Tag: "travel plan"

5 Day Travel Plan for Virginia featuring American historical sites

If you are planning a 5 day visit to Virginia soon, you should know that the truth is you would be very hard pressed to see absolutely everything in less than a week’s time. Virginia is an incredibly diverse state with a deep and rich history, and there are just way too many iconic landmarks and points of interest to cover them all in only 5 days. However, if you’re really pressed for time, it is possible to visit only the very best and top attractions. Read on to find out what they are.

Day 1: Colonial Williamsburg

This is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Virginia. Every year, this living history museum and historic district attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors who want to learn more about the history of America and how the United States came to be. Colonial Williamsburg in itself has plenty of sighs to fascinate you, and you should allot an entire day to exploring the place, but if you really want to take the experience to another level, book a Williamsburg Ghost Tour.

These guided walking tours take place in the evenings, and you will be led by a licensed and knowledgeable tour guide who will take you through the historic streets and buildings of Colonial Williamsburg, while telling you all about its strange and mysterious past. This includes stories about reported hauntings, sightings and paranormal activity that will make your hair stand on end. This is definitely one of the best ghost tours in VA.

Day 2: Jamestown and Yorktown

Jamestown was the very first permanent English settlement in the Americas, and was established in May, 1607. Like Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement is also a living history, and features a Powhatan Indian Village, a recreation of James Fort, and replicas of the three ships that brought the colonists from England to America. Right next door to Jamestown is Yorktown, which together with Jamestown and Williamsburg form the Historic Triangle—three important colonial-era settlements.

Day 3: Richmond

It will take you an entire day to visit all the historic landmarks in Richmond, the capital of Virginia and home to the University of Virginia. Notable places to visit are the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Richmond National Battlefield Park.

Day 4: Charlottesville

In the morning, be sure to drop by the magnificent 5,000 acre house and plantation Monticello before the large crowds come in. This is home of Thomas Jefferson, American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers and first Presidents of the United States. Spend the rest of the day touring the sprawling University of Virginia campus and checking out the shopping and dining options in downtown Charlottesville.

Day 5: Shenandoah National Park

Finally, drive up to Shenandoah National Park, which features over 200,000 acres of forest, wetlands, waterfalls and valleys. Here you can do a number of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping and fishing, or simply watch for animals, which abound throughout the park. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive American black bear.

Once again, this is only a guide to the absolute best and most popular attractions in Virginia. If you have more time, consider spending an entire week or even two to thoroughly explore the region—you won’t regret it.

5 day Las Vegas travel plan

Las Vegas is an ever-changing fantasy world of bright lights, fabulous hotels, glittering casinos, exciting shows, and breathtaking attractions. Vegas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S., ranking alongside Disneyland and Disney World. Over 40 million people come to Vegas each year to experience the nightlife and non-stop, live entertainment, as well as to visit Las Vegas attractions and day trip tours. There’s a definite appeal to seeing the Grand Canyon, a casino, and a live show all in one day.

Day 1 – Arrive at McCarran Airport and take the shuttle ($7 p/p) to the Mirage Hotel located in the center of the Strip. Our accommodations are quite nice, with up-to-date amenities and modern decor. After unpacking, we have lunch downstairs at the Paradise Cafe where we enjoy the weather at poolside. Reasonable prices and good menu variety.
Mirage Room Rates – $100 & up. Packages and promotions available.

This afternoon we are looking forward to a deluxe helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world. We have an incredible panoramic view of Hoover Dam, extinct volcanoes, and Lake Mead, as the helicopter gradually descends to the Canyon floor. We are now in the land of the Native American Hualapai where we have time to explore and take spectacular photos of our surroundings. We enjoy a complimentary picnic lunch & champagne before leaving the Canyon floor and returning to the hotel.
Tour (3-4 hours): Adult – £246, Child – £235. Round trip transportation/transfers from hotel included.

Back in our room, it’s time to relax before dinner tonight at Sushiloca restaurant, about 30 minutes from the Mirage. Pleasant atmosphere with authentic Japanese cuisine featuring sushi, sashami, and a wide assortment of specialty rolls. Friendly service and excellent chefs.
Hours: 11am-2am. Prices: $11-$30

Day 2 – Early morning breakfast at Cravings buffet in the hotel. Breakfast hours – 7am-11am. Price: $16 p/p. Off to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the thrill of a Richard Petty Driving Experience. We’re not quite daring enough to drive it alone, so we decide on a less-challenging 8-lap Rookie Tour. Rookie Tour – 9am or 1pm. Open – Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat, & Sun. Price – £317. A stop at the Race Shop and Gift Store and round trip transportation to hotel included.

It’s time for lunch and a visit to the Forum Shops, a famous Vegas attraction across the street from the Mirage. The Trevi restaurant in the Forum features a menu of traditional and gourmet Italian from pizza and pasta to Bruschetta and Carpaccio.
Prices: $20-$35. Hours: Mon-Thurs,& Sun, 11am-11pm. Fri & Sat, 11am-12am.

We stroll through the 3-story Forum of Roman statues, fountains, and swanky shops such as Gucci, Tiffany, and Vuitton, as well as many others catering to the budget-minded shopper. Cobblestone streets, reminiscent of Paris and Rome, and ornate spiral staircases leading to the painted ceiling of a Mediterranean sky add to the splendid decor of the Forum.

Shopping bags packed away, we join the fun of happy hour downstairs and a casual dinner at Stack. Appetizers and popular American cuisine, steak and seafood.
Cocktails, beer, & wine: $4. Avg Dinner Price: $50. Hours: Sun, Tues-Thurs, 5pm-10pm. Mon, Fri, Sat, 5pm-11pm.

Day 3 – We begin our day with a full breakfast at the Paradise before seeing more Vegas’ attractions. First on the agenda is a short walk south on Las Vegas Blvd to the LINQ hotel, which houses a fabulous auto collection of over 250 classic, muscle, and historically famous cars. Some of these are worth over $100 million, and all are actually for sale. Whether you’re a collector of antique cars, just like cars, or have only a casual interest, here is “history on wheels,” the largest classic car showroom in the world. We spend several hours here before lunch. Open daily, 10am-6pm. Cost – Adults, $11.95, Seniors & Children, 6-12, $8.

The Yardhouse restaurant nearby is a good place for a light lunch with beer or ale, about $15. Open daily, 11am-after midnight. Lunch 11-5pm.

Next stop, a visit to the world-renowned Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian; located in 14 cities worldwide, this is a must-see attraction while in Vegas. We take pictures beside our favorite celebrities (over 100 lifelike figures), watch the 4D Marvel Super Heroes movie, and spend most of the afternoon exploring the Museum.
Admission: Adults, $29.95, Children 4-12, $19.95. Hours: Open daily year, Sun-Thurs, 10am-9pm, Fri & Sat, 10am-10pm.

We dress for dinner tonight and taxi to the Top of the World restaurant in the Stratosphere hotel tower. The wine and 3-course meal of lobster & prawns, small filet, and dessert are superb. The Top of the World is a unique experience in fine dining, with an extensive menu of gourmet contemporary and international specialties and amazing selection of wines. Enjoy great views of the city 840 feet below as the restaurant slowly revolves 360 degrees. Hours: 11am-11pm. Prices: $50 & up. Special 4-course tasting menu, $90.

Day 4 – Starbucks opens early, so we go downstairs for espresso and pastry before joining the 90-minute cruise on Lake Mead. This is a delightful cruise on a paddle-wheel boat past Boulder Island to Hoover Dam. We have two hours to explore this man-made wonder of engineering, visit the museum, and Observation Deck. A bonus stop at Ethel M’s Chocolate factory and Botanical Gardens on the way back to the hotel. Light lunch onboard and round trip transportation to hotel included. Lv at 8:30am, 45 minute ride to Lake Mead, entire excursion about 7 1/2 hours. Price: £64 p/p.

We relax before going to Treasure Island for dinner at the Kahunaville restaurant and the spectacular 90-minute performance of Mystere Cirque du Soleil.
Hours: 7pm & 9:30pm. Price: $79 p/p.

Day 5 – We get an early start with a full breakfast downstairs at the Carnegie Deli, open 24 hours. Avg prices: $15-$20. There’s still plenty of time to watch the dolphins play and explore the world of lions and tigers at Seigfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, a popular attraction at the Mirage. Carnegie Deli, open 24 hrs, $15-$20. Seigfried & Roy’s, 11am-5pm, Adults – $19.95, Children 4-12 – $14.95. Before returning to our room, we decide to check out the casino; who knows, we might get lucky!

We dine tonight in the warm, romantic ambiance of Tuscany decor and soft, classical music at Portofino in the Mirage. After dinner, wetake a short flight over the sparkling lights of Las Vegas at night. A glass of champagne and a ride in a deluxe helicopter are a perfect way to end the evening. Individual headsets & complimentary round-trip limousine service included.
Hours: 12-15 minute narrated flights from 6-9pm, Winter, 6-10pm, Summer. Price: From £57 + $5 fuel charge p/p.

Las Vegas is an adventure, a fun-filled, memorable experience for anyone, whether you come just once or return again. Although the energy, glamour, and glitz of Vegas remain the same, chances are you’ll discover something new and different each time you visit this exciting city.

Sharon L Slayton

Travel Plan around San Antonio – Texas Hill Country in the Fall

Thousands of travelers visit San Antonio each year to see the Riverwalk, shop at major department stores and fascinating boutiques, attend sports events, fiestas, and theater performances, as well as indulge in a variety of international cuisine at some of the best restaurants in the U.S. Others want to get away from the city and the crowds of tourists to explore the vibrant colors of autumn in the Texas Hill Country. Lost Maples State Park is a popular choice, especially in October and November, for residents who welcome the end of another hot summer and a change of season, and for the many visitors who want to spend a few days in one of the loveliest areas in the state. Nature enthusiasts travel from across the U.S. to view the spectacular red, orange, and gold of the foliage in Lost Maples, the only place in the southern states where these rare bigtooth maple trees can be found.

Day One – We leave San Antonio Friday morning and take TX-16 west to Bandera and Medina, then RR 337 to Vanderpool on one of the many scenic drives through the Texas Hill Country. The air is definitely cooler as we follow the winding road through the rugged terrain marked by steep canyons and limestone cliffs and reach the higher altitude of over 2,100′. We can visit some of the other small towns in the scenic loop from Vanderpool, which is located about 5 miles from the entrance to Lost Maples. Be sure and get a map of the towns and farm roads in the surrounding area. We made reservations in advance at The Lodges located between Vanderpool and Leakey in an area called the “Swiss Alps of Texas.” Our fully equipped cottage is quite nice with a kitchenette, fireplace, central a/h, and our own private balcony. After settling in, we return to town to buy a few necessities we’ll need during our stay at Lost Maples.

There’s time this afternoon to visit The Lone Star Motorcycle Museum, which houses an interesting collection of vintage motorcycles from 1910 to the present. Hours: Fri, Sat, & Sun – 10am-5pm. Entrance fee: Adults, $6.00, Children under 15, Free. The Ace Café in the museum is a good place for a light lunch before heading back to The Lodges. Relax outdoors in the quiet of early evening and savor the aroma of mesquite from the outdoor grill while the sun sets over the Sabinal River and the Texas Hill Country.
The Lodges: Linens & outdoor BBQ grill provided. TV, but no reception, so bring your own DVD or VCR player.
Rates: $145/night, $175/night for the smaller, more intimate accommodations for couples in Solomon’s Den, ideal for honeymoons or anniversaries.

Day Two – We awake to the sounds of nature and the early morning calls of the birds, have breakfast, and we’re off to spend the day exploring the park. It might be a good idea to pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water to take along. There is a lot to see and do in the 2,000+ acres of Lost Maples Park from more than 11 miles of hiking trails and bird watching to picnicking by the lakes or beside the river. Bring your camera for some great shots of your surroundings, the amazing views, the rock formations, and the variety of plants, birds, and wildlife in the park. It’s cool, comfortable weather for hiking in the park on the well-marked trails; some are steeper than others. The East Trail is much more challenging, going up and down, but you’ll have some great views of autumn colors on the canyon walls above Monkey Rock. The Maple Trail is shorter and easier to hike with good views of the trees, lakes, and hills.

We spend most of the day in the park, so we’re ready to “kick back,” as we say in Texas and head back to our cottage before going out for a leisurely dinner in a nearby town. It’s about 15 miles from Lost Maples on Hwy 187 to Utopia, which inspired the movie “Seven Days in May” with Robert Duvall. From here it’s another 2½ miles to the Laurel Café. This delightful restaurant surrounded by oak trees and herb and vegetable gardens has a definite European appeal. The ambiance of candlelight and flowers enhances the superb gourmet cuisine featuring fresh ingredients prepared by renowned French chef Laurel Waters.
Open only on Saturdays. Prices: $39/five courses include everything but the wine, since this is a “dry” district. We bring our own. Reservations: 830-966-5444

Day Three – This morning we stop for delicious, inexpensive breakfast tacos at the Lost Maples Café on our way to another Texas historic landmark, Enchanted Rock State Park, located about two hours from Vanderpool. According to the legend of the Tonkawa Indians, mysterious sounds and lights are said to come from the Enchanted Rock. This huge dome of pink granite rises over 400′ above ground, a marvel in itself and the second largest batholith of this type in the U.S. Vegetation and weather pits of endangered plants and pools of fairy shrimp cover small areas of the surface of the rock. If you’re into rock climbing, you’ll need to check at the park headquarters for climbing guides. Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm. Entrance Fee – Adults, $7, Children under 12, Free.

We’ve spent most of the morning taking pictures, hiking on and around the Rock, and have worked up an appetite for brunch or lunch, depending on the time. The town of Tarpley is in the general area, and we stop at Mac and Ernie’s restaurant, which has been featured on the Travel Channel and in Southern Living magazine.. Excellent food and downhome atmosphere. Hours: Fri & Sat, 11am-9pm. Sun-11am-2pm. Reasonable prices. It’s a short drive back to Vanderpool and the Lodges where we’ll unwind and enjoy the evening.

Day Four – Today, we’ll go back on TX -16 and drive about 30 miles to Bandera, known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” for a step back in time reminiscent of the Old West. From old hitching posts downtown, trail rides, and rodeos to dude ranches and lively country music, this picturesque small town is a favorite of visitors and locals alike. There’s a lot of history in Bandera from the days of the Apache and Comanche Indians and Conquistadors, along with an interesting mix of Mexican, Polish, and Western cultures. A walk through town is the best way to check out some of the Texas landmarks from the late 1800’s including the old jail, general store, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, and the Silver Dollar “honkytonk,” in business since 1901. Country western music is a big part of Texas and Bandera’s Cabaret dance hall has featured many famous country western stars such as Jim Reeves, Bob Wills, and Willie Nelson.

Have lunch at Busbee’s for some of the best BBQ in Texas. Hours: Wed-Mon, 10:30-8pm. Closed Tues. After lunch, spend a few hours browzing the shops and boutiques for Western wear, antiques, gifts, and Southwestern items and souvenirs.

After a busy, fun day in Bandera, we are looking forward to a quiet evening at the cottage with a cold beer and the BBQ we brought back for supper.

Day Five – We are eager to spend a few more hours in the park before loading up the car and returning to San Antonio. After lunch at the Lost Maples Café, we head back on a different route, FM187 north from Lost Maples to Texas 39 east to Kerrville and I-10. We have had an amazing road trip, bringing back the memorabilia and beautiful photos of the Texas hill country we’ll share with those at home.

Entrance Fee, Lost Maples State Park:: Adults – $6, Children under 12 – Free. Visitor Center.

Sharon L Slayton

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 (shellmuseum.org/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

The Unique Orlando Owner Rental Market + Orlando travel plan

A guest post for you to enjoy: I’ve been running several villa rental sites for resort communities in and around the Orlando area for a number of years now. At Windsor Hills Private Rentals we provide a platform for owners in Windsor Hills Resort (2 miles from Disney) to short term rent their properties. We’ve been in the unique position of seeing the rise, fall and rise again of the Orlando rental market. And we’ve had to develop our sites accordingly. In such capricious economic conditions it’s been an interesting experience trying to develop sites that keep pace with the general mood of the market place and ensure we meet the needs of both property owners (sellers) and holidaymakers (buyers).

For many avid fans the annual trip to Disney means scouring holiday rental sites for that most value for money off-site rental property. What ensues after initial contact is usually a lengthy game of email ping pong with several hundred owners, a trade in half-truths followed by the kind of fight to the death Charles Darwin might use as evidence of evolution theory permeating all segments of daily life. The Orlando vacation property rental market bears all the hallmarks of a securities trading floor. At the turn of the millennium property development went into overdrive in and around the Disney area with a subsequent flooding of the market with cheap rental property. With the property crash and ensuing worldwide economic downturn a series of events conspired to reset the rules of the Disney off-site rental market. Many resorts suffered swathes of foreclosures which in several circumstances breached that critical tipping point where resort association fees from non-delinquent owners are able to keep shared facilities operational. In most cases it left owners with properties they couldn’t sell in a market where supply could not satiate demand. From this malaise interesting behaviours developed in holidaymakers who rightly wanted only to get the best rental deal for their family.

Resorts such as Emerald Island and Windsor Hills have held up well given their proximity to Disney and the other major theme parks. Behind the scenes however owners have had to, and still have to, withstand a barrage of what they term “low ballers”. These are holidaymakers who loop round every owner in a resort sometimes with a sob story but always with an offer to rent a property at a rate so low the owner would almost certainly lose money from the transaction. It’s a shared frustration amongst owners in these resorts but it’s something that is very hard to eradicate.

Commonly accepted amongst the owners is the fact that low-ballers are so widespread and outwardly confident in achieving their target rate that someone in the owner community must be renting their property out at these rates. During the boom years many wealthy people such as sports stars had wealth managers buy up chunks of resorts on their behalf. In such circumstances it is likely that property managers have little interest in eating up time negotiating high rates. With no mortgages on the properties managers probably set pretty rudimentary rental rate targets. In this environment owners with big mortgages and electricity rates to cover are overlooked or screwed down to rates so low they struggle to stay afloat. It’s usually these owners however that have adapted their offering to stay solvent. To do this they’ve learned to offer a service; a personal phone call to discuss the initial enquiry, tips and advice for the trip, on call service during your stay where nothing is too much trouble and after care which ensures you’ve enjoyed your stay and any issues are action upon and resolved. Return business is king. And it’s for these reasons why holidaymakers should be careful about making budget their sole focus in planning a Disney vacation trip.

A real challenge when running rental sites in Orlando is to find the balance between allowing holidaymakers the flexibility to quickly enquire across various properties and property ranges while also protecting owners from blanket enquiries which frankly waste everyone’s time. As operators of rental sites for several of the most popular resort communities around Walt Disney World we’ve had to continually tweak our offering. We’ve restricted the ease with which a holidaymaker can submit enquiries to more than one property (instead of all villas, the choices are more granular such as number of bedrooms.) We’ve also encouraged owners to browse the site and really spend time reviewing each property by making the individual enquiry process as slick and simple as possible for holidaymakers; an example would be by pre-populating our enquiry form with the owners details so each individual enquiry becomes a simple one press transaction similar to Amazon’s one-click purchase functionality. Devising and developing functionality which pleases both holidaymakers and owners alike is tough and challenging especially in the Orlando area but it’s an enjoyable experience and always keeps us guessing.

Travel Itinerary – My Last Trip to Orlando

On my last trip to Orlando I rented a villa in Windsor Hills. Having spent several days at Disney and the theme parks in general in the past this trip was focused around the general Orlando area and a road trip north:

Day 1 – Windsor Hills

We spent our early stay in Windsor Hills, relaxing at the clubhouse. In the morning I made sure I arrived early to make full use of the large lagoon style pool, swimming 40 lengths before the holiday throngs arrived. Windsor Hills is a peaceful resort with one of the best community pool areas in Orlando. Most of the day was spent soaking up the sun and making our way back and forth between the clubhouse and our villa (on Teascone Boulevard in the resort), a walk of roughly 2-3 minutes from the main pool. We stayed in a large 6 bed villa with several bathrooms and private pool and Jacuzzi.

Day 2 – Manny’s Steak House

The highlight of day 2 was Manny’s steakhouse. Undoubtedly the best steak I’ve ever had. Think classic American food in classic American surroundings. Huge slabs of marbled meat, which cut like a hot knife through butter they were so tender. The steaks came served with portions of coleslaw that would probably constitute a main meal in themselves back in Europe. The walls were adorned with American memorabilia such as traffic signs and beer logos. Watch out for the desserts. I don’t recall exactly the dish’s official title but I’m sure it involved the word explosion or overload. What arrived was an ice cream sundae served in a glass big enough to bath a small baby. We’d been pre-warned so ordered one between three but even that was too much.

Day 3 – Celebration Golf

Day 3 we golfed at Celebration. Celebration is one of Orlando’s glorious boom time residential follies. The resort was slated to be huge but, begun at the start of the property collapse, Celebration’s large property values collapsed and the resort caved in on itself. When we arrived we found the resort still surviving, just. It is home however to a stunning 18-hole golf course and fantastic clubhouse. These were still running and 18 holes cost a mere $6 per person as the resort attempted to stay solvent. The course was great and we saw a few alligators lounging near the water traps. Not sure what standard Florida protocol is if they begin to take an interest in you but we assumed that run would be the best course of action. Thankfully it didn’t come to that. I actually also made use of the length pool next to the clubhouse to do some swimming.

Day 4 – Kennedy Space Centre

Day 4 we visited Kennedy Space Centre. I’ve always wanted to visit. Kennedy is roughly 65 miles east of Windsor Hills around 1hrs 10mins travel time by car. Seeing the large NASA assembly building loom large on approach made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Having always been a space buff I found the history of the place inspiring and would highly recommend. It is not a visit often considered by holidaymakers to Orlando but it’s a pretty accessible attraction if you use Florida State Highway 528.

Days 5-7 Road Trip to Charlestown and back

For the rest of the holiday we decided to take a road trip north to Charlestown (South Carolina) having always wanted to go. On the way we passed Jacksonville (a larger city than I would have thought with several tall buildings) and Savannah, Georgia (home to some fascinating southern architecture). Florida roads are great and the journey felt a lot shorter than it was. Charlestown is a beautiful place and its small central hub felt not dissimilar to New York’s Greenwich Village possessing an arty student feel. We’re from Scotland so one striking difference between Charlestown and Orlando was the interest in, and identification of, our accents. Charlestown is one of America’s truly historical cities having been home to the British and who fought off various attacks from the French and Spanish. It was later heavily settled by “Scots Irish”, better known as Ulster Scots in the UK. Most locals seemed to have some Scottish or Northern Irish ancestry, most had been to the UK and they all seemed to be able to distinguish not only our accents but also where exactly in Scotland we were from; a refreshing change from Orlando where the locals had us down as everything from Argentinian to Australian. We had a fantastic meal at the Crab Shack on Market Street and several glasses of wine in the roof terrace restaurant. Highly recommended. On the return trip we stopped at St Augustine, the oldest town in the US. In its traditional centre we found some fascinating old buildings from colonial times but outwith that it felt like any other part of small town America, the kind of place you pass through on the way to somewhere else.

We regularly holiday in Florida but a key tip for anyone travelling to Orlando and Florida in general is it’s a very large state, steeped in history and cultural depth which can act as a perfect balance to the theme parks for those who are willing to explore a little.

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).