample butterbeer, munch chocolate frogs at Honeydukes and dine on British culinary fave toad in the hole at the Leaky Caldron.
Dream about travels now by ordering character costumes and collectibles at shop.universalorlando.com/shop/harry-potter/collectibles. Travel the dream later with information at universalorlando.com and visitorlando.com.
WINTER CULINARY IMMERSION
For travelers who have postponed a trip to Italy, Esperienza comes through with cooking classes to bring the flavors of Italy to your stovetop. Working with world-renowned Casa Artusi Cookery School in Forlimpopoli, Italy — the premier center of gastronomic culture devoted to Italian home cooking — the nonprofit is hosting Cooking With the Seasons via Zoom.
The winter edition focuses on "home-cooked foods that help us feel cozy and contented" and features four one-hour lessons. Each lesson includes recipes, cooking tips and wine recommendations, plus some of the history, health and science about the dishes and ingredients.
Esperienza curates trips to and experiences from this region and promotes the revitalization of rural Italian villages. In addition to the cooking series, it offers online language and cultural immersion programs.
Registering for Casa Artusi: Cooking With the Seasons at esperienza.org. The program is $100. Classes take place on Jan. 29 and Feb. 4 and 11.
Travel the dream later with information and trip planning resources at esperienza.org, including gift cards that can be used for experiences, cultural immersion sessions and future trips.
Author and travel and lifestyle writer Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there’s just too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at KathyWitt24@gmail.com, @KathyWitt.