Camden Winter festival
and toboggan races
Jump in the ocean, see an ice-carving contest, watch vaudeville performances, and more at the Camden Winter Carnival, Feb. 2. Take the polar plunge into Camden Harbor at 11 a.m., see live music and performances at the public library, and demo snowshoes and fat bikes at Harbor Park. The following weekend, Camden Snow Bowl hosts the U.S. National Toboggan Championships with toboggan rides on Feb. 8 and racing Feb. 9-10. Grab a costume (optional) and your fastest two-, three-, or four-person toboggan and compete in this fun event — or just show up and cheer. Free to watch; $30 per person to race (space limited; register early). 207-236-3438, www.camdensnowbowl.com.
Eat with your hands in Webster
Samuel Slater’s Restaurant hosts a traditional Beefsteak dinner on Jan. 30 that includes plenty of beer and meat, but no plates, napkins, and forks. The lakeside restaurant, which opened at Indian Ranch last fall, will offer a big banquet with beef tenderloin, grilled pork tenderloin, smoky lamb meatballs, and other dishes, along with craft beer from Hopkinton’s Start Line Brewing Company. Can’t make the event? The restaurant now offers a prime rib special on Monday nights ($15.95 for a 10-ounce prime rib with sides), live music on Wednesdays, and brunch on Sundays. $90 for Beefsteak dinner; a portion of the proceeds helps local children. 508-943-1639, www.samuelslaters.com .
Eurail expands access for less
Buy the updated Eurail train pass and you can visit more countries for less money and have better access in some regions. The company, now 60 years old, has expanded its all-in-one train pass to include Great Britain, Macedonia, and Lithuania, meaning it now takes travelers to 31 countries. It has also added five new train carriers in Europe and replaced its multi-country passes with new global and one-country passes. These changes provide savings for anyone up to 27 years old (23 percent off adult fare), over 60 (10 percent off adult fare), or traveling with the new 2nd Class Adult Global Pass (25 percent less than first class). Eurail has also added a new Greek Islands Pass that helps travelers access 53 of the Greek islands. The cheapest global pass starts at $257 (adult 2nd Class for three days of travel in one month); one-country passes start at $150 for the Italy Pass. www.eurail.com.
Learn to cook like a Tuscan
While in Europe, consider joining a weeklong culinary-immersion program in Tuscany, called Tuscan Women Cook, which takes place in the medieval village of Montefollonico from May through October. Each day, participants cook authentic Italian recipes taught by the local village “nonnas” (grandmothers), many of whom run Michelin-starred restaurants and will share techniques, ingredients, and family recipes handed down for generations. Spend six nights at a charming restored farmhouse, Agriturismo Belagaggio, and enjoy full-day sightseeing tours with a private guide who has a doctorate in Sienese history. Rates start at $4,150, based on double occupancy, and include all meals, visits to local artisans, cheese and wine tastings, private guide, and transportation to all activities by private Mercedes minibus. Book early, since tours typically sell out.www.tuscanwomencook.com.
Sensor detects peanuts, gluten
A San Francisco-based company has created peanut and gluten sensors that help take some of the stress out of eating for travelers with food allergies or sensitivities. The lightweight and portable Nima Peanut Sensor can detect peanut protein down to 10 parts per million (ppm) with a 97.6 to 99.2 percent rate of accuracy, while the Nima Gluten Sensor can detect gluten down to 20 ppm with a 93.3 to 98.6 percent rate of accuracy. To use, place a small food sample into a disposable capsule and screw on the top. Then insert the capsule into the sensor and press the power button. After about five minutes, the sensor will display a “Peanut Found” or “Gluten Found” message, or else a smiley face indicating no trace of peanut or gluten appeared — easy enough for kids to use, too. $289 sensor and 12 test capsules; $72 for 12-pack of test capsules. www.nimasensor.com.
extra wheels for road trips
Kuat’s new Highline trunk rack makes it a breeze to take your bikes on an adventure. The rack holds two or three bikes and mounts on almost any vehicle (except some with a rear spoiler). The remarkable lightweight and slim design makes the rack a cinch to hold in place while you secure it to your car, and easy to fold up and store (it weighs just 13 to 15 pounds, depending on the model). The built-in anti-sway bike cradles and ratchet-style rubber straps help keep your ride in place (no banging against neighboring bikes), and the straps’ integrated design means they won’t pop off accidentally and get lost. The rack even comes with clear plastic film for sticking on your car at the rack’s points of contact, to help protect your car’s finish — a nice touch. $219 (two bikes) $249 (three bikes). 877-822-5828, www.kuatracks.com.