Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, October 2011 Issue
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright 2011
All Rights Reserved.
Editor: Nicki Chodnoff
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Blue Hole at Flint RiverQuarium, Albany, GA
Two Packages from Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort
The Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort in Chicago offers kids big and small a chance to get away with two deals.
The Family Escape! To Brookfield Zoo package, valid through Nov. 19, 2011 includes:
- Accommodations for two adults and two children with nightly room rates from $159
- Four general admission passes to the Brookfield Zoo
- Four Children's Zoo passes
- Four Motor Safari passes
- One parking pass
- Four carousel passes
- Full breakfast for two adults and two children
- Free shuttle service to Hinsdale train station (where you take Metra train to zoo stop)
- Late checkout
Use promotional code ARN in the Corporate/Promotional code box when making online reservation or ask for promotional code ARN.
The Escape! Golf package, good through Nov. 6, 2011, offers:
- Accommodations with nightly room rates from $189
- One round of golf
- Golf cart, greens fee and golf bag storage
- $15 or $30 food and beverage credit in The Grill or Windows cafe
- Preferred tee times may be reserved 30 days before arrival. Use promotional code GOF in the Corporate/Promotional code box or ask for promotional code GOF.
Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort.
Fourth Night Free at Residence Inn Orlando
|Take an extra day to soak up the sun at Residence Inn Orlando SeaWorld/International Center. When you stay three consecutive nights, you can stay a fourth night free.
Until the end of 2011, your fourth night is part of your Orlando hotel special nightly room rate starting at $99.
Enter promotional code PRO in the Corporate/Promotional code box when making online reservation or ask for promotional code PRO.
The Residence Inn Orlando SeaWorld Hotel neighbors family attractions, such as Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Walt Disney World, and Orlando Premium Outlets with more than 120 stores. The hotel offers free theme park transportation, free parking, in-room kitchen, free hot breakfast, heated outdoor swimming pool, game room, sports court and high-speed Internet access at no cost.
Residence Inn Orlando SeaWorld/International Center or 800/228-9290.
Club Med Sandpiper Rates for FL, GA, AL Residents
Club Med Sandpiper Bay, in Port St. Lucie, FL offers a Sandpiper Bay Resident's special for Florida, Georgia and Alabama residents. Rates start at $129 per person for adults and 50 percent off for children. Florida, Georgia and Alabama residents must book by Oct. 26, 2011, for travel through Oct. 28, 2011.
The all-inclusive Club Med Sandpiper Bay is geared for families and is the flagship of Club Med "premium sports" resorts. With the new Club Med Academies, Sandpiper Bay offers a training environment in tennis, golf and fitness with coaching from experts in the sports industry. Coaches include Gabe Jaramillo, who trained tennis stars Andre Agassi and Monica Seles; Brad Brewer, host of the Golf Channel's Daily Brew; and professional tri-athlete and five-time Ironman Champion, Heather Gollnick. Facilities include 21 tennis courts, a newly renovated 18-hole golf course, and a Tom Fazio II designed practice facility with putting green and a driving range.
The 216-acre resort features two new restaurants, Slice Bar & Lounge, four swimming pools including an adults-only infinity pool and a lap pool. Enhanced accommodations include family rooms with separate bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms.
Sandpiper Bay offers an experience for kids from four months (at an additional cost) to 17 years old. Facilities include a Kidz Village with a splash park, an art center and a lounge for 'tweens and teens.
Club Med or 800/CLUB-MED.
While Greece’s debt is causing problems in financial circles, it means lower prices for American tourists. TourCrafters takes advantage of lower prices with their land-only Athens/Mykonos/cruise package that starts at $1,321. The package includes two nights’ hotel accommodation in Athens, three nights hotel on the island of Mykonos, daily breakfasts, half-day Athens sightseeing tour, entrance fees, ferry to Mykonos, four-day cruise of the Greek Islands and Turkey (with all meals), and all transfers.
The nine night package starts at $1,380 to Oct. 15 and $1,321 from Oct. 16 to 31, 2011 for three-star hotels in Athens and Mykonos and a superior inside cabin on the cruise ship. Upgrades to four- and five-star hotels are available and TourCrafters can offer their best air fares at the time of booking.
The cruise, on Louis Cruises’ Cristal or Majesty (the date determines the ship) calls at Kusadasi, Turkey; Greece’s Aegean Islands: Patmos; Rhodes; Crete; and Santorini.
All prices are per person, double occupancy, are subject to availability and do not include airfare or port taxes of $105 per person. Reservations must be paid for within 72 hours of booking.
TourCrafters or 800/482-5995.
Through Nov. 3, 2011, when you apply for the Choice Privileges Visa Signature card you can earn enough rewards points to redeem up to five free nights at 1,500-plus hotels across the U.S. That’s three free nights after your first purchase on the card and two additional free nights after your first paid stay. All this comes with no annual fee on the card.
This offer is good at all Choice Hotels brand properties: Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn and the Ascend Collection membership program. Additionally, Choice Privileges members who apply for the Visa Signature card can earn automatic Elite Gold status and additional points when they use the card at Choice Hotels locations and for everyday items like gas and groceries.
This two-pronged promotion lets you book online at Choice Hotels website or 800-4CHOICE and earn quadruple Choice Privileges points for every stay with an arrival by Nov. 3, 2011. To be eligible for this 4X The Rewards promotion, you must preregister online.
Five Free Nights and 4X The Rewards promotions.
Yellowstone National Park Lodges offers “Frosty Fun” packages featuring accommodations at the park’s two winter-season lodges.
The packages include Xanterra’s “Snow Card” good for 10 percent off meals, in-park transportation, tours, ski shop services and select retail items. Rates are per person, double occupancy, plus tax and utility fee.
Frosty Fun packages this winter include:
- Frosty Fun at Mammoth – Jan. 1 to Mar. 5, 2012, includes a minimum of two nights in a room with a private bathroom at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, two breakfasts per person, welcome gift, one-hour hot tub rental, unlimited ice skating and skates and Snow Card. Rates start at $139 per person for double occupancy and $219 for single occupancy.
- Frosty Fun at Old Faithful - Jan. 1 to Mar. 4, 2012, includes a minimum of two nights at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, two breakfasts per person, welcome gift, unlimited ice skating and skates, roundtrip snowcoach transportation and Snow Card. Rates start at $295 per person for double occupancy and $439 for single occupancy.
In addition to the Frosty Fun packages, Yellowstone National Park Lodges offer Nordic Heaven and Trail of the Wolf packages and six Lodging & Learning programs combining expert guides, accommodations, transportation and meals.
Except for the road from Gardiner, MT to Cooke City, MT via Mammoth Hot Springs, transportation within the park is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches during the winter. Snowcoach transportation is available daily to a variety of park locations. Xanterra also offers a variety of half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours and ski and snowshoe rentals plus expert instruction and other services.
Winter rates for single or double occupancy, plus tax, for individual room nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel start at $87 for a room with a shared bathroom or $120 for a standard hotel room with a private bathroom. Rates at the Snow Lodge are $206 for a lodge room, $149 for a Western Cabin or $96 for a Frontier Cabin, all with private bathrooms.
Yellowstone National Park Lodges or 866/439-7375.
Hotel Charlotte Fall Packages
Hotel Charlotte, in Groveland, CA, 24 miles from Yosemite National Park, offers two specials this fall and winter. The first is a $30 a night discount off regular rates ($129 rooms become $99) from Oct. 30, 2011 through Mar. 27, 2012. Bigger discounts are offered on more expensive rooms i.e. four people with connecting rooms, $58 discount, from $225 down to $167.
Rooms include breakfast, free long distance USA phone calls (no cell service in Groveland) free WiFi, free use of a computer.
Celebrate Hotel Charlotte's 90th birthday with 90 free nights for 90 veterans and guests. The Veterans VIP package is offered November 2011 through January 2012 on a first-come, first-served basis. The offer is valid one night per vet guest in the best available room when checking in. Two of the best available rooms per night are made available for the following 45 nights: Nov. 1 to 3, Nov. 6 to 10, Nov. 13 to 17, Nov. 20 to 22, and Nov. 27 to Dec. 15, 2011. January dates are Jan. 3 to 5, Jan. 8 to 12 and Jan. 17 and 18, 2012. Veterans also receive a VIP coupon package with discounts from participating local merchants.
Vets can bring the family and Hotel Charlotte will deduct the two person room price from the family room price. Stay more than one night and receive an additional 10 percent discount on the second, non-Friday or Saturday night.
While the room with breakfast is 100 percent free, all other policies are in effect. A credit card is required to guarantee the room. Cancellation fees apply and full payment is required for no shows. If you can’t make your free Veterans VIP night, call so that another veteran can take advantage of this offer.
Reservations by telephone ONLY.
Hotel Charlotte or 209/962-6455.
IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) offers a fall promotion which awards Priority Club Rewards members with 500 (maximum of 20,000 bonus points) Priority Club points or 100 airline miles (up to 4,000 bonus miles)for each qualifying night through Dec. 31, 2011, at any InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites property worldwide.
IHG implements a "multiplier" to its fall promotion, which allows members to earn additional bonus points or miles by staying at more than one IHG hotel brand during the promotion period. The more IHG hotel brands you stay at during the promotion, the more bonus points or miles earned. Stay in at least two IHG hotel brands and earn two times the points or miles, three brands gets you three times the points or miles and four brands earns four times the points or miles. You can earn up to 80,000 points, enough for two nights at the Venetian or Palazzo InterContinental Alliance Resorts in Las Vegas or four nights at the Staybridge Suites Times Square-New York City. Alternatively, you can earn up to 16,000 bonus miles. Points or miles earned from the "multiplier" will be calculated after Dec. 31, 2011 and awarded by Jan. 31, 2012.
To participate in the fall promotion, register at an English landing page where you will find terms and conditions and information on how to join Priority Club Rewards for free.
IHG fall promotion.
As the air turns crisp and the leaves fall, several properties in Saint Lucia invite you to stretch summer into fall with the “Endless Summer” promotion.
A sample of “Endless Summer” packages include:
Stonefield Estate Villa Resort & Spa - Book an ocean view villa with private pool or category higher and save 40 percent and receive full daily hot breakfast, spa and meal credit.
Anse Chastanet - Travel by Oct. 15, 2011, and get a fourth or seventh night free. Rates, per couple, in standard, superior, and beachside deluxe accommodations respectively are $330, $420 or $525. Add breakfast and dinner for $160 per couple daily. The all-inclusive meal plan is $310 per couple daily. Room and meal rates are subject to an eight percent tax and 10 percent service charge.
Bay Gardens Resorts – Up to 50 percent off at Bay Gardens Hotel and up to 30 percent off at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa. For travel through Dec. 19, 2011.
Calabash Cove - The Summer Getaway package is good through Dec. 23, 2011. A five night stay in an ocean view junior suite room includes a couples massage, dinner for two and airport transfer.
Coco Palm – Book by Oct. 31 for travel through Dec. 15, 2011, with the Endless Summer special. Your fourth night is free and you receive a room upgrade to pool view or higher. Buy one day cruise, when you stay Wednesday through Friday, and get one cruise free.
Discovery at Marigot Bay – Through Dec. 19, 2011, the Endless Summer promotion offers 30 percent off Resortview rooms, 40 percent off Bayview rooms and 50 percent off suites.
Fond Doux Holiday Plantation - Through Dec. 1, 2011, the Endless Summer promotion is $1,250 per couple for a seven night stay.
Four Springs Villa - The Summer Special runs through Nov. 15, 2011, with rates from $79 for a one bedroom villa and $120 for a two bedroom villa with shared pool. Group rates are $29 per person, per night.
La Haut - Sizzling Summer bonus runs through Dec. 14, 2011 and offers two half-hour massages with a five night stay and a food credit.
One of the Windward Islands of the West Indies' Lesser Antilles, Saint Lucia is known for its signature Piton Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, tropical rainforest and one of the world's few drive-in volcanoes.
Saint Lucia packages or 800/456-3984.
The newly renovated Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf offers room packages valid through Dec. 30, 2011.
- Designed for couples, the “Amour Romance” package starts at $239 and includes accommodations for two, for one night; breakfast for two; bottle of sparkling wine; chocolate covered strawberries; turndown service; and 2 p.m. late check out.
- The “Balance Relaxation” package includes a room for one night; breakfast for two; and valet parking for one car. Rates start at $239.
- The “Explore Local Discovery” package offers one night’s accommodations and two cable car passes for unlimited, one-day use. Rates start at $214.
- The “Awaken” package features a guest room for two and breakfast. Rates start at $219.
- Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf or 800/233-1234
On San Francisco’s waterfront, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco offers several packages through Dec. 30, 2011.
- The “Amour Romance” package starts at $229 and includes one night’s accommodations; breakfast for two; bottle of sparkling wine with strawberries; turndown service; and late check out.
- The “Awaken” package features a room for two, breakfast for two and late, 2 p.m. check out. Rates start at $209.
- Hyatt Regency San Francisco or 800/233-1234..
Convenient to the San Francisco International Airport, Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport- Burlingame offers the Stay + Fly package through Mar. 12, 2012.
- It includes accommodations, free shuttle to and from San Francisco International Airport and free parking for up to 10 days in a covered lot. Parking in excess of 10 days is $10 per day, for a total maximum of 20 parking days per package. Rates for the Stay + Fly package start at $129.
- The “Amour Romance” package starts at $229 and includes one night’s accommodations; breakfast for two; bottle of sparkling wine with strawberries; turndown service; and late check out.
- The “Awaken” package features a room for two, breakfast for two and late, 2 p.m. check out. Rates start at $209.
- Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport – Burlingame or 650/347-1234.
An American linen company has introduced new towels and robes equipped with electronic chips for hotels to prevent guests from taking them home.
Linen Tracking Technology, a firm based in Miami, FL, launched the new products attached with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags under association with Fluensee, another technology firm.
About five to 20 percent of linens at hotel rooms are likely to be lost, according to William Serbin, the company's executive vice president. To prevent such losses, RFID tags are sewn to towels, which can be detected by sensors within a 1.8-metre (or nearly six foot) range.
This way it is possible to know whether towels are removed from closets. Linens with RFID tags are bendable and washable like any other towel, and only cost about a dollar more per towel.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours has a bicycle travel photo contest open to all camera and cycle enthusiasts.
The grand prize for the best photo that captures the spirit of cycling is a free ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tour (maximum value $3,650) that you must take before Dec. 31, 2012. Professional photographers Gregg Bleakney and Jeff Bartlett along with members of the ExperiencePlus! team will select the winner.
Three Category Prize winners will also be awarded an ExperiencePlus! gift package including an anniversary jersey, water bottle, cycling socks and rear rack pack.
The three categories are:
- Food & Local Culture: Photos of locals, outdoor markets, indoor markets, fabulous meals, grapes on vines, beautiful monuments and such
- Panoramas & Vistas: Sights and places that inspire awe and amazement
- Cyclists: Travel buddies, self-portraits or locals who share the love of bicycling
Each category winner will be awarded a prize and all photos submitted will be entered into a People's Choice Contest with the winner receiving a new iPad.
Voting for the People's Choice is done via SmugMug, a community photo sharing site. Visitors to the 40th Anniversary Album can give photos a “Green Thumbs-up.” The more votes a photo gets the higher it is ranked in the gallery in terms of popularity. Number of views also affects popularity in this gallery, so photographers are encouraged to send friends to view the gallery.
There are three ways to enter a photo (a maximum of three images for each category allowed):
- By Email - send digital photo submissions
- Through Facebook - post photos (tell the story behind each) on the ExperiencePlus! wall
- By Twitter - mention @explusbicycling and hash-tag the contest (#XPlusphoto), the challenge is telling the story in less than 140 characters
Upon submission, all photos will be uploaded to the SmugMug album and entered in the Grand Prize, Category and People's Choice contests. Historic hard copy photos may be scanned and submitted digitally.
Although no submission deadline date has been set, the contest is expected to end in early 2012 with the winners being announced shortly thereafter.
ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours.
Until Oct. 31, 2011, all sailings will feature two-for-one prices and free roundtrip airfare from more than 20 North American gateways (or air credits). On select sailings, you can receive additional Book Now Savings with as much as $4,000 per couple in fare reductions.
On Nov. 1, cruise fares will rise for select sailings.
In 2012, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will visit 182 ports-of-call in 59 countries. Destinations include the western and eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, North Cape, Western Europe, Greek Isles, Baltic and Russia, China, Japan, southeast Asia, Australia, South Pacific, South America, New England/Canada, Panama Canal, British Isles, Canary Islands and Mexican Riviera on itineraries of seven to 94 days.
Crystal Cruises includes free amenities such as enrichment speakers, fitness classes, pillow menus and specialty restaurant dining with the cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio. In the spring of 2012, vacations on the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will include free fine wines and premium spirits throughout the ship, open bar service in all lounges, and pre-paid gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff.
Crystal Cruises or 888/722-0021.
ENTER BY OCT. 4, 2011 - -Outrigger Hotels & Resorts offer a “Be Here Hawaii” sweepstakes. You can win a Hawaii vacation on Kauai or the big island of Hawaii. The online contest ends on Oct. 4, 2011.
Two grand-prize winners will receive roundtrip flights for two on Hawaiian Airlines from one of Hawaiian’s 10 U.S. gateway cities and a six-night stay at an Outrigger-managed hotel or condo of their preference on Kauai or the big island of Hawaii.
And to encourage travelers to “Be Here Hawaii” now, every Outrigger hotel and condo on Kauai and the big island offer 500 bonus HawaiianMiles for any paid stay through Dec. 21, 2011. .
Outrigger hotel and condominium choices include:
- Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation on a former plantation estate
- Outrigger at Lae nani beachfront on Kauai’s eastern shore,
- Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort: in the heart of Kapaa town
Outrigger’s big island of Hawaii
- Keauhou Beach Resort: Set where royalty of ancient Hawaii lived and played, this location embraces oceanfront tide pools, snorkeling beaches, and Hawaiian cultural experiences. The hotel creates a union of past and present where nature and hospitality reside in harmony. Free breakfast and free Internet.
- Outrigger Kanaloa at Kona: condo on an 18-acre private peninsula in Keauhou.
- Outrigger Royal Sea Cliff: condo on a lava rock bluff
- Outrigger Fairway Villas: alongside the fairways of Waikoloa Beach Resort’s Beach Golf Course.
- Kohala Coast Condominium Collection: town homes and condos in Mauna Lani Resort and Waikoloa Beach Resort.
Go online to the contest web page and complete the sweepstakes form with contact information and email address, noting the island preference of your choice. Winners will be selected by a random drawing on or about Oct. 7, 2011. The odds of winning will depend upon the number of eligible entries received.
Sweepstakes entrants must be legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 years of age or older and have online access as of the date of entry. Officers, directors, employees or agents of Outrigger Hotels Hawaii or any of its affiliated companies, Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. or any of its affiliated companies or vendors are not eligible. Void outside the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and where prohibited.
Outrigger’s “Be Here Hawaii” Sweepstakes, or Outrigger Hotels & Resorts.
With Ragosta Hotels Collection’s discounted fall rates, you can see Italy without breaking the bank.
Through Nov. 30, 2011, you can book stays at the Hotel Raito on the Amalfi Coast, Relais Paradiso on the Amalfi Coast Hotels, and La Plage Resort in Taormina, Sicily.
Rates, based on hotel and room type, are per room, per night and do not include tax, services charges, food and beverages.
Fall Room Rates:
- Hotel Raito: Standard rooms from 150 to 240 euros per room, per night
- Relais Paradiso: Superior rooms 250 euros per room, per night
- La Plage Resort: Bungalow garden view rooms from 250 to 270 eruos per room, per night
Many of Hotel Raito’s 77 guest rooms and suites offer balconies and terraces with views of the Bay of Salerno and the village of Vietri sul Mare.
Opened in August 2009, Relais Paradiso Hotel features 22 rooms and suites with terraces overlooking the Bay of Salerno. During your stay, you will receive a welcome cocktail and car transfers to Vietri sul Mare.
Steps from the Sicily’s nature preserve, Isola Bella, La Plage Resort offers 61 rooms and suites.
Fall is one of the favorite times to take a road trip. Virginia offers 15 million acres of fall foliage as autumn spreads a beautiful blanket.
The Virginia Tourism Corporation put together 11 scenic fall drives, where you can take a trip through quaint towns, vineyards, roadside markets and historic sites. Each trip idea includes distance and drive time from end to end.
- Skyline Drive: The main artery of Shenandoah National Park, celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2011. Special programs range from nature walks to cooking demonstrations and camping programs for novices. There’s a guided tour of Rapidan Camp, the private retreat of President Herbert Hoover. Stay overnight at Skyland Lodge or Big Meadows Lodge. Drive time: Recommended three hours Distance: 105 miles
- Colonial National Historical Parkway: The 24-mile National Scenic Byway connects historic Jamestown and Yorktown. Devoid of billboards and advertisements, the Parkway is a peaceful and beautiful meander. Drive time: 45 minutes Distance: 24 miles
- The Crooked Road: Virginia's Heritage Music Trail winds through the mountains and valleys of Southwest Virginia, a hotbed of bluegrass and Old Time music. Much of this route travels through the higher mountains. Live music venues, museums and cultural centers lie along the trail. Drive time: Six hours, 30 minutes Distance: 300 miles
- The Blue Ridge Parkway: The most visited unit of United States National Parks, the Parkway offers breathtaking vistas and natural splendor. Now in its 76th year, well-maintained hiking trails, overnight accommodations, shops, restaurants and wineries are nearly everywhere along the way. Visit Mabry Mill, the most photographed site on the Parkway. Join a nature hike led by park rangers. Galax and Waynesboro make good start/end points. Drive time: Six hours, 20 minutes Distance: 215 miles
- Virginia's Eastern Shore: Taking the 17 mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is half the fun. Route 13 runs the length of the Virginia’s 70-mile Eastern shore. The real treasures are found in the roads that lead to Route 13 and the Atlantic Ocean or Chesapeake Bay. At the northern tip take Route 175 to Chincoteague, famed for oysters and wild ponies. Off Route 184 find Cape Charles, with a wonderful beach, hotels, B&Bs and Bay Creek resort. Drive time: Just over two hours Distance: Approximately 75 miles
- Through the Pass from Lexington to Hot Springs: Lexington is at the eastern end of a fall drive. Take Rt. 39, a scenic Virginia Byway that follows the Maury River. At Goshen Pass the river swirls through a boulder-strewn gorge where the western mountains roll into the Shenandoah Valley. Continue westward to Hot Springs. Go south on Highway 220 to The Homestead, one of Virginia's premier four-seasons resorts. Drive time: One hour, 10 minutes Distance: 46 miles
- A Culinary Tour of Northern Virginia: Loudoun County is famed for scenic roads, wine and cuisine. Start in Leesburg and head south on Highway 15 and then west on Highway 50 towards Middleburg, capital of Virginia's horse country. Go north on Rt. 748 and northwest on Rt. 734. Stop at the historic Philomont General Store or Great Country Farms near Bluemont. At Bluemont go east on Rt. 7 to Purcellville and north on Rt. 287. Dine at Leesburg eateries. Drive time: Two hours Distance: 67 miles
- The Road Less Traveled Through the Shenandoah Valley: Interstate 81 runs the length of the Shenandoah Valley. Highway 11 parallels I-81 and goes through small towns with antique shops, historic sites, restaurants and inns. Off the beaten path lie the Dayton Farmers Market, Luray Caverns and the Andre Viette Nursery. Winchester and Staunton make bookends for a Highway 11 trip and each has its own historic hotel. Drive time: Two hours, 15 minutes Distance: 92 miles
- Nelson Scenic Loop: Traversing 50 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Loop includes four Scenic Byways west of Charlottesville. Picnic at Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Stay overnight in a creekside cabin. Drive time: One hour, 30 minutes Distance: 50 miles
- Presidents in the Virginia Piedmont: Three United States presidents made their homes near Charlottesville. Start at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and drive east on Rt. 53 to Jefferson Vineyards. Take Rt. 732 then Rt. 729 northwest to Highway 250 west and Rt. 22 north. This historic trace is bordered by historic farms. Take Rt. 231 and stop for a tasting at Keswick Vineyards, at Keswick Hall, one of Virginia's most elegant inns. Take Rt. 231 to Gordonsville for the Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum and the town of Orange. Continue west on Constitution Highway (Rt. 20) and Montpelier, home of President James and Dolley Madison. Return to Charlottesville on Rt. 20. Distance: 55 miles Drive time: One hour, 15 minutes
- James River to Walton's Mountain: Rt. 6 follows the meandering James River west of Richmond. The mostly rural area features historic churches, courthouses and homes. Scottsville is at a sharp bend in the James. Continue on County Road 800 to Schuyler, home of the Walton's Mountain Museum. Drive Time: One hour, 30 minutes Distance: 68 miles
Eleven Virginia Fall Drives.
Miramonte Resort & Spa, in Indian Wells near Palm Springs, CA, rings in the holiday season with a vacation rate of $99 per night throughout the Desert Holidays program – an annual celebration beginning the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's Day 2012.
Featuring entertainment and activities every day, the program celebrates the holidays with Santa's workshops, holiday story times, roasting chestnuts, creating gingerbread houses, cooking classes, chef dinners, musical entertainment, wine tastings, and star gazing.
Miramonte Resort & Spa or 800/237-2926.
Lansdowne Resort, in Lansdowne, VA, adds a golf deal to its golf and spa package menu.
The Golf Club at Lansdowne Resort, managed by Troon Golf, offers two 18-hole courses and one 9-hole course, each designed by Robert Trent Jones II or Greg Norman.
Through November, 2011, the Re-Tee for Free package allows you to play as much golf as you can during your 24 hour stay. Upon check-in, play nine holes on the Sharkbite family friendly course and in the morning, add 18 holes on the Greg Norman or Robert Trent Jones course. This package starts at $239 per night and includes golf cart and clubs, if requested.
Lansdowne Resort is set on more than 500 acres and features 296 guest rooms and 14 suites, a multi-pool aquatic complex, 45-holes of golf, a 45,000-square-foot conference center, six dining facilities and a full-service spa.
Lansdowne Resort or 877/509-8400.
Maybe rhythm and blues musician and native son Ray Charles had Albany, Georgia on his mind when he soulfully sang “Georgia on My Mind.” Being pleasantly surprised was certainly on my mind when I visited this friendly, laid-back, southern city. Albany, GA is not a destination that you read a lot about in travel magazines or newspapers. I discovered a visit can yield a big dose of Southern hospitality, a variety of interesting things to see and do and value for your vacation dollars.
The Creek Indians who lived in the Albany area prior to the city’s discovery in 1836 called their home along the Flint River "Thronateeska" meaning "the place where the flint is picked up." So it seems appropriate that settlers called the river that flows through Albany the Flint, a place they gravitated to and gathered. In 1857, city founder Nelson Tift hired Horace King, a freed slave, to build a bridge house along the Flint River to collect tolls from boats. The Bridge House went through several evolutions, including use as a meat packing plant during the Civil War. Today, the Bridge House is part of six acre RiverFront Park and home to the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau.
When you come into the welcome center the gift shop and brochure rack area is where the original bridge "toll taker" sat. From the second floor, you get a phenomenal view of the Flint River, Broad Avenue Bridge and Turtle Park. The park includes a lawn area for picnics and gatherings, music and light animated play fountain, pavilion areas, Turtle Grove Play Park, a 1.5 mile Greenways Trail System, Horace King Overlook and the Riverwalk.
A major improvement to the downtown area near RiverFront Park is Ray Charles Plaza, a tribute to its most famous native son. This plaza celebrates the life and legacy of the musical great born Sept. 23, 1930 in Albany. The centerpiece is a fountain with an illuminated revolving pedestal upon which there is a life-size bronze statue of Ray Charles seated at a baby grand piano. As water flows down the sides of the statue and spills into a reflecting pool at its base, beloved melodies by the legendary singer play on loudspeakers so you can experience a Ray Charles performance. Relax for a while and you’ll surely hear Ray Charles singing “Georgia on My Mind,” the state song, as it takes an hour for the statue to make one rotation. A miniature version of the statue is displayed at Bridge House.
With a view of the Flint River in background, the statue is flanked by two walk ways that look like a piano keyboard with raised sharps and flats that form benches. The walk ways connect to the Riverwalk.
Albany’s roots run deep. In the heart of southwest Georgia’s plantation country, plantations once provided the Confederacy with cotton, indigo and corn. Now plantations found new life as hunting preserves for hunting vacations earning Albany the title "Quail Capital of the World." The area's fields and pecan groves are one of the reasons Quail Unlimited holds its annual Celebrity Hunt in Albany.
The cultural center of southwest Georgia, Albany is home to an art museum, symphonic orchestra, live theater group and one of two accredited zoos in the state of Georgia.
The Albany Museum of Art has six galleries featuring African, European and American works. The interactive gallery for children, called AMAzing Space, lets children experience art hands-on. Theatre Albany has brought professional shows to southwest Georgia since 1932. Each season performances include original works, Broadway productions and classic dramas. The Albany Symphony Orchestra performs classical and pops concerts at multiple locations in the area.
Thronateeska Heritage Center displays the history of Albany and South Georgia. Even Thronateeska’s location is historic: At Heritage Plaza, on the only remaining brick street in Albany. The four main parts of the center offer something for the entire family. The facilities occupy historic structures and new buildings designed to echo the area’s railroad heritage.
The Transportation Museum with its railroad equipment collection and model railway exhibit is in Albany's historic Union Station. Rail transportation, the technology that transformed the South, is the focus with a 1911-era steam locomotive built for the Florida East Coast Railway and rail cars on display. The HO-scale model railway exhibit is inside a former railroad baggage car and mail car that made trips to New Orleans and Jacksonville. Outside on the back train platform you can see an antique automobile, an antique peanut harvester and a collection of historic railroad rolling stock.
The history museum, housed in the city’s 1912-era train station, lets you discover South Georgia history as it tells and traces the story of Albany, the Flint River corridor and the Creek Indians. Artifacts include original train station appointments such as a huge original wall clock, a massive stuffed Alaskan brown bear and a Bob’s Candy Company truck.
The 11,000 square foot science museum is hands-on with interactive exhibits in archeology, geology, hydrology, paleontology and physical science. There’s a half-scale replica of the Wright Flyer, archaeological artifacts from southwest Georgia and eclectic items such as a NASA training spacesuit.
The 40-foot full-dome Weatherbee Planetarium is state-of-the art as programs explain the solar system with high definition images and surround sound.
Regardless which of the four centers you visit, and even if you visit all four, admission to Thronateeska Heritage Center is free to the public during normal hours of operation.
The Parks at Chehaw are nearly 800 acres of rolling parkland, lush forests, bayous and picnic areas . One hundred acres are dedicated to Chehaw Wild Animal Park. This AZA accredited zoo was originally laid out by noted naturalist Jim Fowler of TV's Wild Kingdom.
Wooden boardwalks, many covered by dense vegetation, guide you from habitat to habitat. If you enjoy getting out in nature and seeing animals, birds and reptiles, then the park is great fun. Animals aren’t in cages but in natural habitats including black bears, rhinos, cheetahs, meerkats and bobcats.
If you never fed alligators, that’s an experience that awaits you at the alligator exhibit. About two dozen alligators call a natural spring fed swamp pond their home. A long wooden walkway takes you to the center of the swampy looking exhibit, where you get an almost 360 view of the pond. Around the swamp pond you’ll notice what look like logs in the algae covered water. In reality the logs are alligators and they look so log-like because they are so still. Every once in a while you see those toothy jaws snap as alligators snack on one of the local pond fish or alligator food visitors throw in. The alligator exhibit is worth the trip to the Wild Animal Park.
Meerkats are Chehaw’s newest addition. The Meerkat Maze looks like a natural meerkat habitat in the savannah where you can see the cute and quick meerkats climbing to lookout points, burrowing or just scurrying about.
Children will also enjoy the petting zoo and riding the miniature train. The Parks at Chehaw feature nature trails, BMX bike racing, camp grounds, RV camping hook-ups and one of Georgia's largest play parks for kids. All in all, it’s a great place to relax and spend time with nature and the kids.
Flint RiverQuarium explains about the Flint River, a unique blue hole spring and more than 100 species of aquatic life found in Georgia’s wetlands, including alligators, yellow stingray, alligator snapping turtles and Atlantic sturgeon. Hands-on exhibits and the 175,000 gallon, 22 feet deep, open-air RiverQuarium Blue Hole is filled with the fish, reptiles and plants found in the Flint River's ecosystem. Inside the RiverQuarium is the opportunity for face to face encounters with the creatures and fish native to south Georgia. The outdoor aviary houses birds from the Flint River’s watershed that are being rehabilitated or can’t survive in the wild.
Just south of Albany you can find Radium Springs, the largest natural springs in Georgia. Considered one of the seven natural wonders of Georgia by Georgia Public Broadcasting, about 70,000 gallons per minute of crystal clear water flow from an underground ancient cave system to create the springs. The water flows out at a consistent 68 degree temperature year-round and eventually empties into the nearby Flint River.
On my visit, the unique sapphire blue water was murky due to low water levels and a lack of rain. Because the water contained traces of radium, it was called Radium Springs and in the 1920s, a casino was built overlooking the springs. That era was its tourism heyday, where a hotel and spa were the foundation of a resort frequented by locals and visitors from the North. Although swimming is no longer allowed in the spring, it was a much-loved swimming hole for many years and once was one of Georgia's most popular resort areas. Flooding of the Flint River in 1994 and 1998 severely damaged the casino. In 2003 a flood destroyed the 1920s hotel and it was ultimately demolished.
Where there were once lushly decorated rooms, there are now the start of new gardens as the botanical gardens at Radium Springs opened to the public in July 2010 and admission is free. Magnolias, mimosas, pines, mossy oaks and crepe myrtles still grace the entrances and shade the gardens that ring the springs as they did during the heyday of the resort. A viewing platform near the springs lets you see where the waters of the spring start and the creek it feeds. The base of the historic casino survives as do many of its decorative features. The footprint of where the casino once stood is planted with new shrubs and flowers and is called the Casino and Terrace gardens. The roofless structure allows sun and rain to nourish the trees and plants. With new gardens and continued development the walkways, interpretive panels and natural beauty will again serve the community.
The Deep South was once a stronghold of racial discrimination. Albany, Georgia, was one of the first civil rights battlegrounds where four major civil rights organizations joined forces and formed the Albany Movement in 1961. The group held meetings at the restored Mt. Zion Church, including ones where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke. Today, Mt. Zion Church houses the Albany Civil Rights Institute, which tells the story of civil rights in southwestern Georgia from slavery to the present day.
The real magic happens every second Saturday of the month at the Old Mt. Zion Church. That’s when the strong, tight, a capella harmonies of the Albany Civil Rights Institute Freedom Singers, led by original SNCC Freedom Singer Rutha Harris, reach the rafters as the group belt out their freedom songs to keep this oral tradition alive.
The emotionally charged performances of the volunteer singers engage the audience. In fact, they sent chills up and down my spine. The songs were the glue that held the Albany movement and the civil rights movement together during marches and against the police batons, the arrests, the dogs and water cannon. These special songs provided heart, soul and courage to movement participants.
In between songs Harris and some of the other members speak about the music’s history and the civil rights movement history, reminding everyone in the audience the price paid for freedom. Throughout the performance, we in the audience clapped, laughed and appreciated the music and the history lessons. It seemed like the audience came together as a family and cemented the relationship when all joined hands to sing "We Shall Overcome."
If you are not in Albany for a performance, you can still visit the Albany Civil Rights Institute next door. The museum commemorates the civil rights movement and serves as an educational resource by collecting the oral histories of former Albany Movement participants. The museum's holdings include memorabilia, photographs, historical documents, and audio and video recordings.
Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau or 229/317-4760.
|Holland America Line launched a contest on Facebook that will award one person a seven-day Alaska cruise for four including two verandah staterooms. The sweepstakes runs through Nov. 30, 2011 and the winner will be selected in December 2011.
To enter the contest, go to Holland America Line's Facebook page, become a fan and answer a few questions. Existing Holland America Line fans can fill out the form for their chance to win the cruise. The sweepstakes is limited to legal residents 18 years of age or older from the United States, District of Columbia, Canada — except Quebec — and the United Kingdom.)
Holland America Line or 877/724-5425.
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