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Writer Finds Offbeat Destinations for the Holidays


Most Americans spend time with their families over the holidays, but some enjoy traveling. Writer Chris Epting has found some unusual holiday destinations around the United States. He spoke with VOA's Mike O'Sullivan in Los Angeles.

Epting says, if people are creative, they can find unusual destinations for Christmas. History lovers can visit the place where George Washington made a daring river crossing during the American Revolution. The dangerous journey near Trenton, New Jersey, marked a turning point in the war.

"Washington crossed the Delaware [River] on Christmas Day, 1776, so why not go to that spot? There's a wonderful plaque there by the river where he launched his boat. And you don't think of that as being necessarily Christmas-themed, but it did happen on that day," said Epting.

Epting, who writes books on unusual travel destinations, says visitors to New York can get a drink in a tavern where the writer O. Henry wrote a famous Christmas story in the early 1900s. The pub is called Pete's Tavern.

"And O. Henry went in there and sat at a table and wrote the story of 'The Gift of the Magi,' a wonderful holiday classic," said Epting. "You can go and sit at that table today, and they've got the story framed behind you as you sit. And on a wintry night, the fire is going, you can sit in this cozy little wonderfully rich wooden booth, and think about O. Henry writing that story right there."

For movie fans, an unlikely Christmas venue is the California resort town of Palm Desert. Amid the sage brush and cactus, writer-director Frank Capra wrote the script of a classic Christmas movie, which starred Jimmy Stewart.

STEWART: "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas."

EPTING: You can go where Frank Capra used to go and write. Back then, it wasn't a big resort. It was sort of a desert getaway for celebrities, and it was very low-key. And his bungalow there is where he wrote, 'It's A Wonderful Life.' You don't have to go to stay there. There's a plaque outside, and the hotel is pretty nice of [about] letting you go and just take a picture of it, especially if no one is staying there. But his typewriter is in there on the desk."

People can visit the house in Cleveland where the film Christmas Story was shot.

St. Paul, Minnesota, boasts the world's biggest snowman, and Denver, Colorado, the biggest light display.

"Denver has gone over the top," said Epting. "It's almost like an arms race of cities that want to become the pre-eminent lighting places for the holidays, and, to their credit, they've done a wonderful job. But, around the country, there are plenty of places, a lot of small towns and big cities alike, that love to adorn their city."

Epting says New York has the world's biggest menorah to mark the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, and the Christmas tree cut each year for display at Rockefeller Plaza is famous for its enormous size.

People in California can visit what is known as the nation's Christmas tree in Sequoia National Park.

"And it's incredible," said Epting. "You know, sequoias are these large majestic trees. It's one of the largest living things on earth. And during the holidays up there, they usually get some nice snow. And they do Christmas ceremonies in the weeks leading up to the holiday, which are really nice and very traditional. And you're standing in this forest of giants. It's very peaceful and calm and tranquil."

He says visitors to the other parts of the country can stop by towns called Santa Claus, Indiana, or Fort Christmas, Florida, which are also popular with holiday tourists.

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