Monthly Archives: April 2012

MayFest on Main Street in Myrtle Beach

May bursts into life this year with a free concert for the whole family to enjoy! MayFest on Main Street is an annual event that takes place in Myrtle Beach, featuring hot musical acts, delicious food and unique craft vendors. The event brings the family, the community and visitors together for an exciting day of music, food and fun. This year’s MayFest takes place on the 12th, and is guaranteed to provide every attendee with exciting, family-friendly fun activities.

The musical performances take place at noon in the notorious “Horseshoe.” This year’s lineup stars Night Ranger, whose songs “Sister Christian,” “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Sing Me Away,” and “I Did It For Love” rocked the 80s. “Sister Christian” even reached the number five spot in 1984. The band has been compared to popular acts Journey and Foreigner, with their polished rock ‘n roll style. Three of the original Night Rangers, Kelly Keagy, Brad Gillis and Jack Blades, are joined by two newer members, Joel Hoekstra and Eric Levy, for an incredible concert event.

Project 7ven joins Night Ranger on stage. This band is known as “The World’s Greatest Funk Band” and has backed The Bar-Kays, chart-toppers with twenty-five gold and five platinum singles, and the Grammy Award-winning Dazz Band, as well as Glenn Jones, Howard Hewitt, Phil Perry and The United We Funk Allstars throughout the years. Now, the band is ready to show their “Ol’ Skool” style as they take the center stage. You’ll get the chance to get your funk on with the boys at MayFest.

The Mighty Mighty Tams will also appear as special guest stars. This group of five talented male vocalists has been entertaining for more than forty years, with hits such as “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy,” “What Kind of Fool” and “I’ve Been Hurt.” They have two gold records and one platinum single under their belts, and you’ll be able to enjoy their smooth soul and R&B-style music in an exciting and fresh way.

Walk the streets before and after the concert event for the chance to check out some of the incredible crafts the vendors have lined up for you to take home as souvenirs. These artists and craftspeople have a wide variety of talents and unique creations that you can explore and enjoy. The streets will be filled with people taking advantage of the warm May weather, upbeat music and unique artwork. Of course, there will also be food available for you to purchase and sample. Different varieties of dishes join the different varieties of crafts. There will also be a children’s play area with a community stage that opens at 10:00 am, so you can bring the little ones and be ensured that they will have fun in a secure and entertaining environment.

Hotels are located nearby, within two miles of all the MayFest excitement, so you are guaranteed convenience and comfort during your stay. The Rodeway Inn Surfside Beach and Sheraton Myrtle Beach allow you to lodge in luxury and still be close to all the action. While in town for MayFest, be sure to check out all of the exciting Myrtle Beach attractions, including Pavilion Nostalgia Park, just under a mile away from Main Street. Also just down the way, you’ll find the incredible world of Ripley, with the Marvelous Mirror Maze, The Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s Moving Theatre, Ripley’s Aquarium and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. Don’t miss out on all of the family-friendly fun that awaits you this May in Myrtle Beach!

Grand Canyon South Rim VIP Tour

If you’re looking for the perfect way to experience the Grand Canyon, then the South Rim VIP Tour is for you. You’ll have the opportunity to visit some of the most vibrant, powerful and brilliant sights of the natural canyon cliffs and walls. The South Rim gives you the most beautiful and magnificent viewpoints, perfect settings for photographs you can take home and cherish forever.

Visit the Hoover Dam and be greeted with unbelievable views. The Hoover Dam is one of the seven technical wonders of the world, and gives you the chance to snap some photographs of the Black Canyon and Lake Mead. The strength of the dam walls, holding back the deep, dark blue water, will take your breath away. Nestled in the cliffs of the Black Canyon, the Hoover Dam is an extraordinary sight, every time you see it.

A drive down the historic Route 66 will allow you to visit the Old West Train Museum. You’ll get the chance to walk among the long and powerful locomotives that represent the Wild West atmosphere of Arizona. Go back in time to cowboys and the great American frontier. Route 66 was cultivated back in the 1800s, although it didn’t officially come to life until 1926. American pioneers traveled westward, creating, unknowingly, the path of what would later become a famous highway. On this VIP tour, you’ll have the opportunity to keep the path’s history alive when you go on a journey throughout the years with your guide and take photographic memories home with you.

When you visit Mather Point in the Grand Canyon, you’ll stand on the edge of a cliff and look out at the beautiful and impressive landscape. You can peer down a mile below and see the Colorado River cutting through the canyon floor, moving westward and creating awe-inspiring sights that will literally take your breath away. The view from Mather Point is truly indescribable, and the colors and beauty are something you have to see to believe.

Views from Yavapai Point and Bright Angel Point give you a glimpse into the inner canyon, Bright Angel Canyon and Phantom Ranch. The canyon stretches on for miles, and you’ll be able to see the heights of the cliffs and the floor of the canyon bounce and roll throughout the land. All of the rock’s colors and the plant life that fill your vision are sights you will never forget; and the incredible photographs you take home to show your friends, you’ll know, are only mere representations of the magnificence.

The Hopi House is known for its quality and selection of Native American artwork, and you’ll have the chance to explore the gift shop’s diverse culture and history. This picturesque building will take you through the cultural beauty of the Hopi tribe. The house is designed in a traditional Hopi dwelling place, with a sandstone exterior and walls made of adobe indoors. The ceilings are constructed out of saplings, twigs and grass glued together with mud, in the traditional Hopi style, while the floors are also made of adobe. You’ll have the chance to explore the tribe’s culture, and take some of it home with you with a photograph or craft souvenir.

On the VIP tour, you will have the option to walk the “most beautiful walk in the world” with a two and a half mile hike from Mather Point to Yavapai Point for the chance to encounter even more incredible sights along the way. Not up for the walk? Don’t worry, because you can choose the option to join your tour guide in a drive to each of the sights. This tour gives you the opportunity to see the most magnificent parts of the Grand Canyon, and take home memories that will last a lifetime.

While you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, make sure to stay close to all of the action and the sights when you stay at a hotel located only within two miles of the South Rim tour. Palace Station, the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, Paris Las Vegas, Westin Casuarina and the Clarion Hotel and Casino Near Las Vegas Strip are all in a short distance to the starting point of your tour, making it convenient for when you head out and head back.

Top 5 Nashville Attractions

If you love music, then there is no greater place to go than Nashville, Tennessee for your next vacation. Nashville’s wide variety of attractions truly make it “Music City.” Just one visit to the area will give you the opportunity to explore some of the greatest history and culture in the city. However, there simply is just not enough time to see it all, and we know that planning your vacation can be stressful, so we’ve come up with a list of the top activities that give you the best sample of the city.

5. The Grand Legends Tour
Nashville is a city full of country music, and when you want to experience the best of it, the Grand Legends Tour is the perfect opportunity. You’ll start with a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry House to check out the dressing rooms of the big name stars who have taken the stage. You’ll have the chance of a lifetime to catch a look at the magic behind the show, and hear the stories that have made the stage famous. Then, board a Delta Flatboat and traverse down the indoor river of the Gaylord Opryland Resort, surrounded with lush plant life for a scenic view. This tour gives you the chance to catch the music and the beauty of nature in the Nashville area.

4. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Every country music fan has to visit the Hall of Fame at least once in their life, and now you finally have the opportunity to go. This extraordinary building is filled with collectibles from the biggest names in country music. The 37 million-dollar complex covers the length of an entire city block, and every corner of it gives you something new to look at. Interactive exhibits combine with unique tour options to provide the perfect setting for your country music experience. Take a tour with audio and let Charlie Daniels, Bill Cody, Dolly Parton and more take you on a journey through the museum. Explore the wall of records, which features every gold and platinum record that hit the country music charts. This museum immerses you in the country music history and culture for an unforgettable experience.

3. The Discover Nashville Tour
Here’s your chance to see all the city has to offer. This three and a half-hour tour will take you through the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well as historic Downtown Nashville, the Parthenon, the Tennessee State Capitol, Music Row and more. Nashville is rich with culture, and you’ll get to see it all on this tour. Drive through Honky Tonk Row to get a close-up view of the boot-tappin’ music. This tour gives you the chance to experience all of the sounds, and more, of this incredible city.

2. The General Jackson Showboat Lunch & Dinner Cruises
If you want a more scenic tour of the area, then a General Jackson Showboat cruise is the option for you. This magnificent paddle wheel riverboat, the largest of its kind in the world, will take you down the shining Cumberland River for beautiful views of the countryside of Tennessee. You’ll get to add to these incredible sights an entertaining show and a delicious meal, for a perfect evening or afternoon. The lunch cruise gives you an interactive comedy show, while  the dinner show produces Vegas-style entertainment. The meal allows you to sample some of the best of Tennessee cuisine, including southern roasted chicken, slow-roasted sugar cured country ham, pumpkin cheesecake and more. You’ll truly have the time of your life as you enjoy the spread of landscapes, shows and food.

1. The Grand Ole Opry
A visit to Nashville cannot be complete without a trip to the Opry House. The Grand Ole Opry brings together the greatest country music stars in the world, and just one show is filled with good times, great music and incredible memories. Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Trace Adkins, Patsy Cline, Keith Urban, Little Jimmy Dickens, George Jones… these are just a few of the many names that have graced the Opry stage. Whenever a star steps foot on that circular piece of wood in the middle of the stage, the entire stadium can feel their excitement at being a part of the greatest country music show in the world. One visit to the Opry is never enough, but now is the perfect time to join the long-standing tradition that has been around for nearly one hundred years.

While you’re visiting, be sure to book a room at a hotel located in the heart of all the Nashville excitement. Hotels in Opryland put you right next to the Grand Ole Opry and the General Jackson Showboat cruises. Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and utilize, every day, the magnificent atrium, complete with winding rivers, walking paths, incredible landscaping and serene waterfalls that you’ll see on the Grand Legends Tour. The resort is less than a mile away from the top attractions in the city. The Radisson Hotel at Opryland and Holiday Inn Express & Suites Opryland are two other hotels within a mile from the Grand Ole Opry House and the Showboat, as well as the Discover Nashville Inclusive Tour. If you’re looking to stay close to the Country Music Hall of Fame, you’re in luck, because there are a few hotels located within a half-mile of the museum: Hilton Nashville Downtown, Renaissance Nashville Hotel and Doubletree Hotel Nashville-Downtown.

No one can deny the intense impression that Nashville gives to all of its visitors. The city is full of rich and diverse culture and history, and the music that fills the city’s streets makes the area the perfect vacation destination for anyone. Even if you’re not a country music fan, walking down the streets of Nashville, and especially visiting any of the sights listed above, will open your eyes to the wonders of the city.

ZORB Ride in the Smoky Mountains

I know what you’re wondering, what in the world is a ZORB ride? Well, I’d be lying to you if I told you it wasn’t one of the coolest and most unique experiences you’ll find on this side of the Smoky Mountains. When you climb into a ZORB “globe,” you’ll be settling in for an exciting adventure unlike any other.

ZORB Smoky Mountains is establishing a title of a “must see” attraction in Pigeon Forge. Every year, customers return to check out the latest rides and merchandise ZORB offers. The exciting rides are on the top of the list of many Pigeon Forge visitors. This destination is the only ZORB ride in the USA, with other locations in New Zealand, Guam and Jamaica. The tracks featured in the Smoky Mountains location are nearly twice as long as the original tracks formed in New Zealand, making it an unmissable destination.

So what exactly does a ZORB ride consist of? Basically, it takes the childhood thrill of rolling down a tall hill to a new extreme. You will climb into a large, inflatable globe and tackle the grassy slopes of the hill, either wet or dry. You can choose a Zydro ride, and climb into a globe filled with five gallons of water, or choose the Zorbit, for a 100% dry ride. ZORB also offers you a variety of different tracks to roll down, giving you the chance to try a different experience with every ride.

When you choose the Zydro, the wet ride, your track options are expanded by a variety of different paths. Try a straight, zig-zag or zipper track. You will have the option, also, to ride solo or with two or three of your closest friends or family members. On the Zorbit, the dry ride, you will be safely secured in a harness within the globe, you will ride alone, and you only have the straight ride, but your experience is something you will remember forever.

ZORB rides are appropriate for ages eight and up, and parents do not have to worry about safety issues.  The rides are guaranteed to give you your adrenaline fix, but they are also guaranteed to provide you with complete safety. The ZORB organization has spent millions of dollars developing their sites across the globe to ensure safety. The rides have been manufactured with nothing but the best materials around, and the tracks have been tested throughout the years to make certain that all of the safety elements have been acquired.

ZORB rides always provide with the best in fun and adventure. They are a unique way to spend your vacation to the Smoky Mountains, and you will always want to come back for more. If you do, you’ll also remember your luxurious stay in any of the nearby hotels. The Red Roof Inn Gatlinburg is located only about three minutes away. If you’re looking for more excitement during your vacation, the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas are filled with unique attractions, including Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Helicopter Tours of the Smokies and the Dixie Stampede.

Star Castle Family Entertainment Center in Savannah

If you’re looking for some good, clean family fun this summer, then the Savannah’s Star Castle Family Entertainment Center is the place to go. The center first opened as an arcade in 1984, but it has developed into so much more over the years. In 2001, the center was opened in its current location, a castle-shaped building offering more than arcade games. Roller skating and laser tag combine together with the entertainment arcade games bring, and the delicious pizza, for an all-around family fun location.

Bring your kids in, with their report card, and get full-day admission to the skating rink. An “A” on the report card allows your child free admission into the rink, which stretches out over 10,000 square feet of maple wood. Star Castle has only the best DJs around, as well as state of the art audio and lighting systems. The kids will love the latest hits the DJ plays, while mom and dad will love the “old school” classics. If you’re a regular roller skater, then you’ll get the chance to show off your tricks and your speed on the rink. However, if you’re new to the skates, you don’t have to worry about safety, because there will always be floor guards monitoring the area.

Compete against your kids in some of your favorite video games from the past. Hop across the river and avoid the obstacles in Frogger, always a classic arcade game, and compete for the highest scores in skee ball. Then, have your kids teach you some tricks on the newer games, race them on a simulated motorcycle and battle the dark dungeons in Star Castle’s own game. The arcade also offers special attractions, such as Lazer Frenzy and the Mad Wave Motion Theater. In Lazer Frenzy, you will have the opportunity to test your skills against a maze of laser beams, just like the spies in your favorite movies. Or, try out the two-seat motion simulator attraction, Mad Wave Motion Theater, and sense every motion of your game, from shifting gears to an automobile collision. Then put together your tickets and trade them in for some of the exciting prizes.

If your family is looking for a little more adventure, then a game of laser tag is the option for you. Star Castle’s 4,000 square foot arena features black lights, fog and a professional audio system. (Don’t worry if the dark corridors of the maze make you worried, because all of the obstacles feature soft, round edges and an employee is always around to ensure safety and a fair game.) You can watch your kids gear up and compete against each other, or join them in the fun and team up Red vs. Green. Watch your back as you round the corner, because participants in the laser tag fun are always ready and waiting to catch you off-guard. A game of laser tag will provide the perfect opportunity for families to have fun with one another, encouraging teamwork and entertainment.

A visit to the Star Castle Center would not be complete until you sink your teeth into the delicious oven-baked pizza. Choose your favorite toppings, of cheese, pepperoni, sausage and more, and order by the pie or by the slice. Star Castle also offers hot dogs, french fries and chicken wings, as well as a snack bar, which serves funnel fries, popcorn, slushies, ice cream treats, candy, chips, sodas and more, so everyone in the family can find something they’ll love.

When staying in Savannah, book a room at one of the hotels nearby Star Castle. Econo Lodge Midtown Savannah, Best Western Central Inn and Quality Inn Midtown are just a few of the hotels within a mile from the action. You’re also not far from all of the great attractions and tours Savannah has to offer. If you love delicious cuisine, try the Foody Tour. If you love the movies, take the Savannah Movie Sites Tour. And if you’re interested in a peaceful, scenic view of Savannah, a Riverboat Cruise may be just for you.

Your family will love all of the great entertainment that Star Castle has to offer. With exciting activities, great food and fantastic prizes available for you to win, there’s no doubt that your family will come together for an exciting adventure during your stay in Savannah.

Crimes Against Marine Life Exhibit at the Crime Museum

2012 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, prohibiting the taking and importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the United States, and the Crime Museum in Washington D.C. is proud to honor this act with a temporary exhibit. The exhibit is available for guests to explore only throughout this summer, from May to August, so don’t miss out on your chance to learn how you can help prevent any wrongdoing to the remarkable mammals under the sea.

The Crime Museum is notorious for giving visitors an insider’s view into the world of crime and punishment. They are host to five interactive galleries, including “A Notorious History of Crime,” “Punishment: The Consequence of Crime” and “Crime Fighting.” Another gallery is the “Crime Scene Investigation” exhibit, in which you can immerse yourself into the middle of a crime scene and investigate for clues. The “America’s Most Wanted Studio” allows you to walk through the actual set of the popular television program “America’s Most Wanted” with host John Walsh.

This year, the Crime Museum is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to form the new exhibit, which will feature evidence of actual violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, shed light on what the violations are, what the law enforcement officials do to investigate these violations and how can you can help prevent them from occurring.

Two of the specific marine crimes the exhibit will highlight are shark finning and sea littering. Shark finning is described as “the removal of shark fins from an animal and then discarding its carcass at sea.” Many of the sharks who are put through this cruel act are still alive when this occurs, and are forced to sink slowly to the bottom of the ocean to their deaths. Approximately one hundred million sharks are killed annually in this process. There are less deliberate acts of violence towards the marine mammals as well. Hourly, a rate of about 2.5 million pieces of plastic are thrown carelessly into the ocean. What people don’t usually understand is how harmful this is for the marine life that call the waters home. When fishing nets are lost or left behind, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, manatees, whales and other sea creatures become tangled, causing them to starve, suffocate and bleed to death. Many of these animals are known to mistake plastic bags and other pieces of trash as food, killing 100,000 marine mammals and turtles every year.

When you visit this exhibit, you will learn what you can do to help. With the new knowledge on sea littering, you can do your part to stop the crimes against marine life. The Crime Museum and the National Aquarium also put forth some messages on how you can further help: 1) Call your local police department if you witness marine life cruelty, or any other illegal activities, when you are on the beach or the ocean, and 2) If you spot a stranded animal on the beach, keep your distance, but call the Stranding Hotline to report your findings to the Maryland Natural Resource Police.

When you’re visiting the Washington D.C. area during this summer, fill your stay with convenience and comfort. A room at the Four Points by Sheraton gives you luxurious accommodations, spacious rooms, great service and a short distance to the Crime Museum. Also located just a half-mile from the museum is the Hampton Inn Washington, DC – Convention Center, which gives you the chance to travel for business or leisure in a beautiful and accommodating hotel.

Also located nearby the Crime Museum, for when you want to explore the city even further, are the DC The Best! Tour, the Hard Rock Cafe, Johnson IMAX at the National Museum of Natural History and more. Washington D.C. offers a wide variety of history and culture, and a visit to the city will immerse you into all of it. When you visit the Crime Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits, you will have the opportunity to explore some of the most interesting elements of history, and discover how you can make a better and safer future.

Special Summer Attractions in Williamsburg

As children begin to wiggle in their seats and adults tap their pens restlessly in their cubicles, the top attractions in Williamsburg are heating up for an exciting, family-friendly summer. Whether you’re heading to Busch Gardens to ride the wild coasters or Jamestown Settlement to walk in the shoes of our country’s ancestors, these two Williamsburg attractions have special events planned to start your summer off right.

Every May Busch Gardens Williamsburg begins to set up its amazing outdoor sound system and stage equipment in preparation for Glory at the Gardens. These annual concerts always feature the best, chart-topping contemporary Christian artists during various dates throughout the summer. This year, the show will feature well-known names like Third Day, a Grammy-winning Christian rock band. Chris Tomlin will also be performing, an artist who won Male Vocalist of the Year for three years straight and won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album of 2012. Another headliner, Kirk Franklin, is a certified Platinum artist who has worked with secular bands like Boyz II Men. Even if Contemporary Christian isn’t your favorite genre, these musical talents are sure to gratify audiences of every taste.

  • May 6 – Newsboys, Abandon & Anthem Lights
  • May 20 – Kirk Franklin & Group 1 Crew
  • June 10 – Chris Tomlin & The City Harmonic
  • June 24 – Third Day & TBA

If you’re in the area on May 12th, be sure to visit Jamestown Settlement for the Jamestown Day celebration. The event marks the 405th anniversary of the founding of America’s first permanent English Settlement in 1607. Festivities include military demonstrations, family tours and activities, traditional colonial music and storytelling as well as other forms of entertainment. One of the highlights is the departure of a vessel that was modeled after one of the original three ships that brought England’s first colonists. The ship is to sail mid-morning at the James River. Entertainment includes a 17th century-style fair, complete with juggling, magic tricks, puppet shows and musical performances. Gather around to hear an Indian Folktale or play one of the many games, like hobby-horses, jousting, hoops, stool ball and bowling.

If you’re interested in visiting Busch Gardens, stay at the Crowne Plaza Williamsburg at Fort Magruder or Quality Inn at Kingsmill, both of which are only two miles from the park and feature enormous indoor pools. If you want to party colonial-style, your best bet is The Historic Powhatan Resort, which has an outdoor lap pool, a scenic woodland setting and luxurious accommodations. If you’d like to visit both Busch Gardens and Jamestown Settlement including lodging, quickly and easily create your own vacation package here.

The Grand Ole Opry: The Show That Made Country Music Famous

The Grand Ole Opry – just the name sends shivers down the spine and forms goosebumps on the arms of every country music fan. From the very beginning, the Grand Ole Opry has been leaving an impression on music lovers and music stars alike. The circular piece of wood that stands in the middle of the stage, six feet across, has become a cultural icon, one that every country music fan can appreciate. The Grand Ole Opry has had many homes throughout the years, but wherever it went, it has become “the show that made country music famous.”

After World War II, a shift began in the music industry. While the sounds of Hollywood movie soundtracks and mainstream pop still dominated the radio waves, a new sound was taking the nation by storm. This change began with a network radio show, beaming from Nashville airwaves, called the Grand Ole Opry.

The show started as a free barn dance program in the 1920s, with bands such as the Possum Hunters, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, and the fiddle-playing Uncle Dave Macon. By the next decade, however, the show’s popularity increased so much it was forced to move locations four times and, eventually, an admission charge became necessary.

It was in the 1940s that the Opry settled into its most well-known home. The red brick of the Ryman Auditorium became a recognized national landmark just a few years ago, but, for country fans, it has always been one. It was during the Opry’s time at the Ryman that some of the greats in country music became a part of the family. Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Stonewall Jackson, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and others all have stood on that notable piece of oak wood.

Although the Opry still performs at the Ryman Auditorium for its Country Classics specials, in the 1970s, it found a new home, one known for its splendor and beautiful structures. The Grand Ole Opry House welcomed new stars and regulars to take the stage and perform for their fans, who flocked from across the country. The Gatlin Brothers, Patty Loveless, Boxcar Willie, Randy Travis, Marty Stuart and Alan Jackson are just a few of the popular artists who called the Opry House home throughout the next three decades.

Throughout the years, these artists and more have made the Grand Ole Opry name one recognized throughout the country. Fans would come from all states to see their favorites perform. Today, fans can still experience the wonder in person, or from the comfort of their own home by radio, TV, and the Internet. More modern favorites that have been inducted into the Opry House include Josh Turner, Montgomery Gentry, Trade Adkins, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley, among others. Most recently, Keith Urban has been welcomed into the large and always-growing family.

In 2010, a two-day flood hit Nashville, devastating most of the city. The Grand Ole Opry House was one of the many homes that sustained major damages. The entire stage was left underwater. The Opry stayed strong, however, debuting in a variety of locations around the city. Fans remained loyal, as well, still attending each event. The circle of the Opry family has remained unbroken, quite literally. The dark oak wood circle was returned by Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens to the Opry stage after the theater was finally restored, proving that the show will always go on.

Country music fans can appreciate the significance of the Grand Ole Opry. A visit to the theater will make anyone, even those who aren’t fans, feel the power and the heart of country music. As Brad Paisley put it, “Pilgrims travel to Jerusalem to see the Holy Land and the foundations of their faith. People go to Washington, D.C. to see the workings of government and the foundation of our country. And fans flock to Nashville to see the foundation of country music, the Grand Ole Opry.”

Nearby hotels to the Grand Ole Opry include Gaylord Opry Hotel, Radisson Hotel at Opryland, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Opryland, and Courtyard by Marriott at Opryland.

Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

Start working on that recipe now, because the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis is fast approaching. The air in the city of Memphis will be filled with the mouthwatering smells of barbecued pork, chicken, ribs and more. This event is always popular with locals and visitors, so you’ll want to book your ticket in advance. This “Super Bowl of Swine” is bound to challenge everything you thought you knew about barbecue.

Hundreds of teams from across the country are packing up and heading towards the banks of the Mississippi River from May 17-19. If you think you’ve got what it takes to compete against some of the finest flavors in barbecued cuisine, pick a team name and head to the south. Popular teams have included Slab Yo Mama, Swine & Dine and Magically Piglicious. Expect these teams and more to be surrounding your booth at this popular Memphis event.

The cooks will be gearing up in their best pig attire for the annual Ms. Piggie contest. Join them on the stage and put on your snout, hooves, ears and wigs, or sit back and watch the contest unfold in an always-entertaining show of pig costumes and song. Don’t worry if the collection of Ms. Piggies doesn’t stay in tune though, because the event also features live music well into the night. Enjoy the sounds of Cowboy Mouth, the band “with a loud and raucous voice,” on Thursday evening, or the talent of the Sun Studio Allstars on Friday night. Saturday brings the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, a perfect way to finish off a weekend of excitement.

If you’re more of a taste-tester than a chef, don’t worry, this event is perfect for you, too. Although health regulations don’t allow for teams to serve their delicious-smelling dishes to the public, a variety of local vendors will be in attendance, dishing out some the best-tasting barbecue pork, ribs and more.

While you’re visiting the city for this exciting event, be sure to stay in one of the hotels nearby all of the action. The event is located in Tom Lee Park, which is close by to several comfortable hotels. The Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis-Beale Street, Doubletree Hotel Memphis Downtown and Sleep Inn at Court Square are just three of the hotels located within a mile of the park.

For a greater taste of Memphis, check out the National Civil Rights Museum, take a Gibson Guitar Factory Tour, and visit the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. All of these activities, and more, are located right next to the park and the surrounding hotels, so you’ll never have to travel far to experience the best of the city.

The crowned winner of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest wins more than $100,000 in prizes, and, of course, bragging rights. So if you’re the master of the grill in your  neighborhood and think you’ve got what it takes, put on your pig snout and show us what you’ve got.

New Orleans Family Vacation Ideas

New Orleans is the perfect place to take your summer vacation, with special events at the Audobon Zoo, unique swamplands to explore and delicious Creole cuisine to sample. Your New Orleans vacation will be a wholly immersive cultural experience.

The Audobon Zoo, Aquarium and Insectarium offer several activities that both you and your kids will love. At the Aquarium, feel the smooth, slick skin of a stingray as it sails through Stingray Bay. At certain times, you can even feed the stingrays, or watch the other aquarium animals during feeding time. In the zoo, watch the fuzzy otters get their afternoon snack, see the penguins gulp down their fish or watch the gorillas munch on a whole head of cabbage.

If the animals’ mealtime displays make you hungry, you can always head to the Insectarium for Bug Apetit Insect Cooking and Tasting Demonstrations. There, you’ll learn about Entomophagy (the eating of insects) all over the world. You’ll sample some of the exotic tastes put together by bug chefs, like chocolate “chirp” cookies and six-legged salsa. If you’d rather study your bugs than taste them, check out Insect Encounters in Metamorphosis, where butterflies will be emerging from their chrysalises.

Be sure to visit Animal Grossology, the aquarium’s newest exhibit. The exhibit celebrates the stickiest, yuckiest and most disgusting creatures on earth. Here, you’ll learn about how animals as nasty as leeches can assist surgeons, how dung beetles are the world’s natural pooper scoopers and how cows are the gassiest animals on the planet. There are several interactive activities, fun tunnels and learning opportunities that your kids will love.

Though a full day could easily be spent at one of the Audobon Institute’s attractions, no trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to the swamplands. On the Swamp and Bayou Tour, you can actually experience the natural Louisiana bayou in all of its muddy splendor. Learn about the unfortunate disappearance of the wetlands and about the surrounding wildlife on this tour, which begins with a motorcoach ride through Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and then progresses through the wetlands on a custom swamp boat.

If you didn’t have an appetite for Bug Apetit, visit the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant, which features authentic Creole cuisine. Directly in the heart of the French Quarter, the first-class eatery has been around for over two centuries. The menu includes New Orleans favorites like shrimp and grits, chicken oscar and crème brulee. If you arrive early enough, you can enjoy the Live Jazz Brunch Buffet, which features treats like duck a l’orange, jambalaya, fresh-boiled gulf shrimp and more, all accentuated by the smooth rhythms of a live jazz band.

If you’re interested in lodging close to the action, try the Iberville Suites New Orleans, which boasts a lobby full of antiques, fresh flowers and original art. For a truly unique stay, book the St. James Hotel, which originally opened its doors in 1859. The St. James features rooftop terraces, a lounging pool and distinctive architectural features that are evident in the “French Quarter-style” rooms. For the comfort of a mainstream hotel, stay at the Holiday Inn Downtown/Superdome, where you’ll get all of the amenities of home on your New Orleans vacation.