Waypointers know the best places for fun, whether your inner kid wants an adult twist on exploring Disney World, you're looking for an otherworldly hike, or you want to check out some underground history.
These explorers are also helping to build Military Waypoint, the new online travel community exclusively for service members, veterans and their families.
Share your own explorations and see what others are posting at MilitaryWaypoint.com.
Foodie Dreams Come True, Too, At Disney Food Fest
Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival offers goodies from about 35 countries.
Photo Credit: Stephen Bell
While any day at Walt Disney World is better than a day anywhere else, there are times when WDW is even more awesome than others.
For my wife and me, one best of the best times is during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Here's what makes it such a tasty time to visit:
- Great timing: The fest runs through much of the fall when both crowds and temperatures are more tolerable.
- Wide selection: About 35 food and wine booths from as many countries. Each offers tapas-sized foods representative of their country as well as small-pour beer, wine and drink tasters.
- Reasonable prices: Prices run from a few dollars to $10 or so. Occasionally more for very special items. Epcot admission is still required, but there is no extra cost for the festival.
- Appetizing entertainment: Food and wine demos offered up daily by celebrity chefs as well as concerts from a variety of throwback bands, each performing for just a few days to keep things fresh.
The Food and Wine Fest runs for about 2 months from September to November each year. For 2016, the dates are Sept. 1-Nov. 14. It is held in Epcot's World Showcase, with booths set up in the path around the lagoon.
We prefer to go during the first two weeks of November, for the great temperatures. It can sometimes still be very hot in Central Florida in October.
I think Epcot is the perfect spot for this event where military families are concerned, as many of the countries represented in the World Showcase are places where we have been stationed or visited. Last year I went to the Food and Wine Festival with several buddies that I'd been stationed with. My favorite memory from that trip is the eight of us, sitting around two tables in the Germany Pavilion's Platz, eating brats, drinking German beer, and telling flying stories.
I highly recommend that you try the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival if the timing works with your leave/vacation schedule.
— Stephen Bell, Military Times contributor
Strataca Salt Mines
The Kansas Underground Salt Museum offers public tours to a portion of the mine.
Photo Credit: Dax Rankin
Kansas Underground Salt Museum (now known as Strataca): By 1999, the executive director and board of the Reno County Historical Society recognized the importance of preserving and presenting the Hutchinson salt story to the public. It soon became apparent that the logical, yet most challenging solution would be to re-open a portion of the mine to public tours.
Today's attraction is the product of collaboration of the Historical Society and the two business entities that exist in the mine: the Hutchinson Salt Company and Underground Vaults and Storage. UVS is a large facility that is known for storing a vast number of original Hollywood movies, as well as millions of documents and items from all over the world, in a secure and environmentally conducive environment. In the late 1990s, when it was decided that in order to expand the storage business a new elevator or hoist would need to be built, a partnership was formed that resulted in the development of the museum.
— Dax Rankin
Multnomah Falls: Where Middle Earth Meets The PNW
Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Multnomah Falls is credited as the second-tallest year-round waterfall in the United States.
Photo Credit: Jon R. Anderson/Staff
Sitting just inside Oregon across the Columbia River from Washington state, Multnomah Falls is one of those pilgrimage-worthy places for locals and tourists alike. And for good reason.
These falls bring together everything that's great about the Pacific Northwest, namely:
- Epic beauty: At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is credited as the second-tallest year-round waterfall in the United States. That distance is covered in two stages with a basin about three quarters of the way down. It’s also just one of dozens of waterfalls you can see lining the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.
- Man-made PNW charm: If the Elves of Rivendell built an outpost in the PNW, it would look like this. The 1925 stone- and timber-built Multnomah Falls Lodge welcomes visitors and provides a gateway to the Benson Bridge, which spans the waterway at the basin for the perfect lookout both above and below the falls.
- Easy access: About three hours from most Puget Sound military installations and only half an hour from Portland, this is easily worth the trip whether you’re stationed in the region or just passing through.
Sadly, you can no longer sleep at the lodge, but there is a great restaurant, as well as a snack bar and gift shop. There's also a mini museum.
The real action, of course, is outside. A trail continues beyond the bridge where you can get closer to the actual downpour. Yeah, feel mist on your face and the rumble of all the water pounding down. There is simply nothing like looking up the barrel of that much falling water.
Keep going. The hike up the 1.2-mile trail to the top of the falls is well worth the view. Even with a 10-year-old in tow who was less than thrilled with all the steep switchbacks, we made it to the top in about half an hour. Do it. You'll be glad you did.
The falls are fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain, a 4,062-foot extinct volcano. If you have about another five hours, you can bag the summit with a 12-mile hike (round-trip) while enjoying the spectacular views of several neighboring falls.
Final piece of advice: No matter how long you plan to spend at the falls, do yourself a favor and get there early — or, better yet, go on a weekday — so you dodge the inevitable crowds.
— Jon R. Anderson, Military Times editor