Monthly Archives: July 2014

Kids Love Pigeon Forge

Kids love Pigeon Forge.  Probably because Pigeon Forge loves kids!  There is always something fun and exciting and kid-friendly to do.  From the thrill rides and attractions at Dollywood, to the raucous good time dinner shows like The Hazzard County Hoedown, and the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show,’ its always a fun vacation for kids of all ages.

Vacations Made Easy has put together a package especially for you and your kids.  The ‘Kids Love Pigeon Forge Package’ includes admission to two of the top kid attractions, and they promise to be pretty fun for you parents, too.

DixieEnjoy admission to the Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show, and see the happy smile on your kids faces when they find out, its okay to eat with your hands!  In fact, its required.  As you all grin your way through the hearty meal of chicken, pork, soup, potato, biscuit and dessert, you’ll never have to ask for a refill of coffee, tea and Pepsi, they will keep it full.  The show is as hearty and scrumptious as the meal, with a hoe-down, pig races, a herd of buffalo, and horse stunt riding.  The friendly North-South competition gets the audience involved and kids will love that they get to stomp and cheer for their team!

Wonderworks Interactive ExperienceAlso included is admission to Wonderworks Interactive Experience.  A playground for the mind and body, the whole family will have a blast as you experience hurricane force winds, make a picture on a giant lite-brite, or try to land a space shuttle.

You can choose where to spend your three nights from over 60 lodging choices.  Select the amenities that suit your family, and get ready to learn for yourself why kids love Pigeon Forge.

Its all About the Pizza

With so many notable and famous sites in Chicago, it can be rough to navigate your way to see them all.  Its a good idea to take advantage of a guided tour, so you can enjoy your sightseeing, learn from an area expert and have no worries about traffic in a unfamiliar city.

Vacations Made Easy has several Chicago tour options, an Architectural Cruise on the Chicago River, Hop-on, Hop-off Trolley Tours, a handful of biking tours and Segway tours just to name a few.

But by far the best tour is the one with Pizza!  You have not really experienced Chicago, until you’ve indulged in Chicago Pizza.  This is not Chicago-style pizza from your local pizzera, its authentic, and its the stuff dreams are made of.

Architectural CruiseOk.  But, first the tour.  You see the most popular highlights of the city on the Chicago Grand Tour.  The North Side and South Side business and residential districts, the Loop, Downtown Chicago, The lakefront, Millennium Park, Grant Park.  Stop at Museum Campus a park which is home to The Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium.  You can walk through the Lincoln Park Conservatory amongst ancient ferns, tropical palms, and a myriad of exotic plants.  Enjoy the impressive Chicago Skyline view.

Chicago Bike TourNow.  Back to the Pizza.  Stop in at one of the most popular pizza restaurants in Downtown Chicago, for a pizza that puts the pie in pizza pie.  This isn’t a pan pizza with thick dough and a light covering of toppings.  Its a deep pizza filled with delectable pizza ingredients.  Assembled upside down from your typical pizza this deep deliciousness starts with the cheese on the crust, so it wont burn during the long baking time required for an artfully yummy creation.  Then its loaded with the meats and veggies you desire and then comes the chunky tomato sauce.   This is the kind of pizza that will tempt you to use a fork.  Mmmm…

Now, that’s the way to experience Chicago.

A Storm of Fun – Hurricane Harbor

It has begun.  The ads for ‘back-to-school’ have hit the airwaves and the circulars.  It can’t be…School?   Again?  There’s still a lot of summer left, and you should live it up.  Take those kids out for another fantastic summer fling before their routine turns to early morning walks to school and late nights of homework.

We have the perfect way to shake the ‘back-to-school’ blues.  Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.  Take the whole family for a day of carefree bliss and water fun in Los Angeles.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Los AngelesEnjoy great family rides you can all share together like the Lost Temple Rapids, or a slower River Cruise.  Race for bragging rights down the Bamboo Racer toboggan speed slide.  Or hang out together catching waves at the Forgotten Sea Wave Pool.

They have thrill rides, too, of course, tunnels, funnels, tubes, and the fastest of fast speed slides.  Do you have the guts to try the Bonzai Pipelines?  Stand waiting for the trap door beneath your feet to open and send you on a six-story screaming ride through dark tunnels.  We are talking extreme thrill ride on this one.Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Los Angeles

The younger kids aren’t left out of the slippy splashy good time.  The park has two awesome play area for them with slides, rides and a lounge area for mom and dad.

Don’t let the ‘back-to-school’ hype fool you.  There’s still plenty of time for a family trip to Hurricane Harbor.

Chula Vista Resort

What if we told you there was a place with two waterparks, a golf course, spa, boat tours, hiking, miniature golf and an arcade?  Suppose this place also offered one, two or three bedroom condominiums, and villas for up to six people?  Sounds almost too good to be true.  But such a place exists and it is in Wisconsin Dells.

The Chula Vista Resort and Indoor & Outdoor Waterparks really does have it all.  Send Dad out to play the 18 hole Cold Water Canyon Golf Course.  Check.  Now get the kids to the indoor and outdoor waterparks, where they will gladly spend the day splashing through the multi-level fun and extreme waterslides.  Check.  Now, Mom gets the pampering she has earned with a day of treatments at the Spa Del Sol.  Ahhh….

Chula Vista ResortAt the end of the day well spent the family can get back together and share all the delights of their day over dinner at one of the eight on-site restaurants.  Then relax in the comfort of your suite complete with private balcony, fireplace and Jacuzzi.  Or maybe you chose a theme suite, like African Safari, Outer Space or Pirates of the Caribbean (Sorry, Johnny Depp is not included)

You could easily spend a week at the resort and never get bored, but while you’re in the Dells area you really should take advantage of the natural beauty, with a Ducks Sightseeing Cruise or an Upper Dells or Lower Dells Boat Tour.  For a special treat take the whole family for a Sunset Dinner Cruise.  There is much to enjoy in Wisconsin Dells.

Life is But a Dream – Float on The Colorado River

You’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, mesmerized by the way the light and shadow play on the cliff walls, raptured by the sheer enormity, and gazing wistfully at the Colorado River so far below.  ‘Oh, to be on the river, reveling in the view of the canyon from below’… you think.

Make the dream come true.  Take your family on a water bus trip along the river.  Its easier than you think.  Vacations Made Easy can set you up with transportation by motorcoach around the East Rim, through the Navajo Nation and the Painted Desert to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam.  And that is where the fun really starts!

Grand Canyon Smooth Water Bus TripClimb aboard your motorized raft, with your family and an expert guide to begin your fifteen mile float trip.  As you drift along the river through Glen Canyon your guide shares facts, history and stories about the area.  Relish the stunning views and wonder ‘how in the world do those trees grow there?’  You may even chance upon some big-horn sheep.

You’ll have a break from the water to enjoy the provided picnic lunch on the riverbank, then set off on a hike where your guide will lead you to some ancient petroglyphs, before launching off again to finish the float trip.Grand Canyon Smooth Water Bus Trip

Then its back on the motorcoach where you’ll be torn between enjoying the view out the windows, or scrolling through all the great photos you snapped along the river.

In all the trip takes about twelve hours, about half of which are on the river.  Be sure to include a water bus float trip for your family while your visiting the Grand Canyon this summer.

The Hermitage Plantation

Stop in for a visit and tour the home of one of Tennessee’s most famous residents next time you’re in Nashville.

While there are plenty of famous people who have made Nashville home over the years, and there are countless celebrities living in the area currently, we are talking about a long-gone, but supremely famous past resident.   We’ll give you a hint.  He is depicted on the twenty dollar bill.

Just minutes from downtown Nashville is the National Historic Site that the Andrew Jackson Family called home.  The 1120 acre plantation welcomes visitors to explore the grounds, gardens, homes and outbuildings of The Hermitage.

The Hermitage PlantationThe first home on the property was a log cabin built for Nathaniel Hays who sold the place to Jackson in 1804.  Jackson dubbed the property ‘The Hermitage’ meaning rural refuge, and soon had the property converted into a prosperous cotton plantation operating with slave-labor.

In 1821 Jackson and his family moved to the 2-story Federal Style brick home he had built and added the formal gardens, for his wife Rachel, and numerous outbuildings to house dairy, smokehouse, distillery, cotton gin, and slave quarters.The Hermitage Plantation

During his Presidency, Jackson had the home enlarged dramatically, adding two wings which included an impressive library, but the home suffered serious damage in an 1834 fire.  The rebuilding was extensive, and converted the home to the Greek Revival Style that remains today.

As you tour the mansion, outbuildings and grounds, you’ll learn more fascinating details of the life of the United States’ seventh President, and only President to pay off the National debt, leaving office with the country in the black.  He and his wife are entombed on the property.

Historical Adventure at Jamestown Settlement

Experience first hand what life was like for the brave men and boys of the 17th Century who built the first successful English Settlement on the main land of North America.  At Jamestown Settlement, Williamsburg, VA you can explore a re-creation of this first Colony.

The life size re-creations include a military fort for you to explore.  Walk through the modest homes, church and the Governors house, while all around you historical interpreters work as blacksmiths, and other period occupations.

Jamestown SettlementYou can discover the village of the Powhatan, home of Pocahontas and learn more about the relationship between these ‘locals’ and the new colonists.  A walk to the Jamestown Pier and you’ll find replicas of the three ships which brought the settlers to Virginia.  Explore the nooks and crannies aboard the Susan Constant, The Godspeed, and the Discovery.

In addition to the ‘living history’ exhibits you can also visit a museum filled with exhibition galleries covering the story of America’s beginnings.  Artifacts and films will educate you on American history from the first Colony in 1607, to the Revolution nearly two centuries later.  All in one day!

An historical adventure is waiting for you at Jamestown Settlement.

The ‘Pearl’ of the Grand Ole Opry

Among the legacies born of The Grand Ole Opry, is one of the best loved country gals in American History.  Few people would recognize the name Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, but nearly everyone knows Cousin Minnie Pearl.

A regular at the Grand Ole Opry and 20 years of Hee Haw brought Minnie Pearl into homes and hearts across America with her trademark “How-deee!”  In a costume she put together herself from thrift store finds  hoping to capture the look of a simple country girl dressing up for a trip to the city, Sarah delivered tales of country life in a comical and endearing fashion.  Simultaneously wise and bit backward she poked fun at the people from her home town and at herself, without ever offending anyone.

Minnie PearlShe may be best remembered for her trademark straw hat, with a spray of dime-store flowers and price tag still dangling.  As the story goes it was initially an embarrassing oversight, as she honestly forgot to remove the $1.98 from the flowers she grabbed as a last minute idea before her first Grand Ole Opry appearance in 1940. Although skeptics may argue that it is unlikely a spray of flowers would cost $1.98 in 1940, it became a key part of Minnie Pearl’s costume and persona, and something she could not take the stage without, even fashioning a makeshift tag from a piece of cardboard and a tea-bag string when the tag eventually fell off.

While we no longer have Sarah, or Minnie with us, you can still pay a visit to her likeness at the Ryman Theater where a bronze statue of Minnie Pearl sits in the main lobby with a bronze Roy Acuff.  To see that iconic hat, you’ll have to visit Washington DC, where it is on display in the National Museum of American History, and yes, the price tag remains on the spray of flowers.

You can find other Minnie Pearl memorabilia on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in Nashville.  While she was never a hit-maker, she was admitted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1975.

Walk the Walk – San Antonio’s Riverwalk

Deep in the heart of San Antonio lies an urban oasis of lush backdrops, paved pathways, arched bridges made of stone, picturesque waterfalls and the welcome cool shade of cypress trees lining the smooth flowing water of the San Antonio River.  The San Antonio Riverwalk is a meticulously landscaped 2-1/2 miles along the river from The Alamo through the downtown district of all the best dining, shopping, museums and architecture.

A level below the automobile street and a world away, the Riverwalk is a scene to absorb and from it you can access The Rivercenter Mall, The San Antonio Museum of Art, The Pearl Brewery, and dozens of boutiques, eateries, bars, and attractions.

So many dining options you’ll have a hard time deciding.  You can find Old World, Italian, BBQ, French fine dining, and of course, Tex/Mex.  This is the place to find the very best fajitas, enchiladas, and chile rellenos North, South, East, aaand West of the Pecos!  The Iron Cactus Agave Bar Room features more than 100 kinds of tequila.Riverwalk Cruise

The Rivercenter Mall is home to more than 100 retail shops,  restaurants, movie theaters and the Marriott Hotel.  With your favorite stores from Macy’s and Hot Topic and specialty shops like Life in Alamo City and The Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop you will find this an ideal location for a shopping bonanza.

You can walk along the River enjoying the scenery and stopping at your leisure at the fine shops, restaurants and museums.  You also have the option of biking, or renting a segway for your trek up and down the beautiful riverbanks.  For a very relaxing treat, reminiscent of an Old West Venice, you can cruise along the waterway in a boat.  You’ll float along past the Alamo, The San Fernando Cathedral, and La Villita, San Antonio’s first neighborhood.  Your guide on the river cruise will share area history and point out all the highlights along the way.

OmniThere are plenty of hotels right along the Riverwalk too, so you can stay where you play and have quick and easy access to all the galleries, dining and night-life the Riverwalk has to offer, plus enjoy the view from your room.  The Omni La Mansion del Rio is a Spanish style Hotel that really captures the areas culture, plus they have an indoor pool with dive-in movies, a spa and fitness center and they are famous for the Sunday Champagne Brunch.  Overlooking the Riverwalk and only three blocks from the Alamo its an ideal location for experiencing all the best of the San Antonio Riverwalk.

 

There’s Always Some Mardi Gras in New Orleans

While New Orleans is famous for a number of reasons, it has become synonymous with ‘Mardi Gras.’  While this celebration only lasts a short while, there is a bit of Mardi Gras to be found every day in the Big Easy.

Apart from the party atmosphere, great jazz, scrumptious food, and colorful street scenes, which persist year-round in the Crescent City, you can find several museums with all the Mardi Gras flavor you are craving.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme, houses memorabilia unique to Mardi Gras, jazz funerals and other entirely New Orleans traditions.  You’ll find the largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes some costing more than $10,000 to create.  Tons of photos and videos of the famous jazz funerals, and second lines are featured here.

New OrleansIn the Uptown Garden District you can visit Blaine Kerr’s Mari Gras World, a museum that is also a float-building factory.  Take a guided tour to learn the history of the grand festival from the early days of mule-drawn carriages, to the elaborate modern floats.  You can even sample traditional Mardi Gras king cake.

Moving into the French Quarter, The Presbytere is a museum brimming with Mardi Gras artifacts and memorabilia.  High-tech interactive exhibits take you on a journey through Mardi Gras history from the ancient origins, to the parades and balls of the 19th century, to the mega-party carnival of today.

No matter what time of year you visit, you can always taste the flavor of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Spend a few days sampling the food, music and vivid history of the Crescent City.  Its always a good time for a New Orleans vacation.