"The Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst in Travel" Perigee, $13.95
In this oxymoron of a book, Doug Lansky celebrates "spectacular underachievements" in the travel industry. In order to be considered, the Titanic nominees must display a rare combination of stupidity, absentmindedness and "an entertaining neglect for safety."
Here are some of my favorite losers, uh, winners: Major European Airport with Most Delays (Heathrow), Worst Airline Meal (Estonian Air), Country with the Worst Buses (India), Most Difficult City to Drive In (Cairo), Worst Public Transportation (Los Angeles), City that Feels Most Dangerous (Johannesburg) and Worst-Dressed Tourists (American).
"Moon Outdoors: Montana, Wyoming & Idaho Camping" Avalon, $19.95
Less than 1 percent of the American population lives in this tri-state area, so there is room to roam. But, warns author Becky Lomax, don't try to do too much in a short time. Although Yellowstone and Glacier national parks appear to be a stone's throw from each other, driving distances can be deceptive. In fact, the two parks are about the same distance apart as San Francisco and Los Angeles (400 miles), requiring a "full day's drive." Instead, she recommends covering "reasonable" distances in a leisurely visit.
This area is bear country — black bears and grizzly bears alike — which means campers need to stay alert. The bulk of the book is devoted to descriptions of public campgrounds in national parks and national forests. Although "primitive campsites," as Lomax refers to secluded sites, are her favorites, she also includes a smattering of private RV campgrounds. She also offers some useful camping tips. Cell phone users are warned: There are vast dead zones here. Be prepared, she says, to "self-rescue."
"Moon Handbook: Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains" Avalon, $16.95
The nearly 500-mile Blue Ridge Parkway straddles Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. In the vicinity is the artsy city of Asheville, N.C., and the Tennessee tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Although the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park, that doesn't mean the conscientious visitor can't get away from it all. There are still plenty of quiet corners.
The region has a few man-made attractions besides its natural ones. Fans of "The Andy Griffith Show" might want to head to Mount Airy in the North Carolina High Country. The model for the fictional town of Mayberry (Mount Airy is Griffith's hometown), it features a replica of the Mayberry courthouse and has other Mayberry sites (Mayberry Days takes place in late September). Film buffs also may recognize the landscape of nearby Chimney Rock Park as the setting of the Daniel Day-Lewis movie "The Last of the Mohicans"; the 6,000-feet-high peak of Cold Mountain in the Mount Pisgah area inspired the novel and film of the same name.
Continuing in the pop-culture vein, the foothills town of Pigeon Forge is the location of Dolly Parton's amusement park, Dollywood. Author Deborah Huso calls it among the best places in the area to experience "real culture" because it boasts "first-rate" country and bluegrass shows and authentic Appalachian crafts.
"Moon Handbook: Kansas City" Avalon, $16.95
This first edition emphasizes the city's trademark attractions — jazz, beer, barbecue joints — while acknowledging the multi-billion-dollar makeover that has irrevocably changed Kansas City.
First, though, author Katy Ryan explains the area's often confusing geography. Kansas City, she notes, stretches across 18 counties in two states, the two neighboring metropolitan areas of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan.
One highlight is the American Jazz Museum. Opened in1997, the interactive museum features exhibits on Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker, and has separate listening and mixing stations. Live music is performed next door most evenings at the Blue Room. Adjacent is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (purchasing a combination ticket to both museums offers a reduced admission).
"Zagat New York City Nightlife 2010/11" Zagat, $14.95
The motto of this latest Zagat guide is "because it's always happy hour somewhere." In the City that Never Sleeps, that comment is invariably true.
The 2010/11 edition features descriptions of New York City's best bars, clubs and lounges, from Manhattan to Staten Island. Governors Island, the South Street Seaport and Long Island City boast an unusual "nightlife": a seasonal oasis of picnic tables, lighted palm trees, beer and music. But for those who prefer a livelier scene, there are always cabarets, comedy clubs, dinner cruises, dives, drag shows, Middle Eastern-style hookahs, jazz clubs, piano bars, spoken-word joints, sports and wine bars.
A list of Old New York establishments cites bars that are 50 or more years old, including the Ear Inn (1817); McSorley's (1854), Pete's Tavern (1864), the White Horse Tavern (1880) and Kettle of Fish (1950).
Among the newcomers on the scene is the hip Ace Hotel Lobby Bar in Chelsea; the Counting Room in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which offers a wine-and-tapas place upstairs and a fancy cocktail lounge downstairs; and Highlands, the Scots-owned gastropub in the West Village.