Posts Tagged by travel

A Night at the Ambassador Hotel in Milwaukee

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review and paid for everything myself. I have no connection to the Ambassador Hotel and all opinions are my own.

My husband turned 50 last fall and we celebrated by taking a birthday trip to Chicago, Green Bay, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.  It was our first time in that part of the country and we were trying to squeeze in as much as possible!  One of the birthday boy’s priorities was to see every sporting event possible during our one week getaway.  This equated to seeing our beloved LSU Tigers at the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field, a Cubs game at Wrigley, Twins in Minneapolis and a Brewers game in Milwaukee.

We arrived in Milwaukee on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, pulled into the Ambassador’s immaculate circular drive, and I immediately knew we would enjoy our one evening at the hotel. The Ambassador Hotel is a historic building that has been nicely updated while keeping much of the 1920’s charm. The hotel is very much still in Art Deco mode. In fact, the hotel’s 90th anniversary will be celebrated in 2018.


A little tidbit:

We learned that the site of the current hotel used to be the location of the Amos Appleton Lawrence Smith mansion.  Mr. Smith was the attorney to Captain Frederick Pabst (Pabst Brewing Company) and the son of the founder of Appleton, Wisconsin and Lawrence College.

Cool.


Walking into the lobby was like a step back to a boisterous time when the guidelines of prohibition were widely rejected, jazz music was hot, motion pictures were glorious, and things were artistic, cultural and dynamic.  The Ambassador Hotel is gorgeous – lovingly renovated and maintained – a 1920’s gem.

The golden elevators and high shine floors felt very indulgent and sophisticated – think Great Gatsby.  The 1920’s theme carries throughout all the public spaces. My favorite part? Stepping into the elevator or the lobby and hearing the soothing, muffled sounds of old Victrola music.

The hotel restaurant is rebranding from the Envoy to The Fitz – a nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The bar will now be called Gin Rickey. It’s design is pretty nifty and offers a menu of Prohibition-era inspired 1920’s drinks with old and new prices. The Vodka Rickey, for example, was $.25 in the 1920’s now is $10. You can look forward to paying those 1920’s prices during Happy Hour! Try their other nostalgic cocktails like the Pink Lady, Gin Fizz, Sidecar, Stinger and Tom Collins. I recommend the drink named for the hotel – the Ambassador martini.  Vodka, peach schnapps, lime juice and pineapple juice.  So good.

We proceeded through the amazing lobby to check in. Staff were attentive, kind and professional. We were assisted immediately with arrangements for the baseball game. Hubby used the free shuttle service to and from the baseball game – very convenient as it was raining that evening.

Our room was a king mini-suite and was a very good size room with a pull out sofa and coffee table and chair in addition to a desk and chair. There were lots of windows with a decent view – some rooms have a lake view. The room was spotless and ornate, large and well-appointed.  The Ambassador Hotel marked my first encounter with Beekman 1802 bath products of which I am now obsessed, but I’ll save that for another post!

We had a nice big TV, comfy king bed, and great work space, too. Rooms include free WiFi with wired DSL available, too.

My daughter and I had a fun “girls’ night in” while my husband was at the ball game. We ordered room service – delicious burger, creamy mushroom pasta and a fabulous creme brulee with fresh berries. Everything arrived quickly, hot and correct. No complaints here at all!

After a good night’s sleep, plenty of on-site, secure parking allowed us to quickly check out first thing in the morning. I can’t say enough about this wonderful, historic hotel and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s less than a mile from Marquette University and under two miles from Miller Park. (If you’re down by the river walk during your visit, keep an eye out for the bronze Fonz.

You can find the Ambassador Hotel Milwaukee on Twitter Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to connect with them the next time you’re headed to the Milwaukee area!

 

 

 

2017 National Park Free Admission Days

Free Admission Days 2017

Looking for a a great hiking trip or a just a national parks trip for your family?  How about some help keeping a low budget for your trip?  How does free admission to a national park sound?  Hint…the first one is January 16!  Start making plans to take advantage of this amazing program when Uncle Sam throws open the gates to so many of our nation treasures and invites you to take advantage of the national parks free admission days.

Olympic National Park - Free Admission

Plan to enjoy National Parks free admission days! Mark your calendar for these entrance fee–free dates in 2017:

  • January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 20: President’s Day
  • April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
Only 120 of our country’s 409 national parks usually charge an entrance fee. See the list of parks participating in free days here. So start Planning Your Visit to Carlsbad Caverns, Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Padre Island, Cape Cod, even the Grand Canyon!
Muir Woods
If you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, you might consider the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands-more than 2,000 in all. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is offered free to all active duty military members and their dependents to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service. The Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over. Information on these and other pass options is available online.
And, in fact, many parks do not charge any entrance fees year-round.  So, there are many ways to plan a fantastic national park excursion without breaking the bank.Death Valley Ntional Park
*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.
 

Where will you go?  Have you been to any of these parks with your family?  Have any great tips or advice for the rest of us?  Be sure to share in the Comments!

Hottest Honeymoon Spots by Season

hottest-honeymoon-spots-by-season

Hottest Honeymoon Spots by Season

If you are or will be planning a honeymoon, have a look at these hottest honeymoon spots by season. No matter when you’ll be celebrating, the Knot has some great ideas to help you enjoy every moment. Check out some great places for beaches, thrifty getaway, a sporting adventure, a luxury escape, or a honeymoon that will immerse you in culture!

If you’re traveling in…Winter

Beach: Sydney, Australia

While you can count on beach weather most of the year, December to February is the best time to hit the Aussie shore. Stay in the city center along the harbor for easy access to Sydney’s top attractions, including the Sydney Opera House, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium and Taronga Zoo—and beaches. After soaking in the sights, take a 25-minute taxi ride to famous Bondi Beach. Known for its waves, Bondi is a popular surf spot (sign up for lessons at LetsGoSurfing.com.au); there’s also an enclosed swimming area on the north side of the beach at the Bondi Icebergs Club with a small daily entrance fee.

Where to stay: The modern BLUE Sydney, part of Ovolo hotels is right on the wharf, within walking distance of the opera house, shopping district and tons of restaurants.

Sport: Oslo, Norway

Take the metro over to Oslo Winter Park, a central downhill hot spot near more than 60 cabin cafés (yes, you can ride the train right to the slopes!). Tons of trails are lit up at night and stay open until 10 p.m. Ice skating (rent skates at the outdoor Narvisen rink) and sledding are popular, and if you want to explore the countryside, go cross-country skiing in Nordmarka Wilderness Area, a 20-minute subway ride away.

Where to stay: Warm up at the Grand Hotel Oslo, where old-world charm meets modern luxury—aside from their award-winning spa, it’s known for its Grand Sweets bakery with homemade French macarons.

Luxury: Bali, Indonesia

Get pampered in paradise—or, better yet, in a private villa in paradise—on an exotic island that has everything from five-star resorts and a sexy nightlife to sensual spas and top restaurants. Visit between November and January, when temperatures hover around 80 degrees and rain is a rarity (just avoid traveling around the holidays when tourists flock). Most of the luxe spots Bali’s known for are on the southern part of the island—you’ll find golf courses, shopping and the types of beaches you’ve only seen on celebs’ Instagram pages. Sign up for a sailing trip—the gorgeous view from offshore is well worth skipping the beach for a day.

Where to stay: You’ll get the full-on royal treatment at the Viceroy Bali, a cliffside resort surrounded by a lush jungle. Enjoy the fabulous views from your luxe villa’s private pool.

Culture: Salvador, Brazil

Thanks to its south-of-the-equator location, Brazil’s summer is our winter, so you can soak up this colonial city’s entire flavor between December and March. Though Rio de Janeiro gets more buzz, Salvador’s dramatic scenery, rich history (it’s one of the oldest cities in South America) and under-the-radar status, make it an ideal honeymoon spot. Not to mention, it’s literally surrounded by beaches. Find culture at Porto da Barra and Farol da Barra, two popular beaches steeped in history. Spend an afternoon strolling along the cobblestone streets and checking out all of the stunning colonial architecture in the upper part of the city. At night, sip caipirinhas, a sweet local cocktail of cachaça and lime.

Where to stay: Enjoy the views from your room at Aram Yami Hotel, a conveniently located boutique hotel set on a hillside overlooking Todos os Santos Bay.

Steal: San Diego, California

San Diego hovers around a comfortable 65 degrees for most of the winter—meaning you can walk along the beaches, check out the nightlife and visit the city’s famous parks without having to pack your winter coats. Many hotels and resorts have discounted rates in the winter, and airfares can be cheaper this time of year. Walk around Balboa Park and check out some of the 15 museums located there; then go to the San Diego Zoo. At night, head to the Gaslamp Quarter for dinner followed by a romantic carriage ride.

Where to stay: The 126-year-old beachfront Hotel del Coronado still has the old-Hollywood feel that once attracted the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe.

*Places to Skip:

Beijing, China: Chinese families often travel to the capital around the Chinese New Year in January and February, causing long lines at tourist attractions and hotels to book up fast. Many restaurants close down during this time too, leaving the ones that remain open packed.

Chicago, Illinois: The average daily high is around 30 degrees in winter, and the wind chill makes sightseeing almost unbearable. Save the Windy City for summer, when you can cruise on the lake, catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field and stroll comfortably along Navy Pier.

Vienna, Austria: This charming city is becoming a travel hot spot—but visit in spring. January temperatures can sink below 30 degrees, which, like in Chicago, makes exploring painful.

If you’re traveling in…Spring

Beach: Palm Beach, Florida

Take advantage of the off-season in this ritzy area on Florida’s east coast, when rates are low and the weather’s warm—but not too warm. Take a cab to your hotel and change into your suits before heading to one of the dozens of nearby beaches. Cool off with snorkeling or kayaking. When you’ve had your fill of sun, head to Worth Avenue—the Rodeo Drive of South Florida—to peruse the upscale shops and soak in the scene from a restaurant patio.

Where to stay: The Breakers is to Palm Beach what The Plaza is to New York City. Stay in these classic, stylish digs and simply step onto the beach in the morning.

Sport: Guanajuato, Mexico

Cars are banned in much of this colonial city, but you can rent a bike to explore. Walk up the winding staircase of Monumento al Pípila, a statue in honor of the famous miner Juan José de los Reyes Martínez. Wander over to Callejón del Beso(“Alley of the Kiss”), a narrow passageway where legend has it two young lovers once kissed from their balconies. Take a day trip to Cañada de la Virgen, an archeological site that has pre-Columbian ruins dating back a thousand years. This area is known for its thermal springs as well, so bring your bathing suits for a relaxing post-wedding soak.

Where to stay: Tile floors, colonial details and antique décor are just the beginning at Casa de Sierra Nevada. There’s also a cooking school, where you can fuel up on local cuisine.

Luxury: Phuket, Thailand

Have your sun and sand served with an exotic Thai flavor on this mountainous island dotted with Buddhist temples, beaches and jungles. An elephant trek is a must—the 45-minute ride is the quintessential island experience, if only for the photo op. Take a tuk tuk (a rickshaw) to one of the island’s pristine stretches of sand and body surf in the warm water. Enjoy a day trip to Phi Phi Island, where you can snorkel and eat lunch on the beach.

Where to stay: Paresa has honeymoon written all over it. Built into a cliff overlooking the ocean, everything from the spacious suites and villas with their own pools that overlook the ocean to private cooking classes and 270-degree views from the open-air restaurant seem to have been designed with couples in mind.

Culture: Barcelona, Spain

Beat the summer tourist season, but still enjoy comfortable weather between April and June. Stroll along La Rambla, a mile- long stretch with marketplaces, flower stalls and street performers. Take a walking break at the nearby cruise port terminal, where you can hang your feet over the dock and watch the boats come in. Barcelona is famous for its art and architecture: Must-sees include La Sagrada Família and Park Güell, created by Spanish-born artist Antoni Gaudí. Stroll down the Calle Reina Christina and walk the same streets Picasso once did; then visit the permanent Salvador Dali exhibit at the Real Círculo Artístico de Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter. Refuel with Catalonian favorites, like bread with tomato, fresh oysters and escudella i carn d’olla, a meaty stew.

Where to stay: The historic Gran Hotel La Florida is romance all the way, from the scenic city views and an infinity swimming pool to lush gardens and fountains.

Steal: Victoria, British Columbia

Online discounts and packages are inescapable—especially between the ski and summer seasons. Take advantage of the temperate weather to explore the hiking trails and bike routes. Or relax in Jacuzzi-hot water at the Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, only a one-hour ferry ride away (although you’ll have to walk just over a mile to reach it). May marks the start of whale-watching season—splurge on a boat tour for a close-up view.

Where to stay: Check into The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, located steps from the harbor. Eat at the popular in-house restaurant specializing in small bites.

*Places to Skip:

Orlando, Florida: Save Walt Disney world or universal Orlando resort for another time—unless you want to spend your honeymoon waiting in lines (no thanks!). Spring break means this tourist town fills up with college students and families.

Hamilton, Bermuda: This tiny island off the South Carolina coast stays in the 60-to-70-degree range until May, making it a bit too cool to fully enjoy the beaches, which is sort of the whole point of going.

Kenya, Africa: If taking a safari is on your and your fiancé’s bucket lists, you might want to delay your trip until the summer or fall. Show up in April or May and you’ll be smack in the middle of the heaviest part of the rainy season.

If you’re traveling in…Summer

Beach: Newport, Rhode Island

The Caribbean is rainy this time of year, and you’ll melt in parts of Florida—but Newport’s beaches are in their prime. Expect 80-degree temperatures during the day and a cool New England breeze at night. Fit the Cliff Walk into your itinerary—the 3.5-mile elevated path from First Beach to Bailey’s Beach takes you through the historic district full of impressive Gatsby-worthy mansions. Accessible only by foot or by bike, Bailey’s Beach is a small and secluded stretch of sand perfect for post-wedding recovery and romantic picnics. For a change of scenery, take a cab to Newport Vineyards to enjoy an afternoon wine tasting.

Where to stay: Book a room at the more than 100-year-old Castle Hill Inn, a beach-summerhouse-turned-resort. For total privacy, rent one of the beach cottages.

Sport: Telluride, Colorado

Lauren Bush’s rustic ranch nuptials in 2011 took place near this charming town in southwestern Colorado, which is also an ideal honeymoon destination for outdoor enthusiasts. While tourists flock here in winter for the skiing, Telluride is a hiker’s dream in the summer. Test your skills on peaks that exceed 14,000 feet, or take

A scenic “stroll” on one of the easier trails. If you want to up the ante, sign up for rock climbing lessons. There’s even a man-made boulder in the Mountain Village that you can try before going for the real thing. For a more relaxing option, go horseback riding high up in the gorgeous San Juan Mountains, or spend an afternoon fly-fishing.

Where to stay: Take a break at The Peaks Resort, a romantic retreat overlooking the mountains.

Luxury: Beau Champ, Mauritius

Make the trip to this secluded island off the coast of Africa for an upscale beach retreat minus the scorching weather—temperatures hover around 75 degrees during the summer (which is winter here). The posh locale has become a hot spot for jet-setters and celebrities (Prince Harry, Simon Cowell and Penélope Cruz have all reportedly vacationed here)—and it’s no wonder: Everything from the pristine beaches and luxurious spas to the romantic suites with private plunge pools are designed to let you completely indulge.

Where to stay: Stay at the Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita, a five-star resort with a golf course, spa and palm-tree-lined beach.

Culture: Budapest, Hungary

Summer is the only time of year when all 15 of the city’s thermal baths are open to the public. Soaking in one of the bath houses dating back to the Turkish occupation in the 16th century is a can’t-miss experience. Enjoy 80-degree weather while exploring Budapest’s cultural riches: Start with the House of Parliament, Hungary’s largest building; walk through the Millennium Underground Railway, the first in continental Europe; and makes stops at the Royal Palace and The Opera House, a 19th-century building that’s home to the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra (concerts are on Mondays).

Where to stay: The boutique Lanchid 19 Design hotel is über-chic and has a dramatic interactive facade featuring changing images. Equally dramatic is the hotel’s venerable location along the Danube.

Steal: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Temperatures hover around a comfortable 60 degrees in winter, making it a great time to discover this city’s diverse neighborhoods, outdoor markets, local art, cafés and tango culture. Hook up with the Google-like guides from BA Free Tours, who will show you around the downtown sights for free, plus tips. Or take a cool tour of the city’s graffiti and street art. Explore the restaurants and shops along bustling Corrientes Avenue.

Where to stay: Housed in a 100-year-old town house, Art Hotel is situated in the swanky Recoleta neighborhood. Admire works from Argentine artists in the ground-floor gallery and in your room.

*Places to Skip:

New York, New York: Summer in “the city that never sleeps” is notorious for stifling temperatures and funky smells. Plus, weekends are dead since locals flock to nearby beach towns.

Paris, France: Most of the Parisians have the entire month of August off and head out of the city—leaving the City of Light feeling way less authentic and just a little too quiet, unless you count tourists in fanny packs.

Mumbai, India: Monsoon season runs from June to September and floods are common when rainfall peaks in July. Unless you love the sound of rain so much you want it to be the soundtrack to your honeymoon, avoid these months.

If you’re traveling in…Fall

Beach: Lanai, Hawaii

Winter is Lanai’s busy season, when mainlanders flock to the island to escape the cold. But you’ll get prime weather in the fall—and have a better chance at getting a quiet patch of sand, especially at Huawai Bay, which is rarely visited by travelers. Enjoy the 47 miles of coastline, starting at Hulopoe Bay, where you can get your snorkel on and maybe see a dolphin. For an adventure, trek up the lava rock that runs along the coast of Shark’s Bay, or get your feet (and everything else) wet at the Cathedrals, a diving spot with underwater caverns.

Where to stay: White sand beaches, two world-ranked golf courses and the at-your-service staff all await you at Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay.

Sport: Portland, Oregon

Summer’s the busy season, but if you go in early fall, you’ll miss the constant drizzle of winter and still get warm enough weather to enjoy all of the biking, hiking and kayaking. Another bonus: Oregon’s foliage season peaks in mid-October, when the leaves are at their most breathtaking. Wake up with the locals for a morning bike ride (many Portlanders cycle to work) so you have plenty of time to work up an appetite before hitting up the city’s massive farmers market. After you fuel up, take a ride to Scappoose Bay Kayaking and paddle along secluded waterways.

Where to stay: Wake up in your quintessentially Pacific Northwest room (think: artsy décor) at Hotel Monaco Portland, just eight blocks from the waterfront.

Luxury: Zanzibar, Tanzania

This hard-to-reach, but oh-so-worth-it, destination gets monsoons in the spring, and rates increase in the summer as the weather dries up. Come fall, you’ll still get the dry weather—plus, better prices on some of Africa’s most exotic five-star resorts, where you’ll experience the ultimate in pampering. Splurge on a sailing tour around the island, or ask your hotel’s concierge about hiring a private boat for a swim with dolphins. After all, it’s your one and only honeymoon!

Where to stay: You might not want to leave your private villa at Kilindi Zanzibar, a luxury resort set on 50 gorgeous acres of tropical garden and white sand beach. Well, unless it’s to take a dip in the pool, indulge in spa treatments or taste the mouthwatering menu featuring local produce and spices right next to the ocean.

Culture: Agra, India

Visit between late September and November to avoid monsoon season. Agra is packed with historic gems, including the world’s most significant monument of love—the Taj Mahal. If you time your trip right, you can take a romantic evening tour of this Wonder of the World—the monument is open for night viewing five evenings per month around the full moon. Also, spend a day strolling local marketplaces, where you can buy crafts and ogle over precious jewels.

Where to stay: You and your fiancé can enjoy a priceless view of the Taj Mahal and participate in a Hindu blessing ceremony for good luck and happiness at The Oberoi Amarvilas.

Steal: Austin, Texas

Thanks to the influx of music festivals, trendy restaurants and galleries, Austin has become a hot spot. Though tourists swarm in the sizzling summer months, the best time to visit is in the fall when the temperatures are at a more comfortable 70 to 80 degrees. Head to South Congress Avenue to score some great vintage swag and, at night, stroll to Sixth Street to check out the live music scene. For a dose of nature, go for a dip in the Barton Springs Pool—a natural pool that stays warm year-round.

Where to stay: For a hip boutique with a retro spin, stay at Hotel San José on Congress Avenue.

*Places to Skip:

Cayman Islands: Tropical storms and hurricanes rage in the Caribbean this time of year, and the northern islands, like Grand Cayman and its smaller cousins, typically take the brunt of them (Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas are also risky.)

Cancun, Mexico: It only rains about 58 days a year here, and most of those days fall between September and November.

Queensland, Australia: October, November and December are among Queensland’s hottest and most humid months, which can make sightseeing uncomfortable to say the least. Also, some tour companies and attractions close during the fall.

Source: The Knot and BlogsRelease

Getting Ready for the Summer

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What if there’s an attack while you’re traveling abroad? Plan ahead with STEP

STEP

The world has seen some significant changes over the last few years and there’s likely more to come. Weather instability. Civil unrest. Terrorism. War.

During that same time, my sweet little girl (ok, she’s 27, now but that matters not) and I planned our trip to Europe.  It was a research trip for her thesis, but a trip to Europe nonetheless.  Every time something new and scary happened somewhere on that side of the world, I had a teeny weeny panic attack. So many “what ifs” played out in my mind and just as many reasons emerged to cancel the whole thing because I was scared.

Neither of us had been abroad before and as the mom, I was responsible for safe travel and lodging for both of us.  Of course this was not unlike how I have been responsible for her safety and well-being her entire life, but this seemed different. So many things would be out of my control. Mostly because we wouldn’t be on our home field. We didn’t speak many of the languages of the places we’d be visiting. We wouldn’t be near any friends or family.   Heck, I didn’t even know what Euros looked like or how to use the rail systems.

The one thing I finally came to terms with was that just maybe my fears were ever so slightly…the smallest bit…just a little…irrational. What!? Yes, irrational. Fine.  I asked myself what were some of the worst things that could happen?  An earthquake? A terrorist attack? Maybe I’d lose my passport or someone would steal all of our money and credit cards. Then what? Well, I’d contact the United States Embassy in whatever country we were in.

smart traveler

Yes, what you’ve always heard is true. The embassy is the best way to go.  And, as it turns out, there’s a way to stay connected with the Embassies before you even leave your garage to head to the airport. It’s called STEP.

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the US Government to US citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency. STEP also allows Americans residing abroad to get routine information from the nearest US embassy or consulate.

First, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) helps you stay informed.

Sign up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (formerly known as “Travel Registration” or “Registration with Embassies”) to receive the latest travel updates and information!STEP enroll

When you sign up, you will automatically receive the most current information they compile about the country where you will be traveling or living. You will also receive updates, including Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts (where appropriate). You only need to sign up once, and then you can add and delete trips from your account based on your current travel plans.Next, STEP helps you stay connected.

By registering your itinerary with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, they will be able to assist you better in the case of an emergency, such as if you lose your passport or it is stolen while you are abroad.

They also assist U.S. citizens in other emergencies, such as in natural disasters. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, they evacuated over 16,700 U.S. citizens and family members. During the civil unrest in Lebanon in 2006 they assisted nearly 15,000 U.S. citizens and family members, and in 2004 helped thousands more during the tsunami.

The travel and contact information you enter into our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program will make it easier for consular officers in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to contact you and your loved ones during an emergency —including situations where your family or friends in the U.S. are having problems trying to contact you with important news.

Finally, STEP helps you to stay safe.

A well-informed traveler is a safer traveler. Consular officers around the world compile country-specific information, travel alerts and warnings, fact sheets and emergency messages to provide you with timely and accurate travel information about every country where you may travel.

This includes reports on possible risks and security threats so that you can make informed decisions about your travel plans and activities.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

Before you say anything, yes, I totally understand the whole “big brother” thing. You might not want the government knowing exactly where you’ll be each day of your vacation. It’s none of their business, right?  True.  And they’ll know what country you’re in where ever your passport is scanned. But without STEP, that’s all they’ll know. France, for example, is a huge country. Italy is a big country. Going to Asia? You’re a needle in a 4.5 billion person haystack.  It’ll be hard to find you quickly in an emergency.

It’s a personal preference, but I’ll give up some of my privacy to upgrade my safety and security for a couple of weeks.

It didn’t take long to enter our itinerary and I felt better instantly. I turned all the worrying about that stuff over to them – that’s their job anyway, right? Now I can focus on more important things like what the heck is VAT, where’s the best gelato, and what day is it that we can stand for hours in the heat with thousands of our new best friends to see the Pope for a minute?

Those, my friends, are legitimate concerns. Totally.

 

 

 

Road Trip! National Parks Trip – 2016 National Parks Free Admission Days

2016 National Parks Free Admission Days

Looking for a a great hiking trip or a just a national parks trip for your family?  How about some help keeping a low budget for your trip?  How does free admission to a national park sound?  Hint…the first one is January 18!  Start making plans to take advantage of this amazing program when Uncle Sam throws open the gates to so many of our nation treasures and invites you to take advantage of the national parks free admission days.

Olympic National Park - Free Admission

Plan to enjoy National Parks free admission days! Mark your calendar for these entrance fee–free dates in 2016:

  • January 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 16 through 24: National Park Week
  • August 25 through 28: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 24: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
Only 127 of our country’s 409 national parks usually charge an entrance fee. See the list of parks participating in free days here. So start Planning Your Visit to Carlsbad Caverns, Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Padre Island, Cape Cod, even the Grand Canyon!
Muir Woods
If you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, you might consider the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands-more than 2,000 in all. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is offered free to all active duty military members and their dependents to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service. The Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over. Information on these and other pass options is available online.
And, in fact, many parks do not charge any entrance fees year-round.  So, there are many ways to plan a fantastic national park excursion without breaking the bank.Death Valley Ntional Park
*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.
 

Where will you go?  Have you been to any of these parks with your family?  Have any great tips or advice for the rest of us?  Be sure to share in the Comments!

Holiday Hotel Packages for Families

‘Tis the season for colorful lights, hot cocoa, visits with Santa Claus and, most importantly, time with family. Enjoy one of these special holiday hotel packages and escape to a festive destination for a night or weekend this season.

The Inn at Christmas Place – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

With a name like this, The Inn at Christmas Place can’t disappoint. Plus, it’s offering a Christmas in Dixie Package with two nights’ lodging; two tickets to the Dixie Stampede Dinner Show; two tickets to Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry; and breakfast each morning. Additional tickets can be added for children; package is available through Dec. 23, 2015.

Congress Hall – Cape May, New Jersey

Stately Congress Hall in Cape May, New Jersey, has a few holiday deals, including a Walking in a Winter Wonderland package. The package includes a train ride on the Congress Hall Express (for four); hot cocoa (also for four); a holiday souvenir; and a $20 voucher for breakfast (kids ages 12 and under eat free). Package is available Nov. 27 to Dec. 31, 2015.

Santa’s Lodge – Santa Claus, Indiana

Step into Santa’s Lodge for breakfast (for four); dinner and milk and cookies with Santa (also for four); holiday arts and crafts; admission to the Land of Lights Tour at Lake Rudolph; and access to the Candy Castle North Pole Network — it’s all part of the one-night package offered (two-night packages are also available). Packages are available on the following dates in 2015: Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19.

Gaylord Opryland Resort – Nashville, Tennessee

Splurge on the Country Christmas Basic Package at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort, which includes two or three nights’ lodging; tickets to ICE!; tickets to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Musical”; tickets to Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers Christmas Dinner Show; and a ride on the Delta Riverboat, through the hotel’s lush gardens. Free admission to the resort’s craft show is also part of the fun. Package is available Nov. 20 to Dec. 27, 2015.

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center – Washington, D.C.

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Washington D.C. also presents magnificent holiday displays, along with two themed packages. We like the ICE! Is Nice Package, which offers accommodations and unlimited entry to ICE!, a wonderland of carved creations — “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” is the theme in 2015. The package is available Nov. 21, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.

Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center – Grapevine, Texas

The Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine celebrates the holiday season, too, with a Lone Star Christmas and two themed packages. The Lone Star Christmas Experience includes accommodations; tickets to ICE!; tickets to the Elf of the Shelf Scavenger Hunt; tickets to Gingerbread Decorating Corner (one kit per room); tickets to Santa’s Wild Workshop Snow Tubing; and a souvenir family photo. The Holiday Getaway ICE! Adventure covers accommodations, tickets to ICE! and a souvenir family photo. Both packages are available Nov. 12, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.

Big Cedar Lodge – Branson, Mo.

Big Cedar Lodge is a lovely place during the holidays as is, but it also offers a Happy Holidays Package that includes a family scavenger hunt; complimentary breakfast for one morning of your stay; family photo; holiday goodie basket; and a signature holiday ornament.

Hotel Hershey – Hershey, Pennsylvania

It doesn’t get any better than Christmas in Hershey, especially if you stay at the grand Hotel Hershey. The deluxe hotel has a package that includes cookie and milk delivery, plus admission to Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, Hershey Sweet Lights, Hershey Gardens, and The Hershey Story’s Museum Experience. Package is available Nov. 13 to Dec. 29, 2015.

The Coeur d’Alene Resort – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Decked out for the holidays, The Coeur d’Alene Resort also offers a Holiday Lights Bed and Breakfast Package. The package includes a $20 credit for breakfast, plus two tickets to Journey to the North Pole Holiday Lights Cruise (purchase additional tickets for a nominal fee; cruises begin Nov. 20, 2015). Packages are available through Dec. 31, 2015.

Marriott Stone Mountain Inn – Atlanta, Georgia

If you’ve never been to Holly Jolly Christmas at Stone Mountain Park, now’s the time to go! Nearby Marriott Stone Mountain Inn has a Christmas Holiday Package with overnight accommodations, breakfast for four and, of course, four Stone Mountain Christmas Adventure Passes. Package is available on select dates through Jan. 3, 2016.

Red Jacket Mountain View Resort – Jackson, New Hampshire

Combine water park and holiday fun at Red Jacket Mountain View Resort, which offers a Christmas Present Package. The package includes two nights’ accommodations (Dec. 24 to 26, 2015); admission to Kahuna Laguna, the onsite water park; bonfires; cookie decorating and more.

Ice Skating at Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado – Coronado, California

The historic “Hotel del” in Coronado (just outside of San Diego) transforms into a winter wonderland each year, and features an ice skating rink by the ocean. Take advantage with the Ice Skating & S’mores Package, which includes two skating tickets (additional tickets can be purchased) and a private S’mores roast for your family (up to 5). New for 2015, the package also includes access to DELights in the Garden Patio, with a light show, holiday treats and more. Package is available Nov. 27, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.

Hawks Cay Resort – Duck Key, Florida

Dash away, dash away for warm holiday fun at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. The resort’s Christmas Package entitles guests to 15 percent off accommodations (two-night minimum) and 15 percent off marina dockage. Other perks include visits with Santa, story time with Mrs. Claus, cookie and ornament decorating and so much more. The offer is available through Dec. 25, 2015.

Mayflower Park Hotel – Seattle, Washington

The Mayflower Park Hotel offers a Seattle Holiday Traditions Package, with valet parking and a gift from the hotel. Bonus: The Mayflower is located in the center of the city’s holiday fun — carousel rides and a giant Christmas tree are just steps away. The package is available through Dec. 30, 2015.

Grand Canyon Railway Hotel & RV Park – Williams, Arizona

Grand Canyon Railway Hotel & RV Park has a Polar Express Package, with a ride to the North Pole (where Santa Claus awaits) via The Polar Express, accommodations, and breakfast and dinner buffets.

The Peabody Memphis – Memphis, Tennessee

The Peabody Memphis welcomes families “Home for the Holidays,” with accommodations, a signature ornament and self-parking, plus dazzling lights and holiday decor throughout the hotel. Package is available Nov. 8 to Dec. 30, 2015.

Omni Mount Washington Resort – Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

The Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, has a Stocking Stuffer Package with a 10 percent discount on best available rates, as well as a $10 resort credit, festive treat, late check-out and a token to donate to the charity of your choice. Additionally, the hotel is offering horse-drawn sleigh rides. The package is available Nov. 23 to Dec. 30, 2015.

Kingsmill Resort & Spa – Williamsburg, Virginia

At Kingsmill Resort & Spa in Williamsburg, Virginia, a Christmas Town Package offers two night’s lodging in a one-bedroom condo; complimentary breakfast; and complimentary transportation and admission to Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town — a winter wonderland with rides, shows, lights and more. It’s available Nov. 26 to Dec. 31, 2015.

Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center – Galveston, Texas

Combine your visit to Ice Land with accommodations at Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center. A Family Package includes tickets to Ice Land and Festival of Lights, along with valet parking. Offer valid Nov. 14, 2015 to Jan. 10, 2016.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel – Jekyll Island, Georgia

Experience the holidays on Jekyll Island in Georgia, with accommodations and a breakfast buffet at the festive Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The Nights Before Christmas Package, available Nov. 13 to 23, 2015, also includes two tickets for the Jekyll Island Ice Skating Village (additional tickets may be purchased for children).

Inn on Biltmore Estate – Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville’s Inn on Biltmore Estate is a wonderful place to celebrate the season, especially since it offers a Candlelight Christmas Evenings Package. The package includes accommodations, breakfast, admission to the Biltmore Estate, audio guides and admission to Christmas Candlelight Evenings at the Biltmore House, valet parking, complimentary estate shuttle service and finally, a keepsake Christmas Book. The package is available Nov. 6, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.

Chase Park Plaza – St. Louis, Missouri

The Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis has a Home for the Holidays Package that includes accommodations and a $25 credit for dining. The package is available Nov. 1, 2015 to Jan. 9, 2016.

Affinia Manhattan – New York City

You won’t find many holiday packages or discounted rates in New York City right now, but Affinia Manhattan has a promotion called Home Suite Home for the Holidays. The package includes an overnight stay in a deluxe suite, a festive holiday gift box full of goddies, and an opportunity to donate to Edible Schoolyard. Offer is available through Jan. 5, 2016.

Gingerbread House at Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge – Multiple Locations

You didn’t think Great Wolf Lodge ignores the holidays, did you? All locations, including Great Wolf Lodge Poconos, offer Snowland, with daily snow showers, themed activities, and life-size gingerbread houses! Plus, Santa Claus makes special appearances throughout the event. Snowland packages and pricing varies by resort.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza – Boston, Massachusetts

The luxurious Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston has a Twelve Days of Christmas Package with accommodations; Sleigh Ride, an album from the Boston POPS; and late check-out at 4 p.m.

The Broadmoor – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Celebrate the season with a Classic Broadmoor Christmas. The Broadmoor is offering accommodations, dinner show tickets, a 15-percent discount at onsite shops and 25 percent off published suite rates. The package is available on the following dates in 2015: Dec. 12, 18, 19, 20, 24 and 27.

Oregon Garden Resort – Silverton, Oregon

Silverton, Oregon offers Christmas in the Garden, with carolers, lights, food, bonfires and a traditional German Christmas Village! Combine your visit with a stay at the Oregon Garden Resort, which has The Oregon Garden Package. The package includes accommodations, a signature mug, continental breakfast buffet and admission to Christmas in the Garden, with discounts for food. Rates start at $99 per night. The package is available Nov. 27, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.

Source: BlogsRelease

10 Great Adventures by Disney

Awesome Adventures by Disney

Adventures By Disney (ABD) offers group-guided family travel experiences to all corners of the world. Launched in 2005, Adventures by Disney not only makes vacation planning hassle-free – providing a single price for accommodations, land transportation and most activities and entertainment – but it also adds plenty of exclusive experiences along the way. Disney-trained Adventure Guides accompany each trip, and options can include Junior Adventurers activities and even adults-only time.

An Adventures by Disney® family vacation is an expertly planned, guided group vacation to some of the most intriguing and beloved destinations around the world. On an Adventures by Disney trip you’re a traveler and adventurer, not a tourist. You and your family become active participants in incredible stories, experiences and cultures through immersive activities only Disney can bring you. From bustling cities and awe-inspiring landscapes, to seaside villages and secret locales, Adventures by Disney offers worldwide vacations – to such wondrous places as Europe, Asia and South America – ranging in length from 6 to 13 days.

We’ve chosen our favorite Adventures By Disney, offering opportunities to discover American cities, European destinations, and exotic locales.

England and France

8 Days/7 Nights
Stops: London, Paris, Windsor, Stonehenge and Versailles

Explore two of Europe’s capital cities and more on one of Adventures By Disney’s most popular programs. A wonderful introduction to Europe for families, the tour takes in the must-see sites of the cities, such as Westminster Abbey and the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, plus privately guided tours of the Tower of London and Windsor Castle—Queen Elizabeth and the British royal family’s home. While in the Louvre in Paris, Junior Adventurers participate in an art detective game searching for clues in the artwork with the Adventure Guides, while adults can take in the masterpieces on their own. The program keeps it active with climbs to the top of the Eiffel Tower and Nôtre Dame in Paris, as well as a bike ride through the royal gardens of Versailles.

Italy

9 Days/8 Nights
Stops: Rome, Florence, Venice and Tuscany

This top-selling tour is sure to evoke amore with an after-hours visit to Rome’s Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, where group members are literally the only people there. That’s right — no crowds, just your group. VIP entry gets you up close to Michelangelo’s David and another VIP tour takes you through the Palazzo Vecchio while in Florence. Enjoy the country’s fabulous cuisine with a private pasta-making lesson, followed by wine tasting for the adults on a private estate in the Umbrian countryside. Kids will delight in making their own traditional Venetian Carnivale masks in a private workshop, and during a Junior Adventure art detective game at the Doge’s Palace in Venice.

Wyoming

7 Days/6 Nights
Stops: Jackson Hole, Brooks Lake, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park

The natural beauty of America is often overlooked, but the Adventures By Disney Wyoming tour allows families to experience the state’s magnificent natural treasures with an emphasis on the outdoors. White-water rafting on the Snake River (Class II-II rapids) jump-starts the fun. A private, guided tour of West Thumb Geyser Basin and a full day exploring The Lower Loop is part of your Yellowstone National Park discovery. Home base for three of the nights is the historic Brooks Lake Lodge, which is reserved for Adventures By Disney Wyoming guests only during your stay. Here, horseback riding through the mountains, fly-fishing, hiking, canoeing and archery are all part of the options.

Cold Weather Alternative: Winter in Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park evokes another kind of beauty with snow-covered mountains and steaming geysers. Spend five days and four nights with highlights including “mushing” sled dogs and soaking in the Granite Hot Springs.

Arizona and Utah

8 Days/7 Nights
Stops: Grand Canyon, Moab and Arches National Parks

Another western adventure choice takes in the southwest with a naturalist-guided Grand Canyon tour and an off-road jeep tour of Sedona’s red rocks. Hike through Arches National Park and take a raft ride down the Colorado River (class I-II rapids). A Navajo guide tells tales of Monument Valley’s past while exploring that part of the region via four-wheel tour. Evoke your inner cowboy or cowgirl with a three-night stay at a working ranch (and winery) on the Colorado River that features a cowboy cookout, a Junior Adventurers dinner and movie night.

Costa Rica

7 Days/6 Nights
Stops: Tortuguero, Arenal, Guanacaste and San José

Families explore the lush Costa Rican rainforest and the magnificent wildlife that call it home, starting with a riverboat ride to the “Land of the Turtles” with glimpses of monkeys and birds along the way. Kids will love the rainforest sky tram ride that takes you to the zip-line over the rainforest canopy. (Kids need to be at least 8 years of age and there are size restrictions.) Another option is a guided nature walk. Maleku tribe members bring their culture to life before the group heads to the Hidalgo Hot Springs, where they soak before dining outdoors. A whitewater rafting ride down the Tenorio River (Class II-III) is another adventure. Time on the beaches of Guanacaste includes stargazing, a catamaran ride and snorkeling.

Norway

8 Days/7 Nights
Stops: Bergen, Flåm, Geiranger and Oslo

Do you have a child that is obsessed with the movie “Frozen”? This tour brings them to the places that inspired the creation of the Disney animated movie, plus guests get to watch exclusive video content from the voice actors and filmmakers as they talk about how what you’re seeing on these trips relates to the film. These videos are only shown on this Adventures by Disney trip.

You get to explore the storybook village of Bergen, the inspiration for Anna and Elsa’s kingdom of Arendelle, and the kids will love the chance to learn folk dancing like Anna while on their trip. Beyond “Frozen,” a private fjord safari on a speed boat includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site Naeroyfjord, while a local storyteller spins his tales of the land. A fisherman also brings the life in Norway alive while the group participates in rainbow trout fishing on Lake Loen. A trip up to Briksdal Glacier includes a raft ride on the lake and a chance to view the spectacular Seven Sisters Waterfall. A hike to a local farm provides hands-on fun with farm activities.

Scotland

9 Days/8 Nights
Stops: Edinburgh, Inverness, Loch Ness, Isle of Lewis and Isle of Skye

 

A tour through Scotland brings to life another popular animated film, Disney Pixar’s “Brave.” Just like with Norway, guests see the sites that inspired the film and watch exclusive video only shown on the Adventures By Disney Scotland trip. Such sites include the standing stones of Callanais and The Black Arnol House during a day trip to the Isle of Lewis. Kids get a chance to hone their archery skills like Brave heroine Merida with lessons at Rothiemurchus Estate, a privately owned, 25,000-acre Highland Estate. Castles abound on this trip with a privately guided tour of Edinburgh Castle (including the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny), and other visits that include Dunnottar Castle (another “Brave” inspiration) and Urquhart Castle with its views of Loch Ness.

Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos

12 Days/11 Nights
Stops: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hoi An, Hanoi, Luang Prabang and Siem Reap

Families seeking a truly exotic locale will enjoy this tour through Southeast Asia. Even the most jaded of teens will be wowed with an elephant ride through the temples of Angkor Wat. Also fun is the ride in a tuk-tuk—a covered caret pulled by a motorcycle—during a “treasure hunt” at Angkor Archaeological Park. Immersion into the local culture has the group taking hands-on lessons in rice farming in Laos, visiting Hoi An’s central market with a chef before a private Vietnamese cooking class, attending a traditional water puppet performance, and learning Tai Chi in a private sunrise class at a local park in Hanoi. Everyone receives an embroidered Tai Chi uniform to take home.

New York City

4 Days, 3 Nights
Stops: Broadway, Times Square, Tribeca, Harlem, Central Park

Part of Adventures By Disney’s Long Weekend itineraries, New York City guests are treated to such VIP access as behind-the-scenes tours of ABC’s “Good Morning America” at Disney’s Time Square Studios during a live taping of the show; the chance to perform on the legendary Apollo Theater’s stage in Harlem; and an after-hours tour at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. A private tour of the New Amsterdam Theatre, a historic landmark, also gives guests a chance to explore the Disney Broadway costume and prop room and get to try on costumes from such shows as “The Lion King,” “Mary Poppins” and “The Little Mermaid.” And what visit to New York City would be complete without seeing a Broadway show… you guessed it, the group gets house seats to Disney’s “Aladdin,” but with the added bonus of a dance class with Disney Teaching Artists to learn the opening number before the show and a talk-back with members of the cast following the show.

Danube River Cruise

8 Days, 7 Nights
Stops: Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, GermanyDisney has teamed up with AmaWaterways to launch Danube River Cruises in the summer of 2016. Sailing along the Danube in a 170-passenger river cruise ship, the itinerary features eight destinations within four countries. While onboard, guests will have activities geared for adults, Junior Adventurers and teens.Eight Adventures By Disney Adventure Guides will serve as hosts on the ship and in each port, where guests are taken off the beaten path within each city. Highlights include sites from scenes in the movie “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg, exploring Hohenwerfen Castle and a live falconry show, a bike ride through the Wachau Valley, and the Lazar Equestrian Park in Hungary. The Medieval Devin Castle in Bratislava (Slovakia) features the chance for guests to make their own candles, enjoy archery and other activities. There is also a marionette performance and a strudel making demonstration at Schonbrunn Palace while in Austria.

 

Source: BlogsRelease

National Geographic Traveler Selects the 2015 Tours of a Lifetime

National Geographic Tours of a Lifetime

National Geographic Traveler magazine today announced its annual Tours of a Lifetime selection, now in its 10th year. The 2015 list features 50 of the world’s best guided trips chosen by the editors of National Geographic Traveler. In addition, the editors picked five of their favorite expeditions of a lifetime offered by National Geographic. The list and details about the trips can be viewed in National Geographic Traveler magazine’s May 2015 issue and online at National Geographic Traveler.

“This year marks 10 years of our editors selecting the world’s best guided tours,” said Norie Quintos, acting editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine. “In that time, the types of immersive and experiential trips have only multiplied; tours are going farther and deeper than ever before.”

From stalking lion tracks in the Serengeti to kayaking secret coves in Croatia to following the wine trail in the Republic of Georgia, the 50 best guided tours selected this year offer authentic travel experiences that are sure to leave participants engaged and ensconced in culture. The additional five unique tours from the National Geographic Travel family include inspiring expert-led adventures from Australia to Ireland to the Pacific Islands.

The 2015 Tours of a Lifetime and their tour operators are:

–AFRICA–

giraffe-serengeti-tanzania-africa

“Mountain Biking Safari in Namibia,” Namibia — H&I Adventures

“Malawi Service and Safari,” Malawi — Elevate Destinations

“Ancient Kingdoms of Sudan,” Sudan — Mountain Travel Sobek

“Namibia: Secrets Revealed,” Namibia — Africa Adventure Consultants

“The Great Serengeti Traverse,” Tanzania — Mark Thornton Safaris

“Sourcing the Perfect Cup: A Coffee Connoisseur’s Tour,” Kenya, Tanzania — Micato Safaris

“Mobile Walking Safari,” Zambia — Robin Pope Safaris

“Ibo Island Dhow Safari,” Mozambique — CW Safaris

“Algeria Colours,” Algeria — Wild Frontiers

“South Africa Ultimate Adventure,” South Africa — REI Adventures

 

–ASIA–

chao-phraya-boat-bangkok

“Myanmar and Southern China: Places Unexplored,” China, Myanmar — Global Basecamps

“Persia Past and Present,” Iran — Journeys International

“Snow Leopards—Snow Mountains Fundraising Trek,” India — Hidden Places Travel

“Gujarat: The Land of Legends, Culture & Crafts,” India — Immersion Journeys

“Komodo Snorkeling Expedition,” Indonesia — Wilderness Travel

“Kyoto and Beyond by Bike,” Japan — Explore!

“Cruising the Land of the Rising Sun,” Japan, South Korea — Tauck

“Laos With a Heart,” Laos — Myths and Mountains

“Wrangel Island: Across the Top of the World,” Russia — Heritage Expeditions

“Istanbul-Bangkok via Burma,” Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan,
China, Myanmar, Thailand — Dragoman

“Vietnam’s UNESCO Discovery,” Vietnam — Audley Travel

 

–EUROPE–

“Dalmatian Coast Hiking & Kayaking,” Croatia — Boundless Journeys

“Holland and Belgium Bike & Barge Amsterdam,” Belgium, The Netherlands — VBT Bicycling and
Walking Vacations

“A Wine Lovers Journey Through Budapest, Vienna, and Prague,” Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic
— Exeter International

“Bike Paths of Lake Garda and Veneto—A Sightseer Tour,” Italy — ExperiencePlus!

“Compelling Corsica—Sea Kayaking and Mountain Hiking,” France — ROW Sea Kayak Adventures

“Blazing Saddles Family Adventure,” Portugal — KE Adventure Travel

“Wildlife for Beginners,” Scotland — Speyside Wildlife

“Switzerland E-biking,” Switzerland — Butterfield & Robinson

“Wolf Tracking in Winter,” Sweden — Naturetrek

“Greenland Traditional Dogsled Expedition,” Greenland — WANT Expeditions

“Georgia’s Food, Wine & Culture,” Republic of Georgia — Great Canadian Travel Company

“Budapest to Krakow Walk,” Slovakia, Hungary, Poland — Freewheeling Adventures

 

–OCEANIA & PACIFIC ISLANDS–

hikers-mount-cook-new-zealand

“The ‘Other’ Sydney, Rock & Reef,” Australia — EverGreen Escapes International

“Ultimate South Island Adventure: Rimu,’” New Zealand — Active Adventures New Zealand

“Fiji Sea Kayak Adventure,” Fiji — Southern Sea Ventures

 

–NORTH AMERICA–

“Best of Kenai Fjords National Park,” Alaska — Alaska Heritage Tours

“Vail to Aspen Interconnect—Summer/Fall,” Colorado — Paragon Guides

“Mighty Saint Lawrence,” Canada — Adventure Canada

“Day of the Dead: Michoacán,” Mexico — Tia Stephanie Tours

“Portland to Missoula,” Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana — Trek Travel

“Chicago and New Orleans Roundtrip,” Illinois, Louisiana — Pullman Rail Journeys

“Manatees’ Ecosystem and Conservation,” Florida — Oceanic Society

“Cuba Family Vacation: Cultural Exchange,” Cuba — Classic Journeys

 

–CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA–

“Argentina Vision and Vine,” Argentina — Ciclismo Classico

“Quyllur Rit’i Trip,” Peru — Aspiring Adventures

“Lionfish Dive,” Belize — Blue Ventures Expeditions

“Undiscovered Brazil,” Brazil — Adventure Life

“Volunteer with Children in Costa Rica,” Costa Rica — Global Vision International

“Bogotá to Santander Biking Adventure,” Colombia — Colombia Adventure

“Amazon Kayaking Trip,” Ecuador — Tofino Expeditions

 

–NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRIPS–

fiji

“India by Rail Photo Expedition,” India

“Mysteries of Prehistoric Ireland and England,” Ireland, England

“Fiji to Cook Islands: Polynesian Discovery,” Fiji, Tonga, Niue, Cook Islands

“The Human Journey: Tracing Legendary Peoples & Sacred Places,” Worldwide

“Australia Family Adventure,” Australia

10 Things Not to Miss in San Francisco

What-Not-To-Miss-In-San-Francisco

When we got married, we honeymooned in San Francisco. Coming from Atlanta, it was a huge and exciting trip…not to mention the whole “just married” thing. My husband and I fell in love with the city and vowed to return as often as possible.

We recently took our daughter out to this gorgeous city. Even though we tend to do some of the same things, we always venture off to add a few new ones to our list – there is so much to experience there! This is in the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park.

Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park

One of the nicest things about visiting San Francisco is that, although the city is “big” in terms of attractions and amenities, it is geographically small – only 49 square miles.  Consequently, it is very easy to see and do a great many things in a short period of time.

Here is a suggested list of the top 10 things not to miss in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Travel Association:

1. The Golden Gate Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world, manages to impress even the most experienced travelers with its stunning 1.7-mile span.  Approximately 120,000 automobiles drive across it every day.  A pedestrian walkway also allows the crossing on foot, and bikes are allowed on the western side.   The Golden Gate Bridge is said to be one of the most photographed things on Earth.

We took a bay cruise and enjoyed the beautiful view from the water!

Bay Cruise San Francisco

 

2. Cable cars have been transporting people around San Francisco since the late 19th century.  The cars run on tracks and are moved by an underground cable on three routes.  Their familiar bells can be heard ringing from blocks away.  Tickets ($6) may be purchased at the cable car turnarounds at the ends of each route.  Each one-way ride will provide spectacular views of the city’s celebrated hills as well as exhilarating transportation.

3. Alcatraz, the notorious former prison, is located on an island of the same name in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  Some of the United States’ most notorious criminals were incarcerated there.  Though several tried, no inmate ever made a successful escape from “The Rock.”  The prison was closed in the 1960’s and stories about Alcatraz are legendary.  Visit AlcatrazA visit to Alcatraz today is fascinating.  Recorded cell-house tours are available, allowing visitors to learn about the prison as they explore the buildings and grounds.  To reach the island, take an Alcatraz Cruises ferry from Pier 33.  Advance reservations are recommended, 415-981-ROCK (7625).

Visit Alcatraz San Francisco

4. Fisherman’s Wharf is also home to Pier 39, a festive waterfront marketplace that is one of the city’s most popular attractions.  A community of California sea lions has taken up residence on the floats to the west of the pier and visitors line the nearby railing to watch their antics.  From there it’s a short walk to the Madame Tussauds, the San Francisco Dungeon, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the famous crab vendors selling walk-away crab and shrimp cocktails.

5. Union Square is the place for serious shoppers.  Major department stores and the most exclusive designer boutiques line streets like Post, Sutter, Geary, Grant, Stockton and Powell.  The Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre houses the largest Bloomingdale’s outside of New York and the second largest Nordstrom in the U.S.

6. North Beach, the city’s Italian quarter, isn’t a beach at all.  It’s a neighborhood of romantic European-style sidewalk cafes, restaurants and shops centered near Washington Square along Columbus and Grant avenues.  The beautiful Church of Saints Peter and Paul is a beloved landmark. Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill offers a splendid vantage point for photos of the bridges and the Bay.  Inside the tower, floor-to-ceiling murals painted in the 1930s depict scenes of early San Francisco.

Telegraph Hill San Fracisco

7. The entrance to Chinatown at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is called the “Dragon’s Gate.” Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, most of it taking place along Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco. This city within a city is best explored on foot; exotic shops, renowned restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums comprise its boundaries. Visitors can buy ancient potions from herb shops, relax and enjoy a “dim sum” lunch or witness the making of fortune cookies.Chinatown San Francisco

8. Dining in San Francisco is an attraction in itself.  Known as America’s best restaurant city, San Francisco chefs excel at combining the freshest local ingredients, authentic international flavors and a touch of creative genius.  Choose your cuisine – Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Indian, Malaysian, Mexican, Greek, Russian or “fusion,” a combination of any or all of these influences.  For a complete list of dining options, visitwww.sanfrancisco.travel/explore/dining.

9. Nightlife in San Francisco is a constantly changing scene.  The “hottest” clubs currently are in the South of Market and Mission districts, with live and recorded rock and Latin music.  Jazz, blues, swing and “oldies” music can be found all over town. For a complete list of nightlife options, visitwww.sanfrancisco.travel/explore/nightlife.

10. A visit to San Francisco would not be complete without a cultural experience.  The city is home to internationally recognized symphony, opera and ballet companies.  Playwrights such as Sam Shepherd and Tom Stoppard introduce their works in San Francisco and avant-garde theatre and dance companies dot the city.   The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor and other museums and galleries are devoted to the finest of classical and contemporary arts. For a complete museum guide, visit San Francisco Travel.

This is in the Music Concourse area of Golden Gate Park.

Music Concourse Golden Gate Park

Yes, that’s me doing the silly pose.

Have you been to San Francisco? What are your favorite things to do there?

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