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California Dreamin’

Posted: May 2nd, 2012 by

A bucket list is a great way to get the most out of life.  One popular trip on a lot of people’s bucket list is a drive up Highway 1, on the California coast (preferably in a convertible). Don’t forget your sunglasses!

Downtown LA, Venice Beach, Griffith Observatory and Hollywood Sign.- Wikimedia Commons.Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported

A great starting point is Los Angeles.  Allow a few days taking in the sights before hitting the road.  Here are a few  “must see” attractions in L.A. area:

  • The Getty Center in Pacific Palisades – located on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, visitors can view art from Pre-Renaissance to Impressionist periods in Europe.
  • The Getty Villa in Malibu- J. Paul Getty’s ornate Spanish Ranch house is now a world-class art museum. Admission is free but parking must be reserved.
  • Hollywood  & Highland- This busy intersection includes the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and 3 stories of boutiques, cafes and shops. Don’t miss the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Kodak Theatre.
  • Santa Monica Pier- The 1600 ft. pier opened in 1909 has a 1922 Carousel with 44 hand carved horses, a working roller coaster and a Ferris Wheel.
  • Beverly Hills- A trolley runs around the area allowing you the opportunity to hop off for a walking tour through the mansions along palm lined boulevards. Get more information at Beverly Hills Visitors Bureau.
  • The Grove/Farmer’s Market- The Grove is a new open pedestrian shopping area with green spaces, fountains, boutiques, and entertainment complex attached to the Historic Farmer’s Market, which has been in existence since the 1930’s.
  • Universal Studios Hollywood- Just a few minutes drive from Downtown LA or Hollywood, this theme park offers a behind-the scenes view into movie making and some really fun movie themed rides.
  • The Hollywood Bowl- Is the summer home of LA Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Bring a picnic and enjoy outstanding music under the stars. If you are in the box seats you can even order dinner in advance to be served at your box!
  • The Griffith Observatory- Built in 1935 in the Art Deco style, the observatory sits on a Mountain peak overlooking Hollywood and old L.A.  It is open Wednesday-Sunday until 10:00pm and admission is free, although there is a small charge for the planetarium sky show.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art- Located in the “Miracle Mile” district of Midtown.  The museum receives rare collections on tour. It shares the boulevard, known as Museum Row, with L.A. Craft and Folk Art Museum, Page Museum of Natural History and La Brea Tar Pits.

If you are looking for convenient and affordable lodging  in the Los Angeles area visit our website

Spring Break is Bigger and Better Than Ever!

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 by

Spring break actually started for some schools in mid February and runs the second or third week in April.  If you would like numbers, Tripsmarter.com has put together all the data on spring break 2012 dates and corresponding number of humans on break in a given week.

Are you looking for spring break ideas?  In addition to the traditional favorites, there and lots of alternative spring break opportunities.  How about a volunteer vacation?  Are you interested in snow or sand? Here are just a few ideas for a fantastic spring break!

The top ten spring break destinations don’t change much from year to year. Below is a list of top ten spring break hot spots for 2012.

  1. Cancun
  2. Panama City, FL
  3. Miami and South Beach Florida
  4. Europe
  5. Puerto Vallarta
  6. Acapulco
  7. Caribbean (Nassau and Jamaica)
  8. South Padre Island, TX
  9. Puerto Rico
  10. North American Ski Resorts

One alternative to the “sun or sand” routine is a volunteer vacation. There are lots of opportunities to enjoy fun and camaraderie of like-minded folks, while doing your share to help others in need. United Way is sponsoring alternative spring break for volunteers in the US, and non-profit house-builder Habitat for Humanity offers opportunities all over the country. Projects Abroad is now offering short-term volunteering abroad opportunities specifically designed for one-week spring break trips.

Check out this volunteer list of college student volunteer opportunities, and however you decide to spend your spring break remember to have lots of fun!

 

No Matter Where Your Travels Take You . . . .

Posted: February 8th, 2012 by

Who would have thought that February, which many do not consider the ideal month to travel in to also be one of the most popular months of the year for tourism.

Certainly you have to list the sunny shores of Florida and the Daytona 500, which happens to be February 26th this year, as one of the key reasons to travel south, especially if you live in the frigid northern climes.  Just being able to shed all those extra layers of clothing and drink in the sea air is enough reason to trek down I-75 or I-95.

If Florida is not on your mind, then head to New York?  Sure, the weather may not be ideal, but if a little romance is on your agenda, then Niagara Falls, the honeymoon capital of the world (or at least in the U.S. of A) or New York City with its bright lights, Broadway shows and mega shopping opportunities would be a perfect alternative.

Why not Pennsylvania, you ask?  Well, why not?  Even where the grass has been greener can be serene, when heading to the Amish countryside as you travel along the back roads and by-ways.  

A little further south, there is always Virginia, the state which touts “Virginia is for Lovers”  . . . where you can watch the sun rise over the ocean near the seaside and heading further east see the shadows fall over the lush (verdant green in the spring, summer and fall months) rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley as the sun goes down.  Now if that isn’t romantic, I’m just not sure what is.

Romance it seems has no season, just a reason for traveling to that special place.  And if you’re unsure where to stop for a good night’s sleep, click here for some suggestions.

By the way, we haven’t forgotten New Orleans; after all, one of the most popular tourism events of the year happens in the big easy . . . Mardi Gras will kick off before Lent, which occurs on the 22nd of February this year, so if watching colorful parades and being involved in all the gala is something you enjoy, then head to Louisiana!

Over the River and Through the Woods…

Posted: November 30th, 2011 by

The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people.  I have an 11-year-old son and I can tell you that his gift list, and those of his schoolmates, is daunting indeed. At the top of every list this year is all the “smart” technology, from phones to TV’s to Tablets, with a not so smart price tag. The media would have our kids think they are outside the norm if they do not have all these expensive gadgets, and many times parents are pressured into buying things they just cannot afford. This creates stress. On the other hand if we do not buy these things we believe our kids will be unhappy and this can also be stressful.

Another anxiety provoking holiday tradition is the trip to visit extended family. Many people take advantage of time off work and school to visit family. While it is nice to see our relatives, it can also be difficult to mesh different attitudes about child rearing, traditions and even religious beliefs. While family movie networks abound with warm fuzzy images about holidays and family, it seems this seldom relates to the average family. And then there are those who do not have family to visit. The newly divorced, or aged folks can feel very alone at this time of year.

As if that weren’t stressful enough, we over-extend ourselves in our social obligations. We try to attend every holiday party, social event and family gathering, overeating and sometimes drinking too much in the process. 

What is the answer to all this stress? Here are a few ideas about how to simplify the holidays and hopefully make things a little less stressful.

  • Forgo all the expensive gifts and opt for a “homemade” Christmas. Everyone is good at making something, whether it is woodworking, knitting, or just putting together a list of family recipes or a photo album. These kinds of gifts can become cherished family heirlooms. Families with small children may particularly enjoy this approach, especially getting the kids involved in making the gifts.
  • Forget all the elaborate holiday decorating and just display some fresh cut greenery in your favorite vase. How about a small living tabletop tree that can be planted outdoors after the season is over. Sometimes less is more.
  • Instead of trying to attend every single holiday party why not plan a weekend outing with kids to view Christmas lights, go to the zoo or to a museum? Or even just plan a family night to stay at home and play games or watch a movie.
  • Remember the less fortunate during the season. Volunteer for a food drive for the needy or support our troops by helping military families who may be far away from family at this time of year.  If you are alone, this is a good way to get involved in the community. For families, helping children to realize that there are others who do not have all the advantages, may allow them to appreciate how blessed they are.
  • Finally, if you think that trip to Grandma’s house may cause too much stress and anxiety, just say no. Instead, perhaps arrange a visit at a less hectic time of year, or visits with individual family members versus a large family gathering.

Remember, if you are traveling at this time of year, visit www.bookroomsnow.com for a good night’s sleep at a price that won’t add stress to your holidays!

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Holiday Madness Is Here!

Posted: November 2nd, 2011 by

Diyas (oil lamp) during Diwali-wikipedia

This is just a crazy time of year. According to Hallmark, there are 8 major holidays crammed into the short time span from October 31- December 31. That averages out a holiday every 11.5 Days!  Some of these holidays have been celebrated since the pilgrims first set foot on these shores, while others are recently recognized in the United States. For instance, although Diwali has been celebrated in India for centuries, it has only recently gained popularity as major holiday in this country. 8 Major Holidays in 92 Days- 2011:

October 31- Halloween

November 11- Veterans Day

November 13- Diwali

November 24- Thanksgiving

December 21- Hanukkah

December 25- Christmas

December 26- Kwanzaa

December 31/January –1  New Year’s Eve/Day

Many people plan to visit friends and family or take a much needed vacation for at least one of these holidays, making this one of the busiest travel times of the year. Families are able to take advantage of school breaks and take the kids to visit Grandma, go to Disney World, enjoy a cruise or hit the slopes. Hotels, cruise lines and tour companies all offer holiday specials this time of year. With a little advance planning, the savvy traveler is able to take advantage of some great deals.

What are your plans this holiday season?

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For affordable lodging and a good Night’s Sleep on your holiday vacation

Taking Time to Remember

Posted: September 8th, 2011 by

 

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the world-changing event that has become known simply as 9-11.  As our country continues the healing process, communities all across the nation will take time this September 11th, to commemorate the personal stories of tragedy, and in many instances triumph, in the face of overwhelming circumstances. We remember those who lost their lives and loved ones, as well as those who risked their lives as first responders. Check with your local officials for events in your area. These are some events taking place in the NYC area.

* Remembrance at Trinity Church

On Sunday, Sept. 11, the historic Trinity Church, at Broadway and Wall Streets near the ground zero site, will ring the Bell of Hope at 8:46 a.m. In the afternoon, at 1:30 p.m., the church will ring the tower bells for an hour of remembrance. At 2:30 p.m., a special service will be held in remembrance of the 9/11 volunteers, first responders, and recovery workers. At 7:14 p.m., an interfaith ringing of the Bell of Hope will again honor the memory of those killed. Admission is free.

* Hand in Hand Remembrance

On Saturday, Sept. 10, thousands of people will join hands to form a human chain along the waterfront in lower Manhattan. The event begins at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. Afterward, participants may post a message on the Wall of Remembrance at Battery Park. Participation in the hand-holding ceremony is free, but pre-registration is required. Sign up on the event’s website. Organizers will contact you with information on your starting location.

* Opening of the National 9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial, on the ground zero site, contains two giant waterfalls and two reflecting pools in the footprints of the twin towers, surrounded by the names of the people who died inscribed in bronze panels. The Memorial will be open to the public starting on Monday, Sept. 12. Admission is free, but advance reservations are required. You can reserve a pass on the 9/11 Memorial’s website. Enter at the intersection of Albany and Greenwich streets.

* World Trade Center Memorial Floating Lantern Ceremony

On the evening of Sept. 11, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Interfaith Center of New York will host a floating lantern ceremony on the south side of Pier 40 on the Hudson River. Participants will write loved one’s names and messages of peace on paper lanterns and release them into the river. The ceremony includes interfaith prayer, meditation, and musical performances. Admission is free.

Chillin’ in the Bayou City- Fun and affordable ways to beat the heat in Houston, Texas

Posted: July 14th, 2011 by

Folks in Houston, Texas know that summer temperatures hover in the mid 90’s and often exceed 100 degrees. However, there are scores of activities, which allow you to enjoy summer from a cool point of view!  Here a just a few suggestions:

NASA Johnson Space Center Tram Tour

  • NASA Johnson Space Center– Take a tram tour, a behind-the-scenes journey through NASA’s Johnson Space Center, you may visit the Historic Mission Control Center, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility or the current Mission Control Center. Before returning to Space Center Houston, you can visit the “all new” Saturn V Complex at Rocket Park. Occasionally, the tour may visit other facilities, such as the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. You may even get to see astronauts training for upcoming missions.

  Museum of Fine Arts Houston– MFAH features summer activities for kids and adults Every Sunday and Thursday this summer, families can enjoy an expanded line-up of activities at the MFAH including the Art Detectives program Gallery Investigations; Creation Stations; the storybook program A Book and A Look; and self-guided activities such as Family Packs.

 Houston Museum of Natural Science, located on the edge of Hermann Park, one of the nation’s most-heavily attended museums-is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, including the Wortham IMAX® Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Houston Museum has something to delight every age group.

 
 Reliant Park Complex– Check out the many events scheduled at the Reliant Park Complex. From the world’s first domed stadium to the world’s first retractable roof, air-conditioned, natural grass football stadium, Reliant Park has established itself as the premier sports, entertainment and convention complex in the country.  From NFL football to Disney on Ice, to live concerts there is something for eveyone.  Check out the calander of events.
Kayak Tours – For a truly unique way to see the city,  how about a Kayak Tour of the Buffalo Bayou?  Buffalo Bayou Shuttle Service  is just one of the tour operators offering guided kayak tours.   They will point out beautiful sights as well as obstacles to navigate through. They will fill you in on the History of the Bayou and how it relates to Houston. From the Civil War to Present Day, there is a lot of history on the Buffalo Bayou.
 If you are looking for a good Night’s Sleep while in Houston, check  for  quality affordable acommodations in 28 locations throughout the Houston area.

Shuffle Off to Buffalo – a Road Trip Near the Falls

Posted: April 27th, 2011 by
 
Buffalo Skyline – Wikimedia Commons Photo

 There’s more to Buffalo, New York than the “Falls”  . . . located on the eastern shores of Lake Erie, Buffalo has the second largest population in New York.  The city could attribute its growth to the Erie Canal and its proximity to Niagara Falls, which is the 6th most popular attraction in the world (according to Forbes Top 10 most visited attractions).  Perhaps the 1933 tune, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, with its lyrics “there’s no honeymoon that’s cheaper” aided in Buffalo’s tourism growth as well.

Buffalo is a city steeped in cultural history; From the Iroquois, who originally settled Buffalo, and Seneca Indians who were said to have destroyed the Neutral Nation (of which the Iroquois were members) to The French, who were rumored to have exclaimed, beau fleuve (translation: beautiful river) upon seeing Buffalo and Niagara Falls.  During the  War of 1812,  Buffalo was burned by British forces. On November 4, 1825 the  Erie Canal was completed with Buffalo strategically positioned at the western end of the system.

Despite these early set backs, Buffalo grew and became an economic force in the State of New York; of which tourism played an integral part .  There are plenty of attractions and things to do (some of which are shown below), plus lots of shopping excursions (evidenced by Canadian visitors just across the border).

  • Michigan Street Baptist Church (This African-American church was founded in 1845 as the Macedonia Baptist Church and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974)
  • Buffalo’s Underground Railroad (The railroad and the Macedonia Baptist Church were of historical significance during the Civil War)
  • Buffalo Zoo (The zoo, more than a century old, experienced some excitement late 2010, when Sidney, a 13-year old gorilla, gave birth to a baby boy gorilla, dubbed Tiny by zoo caretakers.  It had been 10 years since a gorilla gave birth at the Buffalo Zoo)

    Sidney is shown with baby gorilla – Flickr image by dpape

  • Wilcox Mansion (Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site)
  • Shea’s Performing Arts Center
  • Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park (The USS Little Rock, USS The Sullivans, and USS Croaker are among the historic ships on display)
  • Erie Canal
 

Maid of the Mist – Flickr image by mahfrot

 

 Not only is there a lot to do and see in Buffalo; but raising a family might take center stage (Forbes rated Buffalo the 10th best place to raise a family in America) and seeking a medical profession, which is a strong economic factor with the University of Buffalo and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus maintaining their growth and expansion in spite of a sluggish economy, could be a good reason to call Buffalo home.

Although, if you’re not looking to relocate, and you need a good night’s sleep while visiting this vibrant western New York City, visit www.BookRoomsNow.com

 

GENTLEMEN (and LADIES) START YOUR ENGINES!

Posted: February 8th, 2011 by

NASCAR and the U.S. Navy teamed up for charity - photo ca 2002

NASCAR fans will all agree the Daytona 500 launches a year of NASCAR excitement, so its no surprise that Daytona [Beach], Florida gets a big boost in tourism during the month of February.  And, what better time to travel to their southern sandy shores, when the cold winds, and often times, snow, are chilling the air in the northern climes.

Park or drive on the white sands of Daytona Beach Shores - Flickr photo by gamiziuk

Although the Daytona 500 is a major highlight of tourism attractions in Daytona Beach, there are many reasons you might want to trek to the white sandy beaches along Florida’s east coast.

  • Driving your automobile ‘on the beach’

 

  • Attend at least one race at the Daytona International Speedway; there are a dozen events throughout the year, with the Daytona 500 being the most celebrated

 

  • Are you hungry? There are many restaurants that serve great seafood and most any cuisine you have a craving for.  Check out this website for Daytona Beach restaurants: http://daytona.beach.diningguide.com/

 

  • Historic White Hall, located on the campus of Bethune-Cookman College

    Visit a museum or other historic site; there are plenty, and some quite unique, like the Mary McLeod Bethune Home and White Hall, both national historic landmarks located on the campus of the Bethune-Cookman College, and the 1903 S.H. Kress Building

 

  • Play a few rounds of golf; with numerous championship golf courses you’re bound to find a favorite –http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/florida/daytonabeach/

 

  • Try your luck at catching a big one off the Sunglow Fishing Pier or just catch a few rays on the white sandy beach . . .

 

A typical sunrise along the shores of Daytona Beach, Florida's fun coast

  • Cotton candy anyone?  You won’t want to miss the Boardwalk Amusement Park and Pier for shopping, eating and a fun place for the whole family.

 

  • Spend the night in one of many small motels along the beach or on the Intercoastal Water Way where you’re sure to get a good night’s sleep

Only 15 More Shopping Days Til’ Christmas . . . .

Posted: December 9th, 2010 by

Heralding in a new Holiday Shopping Season - Christmas Tree in front of Macy's - Flickr photo by Pravin-kumar

What a familiar statement that is.  Not to worry as there are numerous shopping opportunities; what with mega malls, discount outlet shopping centers, strip malls with large department stores and discount stores galore in most every city around.  If you are like many folks and simply don’t want to fight the crowds or just get out, you can turn on the tube and seek out gifts for everyone on Home Shopping Network and QVC or other similar TV shopping networks.  Plus, technology has pushed the envelope when it comes to shopping on the Internet.  New or used, you name it and you can find it on a variety of websites.

Some of our readers will remember planned shopping excursions, where for weeks you mapped out your trip to the big city to buy Christmas gifts.  It normally required an overnight stay in a hotel or nearby inn and often included a special meal at your favorite out-of-town restaurant.  Up early in the morning to beat the crowds with a shop until you drop attitude . . . then laden with gifts galore you return to your home-away-from -home; tired, but pleased that you found that special gift for Aunt Mary, Cousin Jane and Grandpa.

Going to the big city for shopping was a treat - Flickr photo of Washington, DC at Christmastime by ktlerconk

Part of the phenomenon of Christmas shopping from afar was the gaiety of sparkling tinsel and twinkling lights, seeing a larger than life Christmas tree and simply being part of the bustling Christmas shopping crowd.

Today, there are more reasons to leave the sofa or laptop to shop – mega malls are not just filled with retail establishments but many house amusement parks, hotels, and are considered tourist destinations.  Here are some stats when it comes to these mega shopping opportunities.  Eight of the 10 largest malls in the world are located in Asia, so if you really want a shopping experience of a life time you might want to travel to Dongguan, China, where the South China Mall is said to be the largest mall in the world.  This mall has it all; a replica of France’s Arc de Triomphe, working wind mills, a theme park, and has a whopping 7.1 million square feet of space to its name. 

If you want to ride the waves or experience the thrill of a towering roller coaster, then Cevahir Istanbul in Turkey is the place to go.  Considered the largest mall in Europe, Cevahir features a wave pool, roller coaster and several IMAX theatres plus a bevy of shops to meet the needs of even the most persnickety shopper.

Rollercoaster shown is in the West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, Canada - Wikimedia photo

Mall of America, Flickr photo by cliff1066

For those U.S. shoppers who want to be a little closer to home, then the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada might just be the ticket for the whole family.  With 3.8 million square feet of shopping and entertainment space, including a casino, skating rink, water park, a petting zoo and other attractions, this mega mall rivals some of the best and largest.  Let’s not forget the Mall of America, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where forty million visitors a year visit to shop at more than 500+ stores, visit the Underwater Aquarium Adventure, Lego Imagination Center and Dinosaur Walk Museum or party hardy in one of their seven nightclubs.

The town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber - Flickr photo by Alaskan Dude

Lifesize nutcracker in Rothenburg Christmas Store - Flickr photo by Alaskan Dude

Not into mega malls, and simply want to get caught up in the spirit of Christmas?  Dating all the way back to the 14th century is Germany’s Christkindlmarkt experience; a must do and see in towns like Dresden and Nuremberg.   Also, the Medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is famous for its Weihnachtsmarkt.  Even if you don’t buy a thing, just touring this romantic town, whose history goes back as far as 970 AD, with its uneven cobblestone streets, aged half-timbered houses and an imposingly thick wall of stone that surrounds the city, will leave you with a feeling of good will and cheer.

Last but not least are those home-spun Christmas -bazaars, put on by churches and non-profit organizations galore, where crafters and artisans of all kinds put out their one-of-a-kind treasures or cloned home-made articles of all types.  You won’t want to miss these delightful, in-your-backyard shopping opportunities, where often times this is where you find that special gift found no where else. 

Happy holidays everyone – and happy shopping to you!

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