Q. We'll be flying to Seattle next month and then taking a ferry to Orcas Island. We hear that we'll need a passport for the trip. Is that true?
Orcas Island remains one of the San Juan Islands, a treasured part of Washington state. But we know whence your confusion comes.
“There has been some negative press about a couple of random Homeland Security checks in some of the state ferry terminals,” said Robin Jacobson of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau (www.visitsanjuans.com), in a very diplomatic characterization of what has no doubt been a PR nightmare for her. Why?
In February, border agents began randomly asking passengers on domestic ferries to demonstrate their citizenship. According to authorities, the San Juans' proximity to Canada (just 20 miles away in some spots) means that terrorists could be plotting to use the same waters that rum runners and other nefarious types have plied since crime immemorial.
But “U.S. citizens traveling within Washington state” – and that includes the San Juans, remember – “do not need passports, only their usual personal ID, like a driver's license,” said Jacobson.
Which is not to say that each of the three most popular islands in that lush archipelago doesn't boast a healthy dose of the exotic. There's the rural and elegant Lopez (“the most popular with the bicyclists, because it's flat,” as Jacobson put it), dramatic Orcas (“it's hilly and has a peak that gives you a great 360-degree view”) and, of course, bustling San Juan (“the most populous, with the most restaurants and night life”).
The last also contains the islands' only incorporated town, Friday Harbor, with its all-American ferry stop, where thousands of Americans make the tortuous trip back to America every year. Scott Vogel
Q: We'll be flying into Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and have several hours before we catch our cruise ship in Miami. Is there anything worth seeing between the two?
You could stop in Hollywood, about 10 miles south of Fort Lauderdale, and check out the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (www.seminolehardrock.com), with more than 2,500 slots and games, music memorabilia, dining, shopping and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, telling the story of the Seminole tribe with a film and a living village ($6). K.C. Summers
Q. I'm interested in finding out about pedestrian-friendly places in the United States. Do you know anyone who has done a survey of walkable cities?
The gold standard, as far as walkable cities surveys go, is the one conducted annually by Prevention magazine in partnership with the American Podiatric Medical Association. You can find the complete list at www.prevention.com/bestcities. The winner for 2008 was Cambridge, Mass., followed by New York, Ann Arbor, Mich., Chicago and Washington. And what was the worst American city for walking, according to Prevention? Sorry, Oklahoma City. Scott Vogel