Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

It’s Maple Sugar Season!

March 1st, 2014

The sap is running on maple trees all over the north, and if you’re looking for a way to get out of the house and the winter doldrums and try something new, consider joining in on maple events taking place throughout March.

Kicking off this weekend in Stamford, Conn., is the First County Bank Maple Sugar Weekend. Visitors will watch how colonials cultivated and made maple syrup, as well as sample treats, enjoy a pancake breakfast, and participate in a scavenger hunt.

In Cooperstown, N.Y., the Farmer’s Museum hosts “Sugaring Off Sundays” every Sunday in March. Maple sugar demonstrations and tastings include “Jack Wax” of hot maple syrup poured over snow and a pancake breakfast with the freshest maple syrup around.

Weston, Mass., hosts its annual “Sugaring Off” Festival on March 22. The event includes live music, free tours of the Sugar House, treats and a pancake breakfast.

In New Hampshire, its Maple Weekend takes place March 22 and 23 with more than 60 sugar houses opening their doors across the state.

Beginning March 29 and running through April 6, the 67th annual Pennsylvania Maple Festival takes place in Meyersdale. The event includes a parade, a pageant, and an old cars show.

If you wait until April, you can catch the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival in Shepherd, Mich. The festival takes place April 24 to 27 and includes carnival rides.

That same weekend, the Vermont Maple Festival takes place with a carnival, children’s programs, arts and crafts, a parade, tastings and more. The festival takes place in St. Albans, Vt.

To attend the world’s largest one-day Maple Syrup Festival, head to Elmira, Canada in Ontario. The event is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, with its festival taking place on Saturday, April 5. Live music, family activities and pancakes galore for devouring will be on hand.

In Vermont, the Woodstock Inn & Resort is also offering Sugar Season Packages. The Sugar Season Escape provides accommodations and breakfast starting at $199 per night on weekends, while the Sugar Season Extra Sweet package also includes $100 spa credit for weekend rates starting at $269 per night.

–Lissa Poirot

6 New Reasons to Visit The Florida Keys

February 11th, 2014

Planning a trip to the Florida Keys? You’re in luck, as the islands – which encompass Big Pine Key, Marathon, Islamorada and particularly popular Key Largo and Key West – are host to several new offerings that are especially of interest to families.

Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort is the newest hotel to debut in Marathon, having celebrated its grand opening in January 2014 (preceded by a soft opening in March 2013). For families, the newcomer features a private stretch of beach, heated swimming pool and spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens and free Wi-Fi access. Additionally, Crane Point Museum & Nature Center, one of the area’s hidden gems, as well as the Dolphin Research Center, are within close proximity to the hotel.

• Tranquility Bay Beachfront Hotel & Resort, also located in Marathon, has added 16 traditional guestrooms (with two queen beds in many), which it previously didn’t offer – only two- and three-bedroom cottages were available. Though the cottages are ideal for families — especially large or multigenerational groups — the rooms provide slightly less expensive and purposely more intimate accommodations, alongside a new swimming pool.

JetBlue and Silver Airways, both low-cost carriers, now offer connecting flights to Key West, serviced from Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers.

• With teens in tow, you can explore Key West’s spooky past via Sloan’s Ghost Hunt, created by local paranormal expert, David Sloan. The 90-minute, interactive tour departs from Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery nightly, and includes visits to some of the area’s most haunted sites. You’ll even be given a device to detect unusual activity. Tickets cost $25 per person.

Keys Huka and Scuba, newly opened in Marathon, specializes in hookah dives, which utilize surface-supplied air and are therefore ideal for inexperienced divers. Families with children ages 8 and up are welcomed.

And a Bonus for Mom and Dad…
Key West Chef Paul Menta has opened the area’s first legal rum distillery (Key West Rum Distillery), housed in a former Coca-Cola plant; guests are invited to sip free samplings from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Paul Menta also owns Amigos Tortilla Bar, a must-visit for families — it’s famous for its delicious square tacos (which we had a chance to sample last spring), made with fresh, locally grown ingredients.

– Amanda Geronikos

Arlington National Cemetery’s 150th Anniversary

February 8th, 2014

Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., just across the river from Washington, D.C., remains an important memorial to our nation’s history and soldiers. This year, the cemetery will be operating for its 150th year, honoring the more than 14,000 veterans who served our nation during times of war and peace. The cemetery, which spans 624 acres of rolling hills and gardens, still performs up to 30 funerals each day.

Beginning in mid-May, the cemetery will host commemorative events to highlight important milestones in its history, including laying a wreath at the first military burial site, the grave of Private William Christman. Special guided tours and other programs will take place through mid-June.

The cemetery is open seven days a week, 365 days per year.

–Lissa Poirot

St. Louis’ 250th Birthday Weekend

February 7th, 2014

St. Louis is turning 250 this year, and to celebrate, the city is hosting a series of special events, beginning Friday, February 14 and running through Sunday, February 16.

The party begins with the “Burnin’ Love Festival,” which begins at 4:30 p.m. in Forest Park, and features live music, fireworks, family-friendly crafts and activities and more.

Also opening on Friday, February 14 is the “250 in 250″ exhibit at Missouri History Museum. This special exhibit will highlight 250 artifacts on the subject of 50 objects, 50 places, 50 moments, 50 images and 50 people.

On Saturday, February 15, the St. Louis 250 Reenactment will take place at St. Louis City Hall at 10:30 a.m. Mayor Francis G. Slay and Governor Jeremiah Nixon will be on hand for the event, which includes a series of tableaus paying tribute to the cultures of early St. Louis.

To end the weekend-long party, St. Louis’ Biggest Birthday Ball will take place at the Missouri History Museum on Sunday, from 6 to 10 p.m.

–Lissa Poirot

Virginia is for Presidents Day Lovers

February 5th, 2014

With Presidents Day weekend around the corner — February 17 this year — consider a fun and (shhh!) educational trip to the state of Virginia. Your kids’ teachers will be the ones sending you cupcakes.

Virginia earned her nickname “the Mother of Presidents” by raising four of the very titans who sunk all they had in creating America. We’re talking Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. And then she gave us four more: Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson. Each man — save Tayler who moved as a child — left sprawling mansions, glittering museums, boyhood homes and upscale retreats behind.

While you can’t see everything in one visit — you can explore a lot of history with this awesome go-to list:

Mount Vernon
Each year, more than a million people visit George and Martha Washington’s home (about 30 minutes from Washington D.C.), making it the most popular historical estate in America. The mansion rooms are arranged just as the Washingtons would remember with their actual furniture, including the bed where Washington died. But the crown jewel at Mount Vernon is the first-rate Donald W. Reynold Museum & Education Center that’s brimming with kid-bait artifacts like Washington’s famous dentures, Revolutionary War weapons, Martha’s jewelry, the couple’s silver and china, and incredible films about Washington’s life (not for the under 8 set). After three hours, I still had to shoehorn my boys out at closing.

Mount Vernon celebrates George Washington’s birthday during Presidents Day weekend by welcoming everyone for free on Feb. 17. Yes, 10,000 people descend there on Washington’s big day. Our suggestion? Save yourself and visit at a less trampled time. Adults are $17 and kids 6 to 11 are $8.

Our third American president, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration of Independence and created a marvel of a mansion, Monticello, located near Charlottesville, Va. The profile on the front of the American nickel? Jefferson. Home on the back? Monticello. With kids in tow, reserve the Family Friendly Tour where guides get down on one knee to point out all that would interest a child. Our impressive guide even read a letter from Jefferson’s granddaughter to the great man himself. Arrive an hour before your tour to enjoy the exceptional gift shop and (kid-safe) movie. Adult tickets cost between $18 and $25 depending on the season, and kids 6 to 11 are $8.

You’d think penning our Bill of Rights would keep a guy front-and-center in the minds of Americans. Not so much if you’re James Madsion — our fourth president — and married to the Beyonce of his day: Dolley Madison. Dolley, adored for her lavish clothes and fabulous parties, sealed the celebrity deal when she saved George Washington. You see, when the British torched Washington D.C. and the Executive Mansion in 1814, Dolley ordered servants to break the frame and save a famous portrait of Washington. Montpelier, the estate of James and Dolley, sits an hour from Monticello in Orange Co., Va., on its own 2,000 rolling acres. On the mansion tour, you’ll walk through the first floor filled with art, antiques and conversational pieces from Madison’s day. You’ll also see the presidential library with titles he used to create the Bill of Rights. Adults are $18 and children 6 to 14 are $7; a carload can visit for $10 in September for the Constitution Day celebration.

Berkeley Plantation
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg? Then you’re close(ish) to two presidential plantations that were both occupied by Union forces during the Civil War. William Henry Harrison, our ninth president, owned the Berkeley Plantation — a gorgeously preserved 18th century jewel box that sits on a stunning 1,000 acres about 45 minutes from Williamsburg. Adults are $11, kids 6 to 12 are $6, and students 13 to 16 are $7.50.

Sherwood Forest Plantation
John Tyler, our tenth president, owned Sherwood Forest Plantation and died in 1862. Today Tyler’s octogenarian grandson (yes, I said grandson), Harrison Tyler, lives with his family at Sherwood Forest, a 30-minute drive from Williamsburg. Upshot: Tyler had a child in his 60′s. That child, in his mid-70′s, had a child — two to be exact both of whom are still with us today. Self-guided grounds tours are $10 per person, children 15 and under are free. The guided house tour is $35 per person.

For more ideas, see our 10 Best Presidential Sites for Kids.

– Wendy Irvine

Wendy Irvine is a family travel writer living in Virginia and mom of twin 10-year-old boys. Thanks to her sons and husband, she has learned far more than she needed to know on historical weapons: cannons, muskets with bayonet, rifles, pistols, sabers, and other spear-like weapons.

Baltimore Offering Multiple Savings with 3-in-1 Week Deals

February 4th, 2014

Baltimore is offering its “Absolutely FEBulous” week-long promotion that features savings at restaurants, hotels and museums. Between Valentine’s Day Weekend and Presidents Day Weekend, Restaurant Week, Hotel Week and Museum Week will be combined into one big week of discounts.

For diners, more than 75 restaurants will be offering three-course prix fixe dinner, lunch and brunch menus priced between $15 to $30. Attractions across the city are getting in on the deal by offering buy one, get one free admission offers. The BOGO deals are good at more than 15 attractions and museums, including the B&O Railroad Museum, Maryland Science Center and Port Discovery Children’s Museum.

Making it easier to stay in town to enjoy these deals, more than 16 hotels are offering packages starting at $109 per night. If you book through Visit Baltimore’s site, you’ll receive a $25 Visa gift card with a one-night stay or $50 Visa gift card with a two-night stay. Hotels participating include Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, Monaco Baltimore, a Kimpton Hotel, Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, Hampton Inn Baltimore Downtown Convention Center, and Royal Sonesta Harbor Court.

Absolutely FEBulous is running February 14 through 23, and is presented by Visit Baltimore, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.

–Lissa Poirot