Roadside Attractions For Your Next Road Trip

The final destination of a road trip gets a lot of (well-deserved) credit, but it’s often the memories made along the way that stick with you for a lifetime, and a recent collection of the “weirdest” roadside attractions from Thrillist helps you find that “world’s largest insert-object-here” to be found when you’re enroute and looking for a pitstop, distraction, or excuse to simply rest your legs.

While it may seem like the continental United States is randomly “littered” with random madness, know that there’s a method to it all; these oversized cooking utensils and trippy theme parks are situated to lure travelers to roadside attractions off the beaten path, so here’s a suggested list of locations that are considered worth the trip.

Rainbow Rock Shop, Arizona

While Route 66 isn’t quite what it was in the past, there’s still the roadside town of Holbrook to maintain the interstate magic with an unexpectedly dense collection of roadside attractions, cement dinosaurs. These statues, some up to over 25 tall, were constructed personally by the shop’s owner and costs only a few cents to pose with. It’s worth it for the photo evidence alone as you try to convince people that there really is a secret dinosaur haven in the middle of Arizona.

Bishop Castle, Colorado

This roadside attraction is a 160-foot tall stone and steel structure includes two catwalks, a ballroom, four towers and a vast collection of iron railings and flourishes that will make you think you’re in a literal story book. The drawbridge and fire-breathing dragon were built by Jim Bishop, who invites others to walk between the tower’s bridges (at your own risk) or simply admire the impressive decor, ranging from hand-painted signs to a literal axe sticking out of the floor in the castle’s main hall.

Monkey Island, Florida

Located on Florida’s western coast on the Homosassa River is Monkey Island with a name that begs you to see what all the fuss is about.  This island is accurately named, as it houses a family of spider monkeys who now live in a caged enclosure, as they used to live on the mainland, harassing tourists by engaging in unlawful activities such as biting, pickpocketing, and vandalism. Take a break, enjoy some food and drink as you watch the monkeys from a safe distance whenever near the Homosassa River.

Doll’s Head Trail, Georgia

Georgia’s Constitution Lakes Park has a special history with its many lakes having been created by rainwater from a halted construction project decades earlier. Because of this, the park is covered in lakes, and a walking trail is lined by a local carpenter’s collected doll parts. Over the years, Joel Slaton has been repurposing junk and abandoned scraps into a muddy, creepy perimeter to this can’t miss patch of Georgian woods.

Leaning Tower of Niles, Illinois

Though it’s only half the size of its famed Italian counterpart, this Midwestern version was built in 1934 and allows many tourists to pose for pictures in which they are “pushing” the leaning tower over without having to cross an ocean.

The Paper House, Massachusetts

Ellis Stenman in 1922 had an idea to insulate his summer home in newspaper, and this experiment grew tenfold into an outright obsession that consisted of 100,000 newspapers assembled into an actual house. Rest easy when you visit, as the home’s roof, floors, and frame aren’t made of paper, but the furniture, walls, amongst all else is made of paper, impressing many New England travelers.

Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, Michigan

We end our suggested list poetically, and rightfully with the “World’s Largest Working Chainsaw.” The term “yooper” is sling for a person living in the state’s Upper Peninsula, and this tourist trap is aptly named as it offers travelers with folk art, a tableau of deer drinking beverages, lots of outhouses, a gift shop, and of-course an oversize, but fully functional chainsaw.

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Louisiana Teacher of the Year and Principal

Recently, the Louisiana Department of Education announced the 2021 Louisiana Teacher of the year and Principal of the year in a press release from the Louisiana Department of Education.

Nathalie Roy, of Glasgow Middle School in East Baton Rouge Parish, was named the 2021 State Teacher of the Year while Anita Dione Bradford, of Parkway Elementary School in Vernon Parish, was named the 2021 State Principal of the Year. The announcement was made at the virtual, 14th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Awards Gala, where  all Teacher and Principal of the Year finalists and semi-finalists were also honored.

2021 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year

At Glasgow Middle School in East Baton Rouge Parish, Nathalie Roy teaches a diverse selection of course offerings including, Roman technology, classical mythology, as well as Latin. This international focus in her courses is a result of her educational background as she’s studied classical archaeology at the American Academy in Rome, where she was a Fullbright scholar, and at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece.

Roy is a National Board Certified Teacher, who has used her experience to publish articles with Cambridge University Press and the American Classical League on topics regarding Roman technology. During the pandemic, she has partnered with the American Classical League to offer free, live-streamed, and kinesthetic lessons on Roman Technology.

At school, her classes are expectedly focused on ancient Roman and Greek life, though it’s similarly infused with STEM. This cross-discipline focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is a particularly unique curriculum idea that has afforded Roy many grant opportunities over the years, and her students benefit from it.

With 63% of her students initially testing at the Approaching Basic and Basic achievement levels rising to 89% at Mastery or Advanced, despite not having prior exposure to classical mythology; it’s a testament to Roy’s teaching and a validation of the deservedness of her title.

2021 Louisiana State Principal of the Year

Parkway Elementary School’s principal Alnata Dione Bradford is (like the State Teacher of the Year) the proud daughter of two educators. While her parents, two Lousisana educators with a combined over 65 years of teaching experience, instilled a dedication and importance of love, faith, and education into their family, Bradford took the lessons to heart as she ascended at Parkway from assistant principal to the title she holds today.

Approximately 580 students from Grades 1-4 are taught at Parkway, which is located near an Army installation in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and over 90% of the school is military affiliated. Each month, Parkway tends to gain or lose a half-dozen students due to station reassignments or military deployments, but despite this fluctuating enrollment, Bradford is rightfully perceived as remaining resilient and ensuring a notable learning impact is made for all of the students for however long they attend Parkway, which was recognized as an “A” school in 2017.

Last year, the school was also recognized as a “Louisiana Top Gains” school with its 10.1 growth points earned, earning it the honor of receiving the most growth district-wide with its School Performance Score (SPS) increasing by 9.6 points. Appropriately this success is due to Bradford’s leadership.

A full listing of previous Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year honorees can be found in the following Louisiana DOE library. Louisiana Teachers and Principals of the Year are chosen by state education leaders, administrators and committees in partnership with Dream Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Principals. All collaborate annually to recognize and celebrate some of the state’s most high-achieving and exceptional educators with the Teacher and Principal of the Year programs.

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Cold Work Week Lunch Suggestions

Weekday lunches are often seen as the respite of a hectic workday, so they should ideally be made with little obstacles, such as the lack of a microwave oven. Thankfully, several “cold,” yet enjoyable work week lunch ideas are suggested in a recipe blogpost from Martha Stewart, so that you can take a break from the mid-workday stresses with a lunch that is easily-accessible and tasty.

These recipes are ideal for those working in an office or from home and have found that their past few weeks of lunches have either gotten stale or uninteresting. Invite yourself to spice things up and get out of the lunch-rut we all find ourselves in whether we’re moving last night’s leftovers into a reusable container or tossing together a quick salad. Refresh your next mid-day meal with the following fast and delicious recipe suggestions.

Grilled Skirt-Steak Salad

If you find yourself ever with a leftover portion of grilled steak, feel free to serve it over lettuce alongside orange and yellow bell peppers, feta cheese, and juicy cherry tomatoes for a flavorful and hearty salad. Make it interesting with a suggested basic vinaigrette atop it all!

Tuna-Salad Hand Rolls

Make yourself the talk of the lunchroom (or the star of your work-from-home situation) with a aesthetically-pleasing hand roll made from good-quality canned tuna, yes there is such a thing, that is mixed with mayonnaise and lemon juice, then folded into the nori sheets alongside sliced avocado and vegetables (which also make a great side dish). There’s nothing that quite matches the tuna salad’s taste and texture, so lean into that nostalgia with this asian-inspired, rolled treat.

Poached Chicken Sandwiches with Peas and Radishes

This picturesque sandwich has a vibrant and lush green that will similarly make any onlookers green with envy when eyeing your assembly of thick slices of rustic bread topped with a pea, almond, and ricotta spread. Make it as aromatic as it is visually-appealing with the addition of thinly-sliced radishes, fresh mint leaves, and sugar snap peas.

Rice Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Feta

Fill your salad container with six simple ingredients and take a trip with the easily-prepared, Mediterranean-inspired lunch salad that has the power to not only satiate and nourish your appetite but also give you the final push you need to see to your afternoon duties with a brisk efficiency. All this needs is some pre-cooked brown rice, cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, cucumbers, parsley, and fresh mint to have an aromatic, satisfying lunch meal.

Scandinavian Shrimp-and-Cucumber Sandwich

Skip a typical cold lunch salad in favor of this anything-but-boring lunch salad. This assembly is special in that you use poached shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, sliced cucumbers, and Neufchatel cheese atop pumpernickel bread for an open-facing meal that is simply stunning and unforgettable.

Triple Decker PB & J Tea Sandwiches

Embrace a simpler time and update it for the adult version of yourself with this all-american classic: a triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s a classic for a reason, so let’s triple it by having it consist of three slices of bread and a double layer of peanut butter and jelly to make lunchtime simple and easy to please.

Taco Salad with Sweet-Potatoes

As many avoid overstuffing themselves at lunchtime as to avoid a post-noon slump, this heartily health-conscious salas aims to nourish you and keep things light. Roasted sweet potatoes are layered over a bed of lettuce alongside traditional taco toppings like black beans, jalapenos, crushed tortilla chips, and lime juice. Avoid the mexican take out, and fill that craving yourself with this sampling and satisfying salad.

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Five Austin Waterfalls You Can’t Miss

As the sun subtly hints that it’s lessening its heat waves and trees begin to transition from green-filled topiaries into autumnal palettes, it’s prime time to explore the nature surrounding one of the United States’ most industrial and modern-leaning cities, Austin, Texas. As TravelTRiangle reports, there’s no better answer to the decrescendo of summer’s than visiting the lush green valleys and hilltops, and Austin waterfalls that surround the “Hippie Haven” that has spawned many an artist, poet, startup, cowboy, and many more.

The capital city is a prime destination for any traveling adventure enthusiast as the city has 14 nature preserves, 20 beaches, 50 miles of hiking and biking trails, and 205 parks to choose from, though possibly the most unique feature of the greater Austin area is its instagram-able waterfalls that are consistently sought after by tourists and locals alike as many days can be lost being lackadaisical when swimming, picnicking, and generally enjoying the atmosphere of the following five Austin Waterfalls.

St. Edwards Park

Already a household southern name in hiking trails, St. Edwards Park rewards many hikers with a magnificent waterfall that looks like it was pulled right from an international nature magazine. A well-maintained hiking trail of varying difficulties leads interested parties to this heavenly cascade of water, and best of all, the area is largely covered by shade, protecting you and your closest friends from the sun, allowing you to plan ahead and make a day of it all. Post the pictures in the groupchat, pack a bag, and head to Spicewood Springs Rd while the weather is a perfect compliment to this park’s soothing waters.

Hamilton Pool Preserve

While most think of exotic locales when the word “waterfall” is mentioned, Hamilton Pool Preserve is located only a few minutes’ drive from the city on the Austin outskirts where it houses one of the most stunning waterfalls located in the continental United States. Though the name sounds incorporated or industrialized in nomenclature, this historic spot has a stream flowing onto limestone slabs that cascade into a watering hole after a 50 meter drop. Depending on the season, swimming isn’t consistently available year-round, as local officials keep a close eye on bacteria and rainfall levels to ensure safety. Stop by the aptly-named Dripping Springs today to see this can’t miss sight.

Twin Falls

Plan a trip to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and see the most popular waterfall in Austin, Texas. Whether you’re embracing solitude, bridging the family along, or enjoying the sights and swimming with close friends, this waterfall is accessible to all close to the capital city due to its 3.7 mile round trip distance and is easily accessible to hike by children and leashed pets. Located at the base of the falls is a swimming hole for those wanting to jump, swim, and enjoy the can’t miss atmosphere that is only made more lush, vibrant, and uproaring by recent rainfall.

 Sculpture Falls

Also located along the Barton Creek Greenbelt of Austin is the clear-water Sculpture Falls with its secluded swimming hole that’s a perfect spot to jump into. You can reach these falls after a 2.5 mile hike that serves as a small deterrent to some, making this a less-busy attraction to those avoiding crowds. Follow the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail, and visit a waterfall that is praised for its pet-friendly atmosphere.

 McKinney Falls

Adventure awaits at McKinney Falls where big crowds can gather without it seeming overpopulated. Besides the typical sight-seeing and basking in the uproarious cascade of water, several other activities are offered such as camping, hiking, fishing, and more. So make the most out of your next partial-Austin-getaway and dip a toe into the rushing, inviting waters.  

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Six No Bake Desserts Worth Trying

As summer’s end is approaching and you find that the heat isn’t departing any time soon, there’s no better dessert than one that doesn’t require you to sire up the oven. SeriousEats released a recipe collection of over a dozen no-bake desserts that are a perfect answer to the sun’s scorching rays and your sweet-craving taste buds. With this compilation ranging from a fruit mousse that only takes but five minutes to prepare to a chocolate cake that can be easily made in a microwave, you shouldn’t have to break a sweat- in the kitchen at least!

Ultimate Strawberry Popsicles

This recipe has “ultimate” in its title for a reason; it’s a grand collection of all of the sweet tanginess that comes when biting into a strawberry-laden dish and its many forms of delivery. These popsicles are made possible by combining fresh strawberries, strawberry jam, and freeze-dried strawberry powder in a blender. While the preparation is easy, the toughest part will have to be waiting for this fruity mixture to freeze, so you’re free to keep yourself busy with errands or chores in between your freezer-checks.

Microwave Rocky Road Sponge Cakes No-Bake Dessert

While some may be adverse to a microwaved cake upon hearing it mentioned, once tasted, it’s quite difficult to object to its taste and impossible to find fault with its low-maintenance prep or convenience of cooking time. This mug-filling sponge cake is made with finely-whipped egg whites, sugar, flour, chocolate, walnuts, bourbon, and a few other pieces; an added treat of mini marshmallows are a fine suggestion to add to your batter, for instance, giving the the familiar flavor of rocky road a lightness to the texture and compliment to the flavor profile.

30-Minute Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream

When making ice cream from home, it’s a great idea to look to the north for inspiration, specifically New England’s Philadelphian tradition of eggless ice cream production. Because of the lack of eggs, this ice cream retains a lightness and fluffy texture that’s oft-lost with traditional homemade ice cream batches, though it turns “icy” fast, so plan this meal ahead of time on a day you know that the batch will be gone by nightfall.

Easy No-Bake Cheesecake

Cheesecake is the one item on a menu that the accomplished baker hopes to perfect, and with this unique recipe, there’s no baking involved. This basic collection and combination of ingredients uses a subtle, sweet cream cheese filling alongside heavy cream, salt, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. While a traditional cheesecake can be partially-achieved in texture and style with the graham cracker crust, the SeriousEats team invites you to prepare an aromatic Biscoff cracker crust.

Light and Easy 5-Minute Fruit Mousse No-Bake Dessert

This recipe is simplicity defined, due to it only taking five minutes to prepare. All the kitchen check needs to do is whip up the (non-expired) frozen fruit that lines the back of any resourceful chef’s freezer along with fruit, sugar, and egg whites in a food processor until it’s all smooth and fluffy in appearance and texture, and it’s made especially great when utilizing the raspberries that often go un-utilized in frozen form.

Homemade Star Crunch No-Bake Dessert

Give the petite girl named Debra a run for her money with this texture-rich callback to a simpler time. This is one chocolatey, crunchy, stovetop delight that will satisfy your craving for a cookie without you having to start preheating your oven. Begin with a simple caramel made with sugar and water, slowly adding in chilled cream and simmer it briefly on the stovetop. After the mixture has cooled, you’ll add in a hefty handful of chopped milk chocolate to give the cookie its fudge-like quality and Rice Crispies to give it that spacious, yet hollow texture that many recall from a childhood bagged lunch. While the recipe lessens from there with only flattening and portioning remaining, the hardest part will be waiting for this quasi-batter to set completely without the interruption of a stealing spoon.

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Commander’s Palace Plans to Reopen its Doors

One famous New Orleans’ restaurant closed their doors earlier this year in March, but they kept their kitchen actively busy, and this month Commander’s Palace reopens its picturesque dining rooms, according to a profile.

Friday, September 11 marks the resumption of full restaurant services with the kitchen and staff beginning with only dinner and weekend brunch, planning of course to expand in the future. This return to normal is much-appreciated by the local community, where the dining rooms are a favorite location known for its quality service and cuisine.

As expected, Commander’s Palace plans to reopen its doors with the all-too-familiar social distancing safety measures such as spacing increases between tables, required masks, among a plethora of other things, though the restaurant management is also using this reopening strategy as an opportunity to expand its reach and menu.

When doors reopen in mid September, Commander’s Palace will also reincorporate pecan-crusted fish and bread pudding souffle to their offering, since the time away from serving customers table-side has allowed the experienced chefs to experiment with their dishes and introduce new methods of cooking and preparation to the time-tested menu items.

In a similar theme of innovation, the time in which the restaurant closed their dining rooms allowed for management to open up new lines of business and offer a plethora of services to the community as they expanded their food takeout program, collaborated with a national shipping service to serve and send out complete dishes and dinner bundles to Commander’s fans from all over, and the restaurant held weekly virtual wine and cheese parties, drawing hundreds of online attendees.

These new services provided by Commander’s Palace are housed next door to the traditional restaurant in an adjacent building that was previously used as restaurant offices. Now, the cottage found on Washington Avenue has been renamed to Le Petit Bleu, and it serves the community as a walk-up takeout restaurant shop and a home base for other ventures.

Just because the management was forced to close its doors doesn’t mean that work slowed down, it just diversified into other areas. For instance Ti Martin, who runs Commander’s Palace with her cousin, Lally Brennan, gathered all managers of the business to take a hard look at their staff policies, procedures, and program through the lens of not only the new safety restrictions but also influenced by the ongoing national conversation of racial equality and inclusion. Martin reported to that she is proud of the steps her company has taken in the past, including but not limited to diversity training and staff recruiting efforts. Though steps were taken, Martin was vocal about the need for work yet to be done not just by the restaurant’s staff and management but also by the industry at large.

Opening the Commander’s Palace doors doesn’t only mean that the refined and praised services are expanding, as the management has expanded their benefits package to add additional sick leave. In addition, the wonders are seeking out more minority-owned businesses as purveyors and they’ve revamped an internal program designed to familiarize staff members on how to advance upward within the company, called “Pathways to Success.”

When interviewed about her restaurant’s plan to reopen by, Martin stated, “this starts with our people. There’s a faint hint of hope that fall is approaching and things will get better. So we’re giving this the college try. We’re trying for our team, for our city, and we’re trying to survive like anyone else in the business.” Many New Orleans visitors and locals have shown support for the oft-praised restaurant during its time of closing, but the community at large is excited to see the new direction the management takes upon reopening.

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