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Cool destinations: on the road through the four seasons.

The United States is brimming with cool destinations. In the desert, on the Pacific Coast, in the most urban surroundings--and even in subtropical swamps.

These places are cool because they're hip; they're cool because when you gaze on their charms, you're likely to shout out "how cool!"; and they're cool in terms of climate if you pick the right time of year.

Spring: Moab and Monument Valley

Desert solitude and movie-worthy rock formations: that's what drew author Edward Abbey to Moab and filmmaker John Ford to Monument Valley. If you're drawn to the southeastern corner of Utah, especially in late April, the daytime mercury rarely exceeds 70 degrees, even in this arid desert climate. And the air is unbelievably fresh.

Enter Moab's Arches National Park about 90 minutes before sunset and you'll be treated to revelations of shadows and shapes. Park Avenue's assembly of massive stone facades is named for the Manhattan street with its stretch of buildings these rocks resemble.

With so much to see from the car, Arches is perfect for those with limited mobility or a need for climate-controlled touring.

Cruising along the main park drive, visitors are surrounded by landscapes straight out of Gustave Dore's illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Balanced Rock performs its timeless levitation atop a majestic pedestal, like a combination sentinel and yogi master always on the verge of enlightenment. At an accessible parking lot, visitors can step out, soak in the magnificence, and hope the moment never ends.

About three hours from Arches, Monument Valley is perhaps the only place on earth that can rival Moab's boundless beauty. Toward the end of a spring day, the light is forever repainting the valley's rocky fortresses. Blues become light purple, then dark purple, then fiery red, then back to blackish blue.

The barrier-free visitor center has clean restrooms, an air-conditioned gift shop, and excellent observation areas for breathtaking views of the iconic Mittens and Merrick Buttes. The building also has a gently graded ramp that takes wheelers all the way up to the second-stow observation deck.

A 17-mile loop road winds along the valley floor among rock towers 400 to 1,000 feet above. The road is raw and unpaved, but that's a good thing because it slows traffic to a leisurely pace.

Southeastern Utah pioneers Harry and Mike Goulding invited Hollywood director John Ford to Monument Valley during the Great Depression. In 1939, Ford's "Stagecoach," featuring John Wayne, was released to much success. Wayne became a big star, and from then on, people around the world began to recognize Monument Valley. Since "Stagecoach," the valley has appeared in everything from television episodes to car commercials. To this day, it inspires visitors with its mystical ambiance, while Mike and Harry's establishment, Goulding's Trading Post and Lodge, offers small, clean, mostly accessible rooms.

Summer: Los Angeles

Swimming pools and movie stars! There's more to LA, of course, but it sure is swell to beat the midday heat in June (when temperatures top out in the high 70s) by hitting swimming pools in the morning, the cinema in the afternoon, and the haunts of movie stars at night.

What would a visit to LA be without a trip to the movies? And what film buff would go to an ordinary megaplex when history and urban development blend so wonderfully at the ArcLight Cinemas?

ArcLight is a movie lover's dream, with lots of independent and art film screenings alongside the mainstream blockbusters. The barrier-free site has 14 modern theaters, a movie-themed cafe bar, and the best silver screen-oriented gift shop in town. The grand draw is the Cinerama Dome: a unique, geodesic-shaped theater built in 1963.

Right next door is Amoeba Records, with wide uncluttered aisles, which maintains the retro feel of the coolest independent college record store in a warehouse-sized setting.

Less than four miles from ArcLight and Amoeba--not even enough distance to get tangled in the legendarily horrible LA traffic--lies a true Tinseltown oasis. The Original Los Angeles Farmers Market. Just roam the complex for fresh fruits, veggies, snacks, and more. Accessible parking is plentiful, as are accessible restrooms. The aisles are plenty wide for maneuvering, and the merchants are so friendly and folksy it's hard to believe they're in the heart of jaded La-La Land.

Since you're on vacation and not likely to have a gourmet kitchen back at your hotel, plan to use the open-air but nicely shaded communal tables. Freshly cooked food from every ethnic kitchen known to man--there's even a killer Cajun joint called the Gumbo Pot--is there for the feasting.

For a pricier meal in a hipper-than-thou location, hit the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills. This is a primo spot for lunch, dinner, drinks, or parties by the pool. Everything is accessible in this retro-cool, Sputnik-chic boutique property. Try outdoor dining at its Zagat-rated Blue on Blue restaurant. Call for a reservation in the morning. Then grab a poolside table, order up some innovative California cuisine, and you just might spy a hot celebrity in one of the cool poolside cabanas.

Fall: New York

Autumn in New York. It's a time of year so special, they wrote a song about it. With late September/early October daytime temperatures peaking in the low 70s, fall is fine in the Big Apple.

For a fresh look at Gotham, try concentrating your visit in lower Manhattan and its neighbor to the east, Brooklyn.

Affinia Gardens Hotel at 215 East 64th Street is neither in Brooklyn nor in lower Manhattan, but the hotel's outstanding roll-in showers and spacious accessible suites make it worth the ride to and from the Upper East Side. While the subway system is all but off-limits to anyone using a wheelchair, and difficult for anyone with balance or fatigue issues, all of the buses in Manhattan are fully accessible and frequent. Plus you'll find curb cuts at nearly every corner.

A visit to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island will inspire even the most world-weary traveler. The Circle Line, true to its name, goes all around Manhattan. Circle Line, Liberty, and Ellis Island boats all have ramped access at the Battery Park launch. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Museums are fascinating and fully accessible.

Back on the mainland at Broadway and Wall Street, Trinity Church is one of the best free-admission attractions in New York. A ramp provides access to the interior of the 1846 Gothic Revival masterpiece. Outside, the churchyard houses one of the oldest cemeteries in Manhattan, where the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and steamboat innovator Robert Fulton are buried.

It's just a few blocks north on Broadway to Trinity's affiliate, St. Paul's Chapel, Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use. Located directly across from the World Trade Center site, St. Paul's Chapel, built in 1766, was home to an extraordinary eight-month volunteer relief effort after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero," a new interactive exhibit at the chapel, is a moving chronicle of the attacks and their aftermath.

To feel like a local, walk or roll across the Brooklyn Bridge. Start up the pedestrian pathway (100% barrier-free) by City Hall and your heart skips a beat. One could traverse John Roebling's steel cable suspension bridge a thousand times and discover something new to see during every 1,600-foot journey.

Winter: Miami

It's a place so famed for blazing sun that the city's NBA team is named the Heat. But in January, the Magic City is magnificently temperate. Daytime highs are in the mid-70s.

Winter is the perfect time to stroll on South Beach and make daytrips to the Everglades or Keys. Don't be surprised to see locals in leather jackets on Miami Beach's famed Lincoln Road in January. Temperatures that feel balmy to you feel like a deep freeze to the locals.

Pedestrian-only pathways line Lincoln Road, with its outdoor cafes, chichi boutiques, and people to watch to your heart's content.

Head a few blocks south on Collins Avenue and turn east on Ocean Drive. There are three barrier-free routes from which to drink in the oceanfront Art Deco buildings. The beach is accessible via beach wheelchairs, available free from the City of Miami Beach's Beach Patrol Station.

Everglades National Park is a natural wonder unlike any other. This wilderness has some easy-walking boardwalks that accommodate wheelchair-using visitors.

The Royal Palm Visitor Center's Anhinga Trail, which provides pavement and wooden boardwalk, is a fabulous half-mile self-guiding trail winding through a sawgrass marsh. You may see alligators, turtles, anhingas, herons, egrets, and more.

The Pahayokee Overlook, a quarter-mile boardwalk loop that provides sweeping vistas of the "river of grass," is wheelchair-accessible and wonderfully tranquil.

In Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers another barrier-free boardwalk. Mangrove Trail loops through a natural wetland.

For the best sunset views on the planet, book a fishing or sightseeing charter on Key Largo. Captain Mick Nealey's Tranquil Adventures has a ramp-equipped pontoon boat that is perfect for wheelchair users. It even has hydraulic lifts for mobility-impaired snorkelers and kayakers.

Resources:

Arches National Park, 435-719-2299, www.nps.gov/arch

Monument Valley Tribal Park, 435-727-5874, www.go-utah.com/monumentvalley www.navajonationparks.org/htm/monumentvalley.htm

Gouldings Lodge, 435-727-3231, www.gouldings.com

ArcLight Cinemas, 323-464-1478, www.arclightcinemas.com

Amoeba Records, 323-245-6400, www.amoebamusic.com

The Original Los Angeles Farmers Market, 323-933-9211, www.farmersmarketla.com

Avalon Hotel (and Blue on Blue), 310-277-5221, www.avalonbeverlyhills.com

Affinia Gardens Hotel, 212-355-1230, www.affinia.com/NYC-Hotel/Affinia-Gardens/Overview.cfm

Circle Line (Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Ferry), 212-809-0808, www.circlelinedowntown.com

Trinity Church (and St. Paul's Chapel), 212-602-0800, www.trinitywallstreet.org

Miami Beach Beach Patrol (beach wheelchairs), 305-673-7714, www.miamibeachfl.gov/newcity/pubsafe/bpatrol.asp

Everglades National Park, 305-242-7700, www.nps.gov/ever

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, www.pennekamppark.com

Wright is an award-winning travel writer-photographer. Johnson-Wright is an Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator. They manage to stay cool living year-round in Miami's Little Havana.
COPYRIGHT 2006 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Johnson-Wright, Heidi
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:1666
Previous Article:Scanning for the MS genes.
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