About Travel Features Syndicate

Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including examiner.com, Huffington Post and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate and blogs at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at FamTravLtr@aol.com. 'Like' us at www.facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Travelling the Oahu Coastlines with a Multi-Generational Group

By Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The backpackers who did Europe on $5 a day on summer breaks from college are now BabyBoomers with grandkids, still with the travel bug that they want to share with their children and grandchildren. Multi-generational travel is now one of the booming trends in travel but aside from going to a ski resort or a cruise, the logistics of a more complicated itinerary with lots of sightseeing may be daunting. With only three full days on Oahu, Hawaii, we wanted to see as much of the physical island as we could, while visiting attractions that would be interesting for a multi-generation group from 6 to 60 years old. Take a look how we did it:

Day One: Southwestern Coastline

1. We flew out early in the morning from Maui – the flight was quick and easy, under an hour on Hawaiian Airlines.
2. We picked up the rental car from the airport, and drove south from Honolulu along the scenic Kalaniana‘ole Highway (Highway 72), which brought us to the beautiful, scenic Hanauma Bay — just minutes by car or bus from Waikiki hotels. After a forced reduction in visitors to the bay and enforced restrictions placed on activities around the bay since the 1990s, Hanauma Bay has been restored to a pristine coral reef and marine ecosystem that is now an excellent local destination for snorkeling by all ages and experience.
3. On the side of the highway, we passed Koko Head crater, which has a steep trail of 1,050 railroad tie steps that reward climbers with a panoramic view of the island. If you plan to climb to the top, we recommend wearing tennis shoes or good hiking shoes, wear a hat with a brim, and bring water.
4. We stopped along the way at the Halona Blowhole Lookout to catch the sparkling, ocean water spray rise up through the blowhole, and to view down into the pristine Halona Cove.

“Halona Cove, Oahu, HI,” (©Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com)

The cove was made famous in the classic love scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the 1953 movie, ”From Here to Eternity.” Halona Cove was also used for “Whitecap Bay” scenes in the movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”.

5. At the eastern end of the island, we arrived at Sea Life Park (https://www.sealifeparkhawaii.com/). For over 50 years, Park staff has been educating the islands’ residents and other park visitors about their preservation and conservation marine animal programs through hands-on, interactive animal encounters and tours on park grounds.

Committed to animal care, Sea Life Park is the only place in the US where green sea turtles (“honu” in Hawaiian language) have been reproducing successfully in captivity since the first pair were given to them in the 1970s by the State of Hawaii. With the success of over 17,000 hatchlings released from the park’s adult breeding program, the green sea turtle has been taken off of the “endangered” list. The Park offers turtle meet and greets, when visitors get to learn how to properly touch the shell of the turtles.

The Park also prides itself with the success of its sea bird rehabilitation program. Since 2005, over 4000 birds have been rescued and released by the Park. They have an over 80% success rate caring for fledgling (young) birds each year who arrive at the park either dehydrated or malnourished after being disoriented by the nighttime illumination on the island. The caretakers even perform flight therapy on the birds for wing issues and water training with the young birds to help them learn to hunt for fish. At times, some of the birds remain at the sanctuary for months – during our visit, we saw two large resident sea birds – a Booby and a Great Frigate.

“Learning to Touch a Green Sea Turtle at Sea Life Park, Oahu” (©Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com)

Other attractions worthy of visiting Oahu’s Sea Life Park include:
● A netted, outdoor aviary allows visitors of all ages to have a closeup encounter with love birds and cockatiels by hand feeding them.
● The dolphin show is an educational program which showcases the world’s only “wholphin” — the only known living hybrid offspring of an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and a false killer whale (another dolphin breed). She performs leaps and other behaviors along with her own daughter who was sired by another bottlenose dolphin. None of the bottlenose dolphins in the attraction were acquired from a hunt. The Park’s dolphin experts and trainers, alongside their dolphins, have worked jointly with the Navy on echo-location/sonar studies.
● Shark Cave is a 300,000–gallon tank with native Hawaiian sharks, such as sandbar, whitetip reef, and blacktip reef sharks.

Park hours are daily 9:30am – 4pm; parking is $5. General admission is $39.99 (13 and older); $24.99 (3-12 years); infants and toddlers are free. Check out the Sea Life Park web site (https://www.sealifeparkhawaii.com/plan-a-visit/tickets-and-programs) for pricing of the many interactive programs and tours for kids and adults with dolphins, sea lions, and sharks. Lockers, strollers, and wheelchairs are available for rental, each for a nominal fee.

The Park’s “Ka Moana” Luau is the only luau on the east side of the island. This luau celebrates the connection between ocean life and the Polynesians who historically looked to the ocean for sustenance. Prior to the dinner and show, luau guests participate in cultural activities like stringing a lei, weaving coconut fronds, playing a ukulele, and learning to dance hula. The show’s highlight is the Samoan fire-knife dance. The Ka Maona Luau runs nightly except Thursdays and Saturdays. Park admission is included with the luau packages, which start at $99/adult, $87/ages 13-17, $74/ages 4-12, and free for toddlers and infants. Reserve seats in advance online or call (808) 926-3800. Only half hour door to door from Honolulu (with no stops in between), round-trip transportation is also available from the Waikiki hotels for an additional $16 (reserve 48 hours prior to your reservation date).

Day Two: Northern Coastline

1. From the Pearl Harbor area, we drove north on Hwy H3 — this is a beautiful and safe, multi-lane highway that cuts across in the center of the island. The highway led us into Kaneohe on the north side of the island. We followed Hwy 83/King Kameameha Highway to Kualoa Ranch, enjoying the beautiful mountains and ocean views along the way. While in Kaneohe, we located the area where Laurie grew up for part of her childhood, as well as her elementary school – this was significant for our group, as it was Laurie’s first time returning to Oahu since her family left to visit her childhood stomping grounds.

2. What do “Jurassic World”, “King Kong”, and “Lost” have in common? These and hundreds of other movies and tv shows were filmed at the beautiful, 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch in Kaneohe. The Ranch is known as Hollywood’s “Hawaii backlot”.

We had booked the 90-minute “Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour”. The driver/guide took us around the ranch’s beautiful Hakipu`u “Jurassic” Valley in a vintage school bus, pointing out specific locations where the Jurassic franchise and other movies and tv shows were filmed. We stopped at a large, WWII bunker that has been used for indoor movie and tv scenes (visualize the basement in Jurassic World). Each room in the brightly lit bunker contains movie posters and artifacts and memorabilia. Our guide even brought a stuffed dinosaur for our favorite photo of a somewhat realistic, Jurassic World dino encounter. You may also bring your own dinosaur for the Jurassic photo opportunity!

A Jurassic dinosaur graveyard at Kualoa Ranch, Oahu (©Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com)

For pricing and to reserve one of the movie tours and other ranch activities, including jeep tours, e-biking, kayaking, and ziplining, go to the Kualoa Ranch web site, https://www.kualoa.com, or call their reservation line at 808-237-7321. If you are uncertain which tour or activity to book, the knowledgeable Ranch reservation agents when you call will make recommendations that will fit your interests, ages, and level of risk-taking. As tours sell out 2-3 weeks in advance, the Ranch suggests booking early.

Guests are expected to arrive 45 minutes before the registered tour or activity starts – we strongly recommend getting there early, as one long line is used to check in for the many concurrent activities and tours. If you are still in line at your reserved time, you may actually miss the tour or activity.

The Ranch also offers transportation from Waikiki resorts — the roundtrip rate is $15/person, and only $10/person when you purchase any activity package.

3. After the Movie Tour, we drove over to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), just 20 minutes south of the Ranch. The PCC offers a number of park admission options and packages. We recommend purchasing a package with at least the luau and evening show, for the quality and value you receive. We purchased the “Ali’i Luau Package” ($122.95/adult (12+); $98.36/child (ages 4-11); toddlers 3 and under are free), which includes admission with self-guided tour through the six island villages using a free app we downloaded on our phones and tablets; the Ali’i Luau Buffet & Dinner Show; and Ali’i level seating at “Ha: Breath of Life” evening show. As there is so much to see and do, Park admission includes a free second day of admission within the same week (except Sunday when the Park is closed).

The PCC park grounds is split up into six different island centers: Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, and Hawaii. The indigenous performers at each center are primarily local college students who were raised in that particular culture. These students help visitors learn about their culture through interactive games, dances, and live demonstrations. We didn’t just watch performances, but participated in many activities that helped us understand the cultural history, traditions, and daily lives of the Polynesians. To bring it all together, the PCC produces a mid-afternoon outdoor show, called “HUKI: A Canoe Experience.” The beautiful, emotional Polynesian music and colorful dancers tell the story of how these nations went from fighting each other to being unified, while on large rafts which float along the river that runs through the middle of the park.

The “HUKI: A Canoe Experience” at Polynesian Cultural Center Oahu. (©Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com)

Our group was booked for the last luau of the day, which worked out perfectly for us, as we were able to get through most of the PCC island centers. We were greeted with orchid leis, then escorted to best available seats. There are no “bad” seats in the large, terraced semi-circle dining around the stage. Some seats, however, may require you to turn your chair around to view the stage. The PCC offers an impressive luau buffet of traditional and colorful foods. Each Polynesian island in the park was represented in the music and dance festivities, as well as an exceptional fire performance by a 12-yr old young man. The emcee also had guests come up for special occasions, such as birthdays and newly married couples.

Our package also included pre-assigned seats to the “Ha: Breath of Life” evening show. The live cast and multimedia performance is in an amphitheatre located outside the main park entrance. The theme is the importance of family in the Polynesian culture – the love of family, respect for elders in life and death, and respect for the land. Bring some tissue, as this powerful story tugs at your heartstrings.

The entire park is stroller and handicap accessible. The Polynesian Cultural Center offers a limited number of wheelchairs on a first-come first-served basis with a $20.00 deposit fee ($10.00 is refunded when the wheelchair is returned). To reserve a wheelchair, contact the PCC Customer Care Center at 800-367-7060 or email your request to customercare@polynesia.com. Electric scooters are rented through the Center’s partner, Scooterville, for $40.00 plus tax/day. Go to https://www.pccscooters.com/ to reserve a scooter. Another tip – if you wish to rent a scooter, do it a few weeks before you plan to go to the Center. When we arrived one hour after the park opened, we were told that they had no other scooters, except for the one we reserved for Marty.

Day Three: Southwestern Coastline

From the Pearl Harbor area, we drove along Route 93 through cute coastal towns to Waianae, where we joined the Dolphin Excursions crew for a three-hour snorkel/swim tour. Dolphin Excursions specializes in small group excursions on their state-of-the-art 34-foot, rigid inflatable boat with a lifeguard-certified crew of marine biologists. The purpose of the tour was to swim/snorkel near wild Spinner dolphins and sea turtles while riding parallel to the southwest, Oahu coastline. The smallest of the Pacific dolphins, the Gray’s Spinner dolphins swim in small pods and frequent the southwestern, calm, coastal waters of Oahu. During the winter months (January through March), you may also see migrating humpback whales making their way to Maui.

Spinner Dolphin off of Oahu coastline (photo courtesy of Dolphin Excursions Hawaii)

Captain Jenna navigated along the coastline using state of the art sonar to locate the pods. We weren’t disappointed – we found green sea turtles and Spinner dolphins doing vertical spins. One of the pods wouldn’t let us get too close to them, as they were protecting a newborn dolphin calf — it was the smallest dolphin any of us in our group had ever seen!

Once we found the dolphins, we put on our life vests and snorkeling gear, and jumped into the calm ocean water from the side of the boat. The crew assisted those in our group who were new to snorkeling, to help them feel comfortable using the snorkel gear and swimming in deeper water where you- we were 20-30 feet above coral reefs.

The “Dolphin Excursion package” ($140/adult (13+ years old), $95/child (4-12 years old)) includes snorkeling equipment for kids and adults and a post-trip meal at the restaurant next door to the Dolphin Excursions office;. Round-trip transportation to and from Waikiki and Ko Olina hotels is also included in the package. The water around the island is cold, so the office also offers rentals of shorty wetsuits for an additional fee. To make reservations, contact the company directly at (808) 239-5579, or go to their web site, https://dolphinexcursions.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New Orleans: It’s Not ‘All About The Jazz’ Destination Wedding Guest Discovers

One of the most festive traditions of a New Orleans destination wedding is the Second Line parade. Here the newly married couple leads the line through the Bywater district ©Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin
Photos by Laurie Millman and Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Laurie spent years staying away from New Orleans, Louisiana, with the excuse that she didn’t enjoy jazz enough to go there. Recently, though, we found ourselves in the Mississippi River delta city to attend a family destination wedding. After five days in New Orleans (affectionately known by its acronym – NOLA), we can now say that this is one of the most exciting and interesting cities we’ve visited. It is certainly a destination to return to, perhaps at Mardi Gras time!

We stayed in the old, quaint French Quarter at The W New Orleans (316 Chartres St., (504) 581-1200, https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/msywh-w-new-orleans-french-quarter/) — a Marriott property with rooms that surround a serene, outdoor garden, fountain, and pool. The modern style of our hotel room contrasted with our balcony view of the colorful, historic buildings built during the city’s French and Spanish periods, with distinctive French Quarter pastel colors and balconies decorated with rod-iron scrollwork.

Prior to travelling to New Orleans, it was recommended to us to forego a rental car as long as we planned to stay primarily in or around the French Quarter and the other New Orleans neighborhoods. We found that Ubers, Lyfts, and taxis were never more than 5 minutes away, and usually inexpensive – and then we didn’t have to deal with the nightmare of parking.

For sightseeing around the city, we recommend using the red, double-decker bus marked, “24-hour Hop-on Hop-off City Bus Tour.” This bus follows a loop around New Orleans, going through the colorful neighborhoods. With a day pass, passengers may stay on the bus the entire time and learn about the NOLA neighborhoods from the bus guides, and get off and back on at various stops along the route to spend more time exploring. (https://www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com/new-orleans-bus-tours)

Walking tours abound in the French Quarter with guides retelling stories about events, pirates, voodoo queens, and hauntings. Our private walk around the historic Quarter was fun and interesting: we stopped to read the plaques describing the French and Spanish history, visited little boutiques and galleries, checked out themed bars and restaurants, checked out a few unique museums, and strolled through the beautifully groomed parks.

NOLA Electric Streetcar Trolley Stop © Laurie Millman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com


For an historic mode of transportation, NOLA offers an electric streetcar trolley system. The St. Charles line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world. All four of the NOLA lines either run along or intersect with Canal Street in the area between the French Quarter and the Central Business District. A standard, one-way fare on a streetcar is very reasonable at only $1.25 per person. However, a word of warning: the trolley system was not the quickest form of travel, and we had to wait at least 15 minutes before a trolley arrived to pick us up.

Night on Frenchman Street, New Orleans © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com


NOLA knows how to party — 24×7 — both inside and outside the many bars and restaurants. We saw visitors out and about at all hours carrying alcohol between bars and restaurants in the French Quarter. Live music abounds in venues, on street corners, and in the parks, throughout the day and night. We noticed colorful beads from past Mardi Gras celebrations layered like tinsel on the trees lining the city streets. We listened to the sounds of the city as we enjoyed breakfast and afternoon snack on the balcony of our French Quarter room.

Second Line brass bands marched down our street and through the French Quarter throughout the day and evening – one of the most popular traditions during a New Orleans wedding (we experienced this first hand for our own for our wedding party!) – a common occurrence and one of the many reasons New Orleans is one of the most popular venues for destination weddings.

A NOLA tradition, the Second Line parade consists of the “first line” with the brass band, their colorful, dancing drum major, and the casket of a passed loved one, or, in this case honored living people, like a bride and groom.

For a wedding, the Second Line signifies the start of a new beginning of life for the bride and groom. A Brass band leads the bridal party and the guests from the ceremony to the reception venue or it may take place at the reception itself. The first line is usually a brass band and the ones being honored, the newlyweds. The newly married couple leads the second line holding decorated umbrellas or parasols. The guests who join in the celebration make up the second line, forming a line behind the band and the newly married couple, as they all dance and stroll through the streets to lively music waving handkerchiefs.

One of the most festive traditions of a New Orleans destination wedding is the Second Line parade. Here the newly married couple leads the line through the Bywater district ©Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com


Soon enough, instead of watching a Second Line brass band from our balcony, we were parading in ourselves, as the newly married couple we came to New Orleans to celebrate and wedding guests were led on a New Orleans musical journey around the artsy Bywater neighborhood near the French Quarter.

Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is legendary for its barhopping and music. Only about a mile from Bourbon Street and our hotel, we also found a real gem of bars, restaurants, and local artists selling their art late at night on Frenchman Street. We came back to this street often for the diverse live music and food, as well as to purchase gifts for the family from the artists. We enjoyed sharing small plates and meaty gumbo at the Three Muses Restaurant (517 Frenchmen St., (504) 252-4801), while listening to a jazz pianist playing some of our favorite Scott Joplin Ragtime jazz songs.

The scene at Café Negril © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com


We dropped in to the Spotted Cat, a small bar with a live band playing traditional Dixie jazz, then went across the street to Cafe Negril (606 Frenchmen St, (504) 229-4236), for drinks and to listen to our favorite Caribbean sounds being expertly played and sung by a large reggae and funk band. We came back another night for Cajun and American food at The Maison (508 Frenchman), where we listened to two different local jazz bands — the stage in the back of the restaurant had a band playing and people dancing when we first walked in but by the time we were into our dinner; a second band had set up and played from the small stage at the front of the restaurant.

Cafe Du Monde server line with trays of beignets and drinks © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com


Besides the music for which NOLA is known, the major attraction is its food – NOLA has some of the most unique local foods in the US, from traditional Louisiana Po-Boy sandwiches (usually roast beef or fried seafood, often shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters or crab), meat or shrimp gumbo (like a thick soup), and beignets (donut pastry with powdered sugar). Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter is a popular open-air coffee shop that serves only beignets along with non-alcoholic drinks (800 Decatur St, in front of Jackson Square, 504-581-2914). Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar offers traditional seafood po-boy sandwiches, fried and boiled seafood, gumbo, raw oysters, char-grilled oysters, blackened seafood (3203 Williams Boulevard, (504) 443-6454). Cafe Degas is located a few blocks from the house where Edgar Degas lived while in NOLA. The restaurant offers French bistro food (mussels, in-season soft shell crab,frites, escargot, French onion soup) in a setting where a large pecan tree grows through the dining room, giving the feeling of an open-air patio (3127 Esplanade Ave., (504) 945-5635).

NOLA is more than alcohol and music and food – it is a city with plenty of attractions for visitors of all ages. Go online or speak with your hotel’s concierge for suggestions, and to make reservations on tours and at restaurants. Also check with visitor centers around town for discounts through “Day Passes.”

Our attraction recommendations are:

Take a walking or bus tour to the historic and purportedly haunted locations in the French Quarter and local cemeteries. We joined an evening bus tour to four city cemeteries to look for evidence of hauntings, while learning about NOLA history from our resident guide. Although we did not experience a “haunting,” we viewed a Christian cemetery from the gates to look at the iconic NOLA “houses” for the dead, and walked around a Jewish cemetery to see if we “felt” anything, while our guide explained how this lower-than sea level town interns their dead when they can’t be buried six feet down. We also walked around the Hurricane Katrina Memorial Park (5056 Canal St.): six blank, black mausoleums were designed for the unnamed and unclaimed victims. They border the paths representing a hurricane’s spiral path, and lead to a central, vertical rock which depicts the eye of the storm.

Voodoo shop in the French Quarter © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com


In the center of the French Quarter is a little museum which preserves New Orleans’ unique history and culture of the practice of Voodoo. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is open seven days a week and most holidays, from 10AM to 6PM. General Admission is $7.00/person; $5.50/Seniors, Military, College Students with ID; $4.50/High School Student; $3.50 Kids under 12. (724 Dumaine St., www.voodoomuseum.com, (504) 680-0128).

The National WWII Museum is a complex of buildings with immersive, interactive, multimedia displays to help you learn about the WWII campaigns. Visitors first start out by obtaining a “dog tag” (think “card key”) and you “board” a simile of a train to be assigned a digital WWII service person. You can then learn about the individual’s experiences, and collect digital WWII artifacts at stations posted throughout the museum campus. The Museum is open daily, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (closed Mardi Gras Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.) General admission is $28/adult, $24/Seniors (65+); $18/Military (w/ID), college student with ID), child (K-12). (945 Magazine St,, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/ )

At the Aquarium, see Greta the Great White Shark sculpture from plastics reclaimed from oceans
© Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com


The Audubon Nature Institute has three facilities which offer visitors special NOLA experiences:

The Aquarium of the Americas (https://audubonnatureinstitute.org/aquarium; open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am-5pm) is a two-story building located along the waterfront, and accessible by public transportation, including the trolley car lines. We love visiting aquariums across the country, as each one showcases local fish, mammals, and birds. This is true for the NOLA aquarium, where the main floor leads you through indigenous marine creatures from the Gulf of Mexico, as well as jellyfish and the Mayan reef. On the second floor, you can visit the Mississippi River Gallery and an albino alligator. Also check out the penguins, sea otters, sharks, and marine animals from the Amazon rainforest.

While walking around upstairs, take a break for some pizza at Papa John’s or a bowl of Haagen Dazs ice cream. Don’t forget to walk around the ice cream bar to check out the large collection of colorful parakeets. Look for the large, fanciful sculptures which are scattered around the Aquarium and are made from reclaimed plastics from the oceans and seas. Without having to fly to the Maya Riviera in Mexico, you can treat yourself and others to a snorkeling experience in the Maya Reef exhibit, as well as schedule an up-close visit with the penguins and the sweet sea otters

To save $3 per Aquarium admission, go to the Audobon web site: $25.95/Adult; $17.95/Child (2-12); $20.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax and $1 transaction fee per ticket). You need to book the marine encounters in advance of your visit, either online or contact the Aquarium directly.

We walked into the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium (open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4:30pm), expecting to be in and out in an hour — three hours later, we walked out with amazing new experiences. This facility is a living museum, with many examples of live insects and a wonderful butterfly room with a koi pond. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by one of the facility’s entomologists, who walked with us and described each live insect in the long hallway cases and rooms. The entomologists rotate throughout the facility, always ready with a smile and a story to help you learn about the bugs.

A giant mealworm becomes food at Audubon Nature Institute’s Insectarium © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com


The same entomologists take turns in the ‘Bug Appétit’ Kitchen, six days a week. They prepare many of their own recipes to allow visitors to sample food made with edible insect ingredients. On the day we visited, we sampled roasted whole crickets with barbeque and other flavorings, chocolate “chirp” cookies with organic cricket flour, and crackers coated with garlic spread, humus, and cheese spread — all contained ground, roasted crickets or mealworms. Surprisingly, these delicacies all tasted quite good and turned out to be the highlight of our visit. As Mack, the head of Bug Appétit noted, “This is the wave of the future.” In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been promoting the increased consumption of insect protein around the world since 2003 — farming of edible insects produce low greenhouse emissions, and offer a sustainable and inexpensive source of protein, vitamins, and amino acids essential for humans.

The Insectarium price includes an animated, 4-D movie about superstar bugs and their outstanding achievements. “Awards Night,” is fun for all ages, with celebrity voices by Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, and Brad Garrett. The “Flea Market” gift shop has unique items to take home: Laurie purchased amber earrings and keychains with baby scorpions and other bugs as gifts for herself and the family!

To save $3 per Insectarium admission, purchase online at the Audubon web site: $18.95/Adult; $13.95/Child (2-12); $15.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax, $1 transaction fee per ticket).

The Audubon Zoo offers an animal-themed water splash park for all ages with three different splash zones and one area specifically for toddlers and younger kids. Grab an inner tube for a lazy ride along Gator Run, slide down a huge alligator water slide, run through spider monkey soakers and water-spitting snakes. Check the web site to confirm when the water park is open.

To save $3 per Zoo admission, purchase online at the Audubon web site: $18.95/Adult; $13.95/Child (2-12); $15.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax, $1 transaction fee).

If you plan to visit all three Audubon centers, the best value is to purchase the “Audubon Experience” ticket, which offers a savings of up to $30.90 per person: $44.95/Adult (plus sales tax); $34.95/Child (2-12) (plus sales tax); $37.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax).

The Music Box Village is an enchanted secret garden of art and music which brings out the kid in anyone © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com


The Music Box Village in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans was the location for the wedding which brought us to this part of the country (the bride, an artist who had done a couple of residencies in New Orleans, had a personal connection to the Music Box, and the groom had an American Roots band). The “Village” is a unique, outdoor, artist-created sculpture garden of life-sized, interactive musical houses. Each “house” is whimsically designed with different types of materials and equipment. The overarching purpose is to allow visitors of all ages to explore many different ways to make sounds and music. It is a magical, enchanted garden that turns anyone into a kid absolutely enthralled with making music. Check the Village’s web site for events while you are in town, so you, too, can experience this magical outdoor venue. (4557 N Rampart St., https://musicboxvillage.com)

Horsedrawn carriage passes by the Oldest Tavern in US, reputed to have been built between 1722 and 1732, in the French Quarter of New Orleans © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com


New Orleans turned 300 during 2019. “There is no city in the world like New Orleans. Influences from Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and indigenous peoples have made it the ultimate melting pot. And that diversity expresses itself in a multitude of ways that define New Orleans in the American imagination: music, food, language, and on and on. Though it’s been a long recovery from Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans isn’t just back on its feet, it is as vibrant as ever — particularly impressive for a 300-year old.

New Orleans & Company, the visitor bureau, has an excellent website to help plan your visit, including sample itineraries: 2020 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130, 800-672-6124, www.neworleans.com.

See more photos here:

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Historic Hotels of America Announces Top 25 Haunted Hotels

Jekyll Island Club Resort, Jekyll Island, Georgia, is among this year’s Historic Hotels of America Top 25 Most Haunted Hotels © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON, DC—Historic Hotels of America has over 300 hotels with long and storied histories. Some hotels have reported ghosts and paranormal activity throughout the halls and in guestrooms giving those who stay a fright. From ghosts who have been around since the Revolutionary War to jilted lovers, heartbroken, there are an abundance of ghostly sightings in historic hotels.

Here is a listing of the Top 25 Most Haunted Hotels:

Concord’s Colonial Inn (1716) Concord, Massachusetts
The original part of the Inn was built in the early 1700s before the Revolutionary War. With such a long and robust history, it’s no wonder there are spirits that still wander the halls of this historic hotel. One of the most famous, haunted and sought-after guestrooms is room 24. During the Revolutionary War, the right side of the Inn was privately owned by Dr. Timothy Minot. When patriot soldiers were injured at the Battles of Lexington and Concord at the North Bridge, they were brought to his home to be cared for. Dr. Minot used what is now the Liberty Room as a hospital and room 24 as an operating room. Several soldiers who were operated on in room 24 died during surgery. They were then carried directly downstairs into room 27, which was used as a morgue. It’s no wonder then that guests have reported lights flickering in room 27 or turning on and off completely. One guest woke up in the middle of the night and every light was on in the room, including the television! Others have heard hushed whispers coming from the closet and have seen the door to the room slamming shut on its own.

The Red Lion Inn (1773) Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Ghostly rumors continue to swirl at the inn which has seen the likes of many paranormal investigators and mediums. The fourth floor, in particular, has been said to have the most activity. Both cleaning staff and guests have claimed to see a “ghostly young girl carrying flowers” and “a man in a top hat.” It has been said that guests have awoken to the feeling of someone standing over them at the foot of the bed. Cold spots, unexplained knocks, and electrical disturbances have all been reported. Guestroom 301 is also known to be a haunted hot spot.

Omni Parker House, Boston (1855) Boston, Massachusetts
This hotel was opened by Harvey Parker and he was involved with the operations of the building until his death in 1884. Over the years, many guests have reported seeing him inquiring about their stay—a true “spirited” hotelier even after his death.

The Sagamore (1883) Bolton Landing, New York
The Sagamore has its own American ghost story. Opened in 1883 as a playground resort for summer residents of Millionaire’s Row, this rambling historic hotel sits in a 6 million-acre state park and is rumored to accommodate a ghost or two. Stories persist of the ghost of a silver-haired woman wearing a blue polka-dot dress descending from the second floor to the Trillium, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant.

1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (1886) Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The 1886 Crescent Hotel, well known today as being a mountaintop spa resort in the Arkansas Ozarks, was once used as a Cancer Curing Hospital which was under the control of the hospital’s owner, reported charlatan Norman Baker from Muscatine, Iowa. Baker operated his Eureka Springs’ facility from 1937 until December 1940. There are many paranormal patrons with terrifying tales to tell. Among those are Michael, the Irish stonemason who, while constructing the building back in 1885, fell to his death in the footprint of what is now Room 218. He has thought to be a frequent visitor to the room since the day of his death. There’s also Theodora – a patient and helper during the days when the hotel was owned Norman Baker, resides in Room 419. Guests have reported that she will put bags in front of the door from the inside making it hard for guests to open their door upon their return. Dozens and dozens of ghost like encounters, and creepy, unexplained occurrences happen at this hotel on a regular basis.

Jekyll Island Club Resort (1887) Jekyll Island, Georgia
Over the years, the Jekyll Island Club Resort has seen many families come and go since it opened in 1887. With all that time, comes the stories and mysteries, the staff, as well as guests have encountered firsthand. One such encounter involves the family of J.P. Morgan. Sans Souci, one of the buildings at the Jekyll Island Club Resort, is a handsome four-story structure erected in 1896 as one of the first condominiums to ever be built. It was built originally for families to use, including the family of J. Pierpont Morgan. His family rooms were located on the third floor, north end of the property facing the Jekyll River. He was particularly fond of the large porch which graced the front of his apartment allowing him a beautiful view of the river. Mr. Morgan was a lover of cigars. As the story goes, one could tell where he was by following the trail of smoke. In order to avoid criticisms for his favorite hobby, he would rise early every morning by 5 am to have a smoke on the porch. While most contemporary guests are not rising at such an early hour for a cigar, those who have stayed in the Morgan’s old apartment swear they have awakened to the faint smell of cigar smoke wafting about when there is absolutely no one else awake.

Union Station Nashville, Autograph Collection (1900) Nashville, Tennessee
One of Nashville’s most iconic landmarks, Union Station Hotel resides in a building that previously served as the city’s buzzing railway station. Guests are reminded of the building’s rich history through another kind of encounter: with the hotel’s resident ghost, Abigail. Legend has it that during World War II a young woman, Abigail, said goodbye to her soldier on the Union Station train platform before he shipped off to France. When she arrived at that same spot to greet him on his return, she was instead met with word that he was killed in action. Distraught, Abigail threw herself in front of a passing locomotive. The forlorn spirit of Abigail, still looking for her lost love, can reportedly be seen wandering the main terminal and her presence felt in Room 711. Now known as the Abigail Room, guests can request to stay in the haunted suite, which is decorated unlike any other room in the hotel with antique furnishings, a four-poster bed and artwork inspired by her tale.

Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa (1901) Honolulu, Hawaii
On February 28, 1905, the untimely death of Jane Stanford, co-founder of Stanford University, made headlines everywhere. Stanford, who was vacationing in Hawaii following a strychnine poisoning attempt on her life, died in her room at the Moana. There have been reports that the ghost of Stanford still frequents the hotel, whose beautiful ocean vistas brought her short-lived peace. Guests and hotel staff have said that they’ve seen her walking at night trying to find her room.

Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods (1902) New Hampshire
Known affectionately by staff members as “the princess”, Caroline Foster, was a long-time inhabitant of the hotel. Princess Caroline Foster’s ties to the resort go back to its inception when her husband, railroad tycoon Joseph Stickney, built the grand resort in 1902. Incorporating special accommodations for his wife, construction of the resort included an indoor swimming pool and a private dining room for Caroline known today as the “Princess Room.” A prominent figure at the resort since its opening, many guests who have visited continue to report sightings of the regal Caroline. Visions of an elegant woman in Victorian dress are often spotted in the hallways of the hotel, there are light taps on doors when no one is outside and items suddenly disappear and then reappear in the exact place they were lost. But perhaps the most common sighting of the beloved Caroline is in room 314, where guests report seeing a vision of the woman sitting at the edge of their bed.

The Seelbach Hilton Louisville (1905) Louisville, Kentucky
Legend says two lovers were to be married at the hotel in 1907, but the groom met an untimely death on his way to the wedding. His distraught bride threw herself down the elevator shaft, falling ten stories to her death. The bride is said to continue to haunt the halls of this historic hotel.

Mizpah Hotel (1907) Tonopah, Nevada
Built in 1907 and beautifully restored to its former grandeur and glory. The hotel is home to several ghostly figures. One of which is the former bellhops has been seen roaming the halls of the hotel trying to give guests a hand with their luggage. The town of Tonopah was well known for silver mining and just beneath the Mizpah are old mining tunnels. The hotel had a run-in with a few very greedy miners and lost out on a large sum of money. As legend is told, three miners dug a hole into the old bank safe and robbed the hotel. One of the men turned his back on his two accomplices and shot them. He left them for dead and took off with the money and was never been caught. To this day, those two miners still lurk in the basement of the Hotel.

The Omni Grove Park Inn (1913) Asheville, North Carolina
There is a strange, but gentle spirit residing within the gray, granite walls of Asheville’s historic Grove Park Inn. Known simply as the “Pink Lady”, she has been seen, felt and experienced by hotel employees and guests for nearly a century. Although the Pink Lady is believed to have met her demise on the Palm Court floor after falling two stories from the fifth floor to the third floor, she has been seen and experienced in a number of places throughout the resort. The Pink Lady has been described as a dense pinkish smoke with a presence that can be felt by guests throughout the grounds of the Inn.

La Fonda (1922) Santa Fe, New Mexico
Shot to death in 1867 in the hotel lobby, John P. Slough, Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, is said to have never left. Meanwhile, a distraught salesman, who jumped into the hotel well after losing a card game, has been seen emerging from the fountain by visitors and guests alike.

The Emily Morgan San Antonio- a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (1924) San Antonio, Texas
The Emily Morgan is known to be one of the most haunted hotels in all of Texas. According to various reports, even some given by the hotel’s own management team, the most haunted floors are the seventh, ninth and fourteenth floors in addition to the basement.
It was these particular floors that at one time functioned as the psychiatric ward, surgery level, waiting area and morgue, respectively. At the Emily Morgan, almost all of the paranormal reports involve ghosts and spirits from days gone by when the building was the medical building.
Guests have reported strange things occurring on these particular levels. Those staying on the fourteenth level of the Emily Morgan generally have one thing to say: that the smell is acutely reminiscent of a hospital. Guests have reported to opening the doors to the hallways only to find a scene from a hospital waiting right inside.

Francis Marion Hotel (1924) Charleston, South Carolina
In the early 1930s, New Yorker Ned Cohen was visiting his Southern lady friend in Charleston. Whatever happened was never clear, but he was found face down, body smashed in the middle of King Street facing toward the old Citadel’s parade grounds. Today, visitors hear eerie and unexplained sounds at night, all too familiar to the bell staff and room attendants walking the halls. Sounds of rustling silk drapes, rattling windows, and an unexplained vision of a man questioning either himself or the witness. Some see the ghost in short sleeves, others just feel his presence throughout the hotel.

Hawthorne Hotel (1925) Salem, Massachusetts
The city of Salem is notorious for the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and is prone to hauntings and spirits of its own. The hotel has ghost stories, mostly attributed to the sea captains who were returning to their gathering place. In particular, guests staying in rooms 612 and 325 have reported of lights turning off and on and experiencing a general uneasy feeling throughout the rooms.

Hotel Viking (1926) Newport, Rhode Island
Hotel Viking has had many guests and staff members come and go, reporting stories of spirited guests. The story that has been reported repeatedly is of a little boy is often seen cleaning the floors of the historic wing of the hotel. There have been about 10 different guests regaling a similar story of a young boy cleaning. This has also been confirmed by most of the housekeeping staff.

Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton (1927) Saranac, New York
This historic hotel was built on foundation of a former High School. It is the only hotel building remaining of 13 luxury hotels that once served this community. While fires led to the downfall of some of the area’s hotels, survived by design: made of steel and brick, Hotel Saranac was the area’s first fireproof hotel. The hotel had a civil defense tower on top, where it is said that Boy Scouts would wait to watch for Russian Bombers. Room 308 – Emily Balsam, was a guest at Hotel Saranac and worked at a local college. She had a cat. The story is told that she was not feeling well for a while and got tired of people checking on her and just wanted to be left alone. She had her phone disconnected and stopped all housekeeping. She did not want to be disturbed for any reason. No one saw much of her after that. At some point the guest and staff started to complain about the smell coming from that room and the cat always “crying” and Emily refused to answer the door. The manager at the time went up to talk to her and found she had been dead for weeks and the cat was still alive. The cat was taken to a shelter but it is said that the ghost of Emily’s cat can still be heard crying or scratching at the wall, perhaps wandering the hotel looking for her.

Hotel Monteleone (1886) New Orleans, Louisiana
A maid, known as “Mrs. Clean” reputedly haunts the hotel. Paranormal researchers once asked why she stayed, and the maid, whose mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother also worked at the hotel, said she was picking up after housekeeping to ensure high standards.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (1927) Sonoma, California
It is said that ghosts haunt where they were the happiest. Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa welcomes guests past and present and tells the tales of guests who never wanted to leave. When the evenings are still and the fog rolls in from the Bay, a hauntingly beautiful woman has been seen strolling the hallways of the Inn in period dress. Victoria, as she is fondly referred to by many of the Inn’s tenured employees and whose family traces back to the founding fathers of Sonoma Valley, is said to have celebrated her wedding and many anniversaries at the resort.

Hassayampa Inn (1927) Prescott, Arizona
The year it opened, the Hassayampa Inn developed its most famous legend. A very young bride named Faith Summers checked into a balcony suite with her much older husband in 1927. According to the story, Faith’s husband went out to buy cigarettes and never returned. Faith waited for three days and then took her life in despair. Since then, countless hotel guests and employees have reported encounters with a young woman throughout the hotel crying at the end of a bed, dressed in a pink gown in the hallway, appearing and disappearing from rooms. One housekeeper saw a woman by a bed, holding flowers and crying. When asked if she needed help, the woman vanished. Kitchen staff have reported feeling Faith’s presence in the kitchen, right before the burners on the stove suddenly went out. Others have reported strange cold spots in Faith’s honeymoon suite. The heartbroken ghost appears unable to move on from her anguish. Many think that though Faith is heartbroken, she enjoys staying at the Hassayampa Inn.

The Don CeSar (1928) St. Pete Beach, Florida
Over the years there have been a number of reported “sightings” and strange occurrences at this historic hotel. Although there are various stories, the most common presence felt through the building is that of Mr. Thomas Rowe, the man who brought the Don CeSar to life and is the focal point of the love story surrounding the hotel. It is rumored that people have reported seeing Mr. Rowe throughout the hotel, on the beach, and even interacting with guests and staff. In the evening it has been reported that from time to time guests have looked up to the windows on the fifth floor and see the figure of a man watching from above.

Lord Baltimore Hotel (1928) Baltimore, Maryland
Over the course of its more then 90-year history, the Lord Baltimore Hotel has had reports of paranormal activity. Built in 1928, the hotel was one of the tallest building in the city (the Great Fire of 1904 destroyed Downtown Baltimore) and around the time of the Great Depression, there were at least 20 documented reports of “jumpers” from the 19th floor rooftop deck. The most spoken about is that of a couple who attended an event at the hotel with their daughter – and then proceeded to jump off the building. Their daughter, “Molly,” is typically seen in the halls wearing a white dress and playing with a red ball. There has also been a lot of paranormal speculation around a handprint of a child on a wall in one of the hotel’s penthouses that won’t go away.

Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, DC (1930) Washington, DC
During the Shoreham’s early years, three people died unexpectedly in suite 870. At that time the apartment was occupied by one of the hotel’s owners, Henry Doherty. Juliette Brown, the family’s housekeeper dropped dead mysteriously one night at 4 am. Doherty’s daughter and wife also perished mysteriously in the same suite. During its vacancy there were claims of mysterious noises, doors slamming shut and furniture moving—many of which happened around 4 am, the time of Juliette’s death.

Tubac Golf Resort and Spa (1959) Tubac, Arizona
There have been hauntings throughout the resort that have been reported by guests by at least four unique ghosts including a boy, a lady in gray, a very active gentleman spirit, and a cowboy. Some of these spirits are believed to date back to the early age of the resort when it was the Otero Ranch. The haunts have been investigated by the Phoenix, Arizona Paranormal Society and featured on the “Haunted Series, Arizona.”

“The spirits reported to reside within these Historic Hotels of America have been described as sad to happy, shy to friendly, slowly meandering to in a rush, in work clothes to elaborately dressed, and range from young to old,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “Some pre-date the construction of the hotel and others figure prominently from the early years of the historic hotels.”

For a complete listing of haunted historic hotels, visit https://www.historichotels.org/MostHaunted.php.

Historic Hotels of America is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Historic Hotels of America has more than 300 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated historic hotels. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

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The Travel Corporation, TreadRight Foundation Pledge to ‘Make Travel Matter’

Brett Tollman, chief executive officer of The Travel Corporation, commits the company and its 42 brands, and the TreadRight Foundation to “Make Travel Matter” for the planet, people and wildlife© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

On one issue I take exception to the courageous climate activist, Greta Thunberg: travel – even airline travel – is not the enemy of the climate action crusade, travel is its best ally. She may have taken two weeks to sail the Atlantic to reach the United Nations Climate Action Summit, but the thousands of diplomats and heads of state she scolded and shamed into action, could not.

“What would happen if we stopped traveling, stopped flying? Would we save the planet or unleash a global conservation crisis? There would be global conservation crisis,” asserted Costas Christ, chairman of The TreadRight Foundation, a philanthropy created by The Travel Corporation’s 42 brands, to preserve and protect the planet, people and wildlife.

Christ, who came out of the Wildlife Conservation Society, pointed to the three great forests on the planet – New Guinea, Amazon Basin, Central African rainforest including Gabon. But in the early 2000s, Gabon’s economy was dependent on mining and timber concessions.

The Wildlife Conservation Society went to Gabon’s president and said, “If you continue mining, cutting trees, the party is over in 50 years, but if put aside area for conservation, travelers will come, alleviate poverty and save the forest – your great grandchildren will be able to make their livelihood here.

“With stroke of Gabon President’s pen, he created 11 national parks, protecting 13 million acres – Travel Matters,” Christ said. “Travel is the alternative to exploitation – preserve and protect instead of poach and encroach.”

“If travelers did not go to the African continent, the future would be unrelenting poverty. Travel is hope, conservation.”

Colombia, where The Travel Corporation has introduced new travel programs, is one of the 30 places on the planet which are the “Noah’s Ark of Life,” a biodiversity hot spot harboring one out of 10 species.

“If we are able to help Colombia protect its natural resources we will protect the second largest biodiverse place on the planet.”

“We make an impact when travel supports conservation, protects wildlife and alleviates poverty. Travel matters when it is planned, managed well, sustainable. Then magic happens – we deliver on our promise to make the world a better place.

It is significant that travel benefits the destinations, but travel also enriches individuals, in a mutually virtuous circle.

What is wanderlust and why do we seek out other places? Christ asks. Marco Polo understood. So did John Steinbeck, who, in his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, wrote:

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.

And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless.

We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

Mark Twain, who actually was a travel writer, wrote in “The Innocents Abroad,” “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Costas Christ traveled to meet the Dalai Lama, who travels constantly, to ask ‘Why travel?.’ “He said, ‘in ancient Tibetan ‘gropa’ is the word for human being, but the literal meaning is ‘one who goes on migrations.’ We define the essence of being human to travel – to travel is to be human.

“We think of the word ‘progress’ as hitting goals, but to pro-gress is a kind of travel. In Middle English, “progress” means “to go on a seasonal journey” – so success is a journey, success is linked to travel.”

The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created 10 years ago as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, takes a percentage of profit from 42 companies to make sure goes to projects that make a difference. TreadRight supports 55 projects in 280 communities in 26 countries in three basic categories: planet, people and wildlife.

TTC, a member of the World Travel & Tourism Council, is joining in a commitment for the industry – which accounts for one in 10 jobs around the world and accounts for 10% of the global economy, to become carbon neutral by 2050. TTC will also take steps to eliminate plastics through its supply chain, and reduce carbon emissions.

“We’re committed to be carbon neutral before 2050 and not through carbon offsets. Carbon is what’s destroying climate, not offsets,” Brett Tollman, Chief Executive, The Travel Corporation and Founder, The TreadRight Foundation. said at a reception marking TreadRight’s 10 years.

“We are at an unfortunate tipping point, where unless we careful, this industry will be the poster for all that’s bad,” he said. “We have the opportunity to make change, but we have to be courageous.”

But though travel – particularly airline travel – does have a carbon cost (until the technologies improve), not traveling would be far worse for the quest of saving the planet and communities from the impacts of climate change and promoting a more just society.

Christ points to places devastated by climate catastrophe that have rebounded because of tourism, communities and cultures destroyed by war and conflict, like Bosnia and Croatia, rebuild and thrive because of the economic support of travel dollars.

For example, working with the Jordan tourism Board, TreadRight supports the Queen Noor Iraq Alamei, a cooperative that employs women as potters and artisans – giving women jobs outside the home but within the village. With TreadRight support, the cooperative built up a gift shop and opened an Air BnB.

New travel programs in Colombia help create a wildlife nursery and install solar panels, while another program in Sierra Nevada, through Trafalgar, creates an opportunity for visitors to be hosted by a family.

“Travel is an incredible gift. It has the ability to open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. At TreadRight, our mission is clear; to have a positive impact on the people and communities we visit, to protect wildlife and marine life, and to care for the planet we call home.”

Craig Kielburger, the co-founder of WE charity, explained how Treadright’s family of travel companies is partnering with We.org, which builds schools, promotes sustainable agriculture, brings pure water to communities – to offer programs in which travelers can immerse themselves into that community.

The Travel Corporation and TreadRight Foundation are partnering with Craig Kielburger’s We charity to create Me to We voluntourism trips to places like Kenya © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
In partnership with ME to WE, travelers have the opportunity to visit three iconic destinations: India, the Ecuadorian Amazon and Kenya. In conjunction with TTC, guests can book ME to WE Immersive Volunteer Trip extensions on upcoming set departure dates or as a requested custom trip. Travelers stay among local communities in comfortable lodges, owned and operated by ME to WE. All meals, ground transfers, transportation and local sightseeing excursions hosted by an expert facilitator are included.

[caption id="attachment_5253" align="alignleft" width="1500"] The Travel Corporation and TreadRight Foundation are partnering with Craig Kielburger’s We charity to create Me to We voluntourism trips to places like Kenya © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com


You can run with the Masai, help build a school, see what it feels like to have to carry water barrels on your back; stay in a family’s home in Ecuador; in India, visit an elephant rescue preserve instead of riding on one. (See TreadRight.org site, https://www.TreadRight.org/trips/).

“Travel is a privilege,” said Celine Cousteau, a documentary filmmaker and TreadRight Ambassador and storyteller. “Experience places and people, become a part of who they are. Travel fosters profound change. Travelers become storytellers. Traveling on an airplane has a carbon footprint, yes, but the value it brings more than compensates. Travel is an opportunity to bring a thriving economy, conserve, preserve. Make a choice to do good and if travel, make it count.”

TTC’s ‘Make Travel Matter’ Pledge

TreadRight has made #maketravelmatter its mission and its theme and on this year’s World Tourism Day, made this pledge:

The Travel Corporation (TTC) has just announced its new Make Travel Matter Pledge, in celebration of World Tourism Day. Guided by The TreadRight Foundation, a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s family of award-winning brands, including Trafalgar, Uniworld, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Contiki, African Travel, Inc., Lion World Travel, Brendan Vacations and Red Carnation Hotels the pledge serves as the next step in a long standing commitment to sustainable tourism and conscious travel.

“This World Tourism Day, Friday, September 27th, 2019, engaged citizens will examine the positive impact travel has on the globe and TreadRight is making its commitment public to Make Travel Matter,” the company stated.

Celine Cousteau, TreadRight ambassador, speaks of the difference between tourists financing the cruel treatment of elephants, versus visiting elephants in a rescue preserve © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com


Inspired by Palau’s First Lady, Debbie Remengesau who introduced the Palau Pledge, every one of TTC’s 10,000 team members and 42 companies worldwide are committing to make travel matter, with its new official pledge standing to help protect people, planet and wildlife. In celebration of World Tourism Day, all members of TTC’s family of brands will use the opportunity to stand up and personally commit to share TreadRight’s ethos as travelers, as travel providers and as members of the global travel industry.

“Our Make Travel Matter Pledge is another step on our journey and an impactful one as it further solidifies our commitment to helping protect the destinations we work with, its communities and local wildlife,” Tollman said. “As responsible travelers, TreadRight’s ethos has become part of our company’s DNA and what we stand for, and we share our pledge with our guests as well as partners in hopes they will join us.”

MAKE TRAVEL MATTER PLEDGE

I will make my travel matter – for our planet, for people and for wildlife.

When I explore this planet, I will do my best to TreadRight.

I will refuse single use plastics when I can and recycle what I cannot avoid.

When possible, I will offset my travels.

When I meet new people, I will honor their home as I do my own and do so in the spirit of diversity and inclusion. I will purchase locally made items wherever possible and pay a fair price.

When I experience wildlife, I will do so in nature.

I will not ride animals that ought not be ridden, nor support animal cruelty in any way.

Together, we will TreadRight upon the earth – and we will make our travel matter.

More information at TreadRight.org. #MakeTravelMatter

For more information about TTC, visit www.ttc.com.

TreadRight is not the only entity that facilitates authentic, transformative, responsible travel experiences – there is a whole travel industry subcategory, many represented by Center for Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.org), Global Sustainable Tourism Council (gstcouncil.org), Earthcheck (earthcheck.org) and the Rainforest Alliance (https://www.rainforest-alliance.org).

See also:

NYT Travel Show: How to Be a Responsible Traveler… and Why

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Hotels with Hearth and History

Getting into the mood to celebrate Presidents’ Week? Warm up this winter and cozy up to real wood-burning fireplaces at historic hotels across the country and sip fireside cocktails at Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Benjamin Harrison’s, favorite getaways, not to mention John Steinbeck’s, and John D. Rockefeller’s and feel transported in time. Here’s a sampling:

Baron’s Cove in nearby Sag Harbor offers historical cocktails in honor of its impressive literary background. Sip “The Steinbeck” – renamed Jack Rose cocktail was one of John Steinbeck’s favorite libations.


BARON’S COVE, Sag Harbor, N.Y.
Offering one of the coziest spots and sweeping harbor views in the Hamptons year-round is the sophisticated Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor, New York. This 67-room luxe resort offers three wood-burning fireplaces for guests to enjoy — one in its lobby lounge, a popular retreat for happy hour, live local music, and where guests gather for pre-dinner artisanal cocktails before heading upstairs to dine fireside at The Restaurant at Baron’s Cove. The third wood-burning fireplace is located on the hotel’s covered veranda, the ideal spot for small plates and drinks in the warmer months.

Fun historical fact: Located walking distance from Sag Harbor’s main attractions and town, Baron’s Cove, its restaurant, and fireplaces were once the go-to destinations for prominent guests including John and Elaine Steinbeck, Paul Newman, Art Garfunkel, George Plimpton, Billy Joel, Richard Kind, Truman Capote, Jason Pollock, and Willem and Elaine de Kooning.

What to sip fireside: Baron’s Cove offers historical cocktails in honor of its impressive literary background. Sip “The Steinbeck” – this renamed Jack Rose cocktail was one of the author’s favorite libations.

The Broadmoor has been a gateway for travelers to experience the American West since it opened its doors in 1918, when John D. Rockefeller was its first celebrity guest. Cozy up at century-old fireplaces after a day enjoying wilderness activities.


THE BROADMOOR, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Head out to where the west begins for fireside warmth. Set in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Colorado Springs,The Broadmoor has more than 50 sleeping room fireplaces and eight public fireplaces (not including exterior firepits!). While not all of the fireplaces are wood-burning (there are seven fireplaces using wood located throughout the resort, including three in the resort’s luxurious Estate House), these comfortable and elegant hearths offer the ideal setting after a long day of western adventure for an evening of Rocky Mountain relaxation.

The Broadmoor has been a gateway for travelers to experience the American West since it opened its doors in 1918 – that means that guests have been enjoying these original fireplaces for a century. With its 5,000 acres, wilderness experiences, iconic golf courses, and award-winning restaurants and spa, this legendary property offers its guests distinct, luxury accommodations and authentic western adventures and experiences such as real cattle drives, falconry, fly fishing.

Fun historical fact: John D. Rockefeller was the Broadmoor’s first celebrity guest at the private opening of the historic hotel back in June 1918.

What to sip fireside: The Broadmoor’s founder, Spencer Penrose, enjoyed an occasional cocktail and even had a bloodshot glass eye that he would put in to replace his clear glass eye after he had been drinking. One of Penrose’s favorite drinks was the Fish House Punch – a nod to his membership in Philadelphia’s Rabbit Club, which was founded in 1866. Modeled after the Rabbit Club, Penrose founded the Cooking Club in Colorado Springs in 1908 and introduced Fish House Punch, which is still served there today. The Broadmoor’s “Fish House” was named in honor of that tradition and serves Fish House Punch made with the original recipe with Appleton Rum, brandy, peach schnapps, and prepared sweet and sour.

Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Benjamin Harrison have all stayed at Congress Hall, in historic Cape May, NJ, over the past two centuries and likely sipped a drink while conversing around the same fireplace guests relax around today.


CONGRESS HALL, Cape May, N.J.
For more than 200 years, Congress Hall, the Big House by the Sea, has charmed visitors not only during the popular summer months at the South Jersey shore, but during the winter months as well. A haven of relaxed elegance, fun, and historic charm, Congress Hall is just a few stops from the ocean in the heart of Cape May’s famed historic district. Guests love to gather around the massive wood-burning fireplace in the recently redesigned Brown Room, a sophisticated lounge, while enjoying expertly crafted cocktails and small plates and listening to live music. The Blue Pig Tavern, the hotel’s signature restaurant that features farm-to-table menu items from their own 62-acre farm just a mile away, boasts a wood-burning fireplace surrounded by a beautiful brick mantelpiece. The fires are always burning from morning to night – making it a wonderful place for guests to enjoy an early cup of coffee or a late night cocktail while basking it its glow.

Fun historical fact: United States Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Benjamin Harrison have all stayed at Congress Hall over the past two centuries and likely sipped a drink while conversing around the same fireplace guests relax around today.

What to sip fireside: The hotel offers a list of Presidential Cocktails inspired by the Commanders-in-Chief who visited the property. Try the “drunken theatrics,” inspired by Franklin Pierce, who was known to have a passion for enjoying a nice whiskey during his stay at Congress Hall.

GRAND GENEVA RESORT & SPA, Lake Geneva, Wis.
Situated on 1,300 acres in the woodlands of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and boasting over 600 rooms plus its own on-property waterpark, the award-winning Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers a variety of adventures and distinct, relaxing accommodations including its popular lobby lounge fireplace which immediately invites you to sit back and relax. Throughout the year guests can be found savoring cocktails next to the lobby lounge’s roaring wood-burning fireplace while enjoying live entertainment and views of the resort’s outdoor pool and Wisconsin countryside. Dinner guests at the resort’s Ristorante Brissago also get to enjoy fresh seasonal dishes prepared over the restaurant’s very own wood-burning stove, offering an authentic wood-fired cooking and dining experience.

Fun historical fact: In its earlier life, before becoming Grand Geneva in 1993, the resort was the Lake Geneva Playboy Club, the first Playboy Club Hotel to open in the United States with a cabaret stage that attracted some of the era’s most famous acts, including Bob Hope and Sonny and Cher. In 1968, Lake Geneva government officials and local dignitaries joined Hugh Hefner in celebrating the property’s grand opening.

What to sip fireside: There’s no better cocktail to enjoy while sitting fireside than the resort’s drink by the same name made with Bulleit Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry, Giffard Abricot du Roussillon, simply syrup, and bar keep Chinese bitters.

KINGSMILL RESORT, Williamsburg, Va.
Kingsmill Resort, a AAA Four Diamond condominium resort on the James River in Williamsburg, Virginia, offers newly renovated one-, two- or three-bedroom condos featuring wood-burning fireplaces. During winter months, Kingsmill guest service members bring firewood, build and light the fire for you on request. Late fall through Jan. 1, guests are given complimentary s’mores kits at the front desk before heading out each night and can roast them by the outdoor wood-burning fire pit from 5-10 p.m. Kingsmill features four restaurants and a wealth of activities from championship golf to tennis, from bike riding to pools. All multi-bedroom condo accommodations feature a full kitchen, massive living room/dining room and washer/dryer.

Fun historic fact: On the colorful scorecard, hole 17 at Kingsmill Resort’s River Golf Course should read: “You are about to play the most historic 177 yards of golf in America. Take it all in. Don’t rush. Look around and imagine how this very land played a role in American history starting in 1607.” Thanks to its strategic and inviting position overlooking the James River, the tee box features clearly visible remnants of the earthen works (a hastily made fort or defensive structure) from the American Revolution, which was then repurposed (location, location, location) in the War Between the States. Today a Civil War cannon and flag guard this sacred ground. But well before aggression – or the early settlers who arrived to this very shoreline in seek a new home – Native Americans lived here and enjoyed the oysters still plentiful and being served up at the 19th hole here at Kingsmill. Today, when golfers walk between the tee box and the green at the River Course’s 17th hole, they are stepping on the same land where the Jamestown settlers stepped off their boat in 1607. Those settlers would later sail upriver and start what is now the United States of America at Jamestown. The old pilings in the river are the location of their original port and start of the road from the James River to Williamsburg, the amazing colonial town that’s still thriving 400 years later. To the left of the hole are the foundations of what was basically a pub, early warehouse, hotel and some say a brothel all dating way back before 1776. That’s 177 yards of history from the Native Americans to the Jamestown Settlers, Williamsburg, the American Revolution and Civil War to where LPGA players now tee off in an annual professional golf tournament. Kingsmill Resort is also the place where Presidents Clinton, Bush (43) and Obama have come to meet, relax, work and rehearse for debates. Today golfers, families, couples and friends come to Kingsmill Resort’s hallowed ground to make their own history.

What to sip fireside: Sit by the heat and dream of warmer days to come with the hotel’s Sunset Martini made with Malibu, Crème de Banana, and Pineapple.

THE RITZ-CARLTON: NEW ORLEANS
Located on the fringe of the French Quarter, The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans offers guests the comforts of wood-burning fireplaces in its Ritz-Carlton Suite, Library Lounge, and Club Lounge.

Fun historic fact: The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans is housed in the original 1908 Beaux Arts Maison Blanche building.

What to sip fireside: Curl up with a glass of wine from the hotel’s very cool wine dispensing machine. The wine dispenser is The Enomatic Elite wine serving system based out of Italy created by two Tuscan entrepreneurs. It’s an innovative DIY system for preserving and serving wine by the glass, allowing countless benefits such as preserving the taste, ensuring proper temperature, and the perfect pour of 6oz. There is even a function that allows the user to get a taste before they decide to go for the full 6oz pour.

The hotel serves chilled white varieties such as Steven Kent’s Ritz-Carlton Cuvee Chardonnay, Montevina Chardonnay, Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc, Leth Riesling, Terlato Pinot Grigio, and Mantanzas Creek Chardonnay.
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N-Y Historical Society Extends Hours to See ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ Before Closes Jan. 27

“Harry Potter: A History of Magic” on view at the New-York Historical Society until Jan. 27 is laid out as if you were walking through Hogwarts: Potions, Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures. N-YHS is extending hours to see the exhibit for the final week © Travel Features Syndicate

By Laurie Millman, Travel Features Syndicate

With just days to go before closing for good on January 27, New-York Historical Society is extending its evening hours for people to see its blockbuster exhibit, Harry Potter: A History of Magic in its final week.

Because of the extraordinary popularity of the exhibit, the museum is staying open until 7 pm most weekdays and until midnight on Friday and Saturday of the final week. Advance booking of the timed-tickets is essential.

Visitors will also receive 10% discount for dinner at Storico, the restaurant within New-York Historical, when they present an exhibition ticket during the last week of its run.

The blockbuster British Library exhibition at New-York Historical Society captures the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories with manuscripts from J.K. Rowling’s personal archives, original illustrations from Harry Potter artists, costumes and set models from the award-winning play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and centuries-old books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the British Library, New-York Historical, and other museums.

“Harry Potter” is a must-see on so many levels. It isn’t just for fans of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular series, providing amazing insights into her creative process through glimpses at original hand-written drafts and drawings, but insights into the history of magic – the centuries of folklore, myth and legend – that provided the foundation for her stories. You see the original documents and artifacts that Rowling drew on history and tradition (I thought it all came from her imagination, and did not realize everything, even the names she used, had a foundation in history. You also realize how magic and witchcraft actually provided the foundation of science and medicine.

See also ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ is Spellbinding Exhibit at New-York Historical Society

Visit harrypotter.nyhistory.org to book your timed-tickets in advance.

So Much to See

We spent an entire day at the Historical Society. There are so many fascinating exhibits – some which are permanent, like a collection of Tiffany lamps and a room devoted to everyday objects of old New York that remind you of the Smithsonian, and some exhibits which are temporary and constantly change.

One of the exhibits, Women’s Voices, is an innovative, interactive wall display showcasing American women who had an impact on New York City and America. The projected touch screen is fun to choose a written bio or an interview of the selected woman. An historic timeline offers further insights into related topics. The selection of women will continue to grow over time, especially as there are so many disciplines where women made an impact – from community activism to the arts to engineering to education to politics.

Also:

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow
Now through March 3, 2019
Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow explores the struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded in the 50 years after the Civil War. When slavery ended in 1865, a period of Reconstruction began, leading to such achievements as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. By 1868, all persons born in the United States were citizens and equal under the law. But efforts to create an interracial democracy were contested from the start. A harsh backlash ensued, ushering in a half century of the “separate but equal” age of Jim Crow. Opening to mark the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the exhibition is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I and highlights the central role played by African Americans in advocating for their rights. It also examines the depth and breadth of opposition to black advancement. Art, artifacts, photographs, and media help visitors explore these transformative decades in American history and understand their continuing relevance today.

Mort Gerberg Cartoons: A New Yorker’s Perspective
COMING SOON: February 15 – May 5, 2019
Artist Mort Gerberg grew up with a pencil in his hand, creating cartoons from the time he was a young boy in his native Brooklyn. Illustrated with a sensitivity and humor that have made him beloved by his audiences, his work has been featured in major publications, including the New Yorker and Saturday Review. The 100 cartoons on view in this exhibition cover a range of topics, such as life in New York City, women, youth, old age, and politics.

Meditations in an Emergency
Now through April 28, 2019
The New-York Historical Society’s first artist-in-residence, Bettina von Zwehl, presents new works inspired by her study of the Museum’s collection of American portrait miniatures and silhouettes, including profile drawings by Benjamin Tappan (1773–1857). The 17 silhouette portrait photographs of New York City teens—a silent memorial for those who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018—serve as a catalyst to engage viewers with ideas of protest and teen activism. Based in London, von Zwehl is an internationally recognized fine art photographer whose work explores the form and practice of portraiture by drawing upon historical iconography as well as the traditions of painted portrait miniatures and cut-paper silhouettes. Her powerful and intimate photographs honor the past while expanding the boundaries of portraiture.

Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean
Now through May 27, 2019
Contemporary artist Betye Saar has shaped the development of assemblage art in the United States, particularly as a device to illuminate social and political concerns. A key figure in the Black Arts Movement and the feminist art movement of the 1960–70s, Saar’s distinct vision harmonizes the personal and the political. Over the years, Saar has transformed the representation of African Americans in our culture by recycling and reclaiming derogatory images such as Aunt Jemimas, Uncle Toms, sambos, and mammies to confront the continued racism in American society and create representations of strength and perseverance. This exhibition focuses on one facet of her work—washboards—created between 1997 and 2017. Presented in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, part of the Center for Women’s History, the exhibition is organized by the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles.

Audubon’s Birds of America
Ongoing
Visitors have the unique experience of viewing John James Audubon’s spectacular watercolor models for the 435 plates of The Birds of America (1827–38) with their corresponding plates from the double-elephant-folio series, engraved by Robert Havell Jr. Each month, the exhibition rotates to highlight new species—featured in the order they appear in Audubon’s publication—which showcase the artist’s creative process and his contributions to ornithological illustration. Other works from New-York Historical’s collection, the world’s largest repository of Auduboniana, illuminate Audubon’s process. January welcomes the Northern Parula, and in February, the Peregrine Falcon is on view. Accompanying the Peregrine Falcon is a photograph of Damien Mitchell’s mural located at 752 St. Nicholas Avenue inspired by Audubon’s watercolor.
Objects Tell Stories, the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, and the Center for

Women’s History on the Fourth Floor
Ongoing
Explore American history through stunning exhibitions and captivating interactive media on the transformed fourth floor. Themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics—such as slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11—offering unexpected and surprising perspectives on collection highlights. Touchscreens and interactive kiosks allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects like never before.

As the centerpiece of the fourth floor, the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps features 100 illuminated Tiffany lampshades from its spectacular collection displayed within a dramatically lit jewel-like space. Within our new Center for Women’s History, visitors discover the hidden connections among exceptional and unknown women who left their mark on New York and the nation with the multimedia digital installation, Women’s Voices, and through rotating exhibitions in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery. Objects from the Billie Jean King Archive are also on view.

Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection
Ongoing
Since 1804, the New-York Historical Society has been welcoming to its collection some of the most esteemed artworks of the modern world. Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection showcases a selection of paintings that reflect the individual tastes of several New York City collectors who donated their holdings to New-York Historical. Joining Picasso’s Le Tricorne ballet curtain are featured American and European masterpieces spanning the 14th through the 21st centuries from Luman Reed, Thomas Jefferson Bryan, and Robert L. Stuart, including colonial portraits of children, marine and maritime subjects, and an installation showcasing recently collected contemporary works.

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.

Just Ahead Voted Among Top 5 Best New Travel Apps

Just Ahead (http://www.justahead.com/), an award-winning smartphone app for road tripping through national parks, was recently voted a top five Best New Travel App by USA Today 10 Best readers. USA Today’s 10Best.com provides users with original, unbiased and experiential travel coverage of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the US and around the world.

 

This distinction wraps up Just Ahead’s first full year of producing distinctive GPS-guided smartphone audio tours of this country’s most dramatic landscapes. To date, Just Ahead has concentrated on narrations on the lore and not-to-miss features of national parks in the West. It has produced 13 audio tours covering 15 national parks and monuments, and is gearing up to extend its coverage nationwide. Scheduled for early 2016 release are Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, Petrified Forest National Park and Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, and South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and Badlands National Park. 

In addition to the USA Today honor, Just Ahead has been named Best Travel App by the North American Travel Journalists Association and Best App by the editors of Sunset magazine.

The Just Ahead mobile app turns an Apple or Android smartphone into a hands-free audio guide to the most beautiful places on earth by delivering professionally written and narrated audio tours to vacationers who want an informed travel experience as they drive.

Just Ahead utilizes GPS technology to know exactly where drivers are on the road, and delivers stories and maps relevant to their exact location. The groundbreaking app points out not-to-miss features while also helping drivers avoid getting lost. It suggests directions and tells drivers why they should turn or not, what they should do after a turn, and the best direction to take if there are multiple route options.

A satisfied user had this to say about the app and tour guide, “LOVE this idea! It’s like you went into my brain and pulled out something I never even knew that I wanted but now can’t think to live without.”

Just Ahead guides are currently available for the following National Parks: Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Zion & Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands & Arches, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain. Many additional park and road-trip guides are in production.

The Just Ahead app is a free download available through the Apple App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android), and each destination guide is available as an in-app purchase. Guides range from $7.99 to $9.99 and include a free trial and free guide updates.

Just Ahead’s award-winning audio guides work without an Internet connection or phone service and use a smartphone’s GPS to deliver hands-free, customized audio tours based on a vehicle’s location. The guides and built-in maps also provide helpful suggested directions, and offer more points of interest and stories than any other GPS audio travel app. Ideal for families, Just Ahead’s audio guides help create shared experiences, conversations, and memories that will last a lifetime. The Just Ahead app is a free download, and each destination guide is available as an in-app purchase that includes free guide updates.

For more information, visit www.justahead.com.

 

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Newly Launched Triller App for iPhone Lets You Turn Vacation Experience into Celebrity-Quality Music Video

Triller™, a game-changing music video maker app for iPhone®, lets you turn your vacation experiences into a celebrity-quality music video you can instantly share.

Just in time for the family vacation season, what a way to engage children in their experience, creating their own celebrity-quality music video on their iPhone! Launching today, Triller™, a game-changing music video maker app for iPhone®, can be downloaded today for free on the App Store℠.

(PRESS HERE to download today for free on the App Store℠)

Triller is the first of its kind, allowing users to create lip sync videos for their favorite songs with an editing algorithm that uses intelligent audio and facial analysis to decide when to cut. Music fans simply pick a song, choose a section of the song, and shoot a few video takes. Then with the push of a button, Triller edits the takes together to create a stunning music video.

PRESS HERE to watch a preview of the app.

Triller is the creation of award-winning music video director Colin Tilley, — director of videos for Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Jason Derulo, Lil Wayne among others – who helped design Triller’s beautiful filters and its editing algorithm, and app developers David Leiberman and Sammy Rubin (creators of Mibblio®, the first interactive musical storybook, and the chart-topping Disney Frozen: Karaoke).

Rounding out the Triller team is Matt Graham, President of BRND MGMT and manager of major pop artists such as Cody Simpson.

“With Triller, you don’t have to be Colin Tilley to make a music video that looks like it was shot by Colin Tilley,” said Leiberman. “The app truly democratizes the music video creation process. Whether you’re hanging in the park with friends or an artist on tour, Triller makes it easy and fun to create great-looking music videos.”

Triller lets you make celebrity-quality music videos with your iPhone. With auto-editing technology powered by a proprietary algorithm, the app takes the hard work out of making a music video so you can just focus on being creative and having fun.

You simply pick a song, select the portion of the song you want to use, shoot a few takes, and with the tap of a button you have produced your own celebrity-quality music video starring yourselves which you  can share instantly with friends and family right from inside the app.

Not only is Triller easy to use, but it offers infinite creative possibilities with stylish filters, zooming capability, and even the power to tweak the video’s edit to the individual’s liking. Once users create their videos, they can either share publicly to social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, share privately to their friends via text message or WhatsApp, or just save to their camera roll.

Artists like Alli Simpson are already using Triller as a tool to make music videos more easily, and social media stars such as Selfie C are sharing videos set to their favorite songs with their Instagram followers.

“My editing friends and I always knew the iPhone was gonna lead to some kind of game-changer in video editing,” said Tilley. “Triller is it, and I’m really excited to be involved.”

Triller is available for free on the App Store. For more information, visit www.triller.co.

Follow Triller on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vine to stay up to date on new versions, featured videos and the latest contests.

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Vakast Introduces Personalized Concierge Service for Online Vacation Home Rentals

Villa Cristina is a charming 2 bedroom house in Sorrento, Italy, which can be rented for $206 per night

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.— Vakast, an online travel agency with the largest inventory of vacation rentals, has introduced a Concierge program offering 24/7/365 live customer support and assistance for its guests and VIP members worldwide.

Billed as a “virtual concierge with a human touch,” Vakast aims to bridge the gap between a traditional hotel concierge and a virtual assistant by recommending and booking amenities and activities anywhere its guests travel.

“Our clients are requesting expert guidance in creating personalized, authentic experiences, which has been lacking in the vacation rental industry to date,” said Monique Berry, COO, Vakast. “Our goal is to take care of our guests by providing services to meet all of their travel needs. Whether our members need concert tickets or want to try shark diving, Vakast’s Concierge team can tap into trusted resources across the globe, eliminating the time consuming process of booking from multiple sites or agencies.”

Working with its integrated, proprietary database, the Vakast Concierge team can assist with arranging a range of services, from the expected to the exotic, in the categories of Food & Drink, Home Services, Spa/Beauty, Entertainment, Entertainers, Activities, Classes, Mail Service, and Professional Referrals. Whether members are planning a special event or traveling for business or pleasure, Vakast’s Concierge team is trained to find top and highly rated service providers worldwide.

Vakast works with dozens of industry partners to pull vacation rentals all over the spectrum, from condos to castles. Partners include HomeAway, HouseTrip, Wimdu, Villas of Distinction and many other smaller firms, giving Vakast a wide breadth and range of offerings. Vakast has access to 1.5 million properties in 196 countries They are the only vacation rental aggregator to have a full staff of travel specialists working 24/7 to help guests not only book their vacation rental, but any other travel needs they might have.

The Vakast Luxury line pulls only the most exclusive villas and estates – but you can find plenty of budget-friendly apartments, condos, and homes on the site as well with pricing starting at $100 per night.

Examples of properties include the incredible Black Rock Estate in Lahaina, Maui: http://www.vakast.com/myproperty/160000037/

Villa Cristina, a charming 2 bedroom house in Sorrento, Italy, which can be rented for $206 per night: http://www.vakast.com/myproperty/32005911/

This beautifully decorated 2 bedroom lot in Venice, CA is perfect for a trendsetter’s getaway: http://www.vakast.com/myproperty/50017992/

Vakast’s Concierge service is available free of charge for one week prior and through the duration of a trip booked via Vakast.com. For ongoing assistance, Vakast offers a range of membership packages to provide clients with day and night year round access to their team of trained specialists, whether the member is home or on the road.

Vakast Concierge Membership plans include:

Vakast Premier (VP) Concierge

Length of Coverage:  One Year

Membership Required:  Yes

Cost:  $300 ($25 every month)

Services:  All

Perfect For:  Frequent travelers, corporations, families, groups and gifts.

Terms:  Transferrable up to five pre-appointed travelers.

Cancellation allowed prior to six-month renewal period.

 

7 Carat Concierge

Length of Coverage:  One Year

Membership Required:  Yes

Cost:  $150 ($75 every six-months.)

Services:  All

Perfect For:  Families, groups, business and overseas travelers.

Terms:  Non-transferrable. Cancellation allowed prior to six-month renewal period.

 

30/30 Concierge

Length of Coverage:  30 days

Membership Required:  No

Cost:  $30 (one time fee)

Services:  All (excluding Airline bookings)

Perfect For:  Families, groups, business and overseas travelers.

Vakast Concierge is available now by calling (855) 397-0180 or visiting http://www.vakast.com/.

 

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HotelsByDay Introduces Mobile App to Book Intra-Day, Short Hotel Stays in US Cities

HotelsByDay has introduced an app to enable travelers to book short-term, intra-day stays at hotels in New York City and other major cities © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NEW YORK  – A new travel technology company, HotelsByDay, has launched aiming to facilitate booking flexible, same-day hotel stays in top U.S. markets. The technology provides access via mobile app on I-Phone and Android, and online, to short-term rooms available in New York City, Chicago,  Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, which new cities  added every month.

The service is geared to business and leisure travelers to work comfortably,  refresh after a long flight, enjoy a daycation in a luxury hotel or to simply upgrade from the crowded coffee shop to a business class experience.

Intra-day rooms – that is, staying between check out and check in time – can be booked via mobile apps for Android and iPhone or through the website HotelsByDay.com.

“Prior to HotelsByDay, there was not an easy or affordable way to book an upscale hotel for less than a day,” said HotelsByDay co-founder Yannis Moati. “Younger travelers want spontaneity and instant access to last-minute bookings via their mobile device. The HotelsByDay app offers a sleek and easy way to peruse and find a hotel tailored to each individual traveler’s needs, from free WiFi and a spacious desk to a posh rooftop pool and bar.”

Founded by an experienced team of hotel and travel technology leaders, HotelsByDay has uncovered a sharing economy opportunity that benefits the hospitality industry by marketing clean, empty rooms to mobile travelers.  Defined as the time between early check-outs and late check-ins, the intra-day segment is an estimated $20 billion global market. In the U.S. alone, 23 percent of hotel rooms are empty each night, and 11 percent more are available for intra-day bookings due to early check-outs/late check-ins. That results in 34 percent of all U.S. hotel rooms being available for intra-day stays.

The HotelsByDay app offers a sleek and easy way to find and book intra-day stays in 3-, 4- and 5-star hotels in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.  HotelsByDay will add intra-day inventory in Los Angeles, Miami and Fort Lauderdale in March, with San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, and Charlotte soon after.

The HotelsByDay mobile app uses geo-location to display intra-day rooms based on the user’s location.  The easy-to-book interface means a last minute reservation is only seconds away.  Users can browse hotels by time available, location, amenities and price. Intra-day stays are generally morning, mid-day or afternoon and range from four hours to eight hours depending on hotel availability. Travelers also have the option of booking up to two months in advance via the app or website.

Top use cases include:

Business Travelers in need of a quiet, private room to:

  • Work remotely from on a business trip
  • Participate in a conference call in a secure environment
  • Prepare for a presentation
  • Recover and refresh from a red-eye flight
  • Work or nap while waiting for a late night flight
  • Work in between meetings
  • Shower and change after a run while on the road

Leisure Travelers and Day Trippers:

  • Family travelers in need of a quiet room for kids to nap or simply downtime
  • Shoppers in need of a place to rest and/or store purchases
  • Eventcationers in the city for a concert, gala, or sporting event who need a place to freshen up and change
  • Cruisers needing a place to rest pre- and post-cruise
  • Place to rest while waiting out a long layover
  • Oasis for a staycation

The short-term bookings can be made via mobile apps for Android and iPhone, or online at HotelsByDay.com.

 

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