Top 10 Waterfront Dining Experiences

What could be better than enjoying a delicious meal, a great glass of wine and waterfront views?  Sounds like the quintessential summer time experience to us!

Thanks to our friends at Trip Advisor for compiling their list of the Top 10 Waterfront Dining Experiences - let's take a look!

Yeah, Canada, we have three on the list!  If you've been to any of these, let us know as we'd love to hear about your experiences ;) Photo Credit: Lake Louise by amber_rsm

Getting Wild at Southern Decadence in New Orleans!

With more than 110,000 attendees, Southern Decadence has grown to become the largest LGBT event in New Orleans.  This year the Labor Day celebrations start early as the party commences on Wednesday, August 31 and continues on until Monday, September 5, 2011 (Labor Day).  

With this year's 40th anniversary slogan, 'What happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans,' you know it's going to be a wild party atmosphere during the Southern Decadence 6-day run.  The French Quarter and especially Bourbon Street will be filled with dancing, parties, entertainment, and of course, that world famous New Orleans cuisine and no doubt, endless flowing alcohol.

For more information on Southern Decadence, visit the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. Photo Credit:
Big Chief, Trouble Nation Mardi Gras Indians by Mark Gstohl

It's Vegas, Baby!!

What would you like to do on your vacation?  Shop til you drop?  Get some sun or be pampered at the spa?  Or maybe you'd like to savour gourmet food?  Or just maybe you'd like to rock out at an Elton John or Rod Stewart concert?!

Whatever you're thinking, you'll find it all this fall in Vegas, baby!!  Let's break it down -

Shopping in Vegas: 
With an amazing selection of designer shopping and outlet malls, you're sure to find something to fit every budget!  Whether it's a much deserved splurge or a well researched purchase, you can enjoy shopping for the likes of PUMA, Theory, Calvin Klein, True Religion, Lacoste and more!

Vegas for Sunseekers & Spa Lovers: 
Lounging by the extravagant pools to be found in Vegas will no doubt provide all the sun you'll need and after a hard day's tanning, treat yourself to an array of pampering services to be found at your hotel's spa.  Spa packages, which offer a combination of treatments, are usually the best deal - check out The Spa & Salon at Aria where they're offering Spa specials available until September 30, 2011, or the Spa at MGM Grand until September 8, 2011.

Vegas for Food Lovers: 
The talk of the town is Sinatra located at the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas where you'll find a throw back to rat pack days including classic decor and a selection delicious Italian cuisine.  The Green Valley Ranch is home to Tides Oyster Bar where the food is cooked up New Orleans style - be sure to try the Po' Boy sandwiches, gumbo and of course, their extensive raw bar.  If you enjoy an ice cold beer, The Pub at the Monte Carlo is the place for you as they offer up an impressive 200 beers on tap plus excellent food like their mango chicken quesadillas.

Sir Elton John in Vegas:
The 'Million Dollar Piano' is the name of the latest concert series in Vegas by Elton John which starts September 28 to October 23, 2011, at the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace Vegas.  Rod Stewart is also set to play at the Colosseum in his show entitled 'The Hits' so you know that's got to be good - shows run from August 24 until November 3, 2011.

For more information, check out Visit Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Las Vegas by ♀Μøỳαл_Bгεлл♂

Experience the Great Wolf Lodge

When you're looking for a fun experience for the whole family, look no further than Great Wolf Lodge.  With ten locations across the U.S. (and one in Canada!), you're bound to have one near your own back yard.

These indoor waterpark resorts offer the perfect combination of summer family-fun activities, popular amenities and quality accommodations sure to offer a great guest experience overall.  For example, Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA, offers: 

  • 84º water park with slides, pools, tunnel tube rides and more!
  • kiddie Club Paw Pool
  • relaxing jumbo spa warming pool
  • Cub Club for kids to enjoy arts & crafts
  • Northern Lights Arcade for older kids
  • MagiQuest interactive game
  • gaming at gr8_space
  • plus daily activities around the resort
  • along with Scooops Kids Spa where children can be treated to manicures, pedicures and ice cream sundaes!
When it's time to grab a bit to eat, there's a ton of dining options to enjoy including restaurants, snack bar, candy store, Pizza Hut Express, Starbucks and even a bar for Mom & Dad to relax after a busy but exciting day at Great Wolf Lodge.

There's also a gift store to purchase those much coveted souvenirs, a fitness center to keep up with your back home routines, plus a grown-up spa where both Mom & Dad can enjoy a massage plus an array of rejuvenating facial and body treatments.

Accommodations which include all water park and resort activities at Great Wolf Lodge are available in:
  • Standard Suites offer a variety of configurations sleeping up to 6 people, many with patios or balconies
  • Premium Suites sleep up to 8 people 
  • Themed Suites offer that little bit of extra fun with camping or cabin decor
For more information or to make your reservation, visit Great Wolf Lodge.

Cavallo Point Lodge Offers In-Room Bar Service

If you've never heard of it before, Cavallo Point Lodge is a unique property located ocean front at the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, CA.  As a former U.S. Army Post, Fort Baker, Cavallo Point Lodge offers an array of impeccably restored guest rooms and suites featuring first class amenities.

Besides the already amazing views offered at Cavallo Point Lodge, they're now offering in-room bartender service.  General Manager Dominie Lenz says that having a cocktail isn't just about the drink, it's also about the 'experience' in bringing back the 'old traditional elegance of what cocktails are all about'.

Guests have the option of having the cocktails prepared & shaken in their room by an in-room bartender, having the drinks pre-made and delivered to the room, or having the ingredients delivered for guests to make their own libations.

Named as one of the top new National Landmarks by Travel + Leisure magazine, Cavallo Point Lodge offers both historic and contemporary rooms & suites with many featuring sitting areas and a fireplace, while all rooms boast access to a porch or balcony to take advantage of those stunning San Francisco Bay views. 

For more information or to book your vacation package, visit Cavallo Point Lodge. Photo Credits:
Fort Baker - Cavallo Point by ingridtaylar
Cavallo Point Lodges by opencontent

Royal Caribbean All Access Tour

Have you ever been curious as to what goes on behind the scenes during your cruise vacation?  

We all know how hard the staff works and chances are you've probably heard the food facts already - trivia like Disney Cruise Lines serving 8,260 cups of coffee or consuming 1,150 pound of bananas daily.  

Royal Caribbean International has just introduced their new Beyond the Royal Advantage - All Access Tour designed to take guests where no guests have gone before.  The new tour officially launched this in July on all ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet.

This already popular tour takes participants through the Engine Control Room, the Galley, the Laundry room, backstage behind one of the main theaters and more.  Each tour only allows 15 participants so it's best to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment; it should be noted that guests must be physically able to participate which includes climbing steep stairs along with standing and walking for periods of time.

The Royal Caribbean All Access Tour is offered once during a 6-day or less cruise and at least twice on a 7-day or longer excursion.  The tours lasts 3 to 3.5 hours and costs $150 per person.

For more information, visit Royal Caribbean International. Photo Credit: DSCN1908 by Stephen and Katherine

Cycling Tours in New York & New England

When you're looking to tour and explore the countryside, there's no better way than by cycling and truly engaging in your surroundings.  Great Freedom Adventures offers amazing cycling tours in New York & New England that are sure to delight your senses, energize your body and rejuvenate your soul.  

Let's take a look at some of their most intriguing tours!

Covered Bridges of Vermont:
This beautifully scenic 31.3 mile cycling tour starts and ends in the historic town of Woodstock.  As you cycle through the rolling farmland, you'll pass by Quechee Gorge, visit a working farm, museums,  Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, view glassblowing, enjoy breweries and a blueberry farm, shopping and more plus passing through 3 romantic covered bridges.

Horses & Vineyards in the Hudson Valley National Heritage Area:
Following the winding roads through the beautiful countryside, you'll pass by endless fields with roaming horses, farmland, and lush vineyards where you'll sample artisan wines and cheeses.  Highlights on this cycling tour include visiting the architecturally stunning Olana, Poet's Walk, FDR home and museum, plus endless antiques and galleries found in the quaint town of Hudson.

Coastline of Massachusetts:
This 40.5 scenic ride might prove to be the most diverse tour offering up a selection of striking coastline, colonial homes, farmlands, beaches and of course, a selection of majestic lighthouses.  Highlights include a sunset catamaran sail, kayaking, indulging in local lobster, visiting the Great Marsh, birdwatching, touring Crane Estate, along with exploring Gloucester and Salem.  

For more information on these great cycling tours in New York & New England, visit Great Freedom Adventures.

Photo Credit: Great Freedom Adventures

11-Day Deluxe Getaway to India!

Ahhh, the exotic land of India.  Imagine experiencing the beauty, culture and cuisine of India in one amazing trip!  Foreign Independent Tours (FIT Tours) offers just that.

Highlights of their 11-day/8-night Deluxe Getaway to India tour includes return airfare from New York, 5-star accommodations, 13 meals throughout the tour, along with:

  • an Indian cooking class
  • yoga classes
  • 1/2 day spa treatment
  • Rajasthani folk entertainment
  • participation in a Henna application
  • camel ride
  • elephant ride
  • saree and padgi tying demonstrations
  • and visits to Chand Boari step well, Taj Mahal, Rajghat Gandhi's resting place, the shopping district of Chandi Chowk and so much more!
The Deluxe Getaway to India is available for departure dates starting on July 14, 2011, through to Dec 1, 2011, with rates starting at only $1,499 - single supplements are also available!

For more information or to book your tour, visit Foreign Independent Tours. Photo Credit: Taj Mahal-03 by Snikrap

Travel Writer: Costa Rica Specialist

After recently completing a program offered by the Costa Rica Tourism Board, Travel Writer Connie Motz is now a Certified Costa Rica Specialist.

After falling in love with the country and purchasing a condo in Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Connie showcases her new found love of Costa Rica in her new blog,  

When you're planning your next vacation, check out some of Connie's latest blog posts on Costa Rica:


Hot European Summer Destinations

Spending the summer in Europe sounds like a romantic and wonderful experience.  But where to go, you ask?  Let's take a look at these hot European summer destinations including Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Benidorm, Spain
Located five hours south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coastline lays the Spanish town of Benidorm.  Formerly a sleepy fishing village, Benidorm has been transformed in to a destination housing 1.5 million people during the summer months.  What to see and do in Benidorm?  Soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches, party at the nightclubs, golfing and enjoying the delicious Mediterranean cuisine at any of Benidorm's 1,000 restaurant choices.  Local attractions in Benidorm include visiting Terra Natura (zoo), Terra Mitica (theme park), Aqualandia Water Park, and old Casco Antiguo.

Albufeira, Portugal
Alubufeira is located on the southern coastline of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. A contrast of old and new, Albufeira offers the charm of an old fishing village featuring winding narrow streets, whitewashed buildings, cafes and more while the Montechoro Strip has a beautiful beach, shops, and a selection of nightclubs and restaurants where fun continues into the wee hours of the night.  Sightseeing not to be missed in Aldufeira include visiting San Vincente de Albufeira Statue, Sant'Ana Church, Castle Wall, Misericordia Chapel, Clock Tower and Xorino Cave.

Kos, Greece
Situated between Patmos and Rhodes, the island of Kos was one of the original Greek islands to be promoted as a tourist destination with an array of beach hotels built along it's coastline.  In contrast to other Greek islands, Kos is relatively flat making it perfect for cycling; visitors will find many bicycle rental stores scattered throughout the island.  Kos has long been recognized as one of the best archaeological sites in the entire Mediterranean - sightseeing opportunities include visiting Hippocrates Tree, Knights Castle and the Archaeological Museum.  In Kos Town, visitors will find shops, restaurants, accommodations and nightclubs with serene pebbled beaches & hot springs nearby perfect for soaking up the Mediterranean sun.

For more information, visit Spain TourismVisit Portugal and Visit Greece. Photo Credits:
Benidorm 2001 by Hans Pama
Limnionas, Kos, Greece by Michal Osmenda

How Green is Your Airline?

Brighter Planet is an organization based in Shelburne, VT, whose goal is to help their clients meet their sustainability goals.  Using more than ten years of airline data, they recently compiled a report ranking specific airline efficiency.  

Here are the facts: there are 28,600 aircraft and shuttles worldwide that carry 4.5 billion passengers annually between 3,700 airports.  These aircraft consume 75 billion gallons of jet fuel annually which adds 3 trillion pounds of C02 emissions into the atmosphere.  Wow.  So, just how green is your airline?  Let's take a look.

Airline Efficiency Rankings:

  1. Ryanair
  2. Cathay Pacific
  3. easyJet
  4. Continental Airlines
  5. United Airlines
  6. JetBlue Airways
  7. KLM Royal Dutch
  8. American Airlines
  9. Delta Air Lines
  10. Alaska Airlines
  11. US Airways
  12. British Airways
  13. Northwest Airlines
  14. AirTran Airways
  15. Air France
  16. Lufthansa
  17. Southwest Airlines
  18. ExpressJet Airlines
  19. SkyWest Airlines
  20. American Eagle
Brighter Planet research is based on the type of aircraft model, seating density, load factor, freight share, distance flown and passenger volumes.  

To view the complete Brighter Planet report on Air Travel Carbon and Energy Efficiency, visit Brighter Planet.

Image: Continental Airlines reflecting the new merger with United Airlines

Carnival Cruise Lines Family Fun

When you have children, you may think taking a cruise may be one of the last vacation options you have but nothing could be further from the truth!  Major cruise lines take pride on offering fun quality programs for kids so that Mom & Dad can have some time for themselves.

Carnival Cruise Lines offers wonderful programs to entertain children of all ages:

  • Camp Carnival - for kids from 2 to 11 with activities like pool time, music & movement, story time, talent shows, dance parties, gaming and more
  • Circle C - for tweens aged 12 to 14 including pool parties, sports, music, dance parties, outdoor movies, gaming and more
  • Club O2 - teens from 15 to 17 can enjoy teen-only shore excursions, music and karaoke, dance parties, sports and more
And best of all? These programs are included in the price of your cruise!  And you just may find that once your kids attend a day of fun, they're no longer interested in hanging out with Mom & Dad.  They meet new friends, there's so much fun to be had, the food is great - and besides, they're on vacation, just like you!

If you're looking to spend a romantic evening without the kids, Camp Carnival Night Owls is a program for kids 11 and under that operates from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. every night of the cruise.  (For this program there is a reasonable small fee involved to cover late night staffing costs.)

And remember, cruising is the best value for your vacation dollar!  It includes accommodation onboard a floating hotel from where you can experience different ports & cultures, meals with 24-hour room service, entertainment and more!

Have you cruised with your children?  We'd love to hear about it!

For more information or to book your Carnival Cruise, visit Camp Carnival and Carnival Cruise Lines.

Travel Writer Review: Hampton Inn Spokane Airport

Residents of the beautiful Pacific Northwest enjoy everything that nature has to offer including boating, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, fishing and so much more including my favorite, shopping.

And Spokane, WA, is one of the best places to do just that.  With a population of just over 209,000, Spokane offers the best of the best with businesses willing to go the extra mile when it comes to service and comfort including the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport (2010 S. Assembly Road, Spokane, 99224; Telephone 509-747-1100 or Toll-Free 1-800-426-7866).

Conveniently located to both the Spokane International Airport and the vibrant downtown district, Hampton Inn Spokane Airport is a welcoming home away from home.  Upon arrival you'll be greeted by an inviting open floor plan featuring a 24-hour indoor swimming pool and hot tub plus a spacious lobby sitting area.

The 100% non-smoking Hampton Inn Spokane Airport offers a selection of rooms to fit any budget ranging from standard guest rooms to tastefully decorated suites.  If you're flying out on business or for a well-needed vacation, the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport offers a popular Park 'n Fly rate with complimentary parking and On the Househot breakfast included.

Our beautifully adorned one-bedroom Emerald Suite was the perfect weekend getaway with all the amenities and more!

  • the first thing we noticed was the warm and cozy fireplace bordered by beautiful forest green marble and woodwork that separates both the spacious dining room and living room areas
  • the dining room featured a dark wood table and chairs with seating for four but the warmth of the room was in the details - the adjacent horizontal dark wood-framed mirror; deep burgundy table runner accented by a decorative leaf bowl filled with colorful ornamental balls of creams and mint; and the beautifully sculptured metal and glass globe chandelier
  • the fresh decor continued into the living room artwork, plush chocolate brown shag rug, the leather sofa, ottoman and lounge chair
  • romantic French doors lead into the spacious bedroom complete with a king sized sleigh bed featuring their signature Hampton Inn Bed® along with a jacuzzi tub and a private balcony, just perfect for two - there was also a matching five-drawer dresser with an adjacent sitting chair
  • the bathroom featured a his and hers vanity in a separate area from the shower that came complete with a WaterPik shower head, a curved shower rod for more room, his and her bathrobes plus a selection of fluffy white towels
  • additional Emerald Suite amenities included a wooden laptop table, two 52" flat screen televisions, plus a convenient coffee maker, microwave, mini fridge and a hair dryer
If you're hungry during your stay, the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport offers deli-style sandwiches, soups and salads at the Garden Springs Pantry open daily from  11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  If you'd prefer a full meal, the hotel is close to restaurants like El Sol de Mexico, Mustard Seed and the Olive Garden.  

Specials & Packages available at the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport
  • Spokane Shock Fever: for fans of AFL football, the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport is the official hotel of the Spokane Shock.  This package includes the ultimate sports package for four including one night's accommodation, tickets to the game plus souvenir t-shirts and a full hot breakfast; available until August 31, 2011 with rates starting at $199 per night
  • Spokane Golf Getaway: this packages includes one round of 18-hole golf for two at your choice of any Spokane City or County Course complete with golf cart rental and shuttle service if you choose Indian Canyon Golf Course and a full hot breakfast; rates from $210 per night valid until Nov 30, 2011
  • Double Your HHonors and Go Further, Faster: As part of the Hilton family of accommodations, you can earn Double Points or Miles by choosing this package available until Sep 30, 2011
  • Wine Lovers Getaway: Spokane is home to over twelve wineries offering a unique selection of Pacific Northwest Wines - this package includes accommodation for two, your choice of a local bottle of red or white wine, two signature Hampton wine glasses (yours to keep), a fun area map highlighting the wineries and a full hot breakfast; rates start at only $158 per night until Jan 01, 2012
  • Hampton Advance Purchase: Enjoy the savings when booking your room at the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport at least two weeks in advance where you can enjoy up to 15% off now until Mar 1, 2012
  • Book Now & Save 15% During the Great Getaway: Book your room by Aug 22, 2011, and stay by Sep 5, 2011, and you'll receive an automatic 15% discount.

Our wonderful experience at the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport was truly all about the details - our comfortable and tastefully decorated suite, complimentary parking and airport shuttle, complimentary On the Househot breakfast, and complimentary WI-FI.  Add onto this a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and you've got one of the best hotel stays ever.

For more information or to make your reservation, visit the Hampton Inn Spokane Airport.  

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July!!

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!!