Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

9 Not-So-Scary Packages at Haunted Hotels

October 31st, 2014

Exterior view of the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs, ArkansasHappy Halloween! Whether you plan to celebrate tonight by trick-or-treating with kids, watching a scary movie with your teens, or by bobbing for apples with the entire family, do something fun to celebrate this spooky holiday. When it’s over, plan ahead for your next getaway with a not-so-scary special at one of these nine hotels – all of which are on our list of haunted hotels worth a visit. Relax, rejuvenate, and hope that a ghost doesn’t appear in your room while enjoying one of these packages.

1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
Located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is supposedly haunted by the spirits of the patients who came to the property when it was a hospital. Visit the hotel and book the Eureka Springs Mini Vacation for a happier experience (hopefully). Package includes a three-night stay in a Premium Double or Double Room, breakfast for four daily in the Crystal Ballroom, four tickets to the Historical Museum, four tickets to the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour and the Eureka Ghost Tour, and four tickets to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Rates start from $697 for the three-night package. Package valid for stays Monday through Thursday, year-round.

The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining,” so you can bet it has an interesting environment. Book 30 or more days in advance and enjoy a discount with the Advanced Purchase Special. Enjoy up to 20 percent off your nightly stay. Rates start from $151 per night. Offer valid year-round.

Hotel Chelsea
The Hotel Chelsea in New York City has seen a number of celebrities pass away on its property, which makes many guests believe their spirits haunt it. Book the Inside Taste package and enjoy a $100 dining credit at one of the hotel restaurants or on room service. Plus, enjoy free Wi-Fi during your stay. Rates start from $345 per night. Offer valid now through Mar. 31, 2015.

Hyatt French Quarter
Formerly the Chateau Bourbon hotel in New Orleans, the Hyatt French Quarter has the same haunted history. Once a girls’ school, the property is supposedly haunted by ghosts of those girls. Instead of being scared on your next visit, book the French Quarter Rendezvous package and enjoy breakfast for two adults and two children each morning, plus up to 25 percent off your third night. Rates start from $179 per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 31, 2014. Minimum two-night stay required.

Loews Don CeSar Hotel
Built in honor of his love, Lucinda, who passed away before its completion, the Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, is said to be haunted by her spirit. Book the Third Nights a Charm package and enjoy the hotel for its other great details. Book three or more nights and enjoy 20 percent off your stay. Rates start from $242 per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 30, 2014.

Omni Grove Park Inn
Rumor is that the “Pink Lady” passed away in room 545, but the story is always changing. Now the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, this property offers families a comfortable stay – especially with packages like the Gingerbread Holiday Package. Enjoy a breakfast buffet daily for each guest, one Gingerbread Cookie Voucher per guest and complimentary overnight parking. Rates start from $325 per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 31, 2014.

Gettysburg Hotel
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is known to be haunted by the soldiers of the Civil War. Book the Memories of Lincoln package at the Gettysburg Hotel for a historical stay. Package includes a historical tour, dinner for two in the One Lincoln restaurant and a breakfast for each guest the next morning. Plus, enjoy a souvenir to take home. Rates start from $300 per night. Package valid now through Dec. 31, 2015.

Omni Mount Washington
Located in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the Omni Mount Washington Resort is said to be haunted by the original builder’s wife. Book the Go Discover package and enjoy 20 percent off stays of two or more nights. Rates start from $160 per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 30, 2014.

Hotel Galvez & Spa
The 1911 hotel in Galveston, Texas, has seen strange unexplainable occurrences in its ladies room in the lobby. If you want to see for yourself, book two or more nights at the Hotel Galvez & Spa and enjoy up to 20 percent off. Rates start from $111 per night. Offer valid now through Dec. 31, 2014.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

The Mermaid Academy Comes to Marathon, Fla.

October 27th, 2014

Four little girls dressed like mermaids lay on the sand at the Hawks Cay ResortEnjoy a new aquatic experience with your children this year at the Hawks Cay Resort in Marathon, Florida. The resort on the island of Duck Key is partnering with the Mermaid Academy for special lessons in one of the resort’s swimming pools on select holiday weekends. Perfect for any fan of the Disney classic, The Little Mermaid, kids will strap on tails and fins and feel like their favorite characters from the movie.

Visit Hawks Cay with your kids on November 29, December 26 and 27, or January 2 and 3, and let them explore life as a mermaid or shark with tail rentals and lessons in one of the resort’s five pools. The swim sessions include a tail or fin rental and a one-hour long swim lesson. Shark fins, plus the lesson, are $15 each, and mermaid tails, plus the lesson, are $25 each. All ages are welcome.

The Mermaid Academy partners with companies in the Orlando and Dallas areas for events and experiences where kids can become mermaids and sharks for a day. The Mermaid Academy is offered at select hotels and resorts, with locations changing each season. Visitors can currently experience the Mermaid Academy at the Hilton Parc Soleil, Hilton Sea World, Hilton Tuscany, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Marriott Harbour Lake, Renaissance Sea World, Shertaon Vistana Villages and the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin, on select days now through November 30. If you can’t get to one of the resorts, the Mermaid Academy also sells fins and tails through their website.

For more information, visit the Mermaid Academy’s website and to make reservations, call the Hawks Cay Resort at 888-395-5539.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

5 Holiday Happenings in Branson, Mo.

October 26th, 2014

Exterior view of the ticket house lit up during the Trail of Lights at the Shepard of the Hills Homestead in Branson, MissouriThe Holiday season is almost upon us and many events and festivals kick off on November 1. Branson, Missouri, is hosting a plethora of seasonal festivities this year, many of which start within the next week or two. Here are five holiday happenings that will get you in the spirit of the season beginning in Branson, Missouri, on Nov. 1.

Branson Landing’s Winter WonderLanding
Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, 2014
The well-known shopping, dining and event area that is Branson Landing will be transformed come November 1 into Winter WonderLanding. With lights, decorations and the sounds of the season, families will really feel the spirit and magic of the holidays.

Santa Arrives at Branson Landing
Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, 2014
Take the kids for a picture with Santa at Branson Landing’s Winter WonderLanding. Sant and his helpers will be stationed at the 50-foot Christmas Treehouse in the center of the Landing’s Town Square.

An Old Time Christmas
Nov. 1 to Dec. 30, 2014
Get ready for the holidays with events throughout November and December in Silver Dollar City. From light shows, rides and parades, to musical productions, shopping and a special effects Christmas tree. To be exact, there will be 5 million lights to see, so don’t miss out!

Area Festival of Lights
Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2014
Drive through the Branson Area Festival of Lights and see your favorite characters, places and people lit up in the colors of the season. The one-mile long drive has more than 175 displays. Enjoy the spectacular from sunset to 11 p.m. daily, from November 1 to December 31. Admission starts from $15 per vehicle.

Shepard of the Hills Trail of Lights
Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2014
The famous Trail That Nobody Knows How Old will be transformed into a holiday light extravaganza in which families can drive through. The 160-acre Shepard of the Hills Homestead will look like a wonderland that kids won’t want to miss. Plus, after driving down the trail, take a ride up an elevator for a special look at the displays from 230 feet above the ground. Open at dusk daily, seven days a week. Shows and other activities at the Shepard of the Hills Homestead are available for additional fees.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Dr. Seuss’ San Diego

October 25th, 2014

Did you know Theodore Seuss Geisel — Dr. Seuss — penned many of his books in La Jolla, just outside of San Diego? His life and legend are continuously celebrated in SoCal, with a special event planned for Balboa Park’s Centennial. Whether you have plans to be in the area soon or just hope to visit one day, don’t miss these six storybook staples.

Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat statue at University of California San Diego

Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss
The San Diego History Center will host a special exhibit in honor of the beloved writer, Nov. 21 to Dec. 31, 2015. Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss (a traveling exhibit) will feature rare works, illustrations and editorial cartoons, with a focus on Dr. Seuss’ roots in San Diego. Interactive family activities will be part of the fun, too.

Truffula Tree
Remember the Truffula Trees in “The Lorax?” They’re inspired by another kind of tree, called a Monterey Cypress. While these trees are rare, you’ll find one in La Jolla; La Valencia Hotel offers a prime view of the whimsical tree, which stands on a small “island” in the ocean.

Tower House
Dr. Seuss wrote two of his most famous stories – “McElligots’s Pool” and “The Cat in the Hat” – at his home atop Mt. Soledad in La Jolla. Known as “The Tower,” many tourists like to photograph the home from a distance, but can’t actually visit it – it’s still owned by Geisel’s wife, Audrey, who is a local philanthropist.

Geisel Library
While most people can’t access the Seuss Collection at Geisel Library (it’s limited to researchers), the building is still worth a visit, if for nothing else than the rare architecture – it sort of resembles a space ship. The property also features Dr. Seuss-themed sculptures, and often hosts events, including an annual Family Weekend (which kicks off today!).

Stephen Clayton Gallery
The Stephen Clayton Gallery in Coronado features a Secret Art of Dr. Seuss Exhibit, with fantastical artwork on display. It includes bizarre paintings and taxidermy – the Sea-Going Dilemma Fish especially captures the essence of Dr. Seuss. The Legends Gallery in La Jolla also offers a similar exhibit.

Old Globe Theatre
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is performed at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park each year. The theatre is even transformed into Whoville, complete with snow and Who-Hash! An autism-friendly performance is also offered in December.

– Amanda Geronikos

Save the Date: 5 Holiday Events In & Around NYC

October 24th, 2014

October is the best time to buy your tickets for all your favorite holiday spectaculars. Plan a trip to New York City with your family and include one of these five events that are in Manhattan or just outside, for a truly memorable and magical experience with the kids.

Left: Exterior view of Radio City Music Hall in New York City; Right: The Radio City Rockettes on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City

Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Nov. 7 to Dec. 31, 2014
Your kids will love seeing the famous kick-line of the Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Now in its 81st year, celebrate the season with holiday songs, scenes and Santa at Radio City Music Hall! Opening night is November 7 and the show runs through New Year’s Eve. The show is approximately 90 minutes long, with an intermission. Times vary per day, with options in the morning, afternoon and evening. Tickets start from $45 per person, and children under 2 are free. Visit for dates, times and tickets.

NYCB: The Nutcracker
Nov. 28, 2014 to Jan. 3, 2015
The New York City Ballet’s famous performance of The Nutcracker is celebrating 60 years and is coming to the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center on November 28, with performances through January 3, 2015. The whole family will enjoy the classic ballet and kids will love seeing the toy soldiers dancing with the ballerinas. You’ll leave with a magical feeling. Show times vary per day, with times in the afternoon and evening only. The ballet is 90 minutes long, with an intermission in the middle. Tickets start from $40 per person. Visit for dates, times and tickets.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Dec. 5-28, 2014
The classic Dr. Seuss story is perfect for the holiday season. How the Grinch Stole Christmas opens at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden on December 5. Sing along with kid-friendly songs like “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas.” The show is kid-friendly and parents will be transported back to their childhood. Show times vary per day, but are offered in the morning, afternoon and evening. Tickets start from $40 per person. Visit for dates, times and tickets.

Max and Ruby: The Nutcracker Suite
December 20, 2014
Families with young children should buy tickets to the Max and Ruby holiday special The Nutcracker Suite for a night filled with fun. Join Max and Ruby and their friends, the Sugar Plum Fairies and Gingerbread Men, as they dance and sing on stage Saturday, December 20, at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey, located just 45 minutes (by car or train) outside New York City. The show is geared towards children from infant to 6 years, and is 90 minutes long, with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets start from $40 per person. Show begins at 1 p.m. Visit for tickets.

A Christmas Carol
December 21, 2014
See the Charles Dickens’s classic at the Bergen Performing Arts Center on Sunday, December 21, with the entire family. Teach your children what the true meaning of Christmas is and leave feeling grateful and ready for the holiday season. The show is suitable for all ages and is about 60 minutes long. The Bergen Performing Arts Center is in Englewood, New Jersey, about 40 minutes (by car or train) outside of New York City. Tickets start from $30 per person. Show times are 1 and 4 p.m. Visit for tickets.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Year-Round Whale Watching in Orange County

October 23rd, 2014

People on a boat watch the tail of a whale come out of the water during a tourWhen I was 9 years old, my family went on a whale-watching excursion in Cape May, New Jersey. I remember it being cold (so much that we bought souvenir sweatshirts to keep us warm), but I also remember seeing dolphins swim next to the boat and whales jumping and flopping into the water in the distance. It was a memorable experience and I recommend that families do it at least once.

While many whale watching companies are on hiatus for the winter season, a few warm-weather destinations offer tours year-round, including Orange County, California. Newport Landing Whale Watching is one of the few companies that take guests into the ocean in search of blue whales, finbacks, dolphins and other aquatic creatures during the cold season, between November and February.

Tours depart from Newport Beach, which is conveniently located in the middle of Orange County, just minutes from the John Wayne/Orange County Airport and about 50 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport. And with year-round weather steady at sunny and 75, families won’t be cold like I was on my first whale-watching tour. Tours are offered daily – on weekdays and weekends – so you can easily fit it in to your Southern California vacation. And the boat, Nautilus, offers an indoor snack bar and restrooms.

Tours are scheduled three to four times daily, year-round, with times varying according to season (November to February and March to October). Tickets are $32 for adults (age 13 to 59) on weekdays and $36 for adults on weekends and holidays. Juniors (age 12 and under) and seniors (60 and older) are $26 on weekdays and $30 on weekends and holidays.

For more information and to reserve a whale-watching tour for your family, visit the Newport Landing Whale Watching website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz