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April Showers and Flowers

Posted: April 14th, 2016 by

The month of April is everything we are looking for after the winter.

Glorious bursts of colors as flowers gently open to the warm rays of the sun.

Travelling can be dull and boring, so brighten the experience by checking out nearby Botanical Gardens



 

Nashville, TN

Cheekwood

 

Cheekwood Botanical Garden, not too far from the Scottish Inns Hotel located at 426 Murfreesboro Road, Nashville, TN 37210

Ranked #9 in USA Today 10 Best Botanical Gardens and features 55 acres divided into a dozen themed areas including a Japanese Garden, an herb garden, two perennial gardens, a color garden, water garden, seasons garden and an award-winning wildflower garden. Sounds relaxing and peaceful, so different to the Interstate that you may be travelling on.

 

Pine Mountain GA

Travelling south of Atlanta along the I85 means you can take a break wandering around the Callaway Gardens.  The Callaway Azalea Bowl looks wonderful this time of the year.

calloway 1 calloway

This 40-acre garden is home to more than 3,000 native and hybrid azaleas, which explode into a colorful palette of pinks, reds, lavenders and whites each Spring. Additional plantings include 2,000 trees and shrubs that provide an array of foliage and blooms throughout the year. With wide walking paths that criss-cross the hillside gardens, the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl is a delightful spot for a leisurely stroll in any season. A gazebo overlooking Falls Creek Lake is an ideal resting spot from which to drink in the picture-postcard beauty.

Glencoe IL

Visiting Chicago IL and need a break? Then take time out and visit the Chicago Botanic Garden. 385 acres with 26 gardens and 4 natural areas that include Japanese gardens and an English walled garden. This beautiful site is ranked #8 in USA Today 10 Best Botanical Gardens and is well worth a visit. Just a few minutes drive from the Red Carpet Inn located at 3207 Buckley Rd. N Chicago, IL 60064

 

tumblr_n4fvzqzdRw1rgztpko1_400 Chicago-Botanic-Garden

There’s even a tram to take you on a tour if you want a rest from walking. The tram ride is 2.3 miles and runs  through the Japanese Garden, the McDonald Woods and alongside the Garden’s 81 acres of water.

Happy Travelling!

FREE is GOOD! Part 3 of a 3 part series

Posted: July 1st, 2013 by

Macy's 4th of July Parade flickr image by Joyce Andes

Macy’s 4th of July Parade
flickr image by Joyce Andes


Why not Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our country? You might head over to Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing for the Philadelphia Orchestra Neighborhood Concert or simply watch the fireworks at the Philly 4th of July Jam.

If Philly is not on your mind, perhaps the beauty of the Smoky Mountains is calling your name – so head over to UNC’s Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to hear live music by Kenny Mann and Liquid Pleasure, and a spectacular light up the sky fireworks display. You don’t want to miss the watermelon eating contest as well . . .

Flickr image by NYC Marines

Flickr image by NYC Marines

Nashville “Music City” 4th of July celebration is a must attend event . . . “ If there’s one thing Nashville knows how to do, it’s throw a party.” . . . . “Get ready for a day full of FREE LIVE MUSIC (including The Band Perry), family fun and incredible fireworks in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee at the Lawn at Riverfront Park.”

Flickr image by Curtis Palmer

Flickr image by Curtis Palmer

Why not “Spend the Fourth of July in the Nations Capital and celebrate with fireworks and festivals,” featuring an Independence Day parade with marching bands, patriotic floats; and then there’s the 90-minute music extravaganza with a “rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture” and live canon fire!

Want to learn more, look at the links at the end of the blog.

flickr-byjustinday.jpg

No doubt your town or city has something planned, so why not grill up those hamburgers and hotdogs, then head on down to the fireworks display where the echo of ooohs and ahhhs can be heard as we celebrate America’s birthday! For more details on these events check out these websites:
http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=514″
http://www.visitmusiccity.com/july4th/july4th_eventdetails
http://washington.org/article/10-ways-celebrate-independence-day-washington-dc

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Stretching Your Travel Dollar . . .

Posted: January 5th, 2013 by

It’s time to get down to leisure!  2013 was ushered in with some in trepidation, thanks to the political landscape over the past several months.  The news has been filled with impending disaster of the ‘fiscal cliff’, with many on edge with anticipation for the worst yet to come, halting any thought for the future, let alone planning a vacation.  Perhaps now is the time to be innovative when it comes to minimal to no discretionary income for a brief get-away, a weekend excursion, or an all out vacation.

This brings to mind my involvement with the USO while living in Germany.  One220px-Tour_Eiffel_Wikimedia_Commons of the many things USO does for its service members and their families is to provide economical recreational opportunities.  We lived in a very scenic area of Germany, less than a Berlin-zoodays drive to many popular attractions; such as Paris and the Eiffel Tower; Bavaria and its Black Forest;  Berlin and its famous zoo;  Belgium, home of the original French Fry and Luxembourg, a tiny country and home to several famous war memorials. 

Many may  not be familiar with the USO and its dependence on volunteers, and this my blog readers, is how some of my volunteers were able to venture into the French countryside, or tour a crumbling castle, or visit the famous art gallery ‘Le Louvre’ and so on.  Become a volunteer; drive a tour van, or earn a free seat on a tour. 

Today, there are numerous websites featuring volunteer opportunities tied to travel; however, they may not necessarily be FREE, but as the title says ‘Stretching Your Travel Dollar’, might just be the way to get out and go in 2013!

Teaching & Temples, a volunteer opportunity  - shown is Angkor Wat, a symbol of Cambodia

Teaching & Temples, a volunteer opportunity – shown is Angkor Wat, built in the 12th century, a symbol of Cambodia – wikimedia image

You might want to check out www.i-to-i.com/volunteering-and-sightseeing.html  where you can volunteer to work with wildlife, or put your carpentry skills to work.  Maybe you’re a born teacher, like working with children or love to teach sports.  How about helping to conserve the earth?  Health care, education, agriculture and construction are areas that need volunteers; and, in many cases these are in far-away lands, like Cambodia, where you can broaden your own horizon.

Don’t forget staying at home has its advantages too.  I searched: www.free-attractions.com and found some pretty cool things to see and do. 

Want to trek through history, going back to 1850; well you can do so at Oakland Oakland-cemeteryCemetery; Atlanta, Georgia’s oldest cemetery and a “supreme example of a Victorian cemetery.”  Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind is one of the famous buried here.  By the way, you can volunteer to work at Oakland Cemetery — a great opportunity for history buffs. 

And . . . for the nature lover, the next time you’re near New York’s Bronx Village, why not meander throughout the 250 ‘exquisite’ acres of the New York Botanical Garden; visit some of their 50 gardens, or stop by their landmark conservatory.  Nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss opportunity (note: there is an admission cost, but if you buy a New York pass you can visit over 70 top New York attractions – now that’s really stretching your travel dollar!  Prices vary based on the number of days and additional features you select.

Are you the adventurous type?  Did you know there are approximately 58 national parks in the U.S.?  In some cases there is no admission fee, while there may be minimal costs for touring in your car, or entering some areas as well as camping fees.  Visit www.nps.gov for more information.

beale street memphis by cwwycoff1If you’re a music lover, like I am, and need a little exercise, why not ramble up and down Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana or on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee . . . and while it pays to pay to hear someone to play, you can still catch the strains of some mighty good blues and jazz drifting out of local nightclubs and record stores at no cost to you!

Why not share a FREEBIE with your fellow blog reader … let us know of some fun thing to do, or a great place to visit or see in 2013!

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!

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.
  
 
 
 
 
 
 

On the Road to “Sweet Home Alabama” . . .

Posted: May 13th, 2011 by

 

Hot air balloons like these are seen at the Alabama Jubilee in Decatur - Flickr image by ericlbc

Imagine discovering a treasure trove of ideas for a fun weekend, or a mini-vacation, an extended leisure trip or even an educational adventure, at no cost to you.  Just stop by any Alabama Welcome/Visitor Center and you’ll find rack after rack, on every wall and in every nook and cranny, filled with maps, guides, special event calendars, photo journals, booklets, pamphlets, discount coupons, and so on to help you on your merry way through Alabama, the Beautiful!

US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville -- Flickr image by bryce_edwards

Check this out:

Madison County features the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville Botanical Garden and Huntsville Museum of Art, which offers something for everyone, from youngsters to folks well into their retirement age . . . or you could check out the Official Visitors Guide to nearby Decatur where you can sail away at the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic held over Memorial Day weekend – for more information log onto www.NorthAlabama.org

    • Pick up your Alabama 2011 motorcycle map and log on to www.Motorsycle-Maps.us – an Internet site highlighting  motorcycle roadways and more
    • Visitor – The must have guide to the Alabama Gulf Coast features an annual calendar of events plus special a Mardi Gras calendar; fact is, you won’t to miss the 7th Annual LuLu Palooza, taking place in Gulf Shores Homeport Marina on May 30th
    • Visit www.yearofalabamamusic.com for a complete listing of venues, attractions and festivals, like the Johnny Shines Blues Festival in Tuscaloosa on August 27t

 

    • Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL - Flickr image by southerntabitha

 Don’t wait til’ Oktoberfest to visit Cullman, a city filled with adventure, history, nature and faith . . . where the Ave Maria Grotto, a 4-acre site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has more than 125 miniature replicas of famous churches, shrines and buildings from around the world thanks to Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine Monk, who was born in Bavaria in 1878.  Brother Zoettl arrived at the Saint Bernard Abbey at the age of 14, and in 1958, at the age of 80, built his last minitature model, the Basilica at Lourdes.  Visiting the Ave Maria Grotto is like taking a trip around the world, in minature . . .

  • There simply is not enough room to list all of the great places Alabama has to offer, so we’ll finish our blog with the Hank Williams Trail, beginning in Mount Olive and Georgiana, then travel up US Highway 31, “the highway Hank traveled” to Montgomery, where Hank is in his final resting place at Oakwood Cemetery

Look for “Historic Alabama” an A to Z guide to Landmarks and Events at an Alabama Welcome/Visitor Center or log on to www.alabama.travel to request your copy. Even arm-chair tourists will enjoy reading about Boaz to Eufala to Hayneville to Loachapoka to Nauvoo to Pickensville to Sylacauga, and Wetumpka.

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

 

PACK YOUR BAGS … IT’S A ROAD TRIP TO SPARTA!

Posted: March 15th, 2011 by

A typical Spartan? Statue of King Leonidas at Sparta, Greece - Wikimedia Commons

Did you think we meant Sparta, Greece? 

There are a total of 28 towns named Sparta in the U.S., plus one in Canada and two in South America.  Although Sparta, Greece would provide the most historic significance, our travels are taking us to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and to the town of Sparta, North Carolina, about six miles to the famed Blue Ridge Parkway.

Don’t overlook places you’ve never heard of as they could be that diamond in the rough, like the sleepy little town of Sparta, tucked away in the midst of the Smoky Mountains, near its State Park and many other beautiful tourist areas: nature at its best. 

View from the east ridge off Blue Ridge Parkway, near Sparta looking toward Pilot Mountain - Flickr photo by billkrisjacob

Folks around Alleghany County say that Nature created Sparta, and if you visited their chamber of commerce site you’ll find their claim to be true.  http://www.sparta-nc.com/

Looking Glass Falls - Flickr photo by Alaskan Dude

Along with the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll find artisans galore, weaving their magic spells in the form of pottery, quilting, painting, photography, woodcrafts and the revival of traditional music of the hills. 

There’s something to do and see around every bend of the road:

  • Take in a music venue

Alleghany Historic Museum, Silver Dollar Music Park, Alleghany Jubilee or Blue Ridge Music Center

  • Cast your rod, swing your club, shoot the rapids or small game

Check out local trout and fishing farms, let the balls fly at Olde Beau or New River Golf clubs, thrill at an exhilarating ride in a canoe, or aim for the bulls eye, and nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina atop a gentle steed as you meander through the beauty of the mountains.  

  • Tour the local museums or art galleries

Alleghany Arts and Crafts, Blue Ridge Gallery of Fine Arts, and many more

  • Sip in the sites and fine wine at local wineries

Chateau Laurinda, Grapestompers, Thistle Meadow Winery

  • Upcoming special events include

Alleghany Jubilee (every Tuesday and Saturday evening)

Lawn Mower Racing in May, June and August – NASCAR of a different scale

Lions Club Rodeo July 1 and 2

Mountain Heritage Festival in September