Top 10 Lists
Prepping for winter with deep lunges to get those quads in shape? Waxing your skis? If your idea of adventure includes snowflakes and slopes you have a lot of options. In fact, there are over 400 ski areas in operation across 37 states. But, which are the best?
Over the past decade+, select ski resorts like Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen Snowmass, Park City, Jackson Hole, and Telluride have consistently remained among the most highly rated destinations. These resorts have maintained their popularity due to a combination of factors including their terrain, snow reliability, lodging and dining options, and non-ski activities. Meanwhile other ski destinations have seen a rise or fall in their rankings and popularity due to several factors including:
Investment in Infrastructure: Resorts that invest in upgrading their lifts, expanding terrain, or enhancing visitor amenities tend to attract more visitors.
Weather and Climate Change: Snowfall patterns impact the popularity of ski resorts. Resorts that consistently receive ample snowfall remain popular, whereas those with less predictable conditions might see a decline.
Marketing and Branding: Effective marketing strategies can boost a resort's popularity, especially when targeting new demographics or international visitors.
Economic Factors: For example, resorts that offer more affordable options or package deals might see increased popularity in times of economic downturn.
Access and Connectivity: The ease of access to a resort, including proximity to airports and major cities, can affect its popularity.
Global Events: Events like the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted travel and tourism, leading to shifts in the popularity of destinations based on travel restrictions and health concerns.
The National Ski Areas Association estimates that roughly 12 million people visited a U.S. snowsport resort during the 2022/2023 season but, from our research, there isn't a definitive source of ski resort popularity over time.
Ski magazines (e.g., SKI, and Snow), travel publications (e.g., Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler), and others regularly release rankings and reviews of ski resorts. These rankings are often editorial reviews or based on reader surveys and cover various categories like snow quality, terrain, and family-friendliness.
Having reviewed all of the above, here's our list of the top snowsport destinations for groups:
Vail, Colorado: Known for its extensive terrain, advanced lift system, and luxurious village atmosphere.
Aspen Snowmass, Colorado: Celebrated for its four diverse ski areas, high-end amenities, and lively town.
Park City, Utah: Praised for its large skiable area, quality of snow, and proximity to Salt Lake City.
Telluride, Colorado: Often highlighted for its challenging terrain, stunning scenery, and historic charm.
Breckenridge, Colorado: Popular for its high altitude, varied terrain, and vibrant town life.
Deer Valley, Utah: Consistently rated high for its customer service, grooming, and upscale amenities.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Known for its expert terrain, iconic runs like Corbet's Couloir.
Mammoth Mountain, California: Recognized for its lengthy season, diverse terrain, and accessibility from major California cities.
Beaver Creek, Colorado: Often included for its family-friendly atmosphere, high-quality snow, and luxury experience.
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia: Regularly recognized for its vast terrain, vibrant village life, and consistent snow quality.
Please let us know if we're missing your favorite ski or snowboard destination. Perhaps Heavenly or Killington? And check out our Ski Guide for Groups for a ski trip checklist and other planning resources.
November 22, 2023
For their breathtaking landscapes, natural beauty, rich history, cultural allure, and diverse entertainment offerings, here’s our list of the top 10 states for destination weddings.
1. Nevada: Las Vegas, often called the "Wedding Capital of the World," is famous for its swift, simple, and frequently impromptu weddings. The city's numerous chapels, combined with its entertainment and nightlife, make it the #1 destination for out-of-state weddings. However, beyond the Strip, Nevada also boasts stunning desert landscapes and luxury resorts. For couples beginning their planning, the Las Vegas tourism board's wedding guide is an excellent starting point.
2. Hawaii: With its tropical beaches, lush landscapes, and romantic sunsets, Hawaii is a top choice for many couples. Each island offers a unique backdrop, from the dramatic cliffs of Kauai to the bustling beaches of Waikiki. There are no state residence or U.S. citizenship requirements to get married in Hawaii. Couples can find everything from caterers to florists and photographers on the Go Hawaii website.
3. Florida: Popular spots like Miami, the Florida Keys, and various Gulf Coast locations attract out-of-state couples (particularly those from the Northeast), seeking a sunny and sandy wedding. The state also boasts numerous luxury coastal resorts and, of course, there’s Disney World. The Visit Florida wedding planning guide provides details on getting married in Florida and offers ideas and inspiration for exceptional venues.
4. New York: Beyond the allure of a New York City wedding, upstate New York offers beautiful venues in the Catskills, the Adirondacks, and the Finger Lakes wine region. With its iconic landmarks and cosmopolitan charm, New York City is especially popular among international couples traveling to the U.S. to tie the knot. New York State was one of the first states in the nation to legalize marriage for LGBTQ individuals. I Love NY’s LGBTQ New York Wedding Guide incudes details about licensing rules and LGBTQ-friendly venues.
5. California: No other state offers such a diverse landscape and range of options for destination weddings. From beaches to the wine country of Napa and Sonoma, coastal towns along the Pacific Coast Highway, glamorous spots like Beverly Hills, and rustic settings in the majestic Redwoods or Sierra Nevada mountains – the choices are vast. Visit California provides dozens of venue options to help you craft the perfect celebration.
6. Colorado: For those seeking a mountain backdrop, Colorado provides breathtaking venues in places like Aspen, Vail, and Estes Park. Whether in summer or winter (indeed, even winter), Colorado is the destination for high-altitude weddings. If you’re eager to wed in Colorado but mountains aren’t your thing, Colorado offers an array of venue options from dude ranches and historic hotels to luxury resorts.
7. South Carolina: Exuding Southern charm, South Carolina boasts beautiful beachfront, coastal, mountainous, and urban settings to say “I do.” Charleston, especially, has surged in popularity in recent years. With its historic ambiance, cobblestone streets, and moss-draped oak trees, it ranks as one of the premier wedding destinations in the Southeast. TheKnot provides a comprehensive guide to assist couples in obtaining a marriage license in South Carolina.
8. Louisiana: With its rich Cajon and Creole heritage and Bayou beauty, Louisiana presents diverse settings that make it an excellent choice for destination weddings. New Orleans stands out, especially its historic French Quarter, vibrant music scene, and festive atmosphere, as a favorite for many out-of-state couples. Moreover, the state’s world-renowned cuisine, featuring dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys and beignets infuse a distinctive flavor into wedding feasts. The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans Weddings offers resources ranging from help obtaining a marriage license to arranging a second line and assistance with your group hotel reservation.
9. Arizona: Home to some of the country's most picturesque landscapes, from the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon to the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona offers a unique and stunning backdrop for any wedding. Additionally, with over 300 days of sunshine each year, Arizona is a dependable choice for outdoor ceremonies. However, be mindful of the extreme temperatures in the summer! Whether you prefer a luxurious resort in Scottsdale, a rustic ranch setting, or an intimate desert ceremony, Arizona is an excellent choice. If you’re contemplating tying the knot in the desert, the Brides guide to planning a successful desert wedding offers helpful tips and recommendations.
10. Alaska: This choice might be unexpected and less conventional, but for adventurous couples, seeking a truly unique experience, Alaska presents an opportunity to marry amidst majestic glaciers, snow-capped peaks, tranquil lakes and picturesque rivers. In certain parts of Alaska, during specific times of the year, the sun barely sets. This provides extended daylight for festivities and unique photography moments. However, Alaska’s weather is unpredictable, so it’s crucial to be prepared for a range of conditions, even in summer. “Anything can happen in the great wide open” notes Alaska Bride. Check out their tips for planning an outdoor wedding. Finally, it’s worth noting that some of Alaska’s most breathtaking locations are remote, potentially leading to higher travel costs and time for guests attending the celebration.
Naturally, "top destinations” is subjective and this list may change based on trends, economic factors, and global events like pandemics. Ultimately, it isn’t just about the scenery, weather or cultural significance of a location; it’s about what’s best for you, your partner and the loved ones celebrating with you. Finally, before you get too far down the road with planning, be sure to check and know the current marriage license requirements. Happy wedding planning!
October 16, 2023
No matter what destination your travels take you to, sunsets seem be a reason for people to gather, drinking in the cloud art and colorful sky. Sunsets form rituals. On a recent vacation sunrise and sunset were the big events of the day. We set our daily rhythm and schedule around them, and watched other travelers do the same.
Sunsets are a cue for vacationers to gather for dinner and to pose for happy snapshots for their family holiday cards. The soft-light hues are radiant, often an explosion of colors like a big bang punctuating the day's end. No two sunsets are alike. I'm sure of it.
Whether you're looking for a vibrant city sunset or a tranquil natural backdrop, these locations offer some of the most stunning evening views in the U.S.:
Key West, Florida - Mallory Square - Each evening, Mallory Square hosts a vibrant sunset celebration. Street performers, artists, and food vendors create a festive atmosphere. Tip: Arrive early to secure a good spot and enjoy the local arts and crafts.
Grand Canyon, Arizona - Hopi Point - Hopi Point on the South Rim offers an expansive view of the canyon. The play of colors at sunset is breathtaking. Tip: Bring a blanket and a camera; the temperature can drop after sunset.
Santa Monica, California - Santa Monica Pier - The Santa Monica Pier provides a classic Californian sunset with its famous Ferris wheel. Tip: Take a ride on the Ferris wheel during sunset for a unique view.
Sedona, Arizona - Airport Mesa - Sedona's Airport Mesa is a spiritual spot to watch the sunset. Tip: Engage in a meditation session as the sun dips below the red rocks.
Maui, Hawaii - Haleakalā National Park - Witness the sun setting above the clouds at Haleakalā summit. Tip: Dress warmly, as temperatures can be chilly at high altitudes.
Savannah, Georgia - Tybee Island - Tybee Island's lighthouse offers a charming backdrop for a romantic sunset. Tip: Enjoy a beach picnic as you watch the sky change colors.
Portland, Oregon - Pittock Mansion - From the grounds of Pittock Mansion, you can view the sunset with Portland’s skyline in the foreground. Tip: Bring a picnic to enjoy in the mansion's gardens.
Naples, Florida - Naples Pier - Naples Pier is not just great for sunsets but also for spotting dolphins. Tip: Stay after sunset for some night fishing.
Mount Desert Island, Maine - Cadillac Mountain Being one of the first places in the U.S. to see the sunrise, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park also offers stunning sunset views. Tip: Take a hike up the mountain for a rewarding experience.
Big Sur, California - Pfeiffer Beach - Pfeiffer Beach is famous for its keyhole rock, where the setting sun creates a natural light show. Tip: Arrive early as parking is limited and the beach can get crowded.
Sunset viewing tips:
- Check Sunset Times: Plan your visit according to the local sunset time.
- Arrive Early: Popular spots can get crowded.
- Dress Appropriately: Evenings can be cooler, especially in high-altitude and desert locations.
- Camera Settings: For photography enthusiasts, bring a tripod and experiment with different settings to capture the perfect sunset shot.
- Respect the Environment: Always leave the places as you found them, respecting nature and local guidelines.
Finally, as there's no way to be objective about such ethereal, transcendent beauty, based solely on personal opinion, here's my list of top sunsets:
- Oia on the island of Santorini, Greece
- 2nd Beach in the Olympic National Park
- Sucia Island in the San Juans
- Marinas anywhere
- Via del'Amore in Cinque Terre, Italy
- Kauai's western-most beach (I can't recall the name)
- Manuel Antonio Beach, Costa Rica
- Kerry Park, Seattle, WA (amazing cityscape and Puget Sound views for sunset)
- Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (for the memories alone)
Where have you seen the best sunsets?
Mary Jo M. says, "One of my favorite places to watch a sunset is from the area by the Netherlands Carillon in Washington DC. There''s a large expanse of grass for a picnic, and you can sit there and watch the sun go down as the lights on all the monuments come up."
September 15, 2023
Groups these days are goin' green like other types of travelers. Sustainability means many things to many people: carbon off-setting, carpooling to save on fuel, choosing environmentally-friendly hotels, packing out what you pack in while hiking or camping.
MSN published a list of top 10 green American towns with an outdoor way of life. How is this sustainable? Green surrounds these places, living local is a way of life and developing an appreciation for nature is as easy as stepping outside and breathing the clean, fresh air.
Looking for an alternative to noisy cities and tourist-packed destinations? Gather a group together for a family or friendship reunion at any of these off-beat U.S. towns:
- Lake Placid, New York
- Hood River, Oregon
- McCall, Idaho
- Salida, Colorado
- Boone, North Carolina
- Livingston, Montana
- Ely, Minnesota
- Davis, West Virginia
- Bethel, Maine
- Haines, Alaska
The top 10 list from MSN is courtesy of co-authors Sarah Tuff and Greg Melville based on research from their book "101 Best Outdoor Towns: Unspoiled Places to Visit, Live & Play."
The Seattle Times republished an article on what to ask before signing up for a group tour. It goes well with our previous coverage of group tour preparation such as 10 Tips: How to Choose the Right Group Tour and Lucky 7 Tips from a Volunteer Vacation Leader.
In planning a multi-day group tour, volunteer vacation, or multi-week trip abroad, all of these questions are useful for determining which group tour is right for you.
- What is the max. number of people on the tour?
- What kind of bus is used?
- Does the tour company sublet its tours or use its own employees?
- Is the tour guide a native English speaker?
- Is the tour offered in English?
- Will you get the same tour leader in each location or local leaders per town?
- Are all entrance fees included?
- Are tips included also?
- Are hotel transfers part of the package?
- Can the tour guide change the itinerary when weather changes?
For food enthusiasts looking to indulge in a gastronomic journey across the United States, here are ten cities that stand out for their unique and diverse culinary offerings:
Charleston, South Carolina: Known for its Lowcountry cuisine, Charleston offers a blend of diverse flavors and first-rate seafood. Classic dishes include roasted oysters, garlic crabs, and shrimp and grits, with local favorites like Poogan's Porch and Slightly North of Broad being great places to try these delicacies.
Houston, Texas: A melting pot of cultures, Houston's food scene extends beyond its famous barbecue to include a variety of cuisines. Visitors can enjoy Tex-Mex at The Original Ninfa's on Navigation, Indian fusion at Amrina, and Malaysian at Phat Eatery. Don't miss out on the soul food at The Breakfast Klub, known for its catfish and grits, and chicken and waffles.
San Diego, California: Celebrated for its fresh produce and creative chefs, San Diego is a food lover's paradise. Must-try spots include Herb & Wood for modern Italian cuisine, Dija Mara for southeast Asian food with a California twist, and The Marine Room for coastal cuisine. San Diego's California burrito is a unique local specialty worth trying.
Atlanta, Georgia: Atlanta offers a mix of Southern staples and cutting-edge cuisine. South City Kitchen is known for its Southern classics, while Bacchanalia and The Iberian Pig offer more contemporary dining experiences. For Asian cuisine, Jang Su Jang and Masterpiece are excellent choices.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Famous for its Philly cheesesteak, Philadelphia's food scene is diverse and vibrant. Beiler's Bakery in Reading Terminal Market offers delicious Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts, and the Italian Market is a must-visit for its array of international cuisines. Fine dining options include Parc for French food, Suraya for Lebanese, and White Yak for Tibetan cuisine.
Louisville, Kentucky: Known for its bourbon and barbecue, Louisville's signature dish is the Hot Brown, an open-faced sandwich with turkey, ham, bacon, and Mornay sauce. Distillery tours offer a taste of the city's famous bourbon, and fine dining can be found at restaurants like Jim Fry's and Mayan Café.
Omaha, Nebraska: A surprise addition to the list, Omaha is gaining recognition for its farm-to-table movement and diverse cuisine options. Top farm-to-table spots include FarmHouse Cafe and Railcar Modern American Kitchen, while steak lovers should try The Drover or Johnny’s Café. Omaha's Old Market neighborhood is also a great destination for dining and shopping.
Las Vegas, Nevada: Famous for its luxurious and diverse culinary scene, Las Vegas offers everything from high-end dining to legendary buffets. Restaurants like Best Friend and Roy Choi’s Korean-Mexican fusion spot highlight the city's diverse culinary offerings.
Orlando, Florida: Rated as the top foodie city in America by WalletHub, Orlando offers a diverse culinary scene with a blend of affordability and quality.
Portland, Oregon: Known for its innovative and eclectic food scene, Portland ranks high for its dining experiences.
Want another opinion?
For a deeper dive into the top food cities and their unique culinary offerings, you can refer to the following lists from respected sources:
Far & Wide's "20 Best Food Cities in the U.S., Ranked" - This list provides insights into the top food destinations in the U.S. with a focus on local specialties and dining experiences.
Capture the Atlas's "15 Best Food Cities in the US in 2024" - Offering a year-ahead projection, this list includes some unexpected entries and highlights the growing food scenes in various U.S. cities.
WalletHub's "2023’s Best Foodie Cities in America" - This study compares more than 180 U.S. cities across various metrics, including affordability and quality of restaurants, to rank the top foodie destinations.
The relative cost of dining in these cities varies, with places like Las Vegas and San Diego likely being on the higher end due to their status as tourist destinations. In contrast, cities like Omaha and Louisville might offer more affordable dining experiences, especially with a focus on local and farm-to-table cuisine.
These are simple, subjective lists of cities that offer fabulous food, but it's always interesting to think of the city and what niblets it's famous for, then drool while planning a trip to sample dishes. Mmmm...
Turkey day is almost here. Families will gather across America to feast on meat, stuffing, mashed carbs, cranberries, and some form of green veggie dish. Aside from the obvious Congressional overturn, dinner table conversations will inevitably turn toward personal life, especially since relatives and/or close friends are gathered in one place.
Use the Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to start planning family reunions or trips with friends. At minimum, share upcoming travel plans. You just might discover useful tips on what to do/see in an area or thoughtful advice on how to solve a trip planning issue from your wise resources at the table. Ten table topics:
- Family reunion plans: Start the discussions among your immediate family and any relatives at the table on ideas for the next reunion.
- Brainstorm ideas for reunion locations, (someone's house? a destination that everyone can travel to?) themes, (someone's birthday? an important anniversary?) and timing. These are three critical early planning steps for reunions. Why not discuss while you pass dishes during Thanksgiving, or are all on a walk the day after Thanksgiving, or gathered around the fireplace visiting?
- Upcoming weddings: Gather ideas from decorations to music to locations if you're the bride or groom; and if you're going to attend a wedding soon, ask for ideas on wedding gifts.
- Spring break trips for college students, teachers at the table, or parents who use that opportunity for a family vacation: Gather ideas, brag about trips already set, or ask to borrow items needed such as snorkel gear, binoculars, etc.
- Winter or ski travel plans for the upcoming season: Thanksgiving is traditionally more than turkey, it's the start of ski season at slopes across the Northern Hemisphere. Plan a ski trip with family and/or friends. The deals are as fresh as the snow, but will be harder to get later in the season. After dinner, take a trip to the computer and research ski resorts and accommodations that fit people's budgets.
- Road trips: The beauty of a road trip is the wandering nature of the journey. Because you can detour to so many tiny towns and off-the-beaten path areas, you may want to gather ideas from the brain power at the dinner table so you don't miss something.
- Any travel abroad is usually planned several months to a year in advance, and sharing ideas or learnings from research about the area is great table conversation. You may even be surprised at who else around the table knows about a certain country. Some of the best conversations can be jump-started by someone saying they are traveling to a foreign country within the next year.
- Trips with friends: Share upcoming plans for trips with friends (road trips, girls getaways, bachelor parties) and find out who might know about the destination and surrounding attractions. Use your family and friends as resources.
- Delegation: with so many loved ones around during this holiday, this is a perfect time to delegate assignments for planning reunions or weddings to people who can help. Shuttling people to and from the airport, decorations, meals, activities, child care, rain plan alternatives, etc.
- Ask for planning tips from family, relatives, and close friends at the table. Whatever upcoming vacation(s) you're planning, asking for help can yield sage advice. You might be surprised at what you learn.
For the ultimate girls getaway with a mission, I say take your gal pals to a town full of entertainment and plenty of good shopping to give a little something unique for Christmas this year. Find the perfect gift for your sister, mom, friend, cousin, boyfriend, husband, and so forth. Getting away before the holidays (when sales are on, travel deals abound, winter temperatures are at bay) can be worth the trip.
1. New York City
- For him: The basic I Love New York t-shirt or luxury items such as shoes that turn into roller skates or a watch that doubles as a remote control (for the James Bond in your man).
- For her: A handbag from a discount shop or designer shirt from quaint boutiques. Heck, if you can swing it, drop the credit card at a 5th Avenue store.
2. Los Angeles
- For him: Universal Studios paraphernalia for the kid in him or hat that makes him feel like the fly boy he wants to be. If he likes fine arts, grab him something from a museum or gallery. Or get your picture taken by his favorite Hollywood star handprint and frame it.
- For her: Anything from a store on the fancy, famous Rodeo Drive such as designer jeans or sunglasses the size of her head would be good. You'll feel like a star shopping and she'll feel like a million bucks receiving.
3. San Francisco
- For him: Go glam with original art from Sausalito, or buy Ghirardelli chocolates. If your man is an earthy dude, find a trippy tie dye Grateful Dead t-shirt, a drum, or incense. Wine from Napa Valley (to grab on a leisurely day trip) is always a good gift as well.
- For her: Again, go glam with original art from Sausalito, or buy Ghirardelli chocolates. If your female friend is earthy, find Haight-Ashbury District candles, incense, a woven purse, patchouli oil, the works. There are also outlet stores downtown for more "typical" shops. Wine works wonders for women as well.
- For him: Find the rare book or gift he loves at flea markets in areas such as Notting Hill. Bring back some of the best tea from Fortnum & Mason (arguably the world's most expensive and best grocery store for specialty foods).
- For her: What's not for her in London? Flea markets with jewelry, books, household items, scarves, etc. And shopping boutiques and high fashion stores. Then there's always Fortnum & Mason for cookies, pates, teas (expensive but worth it!).
- For him: Cubs, White Sox or Bears paraphernalia (jersey, balls, bat, mug, etc.) if he's a sporto; if he prefers fine arts, the Chicago Art Museum is world-renowned and the gift shop has a bevy of nice gifts (I can attest).
- For her: Home to the Magnificent Mile, Chicago, does indeed have magnificent shopping such as numerous department stores (Lord and Taylor, for instance) and shops for everything from leather gloves to perfume to cashmere wraps.
6. Washington, DC
- For him: Smithsonian books or paraphernalia from the museums, books for the history buff, or a framed photo from your trip to the U.S. capital. Sunset from the Lincoln Memorial looking toward the U.S. Capitol includes the reflecting pool and Washington Monument - a classic shot with your signature all over it.
- For her: Antiques and collectibles at the weekend Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, non-fiction books for the history buffs, arts and crafts at either the flea market or any of the numerous art galleries or museums.
7. Whistler, BC
- For him: Any ski gear possible (guys dig this), including poly shirts for insulation. Find stores with sales if need be as there are plenty of shops at this big ski resort with Blackcomb village and Whistler village.
- For her: Ski-themed t-shirts, ski gear or just about anything goes. Whistler has a slew of different shops such as soap shops, coffee houses, and more.
8. Las Vegas
- For him: Win big and bring him back some dough.
- For her: Outlet malls galore are here to offer discounts on major clothing, shoe, home and gear labels. Two major outlets: Premium Outlets and Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas.
9. San Diego
- For him: Get him a couple 22-ounce bottles of micro-beer from local Coronado Brewing Company, and top the gift off with a logo'd pint and sweatshirt.
- For her: A cuddly stuffed animal from the San Diego Zoo or arts and crafts from boutiques around town. If a Tijuana day trip is on your agenda, there are plenty of arts and crafts to buy in Mexico from wool blankets to woven baskets to sculptures.
- For him: A classic belt buckle (if he's into that sort of thing) or leather belt for the hidden cowboy within.
- For her: A nice leather belt is a wonderful gift for women also, but Denver also boasts several boutiques in addition to major shopping stores. And there's always the Southwest art scene if you want to splurge and purchase some hand-crafted jewelry or art.
Gadling's Neil Woodburn blogged about his 24-hour experience in Las Vegas to see The Pogues which got me thinking. Not only was I jealous of his having gone to see one of Ireland's best, modern, and eclectic bands (in my humble opinion), but there are so many other bands worthy of traveling (road trips included) to a destination to see them with a good group of friends.
This is my quick hit list:
- Grateful Dead (oh wait, not an option anymore)
- Bob Dylan
- Pearl Jam
- Rusted Root
- Sheryl Crow
- Simon & Garfunkel revival concert
- The Shins
- Belle & Sebastian
- Pink Martini
- Kelly Joe Phelps
Music Festival Wizard provides comprehensive information about music festivals across the U.S. and is a great resource for music lovers.
What bands or musicians would inspire you to travel with friends for a concert?
Exploring the diverse wine regions of the United States with friends is a perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and culinary delight. From the rolling hills of California to the hidden gems of Oregon and beyond, America's vineyards offer an array of wine-tasting experiences.
Whether you're planning a girls getaways, birthday celebration, wedding, or simple getaway with friends here are some great destinations for wine tasting across the U.S.:
1. Napa Valley, California:
Napa Valley is a world-renowned wine region, offering an array of prestigious vineyards. Visit the famous Robert Mondavi Winery or discover smaller, intimate vineyards in the Stags Leap District.
Stay: Auberge du Soleil provides luxury accommodation with stunning views of the valley.
2. Sonoma County, California:
Known for its diverse wine offerings, Sonoma County is home to over 400 wineries. Don't miss a visit to Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, and for a quieter experience, try the boutique wineries in Russian River Valley.
Stay: The Farmhouse Inn offers a charming and luxurious stay in the heart of wine country.
3. Willamette Valley, Oregon:
Celebrated for its exquisite Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is home to over 500 wineries. Domaine Drouhin Oregon is renowned, while smaller vineyards like Bergström Wines offer a more intimate tasting experience.
Stay: The Allison Inn & Spa, nestled in the valley, is a perfect luxury retreat.
4. Finger Lakes, New York:
This region is known for its superb Rieslings and scenic lake views. Visit the well-known Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery or explore smaller vineyards like Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard for a more secluded experience.
Stay: The Inns of Aurora provide a picturesque lakeside stay with historic charm.
5. Paso Robles, California:
Paso Robles is gaining recognition for its diverse and high-quality wines. Justin Vineyards & Winery is a must-visit, and boutique wineries like Tablas Creek Vineyard offer unique tasting experiences.
Stay: Hotel Cheval offers elegant accommodations in the heart of Paso Robles.
6. Walla Walla, Washington:
This region is known for its friendly wine community and excellent Syrahs and Merlots. L'Ecole No 41 and Woodward Canyon are iconic, while smaller wineries like Dunham Cellars provide a cozy atmosphere.
Stay: The Marcus Whitman Hotel combines historic elegance with modern comforts.
7. Santa Barbara, California:
The Santa Barbara Wine Country, with its cool-climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is a must-visit. Explore the renowned Sunstone Vineyards & Winery or discover hidden gems in the Santa Rita Hills.
Stay: The Bacara Resort & Spa offers luxurious beachside accommodations.
8. Texas Hill Country, Texas:
This region has emerged as a wine destination with its unique Texas-style wines. Becker Vineyards is a standout, and smaller vineyards like Grape Creek Vineyards offer a more personal experience.
Stay: The Fredericksburg Herb Farm provides quaint cottages in a serene setting.
9. Virginia Wine Country, Virginia:
Virginia's wine country is rich in history and diverse in its wine offerings. Visit Barboursville Vineyards for a taste of history, and explore smaller vineyards like RdV Vineyards for an exclusive experience.
Stay: The Inn at Little Washington offers luxurious accommodations with acclaimed dining.
10. Michigan Wine Trails, Michigan:
Michigan's wine trails offer a delightful array of vineyards, especially known for their Rieslings. Black Star Farms is a standout, and exploring the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail leads to smaller, charming vineyards.
Stay: The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa provides a scenic and luxurious base for exploring the area.
While the U.S. boasts a remarkable variety of wine regions, the allure of international wine tasting destinations cannot be overstated. Globally, several regions stand out for their exceptional wines and breathtaking landscapes, drawing enthusiasts from around the world.
In Europe, France’s Bordeaux region is legendary, offering a chance to taste some of the world's most prestigious wines amidst historic vineyards. Similarly, Italy's Tuscany, with its picturesque landscapes and renowned Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, is a dream destination for wine lovers. Spain's La Rioja region is another European gem, celebrated for its rich and full-bodied red wines.
Beyond Europe, the Southern Hemisphere presents its own wine havens. Australia’s Barossa Valley is famed for its bold Shiraz, while New Zealand’s Marlborough region offers world-class Sauvignon Blanc amidst stunning scenery. In South America, Argentina’s Mendoza region captivates visitors with its high-altitude vineyards and excellent Malbec, and Chile’s Central Valley is known for its diverse and high-quality wines.
Each of these international destinations provides a unique wine tasting experience, steeped in local culture and history. From the rolling vineyards of France to the dramatic landscapes of New Zealand, these global wine regions are not just about tasting exceptional wines; they're about immersing oneself in the world's diverse and rich tapestry of viticulture and enology. A visit to these renowned wine regions is a journey through history, culture, and the art of winemaking, promising an unforgettable experience for wine enthusiasts.
Wine tasting with friends is not just about the wine; it's about the shared experiences and memories created in some of the world's most beautiful locales. From the lush valleys of Napa and Tuscany to the unique landscapes of Central Otago and Mendoza, each destination offers a unique blend of scenic beauty, cultural richness, and exceptional wines. These destinations promise an unforgettable group getaway filled with the joys of discovery and the pleasures of the palate.
So raise a glass of chardonney or merlot and bring back new bottles of wine to dazzle your friends (or yourself) when you return from vacation.
The enchantment of fall is best experienced amidst its vibrant shades of red, yellow, orange and where you can kick up the fallen leaves before they become mulch.
For those seeking to escape the crowds and immerse themselves in the tranquility of autumn, there are places where the fall foliage is as breathtaking as it is serene. Here are a few destinations for viewing fall colors, emphasizing lesser-known parks and scenic routes, and recommending quaint accommodations to enhance your experience.
1. Letchworth State Park, New York:
Often overshadowed by the famous Adirondacks, Letchworth State Park is a treasure trove of autumn colors. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” its deep gorges and lush forests offer a spectacular palette of reds, oranges, and yellows. The best views are along the Gorge Trail, which offers stunning vistas without the throngs of tourists.
Stay: The charming Letchworth Farm Bed & Breakfast offers cozy accommodations and picturesque views of the surrounding countryside.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia:
This scenic drive is famous for its fall foliage, but there are still stretches where peace and solitude can be found, especially on weekdays. The section near Asheville, NC, is particularly stunning. Pull-offs like Glassmine Falls Overlook provide secluded spots for leaf-peeping.
Stay: The quaint Applewood Manor in Asheville combines comfort with easy access to the parkway.
3. Door County, Wisconsin:
Door County’s peninsula, surrounded by Lake Michigan, is a haven for autumn colors. The area's state parks, like Peninsula State Park, are less crowded and offer a blend of golden hues and waterfront views.
Stay: Stay at the White Gull Inn for a historic and intimate setting, complete with homemade breakfasts.
4. Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico:
This lesser-known route near Taos loops through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The drive is lined with aspens turning brilliant yellow, offering a unique southwestern fall experience.
Stay: The Adobe & Stars Bed and Breakfast in Taos provides a comfortable base with stunning mountain views.
5. Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada:
This vast park is a mosaic of maple, oak, and aspen trees. The Western Uplands Trail offers solitude and an unspoiled autumn spectacle.
Stay: The cozy Arowhon Pines inside the park offers rustic yet elegant cabins nestled in the wilderness.
Experiencing fall’s colors in these lesser-known locales not only provides a respite from crowds but also offers a more intimate connection with nature’s autumn display. By choosing the roads less traveled and staying in charming, local accommodations, you can fully immerse yourself in the season's beauty and tranquility. Remember, the best fall experiences are often found off the beaten path.
By guest blogger Phyllis Stoller
If you're considering going on a professionally-arranged group tour, there are key things to ask about in the first ten minutes of your research. Here are the 10 most important things to consider:
1. References: Make sure the references the wholesaler gives you are for similar groups to yours. Example: if they only take European travelers, you might find group needs differ from those of Americans.
2. Small print averse? At least read cancellation penalties and figure how much you can lose if your trip does not meet its numbers. Airline ticket cancellations are usually the surprise loss. Note: a substantial group organizer will have some pull and flexibility with your hotel/airline choices.
3. Hotel quality: Google the hotel used in the capital city on the itinerary for a general flavor. If the hotel is a condition of your contract, make that clear up front. Many group contracts only specify X hotel or similar.
4. Red flag the word "from" on pricing. It means you are looking at the lowest price.
5. Trip pace: If breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included, you'll be on a leisurely moving trip. I recommend usually 2 meals a day for groups over 25; it moves the trip along. Ask where the meals are held: hotel or restaurant.
6. Financial security: Most group deposits are payable by check only, so credit card acceptance will not gauge financial stability of your wholesaler. But check for travel insurance availability and, if the group tour organizer/operator offers insurance, make sure you know the name of the insurer.
7. Trip length: Forget number of days, most wholesalers include "travel days."
8. Check trade association memberships like ASTA, BBB, and length of time the company has been doing groups exclusively. Many agents doing individual reservations will tell you they also do groups. Other gauges: a 24-hour emergency number, ability to issue tickets themselves, country specialists, pre-printed customized labels, luggage tags, etc. will tell you this is a real company.
9. Prompt responses from the company mean they are group-friendly. Prompt email responses means they cater to Internet savvy travelers.
10. Customer service: Check that the company has a street address and more than one person in their group department.
Get a few quotes and don't be shy to ask for more information on any issue.
Phyllis Stoller has been a group tour organizer for 15 years and is currently President of Women's Travel Club*, wholesale operator and largest such group for women in North America. For 15 years Women's Travel Club has run group trips for women.*
My family has been having reunions since I was little girl with goldilocks. For the third in a row, we've gotten together on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Over the years, I've discovered a few myths that I hope will help any reunion planner in preparing for that next family reunion.
Myth 1: I won't drink too much
Be honest. Unless you're making a conscious effort to not drink at all, chances are you'll drink more than usual.
Myth 2: I won't eat too much
Family reunions are all about the food. Obviously, the reason to get together is to reconnect. But more effort goes into meals for this occasion than most other parties. Here are summertime recipes for family reunions.
Myth 3: I won't get a sunburn
Chances are you will, unless you're extra careful to apply sunblock throughout the day, and stay out of the sun during peak midday hours.
Myth 4: I will get ample sleep
It always seems that something is disrupting a perfect night's sleep: varying hours of going to bed, staying up late, getting up early for scheduled activities, kids over-excited, etc.
Myth 5: I will visit with everyone
Chances are slim that you'll have meaningful conversations with all attendees. But the connections you make are important, a link to your past, and a way to keep in touch with extended family. Make a mental list of the top three people you really want to reconnect with and make an effort to do so. You'll thank yourself.
Myth 6: Like other vacations, I'll relax as much as I want
There's an air of formality in a family reunion that is unlike friends traveling together or immediate family taking a vacation. Relatives come together who are genetically similar, but often live very different lives, in different places. You may feel the need to connect with select (extended) family members, while others are interested in visiting with you. This can be tiring, albeit rewarding.
Myth 7: Recycling will take care of itself
People tend to be much more lax about following recycling rules when at a big gathering like a family reunion. A mini tragedy of the commons. Luckily for my family, I have one highly type A uncle who takes big plastic garbage bins, labels them each with his neat hand writing ("plastics," "trash," "glass"), and strategically places them around the main eating/gathering area. We tease him, but appreciate his orderly tendencies.
Myth 8: Injuries are avoidable when family gathersAs for all other vacations (and life in general), safety is important. Have a first-aid kit and phone handy for emergencies. If you have any doctors in your family, the trip organizer may want to locate that person ahead of time and ask if they could wear a cell phone during the reunion just in case.
Myth 9: All the in-laws will fit inAll in-laws are not created equal. Pay attention to spouses or significant others who aren't socializing as much as others and make an effort to include them in conversations. Ask them about their family reunions, family dynamics, family heritage. Or learn more about what they enjoy doing in their free time. Family reunions can be intimidating for the non-genetically related.
Myth 10: My kids (grandkids, nieces/nephews) are the cutestAll kids are adorable in their own quirky or beautiful ways! Careful of becoming that obsessive family member who talks only of your kids (grandkids or nieces/nephews) and has no interest in any other subjects, or continually draws conversations back to your kids. It's wonderful to see such love and devotion to the kids, but even the kids (if they could speak up for themselves) would blush at all the gush.
What are other family reunion myths? Share your stories.
Choosing the best beach destinations is totally subjective. Preferences for beaches can vary widely. However, after considering factors like natural beauty, water quality and amenities, here's our list of the Top 10 Beach Destinations in the U.S. Note, most of the places on this list are destinations with multiple beaches v. beach-specific.
Reading the list makes me daydream of booking a ticket (or road tripping) to the coast, and sinking my toes into the sand after a refreshing dip in the water.
1. Maui, Hawaii: Known for its stunning beaches, Maui offers a mix of popular spots like Kaanapali Beach and more secluded shores. The island's diverse landscape provides opportunities for snorkeling, surfing, and simply relaxing in a tropical paradise.
2. Miami Beach, Florida: Famous for its vibrant culture, art deco architecture, and lively nightlife, Miami Beach is a hotspot for groups seeking both a city atmosphere and a beach experience.
3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Popular for family vacations, Myrtle Beach offers miles of sandy beaches along with amusement parks, water parks, and numerous golf courses.
4. Malibu, California: Known for its celebrity homes and beautiful coastline, Malibu beaches like Zuma Beach and El Matador Beach are perfect for sunbathing, surfing, and spotting dolphins.
5. Outer Banks, North Carolina: This string of barrier islands is known for its natural beauty, historic sites like the Wright Brothers Memorial, and unique activities like wild horse watching.
6. Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Famous for its quaint villages, lighthouses, and beautiful beaches, Cape Cod offers a charming New England beach experience with excellent seafood dining options.
7. Clearwater Beach, Florida: Known for its powdery white sands and clear, shallow waters, Clearwater Beach is ideal for families and offers a range of water sports.
8. Laguna Beach, California: This scenic beach town is known for its artistic community, picturesque coves, and tide pools, making it a great spot for both relaxation and exploration.
9. Key West, Florida: The southernmost point of the U.S., Key West is known for its laid-back atmosphere, historic sites, and beautiful sunsets, along with great opportunities for snorkeling and diving.
10. Waikiki, Hawaii: Located on the island of Oahu, Waikiki is famous for its iconic crescent beach backed by high-rises and retail establishments, offering a lively urban beach experience with excellent surfing conditions.
Each of these beach destinations offers a unique experience, whether you're looking for relaxation, adventure, or nightlife. Daydream away...
Article updated November 2023.
Going along with my previous post on the rising nude travel trend, the next logical question is "where are the nude beaches?" since it seems like a natural combination - beach and bare buns. (Unless, of course, the subject makes you uncomfortable as hell and you'd rather go to your happy place and pretend you aren't intrigued. Understandable.)
So, how does one find these elusive edens of au naturel relaxation? A quick internet search can be enlightening (just maybe not at work). There are websites and online communities dedicated to the naturist lifestyle, with maps and guides to help you find your little slice of bare beach heaven.
We've compiled a list of the best U.S. beaches for naturists. Have a look. Then walk, don't run, to plan a trip if you dare to go bare.
Haulover Beach, Florida: A Floridian favorite for its white sands and welcoming atmosphere.
Black's Beach, California: A hidden gem beneath the cliffs near San Diego.
Gunnison Beach, New Jersey: The only legal nude beach in New Jersey, known for its friendly vibes.
Little Beach, Hawaii: A Hawaiian paradise on Maui, famous for its Sunday drum circles.
Baker Beach, San Francisco: Offers breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Moshup Beach, Massachusetts: Located on Martha's Vineyard, this beach offers a more secluded experience.
Collins Beach, Oregon: Nestled along the Columbia River, known for its laid-back atmosphere.
Blind Creek Beach, Florida: An undeveloped and serene beach on Florida's Treasure Coast.
Red Rock Beach, California: A small, hidden cove near San Francisco, known for its peaceful setting.
San Gregorio Private Beach, California: Located in San Mateo County, this is the oldest nude beach in the U.S.
Each of these beaches offers a unique experience, from the bustling crowds of Haulover to the tranquil shores of Red Rock. They are united by a common thread: the joy of enjoying nature as nature intended.
Remember to check local rules and regulations, as each beach has its own guidelines for nude sunbathing. And, as always, respect for others and the environment is paramount.
From the sunny coasts of Florida to the rugged shores of Oregon, the U.S. is dotted with havens for those who prefer their beach days au naturel. So grab your sunscreen (lots of it), and embark on a liberating journey. Happy sunbathing! 🌞🌴
By guest blogger Jacquelin Carnegie
Cruises offer a unique opportunity to spend quality time with family. You can get pampered, take part in your favorite activities and try new feats, all while visiting some of the most beautiful or exotic destinations in the world.
Here's what you have to look forward to:
1. Quality Time: A wonderful aspect of being on a cruise is the opportunity to spend quality time with the family. Cruises slow down the rush of day to day life. While floating at sea, there's plenty of time to lounge on the deck, visiting like there's no tomorrow.
Cruise ships provide a unique environment for families. The varied activities allow you to spend time together (and apart!) making this kind of trip ideal for a special occasion (birthday, anniversary or family reunion). You'll get to be together in a way you never had time for before.
2. Total Relaxation: Bliss. Utter bliss. Nothing gives you the sense of being away from it all as a cruise. You can walk onto the ship a frazzled heap of nerves; and, after a week of sun, relaxation, a little exercise, and a few spa treatments, emerge a new person.
A cruise ship is a floating resort with all the things a fine resort has to offer and more. While you can just relax and do nothing, today's ships are well-equipped to keep sports oriented travelers busy from sunrise to sunset.
3. Built-In Value: The ticket price includes all of your meals and in between snacks onboard; your stateroom, activities, parties and entertainment; plus, an exciting voyage to interesting places.
Since you pay for almost everything up front, you'll know pretty much what the trip will end up costing before you go. (Your only extra expenses will be drinks, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as a massage or a new hairdo.)
4. Divine Destinations: One of the many benefits of the cruising experience is the ability to visit more than one place during a trip. Some of the most popular cruise destinations are: the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Canada/New England, Europe and the Mediterranean. But, with over 1,800 ports-of-call around the world, there are plenty of choices.
On a cruise, you don't really notice the traveling because you spend the day exploring an interesting port and, while you sleep, the ship takes you to the next day's destination.
5. Enriching Experiences: As well as the discoveries you'll make in the various ports-of-call, many cruise lines feature seminars hosted by distinguished, guest speakers. Along with lectures on the sights you’ll be visiting, you can attend presentations on topics ranging from Renaissance art to financial planning to the secrets of French cooking.
6. Theme Cruises: Do you and your family have a particular interest or hobby such as golf, photography or architecture? You can go on a cruise filled with other enthusiasts and experts offering seminars and demonstrations on your favorite topic. Whether your passion is for gardening, wine tasting or 50's music, there's a theme cruise that suits your interest(s).
7. Activities for Kids: If you bring your children along, you can truly relax while the kiddies have a blast because all the activities for children are specially supervised. These fun and educational activities are designed with specific age groups in mind.
8. Food, Glorious Food: Cruises are known for their elaborate meals from bountiful buffets to midnight menus. You'll have the opportunity to "taste test" new specialties or enjoy some favorites such as roast beef and lobster. Each meal is a savory, multi-course affair.
For those with special dietary requirements, there are spa-cuisine offerings, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, kosher and vegetarian meals. There are even special children's menus to suit the tastes of the pickiest eater in the family.
9. Entertainment: On a cruise, the entertainment is practically non-stop. There's dancing, cabaret shows, feature films and parties. After dinner, there's often dancing to Big Band sounds and, for the night owls onboard, there’s entertainment in the nightclubs and lounges. Many ships also have casinos.
10. The Art of Sitting Still: Besides the food, the entertainment, and various on-board activities, one of the best things about being on a boat is just sitting still and looking out at the horizon. With the sun glistening on the water and the work-a-day world far away, there is something deeply soothing about it.
With the busy lives we all lead, it's difficult to make the time to connect with family (and friends). However, cruises make connecting with people natural. And that's what makes it perfect for a family reunion or any kind of group trip.
Jacquelin Carnegie is a contributing travel editor to Accent magazine. For the past 15 years, she has covered international travel destinations for both consumer and business publications.
June 15, 2006
You're thinking it. I'm thinking it. The kids are definitely thinking it. Summer's virtually here and a flurry of warm-weather activities are on the mind as peak travel season to and within the United States has arrived.
We begin with the Grand Canyon in Arizona, a vast natural wonder known for its overwhelming size and vibrant landscape. The best time to visit is during the spring and fall to avoid the summer crowds. Guided tours offer historical insights, and the sunrise or sunset views are a must-see.
Next is the Statue of Liberty in New York, an iconic symbol of freedom and democracy. It's best visited in late fall or early spring to beat the crowds. Booking ferry tickets and pedestal access in advance is recommended, and a side trip to Ellis Island can be enriching.
Yellowstone National Park, sprawling across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is America's first national park, famous for its wildlife and geothermal wonders like Old Faithful. Late spring or early fall are ideal for visiting, offering pleasant weather and fewer tourists. Staying in the park allows for a more immersive experience.
Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is the ultimate family vacation destination, offering a magical experience with its theme parks and resorts. The period from mid-January to mid-March or late April to early June is ideal. Utilizing FastPass+ for rides and staying at a Disney hotel can enhance your experience.
Disneyland in Anaheaim, California, often dubbed as the "Happiest Place on Earth", offers a blend of classic attractions and newer adventures. The best time to visit is during the off-peak months, typically from mid-September to mid-November, and January through March. Planning your visit on a weekday can also help avoid large crowds. Don't forget to catch the evening fireworks and parades for a magical end to your day.
The Las Vegas Strip is known for its vibrant nightlife, casinos, and entertainment. Visiting on weekdays, especially in spring or fall, means fewer crowds. Exploring beyond the casinos is recommended, with attractions like the Hoover Dam nearby.
Times Square in New York epitomizes the city's hustle and bustle, with its neon lights, Broadway shows, and shopping. It's best experienced early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds. Don't miss a Broadway show and take time to visit Central Park.
In The French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, you'll find a vibrant music scene, distinct architecture, and a unique cultural blend. Visiting in late fall or early spring helps avoid the heat and humidity. Experiencing live jazz music and trying local cuisine like beignets and gumbo is a must.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, is an iconic suspension bridge admired for its Art Deco design and striking color. September to November offers the best weather for a visit. Walking or biking across the bridge provides breathtaking views.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is the most visited national park in the U.S., known for its rolling mountains and diverse wildlife. Fall and spring are the best times to visit for foliage and wildflowers, respectively. The scenic drives and historic buildings in Cades Cove are highlights.
Each of these destinations in the U.S. offers a unique glimpse into the country's culture, history, and natural beauty. They offer insta-fun for people of all ages, easy-to-plan activities, and they hold the "wow" factor (biggest canyon, biggest theme park...) and all of these attractions accommodate groups.
While many will flock to these hot-spots, many others will flee to avoid crowds and escape to quiet retreats and memorable beaches of their own. We won't hear as much about the latter because they'll flee to disparate destinations.
Update: For current festival options, Festivals.com ofers the ability to search for festivals by proximity to your destination as well as by themes including arts, food and music.
By Jim Shanklin, guest blogger
Festivals are perfect for enjoying vacations with friends or family. You can incorporate a festival into a family or class reunion, or organize a group for a road trip around a theme (such as a music or film festival).
Here are several summer festival ideas:
Portland Rose Festival, Portland, Oregon
Two parades, a rose show, two sports car races; Oregon's biggest and oldest festival.
Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago, Illinois
The world's largest blues festival; great acts on six stages in the heart of downtown Chicago.
Texas Folklife Festival, San Antonio, Texas
Belgian, Italian, Swedish, German performances; all proud Texans! A great festival.
Huck Finn's Country and Bluegrass Jubilee, Victorville, California
Family fun and games, bluegrass performances in a small town setting.
Seafair, Seattle, Washington
A full month of neighborhood events, parades, unlimited hydro-racing and air shows.
Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee, Mammoth Lakes, California
Hot and cool jazz high in the mountains.
Finger Lakes Wine Festival, Watkins Glen, New York
New York wines, food, fun at historic Watkins Glen race track.
Country Thunder USA, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin
Country music; headline performers; overnight accommodations for motor homes, camping.
Fisherman's Feast of Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
One of America's oldest festivals in downtown Boston; started by Sicilians in 1910 and still going strong annually.
Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival, St. Cloud, Minnesota
Bluegrass and other acoustic music in the Minnesota forest; camping, of course.
Jim Shanklin is founder of Festivals.com, the largest online resource for finding festivals all over the world, and EVP of Festival Media Corporation.
Whether you're engaged to be married or plan to attend (or be in) a wedding soon, one great way to prep for the big day is to watch films that imitate life, summoning the flavor of organizing, planning, and producing weddings and all the mental and emotional hoopla that goes with them.
I've noticed some important wedding themes that many movies do a good job of addressing. Here they are:
1. The Graduate Wedding issue addressed: parental "involvement" gone very bad.
2. Much Ado About Nothing Wedding issues addressed: misunderstandings and fixing up friends.
3. Runaway Bride Wedding issues addressed: cold feet and Julia Robert's character's insecurities.
4. My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding Wedding issues addressed: being Greek, eating lamb, multi-cultural weddings, family melodrama... couldn't this also be Italian, Jewish and a number of other weddings?
5. A Midsummer Night's Dream Wedding issues addressed: outdoor settings and wedding fantasies.
6. My Best Friend's Wedding Wedding issues addressed: being secretly in love with the groom or bride, how hot Dermot Mulroney looks in a tuxedo and Julie Robert's character's insecurities.
Looking for other movie recommendations? Learn how to create a personalized book, movie, tv and podcast recommendations list for your next trip or group event.
Update: Thanks to Josh for suggesting "Monsoon Wedding" be added to the list. Let us know what other classics we missed?
Ah, the delight of traveling abroad. Whether it’s a wedding in Mexico, exploring Europe with friends, or a family gathering in the Caribbean, your coolness factor may be at stake. Being "cool" (elusive and subjective as that may be, even in your home town) can shift dramatically when you’re lugging a backpack, staring at your phone for directions, Googling translations, and in unfamiliar surroundings.
A little advance planning and cultural sensitivity can go a long way. Here are tips for blending in abroad and getting the most out of your next international trip:
1. Step out of your glaring, white shoes and into stylish, yet comfy shoes (unless your podiatrist requires special shoes for your knees or back). For foreign city trips walking around in a nice pair of leather sandals or closed toed shoes makes all the difference. Nothing says "tourist" like bright, white sneakers.
2. Be culturally sensitive. You're on foreign turf. Respecting local customs and culture is a must. For example, find out if wearing shorts is acceptable or forbidden. And, when in doubt, cover your skin. I found this out the hard way in Israel when I was nearly tackled for wearing shorts in a church.
3. Learn 10 basic phrases (hello, goodbye, thank you, passport, please…) in a language before traveling there. What better way to make the trip more exciting than practicing speaking a new language. Consider going beyond the basics and take a class in a foreign language for a few months prior to traveling. I've done this and it makes the trip all the more enjoyable (not to mention my travel pals appreciated my knowing how to quickly and politely ask where to find the nearest restroom).
4. Respect their language.
- If a foreign word sounds funny, don't laugh. When someone is communicating in their native tongue in their native country, remember who the foreigner is.
- Even in countries where English is prevalent, some people may not speak it. Best not to assume they do and politely ask if they speak English.
- If you're going to a country where English is spoken secondarily or a little, accents or local phrases can still throw you off. Be prepared to speak clearly and think of simpler or different ways to say the same thing, so they can respond to you in a different way. It's amazing how many things are lost in translation. Don't assume anyone speaks American slang, ya dig? For that matter, Americans have widely different pronunciations depending on their home region and you may have an accent to someone and not realize it.
5. Keep the volume down. Nothing makes me cringe more when I'm traveling abroad than hearing an obnoxious group of foreign travelers. Because I'm American, I'm especially sensitive to other Americans being insensitively loud. I distinguish from Canadian and British English speakers because they don't seem to be as loud, or perceived as crass as Americans. Keep it cool and use your "inside voices." Unless, of course, you're at a sporting event and the local team wins.
6. Absorb the culture using all five senses. Breathe in the air. Taste spices and culinary combinations. Step outside of your safe hotel and eat where the locals do. Don't ask the hotel staff where to go – they likely have a deal with a restaurant. Ask someone in a shop or just stroll the streets until you find an eatery filled with local patrons. Discover a tradition new to you but common to locals. Flamenco in Spain? Wine-tasting in Italy? Siesta in Mexico?
7. Study up on the city/region/country. Read books, look online and talk to anyone who's traveled there – get insights on best and worst experiences so you know what to do and what to avoid before you go. Even a little prep can help you avoid pitfalls, save you money or time, and make the trip more enjoyable.
8. Be sensitive with camera in hand. While the country may look like a fairytale to you, this is other people's home. If you take photos of people not in your group, be as inconspicuous as possible. If you sense someone is uncomfortable with your attention on them, take heed and respect their privacy.
9. Handle money matters smoothly. Don't fumble around with money or forget where you placed it and do the pocket pat. Organize your money and documents in private before you walk out in public. Buy a money pouch that can go around your waist and under clothing for your valuables like your passport and extra cash. Diversify with an debit card, credit card, foreign currency, and even old school travelers' checks. You can keep each of these in different locations (suitcase, socks, money pouch) for security.
10. Group travel abroad has its special consideration. By nature, you are likely a group of like-minded individuals excited for the journey and happy to be traveling together at last. It can be extra easy to be a little careless in group mentality. In addition to all of the above tips, if you're the trip planner, here are basics to prepare and share with the group:
- Provide links to trusted travel guides and resources for the region/country months in advance of your trip.
- Find out which languages are spoken and how frequently you can expect English to be used.
- Create a list of ten useful phrases or words in the country’s language such as: 1) Thank you. 2) Please. 3) My name is _____. 4) Where is a bathroom? 5) How much does it cost? And whatever else you think might be helpful for your group.
- Know your group – if they would get more excited about cultural icons than shopping, find out the operating hours and days of major sites. Nothing is worse than going to Rome to see the Sistine Chapel and being in town when it's closed. If you match your group to the activities, it’s more likely for people to be in awe of what they're doing/seeing – and be on their best behavior.
- Splurge on at least one exceptional meal that typifies the region. Prepare your group so they know what they can expect for the meal and why it is a local tradition.
Blending in doesn't mean being unauthentic or unoriginal. It simply means respecting other cultures, religions, beliefs, and living conditions. Through careful observation, you just might find an understanding not only of how people in other countries move, work, eat, talk, but how you cope and operate in unfamiliar territory. That alone is an invaluable life experience. And putting yourself at the mercy of foreign driving rules, customs, food specialties will inevitably also expand your horizons, giving you a greater appreciation for those who travel on your turf.
I also recommend reviewing these 10 tips for a safe trip abroad.
Everyone has a favorite high school movie. To fully prep for your next reunion, or just for kicks, rent a flick that conjures up the sentiments of high school – whatever they may be. From gag reflexes about your former hairdo, to fond memories of your first love, take a couple hours to watch a film or two that gets you in the reunion mood before you slap that "Hello, my name is" sticker on your shirt.
Were you the class geek? Class clown? Most likely to succeed? Least likely to get married? My guess is we can all relate to at least one character in one of these movies.
- American Graffiti
- Breakfast Club
- Ferris Beuller's Day Off
- Karate Kid
- The Outsiders
- Rock 'n' Roll High School
- Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
- Say Anything
Update: Thanks to Eric for suggesting "Can't Hardly Wait" which he added "should be #1 on the list." Let us know what other classics we missed?
p.s., Looking for other movie recommendations? Learn how to create a personalized list of book, movie, tv and podcast recommendations for your next trip or group event.
She's engaged. Your best friend. Your sister. Your cousin. Hard to believe the day is coming when she may take a new last name, have babies, and will settle into a home with her husband.
Send the bride-to-be off to married life with a bang or celebrate quietly. You be the judge of her taste. Ask her for input so you don't find her yawning through a theater show when she'd rather be doing Jell-O shots and giggling at "pleasure props," or vice versa, rolling her eyes at strippers when she’d rather have gone for pedicures and wine-tasting with her best girlfriends.
Here are some ideas I've seen (or helped organize) to punctuate the bride's last days (or night) being single with an all girls get-together.
1. Go gambling – Take the girls to Vegas with its concerts and shows galore, spa splendor, and outlet shopping. Walk down the Strip and take your pick of pleasures in Sin City. Book a hotel in any of the themed hotels on the Strip such as Wynn Las Vegas (newest Strip hotel with 18-hole golf course, spa, Cirque du Soleil shows and more), MGM Grand Hotel (tropical oasis created with multiple pools, and a river for tubing), Caeser's Palace (a tribute to the Roman Empire's decadence) and others. Other gambling hot spots with casinos, entertainment, restaurants, bars, and more for the bridal gathering include Atlantic City, New Jersey or Reno.
2. Spa day – Spending a day at a spa is one of the best ways to bond. Many spas offer packages with a multiple services combined (pedicure, massage, facial, manicure, etc.) for a discount. Still a spendy affair, but worth it for a special occasion like this and a great way to let girls be girls. Ask a spa if they have specials for bachelorette or bridal groups.
3. Swanky slumber party – Plan a weekend "get-away" to a local, luxury hotel for a night. Rent a big suite-sized room (or two, depending on your group size) to split costs while still enjoying luxury. The concept is ripe for variation. When I helped organized an event like this, my friends opted to bring food to the room and our own spa accoutrements to cut costs. We painted our nails and rented chick flicks, then swam in the hotel's pool before drinking and visiting in the room.
4. Wine-tasting – Women are a sophisticated and silly lot. Nearly every woman I know roars with wisdom on every subject under the sun: life, men, work, current affairs, gardening, the latest fashion fads, whathaveyou. All we need is a few good bottles of wine and the company of other women to let the laugher and conversation unfold organically. Give the bride a night (or entire weekend) of this quality time with the girls. Napa Valley is ideal for this flavor of weekend get-away.
5. Pub crawl in style – Create a map of the top five (or so) pubs, designate a limo driver for your group, and hit the town. Don't forget the playful props that will properly embarrass the bride (you know, that candy necklace for guys to take a bite of and pay her a dollar, or a tiara worn proudly to direct attention to the bride, and so forth). This tends to work best for younger brides and bridesmaids, of course.
6. Do lunch – Simply pick a favorite local restaurant of the newly engaged woman and make reservations. This is a classic way to involve co-workers or family friends and multi-generations. Create a festive air by making arrangements with the restaurant to decorate the table an hour ahead of time so when the bride walks in, the seating area is festive with streamers, her favorite colors, etc.
7. Camping and the great outdoors – Ahhh, the great outdoors. I've always found that camping with a group of my girl friends is a great way to relax, get some much-needed time away from city stress and obligations, and focus on each other. Some of the best friendship bonding time has been while camping or doing something else outdoors such as kayaking, hiking, or biking. If your bride is highly active and her closest friends are, organize an outdoor adventure. The options are endless. Ask her for suggestions and then plan the trip or day excursion.
8. Lingerie party – Prep the bride for her new bedroom and give her something pretty in pink or bad-ass black. You know her personality – pick something fitting. Careful not to embarrass the poor girl too much if her mom or grandmother is attending the shower.
9. Dinner theater – Options here are nearly endless, but are best geared for something that suits the bride's tastes and can offer a chance for group interaction. Do dinner before a show (Cirque du Soleil, comedy club, or a touring Broadway show), or find a dinner theater event such as a cabaret (Teatro Zinzanni in SF or Seattle) or restaurant that has live entertainment. If you're anywhere near New York, I highly recommend Mamma Mia! on Broadway. The wedding theme and disco dancing lend themselves perfectly to a bridal party.
10. Traditional bridal shower – Shower the bride with stories (funniest story about her), photos (funniest picture – everyone brings one and tells the story behind it), and focus the day on the bride. Whereas the wedding is all about the couple, this event should be solely focused on her and why she's such a great friend, sister, cousin, roommate, person. Traditional showers usually include a lunch or appetizers by the hostess at someone's house. Silly games are played like creating wedding dresses out of toilet paper and having the bride be the judge or opening gifts and tying the bows together to create a faux bouquet for her to hold while walking through the dress rehearsal. It's always a bonus when small door prizes are given out.
In this day and age, good old-fashioned family fun at the beach can be just the ticket to bring everyone closer together. I've had so many family reunions at the beach, I've started naming starfish.
Ah, a field trip to the beach. Soul food and family time. There’s no greater good. In the spirit of creating family memories without all the hoopla of our modern age, here are classic beach activities, (mostly) no purse strings attached.
1. Sand castle contests
Pile it up high and sculpt a castle fit for royalty. Then challenge your family members to do the same and have an objective person be the judge. For a little inspiration, you can check out what the sand-sculpting experts are molding at Sandsational.
2. Body surfing
Fling yourself on a wave and ride it board-free to the shore. It sounds easy, but can be surprisingly challenging. Stay safe by body surfing in areas where you can touch easily. With little kids, you can make the lapping waves fun by sitting in them and letting the water gently toss you ashore. Learn how to paddle in like a pro and catch waves with ease. And here are some safety tips for body surfing.
3. Beach soccer
Shed the shin guards, shoes and kick the soccer ball down the beach in a family-friendly game of soccer with sand as your field. This leisure sport seems to be gaining popularity as there’s an annual tournament for kids ages 9 to 18 from around the world: North American Sand Soccer Tournament.
4. Row, row, row your boat
Boating, kayaking and canoeing are all great ways to experience the beach with your family. Water activities are half the reason we scramble to the beach anyway. Bring inflatable rafts, rent a paddle boat or kayak, or take an excursion that’s often available at popular beach destinations.
5. Picnic on the beach
Eating is its own activity, especially with families. At family reunions, it can often feel like a circus. Yet some of the best family conversations take place while gathered for a meal. The necessity of eating, the pleasure of food itself, along with the social nature of dining together all make beach picnics great as a mellow, yet bonding, family activity.
6. Rock stacking
A time-honored art going as far back as Stonehenge (probably farther), it’s easy to take rocks and make art formations, assuming you’re at a beach with rocks. I’ve recently discovered the Zen-like satisfaction of stacking rocks and found that there are many rock stackers who make it a big part of their lives. Give it a try.
7. Skipping rocks
How many skips can one rock make? That’s for you to find out. Grab a handful of as many skipping rocks (round-ish, flat-ish) as you can, angle yourself toward the water, and toss each stone so it bounces, leaps or skims across the surface just right. The Brits call it stone skimming. The Irish call it stone scuffing. The French call it ricochet. There’s even a stone skipping association. Join the multitudes of people who skip beach rocks and develop your own, unique technique.
8. 50-yard splash dash
Mark start and finish lines in the sand, just above the surf line, have someone stand at the finish line as objective judge (if your family members are competitive) and go for the gold. You can adapt this to a relay race, handing off driftwood as a baton. Reward all "winners" with ice cream!
9. Kite flying
A family staple at the beach, kite flying has been around since the dawn of kites. Want to find any kind of kite, learn its history and see how it operates? Check out this Smithsonian article on how kites fly.
10. Playing Frisbee or catch
Nothing beats a classic. Something as simple as a driftwood bat knocking a ball out of the sandy ballpark or a Frisbee gliding smoothly into your hands turns the beach into your own, personal playground.
Did I miss a great family beach game or activity?
You shouldn’t have to plan a family reunion or wedding all alone. Here are 10 tips for delegating with panache, keeping your finger on the pulse, and stepping aside for others to share the planning responsibilities.
Since weddings often turn into family reunions, many of these planning principles will also work for brides and grooms.
Tip 1: Make a checklist. Create a checklist of everything that needs to get done including deadlines and who is responsible for given tasks. Check this list often. As you get closer to the event, be sure to confirm the details with your service providers.
Tip 2: Start a chain reaction. When individuals get involved, they’ll become event champions who will promote the reunion to their respective branches of the family tree.
Tip 3: Enlist volunteers early. Right from the start, enlist volunteers to help with everything from creating and distributing "welcome kits" to planning specific events and activities. It lightens your load and allows you to tap into the creativity of your group. If planning a destination wedding, early help is critical.
Tip 4: Choose help wisely. You know your family. You know the flakes and leaders. The dreamers and doers. The bakers and candlestick makers. While everyone has talents and skills, I recommend choosing people with some planning experience for bigger projects. Those less likely to tackle bigger projects well would be perfect for a smaller, specific task (find and bring a cake for grandma’s birthday dinner). Match tasks delegated to those best suited for the task to create the most efficient use of everyone’s time.
Tip 5: Connections count. But use them carefully and don’t impose on anyone. Always ask. Never assume. Does Aunt Betty work in catering? Ask if she can find a good caterer. If a wedding or family reunion is in a major U.S. metropolitan area such as Seattle, Washington, D.C. or Chicago and Uncle Fred’s best friend can score a deal in baseball tickets, ask Fred if block of seats are possible to get.
Tip 6: Tap the creativity of your family. You’d be surprised what talents lay dormant in your family’s gene pool. Get help on projects or tasks where others have expertise such as building an up-to-date family contact list, designing a family Web site (for the graphically-inclined), organizing entertainment for an evening (use a family musician, perhaps), negotiating the best rate at hotels (think sales skills), chefs in the family can provide a "guest meal" one night (mmm… Uncle Bob's barbequed Asian salmon special), and so forth.
Tip 7: Avoid getting spammed. To avoid getting "cc'd" on every email communiqué, encourage the volunteers to make decisions on their own with the group and communicate that you just need to know the final details of their particular task(s). If they have problems/questions along the way, they can contact you. But giving them authority saves you time and gently ensures they’re held accountable, increasing chances they’ll complete the task(s).
Tip 8: Give credit where credit is due. Someone once told me that many who succeed "Delegate and take credit." While this was half-truth and half-joke, you should always give credit to those who help or lead a project. You may be organizing, orchestrating or rallying the troops, but many make it a success. Thank the academy.
Tip 9: Solicit ideas from those helping plan. There is a fine line between directing and delegating. I’ve learned people respond better when their own ideas are heard and carried out. They become invested and feel a personal sense of pride and accomplishment. That said, pay attention to quality and don’t be afraid to guide the process. Your feedback is helpful, as is theirs. Incorporate the best ideas from others and know when to (carefully) suggest alternatives to other ideas.
Brides, you have your ideas and your fiancé has his. So do your families. Use the best ideas, but ultimately the call is yours (and his).
Tip 10: Stay tuned and connected. You're still the leader of the group so once a task is assigned, it's important to follow up regularly to make sure everything's getting done. Schedule a weekly check-in with yourself and/or others to get a status of tasks completed and things that need a follow-up. The more organized you are, the more smoothly things will run.
Have any of your own tips or lessons learned? Care to add to any of the tips listed above? Your thoughts and feedback are welcome.
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