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Treat yourself to summer

(Patricia Borns photo)
June 20, 2010

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Find bliss in the Cyclades Islands, overnight on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, go tubing down a lazy river in Tennessee. They are among the 15 summer sensations that await you this season:

BE NEIGHBORLY
Few summertime bashes rival a country’s birthday party in the national capital. But instead of heading south to Washington this year, journey north to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa on July 1. The flag-waving and fireworks may be familiar, albeit maple-leafed, but the parading Mounties and Changing of the Guard are purely Canadian. Parliament Hill is the locale for the celebration with noontime and nighttime concerts featuring the Barenaked Ladies. Queen Elizabeth II will be a guest of honor. Stay nearby at the castle-like Fairmont Château Laurier, take a guided tour of Parliament the following day, and still be home for a star-spangled Fourth. www.canadascapital.gc.ca/canadaday CHRISTOPHER KLEIN

GREECE STILL RULES
Through good times and bad, Greek summers endure as the most beautiful in creation. My bliss is Sifnos, one of the Cyclades, under a burnished August sun, or in equally luminous September, when Europeans go home and prices plummet. Sifnos and its people are warm, grounded in their own social structure, and unspoiled by tourism. When the arriving hordes vaporize onto the many beaches, Sifnos is bathed in countryside quiet and lovingly preserved white villages, including the medieval walled Kastro. Dozens of stone-paved hiking trails lead you in the footfall of ancestral Sifnians and their mules from town to town, among small farms and olive groves. People here still make pottery in workshops at the water’s edge, and they are passionate about simple, savory food prepared with the ingredients of the earth and sea. After visiting Panagia Chrissopigi, an ancient monastery, order lamb and other traditional Sifnian dishes at taverna Lebesis, or almost anywhere. Don’t waste an extra minute on the slow ferry; hop a fast catamaran in Athens, enjoy the view with an espresso, and get to Sifnos in under three hours. A list on the Aegean Thesaurus website offers a starting point for lodgings. From over $300 a night for a modernist suite to under $80 a night for a simple, clean room, they’re all good. thesaurus.gr/sifnos

PATRICIA BORNS

AN OLYMPIAN WORLD
If you watched the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February, you have seen the striking alpine terrain of Whistler and Blackcomb. The same mountains are just as alluring in the summer as a cool respite from the heat. Take advantage of the 3-kilometer PEAK 2 PEAK gondola (the longest unsupported gondola line in the world) to pop back and forth between summits for strolling in alpine forest, hiking to a glacier, enjoying tea at an alpine hut, or sipping British Columbia wines on a mountain patio. Because new trails were cut for the Winter Games, there are now 19 hiking trails (easy to expert) covering more than 35 miles. www.whistlerblackcomb.com, Adult one-day passes start at $38

DAVID LYON

WING IT EN ESPAÑA
California’s Mission San Juan Capistrano may have its swallows, but the 17th-century Baroque San Miguel church in Alfaro, Spain, is stork central in Europe. More than 400 nests of white storks cover the towers and roofs of the church. Ornithologists say it is the world’s largest single concentration of the birds. The young begin to fledge across the summer, and parents and chicks alike take to the air late in the afternoon, giving the small city an animated majesty. Happily, Alfaro is on the southern edge of the famed La Rioja wine district, where you can break from bird-watching to visit wineries and feast on distinctive northern Spanish cuisine. www.alfaro.es, www.lariojaturismo.com

PATRICIA HARRIS

OFF-SHORE INVESTMENT
The adventure starts when Captain Frank pipes you aboard. An old sailing tradition that predates the US Navy, the blowing of the bosun’s pipe is the start of an overnight adventure between Baltimore and the historic town of Rock Hall on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The trip is the brainchild of Frank McKee, a certified master captain. Sailing with McKee is like spending the day with a friend, if your friend owns a boat, tells great stories, and offers sailing instruction and a crash course on navigation. Or just sit back, sip champagne, munch crab cakes, and enjoy the view during the four-hour sail. At Rock Hall, a room at the Inn at Osprey Point awaits. Tool around town on bikes, dine at the inn’s seafood-centric restaurant, and relax at the pool. The next day by noon, you’ll be heading back to Baltimore, hopefully with the wind at your sails. McKee Nautical sailing getaways through October. From $697 for two, including parking, sailing, one night at Inn at Osprey Point or Great Oak Manor, two lunches and breakfast. 717-848-5818, www.mckeenautical.com

BETH D’ADDONO

CAPS OFF TO CYPRUS
Summer after summer, we New Englanders are on the lookout for that rare day to cap the season: It’s got gentle, lulling waves, an aqua sky, a white-hot disc of sun. This is the year to stop waiting. Follow the Brits and go straight to where warmth and swimmable seas are never in doubt: Cyprus. The Mediterranean island and European Union nation is a haven of beaches and village life. August is a special time because hamlets all over the island host annual festivals centered around favorite Greek gods and local specialties. Festival villages include Laneia, Lofou, Monagri, Alona, Pervolia, and Lefkara, among many others. The Agros village festival is a scented affair. Held Aug. 15-16, it celebrates the rosewater, rose liqueur, rose perfumes, and rose candles fashioned from locally grown petals that have made the town famous. The Dionysia festival in the winemaking village of Stroumbi, Aug. 21-23, is three hectic days of wine sampling, tastings of “palouze’’ (a jelly made from fresh grape juice), and traditional dancing. The revelry reaches its crescendo on the last night with the naming of the town’s chief Dionysia and Miss Grape. www.visitcyprus.com

PETER MANDEL

HOT DOG! IT’S FREE!
Who doesn’t love Coney Island? With amusement park rides like the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone, Nathan’s hot dogs, and the fabled oceanside boardwalk, it’s a perfect place to spend a summer day. Then there is the Siren Music Festival July 17. Now in its 10th year, this all-day event features New York’s finest renowned and emerging bands performing on two outdoor stages along the boardwalk. This year’s scheduled performers include Matt and Kim, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Surfer Blood, and Harlem. Best of all? It’s free. Pack your sunscreen, some water, and — depending on your age — earplugs. Noon-9, rain or shine, siren.villagevoice.com/2010

NECEE REGIS

RUFFLE YOUR FEATHERS
Every spring up to 250,00 nomadic seabirds flock to the basalt cliffs and sea stacks punctuating the western end of Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland’s largest breeding seabird colony. Puffins, fulmar, guillemots, razorbills, and kittiwakes nest and breed on this L-shaped, treeless, sparsely populated island six miles off the coast of County Antrim. In season, the cacophony of flapping wings and bird cries overpowers the waves crashing far below. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds maintains a reserve and staffs a viewpoint at the “upside down’’ West Lighthouse, built midway up a 300-foot cliff, with the lantern at its base. Ferry over from Ballcycastle, then either hike four miles or take the island’s Puffin Bus to the reserve. www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/r/rathlin/index.aspx

HILARY NANGLE

BERMUDA PAST PERFECT
Tucker’s Point Hotel is Bermuda’s first new resort in 40 years. Opened last year, it’s a $400 million, 88-room masterpiece in the British Colonial style high above Castle Harbour. All rooms face turquoise waters. A giant mural of the early days of clipper ships and whaling that for 45 years graced the lobby of Pan Am’s Sky Club in New York now runs around the elegant dining room room. (Tucker’s president is Ed Trippe, son of the defunct airlines’ founder, Juan Trippe.) The spa and golf course are superb, staff is super attentive, and there is an abundance of marble and Australian cyprus floors, period art, sculpture, and a genuine sense of stepping into the island’s luxurious past. Speaking of which, there is this touch of whimsy: carved walking sticks and butterfly nets in the rooms, for you to think quaint or use. Either way, they work. Tucker’s Point Hotel, Hamilton Parish, Bermuda, 866-604-3764, www.tuckerspoint.com, rates from $450

PAUL E. KANDARIAN

NEWFOUND SCENE
The village of Trinity is one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most beautiful spots, combining spectacular scenery with traditional architecture. It’s also home to the professional Rising Tide Theatre company. You won’t see Neil Simon or other typical summer stock here. Rising Tide’s specialty is works with provincial themes, from perennial favorite “Saltwater Moon’’ by noted Canadian playwright David French, about a bickering, courting couple in 1926, to newly commissioned works like “Brand New Beat,’’ about Newfoundland and Labrador’s summer of 1964 discovery of rock ’n’ roll. Costumed actors in “The New Founde Lande Trinity Pageant’’ offer historical and musical vignettes as they lead a walking tour through the village. If the landscape seems familiar, it may be because the 2001 film “The Shipping News’’ was filmed nearby.

36 West St., 888-464-3377, 709-464-3232, www.risingtidetheatre.com, June 11-Oct. 9, adults $18-$38, seniors $13-$34, 16 and under $15 KATHY SHORR

SMOKIES SLO-MO
If your idea of visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park is outlet shopping, miniature golf, country music shows, and fast-food restaurants, stay in Gatlinburg, Tenn., or its equally honky-tonk neighbor, Pigeon Forge. If, on the other hand, you would prefer quiet roads, log cabins, mom-and-pop restaurants, tubing down a lazy river, and a massive natural cave in your park gateway, head for Townsend, appropriately dubbed “the peaceful side of the Smokies.’’ Townsend’s star attraction is Tuckaleechee Caverns, where the temperature year-round is a cool 58 degrees. Check out the 24-foot stalagmites in the Big Room, follow a subterranean stream, and feel the mist from 200-foot Silver Falls. (And if you must visit Dollywood, it’s an easy day trip to Pigeon Forge.)

Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau, 7906 East Lamar Alexander Pkwy., 800-525-6834, www.smokymountains.org; Tuckaleechee Caverns, 825 Cavern Road, 865-448-2274, www.tuckaleecheecaverns.com ELLEN ALBANESE

AIRBORNE OFFSPRING
Until last year, children taking hang-gliding lessons at Kitty Hawk Kites in North Carolina had to weigh at least 80 pounds, which put their age around 12. Now, thanks to new equipment, “any kid who can understand basic control commands can learn to glide,’’ said marketing director Wes Gutekunst. “The instructors are holding on to the harness, but the kids are gliding.’’ Callan Lakings, 5, and his sister, Oonagh, 7, of Alexandria, Va., recently experienced that thrill during a three-hour session on the sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head. “They really felt like they were flying,’’ said their father, James. “When you’re only 4 feet tall, suddenly to be 12 or 15 feet off the ground means a lot. They were ecstatic.’’ Milepost 12 on Highway 158 Bypass, Nags Head, N.C., 877-359-8447, www.kittyhawk.com, three-hour classes $99; summer only DIANE DANIEL

CALIFORNIA CHARACTER
Head to Nick’s Cove & Cottages for a place to stay that has character — in a houseboat room, complete with captain’s bed and portholes — on the stunning Point Reyes National Seashore, about a 90-minute drive north of San Francisco. Gorgeous hiking, water views, and fresh oysters await. 23240 Highway 1, Marshall, Calif., 415-663-1033, www.nickscove.com, doubles from $275 BONNIE TSUI

IN THE DARK ABOUT UTAH
Folks at Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah can’t wait for the sun to set on the longest day of the year. Designated the world’s first International Dark Sky Park, the night skies above the park are considered the darkest in the country because of the absence of light pollution. Under the guidance of an astronomy ranger, you’ll see a gazillion stars light up the Milky Way and find constellations you never knew existed. The bright night sky shines an ethereal light on the canyon walls and rock bridges to create a magical lunar-like landscape. www.nps.gov/nabr/index.htm STEPHEN JERMANOK

PRACTICE YOUR ORGANIC
While the Obamas may have planted an organic garden at the White House, the Salatins are arguably the country’s first family of farming, made famous in Michael Pollan’s food advocacy book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.’’ Visitors to Polyface Farm, their 100-acre livestock operation in the Appalachian foothills of Virginia, can see the family’s so-called practices in action during two-hour tours. The “Lunatic Tours,’’ led by patriarch Joel Salatin or his son, Daniel, include a look at the “egg-mobile,’’ or mobile chicken coop, and some face time with the pigs. The tour ends at the farm store, so don’t forget your cooler. 43 Pure Meadows Lane, Swoope, Va., 540-885-3590, www.polyfacefarms.com. Twice-monthly tours $10.50 for adults, free for children 12 and under; self-guided walking tours free. DIANE DANIEL