Desktop Traveler

by Elizabeth Schantz

In these uncertain times, a vacation close to home may be an idea whose time has come. Travelers who have been hit by the tough economy — and who are nervous about traveling too far from home- are taking more road trips according to the American Automobile Association. Of course, higher gasoline prices also provide incentive not to drive too far.

A number of Websites can help you plan trips and discover destinations that might have been overlooked in better times. Hike a deserted mountain trail, visit a strawberry festival, ride the Indiana “Pizza Train,” or check out an antique car museum – and still be home in time for dinner. These sites will help you get there and back again. – A smorgasbord of local fairs and concerts in 35 states. Catfish fest, anyone? Events are organized by month, with links to official sites (One gem: the Billings Farm Plowing match in Vermont.) The best selection of quirky fun, plus old standbys like the Grand Canyon. – Hiking and Biking trails for every fitness level. Browse by state or activity, from sea kayaking to walking paths. Bike along the Erie canal or dip your toe in California’s Dirty Socks Hot Spring. Comprehensive, detailed and easy to use. Only hassle; You’ve got to register to get full access. – Day trips and weekend getaways in 12 Northeastern states. Choose by State or answer five questions under the EscapeMaker link — mountains or beach? Single or with kids? — and get a personalized list of options. Click the event calendar to see the events on your desired date: There’s still time for “Dinner Spirits and a Psychic” this weekend in Cape May, NJ. – State-by-state guide to kid-friendly trips, focusing on museums, zoos and state parks. Children can surf too. Click on a state and get its vital stats: The state bird of Arizona is the Cactus Wren. Eclectic selection ranges from a Reno, Nev., car museum to Indiana’s Pizza Train (a train ride to the “Pizza Shack by the Track”). – Web version of guide books on swimming holes and waterfalls off the beaten path. An intriguing sampler — who wouldn’t want to jump into the Opalescent Flume? The thought of “rock waterslides” whet our appetite, but scant info left us wanting more, and the site charges for maps. As it appeared in The Wall Street Journal.