The Florida Beach Town Where the Amish Go on Vacation

iStock
iStock

In the coming months, with the arrival of low temperatures and the slowdown of the farming season, thousands of Amish people in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania will pack their bags and head south to a snowbird paradise that has attracted Plain People since the early 20th century—Pinecraft, Florida.

Located on the Gulf Coast, Pinecraft is an idyllic place nestled a few miles from the crystalline beaches of Sarasota, dotted with cozy white bungalows and oak trees strewn with Spanish moss. The Amish first arrived in Pinecraft in the 1920s, back when the area was little more than a tourist campground. At first, farmers hoped to plant celery in the region, but the soil proved to be better suited as a spot to lounge in the sun than it did for gardening. In 1946, the Tourist Mennonite Church in Florida was established in Pinecraft so that the Amish could “take vacations without breaking their beliefs,” Atlas Obscura reports. Over the coming decades, word of mouth spread up north. Today, approximately 5000 Amish and (some) Mennonite people visit Pinecraft every year to relax during the winter months.

Most Amish visitors make the long trip by charter bus. In 2012, Miki Meek of The New York Times hopped on one such bus in Ohio and traveled 19 hours to Florida. She described the scene aboard: “Stiff black hats are gingerly stowed in overhead bins as the bus winds its way through hilly farm country ... grandparents, neighbors, sisters, and childhood friends ... talked into the night, using conversation as entertainment instead of movies or music.”

Down in Pinecraft, crowds of Amish people welcome the arrival of each bus. There, visitors can expect to see men and women in traditional dress. “Clothing choices clue you in to hometowns,” Meek wrote. “Men from Tampico, Illinois, wear denim overalls; girls from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, cover their dresses with black aprons; and women from northern Indiana have neatly pressed pleats on their white bonnets.” It’s one of the few places in America where different communities of Amish have the opportunity to mingle.

However, the rules here are much more lax, with vacationers often showing much more skin than usual. Many of the rental homes, which sometimes have to be booked a year in advance, have electricity. (Overall, the restrictions preventing the Amish from connecting to the public power grid aren't as tight when a home is temporary.) Rather than riding in a horse and buggy, many people move around Pinecraft on tricycles. Most days are punctuated by fish fries, auctions, yard sales, and fierce bocce matches, with shuffleboard, the nightly women’s volleyball game, and live musical performances being the biggest draws.

As Meek reported, many people joke that the village is the closest thing the Amish have to Las Vegas: “What happens in Pinecraft, stays in Pinecraft.”

Game of Thrones Fans Can Visit Westeros in Northern Ireland With New Locations Tour

HBO
HBO

by Natalie Zamora

​The ​final season of Game of Thrones is nearly upon us, so die-hard fans might as well go all out to commemorate it. No, we don't mean get GoT tattoos like ​the cast is doing (unless you really want to); we were thinking more along the lines of a visit to Westeros.

HBO and Tourism Northern Ireland have teamed up to open some of the hit show's most recognizable locations in and around Belfast to the public as tourist attractions, letting fans explore some of the staple settings, and featuring exhibitions of props, costumes, weapons, and other production materials used on set.

HBO and Tourism Northern Ireland are launching a 'Game of Thrones' tour
Tourism Northern Ireland

“The Game of Thrones Legacy attractions will be on a scale and scope bigger than anything the public has ever seen," HBO ​said in a statement. “Each site will feature not only the breathtaking sets, but will also exhibit displays of costumes, props, weapons, set decorations, art files, models, and other production materials.”

Possible sites to be included are Winterfell, the Night's Watch headquarters, Castle Black, and King's Landing.

​Though GoT is coming to an end, it's obvious that there's ​much more to be explored in Westeros (even George RR Martin ​said so at the Emmys). Bring on more tours—and more TV shows!

The Most Fun Cities in America, Ranked

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iStock

You can argue all you want about how great your favorite city is, but the data doesn’t lie: If you want to have fun, head to Vegas. WalletHub compared 182 different cities across the U.S.—the country’s overall most populous cities, plus at least two of the biggest cities in every state—to come up with a list of the most fun cities in the entire country, and Sin City took the cake.

The scores are based on 56 different metrics in three different categories: entertainment and recreation; nightlife and parties; and cost. The metrics included appearances on lists like the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for top destinations; the number of beaches, movie theaters, casinos, hiking trails, festivals, bars, and clubs; how accessible bars are (both in number and geographical proximity); and the average cost of food, wine, hotels, and movie theater trips. Some of these metrics were adjusted to account for differences in city size, since, for instance, New York City would obviously have more restaurants than a smaller city like Lincoln, Nebraska.

Accounting for all these factors, these are the most fun cities in America, according to this particular dataset.

1. Las Vegas, Nevada
2. Orlando, Florida
3. New York City, New York
4. Atlanta, Georgia
5. Miami, Florida
6. Chicago, Illinois
7. Portland, Oregon
8. San Francisco, California
9. New Orleans, Louisiana
10. San Diego, California

Though the order of the rankings might be a little surprising, many of the cities are well-known as vacation destinations. Vegas, obviously, is a legendary destination for partying. Orlando is home to not just Disney World, but Universal Studios Florida (where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located) and SeaWorld Orlando, among others. New York City hosts the most tourists of any city in America each year. New Orleans is renowned for its food, bar scene, and music, in addition to the two weeks of parades and celebrations the city hosts during Mardi Gras—and yet it barely managed to break into the top 10, at No. 9.

Indeed, while the top 10 list isn’t necessarily surprising on its face, the order may be. Atlanta managed to beat out Miami, though the latter is more famous for its party atmosphere and picturesque beaches. Disney World apparently beats out the Statue of Liberty and 30 Rock, because Orlando is ranked as more fun than the Big Apple. And New Orleans was surpassed by less-popular destination cities like Portland and San Francisco. (Not to mention the fact that poor Los Angeles, the country’s second-biggest city and a major tourist destination in its own right, didn’t even crack the top 10, coming in at No. 13.)

As for the least-fun major cities included on the list— which you can dive into below—you may not have ever heard of them. Aside from perhaps Juneau and Pearl City (on the north shore of Pearl Harbor near Honolulu), most aren’t tourist destinations. Perhaps they’re better for residents than they are for tourists, though. Both Oxnard and Bridgeport appeared on National Geographic's list of the happiest cities in the U.S. in 2017.

1. Pearl City, Hawaii
2. Oxnard, California
3. Bridgeport, Connecticut
4. Santa Rosa, California
5. Fontana, California
6. Yonkers, New York
7. Rancho Cucamonga, California
8. South Burlington, Vermont
9. Juneau, Alaska
10. Moreno Valley, California

Disagree with the list? See where your favorite city ended up and the breakdown of scores of on WalletHub, or explore the map below.

Source: WalletHub

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