Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Top 10 Beaches Lists

Hello, all! Just a quick note about TripAdvisor's newest Top 10 Spring Beach Destinations list. They are:

1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

2. Maui, Hawaii

3. Outer Banks, N.C.

4. Bahamas

5. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

6. Key West, Fla.

7. Bermuda

8. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

9. Santa Monica, Calif.

10. Turks and Caicos


Other "Best Beaches" lists of note include:

Yahoo Travel's Best Beaches list:

1. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
2. Miami, Florida
3. Cancun, Mexico
4. Kaanapali, Hawaii
5. Honolulu, Hawaii
6. San Diego, California
7. Boracay Island, Philippines
8. Key West, Florida
9. Sydney, Australia
10. Santa Barbara, California

New York City Bus Tour Savings

If you plan on going to New York anytime soon, you'll want to save some money on a combo New York Pass and double-decker bus tour. If you're not familiar with the New York Pass, it's a pass you buy which lets you into the most popular New York City attractions, such as:

• Empire State Building
• Statue of Liberty
• Madame Tussaud’s
• New York Skyride
• Circle Line River Cruise
• Guggenheim Museum
• Natural History Museum
• Museum of Modern Art
• Rockefeller Center Tour
• New York Aquarium

What's great is that you can buy the pass to cover many different days, such as a 1-day pass or a 3-day pass or 7-day pass, which means you can tailor it to your own New York City Getaway. And, at some of these attractions, you can even skip the wait in line!

Well, now, New York Pass has teamed with some of the New York City tour bus companies to bring you a combo tour! You can choose from a 2-Day Grayline Double-Decker Hop-on Hop-off combo tour with 2-days of unlimited hop-on, hop-off bus service, or a 3 Day CitySights NY tour, which gives you a downtown tour, Harlem tour, Brooklyn tour and a night tour. And, remember, you still have the New York Pass which lets you in on all the attractions as well.

To get a special combo price, just click the following link:

Save big on our New York Pass and Double-Decker Bus Tour combo!

Shopped for Mother's Day Yet?

Mother's Day is just around the corner. If you haven't bought your gift yet you might consider giving her the gift of a getaway. Get her a hotel gift card from Travelocity that she can use wherever she pleases. Here's the link for you:

Get Mom a Gift She'll Love for Mother's Day with Travelocity's Hotel Gift Cards!

Whether you get her a hotel gift card, jewelry or whatever, just put a little thought into it. You know those people who stand on the street corners on holidays selling those cellophane-wrapped baskets with a cheap stuffed animal and who-knows what else? Don't be one of those last-minute people and get your mother one of those! Really. She gave birth to you. Give her something better than a cellophane-wrapped afterthought. Just my little commentary. Carry on!

Friday, April 18, 2008

TravelSmith Vacation Sweepstakes

Another fabulous vacation sweepstakes for you to enter, this one called "TravelSmith Outfitters $20,000 Custom Trip of a Lifetime Sweepstakes"

What do you win?

There will be one grand prize winner, who will win his or her choice of:

a) a $20,000 dream vacation package, which consists of $20,000 in travel services from R. Crusoe & Son travel and $2,000 gift coupon worth of TravelSmith products, or

b) a $17,000 dream vacation package, which consists of $17,000 in travel services from R. Crusoe & Son travel, $3,000 spending cash, and $2,000 gift coupon worth of TravelSmith products.

The Winner will work with R. Crusoe & Son to design and book his or her dream vacation to any destination in the world. The value of this trip will not exceed $20,000.

Just in case you were wondering: If you (you hope you're the winner, right?) selects a trip which costs less than $20,000 or $17,000 depending on the prize option you select, you will not receive the difference between the actual cost of the trip or $20,000 or $17,000. Meaning, you can't book a trip to Boise for $1,000 and pocket the rest.

Now, if it was me, I'd choose option B, the $17,000 vacation. With that option you get $3,000 cash. Whenever cash is offered, take it. Remember, you have to pay taxes on the total amount of your winnings, which in both cases total $22,000.

Who can enter?

Legal residents of the 50 United States (including District of Columbia) who are at least 18 at the time of entry. So, you people from Alaska and Hawaii, this one's for you, too. Employees of the sponsors are ineligible.

When does the sweepstakes end?

You have to get your entry in by May 31, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

How do you enter to win?

You can enter to win this fabulous prize by going to www.travelsmith.com/greatescape or travelsmith.eprize.net/dreamtrip

Good luck!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Win a Vacation to St. Lucia

Who wants to enter to win a trip to St. Lucia? That makes two of us.

Luckily, I happen to have come across a vacation sweepstakes with the fabulous grand prize of:

5 days, 4 nights for two at The Landings St. Lucia, including air transportation on American Airlines, a 50-minute massage, and breakfast for two at the Beachfront Club Lounge.

You will love The Landings St. Lucia. A new resort (opened in December 2007), The Landings is located on the absolutely gorgeous beachfront property of Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. The Landings offers 62 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with kitchens and water views.

Do bring a good book to read while you're lounging around the pool, although you may not finish it because you'll be too busy with all the other activities St. Lucia offers: hiking, diving, snorkeling, sailing, getting spa treatments, etc.

So, how do I enter this fabulous sweepstakes?

Go to www.shape.com/bikinibodycountdown. Once there, go to the very bottom of the page and you'll see a notice about the sweepstakes on your right. Click on the link and you'll have to fill out a short survey, then enter. That's it. Remember, you don't have to buy anything or agree to receive their mailings to win. So, if you don't want to be bombarded by their emails, just click that you don't want any further info.

Who can enter?

Legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, 21 years or older. Certain employees of certain companies can't enter (but, you'll read that when you enter).

When does the sweepstakes end?

You have to enter by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on June 8, 2008.

Monday, April 14, 2008

10 Best Places to Visit in the USA

Let's be frank. With the dollar as weak as it is, a European vacation this year may not be in the cards for many people. What to do? Well, visit one of the many wonderful places in the U.S.!

Here is my list of "10 Best Places to Visit in the USA"

Savannah, GA

History, mystery and food. The city made famous with the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is a top destination for those into great architecture, good food and interesting walking tours. Be sure to take in one of the many ghost tours. Top off your visit with a day on Tybee Island.

Sedona, AZ

Sedona is one of my all-time favorite places, not so much for the "New Age" vibe (I do believe that's a bit overdone), but for the red rock and Oak Creek Canyon. You can just bring a chair and a book and sit by Oak Creek all day, or take a creek-side hike. It's just a couple hours to the Grand Canyon, which makes a wonderful day trip. Be sure to explore nearby Flagstaff while you're there.

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco really suits all budgets. If you're flush stay in Campton Place or Grand Hyatt on Union Square. If your budget's tight, pick a hotel or motel on Lombard Street going towards the Golden Gate Bridge. There are many moderately-priced hotels and restaurants which give good value for your money. Great shopping on Union Street and Chestnut Streets. Many walking tours in this great city. While you're there, take a ferry to Angel Island for wonderful walking and views of San Francisco.

San Juan Islands

Never been to the San Juan Islands? Then go! When you do you'll be visiting a destination which is consistently ranked high by Conde' Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure. The islands are part of the San Juan Archipelago, which is split into two groups, the San Juan Islands, which are part of the state of Washington, and the Gulf Islands, which are part of British Columbia. While there are a number of named islands, the most popular are Lopez, Orcas, Shaw and San Juan Island. If you're into whale watching, the best time and place to spot Orcas is May through September at Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of San Juan Island.

Mount Desert Island, ME

Why is Mount Desert Island so special? Among other things, Mount Desert Island has consistently been voted one of the top islands in North America by Travel and Leisure and Conde' Nast Traveler magazine. There you'll find Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor. There are many different types of accomodations on the Island, from the expensive and ritzy to camping spots with million-dollar views.

Santa Fe, NM

There are many reasons to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I go for the food. But, you might also enjoy the many galleries and the Native American jewelry you'll find. There's also a great deal of history in Santa Fe, as well as ancient ruins nearby. Take a side trip to Bandelier National Monument, 48 miles miles north of Santa Fe, where you can view Anasazi cliff dwellings. There are 70 miles of trails, so bring your hiking shoes.

San Diego, CA

A visit to San Diego provides something for everyone. Families with small children have LEGOLAND close by, and people of all ages will enjoy SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Old Town and, of course, the beaches. Take a side trip to Coronado Island and visit the Hotel del Coronado, a historic resort which has hosted numerous presidents. If you're in the mood to propose to your sweetheart, do it on a gondola in Coronado Bay at sunset.

Asheville, NC

Asheville, North Carolina is beginning to make it on many a travel-lover's radar. In fact, the Asheville area has been named a must-see destination by Frommer's in 2007. Attractions include the Biltmore Estate, which is not only America's largest home, but has also just been named one of the top 10 architectural wonders by the American Institute of Architects. Outside Magazine has also ranked Asheville as “Best Southern Town” in August, 2007. What makes Asheville a great destination includes its location near the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where you can hike, explore waterfalls, bike, fish, and just take in the beauty of the mountains. Asheville has also become quite the artists' community, with numerous art galleries and art events.

Chicago, IL

I never had a desire to visit Chicago until I did some research and found out all the many different things there are to do there. Stay within the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. Here along North Michigan Avenue (and the streets that intersect) you have a mecca of shopping, dining and cultural experiences, with theaters, museums and galleries. When the weather's right, go relax and get some sun at one of Chicago's many beaches. One of the more popular beaches is Oak Street Beach at 1001 N. Lake Shore Dr. You'll find a wide, sandy beach for sunning, and a lakeside path for biking and running. Just north of Chicago is Illinois Beach State Park which you'll definitely want to visit. The beach features 6 1/2 miles of sandy shore along Lake Michigan.

Boston, MA

Don't just take it from me; Boston is one of the most popular cities in America to visit, receiving over 16 million visitors a year. Most tourists visit Boston between May and September, with the best weather in early to mid summer. What's the best way to see Boston? Start with one of the many different tours available, from walking tours to trolley tours to boat tours. My favorites include the Old Town Trolley Chocolate Tour and walking the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail which takes you to 16 historic sites, including the Paul Revere House. The Chocolate Tour? That's pretty self-explanatory. But, you can get more info at trolleytours.com. Sorry to say, but the chocolate tours are only available from January through April.

I'm sure I missed some favorites on my "10 Best Places to Visit in the USA" list. If I missed yours, drop me a comment and let me know some of your favorites.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hurry and Enter to Win a Vacation

Time's running out to enter the $50,000 vacation to Florida sweepstakes put on by Family Circle and several other magazines. You have until April 15, 2008, which is also tax day. So, if you have to choose to do your taxes or enter this sweepstakes, what will you do:) Okay, okay, you'll do your taxes. The sweepstakes doesn't take that long to enter, so you can do that too.

Anyway, if you win you and three guests will have use of a 9,000 sq. foot home in southerm Florida. Of course that comes with a private chef and housekeeper. Oh, and you'll get $20,000 to spend (which you'll have to claim on your taxes, don't you hate it?) So go and enter now before the deadline. Here are the links:

www.familycircle.com/win

www.bhg.com/win

www.traditionalhome.com/win

www.countryhome.com/win

www.kitchenbathideas.com/win

La Jolla California Getaway

It's that time of year again. Time for a beach getaway! And, what beach getaway is one of my favorites?

La Jolla, California.

La Jolla is an upscale beach community located 12 miles north of downtown San Diego. Yes, it's often referred to as the "Beverly Hills" of San Diego, but don't let that turn you off. (Oh, it didn't? Sorry, just not that fond of Beverly Hills).

La Jolla is more than just an upscale resort area to shop and eat. You can do those things, but you can do a whole lot more. My favorite: Relaxing and playing on the spectacular sandy beaches, like Windansea Beach, La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Beach, and La Jolla Shores.

If you're into exploring, you'll want to take one of the tours offered by Hike Bike Kayak of San Diego. One of their more popular tours is the kayak tour of the well known La Jolla Sea Caves. Or, you can experience La Jolla from the air. The Torrey Pines Gliderport offers instruction on hang gliding, pargliding and sailplane flying. If you want just a taste of it, you can also sign up for one of their tandem flights with an instructor.

As you might expect, you can find some pretty pricey hotels. But, you'd also be surprised at some of the more modest offerings in La Jolla, such as the La Jolla Village Lodge and the Travelodge La Jolla. FYI, the La Jolla Village Lodge is ranked higher in user surveys on TripAdvisor than Travelodge La Jolla. Don't know if that means anything to you or not. You'll find more hotels in our post on La Jolla lodging at

http://vacation-getaway.blogspot.com/2007/07/best-hotels-in-la-jolla-california.html .

We also have more information on La Jolla and the entire San Diego area on our website. Check out our pages on:

San Diego Attractions

San Diego Beach Vacations

You really will find a great amount of things to do in La Jolla and nearby San Diego. But, at the end of the day, it's the sunsets you'll remember the most. I'm including this YouTube video on La Jolla sunsets just to give you a taste of what to expect. If the music's a bit much, you can just turn it down.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Magnificent Mile in Chicago

Searching for a great place for a girlfriend's getaway? A spring vacation? A place to just shop till you drop? A place to go yachting in the morning and take in a great play at night? Then you must make it to Chicago's famed "Magnificent Mile." Magnificent Mile is the term used for a mile of North Michigan Avenue (and the streets that intersect) north of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, with over 460 exclusive stores, 200 restaurants and a host of other cultural and recreational activities.

What will you find along the Magnificent Mile? Well, besides the usual upscale suspects (Bloomindales, Saks, Nordstrom's, Cartier, Burberry, Armani and Nieman Marcus) you'll find such specialty clothing stores as Ermenegildo Zegna, Fogal of Switzerland, Luca Luca and Anne Fontaine. Not to mention something for the chocolate addicts: Lindt Chocolates and Vosges Haut Chocolat.

You'll also find something for the pet you left back home at "Tails in The City," a pet boutique. You'll find everything from dog sweaters to gourmet dog treats. Surely Max (one of the most popular dog names, by the way) would love a carob peanut butter pie made just for him. Or maybe Fluffy would like little treats shaped like martini glasses. That way you two can toast your return.

Magnificent Mile in Chicago also offers an antique store, 6 art galleries and too many museums to mention (and you'll get bored reading them and click out of my site, and I don't want that, right?) Okay, I'll list some of them: The Field Museum, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Contemporary Art and the International Museum of Surgical Science (seriously, you should check out their gift shop where you'll find "giant microbe plush toys" and the "Mr. Thrifty Skull with 8-Part Brain" model).

If you're in the mood for a show, there are also numerous theaters to choose from. Now playing at the Drury Lane Water Tower is "Shout - the Mod Musical," which is a musical celebration of the 60s. "The Ballad of Emmett Till" is playing at the
Goodman Theatre from April 26 - June 1. If you're into comedy there's also The Second City.

The Magnificent Mile is also full of tour companies if you want sightseeing tours of Chicago, as well as boat charters for tours of Lake Michigan.

Where to Stay Near Magnificent Mile

Take your pick. You have choices within the Magnificent Mile area for all budgets, from the Holiday Inn to The Four Seasons to the Omni. We took a look at Frommers.com and found they gave 3 stars (the most they give) to several hotels in the Magnificent Mile: the Park Hyatt Chicago, Ritz-Carlton Chicago, and Four Seasons Hotel.

For all you into quality and lower prices, they also gave 2 stars to a couple more moderately-priced hotels: The Tremont Hotel in Chicago and the Chicago City Center Hotel and Sport Club. For the lowest-priced hotel in the Magnificent Mile area, Frommer's suggest you go with the Red Roof Inn, which they say "is your best bet for the lowest-priced lodgings in downtown Chicago."