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2020 Travel Bucket List
As the CEO of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, I am surrounded by travel temptations on a daily basis. Last year I managed to tick off a few experiences on my TTC 2019 bucket list. I headed to the incredible Ashford Castle in Ireland with Luxury Gold, accompanied by my two young sons and husband. We still can’t decide what the best part was – staying in an 800-year old castle, the falconry experience, walking in the woods with giant Irish wolf hounds or the incredible service from the wonderful team – we truly loved it all.
We also traveled to Croatia and Montenegro in the autumn and were blessed with blue skies and a warm 26 degrees every day. We found the gems of Kotor and Dubrovnik to be much quieter than during the summer months. There is a lot to be said about traveling in the secret season.
I’m no less excited to plan my 2020 trips. From Seville to Jordan, my inner wanderlust is keen to explore in the new year. Below are my top 10 experiences I am adding to my list.
1. Learn to flamenco in Seville
In Seville you’ll find the Cristina Heeren Foundation. This private dance school is dedicated to promoting the conservation of flamenco and supports young enthusiasts from all over the world. You’ll get to try the choreography for yourself with a dance lesson, before taking your front row seats for a professional performance in an authentic setting.
Do it on: Insight Vacations' Best of Spain and Portugal
2. Meet the women of the Iraq Al-Amir Cooperative & overnight in Wadi Rum
In Wadi Rum, dine with locals under the stars at Sun City Camp, where you will overnight in the desert. On this same trip, visit the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Co-op. Supported by the TreadRight Foundation, the organization provides training and work opportunities for women in the region, as part of our Make Travel Personal initiative. Learn more about how it is changing lives, as you engage in handicraft activities.
Do it on: Insight Vacations’ Jordan Experience
3. Have tea with a Scottish Baronet
Meet the fascinating Sir Ludovic Shaw-Stewart for Scottish high tea at his coastal estate, Ardgowan Castle. You’ll learn more about the history of the area and of the Shaw-Stewart family, from the Scottish Baronet himself.
Do it on: Insight Vacations’ Best of Ireland and Scotland<
4. Stand face-to-face with the Crazy Horse Memorial
America’s West has always intrigued me, with its vast land and unique culture. I’d recommend visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is dedicated to all Native Americans. This exclusive experience takes you up the sculpture, where you’ll stand face to face with the world’s largest mountain carving.
Do it on: Insight Vacations’ Grand Journey of America’s West
5. Taste the unique flavours of Anatolia
An inspiring experience, in Turkey enjoy the unique flavors of Anatolia at Uçhisar Kadineli Restaurant. The establishment not only provides delicious local foods but employment for the women of the village. It also supports our pledge to Make Travel Matter.
Do it on: Insight Vacations’ Treasures of Turkey
6. Test your hurling skills
As the mother of two young boys, sports are a key element to any vacation. They would truly love to learn more about Ireland’s national sport, hurling, and of course have a go for themselves.
Do it on: Insight Vacations’ Country Roads of Ireland
7. Explore Monument Valley with a Navajo guide
See Mother Nature at its finest in the American Southwest. Hear about Navajo heritage from your guide, as you explore the beauty of Monument Valley and its iconic vistas in an open-air vehicle.
Do it on: Insight Vacations’ Enchanting Canyonlands
8. Take a private trip around Glacier National Park
With a love for the mountains, how could Canada not be one of my favorite countries? In Glacier National Park board a traditional Red Jammer and cruise along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A truly immersive experience you’ll view Logan Pass the park’s wild interior and Lake McDonald.
Do it on: Insight Vacations’ Canadian Rockies and Pacific Coast
9. Meet a local oyster farmer
Wherever I go, I like to make sure I indulge on the local flavors. In Croatia you’ll stop at a shellfish farm and meet Tomislav, a local oyster farmer. Learn about the cultivation and harvest of oysters before enjoying a delicious Sea-to-Table tasting of shellfish, accompanied by a glass of wine.
Do it on: Insight Vacations' Country Roads of Croatia
10. Explore the Vatican Museums, the VIP way
A truly exceptional experience, explore the Vatican Museums in VIP style. Head there early morning with a Local Expert and be guided through the museum’s art collection. Venture inside St.Peter’s Basilica, see Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and enjoy a private viewing of Bramante Staircase.
Do it on: Insight Vacations' Grand Italy & Sicily
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Reprinted from Insight Vacations with permission
The Olympic Flame Shines Brighter with New Attractions Opening in Lake Placid
No place in New York embraces winter quite like Lake Placid, and there’s plenty for families to do at its Olympic venues. Guests can climb to the skydeck of the ski jumps, shoot through the zig-zag of the bobsled run, ride a gondola to a mountain summit and gaze from a lookout over the Adirondack High Peaks. Now is a great time to make the drive to the region, too, because Lake Placid opened many new attractions this fall, including a mountain coaster, a biathlon center and a four-person zipline from atop the Olympic ski jump towers.
As Olympians get up early to train, start your Olympic adventure bright and early in Lake Placid, NY. First, head to the Lake Placid Olympic Center and Museum – home of both the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games and the location of one of the most famous moments in all of sports, the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game. There, pick up an Olympic Sites Passport. This passport gives you one-time admission to the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, Olympic Jumping Complex, Cloudsplitter Gondola ride and Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway. Note that children 6 and under receive free admission to all Olympic sites and Passport activities. After picking up your passport, take in the museum and check out the ice rink. You may even catch some skaters practicing their routines. The ice rink is open year-round, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the Olympic spirit when touring the facilities.
From the Olympic Center, head to the Olympic ski jump facility with its majestic 90- and 120-meter towers. The facility is undergoing a renovation and, this fall, a state-of-the-art and ADA-accessible gondola began carrying visitors from the lodge to the base of the 120-meter tower. A new glass elevator then takes guests the final 26 stories to the top of the jump towers for breathtaking views of the Adirondack High Peaks. These are the same views the ski jumpers have while standing at the starting gate before hurling their bodies off into space. You will also be standing on a new zipline launch deck (opening summer 2020) designed to deliver the same thrills Olympic ski jumpers experience at speeds of over 60 mph.
Next, check out the bobsled run at the Olympic Sports Complex on Mount Van Hoevenberg. For an additional fee (separate from the Olympic Passport), families can ride in a sled on the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience. A professional driver leads you down the actual 1980 Olympic bobsled track, reaching speeds of 55 miles per hour – a thrilling experience, for sure. There’s also the luge and skeleton experiences, which allow you to slide either on your back or headfirst on sleds at over 30 mph. Afterward, take a tour of the sliding facility and learn the rich history of the track first constructed for the 1932 Winter Olympic Games, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, work continues on a mountain coaster opening in 2020. This roller coaster-like ride lets the passenger control their own speed and experience the entire 1980 Olympic track for the first time in over 20 years. Guests will speed through the world-famous Shady Curve and zig and zag in a custom-designed bobsled cart before gliding across the finish line.
End the day at Whiteface Mountain, site of the cross-country ski events during the 1932 Olympics and the downhill and slalom events for the 1980 Winter Games. The Cloudsplitter Gondola whisks visitors 2,500 feet to the summit of Little Whiteface Mountain in about 15 minutes. At the top, there are more incredible views of Lake Placid and the surrounding mountains. The Olympic Passport also includes the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway – an eight-mile road to the summit of the fifth highest mountain in the Adirondacks. The toll road is only open seasonally, so be sure to check the schedule before you visit. At the end of the highway, 4,600 feet in elevation, sits Whiteface Castle – a two-story building constructed from the granite removed to build the road. The castle sits just below the 4,867-foot summit of Whiteface Mountain, and you have a choice of hiking the trail or taking an elevator the rest of the way to the top.
The Stairway Ridge Trail is a steep and challenging hike over rocks and boulders, but you are rewarded with incredible views along the way. If you don’t feel up for the one fifth-mile hike, there is an elevator accessed by a 400-foot-long tunnel drilled directly into the heart of the mountain. Even if you don’t take the elevator, you owe it to yourself to take a peek inside the 45-degree tunnel and elevator. It’s a true engineering feat. Sitting at the summit of Whiteface Mountain, savor the 360-degree views of the Adirondacks, Lake Placid, Vermont and the surrounding wilderness.
After a full day in Lake Placid and the Adirondacks, one spent exploring manmade towers, tracks, and creations as well as the natural wonder of the region, you may be too exhausted to attempt the drive home. Just down the road from Whiteface Mountain is The Mirror Lake Inn – recipient of AAA’s coveted Four Diamond award 30 consecutive years running. The Mirror Lake Inn has an ideal lakeside location, just one block from Lake Placid’s Main Street shops and close to the Olympic skating, sliding and skiing facilities. It also offers a complimentary shuttle to Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort. Mirror Lake Inn is a perfect hub for a family’s winter activities or a sanctuary to rest and recharge for the winter.
The Mirror Lake Inn anchors one end of Lake Placid’s Olympic Village and sits (as its name implies) on the shore and hill overlooking Mirror Lake. Climb the staircase to enter the historic hotel, and kids will feel like they’re stepping inside the Clue board game. Quick! It’s Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick! The lobby’s rich woodwork, stained glass and antiques envelope guests in atmosphere. Step to the check-in desk just past the baby grand piano, and the friendly staff will welcome you with fresh chocolate chip cookies and direct you to your room.
The Mirror Lake Inn caters to families because it’s a family business. Owners Ed and Lisa Weibrecht are easy to find on property and welcome guests into their extended family. Their son, Andrew Weibrecht, a two-time Winter Olympic skiing medalist, displays his silver and bronze medals behind the front desk for all to enjoy. The hoteliers make it possible for families to create unique winter memories such as dog sledding, skating or riding a toboggan onto the frozen lake. Families can play a game in the library, enjoy a Mommy & Me day in the spa, savor a gourmet meal in the restaurant and explore everything the Lake Placid area has to offer. Our family truly enjoyed our stay at this award-winning property, and we would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a luxurious family escape.
Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll
The Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll is an annual tradition that combines family-friendly activities such as ice skating, visits with Santa Claus, live music, food and drink with sales, discounts and deals. With increased pressure from Internet sales, Lake Placid has figured out a way to bring even more people to the town (and stores). It wasn’t that complicated; they just make the holidays about more than just shopping. Besides, isn’t that what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown?
During our visit, Santa rolled in on a bright red Lake Placid fire truck, and a line of parents and children stretched as far as the eye can see to meet him. While my teenage daughters were far too cool for a picture with Santa, they were more than happy to sample the complimentary cookies and hot chocolate. The eclectic collection of stores on Lake Placid’s Main Street welcomed guests with discounts, deals, promotions and, best of all, snacks. Somehow, we made more visits to the Adirondack Popcorn Company than any other business on Main Street. In addition to shopping, there were crafts for the children, holiday movies at the cinema, Santa, characters (the 1980 Olympic raccoon mascot was spotted) and ice-carving demonstrations too.
The day capped off with a traditional Yule Log Hunt. We gathered around the fire to learn the history of the Yule Log before the Yule Master sent us off with a blast of his horn. Once the ceremonial Yule Log was found, the winning hunter rode triumphantly back to town on top of the prize, which was then cut and burned to warm the revelers. This was all followed by the lighting of the town Christmas tree as children’s choral medleys wafted in the air.
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Exploring the Heartland
The nation’s leading travel experts have long been enamored of America’s East and West Coast destinations. But in recent years, their focus has shifted somewhat. From the New York Times to USA Today, from Travel + Leisure to Vogue, America’s travel gurus have ranked Middle American cities among their go-to destinations, singing the praises of the American Heartland.
Buzzing with renewed energy, Middle America offers rich history paired with new cultural attractions and a vibrant, locally sourced food and drink scene. And if that’s not reason enough to get you to America’s Heartland in 2020, consider this: Travel to this part of the United States promises to be more affordable than other U.S. destinations.
Indianapolis: Bicentennial and Bicycles
Don’t miss: Walking, bicycling or riding a Segway through downtown Indy’s White River State Park
The Surprise: “Shining a Light on Indianapolis” sound and light show, every night of the year
More info: VisitIndy.com
The Crossroads of America celebrates its 200th birthday from June 2020 to June 2021 with a variety of new cultural attractions. The Indiana Historical Society and Indiana State Museum, both in downtown Indianapolis, will unveil special exhibitions celebrating the city’s bicentennial. The new Madam Walker Legacy Center, a cultural institution honoring the nation’s first self-made female African American millionaire, opens in late 2020. And beginning in late 2019, a new “Shining a Light on Indianapolis” show illuminates downtown’s Monument Circle every evening with a patriotic sound, light and video projection system.
Indianapolis relishes its rich history. But while the city looks back, its residents are also focused forward in hopes of creating a destination that will be just as appealing a century from now. That transformation can be seen even in the city’s sports scene.
While fans of athletic events such as the Indianapolis 500 or Big Ten Football Championship Game flock to the city every year, Indianapolis has become more than merely a place for fans. The city has become a destination where sports lovers can get active themselves.
Indianapolis’ NCAA Hall of Champions and Museum sits within the city’s White River State Park, a 250- acre greenspace in the heart of the downtown. Use the park’s broad paved trails to make your way from the city’s cultural institutions – the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the Indiana State Museum – or concentrate instead on the trails themselves.
Bicycles are the perfect way to explore Indianapolis. More than 1.5 miles of paved footpaths along the Central Canal draw walkers, runners and bicyclists, and the 8-mile Cultural Trail connects seven distinct neighborhoods, nearly 200 restaurants and 50 attractions. Indiana Pacers Bikeshare stations rent more than 500 bicycles from more than 50 stations located in White River State Park and throughout the city.
And in 2018, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis unveiled the interactive Sports Legends Experience. The 7.5-acre outdoor park sits on the museum’s grounds and successfully melds organized sports and family play. Visitors can play basketball, football, soccer or tennis, race pedal cars on an Indy 500-themed drag strip or tee up at a spectacular Pete Dye-designed miniature golf course.
Don’t miss: Findlay Market
The Surprise: The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the only Shakespeare-dedicated theatre between Chicago and Philadelphia
More info: CincinnatiUSA.com
A row of 19th-century brick Italianate buildings stands tidily along Vine Street in Cincinnati’s trendy Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Overhead, graceful arch moldings of olive green, cream and orange brighten the rooflines and brilliant geraniums spill out of window boxes. On the street, boutique shops – such as Elm & Iron with its vintage home décor and Little Mahatma with its folk art from across the globe – flourish. Rhinegeist Brewery pours craft beers for customers, who in turn nosh on burgers made by the restaurant Sartre and delivered by pneumatic tube.
There’s more to any city than a single neighborhood. But fewer than 20 years ago, OTR (as the area is locally known) was deemed among the most dangerous areas in America. In Cincinnati, the rebirth of OTR marked the beginning of a city-wide revitalization.
A series of public/private partnerships brought new life and coolness to this Cincinnati neighborhood. Food vendors in OTR’s Findlay Market district entice locals and visitors with creative music and food offerings. Once-abandoned, historically significant OTR buildings – of which there are more than 900 – have become loft apartments and retail spaces, all linked to downtown by means of the new Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar.
Across the city, neighborhood life is good, and it’s a scene that draws not only new residents but tourists as well. In up-and-coming Washington Park, $400 million of new arts investment has boosted Cincinnati as a cultural draw. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company operates the only Shakespeare theatre between Chicago and Philadelphia. The city’s Victorian 1878 Music Hall, home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops, the Cincinnati Ballet and the Cincinnati Opera, unveiled substantial renovations one year ago, as did the nearby Ensemble Theatre. And just a few blocks to the west is the newly restored Cincinnati Museum Center, formerly Union Terminal, home to five museums and an Omnimax Theater.
And still another up-and-coming Cincinnati neighborhood, Walnut Hills, has come alive in recent years with creative new businesses. Woodburn Brewery pours IPAs and porters, stouts and fruit infused session beers in glasses emblazoned with their trademark phoenix to symbolize Cincinnati’s rebirth. Boutique shop Left Coast Modern sells midcentury modern home décor and furniture next to Manifest Gallery, which was recently named Cincinnati’s best. And the Comfort House offers a cozy place for drinks, including a house-made Old Fashioned on tap, best shared with a neighborhood of friends.
Don’t miss: Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
The Surprise: Main Street doubles as both Whiskey Row and Museum Row
More info: GoToLouisville.com
In the Civil War era, Louisville’s Main Street boomed. As many as 50 distillers crafted, stored and poured their bourbons on the city’s main drag, colloquially called Whiskey Row.
Prohibition nearly decimated downtown Louisville in the 1920s, wiping out one of the city’s most lucrative industries with the swipe of Congress’s pen. But some 125 years later, Louisville’s Whiskey Row has rediscovered its roots, with bourbon distillers returning to the street where Kentucky’s most famous product cemented its reputation.
Known today as Louisville’s Bourbon District, Main Street draws thirsty tourists to attractions such as the Evan Williams Experience, just across the street from the original location of their namesake, Kentucky’s first licensed distillery. The bourbon themed visitors center uses audio and video presentations to recount the story of Evan Williams, which set up his first whiskey operation in 1783, just five years after Louisville was founded. Multimedia presentations go on to explain the processes used then and now to create Kentucky’s signature drink.
Others have followed suit, setting up distilleries and tasting rooms on or near Whiskey Row in the past decade. Historic favorites include Old Forester, Michter’s, Peerless, the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse and Old Forester. Newer entries into the business are distillers Rabbit Hole and Angel’s Envy. And Copper and Kings distills bourbon, barrel aged brandies and craft gins. Distillery visits aren’t the only way to get familiar with Kentucky’s favorite spirit. More than 40 restaurants and bars lie along Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail, a collection of businesses that offer significant bourbon culture in their menus. All of the trail stops sit within an easy walk or cab ride of downtown hotels.
Louisville’s Main Street also happens to be home to the city’s most popular museums. The Muhammad Ali Center is part historical museum about the world’s most famous boxer and part educational and cultural center advocating Ali’s principles of personal greatness. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory allows visitors to tour the manufacturer of the official bat of Major League Baseball and includes opportunities to swing your favorite players’ replica bats in batting cages. And the Frazier History Museum recounts Kentucky history, from Lewis and Clark to Kentucky bluegrass music, through artifacts, gallery talks and costumed interpreters.
Don’t miss: Summerfest, the granddaddy of Milwaukee festivals
The Surprise: Greater Milwaukee features a festival nearly every week of the year
More info: VisitMilwaukee.org
It seems there’s nothing Milwaukee enjoys more than a good festival. And the city’s packed events calendar proves it.
Launched in 1967, Summerfest, Milwaukee’s largest festival, traces its roots to Germany’s Oktoberfest. Former mayor Henry Maier, recently returned from a visit to the iconic festival in Munich, was determined to bring something of the festival’s vitality and fun to downtown Milwaukee, an area in need of revitalization.
More than 50 years later, Summerfest draws some 800,000 visitors annually to Henry Maier Festival Park on the Lake Michigan shore. Over 11 days and on 11 stages, musicians such as Jennifer Lopez, ZZ Top, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, the Steve Miller Band, the Moody Blues and the Red Hot Chili Peppers take center stage. And while the festival’s big-name acts draw lots of attention, there are more than 2,000 artists filling out the Summerfest line-up.
Summerfest is Milwaukee’s best-known festival, but it isn’t the only one. Milwaukee summers kick off with Pride Fest in June, followed by a string of ethnic festivals. Polish Fest features food tents with kielbasa and pierogies and the sounds of polka music, followed by the Milwaukee Highland Games and their celebration of Scottish culture. In July, France comes to the Lake Michigan shore during Bastille Days, followed by the music and wine of Festa Italiana, the beer and bratwurst of German Fest and the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. August brings Bronzeville Week, a celebration of African
American culture, art and music, then the world’s largest Irish festival and the Mexican Fiesta. And October brings the Hunting Moon Pow Wow, featuring the food, dance and music of Native Americans.
While music and food shine at Milwaukee’s numerous festivals, the city’s celebrations aim to do more than merely celebrate a particular ethnic group or holiday. The City of Festival’s chief aim is to bring people together for shared experiences. Travelers and
locals chat over cheese curds and bratwurst. Young people and their parents become reacquainted over frosty mugs of beer. Grandchildren and their grandparents take in one another’s music. And music lovers of all ages take turns dancing on picnic tables. That’s an atmosphere anyone can love.
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Three Thrilling Reasons to Visit Cedar Point’s Halloweekends
Don’t be afraid that summer is over – there are many ways to extend the travel season into fall! One of the most thrilling opportunities is one state away in Ohio at Cedar Point where their Halloweekends motto calls for “fun by day, fright by night.”
The amusement park, in Sandusky, is open for Halloweekends (weekends, including Friday nights, celebrating Halloween) through October 27. Here are three not so spooky reasons why you’ll want to take a road trip to check it out!
Get in the spirit: Cedar Point is known for its 18 world-class roller coasters. By visiting for Halloweekends, you’ll get the summertime thrills with a unique spin on the fall season. The park is decked out in Halloween décor that adds a fun twist to the usual park experience. Families can enjoy The Great Pumpkin Fest with fall activities while the more daring can try scare zones or zombie mazes. No matter which you choose, you’ll be in the true Halloween spirit.
Less ghosts and goblins: While Halloweekends kicked off with a large crowd reminiscent of summer, the number of visitors slows as the temperatures cool giving visitors easy access to those world-class coasters with less wait time. It also means shorter lines at new restaurants like the BackBeatQue, where you’ll often find live music and savory smokehouse BBQ that’s nothing to be afraid of!
Save some scary cash: Off season tickets to Cedar Point are less expensive than summertime rates and with your AAA membership, you’ll save even more and have access to the best available prices. With 33 percent off single day rates online or over the phone, there’s no fear in buying tickets for the family.
Iconic Destinations with Impeccable Service
It’s no wonder that the legendary Canadian Rockies are on the must-see list for many travelers, with its majestic mountains, glacier-fed lakes, and fertile river valleys. And what better way to experience them than with a Rocky Mountaineer rail journey. Combining the romance and history of Canadian rail travel with the stress-free luxury of our onboard experience, you will return home with lifelong memories.
Rocky Mountaineer offers two onboard service choices: SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf Service. Otherwise known as extraordinary and even more extraordinary. From the moment you arrive to the moment you disembark, everything is carefully choreographed to make your journey effortless, luxurious, and unforgettable.
SilverLeaf Service offers breathtaking views from extra-large windows while attentive Hosts serve three-course delicious meals right at your seat. Attended by two Hosts and one culinary team member, you can enjoy complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, gourmet snacks, and engaging stories about the history and wildlife of the passing regions.
Stepping onto the bi-level, glass-domed train cars of GoldLeaf Service is a luxurious experience unto itself. With sprawling windows on the upper level, you can feast your eyes on sights at every turn. Downstairs, an elegant dining room awaits with a gourmet à la carte menu and full culinary team, where you can sit with other travelers and enjoy a freshly prepared breakfast and three-course lunch. Get even closer to nature by visiting the exclusive viewing platform and step into the great outdoors while fresh air washes over you. When you return to your seat, the four Hosts recount historic tales of the Rocky Mountains while you enjoy gourmet snacks and complimentary beverages.
The stunning scenery with endless views are enough to keep you enthralled, but beyond that, there’s the chance to make new friends and connect with your traveling companions as you take in this memorable trip of a lifetime.