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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, February 2012 Issue

Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright  2012 
All Rights Reserved.
Editor: Nicki Chodnoff

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Flight Network - Specializing in Cheap Flights

In This Issue:
California State Capitol, Sacramento, CA


  • Special Rates, Incentives at Residence Inn Orlando
  • Villa del Palmar Cancun Celebrates Grand Opening
  • The Reefs Discounts
  • SATA Azores Special
  • Windstar 2-For-1 on Seven-Day Caribbean Voyages
  • Save Up to 55% on Breezes Resorts 2012 Vacations
  • Consumer Reports Tips for Saving Money on Airfare
  • Kimpton Chicago License to Stay Rate
  • 2 Days for $99 at Disneyland for SoCal Residents
  • United MileagePlus Miles-for-Experiences Program
  • Blue Angels 2012 Show Schedule
  • Lindblad Seasonal Pricing and Free Air
  • Free Admission to National Parks
  • Grand Targhee Free Skiing for Season Passholders
  • New Life Hiking Spa $350 off Opening Retreat
  • Seabourn Signature Savings Event
  • Macdonald Hotels & Resorts Winter Sale
  • Central Florida Free 2012 Discount Card
  • Spoiled for Choice in Sacramento by Kay Douglas
  • Free Night with Ritz-Carlton Stays

    Special Rates, Incentives at Residence Inn Orlando

    Celebrate Residence Inn Orlando at SeaWorld becoming an official SeaWorld hotel in 2012 with rates and incentives.
      When you are a registered guest at Residence Inn Orlando at SeaWorld you receive:
    • Free scheduled transportation to SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Universal Orlando during park hours
    • Free Quick Queue Unlimited front-of-the-line access at SeaWorld (based on availability)
    • Park discounts on select merchandise and culinary purchases
    • Early entry into SeaWorld
    • Exclusive access to the "SeaWorld Rescue Tour"

    To receive discounted rates, visit the Expedia Local Expert Guest Service Desk at the hotel in SeaWorld in Orlando to retrieve your benefits card and reserve your Quick Queue Unlimited passes, Universal Orlando transportation and reservations for the SeaWorld Rescue Tour.

    Residence Inn Orlando SeaWorld or 800/889-9728.

    Villa del Palmar Cancun Celebrates Grand Opening

    Villa del Palmar Cancun unveiled the final phase of the resort with winter promotional rates. Phase three of the hotel on Playa Mujeres in Cancun, MX adds 137 more rooms, bringing the count to 415 guest rooms. Additional highlights include new restaurants, an expanded kids club and a jungle-themed spa.

    Villa del Palmar offers all-inclusive and room-only rates to celebrate the grand opening. All-inclusive rates start at $225 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. These all-inclusive rates include all meals, snacks, and beverages; 24-hour room service; daytime beach and pool activities; non-motorized water sports; nightly entertainment; and all taxes and gratuities. Room-only rates start at $209 per night plus taxes, based on double occupancy, and include breakfast for two. These rates are valid to Apr. 15, 2012.

    Located 35 minutes from the airport and 25 minutes north of the Cancun hotel zone, Villa del Palmar offers a free shuttle to the downtown six times daily. The resort offers cooking lessons, kite making and other handicraft classes for children at the poolside activities center and indoor and outdoor play areas, an LCD screen for movies and Xbox and Kinect games in the expanded kids club.

    Each of Villa del Palmar Cancun's guestrooms has a private terrace and kitchenette, flat-screen TV and spa tub. One, two and three-bedroom suites offer large living rooms, fully equipped kitchens and washer/dryer machines.

    New food and beverage options include an Asian restaurant with sushi bar; an Italian restaurant and a lobby bar.

    Phase three adds a pool featuring fountains and a hanging bridge. There are four other pools, including one for adults only with a pool butler and four outdoor whirlpools.

    Villa del Palmar Cancun or 888/844-8169.

    Discount theater tickets

    The Reefs Discounts

    The Reefs in Bermuda offers discounted rates for its two- and three-bedroom Club Condos during a renovation to the resort’s hotel rooms, suites and restaurants. The offer applies to new bookings and cannot be combined with other specials.

    Prices start at $299 per couple, per night, down from the usual $849. For four guests, rates start at $399 down from $1,099, and for six guests, the three-bedroom condos start at $499 down from $1,449. The Reefs also offers pre-arrival grocery shopping to stock the kitchen. Rates are available through Mar. 15, 2012 with no minimum stay required.

    The Reefs offers a third night free on hotel rooms when you stay Mar. 15 to 31, 2012. In addition to the third night free, the offer includes ocean view room for two, a Traveler's price card for deals around the island on things such as water sports, retail shops and restaurants, daily breakfast and afternoon tea. Rates are $310 for poolside room, $370 for a cliffside room, $515 for a junior suite, $590 for a longtail suite and $630 for a point suite.

    Stay four nights Apr. 1 through 30, 2012, and get the fifth night free in an ocean view room for two. The deal includes daily breakfast, afternoon tea and gourmet dinner, roundtrip airport transfer for two, three-day bus/ferry pass for two, all taxes and gratuities (gratuity charges apply to free night). The rate for five nights in poolside accommodations is $2,550, cliffside accommodations $2,905, junior suite $3,695, longtail suite $4,030 and point suite $4,340.

      Rate for additional people in a room for five nights are:
    • 13 and older $535 for standard room, $545 for a suite
    • 6 to 12 years $469 for standard room, $479 for a suite
    • 5 and younger $316 for standard room, $326 for a suite

    The Reefs or 800/742-2008.

    SATA Azores Special

    Fly roundtrip from Boston to the Azores from $279 plus tax. It’s a four-hour flight from Boston to this archipelago 800 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal. Boston has the highest concentration of Azores expats in the U.S.

    Flights to Ponta Delgada run twice a week on SATA airlines and you can add domestic connections from other gateways for an additional fee. Tickets must be booked by Mar. 15, 2012 for travel until Mar. 27, 2012.

    SATA or 800/762-9995.

    Windstar 2-For-1 on Seven-Day Caribbean Voyages

    BOOK BY FEB. 24 - - Windstar Cruises, which operates three sailing yachts, offers two-for-one fares starting from $1,399 per person, based on double occupancy, on select 2012 Caribbean voyages when booked by Feb. 24, 2012.

    Three Caribbean itineraries are available and each one features island-hopping experiences in the tropics all while sailing on a yacht.

    The seven-day Flavors of the Caribbean voyages on Wind Surf sail from Philipsburg, St. Maarten and visit Martinique; Pigeon Island, St. Lucia; Roseau, Dominica; Falmouth Harbour, Antigua; and Gustavia, St. Barthelemy.

    The seven day Yachtsman's Caribbean voyages on Wind Surf from Philipsburg, St. Maarten visit Soper's Hole Tortola, BVI; Jost van Dyke, BVI (overnight); Virgin Gorda, BVI (overnight); Basseterre, St. Kitts; Les Saintes, Guadeloupe; and Gustavia, St. Barthelemy.

    The seven-day Jewels of the Windward Islands voyages on Wind Spirit start from Bridgetown, Barbados and visit Pigeon Island, St. Lucia; Bequia, St. Vincent Grenadines; Tobago Keys, St. Vincent Grenadines (overnight); Mayreau, St. Vincent Grenadines; and St. George's, Grenada.

    Rates are per person, cruise only, and include non-discountable amounts. Government fees and taxes are additional ($70 to $325 per person). Two-for-one cruise fares are per person, double occupancy, and based on 50 percent of published full cruise fares. Special two-for-one cruise fares are subject to availability, are not combinable with any other promotions or pricing offers, are capacity controlled and may be withdrawn at any time. Offer is valid on new bookings only for select departures.

    Windstar Cruises or 800/258-7245.


    Save Up to 55% on Breezes Resorts & Spas 2012 Vacations

    BOOK BY FEB. 15, 2012 - - At Breezes Resorts & Spas, planning ahead and booking 2012 getaways by Feb. 15, 2012, will reap savings of up to 55 percent on travel through Oct. 31, 2012 at six properties in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Curacao and Brazil.

    In Jamaica, you can have your fill of activities such as scuba diving, sailing and windsurfing at Breezes Runaway Bay. With the first golf school on the island, you can practice with free lessons on the resort’s private course. The all-suite Breezes Grand Negril has six restaurants including French, Italian and Japanese cuisine. Breezes Trelawny offers four swimming pools, a rock-climbing wall and a circus workshop. While children have fun at the Kids Club, parents can take a break on the beach, by the pool or at the a la carte spa.

    Beyond Jamaica and two and a half hours from Rio de Janeiro, you can enjoy a city/beach vacation at the 329-room Breezes Búzios.

    Breezes Curacao attracts divers and water sports enthusiasts to the 1,500-foot white sand beach and waters vibrant with marine life.

    On Cable Beach in Nassau, Breezes Bahamas offers beachfront accommodations and activities including rock climbing, kayaking, tennis and beach volleyball, and a lively piano bar that stays open until the last guest leaves.

    Breezes’ “Super-Inclusive” concept includes accommodations, all meals and multiple dining options, unlimited premium brand drinks, land and water sports including equipment and instruction, entertainment, weddings, recreational activities and hotel taxes. Tipping is not allowed.

    Breezes Resorts or 877/273-3937.

    Consumer Reports Tips for Saving Money on Airfare

    Travelers are bombarded with offers, deals and price fluctuations on a day-to-day basis, so to help you navigate the maze and save money on airfare. Consumer Reports' experts came up with some helpful tips to cut costs and lock in the best rates.

    A Consumer Reports reporter found a roundtrip ticket from Philadelphia to Venice on Alitalia for $247 which seemed like a steal until discovering, just before booking, that taxes raised the price to $767. Hidden fees, fine print, and blackout dates can make locking in a low price tricky.

      If you plan to travel in 2012, here are five tips to help get the rock bottom rate before take-off.

    1. Check fares early. Most airline and travel sites make it convenient to set up alerts to track fares. Take advantage of the alerts and start searching for flights three and a half months prior to booking domestic flights and five and a half months before booking international flights. That's when the market begins to sort itself out and lower fares begin to appear.

    2. Compare Prices. Airline and third party sites often list identical prices but have different electronic reservation systems which add and remove fares at different times. One system can often trail another by up to five hours. Be sure to check the airline's own site, which can be cheaper because there is no commission.

    3. Look beyond discount airlines. Discount airlines aren't always the cheapest. Airlines cannot afford to be more expensive than their competitors for comparable flights at comparable times.

    4. Be wary of when you buy. The greatest number of cheap seats are available on Tuesdays at 3 p.m., most sales begin on Monday at 8 p.m. and end on Thursday at 8 p.m. Be mindful of booking weekend flights because those are popular with both business travelers and vacationers.

    5. Consider a connecting flight and don't delay. Connecting flights can be substantially cheaper than flights that are non-stop, especially for international travel. If you delay booking your flight within seven to fourteen days of travel, chances are you will pay a premium. Airlines would rather leave a seat empty than sell tickets a steep discounted rate.

    Consumer Reports.

    Kimpton Chicago License to Stay Rate

    As a show of neighborliness, Kimpton’s Chicago hotels offer fellow Midwesterners – from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin – 20 percent off a stay by showing a valid state driver’s license with the License to Stay rate. Rate is valid Thursdays to Sundays through Mar. 31, 2012. Mention rate code MDWEST when booking.

    With four hotels in Chicago, you will find a Kimpton hotel to match your needs.

    Hotel Allegro: The iconic building featuring eclectic design with accents from the 1920s to the 21st century.

    Hotel Burnham: Designed by renowned architect Daniel Burnham and built as the Reliance Building in 1895, it is the first direct predecessor to Chicago’s modern skyscrapers.

    Hotel Monaco Chicago: Overlooking the Chicago River and steps from North Michigan Avenue and State Street shopping districts, the hotel’s “Live like a Local” programs help ensure an authentic Chicago experience.

    Hotel Palomar Chicago: Kimpton’s newest addition to its Windy City collection, the hotel celebrates “Art in Motion,” and features a rotating art collection from local artists.

    Kimpton Hotels or 800/546-7866.


    Bed Bug Kit Banner

    2 Days for $99 at Disneyland for SoCal Residents

    Southern California residents can get two days of fun at two parks for $99. To explore Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park, you can purchase a two-day ticket for $99, with your choice of one park per day.

    With the two-day ticket, you get the flexibility of any two days through June 9, 2012. You must purchase the two-day ticket by June 1, 2012 and your first use must be on or before June 8, 2012. The tickets expire on June 9, 2012.

    Tickets are valid for Southern California residents within ZIP codes 90000 to 93599 and Northern Baja California residents within ZIP codes 21000 to 22999. Proof of residency is required for purchase and admission. Each day of use constitutes one full day of use. You may purchase up to five tickets per person, per day with valid ID. Tickets may not be sold or transferred for commercial use. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or promotions.

    Blockout days of Mar. 30 to Apr. 15, 2012 and June 4 and 5, 2012 apply.

    You can choose two days at Disney California Adventure, or two days at Disneyland, or one day at each park. Plus, for the first time, SoCal residents may add a third day to this ticket for $30 and visit one park per day.

    The two-day ticket can be purchased at Disneyland.com, the Disney Stores, Albertsons, other retail locations and any Disneyland Resort ticket booth. If you purchase tickets online, you can print your tickets at home.

    Additional offers are available if you want to turn your visit into a getaway, including a hotel stay at any of the three Disneyland Resort deluxe hotels and FASTPASS tickets.

    Hotel savings: Save up to 35 percent on hotel stays for most Sunday through Thursday nights at a Disneyland Resort hotel for travel through Feb. 29, 2012, when you book before Feb. 29. As a hotel guest, you get Magic Morning admission to a Disneyland Resort theme park on applicable days.

    FASTPASS Tickets: Stay at any Disneyland Resort hotel through Feb. 29, 2012, and receive two Disney FASTPASS tickets for each registered guest in your party (ages three and older). Valid theme park tickets are required.

    Disneyland Resort.

    United MileagePlus Miles-for-Experiences Program

    United Continental launched MileagePlus Headliners, a new auction program that enables United and Continental frequent flyers to use their miles to bid for experiences, including once-in-a-lifetime trips, airline adventures that money can't buy and tickets for theater and sporting events.

      Opportunities include:
    • Train like a pilot in United's flight simulator in Denver;
    • Mammoth Mountain ski trip, including travel and a private mountain guide;
    • Local events, including tickets to performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or at New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

    Each month, MileagePlus will offer at least one unique bidding opportunity that includes VIP access. Later this year, MileagePlus Headliners will offer an opportunity to fly on a United Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" delivery flight.

    MileagePlus Headliners builds on the OnePass Auction program, adding more choices of cultural and entertainment experiences.

    A complete listing of auctions is available online.

    In December 2011, MileagePlus launched a new service where members using Facebook and Foursquare may access special deals from more than 10,000 restaurants participating in the MileagePlus Dining network and hundreds of merchants at United's hub airports in Denver, Houston, New York/Newark and San Francisco.

    Later this year, MileagePlus will become the first airline loyalty program to offer members the ability to use miles to pay for products and services with select online merchants.

    468x60_Graphic Banner_DropDownbanner

    Blue Angels 2012 Show Schedule

    The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, are scheduled to perform 69 demonstrations at 35 locations in 2012

    The 2012 show schedule is:

    March 10 NAF El Centro, CA
    17-18 St. George, UT
    24-25 Punta Gorda, FL
    31 Tuscaloosa, AL

    April 1 Tuscaloosa, AL
    14-15 NAS Kingsville, TX
    21-22 New Orleans, LA
    28-29 Warner Robins AFB, GA

    May 5-6 MCAS Cherry Point, NC
    12-13 Smyrna, TN
    19-20 Andrews AFB, MD
    21-23 Hudson River, NY
    26-27 Jones Beach, NY
    29 USNA (graduation fly-over)

    June 2-3 Virginia Beach, VA
    9-10 Mankato, MN
    16-17 Baltimore, MD
    23-24 Latrobe, PA
    30 Portsmouth, NH

    July 1 Portsmouth, NH
    2-4 Boston Harbor, MA
    7-8 Dayton, OH
    14-15 Pensacola Beach, FL
    21-22 Sioux Falls, SD
    28-29 Twin Falls, ID

    August 4-5 Seattle, WA
    18-19 Chicago, IL
    25-26 Summerside Prince Edward Island, Canada

    September 1-3 Cleveland, OH
    8-9 Little Rock AFB, AR
    15-16 NAS Oceana, VA
    22-23 Grand Junction, CO
    29-30 MCAS Kane’ohe Bay, HI

    October 6-7 San Francisco, CA
    12-14 MCAS Miramar, CA
    20-21 Jacksonville Beach, FL
    27-28 Houston, TX

    November 2-3 NAS Pensacola, FL

    Blue Angel Air Show schedule.

    Lindblad Seasonal Pricing and Free Air

    In 2012, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers lower seasonal rates on Galapagos sailings.

    By traveling during prime season through early March, you receive Galapagos Prime season rates which begin at $4,750 per person for a 10-day voyage on the 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour, and from $5,450 per person on the 48-passenger National Geographic Islander (based on double occupancy in a Category 1 cabin). Both are expedition ships equipped with tools for exploration such as kayaks and Zodiacs that carry you closer to worlds of natural wonder.

    To make travel to Galapagos even more affordable, book an expedition before Mar. 31, 2012 and receive free roundtrip air on select 2012 departures from New York or Miami to Galapagos or upgrade to business class on the New York/Guayaquil flights for $500 roundtrip. This offer is limited to new bookings and subject to availability.

    Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic or or 800/EXPEDITION.

    Free Admission to National Parks

    All 397 national parks across the country will offer free admission 14 days – on four occasions - during 2012. Free admission was also offered in January for Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

    Your nearest national park can help you keep that New Year’s resolution to get more exercise, spend quality time with family and friends, try a new sport, learn some history, expand your horizons, or enjoy the natural world.

    There’s something for everyone at a national park, even in the middle of winter. Choices include snow shoe hikes, canoe trips, campfire programs, film festivals, battle reenactments and music jams.

    Winter is a great time of year to view wildlife such as bison in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or grey whales at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. Find a list of activities here.

      The National Park Service will also waive admission fees on 14 other days in 2012:
    • National Park Week – Apr. 21 to 29
    • Get Outdoors Day - June 9
    • National Public Lands Day – Sep. 29
    • Veterans Day Weekend – Nov. 10 to 12.

    National Park Service.


    Callpod Inc.

    Grand Targhee Free Skiing to All Season Passholders

    Grand Targhee Resort, in Teton Valley, WY on the back-side of Jackson Hole, received 142 inches of early-season snowfall resulting in a 47 inch base. Targhee offers a "ski free" program to skiers who purchased season passes to any U.S. or Canadian Ski resort for this 2012 season. The offer is good for any skier who books three nights or more lodging through Grand Targhee's website or central reservations.

    Mention that you are a current and valid season passholder at any U.S. or Canadian ski resort when booking. On arrival at Grand Targhee, each season passholder included in the reservation will need to show their valid 2011/12 season pass at check-in to receive free ski tickets (one lift ticket, per passholder for each night of lodging). The offer is not valid with any other offers or promotions, is based on availability and may be discontinued at any time. The ski free offer is valid for new reservations only.

    Grand Targhee is accessible by direct flights from Idaho Falls, ID (one hour drive) and Jackson Hole, WY (one hour drive.) From Salt Lake City, the drive is less than five hours and from Denver, less than nine hours.

    Grand Targhee Resort or 800/827-4433.

    New Life Hiking Spa $350 off Opening Retreat

    BOOK BY FEB. 10 - - New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, VT was founded in 1978 as a healthy hiking and spa vacation. Since then, New Life has been hiking guests in the Green Mountains of Vermont every May to September.

    To mark the 35th summer anniversary, New Life offers a $350 discount off the first 11 night Weight Loss Retreat of the year, May 17 to 28, 2012, for double occupancy. That brings the price to $1,949 (plus service and tax) per person for 11 nights.

    In addition, early booking specials are available for $20 off per night on any stay from May 17 to Sep. 15, 2012 or $300 off the 11 night Weight Loss Retreat May 29 to June 9, June 29 to July 10, July 10 to 21, any 11 nights during August or Sep. 1 to 12, 2012.

    Reservations must be placed by Feb. 10, 2012 to receive the discounted rates. Discounts cannot be combined.

    New Life Hiking Spa’s prices are all inclusive. The nightly rate includes a room with private bath, three meals a day, fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks, one basic massage for each three night stay, all fitness programming, daily guided hikes (three levels offered per day), cooking demos, lectures and evening activities. Regular nightly rates start at $209 and vary based on length of stay and occupancy.

    New Life Hiking Spa or 866/298-5433.

    Seabourn Signature Savings Event

    Seabourn’s 2012 Signature Savings Event features a package of benefits and special amenities when you book a 2012 or 2013 voyage. Representatives at Seabourn encourage booking by Feb. 29, 2012 for the best selection and availability.

      The promotion includes a variety of special benefits depending on sailing:
    • Savings up to 50 percent
    • Free suite upgrades
    • Additional savings of up to 15 percent when combining back-to-back cruises
    • $1,000 per suite shipboard credit on premium suites (include Penthouse Suite, Classic Suite, Signature Suite, Owner's Suite, Wintergarden Suite and Grand Wintergarden or Grand Signature Suite)
    • Free pre or post cruise hotel stays
      Here are some sample sailings that offer 50 percent savings, suite upgrades and $1000 shipboard credit in the premium suites. Rates are based on double occupancy:
    • Seabourn Quest, 11-day “Dalmatian Coast & Greece” cruise from Venice to Piraeus (Athens). Departs April 23, 2012. Fares start from $3,999 per person.
    • Seabourn Legend, 10-day “Idyllic Rivieras & Spain” cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Monte Carlo. Departs May 10, 2012. Rates start from $3,199 per person.
    • Seabourn Sojourn, 12-day “Celtic Sojourn” cruise from Lisbon to Hamburg. Departs May 12, 2012. Fares start from $4,999 per person.

    Seabourn's Signature Savings Event applies to select 2012 and 2013 cruises in Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Canada and New England, India and Arabia, plus transatlantic voyages.

    Seabourn's six ships have 104 or 225 suites per ship, many with verandas; dining in a choice of venues; open bars throughout the ship; fine wines at lunch and dinner; personalized service and a relaxed, sociable atmosphere.

    Space available is subject to change without notice. Certain other restrictions apply.

    Seabourn or 877-303-9419.

    Sixt 4

    Macdonald Hotels & Resorts Winter Sale

    Macdonald Hotels & Resorts winter sale offers savings up to 50 percent off the standard room rate at the company's more than 40 hotels across the U.K. and 10 resorts throughout the U.K. and Spain.

    To qualify for the offer, you must book your stay by Mar. 6, 2012 and stay with the hotel group before Mar. 16, 2012.

    The winter offer also allows children ages 12 and under to stay and eat for free.

    Macdonald Hotels & Resorts

    Central Florida Free 2012 Discount Card

    Visitors to Central Florida’s Polk County can save on area attractions and activities, restaurants, shops, accommodations and golf courses with the 2012 “Passport to Adventure and Savings” discount card. The free card is part of a brochure including more than 140 special offers from Polk County merchants.

    Local residents can take advantage of the same discounts and recommend the card to visiting family and friends. Visit Central Florida has produced 100,000 copies of the tourism brochure to promote local businesses and add value to a Central Florida vacation. Offers are valid through Dec. 31, 2012, unless otherwise noted.

    To receive a copy of the Passport to Adventure and Savings discount card and brochure, call or visit Polk Outpost 27, Polk County’s official visitor information center, 800/828-7655 or 101 Adventure Court, Davenport, FL 33837.

    Visit Central Florida.

    Spoiled for Choice in Sacramento - - photos and article by Kay Douglas

    PhotobucketSituated midway between the coast and the mountains, Sacramento offers an appealing base for forays into northern California. For the past six Novembers, I’ve traveled to this relaxed yet vibrant city primarily to attend the West Coast Ragtime Festival, yet I’m usually tempted to add a few extra days to my itinerary to explore the city and surrounding area. From a charming 28-acre slice of Old Sacramento on the waterfront to unpretentious wineries just outside town, Sacramento boasts an unusual number of enticements for a city of its size.

    Perhaps most remarkable are its museums. Sacramento has an impressive number – several dozen, in fact – and several are truly world class. Art enthusiasts with limited time should make a beeline for the Crocker Art Museum, the West’s first public art museum and still one of its finest. The Crocker underwent a dazzling $100 million expansion in 2010, tripling its exhibit space. The new pavilion boasts stunning modern architecture and a spacious, light-filled café on the ground floor, while the splendor of the original gallery building and Crocker Mansion provide a sumptuous atmosphere for a fine collection of Californian and American art.

    California State CapitolFor train enthusiasts, Sacramento is something of a Mecca, as the California Railroad Museum is indisputably one of the country’s finest transport museums. It houses over twenty beautifully restored trains, a number of which can be boarded and walked through. While I’ve been to four or five other railroad museums in the U.S., I’ve never seen so many vintage trains displayed in such gleaming perfection. It was in Sacramento that the Transcontinental Railroad was first conceived, and the museum pays homage to this pivotal development with a reconstruction of the railroad’s western terminus, the Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station.

    Admission to the Crocker Art Museum is $10, while admission to the California Railroad Museum is $9, but presenting a Sacramento Gold Card entitles visitors to two-for-one admission and similar discounts to many of the city’s main attractions. Just ask for the Gold Card when you check into one of the forty-odd participating hotels in the area. The card is also good for discounts at many area merchants and free appetizers or desserts at a number of local restaurants. Not only that, but some hotels will proffer benefits such as a late check-out or complimentary room upgrade when you simply ask for the card. The Gold Card is a terrific bargain, and it doesn’t cost a penny if you’re staying at a participating hotel.

    The stately neoclassical grace of the State Capitol Building definitely merits a visit, and while it’s possible to just pop in and take a quick look around, I’d recommend the free docent-led tours held daily on the hour from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. I was the only person signed up for the 3:00 tour on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, and so had the undivided attention of my knowledgeable guide, Anne Adrian, who recounted the history of the building’s phoenix-like renovation in the 1970s. The project took six years and $68 million and was one of the most ambitious restoration projects of its time.

    PhotobucketIn addition to the Capitol, the most notable feature of the city is Old Sacramento, a state historic park and registered national landmark along the Sacramento River waterfront. This 28-acre slice of history, with its raised wooden walkways and horse-drawn carriages, dates back to 1848, when the gold rush attracted all manner of folk to the rough-and-ready town springing up at the juncture of two rivers. This district is said to contain the biggest concentration of historic buildings in California. History buffs, particularly those interested in the gold rush, will enjoy a visit to the Sacramento History Museum, adjacent to the California Railroad Museum. All manner of eateries, emporiums, and entertainment options are clustered in Old Sacramento, which is also the embarkation point for Hornblower River Cruises.

    PhotobucketArchitecture enthusiasts will enjoy Sacramento’s mix of old and new buildings. Of particular interest and a source of civic pride are the city’s fine Victorian houses, such as the Leland Stanford Mansion at the corner of 8th and N Streets in downtown Sacramento. Stanford, one of the “Big Four” who financed the Central Pacific Railroad, was governor of the state for a brief stint but is now best remembered for founding Stanford University. During the mansion tour, the docent related the personal tragedy that prompted Stanford’s generous bequest: his only child, a bright lad, died in his teens of typhoid fever.

    PhotobucketWhile nearby Napa Valley may get the lion’s share of oenophile attention, let me make a case for the gentle charms of the Sierra foothills. Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lodi, and Placer counties all feature emerging wineries offering a more laid-back and less tourist-trampled experience than Napa and Sonoma, in my opinion. Some say these places remind them of Napa thirty years ago. Positioned on rolling hillsides studded with live oaks, the foothill wineries benefit from a wide spectrum of microclimates.

    Many areas just outside the city are quite scenic, so even if you don’t have a car in Sacramento, consider renting one for at least a day to swing down to Sutter Creek, self-proclaimed “Jewel of the Gold Country” (and indeed a charming place) or perhaps to Placerville, which is a straight shot east out Rt. 50. Just outside Placerville you’ll find Apple Hill, an appealing loop drive featuring 55 ranches selling local fruit and all manner of fruit-based items such as apple pies and doughnuts, with a few high-quality wineries thrown into the mix.

    PhotobucketLastly, no trip to Sacramento would be complete without a visit to one of the area’s historic mines or preserved Gold Rush-era towns. Off Rt. 49 southeast of Sacramento are former mining hot spots such as tiny Volcano or, further on, Columbia, now a historic state park that presents the town much as it was back in its heyday. On weekends and during peak season you’ll encounter folks in 19th-century garb demonstrating blacksmithing, gold panning, and other 1850’s pursuits. Columbia Candle and Soap Works features handcrafted items scented with local herbs, a nice souvenir that will evoke memories of your visit to California’s Gold Country.

    The Sacramento Visitor’s Bureau is an excellent resource for planning a trip to the area.

    Free Night with Ritz-Carlton Stays

    Members of Ritz-Carlton Rewards who make two paid stays between Feb. 1 and Apr. 15, 2012, will receive a free night at any tier 1 to 3 Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ritz-Carlton Rewards members can earn up to two free nights.

    You must register for the promotion by Mar. 1, 2012. You earn one certificate for a free night at a Tier 1 to 3 hotel after the completion of two paid stays and you can earn up to two free night certificates. An earned free night award will be added to your account within five business days after the second qualifying stay. Awards are not transferable and may not be given as a gift.

    Certificates expire one year from date of issuance and other restrictions apply. A stay is defined as consecutive nights spent at the same hotel, regardless of check-in/check-out activity. Only one room per hotel per stay is counted toward earning for this promotion.

    Ritz-Carlton Rewards points can be used for free stays, spa treatments, and golf at Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide.

    Ritz-Carlton Hotels or 888/674-5578.

    Had a good experience on a plane recently? Stumbled across the perfect place to stay, eat or drink? Tell us about it, email us here.

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    The Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, P.O. Box 91033, Columbus OH 43209, edited by Nicki Chodnoff, is published monthly.

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