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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, October 2014 Issue



Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
http://www.onthegopublishing.com/currentissue.html
travelnewsletter@aim.com
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright  2014 
All Rights Reserved.
Editor: Nicki Chodnoff


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In This Issue:
Mammoth Dome on the Historic tour route, Mammoth Cave National Park

 photo MammothDome_zpsd31caeb3.jpg

  • Prospector Rates at Death Valley National Park
  • Mamaison Hotels Fall Foliage Package
  • Enterprise $9.99 Per Day Weekend Special
  • Alaska Airlines Fall Award Sale
  • D.C. Metro's Silver Line Opens
  • Sea Pines Resort Fall & Winter Package
  • National Car Rental One Two Free Promotion
  • Free Nights at Moon Dance Cliffs
  • Ocean Club Resorts Travel Tuesday Savings
  • Save 15% on Aurora Antarctic Adventures
  • Take Five Minutes To Check Your Tires
  • 25th Wilderness Wildlife Week
  • “3 For Free” Princess Cruise Deals
  • Two Trips, One Night Free from Choice Hotels
  • Discount Ticket Offers At Philly Theaters
  • The Shores Resort & Spa $74 Rate
  • Kiawah Island Golf or Gourmet Packages
  • Vero Beach Hotel Offers Round of “Spa” pplause
  • Kentucky Underground
  • Special Fall Offers on Amelia Island

  • Prospector Rates at Death Valley National Park

    Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park, CA, brings back its “Prospector Rates” featuring 30 percent discounts on select rooms throughout the park’s fall season.

    The fall season means moderate temperatures so you can take advantage of the park’s wide-ranging outdoor adventures.

    “Prospector Rates” are available at the family-friendly Ranch at Furnace Creek and the Inn at Furnace Creek.

    The Ranch is open year round and features activities, restaurants and retail operations and 224 rooms and cabins in a casual setting on the floor of Death Valley National Park.

    A member of the Historic Hotels of America, the Inn at Furnace Creek is open mid-October through mid-May and features 66 rooms and suites, fine dining, a flow-through swimming pool and a terrace offering some of the finest sunsets in the West.

    Prospector Rates are available at the Ranch on select dates Oct. 15 through Dec. 21, 2014 and at the Inn on various dates Oct. 20 through Dec. 20, 2014. Dates are subject to availability and change. Check online for a current listing of applicable dates.

    Use promo code “PROSPECTOR” when making reservations

    Furnace Creek Resort or 800/236-7916.


    Mamaison Hotels Fall Foliage Package

    Through Dec. 1, 2014, save 15 percent off the best available rate at any Mamaison hotel or residence in Prague, Ostrava, Budapest, Bratislava, Warsaw and Moscow.

    Fall offers a bounty of harvest festivals, new wines, local gastronomy, and foliage. With locations close to each destination's tourist attractions, Mamaison hotels are a good starting point to explore the neighborhood and the countryside for Autumn foliage gazing.

    In Budapest, Mamaison Hotel Andrassy and Mamaison Residence Izabella are near Autumn festivals such as the Chimney Cake Festival and Contemporary Arts Festival.

    In Prague, the Mamaison Pachtuv Palace, Mamaison Hotel Riverside, and Mamaison Residence Belgicka can be your staging point for the Festival of the Grape at Prague Castle; and the St. Wenceslas Wine Festival.

    Festivals are held in Ostrava, Warsaw, Bratislava and Moscow.

    Mamaison Hotels & Residences .

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    Enterprise $9.99 Per Day Weekend Special

    Enterprise Rent-A-Car offers its annual $9.99 per day weekend rate through May 18, 2015, at the majority of Enterprise's U.S. neighborhood locations.

    The weekend rate of $9.99 per day is valid on economy and compact cars when renting Friday through Monday. The rate includes 300 free miles per weekend. Similar savings are offered on larger vehicles, and unlimited mileage packages are also available at most locations. Additionally, up to two extra days can be added to the Friday-through-Monday rental at a discounted rate. Programs exclude airport locations.

    Enterprise Rent-A-Car.


    Fall Savings at Sirenis Hotels and Resorts

    Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can stretch their frequent flier miles through Oct. 31, 2014, during the airline's biggest award sale of the year. Through Oct. 31, 2014, members can travel from 5,000 miles one-way, a 60 percent discount off a standard award-level ticket.

    Sample one-way award markets:

      5,000 miles (a 7,500-mile savings)
    • Portland, Oregon – Oakland, California
    • Salt Lake City - Los Angeles
    • Seattle - San Francisco
      7,500 miles (a 5,000-mile savings)
    • Boise, Idaho – Oakland, California
    • Spokane, Washington – San Francisco
    • Bellingham, Washington – San Francisco
      10,000 miles (a 2,500-mile savings)
    • Seattle - Salt Lake City
    • Anchorage, Alaska - Los Angeles
    • San Diego – Portland
      12,500 miles (a 5,000-mile savings)
    • Los Angeles – Mazatlan, Mexico
    • San Francisco – Los Cabos, Mexico
    • Salt Lake City – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

    For a limited time, when you purchase miles through Oct. 14, 2014, you will receive up to 40 percent bonus miles. For example, purchases 35,000 miles and receive 14,000 bonus miles in your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account.

    Alaska recently enhanced its Mileage Plan by introducing mix-and-match, one-way partner awards and allowing miles flown on all its international partners to count toward MVP elite status. There is no minimum spend requirement to achieve Mileage Plan elite status, and you get generous availability on award redemptions, one-way travel awards, and combination miles-and-money award redemptions.

    Alaska Airlines.


    D.C. Metro's Silver Line Opens

    After five years of construction, Washington's Metrorail system opened phase one of its Silver Line, extending public transit service to Reston, VA.

    The 12-mile segment features five new stations in northern Virginia, including the Tysons Corner shopping complex. The Metro is expected to extend to Dulles in 2018, one of the largest U.S. airports without a transit link.

    As an interim measure, Dulles Airport launched the Silver Line Express bus service to transport passengers from the new Wiehle-Reston East station to the airport. Buses operate every 15 minutes during weekday peak hours and every 20 minutes off-peak and on weekends.

    The bus offers one-way fares of $5. A trip on the Metrorail system between Dulles and any point on the Metro's lines costs $11 or less. Taxi fare costs $62 for a ride from Dulles to the Capitol.


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    Sea Pines Resort Fall & Winter Package

    The Sea Pines Resort, in Hilton Head, SC, offers a Fall & Winter Getaway package for nightly or weeklong stays through Feb. 28, 2015.

    The Sea Pines Resort has five miles of beaches, 14 miles of bike and walking trails, 54 holes of golf, horseback riding and multiple outlets for fine and casual dining.

      Rates start at $145 per night for a three-night stay in a two-bedroom deluxe villa (taxes not included). The offer has added value, including:
    • 15 percent off reduced nightly and weekly rates for homes and villas
    • Free dinner entrées for two at Live Oak or Topside Waterfront Restaurant (one-time only)
    • Free lunch entrées for two at Live Oak, Quarterdeck or Harbour Town Bakery (one-time only)
    • Free bicycles for two during entire stay
    • $50 resort credit for stays of seven or more nights
    • One free portrait session by Memory Lane Portraits
    • 10 percent dining discount at the Sea Pines Resort restaurants (alcohol excluded)

    The package also features two hours of tennis per day at the Racquet Club; unlimited use of the fitness center; and preferred golf rates at resort's three golf courses.

    When booking, enter or mention the promotion code: GETAWAY.

    The Sea Pines Resort or 866/561-8802.


    National Car Rental One Two Free Promotion

    National Car Rental launches its annual One Two Free promotion for registered Emerald Club members.

    Renters receive one free rental day for every two qualifying rentals of a mid-sized or larger vehicle (for two or more consecutive days). You can earn promotional points by adding options such as a GPS or by renting through Emerald Club's Priority Service in Mexico. You can earn up to 50 free rental days by participating in the promotion, which includes an earning period through Jan. 31, 2015.

    An earned free day may be redeemed to a cover base rate for a rental day but excludes a variety of taxes, fees or optional items, which shall be the responsibility of the renter.

    A qualifying rental is the paid rental of a mid-sized or larger vehicle at participating locations in the U.S. for two or more consecutive days during the promotion.

    Each qualifying car rental completed during the "One Two Free" promotion is worth 300 points, with a free day awarded once an Emerald Club member earns 600 points. Bonus points can be earned through non-rental activities such as renting in Mexico and pre-paying for gas.

    You can join National's Emerald Club and immediately take part in the "One Two Free" promotion. There are no fees to join. You must register for the promotion before you can take part in the promotion.

    National Car Rental.


    Free Nights at Moon Dance Cliffs

    The seaside resort, Moon Dance Cliffs in Negril, Jamaica, presents a December special: Stay three nights and get the fourth night free, or stay five nights and get the sixth and seventh nights at no additional charge.

    Moon Dance Cliffs features ocean view accommodations on the cliffs of Negril. The resort includes a boutique hotel, private villas, spa, two restaurants, three bars and tropical gardens.

    Moon Dance Cliffs includes 480- to 1,200 square-foot rooms and suites, along with one-, four- and five-bedroom private pool side villas - all with Caribbean views. All villas have private garden Jacuzzis and stocked wet bars; and full-size pool tables in the living rooms.

    Moon Dance Cliffs' "Stay 3, Get 4. Stay 5, Get 7" offer is available if you choose the resort's all-inclusive option. Free nights covers the cost of accommodations and is applicable for new reservations for stays between Dec. 19, 2014 and Jan. 4, 2015. It is not combinable with any other discount or special.

    Moon Dance Cliffs or 800/621-1120.

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    Ocean Club Resorts Travel Tuesday Savings

    Ocean Club Resorts in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, has weekly Travel Tuesday flash sales.

    Each week you can receive savings of up to 35 percent off regular rates. Travel deals are announced every Tuesday at noon via Ocean Club Resorts' Facebook and Twitter pages and valid for only 24 hours. Use offer code 24TUES to book your getaway.

    Ocean Club Resorts, Ocean Club and Ocean Club West, are two all-suite oceanfront properties located one mile apart on Grace Bay Beach.

    Ocean Club and Ocean Club West offer accommodations from studios to three-bedroom suites. Each suite features washers and dryers and full kitchens and kitchenettes.

    Ocean Club West is located steps from Providenciales' shopping district.

    Ocean Club Resorts or 800/457-8787.


    Save 15% on Aurora Antarctic Adventures

    Aurora Expeditions offers savings of $1,500 on a selection of this season's Antarctic voyages. You save 15 percent off the price of your cabin and receive bonus inclusions such as a two-in-one polar expedition jacket and a printed keepsake photo book.

    Two expeditions, 'Photographers: South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula' and 'Spirit of Antarctica,' also include free photography workshops that are open to all levels of photographer. The workshop includes informal talks and image reviews, opportunities for one-on-one instruction and informal side-by-side shooting from the ship deck, in Zodiacs and during shore landings.

    There are opportunities to paddle the wildlife-rich waters in sea kayaks, climb Antarctica's icy slopes, or camp out overnight. All passengers can take part in daily shore landings, attempt a Polar Plunge, and enjoy wildlife observation from the ship's 24 hour open bridge.

    Each expedition is operated on the 54-passenger, ice-strengthen vessel, Polar Pioneer, which allows for Zodiac cruises and landings at least twice a day.

    The 20-day 'Photographers: South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula' expedition departs Nov. 3, 2014 and starts from $11,600 per person, triple share (including discount).

    The 12-day 'Spirit of Antarctica' expedition departs Dec. 6, 2014 and starts from $7,395 per person, triple share (including discount).

    All expeditions include onboard accommodations, meals, guided shore excursions, and an in-depth education program with expert commentary and talks by Aurora's team of naturalists, historians, geologists, expedition team and special guest lecturers.

    Aurora Expeditions .

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    Take Five Minutes To Check Your Tires

    Discount Tire and the Rubber Manufacturers Association want to educate drivers about four essential areas of tire maintenance: Pressure, Alignment, Rotation and Tread (PART).

    While there are many ways to maintain tires, checking tire pressure is one of the most critical things you can do to improve safety. Improperly inflated tires lead to decreased steering and braking control and excessive tire wear and increased fuel consumption.

    Five Tips for Tire Care:

    1. Get Pressure Right – Low tire pressure can decrease fuel economy. Tires may lose up to one pound per square inch of air pressure per month. The specific inflation pressure number may be found inside the driver's door. Don't forget trailer tires. Checking the tire pressure for boat, travel and utility trailers is as important as your car or truck.

    2. Don't Overload Vehicle – Overloading your vehicle or trailer decreases fuel economy due to increased cargo weight. Handling, control and braking are also negatively impacted.

    3. Rotate Before You Go – Regular rotation helps achieve uniform tire wear and improves performance. Tires rotated every 5,000 miles have longer life and will help maximize your investment.

    4. Straighten Up – Proper wheel alignment provides safe, predictable vehicle control and helps tires wear evenly and last longer. If your tires squeal when you turn or if you notice your steering wheel veers to one side while driving straight, it's time to get your wheels re-aligned.

    5. Bald Isn't Beautiful – Lack of tread affects the tire's ability to grip the road, especially in wet conditions. Make sure tires don't have uneven wear, which indicate something is wrong with the tire. High or low spots or unusually smooth areas may decrease traction and increase the risk of road accidents.


    25th Wilderness Wildlife Week

    The 25th presentation of Wilderness Wildlife Week, Pigeon Forge, TN's annual salute to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and numerous outdoor recreation topics, is scheduled Jan. 24 to 31, 2015.

    East Tennessee wildlife photographer Ken Jenkins had no idea his suggestion for a winter program about the Great Smoky Mountains would become a much-loved winter event that draws visitors from across the U.S.

    The first year of what became Wilderness Wildlife Week was a half-day of programs on a Saturday. It now features more than 300 programs spread over eight days, plus a series of hikes and excursions in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Each year offers photography workshops, wildlife lectures, mountain music mini-concerts, crafts classes and special sessions for children. Admission to programs is free.

    More than 200 experts – nature photographers, biologists, raptor rehabilitators, social historians, musicians and just plain folks who grew up in the Smokies – donate their time to lead the programs. Most events are indoors at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge, a city-owned special events facility.

    Wilderness Wildlife Week is a part of Pigeon Forge Winterfest, which starts in November and goes through February.

    Pigeon Forge or 800/251-9100.


    “3 For Free” Princess Cruise Deals

    BOOK BY OCT. 16 - - Princess Cruises has three free offers for booking Alaska, Europe or Japan cruises and cruisetours sailing in 2015.

    The “3 For Free” sales event includes free stateroom upgrades, a free shore excursion credit, free onboard spending credit and a refundable deposit of $100 per person.

    Through Nov. 20, 2014, the cruise sale gets you the best cabin available within that cabin type for the lowest fare. In port, a free shore excursion credit will give Europe and Japan sailings passengers $200 ($100 per person) to spend on tours. In Alaska, you receive $100 ($50 per person) to spend on Alaskan shore excursions.

    When you book a Europe or Japan cruise, you receive up to $100 per stateroom in free onboard spending money and up to $50 per stateroom for booking an Alaska cruise or land and sea vacation packages.

    You can also book third and fourth guests in a cabin from $199 and receive up to $100 bonus shore excursion spending money per stateroom and up to $50 bonus onboard spending money per stateroom.

      Examples of cruise deals include:
    • Alaska cruise – 7 days: $548 interior; $1,298 balcony
    • Alaska Denali Explorer cruisetour – 10 nights: $1,147 interior; $1,897 balcony
    • Mediterranean cruise – 12 days: $1,899 interior; $2,599 balcony
    • British Isles cruise – 12 days: $1,999 interior; $2,549 balcony
    • Japan cruise – 8 days: $1,399 interior; $2,199 balcony

    All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy. The “3 For Free” sale runs through Oct. 16, 2014.

    Princess Cruises “3 For Free” or 800/774-6237.


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    Two Trips, One Night Free from Choice Hotels

    Choice Privileges, the guest-loyalty program for Choice Hotels International, offers a fall promotion. After every two qualifying trips with arrival by Nov. 12, 2014, Choice Privileges members will receive enough Choice Privileges points to redeem a free night at more than 1,500 hotels.

    A free night is based on an 8,000 point Choice Privileges reward night level. You must register for the promotion and your member number must be provided upon check-in. After a second qualifying trip you will be awarded a minimum of 5,000 and maximum of 8,000 bonus points, depending on the number of base points earned from the two separate qualifying trips. These bonus points will allow redemption for a free night at the 8,000 reward night level.

    Allow 72 hours from check-out for points to post. You must maintain an address in the U.S. or Canada to be eligible for this promotion.

    To participate in the fall promotion, register at Choice Hotels, and book via the website, the Choice Hotels mobile app, or by phone (800/4-CHOICE). Corporate travelers can book through a travel agent or corporate booking system. Elite Diamond and Platinum members will receive 250 Choice Privileges bonus points with every qualifying trip if they book on the website or the Choice Hotels mobile app.

    Choice Hotels.


    Discount Ticket Offers At Philly Theaters

    Budget-conscious theater lovers in Philadelphia have low-cost tickets options available.

    Here are some money-saving suggestions for theatrical performances:

    Enjoy the best of Broadway with the Broadway Philadelphia series at the Academy of Music (Broad & Locust Streets), Merriam Theatre (250 S. Broad Street), and Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut Street), part of the Kimmel Center, 215/731-3333. Go to the venue box office two hours before show time and buy Community Rush tickets for $30 (cash only).

    The next generation of opera stars train at the Academy of Vocal Arts, 215/ 735-1685, Watch performers put the finishing touches on upcoming productions. During these free previews, the resident artists perform selected pieces from the opera and the maestro provides the audience with background information about the composer, stage production, history, setting and time period.

    Before each main stage performance debuts, the Arden Theatre Company, 215/ 922-1122, opens the final dress rehearsal to the public. Attendees pay what they can to see the full cast, full costumes and full scenery at this sneak preview with proceeds benefiting a Philadelphia non-profit. For regular performances, students with ID pay $10 cash for available seats 30 minutes before the show begins.

    Every seat at the Bristol Riverfront Theatre mainstage productions, 215/785-0100, Bristol, PA , is a good one, even those starting at $31. The professional theater develops new plays in house and produces musicals and well-known works.

    InterAct Theatre Company, 215/568-8079, offers discounted $20 tickets for preview performances before the official opening night.

    Media Theatre, 610/891-0100, Media, PA, charges $42 for seats to fully staged professional musical theater productions. There are bigger savings on Wednesday and Thursday evenings when an hour before show time you can get rush tickets for $30 to any of its Broadway Series Productions.

    Opera Philadelphia, (215/ 893-1018, tickets start at $19 for performances at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad & Spruce Streets, and $25 for performances at the Academy of Music, Broad & Locust Streets. There are more savings for students with valid IDs. Get to the box office two hours before curtain time at either location and save 50 percent off any seat or $10 off amphitheater tickets at the Academy or second balcony tickets at the Kimmel Center.

    People's Light and Theatre Company, 610/ 644-3500, Malvern, PA, gives you several low-cost ways to enjoy its offerings. Half-price tickets are available for some productions and performances. Wednesday and Thursday evenings are when Community Nights preview tickets are $26. Students with IDs can purchase $5 day-of-show tickets at the box office one hour before curtain.

    The Philadelphia Theatre Company, 215/985-0420, offers $25 Anytime Tickets—all shows, all times, in the last row of the mezzanine. Half-price tickets for seats throughout the theater are available at the box office one to three hours before curtain on the day of any show. Students with ID get $10 rush seats.

    The Walnut Street Theatre, 215/574-3550, offers a limited number of $20 Mezzanine seats for every mainstage performance. On performance day, select tickets are sold for half-price using the promotion codes found on the theater's website. Youth tickets (24 and under) are available for $20 at the box office with valid ID.

    The Wilma Theater’s, 215/546-7824, WynTix program offers all mainstage tickets for all days, times and seats for $25. High school and college students with an ID and theater artists who present proof of employment in the industry can buy $10 tickets.


    The Shores Resort & Spa $74 Rate

    To mark its 40th anniversary, the Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach Shores, FL, offers a special rate from $74 per night, in honor of its 1974 opening date. The rate is valid for Sunday to Thursday stays at the oceanfront resort through the end of 2014. The rate is not valid during Biketoberfest and other special event blackout dates. It may not be used with another promotion or discount.

    It was on Oct. 20, 1974, that the Shores Resort & Spa, known then as the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort, welcomed its first guests.

    On a quiet stretch of Florida shoreline, the 212-room resort is the only AAA Four Diamond oceanfront resort in Central Florida. Services and amenities include private poolside cabanas, oceanside fire pits with s’mores and a spa.

    When booking, mention promotion code: 1974SH.

    The Shores Resort & Spa or 866/934-Shores.


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    Kiawah Island Golf or Gourmet Packages

    Kiawah Island Golf Resort, in Kiawah Island, SC, offers fall and winter “stay-and-play” or “stay-and-dine” packages.

    Kiawah’s “Golf or Gourmet Escape” packages provides deals for staying at the resort and playing golf or dining in its restaurants with up to 45 percent savings over peak season rates. From Nov. 9, 2014 to Feb. 27, 2015, choose accommodations in the Sanctuary Hotel or villa plus two rounds of golf, two dinners, or one of each.

    To make this deal sweeter, if you stay in the Sanctuary, you will receive resort credits, room category upgrades, late checkouts and arrival amenities for three or four night stays.

    Nightly accommodations and your choice of either:
    Two rounds of golf at any golf course or dinner for two at any restaurant
    or
    One round of golf and one dinner. Rates: Sanctuary at $400, villa $300 per night.
    or
    Players Choice Nightly accommodations and your choice of either:
    Two rounds of golf at Turtle Point, Osprey Point, Cougar Point or Oak Point or dinner for two at Jasmine Porch, Tomasso or Cherrywood BBQ
    or
    One round of golf (Turtle/Osprey/Cougar/Oak) and one dinner at Jasmine Porch, Tomasso or Cherrywood BBQ. Rates: Sanctuary $300 per night, villa $200 per night.

    Rates are based on availability for a Sanctuary garden view room or a one bedroom scenic view villa. Blackout dates include Dec 12, 13 and 31. Cannot be combined with any other offer or discount.

      Extend your stay at the Sanctuary and receive:
    • Three night stays receive a $100 resort credit.
    • Four or more night stays receive a $200 resort credit, a two room category upgrade based on availability, 3 p.m. checkout and an arrival amenity.
    • 20 percent spa discounts available.
    • Extend Your Stay rewards are valid for Sanctuary reservations and nights must be consecutive.

    Kiawah Island Golf Resort “Golf or Gourmet Escape” packages or 800/654-2924.


    Vero Beach Hotel Offers Round of “Spa” pplause

    Kimpton’s Vero Beach Hotel & Spa, in Vero Beach, FL, added a treat to their healthy menu of wellness offerings. The hotel’s "Spa"pplause offer includes 20 percent off the best available rates and a 25 minute massage and facial at White Orchid Spa (one per stay).

    In addition to this relaxing offer, you can get Florida sunshine poolside at the resort’s heated, ocean view pool or on the beach near the property. And if that’s not enough, you can take part in water sports on the beach or ride the free hotel bikes.

    Use booking code PSPA.

    Vero Beach Hotel & Spa or 800/KIMPTON.

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    Kentucky Underground – Checking Out Kentucky Caves - article by Nicki and Harold Chodnoff

     photo MammothDome_zpsd31caeb3.jpg Kentucky's rolling hills hold a deep secret. Go below the surface and you will find a wondrous subterranean world waiting to be explored.

    That subterranean world exists because the limestone in much of Kentucky interacts with underground water. The water dissolves the limestone to form karst topography, a mixture of caves and underground channels.

    Inside karst caves, you may find slowly dripping calcium carbonate solutions. These dripstones are where slowly dripping water turns into stalactites (structures which hang from the ceilings). Over thousands of years the drops that drip on the ground slow form stalagmites. When stalactites and stalagmites meet, they form columns. Tourists flock to caverns where beautiful displays of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and other stunning images of karst topography can be seen.

    Here are several Kentucky show caves to explore and be amazed. If you visit a cave, remember that underground, temperatures in interior passages fluctuate from the mid-50s to the low 60s. So summer or winter, a cave visit will be comfortable. In winter, a cave will feel warm and wonderfully cool in the summer. To enjoy the caves safely and comfortably, wear shoes with nonskid soles and take a jacket.

    Mammoth Cave National Park - This limestone labyrinth became the heart of a national park on July 1, 1941, a United Nations World Heritage site and the core area of an international biosphere reserve. The surface of Mammoth Cave National Park encompasses almost 53,000 acres, the world's longest known cave system. The depths of Mammoth Cave National Park have yet to be realized. More than 365 miles of the five-level cave system have been mapped, and new caves are continually being discovered. Mammoth is accurately named. This cave system can comfortably swallow up the second and third largest cave systems in the world with room to spare.

    Mammoth Cave was discovered by Native Americans and rediscovered during George Washington’s presidency. During the War of 1812, Mammoth Cave was a saltpeter mine, a gunpowder processing station manned primarily by slaves. Later, the cave may also have sheltered Jesse James and other outlaws, though bad guys rarely leave reliable records of their actions so no one really knows for sure.

    The two-hour historic tour leads groups through “classic” Mammoth Cave landmarks visited by writers, scientists, military figures and celebrities of the 1800s and early 1900s. The tour route reaches depths of 310 feet below the surface. Among the highlights is the 194-foot Mammoth dome, a “theater” where you’ll be treated to total darkness and silence, stunning flow stone at Frozen Niagara, a narrow winding passageway sure to motivate you to stick to your diet, the saltpeter mine and 19th Century candle smoke graffiti. With a total of 155 stair steps to climb and/or descend, you need to be in reasonably decent physical condition to complete the historic tour.

    Described as "grand, gloomy, and peculiar" by Stephen Bishop, a young slave and early guide, most visitors see the eerie beauty of the caverns on 10 miles of passages available for tours. Park Rangers offer a variety of tours through its vast chambers including a 194-foot high dome theater, complex labyrinths, narrow passageways, dripstone formations, steep inclines reaching 310 feet below the surface and historic areas. During the ranger led tours, you never forget you are hiking deep inside the Earth. Uphill stretches can be straining and there can be tight spots called squeezes. Rangers say they rarely have problems guiding the nearly 400,000 yearly visitors who venture below as they are warned about what to expect.

     photo FlowstoneatFrozenNiagara_zps30d4f724.jpgMammoth does not glamorize the underworld with Las Vegas lighting but keeps it muted. On the historic tour and the drips and domes tour we took, the ranger, after a warning, switches off the lights. The darkness is absolute so much so that you can’t see your hand directly in front of your eyes. This is a lesson in total darkness. Then after 30 seconds or so, the ranger turns the lights back on and you witness the miracle of light.

    Though it is open year round, Mammoth Cave National Park maintains seasonal hours of operation. Summer brings the most people and frequent tours are offered. Though there are fewer tours the rest of the year, they are less crowded.

    Though entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park thus far is free, tours require a ticket purchase. Pick a tour to fit your time and stamina. If you visit during the summer, holidays and on spring and fall weekends, reservations are strongly suggested.

    Complete your underground trips with a river trip or a walk on the River Styx Spring Trail. The least arduous cave tour (0.25 mile, 75 minutes) is the Frozen Niagara Tour. A modified version of the tour has only six steps each way (plus an optional 49) and is designed for visitors who want a short and easy trip. The toughest challenge is the five-mile, six-hour, belly-crawling Wild Cave Tour, offered daily in summer and weekends year-round.

    Mammoth Cave National Park has more than 70 miles of backcountry trails for hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists. Several trails lead to Cedar Sink, Sand Cave, and Turnhole Bend.

     photo cavecricketsatmammothcave_zps34554186.jpgMammoth Cave National Park, 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, 270/758-2180

    Hidden River Cave – Surprisingly, there is a cave in downtown Horse Cave, KY., which famed naturalist John Muir, in 1867, called “a noble gateway to the birthplace of springs and fountains and the dark treasures of the mineral kingdom.”

    The huge entrance to Hidden River Cave, an eight-mile underground maze carved by a subterranean river, is visible from Main Street in the middle of Horse Cave, Kentucky’s commercial district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With one of the largest cave entrance in the region, you can stand on the sidewalk and look over a railing at the cave entrance.

    The one thing you quickly learn when you to start to explore caves is that all caves are different. Hidden River Cave is a wet cave where the swift moving Hidden River flows 150 feet beneath the streets of the town on its way to drain into the Green River.

     photo bfdf75eb-b843-4ac9-bb1c-aceff2fc009d_zps5b6ee18b.jpg The Hidden River was used to generate electricity so that in the late 19th century, Horse Cave, Louisville and Ashland, Kentucky were the only cities in the state to have electric lights. Raw sewage seeped into the water and for more than 50 years, the cave was too dangerous to enter because of pollution. The stench was so bad in the 1960s that people crossed to the other side of Main Street .

    This river has had a miracle-like restoration. With tougher environmental standards in the surrounding community and the swift running river’s ability to flush itself, the Hidden River is once again clean and inhabited by rare creatures such as the albino crayfish.

    Residents partnered with the American Cave Conservation Association to clean up and protect the Hidden River Cave drainage system. Hidden River Cave was reopened to visitors in 1993. Along with the American Cave Museum, located above Hidden River Cave’s entrance, the Museum is housed in an old two story downtown storefront building and operated by the American Cave Conservation Assoc., a non-profit organization.

    One exhibit in the American Cave Museum details the “cave wars”marketing tricks used in the 1920s to lure tourists to visit one particular cave. The competition grew rancorous. Multiple cave owners vied for passing motorists bound for Mammoth Cave. Signs sprouted along the roadside directing tourists to the other caves, when they thought they were headed to the National Park.

    Before you start Hidden River Cave tour, take the self-guided Horse Cave walking tour with signage around downtown and scannable QR codes. You will see photos and learn facts about Hidden River Cave’s ecosystem, history, and the cultural heritage of the city. Each of the 20 stops on the tour includes a link to a webpage which provides additional information, oral histories and photographs.

     photo salamanderatcubruncave_zps2a7aac94.jpgYou can explore Hidden River Cave with a guided tour on elevated walkways, zip-line over the cave, rappel 70 feet down into it, or opt for the adventurous off-trail Wild Cave Tour.

    Hidden River Cave & American Cave Museum, 119 E. Main St., Horse Cave, KY 42749, 280/786-1466.

    Cub Run Cave – Many of Kentucky’s famous caves have been open to the public for more than 100 years. Cub Run Cave is the new kid on the block.

    In 1950, two curious teenagers were hunting for artifacts after they had finished their chores and noticed cold air rushing from a small opening, which rustled leaves on a tree 15 feet away. They dug their way in and discovered what is now Cub Run Cave.

    Their suspicions that they discovered a cave were confirmed as they made a hole large enough to crawl into. From the mud-filled passageway they entered, they crawled 60 feet further to find the tunnel opened up into a large chamber with passages going off into darkness. What the teens didn’t realize is that the cave sits 150-feet below the surface at its deepest point.

    Excitedly, they went back to tell everyone what they'd found. The cave was open to the public for a brief time in the 1950s before land disputes ended tours. The underground cave system sprawled beneath more than one person's property. The dispute between landowners ended up in court, where a judge ordered the cave sealed. And so it sat for the next 50-something years.

    Privately owned Cub Run Cave was reopened to the public in 2006 after a half-mile network of boardwalks was constructed and lighting added to make it easy to explore. It may be the cave that will make you fall in love with caving. Not only is it one of the most accessible caves in the region, it is one of four caves in the United States to have a rare box work formations, honeycomb patterns that projects from the walls and ceiling of a cave.

     photo cubruncave_zps086dfa15.jpgBeyond the formations, there’s an abundance of wildlife to discover including blind cave crawfish, salamanders, crickets and three species of sleeping bats. A little larger than a golf ball, the tiny grayish bat hanging from the ceiling can eat its weight in mosquitoes when it ventures outside at night.

    Geologically newer than some of its neighbors, Cub Run is a beautiful anomaly that belongs to a “different system of limestone than other caves in this area,” says tour guide Linda Cook. Colorful formations include flow stone, rim stone dams, cave corals, stalactites, stalagmite and a reflecting pool.

    Our tour guide, Linda, was knowledgeable about the continued protection and preservation of the cave and its rare formations. Our tour lasted a little over an hour and was cooled by a constant year-round temperature of 52 degrees. The terrain is easily handled by all but the very tall. There is one section with 14 steps, so assistance for wheelchair access would also be required.

    Cub Run Cave, 15101 Cub Run Hwy, Cub Run, KY 42729, 270/524-1444.

    For more information about cave tours in Hart County, contact the Horse Cave/Hart County Tourist Commission or 270/218-0386.

    When exploring caves in Hart County, here are a few places to eat owned and operated by locals.

    Mama Lou's BBQ #2, 1512 Main St., Munfordville, KY - 270/524-3287 - One quick rule in choosing a restaurant is to look for lots of cars in the parking lot. Mama Lou’s passes the test. When possible, we try to eat at non-chain local restaurants and with only two locations, Mama Lous fits the bill. Expect hometown hospitality with smoky barbecue, burgers, side dishes and desserts. The wait staff is friendly and attentive and many of the patrons are locals. It’s all casual with menus and BBQ sauce on table, hot or regular, although the hot isn’t that hot. The corn bread was a nice surprise, the brisket on a pretzel bun was tender and juicy and the fried tomatoes will fill your craving. Count on really large portions so you may not have room for dessert and a reasonable bill. Skip the fast food for a home-made meal.

    Turtlelinis Pizza and Pasta 103 South Dixie Street, Horse Cave, KY 42749 - (270/786-8686 - Friendly staff, family friendly atmosphere and open on Sundays, something that cannot be said of many other restaurants in this part of the country. Every day of the week the dough is made fresh and the prices are low (e.g., a trip to the salad bar is $1.99 with the price of an entrée, like baked spaghetti for $5.99). The atmosphere is casual come-as-you-are and welcome-to-our-small-town friendly. If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault.

    Detweiler's Country Store, 12825 Priceville Road (Highway 728), Cub Run, KY 42729 - 270/ 524-7967 – Owned and operated by a local Amish family as a place to shop for the Amish community, it is an old-time general store with bulk foods and spices, bakery treats, hardware, meats, deli and hand-made, signed baskets. It’s nice to spend some time looking around. You may even spot an Amish buggy or two with horses in the parking lot.

    Where to Stay

    Country Girl at Heart Inn Munfordville, KY - Part farm-stay, part bed and breakfast, owner Darlene makes the Inn a special place where you can experience the country life or put your feet up and relax. Stay in one of five themed bedrooms with private baths and enjoy the quiet rural life from the large wraparound front porch where you can watch Amish buggies pass by.

    City and suburban folks may not have a lot of interaction with farm animals. Here you can wake up to the crow of a rooster. Whether a child or grown-up child at heart, their faces light up when they get a chance to feed the chickens, collect the eggs, feed the horses and goats. Collected eggs make it to the breakfast table.

    For families, there’s a big game room with Ping-Pong, puzzles, movies, or just enjoying all the pictures on the walls.

    Mammoth Cave Hotel on the National Park grounds. For convenience, this is the place to stay. The hotel is in walking distance to the entrance to Mammoth Cave and the park Visitor Center. Like the old-time roadside motels, the hotel is retro. It’s a nostalgic throwback where the kitschy decor looks like something out of the 1950s. The rooms are small and well-kept and the bathrooms are updated and clean.

    In addition to Mammoth Cave, the hiking trails and the rest of the national park are literally outside your door. Once the tours are over and visitors leave the park, which is around 5 p.m., it feels like you have the whole park to yourself.


    Special Fall Offers on Amelia Island

    This fall, take part in Amelia Island, FL’s outdoor excursions and value season rates. The following offers are currently available:

    The Amelia Hampton Inn at the Beach has a $99 rate (plus tax) per night for Sunday through Thursday stays to Nov. 2014.

    Summer Beach Resort, stay two nights, get one free.

    The Williams House, the Blue Heron, and the Hoyt House offer a Sleep-Around-Amelia package, with three bed and breakfast for one night each. The package is available Sunday to Thursday through Nov. 1, 2014. The three-night stay is $567 and includes early check-in, a cheese and fruit platter at the Williams House, chocolate-covered strawberries from the Hoyt House and champagne from the Blue Heron. One inn will take care of the rest.

    Stay in a two-bedroom unit at Ketch Courtyard for $165 a night or in a three-bedroom/three-bath condo for $180 through Apr. 1, 2015.

    The Omni Amelia Island Plantation’s Afterglow package, through Oct. 31, 2014, offers a $400 resort credit for stays of four or more nights. Rates start at $359 per night.

    From Nov. 1, 2014, the Romance and Honeymoon packages at the Fairbanks House feature accommodations in king-bedded rooms and suites and cottages with Jacuzzi tubs. Packages range from two- to seven-nights with rates from $435 per couple through January 2015. The package may include daily breakfast, evening social hour, chocolate-covered strawberries and dinners at area fine-dining restaurants.

    Through Dec. 31, 2014, the Rejuvenate You spa package at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island includes a 60-minute treatment. After the treatment, you can use the private, adults-only, saltwater pool and spa facilities. This two-night package begins at $479 per night.

    Amelia Island .


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