Greek Island Hopping Infographic

Greece

(c)Mariamichelle


Spending a couple weeks Greek Island Hopping sounds like my idea of paradise. I mean, what isn’t there to love? Sun, white buildings, beautiful beaches, great food and so much more await you. With 227 islands, most with less than 100 inhabitants, you will have plenty of island to hop around.

Crete, Lipsi, Kefallonia, Skiathos, and Mykonos all top my list of islands to visit due to their great beaches. Of course, I’ll need to add Lesvos, Somos, Corfu and Folegandros to the list for their great food and drink. Hmmm, I might need to plan a month of fun, because I’m quite sure two weeks wouldn’t be nearly enough.

In additions to wonderful beaches and tasty food the Greek Islands offer water sports, cycling, walking, festivals and is steeped in history.

I am buried in snow and cold temps right now so a trip to the Greek Islands sound absolutely divine. I would much prefer their warm temps and sunshine to my negative temps and dreary weather. If you’d like some help planning a Greek Island Hopping trip feel free to reach out to SunSearch Holidays. They are the people that provided the infographic and know a thing or two about traveling around Greece.

With any luck I’ll be making my way to Europe, and maybe the Greek Islands this year!

Happy Travels!

greek island hopping

Reasons to visit Santa Barbara, CA this Spring

Santa Barbara

Spring is a great time to plan a vacation so why not slip on your flip-flops and head to Santa Barbara! Get ready to dance at the ocean-side concert in celebration of the Santa Barbara Arts and Craft Show 50th anniversary or get inspired and explore Santa Barbara’s natural beauty during Public Gardens Appreciation Month. Food and wine enthusiasts are in for a treat as Santa Barbara hosts two amazing culinary events in April and sports aficionados can join in to welcome back The Amgen Tour of California. The flowers are blooming and the sun is shining in Santa Barbara this spring, keep reading for more exciting news of this season.

2013 Spring Vintners' Festival at the Mission Santa Ines

The annual Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, held from April 23th - 26th, is a premier opportunity to attend a diversity of wine maker events. Taste wines from the more than 120 winery members at tasting room open houses, vineyard walks, and more. Also featured at the Vintners Spring Weekend is the Santa Barbara Wine Seminar, a fun and engaging discussion with six wine producers from Santa Barbara County held Saturday morning. SBVintnersWeekend.com

Julia-Child
In partnership with The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, Bacara Resort & Spa presents the 2nd annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend. This event showcases the distinct tastes, sights and sounds of the region while also bringing cutting-edge culinary talent from across the country. Taste, sip and learn about the best and latest in food this April 16th - 19th through panel discussions, cooking demonstrations and more. BacaraCulinaryWeekend.com

concert

From April through October, The Santa Barbara Bowl hosts concerts from major names of the music world every year. With great events in store for 2015, The Santa Barbara Bowl is kicking off this season with Grammy Nominated band Alt-J and special guest band Jungle. Keep an eye out for the rest of this year’s line-up, which has already confirmed pianist Diana Krall, and the lead singer for Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler. SBBowl.com

museum

Let local speakers guide you through Santa Barbara’s history and transformation while enjoying a glass of wine. Held at different tasting rooms throughout Santa Barbara, History Happy Hour is a new relaxed opportunity for those who want to learn more about Santa Barbara’s heritage in a fun and immersive setting. Learn while you sip and join the Santa Barbara Historical Museum in their second event of the series on March 5th at Jamie Slone Wines. SantaBarbaraMuseum.com

Arts & Crafts

Every Sunday, Santa Barbara’s artists present a mile-long collection of locally-crafted pieces under the palm trees along Cabrillo Boulevard. Established in 1965, The Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015! Visit Chase Palm Park on May 16th and 17th and dance to the music of Spencer the Gardener, a local band with a distinctively quirky and genre-bending style, to celebrate 50 years of local talent.  SBAACS.com

gardens

As part of National Public Gardens Day on May 8th, Santa Barbara celebrates Public Gardens Appreciation Month, a local festivity that encourages the community to discover the area’s wealth and diversity of gardens. Throughout the month of May, the public gardens of Santa Barbara invite locals and visitors to explore their extraordinary locations by offering a variety of discounts and special events such as, exhibits, lectures, tours and other activities. SBPublicGardens.com

yacht

After six successful years of chartering in the Virgin Islands, the Green Flash Luxury Catamaran is now available in Santa Barbara! Owned and operated by locals Captain Arthur and Chef Sherri McNary, it offers the ultimate sailing experience. Embark on an unforgettable adventure and step aboard the Green Flash to enjoy a high-end dinner inspired by local seasonal cuisine that perfectly complements the Santa Barbara ocean breezes. YachtGreenFlash.com

horseback riding santa barbara

Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides offers an unforgettable experience where novice and experienced horseback riders can enjoy the glorious vistas of Santa Barbara’s beachfront. Saddle up and tour the mountain bluffs overlooking the pacific coastline or travel along a secluded and peaceful beach. The sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore, combined with the scenery of a majestic sunset, make for the perfect horseback riding experience. SBBeachRides.com

santa barbara zoo

Santa Barbara visitors can’t get enough of baby Buttercup, a newly born Masai giraffe that theSanta Barbara Zoo welcomed during the winter. But, as if that wasn’t enough, a second long-necked arrival is expected this March! Masai giraffes are the tallest land mammal on earth and just over 100 of them exist in North America, which makes Buttercup’s and his soon-to-be playmate’s birth an extraordinary occurrence you don’t want to miss. SBZoo.org

Good Lion Santa Barbara

Inspired by an Ernest Hemingway short story, the Good Lion Cocktail Bar has opened next door to The Granada Theatre. Their innovative cocktails crafted with local seasonal ingredients, combined with weekly live music and Spanish style tapas makes the perfect place for a fun get-together. Visit the newest addition to Santa Barbara’s Historic Theater District and enjoy cocktails surrounded by the arts and culture of downtown Santa Barbara. GoodLionCocktails.com

New Year, New You – Great German Spa Experiences

Bavaria

Hop over the pond and get your year off to a great start with a visit to a German spa. In additional to great spas there are stunning landscapes, beautiful lake shores, National parks and more awaiting your visit.

BAVARIA

Stunning natural landscapes, iconic landmarks and luxe spa hotels make Bavaria a great choice for your next wellness escape. Choose the Bavarian Alps to recharge in beautiful mountain scenery, and with a stay at 5-star Hotel Schloss Elmau, which is welcoming its sister property, Schloss Elmau Retreat in March and will host the G7 summit in June.

While in the area, don’t miss a visit to the fairytale castle Schloss Neuschwanstein. Or, head to the nearby Berchtesgadener Land which is part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve and offers such unusual treatments as a hay or whey baths and warm mud treatments.

North Sea

NORTH SEA

Located in Northern Germany’s Wadden National Park, St. Peter-Ording has been a leading spa resort for over 150 years. Take a long walk on the beach to soak up the pure, salty air, or explore the extensive pine wood forests that were laid out over a century ago. Then, spend a relaxing and romantic evening at Restaurant and Bar “54,” which is located in the North Sea, connected to the mainland by a walkway.
To round it off with the right overnight stay, stay at the upscale Aalernhuis Hotel & Spa, which uses products with natural, local ingredients such as amber and algae for its stress relieving treatments.*

german spa

BADEN-WUERTTEMBERG

Glamorous Baden-Baden has been a favorite destination for vacations that combine wellness, culture and luxury since the Belle Époque. Stay at hotel “Der Kleine Prinz,” a cozy, romantic property dating back to 1890 or opt for a suite overlooking the park at Brenners Park-Hotel and Spa, whose restaurant Brenners-Park Restaurant was just awarded a Michelin Star.

Many hotels offer their own spa facility, alternatively you may visit one of the public thermal baths, such as the Roman-Irish Friedrichsbad, which opened in 1877 and guides visitors through its 17 stages to well-being.

baltic sea

BALTIC SEA

The islands and the mainland around the Baltic Sea offer the perfect combination of seaside resorts, a healthy climate, and plenty of wellness facilities. Beautiful small cities with romantic spa hotels such as Schlossgut Schloss Schwansee (a beautiful countryside manor with a spa located in the former horse stables), or the Neptun Spa and Hotel in Rostock, featuring an expansive, 25,000 square foot spa including a pool with fresh Baltic sea water, are more reasons to visit the region.

Thuringia

THURINGIA

The region in and around the Thuringian Forest in Eastern Germany welcomes R&R-seeking visitors to towns such as Bad Salzungen, where SOLE (salt) treatments have a long history due to the natural saltwater springs, making it one of Germany’s oldest saltwater spas.

Located on a peaceful fresh water reservoir, Bio-Seehotel Zeulenroda is Germany’s first organic resort offering a variety of treatments as part of the guests’ carbon-neutral stay.

To find out more about wellness vacation in Germany, visit Germany.travel.

Grapevine is the #1 destination for festivals in Texas!

Discover why Grapevine is the number one festival and events destination in Texas! Officially recognized as a World Festival & Events City by the International Festival & Events Association, Grapevine welcomed more than one and a half million visitors to the city’s festivals and special events in 2014. So, make your plans now to attend all of these exciting Grapevine events in 2015!

• Sweetheart Wine Trail, February 14 and 15: Romance the day away with someone special along the Sweetheart Wine Trail in Grapevine. Featuring three tastings and food samplings at each participating Grapevine winery tasting room, a souvenir wine glass and a bottle of premium Grapevine wine, this is a unique and festive way to celebrate Cupid’s arrow. www.GrapevineWineryTrail.com.

• Jazz Wine Trains, March 20 and 21: Raise a glass and ride the rails on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. This train experience is fun for guests ages 21 and up. One of the most popular annual springtime events in Grapevine, this one-of-a-kind wine tasting experience features live Jazz entertainment, a delicious boxed dinner, a souvenir wine glass and samplings of Grapevine wines. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/JazzWineTrains.

• 12th Annual Day Out with Thomas™, April 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19: Take a journey with Thomas the Tank Engine™ at the 12th Annual Day Out With Thomas on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Meet Sir Topham Hatt, the Controller of the Railway on the Island of Sodor, as you enjoy a train ride, storytelling, videos, temporary tattoos of Island of Sodor friends, and an Imagination Station with arts, crafts and more. The train ride is approximately 25 minutes. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Thomas.

• 11th Annual ChocolateFest, April 24 and 25: Sweeten up your weekend at the 11th Annual ChocolateFest, benefiting Travelers Aid D/FW. On Friday, April 24, delicious delights await at An Evening of Chocolate and Wine at the all new location of Austin Ranch, 2009 Anderson Gibson Rd. (located near Grapevine Mills), 7 p.m. Guests must be 21 and above. On Saturday, April 25, sample an array of chocolate treats paired with beautiful works of art at A Day of Chocolate & Art at Austin Ranch from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. www.ChocolateFestGrapevine.org.

• Grapevine Farmers Market and Grapevine Market, April 9 – October 17: Experience shopping at the festive open-air European-style Grapevine Market for an eclectic array of items including handmade jewelry, distinctive home décor, quality antiques and more. Liberty Park, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eat healthy with delicious locally-grown produce and other products at The Grapevine Farmers Market. Located behind the Town Square Gazebo, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. www.FarmersMarketofGrapevine.com or www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com.

• 23rd Annual Blessing of the Vines and New Vintage Wine & Gallery Trail, April 11: For centuries, Old World grape growers marked the beginning of the growing season with the ceremonial Blessing of the Vines and this tradition continues in Grapevine. After the Blessing of the Vines, enjoy the New Vintage Wine & Gallery Trail, featuring tastings at each participating winery, food samplings and beautiful works of art at all of Grapevine’s art galleries. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/NewVintage.

• 14th Annual Spring Into Nash, April 18: Celebrate life on the farm like Grapevine’s earliest settlers. Held at Grapevine’s historic Nash Farm, the event features heritage toys, kitchen gardening, cotton planting, authentic heritage animal breeds, tractor-drawn wagon rides, field cultivation, wood carving demonstrations, jump rope making, cooking demonstrations on a wood burning stove and blacksmith demonstrations. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. www.NashFarm.org.

• 31st Annual Main Street Fest, May 15, 16 and 17: Tap into three full days of festival fun at Grapevine’s Main Street Fest – A Craft Brew Experience. Held along Main Street, guests will experience new and returning favorites at this event, with a special emphasis on craft brew tasting experiences. Events include craft brew tastings, pre-festival craft brew and dining experiences, live entertainment, KidCave, Carnival and Midway, Texas Wine Terrace, artisans and vendors, festival food and much more. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/MainStreetFest.

• 7th Annual SummerBlast, May 22 – September 4: Blast off with family-friendly summer fun in Grapevine, the perfect destination for the all ages. Some of the exciting activities include Summer Bash at Gaylord Texan Resort, Friday Night Fireworks Over Lake Grapevine, perfect poolside relaxation, shopping, wineries, dining and much more. Fireworks happen every Friday night at 9:30 p.m. over Lake Grapevine. And don’t miss the special 33rd Annual Fireworks Show on July 4th. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Summer.

• 29th Annual GrapeFest®, September 17, 18, 19 and 20: GrapeFest, the largest wine festival in the Southwest United States, celebrates the best of Texas wines, West Coast varietals and International offerings. This four-day family-friendly festival also features events such as the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, GrapeStomp, the Texas Wine Tribute, pre-event wine and food pairing dinners, the Champagne Terrace, KidsWorld, GrapeFest Golf Classic, GrapeFest Tennis Classic, ItalianCarFest, five stages of live entertainment and much more!
www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/GrapeFest.

• 15th Annual Fall Round-Up at Nash Farm, October 17: Celebrate fall on the farm at the 15th Annual Fall Round-Up at Nash Farm, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Activities include jump rope making, leather working, wood carving, blacksmith demonstrations, wood stove cooking demonstration, cotton picking, corn shelling and grinding, farm chores, heritage toys, kitchen gardening and corn shuck doll making. Free admission. www.NashFarm.org.

• 18th Annual Butterfly Flutterby, October 17: Flap your wings with the southern migration of the Monarch butterfly at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens. Guests help release more than 600 tagged butterflies during three scheduled releases throughout the event. Children and pets are invited to participate in the colorful Butterfly Parade and in the costume contest. Free admission. Activities also include plant sales, arts and crafts and more. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Butterfly.

• Hallo-Wine Trail, October 24 and 25: Scare up some fun along Grapevine’s Hallo-Wine Trail! This spooktacular event features three tastings and food samplings at each participating Grapevine winery tasting room, a souvenir wine glass and a bottle of premium Grapevine wine. www.GrapevineWineryTrail.com

• Christmas Capital of Texas®, November 2015 – January 2016: Unwrap the magic of the season in Grapevine, the Christmas Capital of Texas! Grapevine celebrates Christmas with more 1,400 events in 40-plus days and is the perfect place to celebrate with your family and friends this year. Millions of magical lights, enormous decorations, Christmas events and more perfectly capture the spirit of Christmas in Grapevine. Events include North Pole Express® November 27, 28 and 29; December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23) ICE! and Lone Star Christmas at Gaylord Texan Resort (November – January), Bass Pro Shop’s Santa’s Wonderland, Light Show Spectacular, Carol of Lights (November 23), Parade of Lights (December 3), Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge, Main Street LIVE’s Christmas Shows and classic Christmas movies at the Historic Palace Theatre, Christmas Wine Trains (December 10 and 17), after Christmas train rides and much more. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Christmas.

Many of Grapevine’s hotels offer special rates and packages during annual festival and events. For hotel information, tickets or more information regarding Grapevine’s festivals and events, please contact the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-457-6338 or 817-410-3185 or visit www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com.

Spend A Weekend In Detroit

detroit
I spent a couple days emerged in Detroit’s Motown music history and experienced a Detroit that is “catching the bounce”. I was a bit hesitant to vist at first. It has been a good five years since I’ve been in Detroit and my last visit wasn’t very impressive. However, I’ve been hearing tidbits here and there over the past year that Detroit was on the rise and should be on my radar for a visit.

After spending a couple days in Motown I have to say I’m really impressed with Detroit’s comeback; if ever there was a city that should be dubbed a Phoenix, it should probably be Detroit. From bankruptcy, high unemployment and crime sprees to a vibrant, cleaned upped city that people are proud to call home. I’m thrilled to share Detroit’s bounce back with you.
detroit

I kicked off my visit with lunch at The Majestic Theater. The Majestic Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to 3 concert venues, 2 bars, the oldest operating bowling alley operating in the U.S., Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizzeria & Deli and the Majestic Cafe. After a tour of the Majestic I enjoyed a delicious meal at the cafe. Typically I only order seafood when I’m visiting a coastal destination, but I decided to live dangerously and ordered the Lobster Mac & Cheese. It was so very good! I also taste tested the brussel sprouts, sweet potato fries, and crab cakes. Nothing disappointed my taste buds. I have to make my way back to the Majestic for some concerts and bowling. It looked like too much fun.

detroit
The Motown Museum was up next. It opened in 1985 to preserve the history of Motown music and “tells the story of how a man’s vision turned into one of the largest, most successful record companies of all time and how the music captured the hearts of young people, not only in America, but across the globe.” (http://www.motownmuseum.org/about-the-museum/). All museum visits are by guided tour and lasts about 45 minutes. Our guide was young, enthusiastic, and very knowledge about the museum. She told great stories about Barry Gordy, who started Motown Music, and the artists that recorded in Studio A. Groups like the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Supremes, and Temptations all recorded in Studio A. The Motown history in Studio A is pretty stunning AND during the tour I stood and sang in the studio. It was pretty fantastic!

detroit

detroit

I topped off the Motown Museum experience by going to see Motown, The Musical at the Fisher Theater (gorgeous theater and worth a visit even if there isn’t a show). The production showcased almost all of the Motown hits and it’s easy to find yourself singing along. My Girl, which I sang in Studio A earlier in the day, was sung on stage that night. I love when things come full circle. Other favorites included Dancing in the Street, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Pie), I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Money (That’s What I Want), Stop In The Name Of Love and so many more. Of course, watching Motown, The Musical in Motown gives the musical an extra little kick.

detroit
The next morning it was a tour with Kim of Show Me Detroit Tours to see how Detroit is making its significant comeback. Clean streets, new businesses, community activities, festivals and more are now a vibrant part of downtown. The current hockey arena is going to be torn down and a new arena is being built near Comerica Park and Ford Field which will allow the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions and the Detroit Red Wings to all be located in close proximity to each other for one giant sport complex. A street car is being installed along Woodward Ave (one of Detroit’s main streets) and will be a 3.3 mile circuitous route passing my some of Detroit’s hot spots.

detroit
No visit to the city would be complete without stepping inside the Guardian Building. This Art Deco building is a hidden treasure in the city and is jaw dropping beautiful on the inside. Multiple parks dot the waterfront and provide a great place to have a picnic or to relax.

detroit

After spending the morning exploring Detroit I stopped in at Bert’s in Eastern Market (a 6-block farmers market in operation since 1891) for lunch. Bert’s is tied to Motown music as well. Bert’s co-owner, Miller London, was the very first African American record salesman for Motown Records. Bert’s offers goo southern food and bbq.

detroit

Overall it was a fantastic trip through the city. If you are looking for a weekend getaway I really recommend a visit to Detroit. Learn more by visiting www.visitdetroit.com.

Welcome back Detroit, you make this Michigander proud.

Winter Fun in Petoskey, MI

Petoskey
When winter arrives in the Petoskey Area, it brings a vibe that’s full of energy, vitality and a zest for fun. It’s an uplifting feeling that covers our ski slopes, shopping districts and special events like a blanket of fresh snow. And it’s one more reason so many people call our area a Michigan treasure.

During the month of January there are a lot of fun activities so bundle up, get outside and have fun in Petoskey, MI!

Discover Michigan Skiing
Now through January 31
Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls,
Boyne Highlands Resort and Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs

Winter is a great time of year — if you get out and enjoy it. So why not learn how to ski and snowboard? Play in the snow with the pros at Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain and Nub’s Nob, and bring your friends to have fun, too. January is “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month” in Michigan and this program offers beginners a great way to learn at an affordable rate. Call for information on discounted rates and to make reservations for this great offer from Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain and Nub’s Nob.

Boyne Highlands SnowSports Academy
(231) 526-3056, boyne.com/boynehighlands or snowsports2@boynehighlands.com
Boyne Mountain SnowSports Academy
(231) 549-6056, boyne.com/boynemountain or snowsports1@boynemountain.com
Nub’s Nob Winter Sports School
(800) SKI-NUBS or nubsnob.com

Bay Harbor Ice & Spice Festival
Jan 16 – 17, 2015
Bay Harbor

At the Bay Harbor Ice & Spice Festival, you’ll see professional and amateur carving competitions where blocks of ice are turned into works of art. These are some pretty amazing masterpieces! Bay Harbor is one of the stops on the National Tournament of Champions for ice carving, and this event is sanctioned by the National Ice Carving Association. More than $12,000 in cash awards will be given away on Saturday. See if your favorite takes home the top prize!

Prizes will also be awarded at the Pro-Am Ice & Spice Chili Challenge, a chili cook-off hosted by the Bay Harbor Association. Taste the culinary creations in both professional and amateur divisions and vote for your favorite.

Also on the schedule is a “Find Frosty” contest for the kids, plus numerous other winter activities for the entire family. The event will conclude with a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday evening in the Village. 231.439.2650

50th Annual Moose Jaw Safari
Jan 17, 2015
Harbor Springs

Join us as we celebrate fifty years of Moose Jaw excitement. There are a few different stories of how the Moose Jaw Safari got its name. The most popular tale told about the 1965 ride relays how the group left Harbor Springs and made it to Moose Jaw Road before turning back. It took several hours to get that far (approximately 20 miles) and the group had used up most of the spare plugs, belts and fuel. Most riders of today’s sleds have no idea how hard it was to go any distance at all on early sleds!

The Moose Jaw Safari starts at 8:30am. This year, the Naubinway Snowmobile Museum will be our special guest. Ride your vintage sled, and you won’t need a Trail Pass or Registration for this event. There’s plenty of room for truck and trailer parking. Take M119 to Harbor Springs and turn left on Hoyt Street. Come on out and ride, Sally, ride! This is an easy ride that will take 2 hours with 15-minute stops. We usually stop 3 times during the ride to visit and keep the group together. Ride our most scenic trails on the way to Larks Lake. The famous bean soup will be ready at noon. You can drive your car to the bean pot, and we have use of the Center Township Hall at Larks Lake. With or without snow, we will still meet at the bean pot for fiftieth anniversary festivities.

Stafford’s Wedding Show
Jan 18, 2015
Bay View

Come to Stafford’s Wedding Show from noon to 3pm and spend the afternoon planning your perfect day with a variety of vendors and wedding professionals. From photographers to bakeries, you can have all of your questions answered at Stafford’s Bay View Inn, one of four of Stafford’s beautiful reception site options. Come see all the latest in bridal trends and enter to win great prizes. Brides & grooms are admitted FREE! 800.258.1886

Boyne City Winterfest
Jan 24, 2015
Boyne City

There’s so much fun to be had in Boyne City. Starting at noon on Saturday, Winterfest brings games, music, a chili cook-off, fat bike races and cross-country skiing. Merchants are even opening their doors for an indoor sidewalk sale. Nearly everything in this family-friendly event is free. Activities are at Sunset Park, Old City Park and other locations throughout Boyne City. Visit the website for times and locations. Come have a blast at Winterfest! 231.582.6222

Take A Drive On Ireland’s Wild West Way – The World’s Longest Coastal Driving Route

Ready to take a drive on the wild side? I didn’t know this until recently but Ireland has the World’s Longest Coastal Driving Route from Donegal to Cork along the Atlantic coast. If you are planning a trip to Ireland than you should definitely plan taking a drive on the Wild West Way!

Historic homes, castles, abbeys, festivals, golf courses, trails, gardens, farms, art galleries, national forest and parks and so much more. The infographic below, provided by Ardna Sidhe Country House,  shares the best of the best to do in each region of the drive. I know I’m looking forward to the Irish coffee.

With any luck Kathleen and I will be hopping across the pond and visiting the Emerald Isle later this year. We are looking forward to sharing all our incredible adventures with you. What do you want to know about Ireland?

Ard-na-Sidhe-the-wild-atlantic-way-

COMBINE BERLIN’S CHRISTMAS MARKETS WITH THE BEST SIGHTSEEING

ChristmasMarketJena

Thinking about visiting Berlin to experience the city’s famous Christmas markets?  It’s easy to combine them with some great sightseeing to make your break in the German capital extra special.

According to the experts at Berlin Pass (www.berlinpass.com) many of the city’s best attractions are within easy walking distance of the biggest Christmas markets.  By planning in advance you can ensure you don’t miss out on the sights while you’re enjoying Berlin’s special festive atmosphere.  For the perfect Christmas sightseeing trip, here are the five markets they recommend:

Gendarmenmarkt
(11am to 10pm, access via Französische Str, Stadtmitte or Hausvogteiplatz U-Bahn stations)
With its impressive setting between the city’s Deutscher Dom church, French cathedral and Konzerthaus concert hall in the central district of Mitte, this Christmas market is popular for its unique hand-made products and attracts more than 600,000 visitors each year.

It’s also the perfect choice if you also want to visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.  Just 10 minutes’ walk away, the museum tells the story of the Berlin Wall and the many Cold War escape attempts made by East Berliners.  Alternatively, combine the market with the Pergamon Museum (a 13-minute walk), the city’s most frequented museum which is home to an exquisite collection of classical treasures.

Also close by:  The KunstHalle Deutsche Bank (4 minutes), Humboldt Box (10 minutes), Jewish Museum (15 minutes), Bode Museum (15 minutes).

Weihnachtszeit at Rotes Rathaus
(12pm-10pm Mon-Fri, 11am-10pm Sat & Sun, access via Alexanderplatz or Klosterstrasse U-Bahn)
Set in front of the beloved Rotes Rathaus (‘red city hall’) in the heart of Mitte, this market is one of Berlin’s oldest, with traditional 19th-century style stalls.  But there’s also a 50-metre Ferris wheel and a 600 square metre ice rink!

Just three minutes’ walk away is the Nikolaikirche (Church of St Nicholas), Berlin’s oldest church which dates back to the founding of the city in the 13th century.  And across the street is the magnificent rococo Ephraim-Palais, housing exhibitions on Berlin’s artistic and cultural history.  Alternatively, take to the saddle with Fat Tire Bike Tours  -  on Wednesdays and Saturdays they run a four-hour city tour which starts and finishes at the Alexanderplatz just three minutes’ walk from the market.

Also close by:  the city’s Museum Island, offering the Berliner Dom (8 minutes), Egyptian Museum (11 minutes), Neues Museum (11 minutes), Altes Museum (11 minutes), Alte National Gallery (11 minutes).

Wintertraum am Alexa
(2pm-10pm Mon-Fri, 12pm-10pm Sat & Sun, access via Klosterstrasse or Alexanderplatz U-Bahn)
Berlin’s most modern Christmas market, adjacent to the Alexa shopping centre at the Alexanderplatz public square.  With its Ferris wheel and rollercoasters, this market is particularly popular with Berlin’s teenagers.

At the Markisches Museum (9 minutes’ walk away) learn about the history of Berlin from the first traces of settlement through a series of themed rooms.  Or why not join an Insider Walking Tours ‘Cold War Berlin’ guided tour and discover the world of Soviet secrets and CIA spies?  Taking place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the tour ends at around 2pm at the Alexanderplatz right on the doorstep of the Christmas market!

Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
(10am-10pm, access via Potsdamer Platz U-Bahn)
Located in another famous public square, West Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, this is much more than a Christmas market.  With regular live music and a rodelbahn  -  tobogganing on giant tyres  -  it’s no surprise that more than 2.5 million Germans and tourists come to Winterwelt!

A short nine-minute walk away you’ll find a world of Cubism, Expressionism and Bauhaus at the striking glass Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery).  Even closer are the Berlin Film Museum (2 minutes’ walk) and the Gemäldegalerie (8 minutes), one of the world’s most important collections of 13th-18th century European paintings.  And Insider Walking Tours’ ‘Third Reich Berlin’ tour finishes less than 10 minutes away on the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters.

Also close by:  Musical Instrument Museum (6 minutes), Kunstbibliothek (8 minutes), Brandenburg Gate (12 minutes).

Gedächtniskirche
(11am-9pm Sun to Thurs, 10am-10pm Friday and Saturday, access via Kurfürstendamm or Zoologischer Garten U-Bahn)
Set around the remnants of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on the ‘Ku’damm’, Berlin’s answer to Oxford Street, this market boasts 170 stalls with a huge range of different products, food and drink on offer.

Art-lovers will want to take the opportunity to visit the nearby Kunstforum der Berliner Volksbank (7 minutes away), which presents world-class exhibitions, tours and creative workshops; also within easy reach is the city’s Photography Museum showcasing the work of Helmut Newton, one of the most important fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th century.

And finally …
All five of the above Christmas markets are right on the route of Berlin’s ‘hop-on, hop-off’ sightseeing bus tour, running every 20-40 minutes until 3pm  -  all you need to do is pick your favourite and hop off!

Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Epic Savings Event

Cabana Bay Beach Resort

If you have ever dreamed about booking a trip to Universal Orlando to experience the thrilling rides and family friendly atmosphere, then now is the time. What about Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley? Have you been dying to visit and take your first spin on the new Escape from Gringots ride? Throw caution to the wind and take a peak at the great deal begin offered at Universal Orlando’ Cabana Bay Beach Resort for the next 72 hours!

What is the Epic Savings Event?

For the next 72 hours, when you book a 3 night stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort you can score 2 free tickets to see the Blue Man Group. We saw this last year, and the boys still rave about it, it is a must see for sure!

How much do rooms cost at Cabana Bay Beach Resort? Right now, you can score a room at this amazing family friendly resort complete with a lazy river, bowling alley and two pools for only $99 per night!

Cabana Bay Lazy River

Check out the full details of the offer below!

Includes the following benefits:

  • Book a three-night on-site hotel stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort starting at $99 per night plus tax.
  • Receive two complimentary Blue Man Group tickets
  • Complimentary upgrade to a Family Suite
  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • For more information or to book a stay, visit: www.universalorlando.com/EpicSavings

*Minimum 3-night stay, Sunday – Thursday only. For select travel dates from Nov. 4, 2014 to Feb. 12, 2015.Blockout dates apply Dec. 25 – Jan. 3, 2015.

What are you waiting for? If you’ve dreamed of a family trip to Universal Orlando, it will be hard to find a deal as good as this, but hurry, it only lasts for 72 hours!

A Visit to Indiana Caverns (spoiler alert- it involves an underground boat ride!)

Indiana Caverns
I remember visiting a cavern/cave system in Texas when I was in middle school, and although I can’t remember every detail, it left a curious mark on me. I was fascinated by the underground world, beautiful cave structures, and constant climate.

Fast forward to early fall of this year. When I received an invite to Corydon, Indiana, and read that underground caverns were on the itinerary, I was on board. My first stop was to Indiana Caverns the largest cave system in Indiana. At present day, there’s over 40 miles of the Brinkley Cave system and it’s growing compliments of the continuous excavation and research.

Indiana Caverns

The 80-minute tour shows visitors the amazing features of Indiana Caverns, including stalactites, stalagmites, and water sources. We walked by a waterfall, were shown animals indigenous to the cave system, and even took an underground boat ride. Yep, you read that correctly. The pontoon-style boat took us through parts of the cave system that would not be accessible unless we were in hip waders. given that the cave system maintains a constant temperature of 57 degrees year-round, water at that temperature is a bit too cold for me.

At one point, our knowledgeable tour guide cut all of the lights that give the cavern its only source of visibility and asked us all to remain silent for a few seconds to show what animals and even humans encountered when they entered the cave hundreds of years ago.

Indiana Caverns

Speaking of animals, Indiana Caverns does a fab job of showing off their amazing collection of animal bones dating from the Ice Age including Peccary and Bison. An ongoing excavation is finding more discoveries with each session and if you’re the inquisitive cave type, you can actually join in on a Paleo dig with scientists. The Paleo dig is a separate cost from general tour admission, but the thrill would definitely outweigh the cost if you’re a cavern fan like I am.

The Details

Indiana Caverns offers guided tours year round from 9am-5pm, seven days a week. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, you’ve got 363 other days to choose from. Prices for visitors are $19 for adults, $10 for children 4-12. There are discounts for groups as well. Indiana Caverns is not handicap accessible but anyone that can walk up and down stairs with no issues will definitely enjoy the tour. I would happily return for a visit again and consider the underground boat ride a highlight of my autumn season.

Disclosure: I was hosted by Indiana Caverns for the purpose of giving you fine folks the scoop on my family’s fabulous time. I was not asked to state a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

Karyn Locke is Trekaroo’s  Marketing and Social Media Guroo and newly-appointed Mid-America Guroo. A former military brat who caught the travel bug at a very early age, Karyn loves road tripping with her family and writing about her travels from small town Ohio at  Sand and Snow...and everywhere in between!