Monthly Archives: November 2012

Ripley Attractions Amaze in Myrtle Beach

Ring in the Christmas season at Ripley’s Aquarium during the Festival of Trees! Themed trees are decorated to represent each of the 50 states. While you’re there, check out what else the Ripley franchise has to offer in Myrtle Beach.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not

With more than 90 attractions in 10 countries, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is definitely an attraction that should not be missed. Robert LeRoy Ripley had an obsession with collecting oddities from around the world. In 1904, at age 14, he sold his first cartoon to LIFE Magazine. In 1913, he moved to New York and began writing the cartoon “Champs and Chumps” for the New York Globe. He made his first trip around the world in 1922 at age 32. In 1929, he became famous through his newspaper cartoons, which depicted little known facts about exotic places and interesting trivia. In 1930, he started his own radio show and recorded live shows from underwater, the sky, caves, snake pits, and foreign countries. As his collection grew and grew so did the need to present his unique artifacts. So, he opened his first odditorium in Chicago in 1932 after a trip to Asia. The museum was so successful that by 1940, he had opened odditoriums in San Diego, Dallas, Cleveland, San Francisco, and New York City. By the 40s, Ripley had been voted the most popular man in America by the New York Times. He died in 1949 leaving behind all of his fascinating artifacts from the 201 foreign countries he had visited.

Now, Ripley’s legacy has grown into museums, aquariums, mini-golf, sightseeing trains, moving theaters, and much more all over the world. His daily cartoon is still printed in nearly 200 papers worldwide. Each museum is about 80 percent different from the other museums spread throughout the world. Items featured in every Believe It Or Not museum include original Ripley cartoons and columns, genuine shrunken heads that Ripley received from the Jivaro Indians, and wax figures of unbelievable humans, such as the world’s tallest man, the world’s fattest man, and the unicorn man. Most museums are uniquely built to represent the city or area in which they are located. The Niagara Falls, Canada, museum appears to be a skyscraper on its side and the Panama City Beach, Florida, museum looks like a sinking ship. The Myrtle Beach museum looks like it’s cracked down the middle as it sits on the boardwalk. For more information about the museum and ticket prices, visit our website.

Ripley’s Aquarium

For even more Ripley, check out the Ripley’s Aquarium. Known for collecting oddities throughout the world, this aquarium does not disappoint. The aquarium features a 340-foot long glidepath tunnel surrounded by sharks, snappers, tarpons, grunts, squirrelfish, giant stingrays, and more. The amazing tunnel allows visitors to feel like they are underwater with all of the sea creatures. Next, check out Rio Amazon where the lush rainforest is recreated underwater with more than 2,000 species of fish including piranhas, redtail catfish, and freshwater sting rays. Before you leave, don’t forget to check out the inner workings of a large aquarium in Systems Control where you will see how the aquarium manages 1.4 million gallons of water that travels throughout the building in more than 40 miles of pipe. Several other exciting exhibits will complete your tour. For more information, visit our website.

 Ripley’s Moving Theater

Finally, check out the moving theater that is complete with hydraulic seats to immerse you in the action of the movie. It’s a 3-D theater that allows the audience to feel every bump, turn, and dive that you see in the movie for a fantastic interactive experience that the whole family will love. For more info, visit our website.

From beach resorts to skyscraper hotels, browse through the lodging listings on our website to find a place to stay before you start planning your Myrtle Beach vacation!

Spend the Holidays in the South

Gatlinburg’s streets are adorned with a little bit of winter magic lasting until February. For four months every year the city lights up the Downtown Parkway with winter snowflakes hanging on the light posts and LED lights outlining trees. The city has been decorating its streets since 1989 but this year, the city is happy to announce that they have completely converted to environmentally friendly LED lights that save the city 95 percent of their energy costs. With this significant switch, Gatlinburg is able to light the entire 120 days of the program for what it once cost for only three days of electricity. The lighting displays that Gatlinburg residents have come to know and love for the past 22 years have been converted to LED lights too. So head to Gatlinburg to check out the lights!

Biltmore Estate

Built between 1889 and 1895 for George Washington Vanderbilt II, the Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned residence in the country featuring 250 rooms and 178,926 square feet. The home is still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants  Vanderbilt decided to build his estate in Asheville in the 1880’s after he had fallen in love with the area. So, like his older siblings, he built a massive summer house replicating the style of working estates in Europe. Because of a desire for the estate to be self sustaining, Biltmore designed forestry programs and farming programs. He also started Biltmore Industries in the area to promote local employment. When Vanderbilt died in 1914, his widow sold 85,000 acres of the original 125,000 acres of the property to the federal government to become a part of the Pisgah National Forest.

In March 1930, due to the estate’s financial situation during the Depression, the Biltmore Estate was opened to the public for tours. Family continued to live there until 1956 when it was permanently opened as a public museum. The estate is still owned and run by family, in fact, it is run by George Washington Vanderbilt II’s great-grandson. Visitors are invited to view the estate’s 70,000-gallon indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, two-story library, and much much more! In 2010,Antler Hill Village debuted with a dairy remodeled into a winery, Cedric’s Tavern, an Outdoor Adventure Center, and a museum highlighting the history of the Vanderbilt family.

Christmastime at the Biltmore Estate means miles and miles of gorgeous decorations spread throughout the 178,000-square-foot mansion. A breathtaking 35-foot Christmas tree graces the massive banquet hall. Visit the estate at night during the holiday season when all of the fireplaces fill the home with a warm glow accentuating the beautiful Christmas lights decorating the house. The Antler Hill Village is also celebrating the holiday season just a stone’s throw away from the estate. For more information about Christmas at the Biltmore Estate, visit our website.

Biltmore Estate is located 1.5 hours away from Gatlinburg. Browse through our lodging listings to find the perfect hotel for your vacation.

Time for Christmas in Washington DC

The holiday season is officially upon us. The conclusion of Thanksgiving means that it’s time to dust off our Christmas decorations and start planning gift shopping because Christmas is coming! In Washington DC, the city celebrates in style. Since 1923, the United States has lit a Christmas Tree in Washington DC to symbolize the beginning of the holiday season. The decorations vary from year to year, but the tradition is always present. In 1954, the White House created a “Pathway of Peace,” featuring 56 trees to represent the 50 states, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia. In 1978, a live 40-foot Colorado blue spruce was transplanted from York,Pennsylvania to light up the grassy area south of the White House. Every year, organizations from across the country send special ornaments to adorn the tree. This year, the ceremony will take place on December 6 starting at 4:30pm. The entertainment will include James Taylor, Kenny “Babyface”Edmonds, Colbie Caillat, and Phillip Phillips. The National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace is illuminated every evening from dusk to 11pm until January 1. Volunteer choirs and dancers will be held nightly on stage by the Christmas tree starting at 6pm on weeknights and 4pm on weekdays and lasting until 8:30pm every night.

Spy City Tour & International Spy Museum

Uncover the capitol city’s most thrilling tales aboard the Spy City Tour ending with admission to the International Spy Museum. This 2.5 hour tour takes its passengers all over the city to 25 of the most famous espionage sites on an interactive mission. Previous high-level intelligence officers offer secrets about stories that are relatively unknown. The tour even offers an interactive mission that is perfect for young spy enthusiasts looking to sharpen their skills or seasoned spies who are looking to hone their skills. Want to know more? Head to Washington DC to find out! For more information about ticket prices and tour times, visit our website.

Monuments by Moonlight Trolley Tour

Washington DC transforms into a whole new city once the sun goes down. The monuments magically glow in the same way that a city glows when it has been taken over by Christmas lights during the holiday season. To see the city in style, hop aboard the Monuments by Moonlight Trolley for an entertaining, historical, and professional tour. Your tour guide will share some of the city’s most enchanting tales about ghosts in the nation’s capitol and historical anecdotes that you won’t learn anywhere else. The characteristic trolleys stop at nearly all the favorite monuments in the city including the Capitol Building, the White House, the Washington Monument, and much much more! You haven’t seen the nation’s capitol until you’ve seen it at night! For more details about the tour, check out our website.

Browse through hotel listings on our website to find the perfect home away from home before you start planning your vacation! With so many options, you will have no trouble finding a hotel in a great location featuring the amenities you desire.

Catch Dinner and a Show in Nashville

Nashville is the world capital of country music, which makes it the perfect place to take in some live entertainment. It’s also a great place to sample Southern cooking, so why not combine the two and catch dinner and a show?

General Jackson Showboat Lunch & Dinner Cruises
Come aboard the General Jackson, an authentic paddlewheel riverboat, for an afternoon or evening of sightseeing and entertainment. Enjoy a mouthwatering Southern-style lunch or dinner as you cruise along the Cumberland River. Talented performers will keep you entertained with the kind of country singing and dancing that made Nashville famous.

Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater
The ‘Best of Country’ dinner show welcomes special guests each week to perform the biggest country hits, made famous by Johnny Cash, Hank Wiliams, Patsy Kline, and other country legends. Sit down for a delicious dinner of Tennessee barbecue, enjoy some country tunes, and experience Nashville!

You’ll need a place to stay on your next Nashville vacation, so check out our great selection of Nashville area hotels.

Celebrate the Holidays in Williamsburg

Starting on Thanksgiving Day and lasting to November 24, visitors will have the chance to learn all about how food was prepared in the 17th and 18th centuries at Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center. Long before microwaves, ovens, and refrigerators, food was prepared in clay pots and cooked in iron kettles over an open fire. Food was also preserved for long periods of time by a process of smoking, salt curing and pickling. In the 21st century if you need another ingredient for a meal you can run to the store but the English colonists and Indians didn’t have that luxury. So these two attractions are offering demonstrations showcasing how these people prepared the meals, especially the big first Thanksgiving meal shared between the pilgrims and Indians. The food that is prepared is for demonstration only but the Jamestown Settlement Café will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon. For more information, check out these links to the Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center.

Christmas Town: A Busch Gardens Celebration

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been transformed into a winter wonderland to celebrate the magical holiday season that is nearly upon us. The massive park is designed to celebrate different cultures during the regular season but it is switching gears to showcase holiday traditions around the world instead. Patrons will have the chance to visit Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, and finish off with a visit to Santa Claus in the North Pole. In Italy, the Escape from Pompeii Water Ride has undergone a breathtaking transformation to become the Polar Pathway adorned with thousands of lights. Similarly, the grand dining room of Castle O’Sullivan has taken on a new life to present Santa’s Fireside Feast. Santa guests are invited to gather around his majestic castle to enjoy a magical story and a delicious feast. In Germany, patrons are invited to purchase handmade gifts made by local artisans in the Mistletoe Marketplace.

After a busy day enjoying the attractions throughout the park, take a rest to enjoy one of the five shows in the park, or enjoy them all! Take the kids to enjoy a “Sesame Street Christmas,” dance enthusiasts will love the “Miracles” show, then finish off with “Deck the Halls” a toe-tapping Christmas show. Most of the year-round rides and attractions will remain open during the holiday season. For more information about the magical holiday celebration at Busch Gardens, follow this link.

Browse through our hotel listings to find the perfect home away from home. With an abundance of choices, visitors will have no problems finding a wonderful hotel featuring all the desired amenities.

Explore San Antonio

This year, sing Christmas carols in style on the San Antonio River Walk. Starting November 29, more than 185 school, church, company, and civic choral groups will be ringing in the holidays by singing everyone’s favorite Christmas songs aboard the San Antonio River Walk barges. Those dining on the River Walk patios will have the chance to join in on the cheerful sing-a-long that takes place every night from 6:30pm to 9:30 pm until December 23. Participants can rent a barge for $125 Sunday through Thursday and $150 Friday through Saturday. Each barge can accommodate 20 adults.

Natural Bridge Caverns

In 1960, four students from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio had a theory. They believed that there was a large cave beneath a breathtaking 60-foot limestone bridge in nearby New Braunfels,Texas. So they spoke with the landowner, Clara Wuest, and obtained permission to begin exploration beneath the earth. Lead by one of the students, Orion Knox Jr., discovered more than a mile of passage. Subsequently, while exploring a crawlway, Knox felt a cool draft indicating the presence of additional rooms or passages. He led the students through two more miles of passages revealing exactly what they had hoped for, more passages and more rooms. Wuest was overjoyed and decided to develop the first 0.5 mile of the cave for tourists to view and encouraged the young students to continue their exploration. Exploration continued to reveal a stunning cave that is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Geologists believe that the gorgeous cave began to form during the Cretaceous period when Texas was covered with a warm, shallow sea. The limestone cave began to form with the help of sediment and dead organisms settling at the bottom of the sea. Twenty million years ago, shifting fault lines created joints and cracks in the rock forming the Natural Bridge Caverns. Today, the caverns continue to change and grow as water flows and drips around the rocks.

Visitors can choose from several different tours showcasing the underground world of natural beauty. Choose from several tours including two walking tours and a spectacular lantern tour that is only offered at 9am. Visitors will be fascinated by soda straw stalactites and waves of cave ribbon among other gorgeous formations in the caves. Or be an explorer for the day! On the adventure tours, visitors get the chance to climb, rappel, and hike through the most dangerous passages. Those who choose this tour will be geared up and lowered through a 160-foot well shaft down 230 feet to the Fault Room, which features one of the longest soda straw formations in North America at 14 feet. Those still looking for an adventure have the chance to try the Canopy Challenge. The 60-foot, four-tier adventure course tests agility, strength, and bravery on 47 amazing obstacles high above the ground ending with an amazing zip line ride on four zip lines taking you back to the safety of the earth. The Natural Bridge Caverns is truly an experience that should not be missed on any trip to San Antonio! For more information about ticket prices and hours of operation, visit this link.

 

Browse through San Antonio hotel listings on our website. Search for hotels near your attractions or search based on amenities desired.

Music & Museums in Memphis

Memphis is famous for its musical culture and its role in shaping the South. Visit this lovely Southern city where the roots of blues, gospel, soul, and rock music can all be traced, and stroll along Beale Street where you can hear just about anything you’d like. While you’re there,  check out these great attractions to delve deeper into the music and history of Memphis:

Memphis Rock’ n’ Soul Museum
Get the full Memphis music experience at the Rock ‘n ‘Soul Museum on Beale Street. Seven galleries plus special exhibits curated by the Smithsonian Institute trace the history of American music from the early musical pioneers of the 1930s and the hardships they overcame, to the later sounds of soul and rock in the 1970s.

Gibson Guitar Factory Tour
After you’ve learned about the musical giants of Memphis, get a look at the technical side of rock ‘n’ roll at the Gibson Guitar Factory. Expert guides will show you around the factory, where you’ll see every step of the process that creates a legendary Gibson guitar. You’ll see the different types of guitars made in the factory, hear the behind them, and learn a bit about the rock stars who play them.

National Civil Rights Museum
When you’ve got your fill of music, it’s time to learn about Memphis’ role in the Civil Rights Movement. The Lorraine Hotel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, has been transformed into a museum to honor those who fought for equality and to educate visitors about the Civil Rights movement, from the 17th century to the Montgomery bus boycotts and Dr. King’s vision.

You’ll need a place to stay during your Memphis vacation, so be sure to check out our selection of great Memphis hotels.

Celebrate the Holidays at Mt. Rushmore

There’s plenty to do in the Mt. Rushmore area during fall and winter, starting with the 15th Annual Festival of Lights in Rapid City. Thousands of visitors each year come to watch the parade of glowing, light-covered floats, horse-drawn carriages, animals costumed in their holiday best, animated scenes, live marching bands, and a full-size locomotive. The parade kicks off at 6:00 in downtown Rapid City on November24.

Mammoth Site of Hot Springs
Geology buffs or anyone looking for family fun will love the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs. A 30 minute tour from a knowledgeable guide, special exhibits about the mighty mammoth, and an active scientific excavation site are yours to explore. Learn about mammoths and how they influenced past people of the Dakotas, and see how paleontologists are working to solve the mysteries of the past.

Mt. Rushmore Audio Tours
See the Mt. Rushmore national Memorial at your own pace with the Mt. Rushmore Audio Tour. A hand held audiobox plays informative narration, interviews, sound effects, and recordings of the monument’s creator,  Gutzon Borglum. You can listen to the tour as you walk around the memorial grounds or while you sit and relax. The tour is available in English, German, Spanish, and Lakota.

Browse our selection of cozy hotels in the Mount Rushmore area, from Rapid City to Deadwood and various points in between.

 

Celebrate Thanksgiving at the Titanic Museum in Gatlinburg

Thanksgiving is drawing near and, this year, the Titanic Museum in Gatlinburg is celebrating in style! In order to pay tribute to the 2,208 passengers, crew members, and rescuers that lost their lives on that fateful night in 1912, the museum will be filling the night sky with fireworks on November 22. This will be the largest fireworks event on the Smoky Mountain Parkway since the grand opening celebration of the Titanic Museum in 2010. Visitors will also be able to experience a light snow fall outside the museum. Yes, real snow! November 22-24 and every Saturday in December, the Titanic Museum will be blanketed in fresh snow. Inside, the museum will be adorned with hundreds of Christmas lights. So, don’t miss the magic of the holiday season at the Titanic Museum! Read on for more information about the Titanic Museum or check out our website.

Titanic Museum

The Titanic Museum’s magnificent collection of artifacts and stories began in 1987 when John Joslyn, owner of the museum, embarked on a wonderful adventure on the first expedition to the great ship buried deep in the sea. Joslyn dedicated his career to the magnificent ship and the untold stories of the 2,208 passengers and crew members who were aboard the ship that fateful night in April 1912. His team spent 44 days at sea exploring the ship 2.5 miles below. After 32 successful dives in a 20 million dollar submersible, more than 400 personal artifacts and hours of video footage was recovered. The artifacts and video footage enabled Joslyn to create a two-hour television special, which quickly became the second highest rated live TV documentary ever. Its success prompted Joslyn to build museums to hold the artifacts and educate people from all over the world. The museum itself was built to resemble the massive ship, except it is roughly half the size. The replica of the ship is anchored in water with a life size iceberg on the Smoky Mountain Parkway.

Upon entry, visitors will receive a ticket featuring the story of an actual Titanic passenger. The story of that passenger unfolds as you make your way through the museum. Walk down the iconic grand staircase, take a seat in the dining room for dinner, take the wheel on the captain’s bridge, tap out a message on the ship’s wireless, reach into 28-degree water, touch an iceberg, and, essentially, learn what it was like to be one of the 2,208 passengers and crew members on the 1912 RMS Titanic. Joslyn’s goal is to educate visitors and offer them a truly unforgettable experience. There are two museums resembling the beautiful ship, one in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge and the other in Branson,Missouri. Visitors will experience a slightly different experience at each museum. For more information about the Titanic Museum, click on this link.

After a truly magical Titanic experience, enjoy a relaxing stay in one of the many hotels in the area. Visit our website to search for the perfect hotel with the amenities that you desire.

See New York at Christmas

New York City is magical during the holidays! Christmastime is the perfect season to visit New York – go window shopping in Manhattan, see the city lights, go ice skating at the famous Rockefeller Center ice rink. There’s always something going on in the city. Check out some of our favorite holiday picks:

The Rockettes Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The Rockettes Radio City Christmas show is one of the most iconic Christmas shows in the nation. In addition to the Rockettes’ famously flawless kicklines, the show features a selection of holiday favorites: a retelling of The Nutcracker, the March of the Wooden Soldiers, and a live Nativity scene. Flawless choreography, dazzling costumes, and this year’s special 85th Anniversary tributes to the dancers of the past make this a can’t-miss Christmas tradition. Follow this link to learn more: http://www.vacationsmadeeasy.com/NewYorkNY/activity/TheRockettesTheRadioCityChristmasSpectacular.cfm

New York: The Game
See the city at your pace with a personalized scavenger hunt! New York: The Game sends scavenger hunt clues through text messaging or mobile browsers to lead you around the city for a glimpse of fascinating sights. Choose the entire city or just one or two neighborhoods that you’d like to learn more about, and get ready for a day of sightseeing and clue-solving. All you need are some walking shoes and your phone! Click here for more details: http://www.vacationsmadeeasy.com/NewYorkNY/activity/NewYorkTheGame.cfm

Visit our web site to check out our great selection of NYC hotel options, from Times Square to Brooklyn: http://www.vacationsmadeeasy.com/NewYorkNY/lodging/