This town in central Alaska advertises its ZIP code (99705) as "Santa's ZIP Code." And why not? After all, it's got the right name -- even if the reason for it is more about economics than holiday spirit. When a development company bought the area in 1952, it decided to call it North Pole in the hopes of attracting a toy manufacturer or theme-park developer to the area. While that didn't pan out the way the developers had hoped, the town does lay claim to the Santa Claus House, the "official" home of the jolly gift-giver. A 42-foot tall, 900-pound Santa statue welcomes visitors to the sprawling store, which, predictably, specializes in Christmas-related merchandise and collectibles.
Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers excursions that transport you back in time and let you relive an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. Trips to Cass are filled with rich histories of the past, unparalleled views of a vast wilderness area, and close-up encounters with the sights and sounds of original steam-driven locomotives. The town of Cass remains relatively unchanged. The restored company houses add to the charm and atmosphere of the town. From the company store and museum to the train depot, you'll find an abundance of things to do prior to your departure on the historic Cass Railroad. The Cass Scenic Railroad is the same line built in 1901 to haul lumber to the mill in Cass. The locomotives are the same Shay locomotives used in Cass, and in the rain forests of British Columbia for more than a half-century. The passenger cars are old logging flat-cars refurbished and made into passenger cars. Once you board the train, the real excitement begins! The great pistons of the carefully restored Shay locomotive will start pulsing, driven by hundreds of pounds of steam pressure. The shaft begins turning, the wheels find traction, and the locomotive begins to move. With thick, black smoke belching from its stack, the train pulls away from the station, passing the old water tower from which the locomotive tanks are filled. As the train rounds the curve up Leatherbark Creek, you'll pass the Cass Shop, where the locomotives are serviced and repaired, and a graveyard of antiquated, but fascinating equipment on sidetracks. As the pressure builds, the locomotive is driven at full steam, and the laborious journey up the mountain toward the two switchbacks begin. The loud huff of the stack, the clanking of gears and pistons, the furious scream of the whistle at the crossings, and the ever present clackety-clack of the rails will indeed make you feel as if you have been transported back i
Curiously, even though Christmas derives its identity from snow and cold, one of the most recognizable emblems of the season is flamboyantly tropical: the poinsettia. Encinitas is home to the world's largest grower of these stunning plants, Ecke Ranch, which produces 70 percent of the poinsettias sold in the United States. Ecke Ranch grows a rainbow assortment of colors, including traditional reds, pinks and creams, and a recently introduced bright-white variety called Polar Bear whose sales benefit the conservation of these endangered animals.
Kristen and David Wilson were married on February 9, 2013, on a lovely winter day. Dressed for the season, Kristen paired her gorgeous gown with a bright white sweater and navy scarf. The outdoor setting made a beautiful backdrop for sunny wedding photos.