Category: Travel plans

Travel Plan – Sanibel Island itinerary for Spring

You may be thinking of escaping the monotonous daily routine to spend a few days in the sun looking for shells, visiting a wildlife reserve, watching dolphins, or simply enjoying the casual atmosphere of an island not far away. Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast, about 15 miles across the bridge from Fort Myers, might be just the place with warm days, cool nights, and lots to see and do.

Day One – Arrive mid-afternoon at Southwest Florida International Airport and rent a car to drive to the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa, about 21 miles. (Avg taxi fare $45.) Guestrooms have modern amenities and private balconies overlooking the waterfront. Enjoy casual or formal dining at any one of five restaurants. After checking in, you could unwind at the spa before dinner at the hotel’s Tarpon Café. Great steaks, pasta, and seafood after 6pm. Prices: $20-$40.
Rates: From $199/dbl. (Packages & promotions available.) Parking: $12/day.

Day Two – Start early!

With a map and directions from the hotel, take the Causeway across the bridge to Sanibel Island, about an 8-minute drive to the Over Easy Café on Periwinkle Way. Extensive menu of traditional American and Mexican breakfasts. Bridge Toll – $6/car. Café Hours: 7am-3pm. Prices: $10-$15.

Drive to the J.N “Ding” Darling Wildlife Rescue Refuge (named after cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling), 6400 acres of the mangrove ecosystem encompassing 1/3 of Sanibel Island. Bring your camera! You can rent a bicycle, or take a guided tour of the nature trails inhabited by vast numbers of migratory birds and wildlife. Free 30-minute naturalist programs and interactive exhibits at the Cross Dike Pavilion or Education Center. Bookstore & gift shop. Kayaks, canoes, fishing bait & licenses available.
Entrance Fee: $5/car, $1/bicycle
Hours: Wildlife Drive, 7am-7:30/8pm. Daily, closed Friday.
Education Center, Jan-Apr, 9-5pm, May-Dec, 9-4pm.
Tours: Tram, Adult – $13, Child – $8. Kayak/Canoe, Adult – $30, Child – $20. Nature & Sea Life, Adult – $23, Child – $15.

Lunch on the patio of the popular Island Cow. The extensive menu includes baked oysters, shrimp won tons, crab, and frickles (fried pickles). Starbucks, beer, and other beverages. Gift shop for Moo Ware. Hours: 7:30am-till closing. Prices: $10-$25.

Spend time this afternoon at the Sanibel Historical Museum, a village of restored historical buildings from the 1500s-1800s including an old schoolhouse, the Rutland “cracker house,” Ms Charlotta’s Tea Room, and Bailey’s General Store.
Hours: Nov-Apr, Wed-Sat, 10am-4pm. May-Aug, 10am-1pm.
Admission: Adults (18+) – $10. Unique items at the Old Village Gift Shop.

Dinner at the Blue Giraffe on Periwinkle Way before returning to the hotel. Try the chicken scarpariello with Italian sausage, peppers, and potatoes, or an order of babyback ribs. Hours: Daily, 9am-9pm. Prices: $15-$30.

Day Three – Seashells by the shore

Have a quick breakfast at the Palm Court Bakery in the hotel, grab your camera and beach gear, and off to Bowman’s Beach at the eastern end of the island. Enjoy sunbathing, swimming, daydreaming, or bird watching. Join the other beachcombers in the “Sanibel Stoop”; looking for shells in the sand is a popular pastime among visitors and locals. Shells are a significant part of the history, economy, and culture of Sanibel Island, where even the streets are named after shells. Picnic tables, grills, bike racks, restrooms. Hours: 7am-7pm. Parking: $2/hr

Time for lunch at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill, named after the main character in the novels by the owner Randy Wayne White. Recommended for great atmosphere and delicious food prepared with Caribbean spices and special sauces. Clam chowder, fish tacos, and jumbo shrimp are favorites. If you’re in the mood for an afternoon cocktail, have Doc’s specialty rum mojito. Hours: 7 days, 11am-11pm. Prices: $11-$30.

Visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road, the one museum in the world featuring hundreds of shells in fascinating exhibits and interactive displays. The museum houses the most common shells of the islands and mangroves, 25,000 types of land shells, rare shells, and deep sea mollusks. It is educational, as well, with a children’s learning lab and exhibits explaining the benefits of shells used in medicine. The Raymond Burr exhibit, famous shell collector and philanthropist, is a new addition to the museum. You’ll find apparel, books, jewelry, games, china, and wonderful, unique shell items at the museum store (
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Admission: Adults – 17 and up, $9. Youth – 5 to 16, $5, ages 4 and under, Free.

Return to the hotel to relax before dinner at the Courtside Steakhouse (menu & prices were unavailable).

Day Four – Sea Cruise

Early morning stop by the Palm Court before driving to the Marina and an exciting sea cruise onboard the Sanibel Thriller. The 55′ yacht takes you on a narrated tour in the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound around Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Great opportunity to take pictures of dolphins, wildlife, and the 120-year old lighthouse. Tour (1 -11/2 hrs): Adults – $43, Child – $35. Reservations.

Return to dockside and lunch at Gramma Dot’s Seaside Saloon, winner of the Taste of the Island People’s Choice Award for 7 years (original owner & world traveler Dorothy Stearns.) Dine on fresh seafood, enjoy waterfront activities, and browse at the Marina Ship Store. Hours: Daily,11:30am- 8pm. Prices: $15-$30
Back at the hotel, relax and refresh, while looking forward to dinner tonight at the Sangria Grill. Enjoy excellent sangria made in house by Pepper and “food for the fun of it” by Chef Todd Erling. A variety of international cuisine on both regular and vegetarian menus. Good reviews for this recent addition to Sanibel dining.
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11am-10pm. Sun, 11am-8pm. Closed Monday. Prices: $12 & up.
Day Five – Go Shopping

After breakfast at the Over Easy, it’s time to shop at Periwinkle Place for eclectic gift items, jewelry, clothing, and beach wear at numerous stores including Trader Rick’s, Butterfly Beach, and Peach Republic. Visit Sea Life for unique shell items, and Tiki Jim’s for T-shirts and souvenirs. Have lunch at the Blue Giraffe before returning to the hotel to pack before dinner. Enjoy the beautiful sunset and view from the verandah at Charley’s Cabana Bar. Have a mojito, martini, or other specialty cocktail with an order of tapas or a delicious gourmet flatbread. Prices: $10-$25.

Day Six – Thoughts on leaving. Sanibel is like other islands in many ways with beaches, warm weather, and tropical breezes, yet it holds a different kind of appeal from similar vacation destinations. Besides the fun you’ll have exploring for shells and discovering the culture of Sanibel, you will escape the noisy nightlife, bright lights, and fashion conscious crowds that flock to the usual tourist hotspots in the spring. It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and the simpler pleasures of life. In the words of world traveler Arthur Frommer, Sanibel is “an idyllic haven of white-sand beaches.”
Getting There: All major airlines fly into Florida’s Southwest International Airport, many nonstop. Some travelers may prefer driving their own vehicle (or renting one).

Sharon L Slayton

Travel Plan Idea – Spring Break Destination with more than parties – Charleston, South Carolina

Spring Break is just around the corner, and you are probably thinking of going some place warm, affordable, and not far from home. Charleston is not a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea or a resort on the Mexican coast, but it is a great place to visit. With a mild climate, good beaches, beautiful gardens, and interesting historical attractions dating back to Revolutionary and Civil War days, Spring Break in Charleston can be inexpensive and fun.

Day One – Arrive at Charleston International after noon and take the shuttle bus 10 miles to 26 Vendue Range Street (19 Vendue under renovation). Located in the French Quarter on a waterfront park, the Vendue is within walking distance of dining, shopping, and many attractions. Junior and king suites are tastefully done with antique furnishings and artwork. Some guestrooms feature themes based on a specific person or event in Charleston history. The 4-star Vendue Inn offers continental breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese, and evening cookies and milk. Highly recommended for excellent location and friendly staff. Free bicycle rental.
Rates: From $150-$214/dbl. Romance, City & Beach, & Spa Packages available.

Spend the afternoon exploring the 3-story Old Slave and Provost Dungeon nearby. Relive stories of colonists and pirates, traders and slaves, and the Revolutionary War on a narrated tour through this National Historic landmark. Hours: 9-5pm. Last tour 3:30pm. Admission: Adults – $9, Children (ages 7-12) & College Students – $5.

Dinner and live jazz music at the High Cotton, rated 5 stars for outstanding food, wine, and cocktails. Menu features traditional Southern Low Country, fresh seafood, steak, and a few exotic selections. Prices: $20-$40. Hours: Mon-Fri, 5:30-11pm. Sat, 12Noon-11pm. Sun, 9:30am-10pm.

Day Two – Tours & History

The weather is perfect for a carriage ride and harbor tour on your first full day in Charleston. Bring your camera and join the tour at the Old South Carriage Company on Anson Street at 9am. Narrated by a guide in Confederate uniform, the one-hour tour covers 30 blocks of old, pre-Civil War mansions, churches, and gardens.
Hours: Daily, every 20 minutes, no reservations.

After the carriage tour, you can meet the Spirit Line Harbor Tour leaving at 11am from Aquarium Wharf (use the Market/Waterfront downtown shuttle service). This relaxing, educational tour is skillfully narrated and includes Ft Sumter, Battery Point, Castle Pinckney, and the Cooper River Bridge. Snack bar & beer. Not handicap accessible.
Carriage Tour: Adults – $22, Children (4-11) – $15
Carriage Tour & Harbor Cruise: Adults – $35, Children – $24.

Casual lunch at the Brown Dog Deli on Broad Street. Menu of salads, subs, and hotdogs, all under $10. Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11-6pm. Fri&Sat, 11-8pm. Sun, 11-4pm.

This afternoon, visit the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, a carefully restored National Historic landmark built in the prewar architectural style of the Old South. The 3-story “flying staircase,” fine furniture, paintings, and elegant interior of the grand Russell House are definitely worth seeing. Admission: $10
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10-5pm. Sun, 2-5pm. 30-minute tours, last tour 3:30pm.

Enjoy the atmosphere, fun, and music at Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub tonight. Go Irish for dinner with corned beef or shepherd’s pie along with a Tommy Creation of Guinness and Bass beer. Family oriented, indoor or outdoor dining. Prices: $10-$25. Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11am-1am. Dinner till 10pm. Fri&Sat, 11am-2am, Dinner till 11pm.

Day Three – Plantations & Gardens

What to do today? You could go to the beach on Sullivan’s Island or the Isle of Palms, but the beaches during Spring Break will be very crowded (especially Folly’s). Why not visit a historic plantation instead. The fascinating history of the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island began in the 1700’s and it remains as America’s only tea garden/farm today. Enjoy the 6-hour Island Sip & See Tour on a trolley ride though the beautiful acres of more than 300 varieties of tea with stops at the Irvin House Vineyard and Firefly Distillery. Gift shop. Hours: Tues & Thurs, 9:30am (from the Visitor’s Center)
Tour Price: $52. Includes catered outdoor lunch, tea, and complimentary glasses.

Return to hotel, relax, and refresh before going to A.W. Shuck’s in the City Market for an informal dinner and cold pitcher of beer. Oyster bar, Low Country shrimp boil, or steamed snow crab legs are popular choices. Try peach bourbon bread pudding, a southern favorite, for dessert. Prices: $15-$30. Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11-10pm. Fri & Sat, 11-11pm.

Day Four – Shopping Spree

Begin a busy walking day with breakfast at Toast, highly recommended by visitors to Charleston. Open – 6am. Prices: $10-$15. Head on over to King Street for upscale shopping at the Copper Penny for ladies apparel & jewelry, Berlin’s for sportswear, and Ben Silver’s for men. Stop by the Charleston Crafts Gallery for wonderful handmade items, and go to Christophe’s Artisan Chocolatier-Patisserie for lunch and unique gifts of French chocolate. You’ll find designer and estate jewelry at Croghan’s Jewel Box, and for a glimpse of Gullah (Low Country) culture, go by Gallery Chuma on Meeting Street. Stroll through the open-air City Market for bargain shopping including baskets, candles, candy, and souvenirs.

Return to the hotel with your purchases and enjoy afternoon wine and cheese. For something different to do tonight, have an early dinner at Bocci’s Italian before the 7:30 comedy show at the Dock Street Theater. Bocci’s features seafood, lasagna, chicken, and veal. Hours: Dinner – 4-10pm, 4-11 (Fri&Sat). Lunch – 11am-4pm. Prices: $10-$25.

The famous old Dock Street Theater, destroyed by the Great Fire of 1740, was eventually rebuilt within the Planter’s Hotel and reopened in 1937 with performances year round. Renovated and updated in 2010, the Theater is currently presenting the award-winning comedy “The Foreigner” by Larry Shue. Tickets: Adults – $34.50-$53.50. Seniors – $2 less. Students & active duty military – $10 less.

Day Five – More historical beauty

After breakfast, consider spending the day on a tour through another great, historic plantation, the Middleton Place. You’ll see America’s oldest landscaped gardens, visit the museum housing Middleton family memorabilia from 1740-1880s, and watch craftsmen in the stableyards recreate the activities of an 18th century rice plantation. The Middleton Place gardens are absolutely beautiful with rare plants, flowers, and trees. In addition, there’s a rice mill pond, butterfly lakes, and Arthur Middleton’s tomb, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who lived on the property. Visit the Garden Market & Nursery, have a light lunch, or dine on typical plantation food at the onsite restaurant.
Hours: Noon-3pm. Prices: Avg $15

Spend-a-Day Package (all inclusive): Adults – $55, Students – $44, Children (6-13) – $39
(Note: Other tours available on website.)

Enjoy the ambiance and gourmet cuisine at McCrady’s near the hotel on your last evening in Charleston. Elegant & expensive. Hours: Sun-Thurs, 5-9:30pm. Fri&Sat, 5-10:30pm. Prices: $65 – 4-course meal. A-la-carte also available. Variety of wine and cocktails.

Day Six – Leaving Charleston and its history behind, Spring Break has gone by much too quickly. With lots more to see and do, you are probably thinking about a return visit to this captivating city.

Getting there: Some travelers may prefer to drive to Charleston and avoid the airline hassle, but if time or distance is a problem, most major airlines fly into Charleston International Airport.
(Note: Tours are probably the best option to see Charleston. Information and tickets available at the Visitor’s Center, 375 Meeting Street, 8:30-5pm Daily.)

Sharon L Slayton

Travel Plan Idea – Spring Break in Savannah, Georgia

It’s springtime in the South and time to get away from the daily grind of going to work in the miserable winter weather which many of us have experienced this year. What better place for fun and relaxation than Savannah in the Spring? We often think of Spring Break as something only the younger crowd enjoys, but in Savannah it can be much more than a wild party scene. You will have a wonderful mini vacation in a milder climate with exciting things to do, numerous good hotels and restaurants, interesting old mansions, and a lot of history.

Day One – Arrive Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport early afternoon and take the courtesy shuttle to the Mansion on Forsyth Park, an exceptional, luxurious boutique hotel in the historic district. The district itself is laid out in multiple squares named after famous people or events in keeping with the original plan made by British General Oglethorpe in 1733. If you’re a pet owner, as are many visitors to Savannah, the Mansion does allow dogs up to 40 lbs ($150 non refundable cleaning fee). Located a short distance from various attractions in the historic district, the interior decor of Italian marble and Venetian columns adds charm and appeal to the Mansion. The hotel offers concierge service and numerous amenities in elegant guestrooms, as well as the Poseidon Spa/fitness center, a rooftop lounge with live entertainment, a wonderful art collection, and the excellent Drayton Restaurant onsite. Restaurant Hours: 7-10am, 11-2pm, 5-10pm. Room Rates: Avg $295/dbl.
Spend the afternoon strolling through the beautiful gardens beneath the hanging Spanish moss on live oaks in Forsyth Park. From the famous cast iron fountain at one end and the Fragrant Garden for the Blind to the various monuments and neighboring Victorian mansions, the Park is one of Savannah’s main attractions. Magnolia Hall/Inn is of particular historical interest as the birthplace of poet laureate Conrad Aiken and temporary residence of author John Berendt, while writing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Have dinner tonight at Sam Snead’s Oak Grill & Tavern, highly recommended by other travelers. Enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine in the casual, comfortable atmosphere, visit the various rooms featuring Sam’s golf memorabilia, and choose from a varied selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts on the menu.
Prices: $20-$30. Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-11pm, Sat, 5-11pm, Sun, 11-9:30pm.
Mon-Fri Happy Hour – 4:30-6:30pm.

Day Two – Places to Go

After breakfast, join the Old Savannah Tours minibus for a nonstop 3-hour tour through the Victorian District, Thomas Square, the Beech Institute, and Victory Drive. Lunch at Johnny Harris’ restaurant is included in the tour (recommend BBQ and mud pie for dessert).
Prices: Adult – $41, Child – $26. Hours: Mon-Sat, 9-2pm.

Reservations for dinner tonight at Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons’ restaurant, a landmark and tradition in Savannah offering the best in Southern cooking. Stop in at her store next door to find cookware, cookbooks, and other Paula items while waiting for dinner. Menu includes fresh seafood, chicken, and steak pot pies. Try fried green tomatoes or grits with your meal and don’t forget sweet tea. Enjoy a delicious dessert such as banana pudding, peach cobbler, or pecan pie.
Prices: $20-$30/entrees. Lady’s Southern Buffet (all you can eat): $17.99.
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-9pm, Sun-11am-5pm.

Day Three – More to Do (see Concierge for map & directions)

Begin a leisurely day with a visit to the Savannah History Museum inside the Visitor’s Center to view artifacts and exhibits from 1733 to the present. The museum houses memorabilia from Native American cultures, the Revolutionary War, Johnny Mercer, and Forrest Gump. Hours: Mon-Fri, 8:30-5pm. Sat-Sun, 9-5pm. Admission: Adults – $5, Children Under 6 Free.

Next stop, the historic Davenport House on Columbia Square built in 1833 and carefully restored for a public museum. The museum houses archaeological artifacts and a collection of ceramics, books, textiles, and household items portraying domestic life in Savannah in the early 1800’s.
Daily Tours. Hours: Mon-Sat, 10-4pm. Sun, 1-4pm. Admission: Adults – $9, Children, 6-17 – $5.

Lunch at the SoHo South Cafe, recommended for nice atmosphere and good, inexpensive food.

Splurge on dinner tonight at The Olde Pink House, next door to the Planter’s Inn on Reynolds Square, an 18th century mansion with outdoor dining and live entertainment in beautiful surroundings. Gourmet menu includes sushi, oysters on the half shell, and lobster, duck, pork, and steak entrees.
Hours: Mon-Sun, 5-10:30pm. (Lunch – Tues-Sat, 11-2:30pm) Prices: $31-$50.

Day Four – Tybee Island

Plan a day in the sun on Tybee Island (weather permitting). Stroll down to the south end pavilion to see the dolphins, visit the Marine Science Center (open 7 days, 10am-5pm), and look for gifts and souvenirs at Seaside Sisters. Fannie’s on the beach is a fun place for lunch.
Shuttle service to/from Tybee Island – $3/pp, one-way. Hours: 7 days,10am, 12 Noon, 2, & 5pm. Last return service – 7pm, Fri & Sat.

Return to the Mansion to rest and dine in tonight with gourmet cuisine at the Drayton.

Day Five – Spend Money

Start the day by going to Narobia’s Grits & Gravy for a hearty Southern style platter of anything you like from French toast, eggs, and grits to sausage, biscuits, and gravy. Inexpensive. Open 7:30am. After a great meal, it’s time to shop. Savannah has the usual malls and large department stores, but it’s more fun to shop for collectibles and unique items at the smaller shops and boutiques in the historic district and the Riverstreet Market Place. One Fish Two Fish has everything from painted furniture and home accessories to apparel, jewelry, and gifts. Look for handmade crafts and original artwork at the Village Craftsman, and visit Paris Market & Brocante on Broughton Street for French items. ShopSCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) for paintings, photographs, handmade jewelry, and pottery. Go to Iona’s Gallery and Great Finds on Abercorn and Congress for paintings, home decor, and jewelry.

Lunch at Huey’s on the riverfront – have a shrimp or oyster po boy or fried green tomato muffuletta with a slice of praline cheesecake for dessert .
Prices: Sandwiches – $8-$12, Dinner – $14-$30.
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 7am-10pm. Fri-7am-11pm. Sat-8am-11pm & Sun-8am-10pm.

Return to the hotel, put away shopping bags, and relax at the Poseidon Spa before dinner tonight at the popular Pirate House on Broad Street. Highly recommended for excellent food and service, the Pirate House is one of the oldest historic spots in Savannah. The extensive menu includes a variety of appetizers and features large platters of shrimp, oysters, crab, and other seafood, prepared Creole or Southern style. Order a rum cocktail and enjoy the ambiance of the Pirate House.
Prices: $30 or less
Hours: Dinner, 4:30-9:30pm. Lunch, 11am-4pm.

Day Six – Leaving Savannah today, you’ll remember Spring Break this year as a pleasurable fun-filled week (or longer) of experiencing real Southern hospitality and reliving some of the history in one of our nation’s most fascinating cities.

Getting there – Most major airlines fly into Savannah/Hilton Head International, about 7 miles from downtown. Cheap and reasonable airfares available. Driving to Savannah, or renting a car at the airport is another option.

Sharon L Slayton

Craft Beers across Canada travel itinerary

Please enjoy this guest-authored travel plan: I love micro-brewed beers & craft beers with intense full flavour and I’ve had the luxury of sampling them in almost all the provinces across Canada via my music touring. Canuck brewing has come a long long way in the last 10 or so years. I first developed my love of beer when in university in Belfast, Northern Ireland when I realized they all didn’t need to be kind of watered down bland-tasting pale brews catering to the broadest spectrum of palates possible. My hunch at the time (survey of one 1!) was that British and Irish people liked more flavour in their beer than North Americans but I’ve seen as the Canadian offerings have become more and more interesting that the uptake amongst my friends has been pretty significant. I think we were settling for mediocre mass produced brews because that’s what we could buy. But now, we’ve seen that locally made craft beers can be gutsy and bold and there are so many now that with some digging you can find a favorite. They can be extremely hoppy, or really bitter. They can even incorporate local fruit flavours or coffees if they want, and they know they aren’t there to please everyone – which is just fine by me and those who love them. They own their niche, and they own it well.

I’ve been able to pick a favorite or 2 in many of the provinces in Canada that I’ve toured to with my performing and I thought I’d share a few of them here. If you come across them you might want to give them a try. (Caveat: for all I know, some of these have been discontinued since I tried them! If so, try some other brews by these breweries – they’re all doing good things.) Happy Tasting! NOTE: I make no claim to be an expert. Rather, I’m merely sharing some beers that I enjoyed, and hope you do too.

If you were taking a Trans-Canada drive here is a bit of a beer itinerary I’d recommend, starting at the West coast and working your way East.

Monday: British Columbia: Granville Island Brewery (Vancouver) – Robson St Hefeweizen

Start your trip off with this fresh unfiltered wheat ale. It has some fruit overtones to it – and it’s often served with a wedge of lemon or orange: a nice start to your trip. You’ll be driving past the Okanagan Valley with all of its fruity goodness en route to Alberta so this seems a good fit.

Wednesday: Alberta: Wild Rose Brewery (Calgary) – Alberta Crude Oatmeal Stout

As you pull into oil-country after you’ve doddled through the beautiful Rocky Mountains, I’ll point out that you can only get this aptly named wonderful stout on tap. It’s not actually bottled! So go try it in the brewery’s taproom in Calgary as a treat. It’s got a nice complex taste and if you like Guinness this certainly gives it a run for its money.

Thursday: Saskatchewan: Bushwakker Brewpub (Regina) – Palliser Porter

Staying on highway #1, your next big urban centre (population 220,000!) is the queen city of Regina Saskatchewan. You’ve just driven through some insanely flat prairie turf and you’re a bit bored so you need a pick me up. I discovered Bushwakker brew pub in Regina years ago and keep going back. They brew fantastic delights. There’s a tiny bit of sweetness in their malty Palliser Porter. It’s pure deliciousness in a pint-glass. You can get this bottled too, but go try it right at Bushwakkers and check out this amazing brew pub on Dewdney Avenue.

Friday: Manitoba: Half Pints Brewing Company (Winnipeg) – Stir Stick Stout

An easy 6 hour drive from Regina and you’re in Winnipeg. Winnipeg never fails with this lovely brew on the menu. I discovered this after a gig at the Park Theatre. It’s pretty strong tasting stout (6% alcohol) and most of the flavours I get from this are of the locally roasted coffee ingredient, but there are chocolate notes as well. It’s delightful! I’ve only had this bottled. Not sure if you can get this on tap too?

Sunday: Ontario: Mill Street Brewery (Toronto) – Mill Street Belgian-Style Wit Beer

When you pull into Toronto after the drive from Manitoba you’ll be ready to collapse. But instead, take this advice & head on down to the actual Mill Street Brewery in the incredibly quaint distillery district. It’s like walking back in time. The Victorian industrial space is so well-preserved with it’s cobblestone and brick streets, and 1800s architecture. You’ll get thirsty just looking at it. Wind through the lanes to find the Mill St brewery and belly up to the bar. Their Wit Beer is unfiltered & cloudy, and pretty citrus-y. There’s a hint of coriander and actually banana (somehow). You can get this one bottled too. I’d be amiss to not mention their Tankhouse Ale which you can now get bottled all across Canada. It’s a go-to beer for me too but is almost becoming too common for me now. Hence me recommending the Wit! It’s different and worth a try.

Tuesday: Quebec: McAuslan Brewery (Montreal) – St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

You’re likely in Montreal by now and you’d be crazy not to try this one. This stout is available both bottled an on tap. It makes a great creamy head and is super black in a pint glass. It has rich coffee and chocolate notes. It’s one of my go-to Quebec beers.

Thursday: New Brunswick: Pumphouse Brewery (Moncton) – Scotch Ale

I’ve had this New Brunswick brew in a bottle and quite liked it – my bandmate didn’t. All the more reason for you to try it. I’m pretty sure I tried it in Moncton and am not sure about it’s availability elsewhere in Canada, but I noticed elsewhere in NB. It’s a nice dark brown when poured into a glass and has a great smoky caramel taste going on – kind of a woody/peat flavour so you know what you’re getting into. I actually think the aroma is more robust than the actual taste when you sip it. The aftertaste is fairly strong too. Certainly unique and worth a try.

Friday: Nova Scotia: Propeller Brewing Co. (Halifax) – Propeller Porter

I tried this porter when in Halifax last year. Two words: So. Good. It has a nice thick creamy head and the flavours are that chocolately coffee goodness I tend to migrate to in a porter. This seemed to have a few dark fruity hints too. It’s actually a little lighter than some other porters I’ve had which was a nice contrast. Maybe a good entry porter if you’re not used to drinking them?

Saturday: PEI: Prince Edward Island Brewing Co. (Charlottetown) – Iron Bridge Brown Ale

You’ll drive the confederation bridge over to PEI and you’ll be ready to settle in that evening for a pint. The PEI brewing company brews it up in Charlottetown, the capital. I had this one in a bottle and it was medium bodied compared to other ales I’ve had – maybe a bit thin if you like them super full bodied. It had a yummy malty chocolate taste and there was something a bit ‘grainy’ (roast cereal?) about the taste too. I’m sure that’s polarizing for some tasters but I’d do this one again for sure.

There are some obvious locales of this Canadian beer trip that I’ve not mentioned yet. It’s either because they didn’t fit the route I just described or I’ve not visited yet and have yet to pick a favorite. One more worth noting is in Yukon though:

Yukon: Yukon Brewing (Whitehorse) – Midnight Sun, Espresso Stout

I had this from a bottle in Whitehorse when up in the Yukon for a show as part of the Western Canadian Music Awards a few years ago. This stout had a nice malt + espresso coffee flavour. It was really robust with chocolate notes. I remember the bottle being BIG too!

If you’re looking for brew thoughts from Newfoundland/Labrador, NWT and Nunavut you’ll need to wait for a future post. I’ve yet to try the brewed delights there. I can’t wait though, as it’s been pretty fun doing this trans-Canada tasting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little post and if you get to try some of the beers I’ve mentioned please post/reply and let me know what you think.
Cheers! Jeffery

Llanelli in Carmarthenshire travel itinerary: nature and beaches

So I found some amazing pictures on this site for family holiday cottages in Wales. Turns out, there’s a town I had never heard of before, the coastal town of Llanelli in Carmarthenshire, that’s just right for a vacation itinerary.

Day 1

Llanelli boasts 22km of coastal path/cycle track in the Millennium Coastal Park. I spend day 1 on the traffic-free cycle/footpath although a few people probably opt for the golf course instead.

Something you’ve probably never done: visit a tinplate museum to better understand the process of tinplate making. The Kidwelly Industrial Museum is a few miles from the Western end of the coastal park. Admission is free.

Day 2

Hit the bikes again. Today we cycle to Sandy Water Park in the heart of the Coastal Park. The man-made Six hectare lake is surrounded by rolling parkland and trees. It’s a great place to see swans and mallard. After a picnic, we get on the Swiss Valley cycle way which takes us up the tranquil Swiss Valley Reservoir (or for fifteen miles right up to the National Botanical Gardens of Wales, but we will save the gardens for day 3).

Day 3

The National Botanical Gardens of Wales are 8.50 GBP for admission and is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. You’ll want several hours if not a full day, so we choose not to bike it. Most people start off on the land train tour – the driver’s commentary is usually very good. There’s a complimentary shuttle around the site and a few places not to be missed – the double walled garden and the old apothecary building.

You could buy a 7-day ticket if you think you’ll want to return. The Great Glasshouse gets excellent reviews, and there’s a large nature reserve, which requires several hours to explore. You’ll want comfortable shoes, as there is a lot of walking (especially if you don’t use the shuttle). Also, you might want something waterproof since everything other than the Great Glasshouse and the small tropical house is open to the elements.

Day 4

Llanelli has some outstanding Blue Flag beaches and seaside scenery. Take your pick:

Oxwich Bay Beach – I would spend more time at the two nearby castles, but the beach is sandy with good swimming and water sports opportunities, dunes, and a nature reserve with elevated walkways.

Rhossili Bay Beach – They say this one is beautiful but hard to reach. If you’re there at the right time, there is a tidal Island to explore. Good for surfing and swimming (no lifeguard).

Langland Bay Beach – A sandy beach with rocky outcrops, this one does have lifeguards. Popular for swimming, surfing and families. Holds Blue Flag and Seaside Awards.

Saundersfoot Beach – Consisting of several sandy beaches along the bay, some busy and some sedate. Nice waters for swimming at all. Blue Flag awarded area.

Tunnels Beaches – features hand carved tunnels dating to the 1820’s – fun for kids to explore and they lead to a beach plus indoor and outdoor play areas.

Barafundle Bay – They say this is one of the best beaches in the world. Difficult to access with good swimming but no lifeguard and no facilities.

Day 5

We finish the travel itinerary with a day at the WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre. More biking is an option. Walking is another option, but for me, it would have to be the canoe safari, getting close to wetland wildlife at eye level including mute swans, their cygnets, dragonflies, damselflies, and water voles (the water rat is much cuter than a real rat and is a semi-aquatic rodent).

Expect to see expanses of summer flowers, and kids should enjoy the water vole city play area where they can explore our network of tunnels just like real water voles. Flamingo watches are another possibility; you can see baby flamingo chicks (through binoculars). Keep an eye out for warblers, lesser yellowlegs, spoonbill, sandpiper, ruff, black tailed godwit, greenshank, spotted redshank, and lapwing.

5-Day travel itinerary for Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano

With so much to see and do in Costa Rica, it’s well worth having a plan in place before you arrive. 5 days may just be a short break, but you’ll be able to see plenty if you take a little time to consider your itinerary. Here, we give you a recommended plan for 5 days in the beautiful setting of Costa Rica.

Day 1: Arrive and settle in

Many itineraries that you find online will have you trekking all over on your first day, but it’s wise bearing in mind that you’ve got several full days ahead of you. This considered, we’d strongly recommend using your first day to settle into your hotel in San Jose and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. Head to a local shop to buy some water, and take a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood. You’ll stumble across many stands that sell exotic and fresh fruits that you should definitely sample.

On the evening, head over to the National Theatre and see a show if there’s anything on that you’d be interested in. You’ll have a busy few days ahead, so make sure that you get a reasonably early night so you’re well rested for your adventures!

It’s worth noting that San Jose is divided into dozens of neighbourhoods, known as ‘barrios’, and some are obviously safer than others. Stick to the tourist areas and avoid the Coca Cola Bus Station. If you need to get from A to B and are unsure about safety, it could be worthwhile getting a taxi. It will only cost you a few dollars to be taken anywhere within the city, though bear in mind that you’ll usually have to provide the name of a landmark or building rather than a street address. It’s always worth carrying a map with you.

Day 2: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

Set your alarm clock for an early start and take a guided tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Having an expert guide on hand will be invaluable when it comes to making sure that you see everything. You’re likely to experience the hummingbirds just near the entrance, as well as the bat jungle and the frog pond.

It can easily fill up a whole day, so be sure to take plenty of sun cream. The temperatures can really soar during the warmer months.

Day 3: Arenal Volcano

Rent a car and take a drive up to the Arenal Volcano in the National Park. It’s an impressive site of natural beauty, and many people revel in the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

There are several natural spas in the area, so be sure to call in for a relaxing treat. There’s also plenty of places to pick up souvenirs for your loved ones back at home. After a day that will inevitably include a lot of walking, treat yourself at a luxury restaurant. Benedictus Steak House comes highly recommended and offers fantastic views and excellent service.

Though it’s possible to get a good feel for the area in just one day, many travellers feel that it isn’t quite enough to really soak up the atmosphere. If you can stay a little longer, it’s well worth it.

It takes around three hours to get from San Jose to Arenal, so you’ll need an early start. The route is a fairly easy one, but be aware that roads aren’t always maintained to the highest standards, so watch out for potholes. Car crime is notoriously high in some places, so take a wheel lock just to be on the safe side.

Day 4: Boat tour

The waters of Costa Rica are absolutely beautiful, so schedule in a little time to get out on the open seas. There are many organised tours available that will call by all the main attractions, so look out for deals. Wherever you’re staying, you’ll find plenty of options available.

We definitely recommend just kicking back and relaxing on one of the many golden beaches, though if you’re more of the adventurous type, take your hiking boots and get exploring. There are many walks that cater for different abilities. Snorkeling is also popular, so keep your eyes open for boat tours that will take you to the hotspots spots.

Day 5: Fly home

You’ll be flying home today, so it’s worth factoring in a little extra time for organisation and any last minute things that you need to take of. Especially if you’re travelling with children, it can be a stressful day! Have a leisurely breakfast from a local café, then do any shopping that you still need before leaving.

Fly back home with plenty of happy memories and photographs to show your friends and family!

There’s room for flexibility in this itinerary, so if there’s something else that you particularly have you heart set on, just do a little bit or rejigging so you can fit in everything that you’d like to do.

If you like things to be taken care of for you, you might want to consider booking through a travel provider. Click here to find out more about offerings from The Holiday Place.

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What would you consider to be the highlights?

This article was brought to you by Ruth Richards on behalf of The Holiday Place. Click here to read more about their exotic break options, including holidays to Cuba.

Travel plan for Bournemouth, Torquay, and Dartmoor National Park

Torquay is in the English Riviera, which, thankfully, does not share the climate for which England is famous. On England’s southwestern coast, Torquay is in Torbay, which is in Devon County. This means its an excellent companion to a travel plan that would also cover Dartmoor Prison in Devon. Let’s see if we can start working on a travel plan.

Day 1: Bournemouth

This spa town is famous for having attracted the elite of of Victorian society and Bournemouth Hotels are largely designed to help you stay in and relax.

The Cumberland Hotel, for example, has an indoor heated pool, spa tub, sauna, gym facilities and a tournament-sized squash court open to guests. Recognised as one of the most fashionable properties in the UK, this hotel comes with stunning sea views and a Miami Art Deco theme. Relax in the decadent glamour of the 1930s whilst still enjoying the urban chic style that makes the hotel so popular. Many guests choose to enjoy breakfast and dinner in the hotel as well.

Day 2: Bournemouth

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, the private home of extensive travelers Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Lady Annie, was one of the last Victorian manor houses ever built. Some of the rooms are furnished like they were back in the day, with amazing decor, furniture and extravagant china. There are galleries of fantastic paintings, many by female artists, and good sculptures. There are very good descriptive cards explaining the meaning of the paintings.

After the museum, take a long walk to Hengistbury Head, a fascinating headland with terrific views all year round. I believe there are ferries if you’re not up for a long walk along the beach.

Day 3: Torquay

Head west to one more the historically known vacation spots in England. Hotels in Torquay tend to be resorts, but there’s still plenty to do besides relax. So we spend some time at the hotel, but we make sure to explore as well. Hotel Gleneagles is a peaceful fifteen minutes from the town centre and features a private pathway that leads you through 8 acres of woodland to the South Devon Coastal Path and onwards towards the popular Ansteys Cove, our first tourist attaraction.

Ansteys Cove, a shingle beach favoured by Agatha Christie for picnics during her time in Torquay. There’s a small beach, some dramatic cliffs, and a cafe. By the way, for Agtaha Christie fans, Torquay has an Agatha Christie festival in September. There’s always the Agatha Christie Mile. In addition to Agatha Christie lovers, for those who enjoy a bit of British history, especially WWII era, her house is a great place. This is also a great place if you enjoy nature and gardens as well. Be prepared for a bit of walking; it is hilly and can be muddy. There’s a bus from Torquay to Greenway for £11 per person. The old 1940s bus is neat to ride in. You can get to the house via train and boat as well. At Greenway you pay the National Trust fee to get in. The house has all the contents from the time when Agatha Christie used it as her holiday home. The history behind the grounds, from WWII and Roman era, is very interesting and there are volunteers all around to give you further information about certain things, especially around the house.

Day 4: Torquay

Agatha Christie (along with King George V and some other famous people) also enjoyed Kents Cavern, Britain’s most important Stone Age site, which was home to early man for some 700,000 years. The floor is composed of several strata, with remains indicating the prehistoric coexistence there of humans and now-extinct animals.

These caves may not be the most visually spectacular but are nevertheless very interesting and well worth the visit. Be ready for a lot of steps as you go on your guided tour of about an hour. Most guides know their stuff and are entertaining as they explain many thousands of years history of the system. Learn about the earliest cave dwellers and the legacy left by them and the many animals that sought sanctuary within. You can also expect to learn how the interesting rock/mineral formations came into being.

After visiting the caves in the morning, head to the harbour. The best view may be from the 60 meter high wheel. Conveniently, the wheel is located within the famous Pavilion Gardens, so you can spend some time strolling through the gardens as well. This might not actually take long, but so spend a few minutes to admire the exterior of the pavilion.

Day 5: Dartmoor Prison Museum / Princetown

Located on 28 acres of the moors high above the village of Princetown, the prison is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and managed by HM prison system. The Museum on the main road through town to the prison opened in 1996 and is now a main attraction for over 30,000 visitors a year. Brian Dingle, the Curator, worked as the prison shepherd for over 20 years, so he is very familiar with Dartmoor and eager to share its history. Cement gnomes, toadstools, and dogs on display outside are sold for garden/yard ornaments. Two guard mannequins greet visitors, a sign advertises cell doors for sale at $80, and another designates Dartmoor as a Category C prison, with about 600 residents in 2009. Visitors can have a mug shot taken for $6.00, explore the exhibits of weaponry, crafts, and memorabilia, and listen to a 1/2-hour video of the typical daily routine of prisoners and staff.

Day 6: Dartmoor National Park

One of England’s 15 National Parks, Dartmoor covers an area of 368 square miles and is the largest and wildest area of open country in Southern England. On this day, you will pick your activity. Your choices include walking and cycle routes, hard and not so hard, both on and off road. Also horse-riding, climbing, letterboxing, geo-caching or kayaking though kayaking and the like will take some serious preparation on your part.

How about some movie tourism while in Dartmoor National Park? They have tours that discuss the area and the filming of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. Or you can grab one of the park’s publications and venture out on your own to find the landscapes that you saw in the film.

Travel plan for Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and San Francisco

I start school in September. As a poor student, I’ll have less money for traveling but I don’t want that to stop me entirely. I’ll be based in Tallahassee, Florida, and I’ll try to get to a few places in America and maybe South America or Central America. So time to start dreaming up American holidays and – as many of you know – I like to check out different tours to get some well-planned itineraries to start from. For a British perspective, I found a site promising luxury holidays in America and started to search for their itineraries.

So if you were to check out this page for USA tours, you would find the following itinerary: New York -> Washington DC -> Chicago -> Scottsdale -> Grand Canyon -> Las Vegas -> Los Angeles -> San Diego -> San Francisco. That’s a beautiful itinerary for someone with 22 days to spare. I’m thinking I can just take a part of that travel plan. For example three places I’ve never been: Las Vegas -> Grand Canyon -> San Francisco.

My travel plan:

Day 1: Las Vegas

I start here first because it should be a very easy airport to fly into. For lunch, try Mon Ami Gabi in front of Paris – Get a table on the patio. Excellent food and great place to people watch. If you time it right you’ll see the fountains at Bellagio during your meal.

After that, how about a Vegas-style nature walk? The MGM Grand’s lion habitat is open from 11am to 10pm. The Mirage has its white tiger habitat (by the Las Vegas Boulevard entrance). The volcano erupts at the top of each hour from 6pm to midnight so you may want to come back later in the evening.

What you have to do at some point before leaving Vegas is see an Elvis show. I’m told that there’s a good free one in the Riviera Hotel but I can’t find confirmation on their website. This part of the travel plan could use some more research.

Day 2: Las Vegas

For brunch, try Bouchon in the Venetian hotel. It’s a Thomas Keller restaurant and it’s excellent. While there at the Venetian, you could do a gondola ride, but I’d feel weird doing it in Vegas when I skipped it in Venice (a regret I must admit, but it was pretty pricey as I recall – Vegas is probably less expensive).

After you’ve eaten, walk off those calories at the Fremont Street Expereince. Fremont street has stuffy casinos and vendors if you’re a shopper. The huge LED canopy covering 5 blocks of Fremont Street does something special every hour on the hour.

Back to the strip to check out Circus Circus. Different acts perform each half hour from 11 a.m. to midnight. They only have about 60 seats and you can’t reserve one. But the news isn’t all bad – it’s free and 15 minutes before a show starts usually gets you a seat.

Days 3 and 4: Grand Canyon

I really want to raft the Colorado River here and camp overnight. My wife isn’t so sure but I have some time to talk her into it. It’s hard to really itemize this part of the itinerary, but the tour I linked to above has some good ideas like a sunset tour of the South Rim for some stunning views.

Day 5: San Francisco

Head down to the Fisherman’s Wharf where there’s sure to be something for everyone. Pier 39 is a festive marketplace with more than 110 stores, 12 Bay view restaurants and loads of outdoor stuff like the Aquarium of the Bay, bike rentals, street performers and a Carousel with famous miniature San Fran landmarks. If fun and laughter don’t suite your fancy you can always hop on an Alcatraz Cruise from Pier 33 that will take you to Alcatraz Island. In case you don’t already know, Alcatraz used to be the home of some of America’s most notorious criminals like Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud.

San Francisco has a great Asian influence and being right on the water, sushi in this city is to die for. Take yourself out for dinner in Japantown or J-Town as the locals like to call it, to Kiss Sea Food Japanese Restaurant (1700 Laguna St.) The restaurant is a little small so be prepared to wait in line or make sure to head there early.

Day 6: San Francisco

The site I linked to above has some more cool ideas. One is a guided bicycle tour of the Waterfront, Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito, including a ferry trip to return to the city. This sounds like a lot of fun. They also have a scenic seaplane flight (weather dependent) over the beautiful San Francisco bay for views of the cityscape, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It also occurs to me I don’t have a single museum in my itinerary. The Walt Disney Family Museum is one option, but I think I would prefer the Asian Art Museum.

6 day Orlando and Tallahassee travel plan

I’ve just returned to Orlando after spending a few days in Tallahasse. Mostly I was in Tallahasse working. I went to an Instructional Systems conference where I met some people from the program I start in the fall. And most of my time was spent house-hunting. I need a cheap place to live in a nice area near Florida State when I return to school as a poor student.

So it wasn’t exactly a holiday, but we managed to do a few fun things, beyond just driving from house to house with our real estate agent. And it gave me an idea for a Florida vacation itinerary.

Day 1 – Orlando

Holidays to Orlando revolve around Disney so that’s where you go first. If you arrive early enough, Disney’s Animal Kingdom can be done in a half day. 6 hours is reasonable to hit the main attractions. The best rides are Kali River Rapids, Dinosaur, & Expedition Everest. There’s The Boneyard Playground for kids to wander through an archaeological dig. The film It’s Tough to Be a Bug is worth seeing for kids around middle school age. Then there’s the musical, Festival of the Lion King. You want to see some nature so check out the Kilimanjaro Safari, the Tree of Life and the Maharajah Jungle Trek

If you arrive too late for that, you might spend a few hours in Downtown Disney (the shopping district). Entry is free but I think most everything is overpriced. Remember that Disney vacations aren’t about bargain hunting.

Day 2 – Orlando

You’ll need a full day at Magic Kingdom. It’s a huge park with rides/events for everyone in the family. Without listing all the attractions, here are some big ones:

It’s a small world – a world-brotherhood-themed indoor boat ride (I still remember this one from when I was kid)
Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade – a feel-good afternoon Parade
Country Bear Jamboree – an audioanimatronic country-hoedown theater show
Jungle Cruise – an outdoor safari-themed boat-ride
Liberty Square Riverboat – an outdoor scenic boat ride
Main Street Electrical Parade » Old-School Nighttime Parade with a bazillion lights
Mickey’s PhilharMagic – a 3-D movie starring Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and some other favorites
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor – interactive animated comedy routines
Stitch’s Great Escape! – a sci-fi adventure show
The Hall of Presidents – an audioanimatronic historical theater presentation
The Haunted Mansion – a haunted-house dark ride – some people say the elevator is the best thing in Disney
Tomorrowland Speedway – mini cars you get to drive
Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress – another audioanimatronic theater production
Aloha Isle – go here for dessert

Day 3 – Orlando

There’s plenty left to see in Disney, but most kids would probably like to see Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If it’s a crowded day, some visitors report being rushed through the castle even after waiting on line for hours to get in. And some complain that the ride through the castle is too rough (and not worth a long wait). Other visitors report the line for butter beer being too long. The wand show is great, especially if you’re lucky enough to get brought up on stage.

When the park closes, you might as well head next door to Universal Citywalk for restaurants and bars like Hard Rock Cafe and Margaritaville.

Day 4 – Tallahassee

Holidays to Florida tend to focus on Orland and Miami, but the state capital has its share of attractions too. After a 4-5 hour drive from Orlando, you’ll want to relax a bit in the evening. Join the locals for a stroll around Lake Ella in central Tallahassee. At Cancun’s on Tennessee Street, $20 should feed a family of 4.

Day 5 – Tallahassee

Your only full day in Tallahassee so pick something fun. Top attractions include Florida State University (the campus is pretty and you might be able to catch a game depending on when you arrive). If you’re more into nature, try the trails at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge where you can be a little active (short trails through different ecosystems) or more active (a 6 mile and a 12 mile trail). A third option is the excellent Tallahassee Antique car Museum, where you can see the Batmobile and more than a few other cool cars.

If possible, get this night to fall on the first Friday of the month. Then at night, head to Railroad Square for art that ranges from traditional coastal landscapes to weird stuff to jewelry. You’ll hear some local music and see some local people. Vegans must check out the Krishnas serving incredible vegan/vegetarian food ($5 or $6 for a meal).

Day 6 – Orlando

Seaworld is cool to visit on the 4th day. You can spend a lot of time here. Try to get a mixture of rides (Journey to Atlantis will get you happy and wet), shows (Shamu Stadium for the killer whale performance), and animal exhibits (we like the Shark Encounter underwater tunnel but if you like touching animals first head to Dolphin Cove and Stingray Lagoon).

Cairngorms National Park travel plan: 5 day itinerary

Take a trip to the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands to discover why 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland. The 1.4 million visitors to the park each year are treated to stunning panoramic landscapes, majestic wildlife and a range of outdoor activities to suit everyone. The scenic park covers 4528 square kilometres and is home to five of the UK’s highest mountains. Travellers looking to get away from it all can find compete peace in the vast, ancient woodlands; whereas youre looking for something a bit more lively, head to one of the small towns dotted amongst the mountains such as Aviemore.

This itinerary will show you the highlights of the Cairngorms to give you the quintessential Highland experience in only 5 days.

Day One – Arrive at the Cairngorms National Park

You won’t be stuck for accommodation in the Cairngorms. Whether you’re looking for a cosy woodland lodge or a modern hotel in town, you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for.

Use this day to unwind after your flight. If you’re a keen fisher, there are great opportunities to fish for salmon, sea trout and brown trout along 12 miles of both banks of the River Dulnain. Permits are only granted to visitors who are staying in the local area, so you’re guaranteed to find a quiet, relaxing spot along the river banks.
Fishing permits can be purchased from the Mortimers of Speyside website.

Day 2 – Go on a Nature Hike

The Cairngorms is home to over 25 % of the UK’s species of endangered plans and wildlife. Today, it’s time to discover why the Cairngorms National Park is famous for its nature hikes. There are enough food paths and hiking trails to keep walking enthusiasts entertained for months. Head to the Rothiemurchus Estate for a great selection of paths that wind across 50km of ancient forest land. The area is abundant in Red Deer and home to rare birds such as Crossbills, Crested Tits and Capercaillie. Don’t forget your camera, glimpses of these rare species will be fleeting.
A map of the self-guided walks can be purchased from the Rothiemurchus Centre. Choose from a walk around the tranquil lochs, a hike through the forest or the 3 hour long Views of the Mountains walk.

Day 3- Go Skiing

Time to hit the piste! The 4083ft high Cairngorm Mountain near the village of Aviemore, is the highest in the National Park and is known locally for having some of the best ski and snowboarding runs in the area. The mountain is easily reached by a direct bus service which runs from Aviemore; however, the roads can get blocked by heavy snow so watch out for any weather warnings if you are planning a trip to the mountain. Don’t worry if you’re a novice skier, there are plenty of easy runs and baby slopes to practice on. Thrill seekers will love the fast paced black ski runs; the steep drops and fast bends means that these runs are for expert skiers only!

After a long day on the slopes, take some time to enjoy the aprfès-ski opportunities in one of the many bars dotted about the mountain.

Ski hire and lift passes can be purchased at the resort, or book your passes in advance at the Cairngorm Mountain website.

Day 4- Visit Cultural Attractions.

Calm down the pace after a thrilling day of skiing by checking out the local cultural attractions. Take the 2-mile walk from the village of Laggan to discover the ancient hill fort, Dun-da-Lamh. The fort dates back to 500AD and its foundations remain at the summit of rocky, craggy hill. When you reach the top, you will be treated to stunning views across Glen Shira and the River Spey to the north as well as the River Mashie in the south.

Alternatively, if you want to put your feet up and have a well-deserved drink check out the Dalwhinnie Distillery, one of the highest distilleries in Scotland. The distillery offers guided tours and whiskey tasting experiences; don’t miss their 15 Year Old Single alt.

Distillery tours and whiskey tasting sessions range from £7.50 – £22. Visit their website for further details.

Day 5 – Catch a Steam Train

On your last day in the Cairngorms National Park take a trip on a vintage steam train around the park. The nostalgic train journey runs between the Aviemore, Boat of Garten and Broomhill areas of the National Park and offers spectacular views of the Cairngorm mountain and the River Spey. Nature enthusiasts will love the chance to see the National Park’s varying range of wildlife from the comfort of their carriage. There’s even a restaurant car so you can treat yourself to afternoon tea.

Prices range from £11 for an adult ticket to £33 for a child’s ticket. Visit the Strathspey Steam Railway’s website for more information.

Fiona writes for LHH Scotland, leading provider of luxury holiday homes across Scotland.