Vacation Destination: Myrtle Beach, SC

For decades northerners have been flocking to the sandy ocean shores of the Atlantic coast to escape the chill of early spring. Over the years one of the most popular destinations has been Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

Getting to Myrtle Beach is rather easy these days. Flights from Central NY get vacationers there in about 3 hours for around $250, while others may choose to endure the 15-hour drive, sometimes stopping in Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, or Washington DC to break up the trip. 

When finally at Myrtle Beach, the stretch of beachfront hotels seems endless, the restaurants infinite, and golf courses plentiful. Never can anyone claim that there’s nothing to do while visiting the Myrtle Beach area. The “Grand Strand”, as it is called, runs from North Myrtle, south to Surfside Beach. The strip along the coast is known as Ocean Boulevard, with the main drag being Kings Highway. Both roads contain restaurants, stores, and family entertainment galore.

 Miniature golf courses are seemingly around each corner, and touristy attractions overflow block after block. Just a few blocks from the ocean sits two real neat attractions. One is Barefoot Landing, containing unique shops, attractions and dining experiences. When I last visited the Myrtle Beach area I enjoyed a great afternoon dining experience at T-Bonz Gill & Grill. The House of Blues, Dick’s Last Resort, and Joe’s Crab Shack are just a few of the other great places to eat. The second neat tourist ‘must visit’ is found at Broadway at the Beach. With over 100 shops, 20 restaurants, 10 nightclubs, and 3 on-site hotels, Broadway at the Beach is the place to be when staying in Myrtle Beach. With a half-dozen themed neighborhoods meandering around the Broadway Cove, even window-shopping can become a fun experience. Ripley’s Aquarium, the IMAX Theater, and the NASCAR Speedpark can all be found scattered throughout Broadway at the Beach. I was especially impressed with the Ripley’s Aquarium. The ability to become emerged in what seems to be an underwater world is amazing. The glass viewing tunnel is spectacular! To your left, right, and even above you, there are sharks of all sizes within inches of you. For food, Broadway at the Beach has it all. During my day long visit there I had lunch at Bill Murray’s Caddyshack, dinner at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and cooled off at the Hard Rock Café. 

When not at the ocean, Barefoot Landing, or Broadway at the Beach, try visiting one of Myrtle Beach’s most popular tourist stops. Studebaker’s has long been a favorite destination of many tourists. Great food, atmosphere, and music has always been the draw to this local landmark. Other great attractions not to miss in the area are the Carolina Opry, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and the Carolina Prime Outlets. 

Finding a place to stay at Myrtle Beach is never a problem. Ocean Blvd. has miles of beachfront hotels; many with beach access and elaborate pool areas. During a recent stay I was quite pleased with my accommodations at the Sandcastle at South Beach Hotel. The room was clean, it had an exterior entrance, and waking every morning to the roar of the Atlantic Ocean was something close to paradise. 

With warm temperatures being felt from March through November, Myrtle Beach, SC is a perfect vacation spot for those that are looking for something a little different than the typical Florida vacation. From dozens of golf courses to hundreds of attractions, there’s always something to do at Myrtle Beach. For more information about vacationing in Myrtle Beach, visit http://www.discovermyrtlebeach.com.

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Jagger Steals 53rd Grammys

On Sunday night (Febraury 13, 2011) the best of the best in the music biz gathered in Los Angeles for the 53rd Grammy Awards. The night started with a diva-studded tribute to the “Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin, who was recovering from an illness back at home in Detroit. As the evening continued the show was filled with great performances. In fact, viewers often had to remind themselves that they were watching an awards show, and not a ‘Grammy-palooza’. Three cheers for this year’s producers of the show for giving us more ‘substance’ than ‘style’. However if you wanted style, there was Lady Gaga and CeeLo. We’ll get to them in a bit.

Acts such as Lady Antebellum, Muse, and Bruno Mars all performed their hits to near perfect form, while Usher and Justin Bieber got the crowd to their feet with an inspiring duet. Their performance began with a video clip of Bieber performing for Usher a few years ago, then moving into Bieber’s acoustic version of “Baby, Baby” .

Without a doubt the night was a celebration of Lady Antebellum winning for their smash hit “Need You Now” and the Grammy organizers turning the show into more performances and less ‘blah, blah talk’. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry turned in what would have been the performances of the evening on any other Grammy night, but it was first-time performer, Mick Jagger, (that’s right, I said, “FIRST-time performer”) that took the designer dresses and tuxes by storm. His tribute to the late “King of Rock ‘n Roll”, Solomon Burke, was a masterpiece! His rendition of Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” got the entire audience on their feet, and then at the end, with a 10-second pause, he and the band continued for another minute or two to the crowd’s delight!

Though the 53rd Grammy’s may go down as one of the most memorable in quite some time, the evening did have a few surprises and slip ups. In the surprise of the night, Justin Bieber did not win the New Artist of the Year award, That went to Esperanza Spalding. However, to all you ‘Bieber Fever-ites”, don’t worry too much about Justin. The opening weekend of his concert/movie, “Never Say Never”, raked in over $30 million! Lady Gaga and CeeLo had the most flamboyant performances of the night, with Gaga hatching from an egg, and CeeLo “G-rating” up his “R-rated” hit “Forget You” in an outfit that could only be described as a new millenium version of Sir Elton John. In the ‘Ooops” category the nominees were Bob Dylan and the low-mic volume during his performance (however after they turned it up, maybe there was a reason for it being down), Christina Aguilera’s near plunge off the stage after the show’s opening performance (she has Jennifer Hudson, and her smokin’ hot Weight Watchers body, to thank for catching her), and Glee stand-out, Lea Michele, who flubbed up her lines during her presentation with Super Bowl stand-out, Clay Matthews.

And though Katy Perry was outstanding in her six-minute performance of a Valentine’s Day themed “Teenage Dream”, there is no doubt that the buzz around Monday’s watercoolers will be Mick Jagger and the stellar performance he pulled off at this year’s 53rd Grammy’s.

Glenora Getaway

 If you’re looking for a break from your day-to-day routine; maybe a little getaway not too far from home, consider the Finger Lakes wine country. Whether you make it a trip with just a couple of friends, or a wine tour with a larger group, the west side of Seneca Lake is packed with wineries waiting for your visit. Most are open from 10am until 5pm daily, and welcome you with smiling faces and uncorked bottles. 

My wife and I recently took Rte.14 south out of Geneva on a Saturday afternoon and worked our way through some spectacular wineries along the way. Our first stop was at Fox Run Vineyards. After sampling several of their wines we took advantage of their small bistro/deli and grabbed a bite to eat. Their Arctic Fox white wine was fantastic, as was their turkey panini sandwich. Just a bit further down the road was Torrey Ridge. This is always one of my favorite stops because of its delicious Niagara wine. It is just like a green grape bursting in your mouth! Torrey Ridge is introducing two new wines with a fun flare and great taste. They are Redneck White and Redneck Red. Both pack a fruity, grapey taste; perfect for that small get together or kicking back on a weekend. 

The amazing thing about the folks along Rte. 14 is how they support one another. Throughout many of our conversations with the proprietors I’m always astounded by the way they suggest that we try stopping by a “competitor’s” winery. You don’t see that happen in many sectors of business. Another stop on our Sunday was exactly one of those suggestions. How the Seneca Shores Winery ever eluded my wine-radar, I’m not sure; but boy am I glad I found it. Rachel and I were blown away by the fantastic taste of several of their wines, along with the knowledge of how each was prepared.

Anthony Road Winery was another stop we made. Tony’s White (formerly named Poulet Rouge) is a great table wine, with a very nice taste and body.  The Thirsty Owl is a fun winery. Home of the great tasting- Liquid Wisdom. It is a white wine with a fun, grapey flavor. I think it is a perfect wine for a summer night sunset or lounging by the pool. Another winery that we hadn’t visited before was Miles Winery. Housed in a majestic, haunted mansion, perched overlooking Seneca Lake, Miles Winery was a neat place to visit for some wine sampling. 

At many of the locations we visited we were told over and over again that we should absolutely stop at the Lakewood Winery. Many of the people that we had conversations with grew to know that we preferred a semi-sweet wine, and maybe an occasional Riesling. They emphasized how good Lakewood was. And when we arrived, we were not disappointed. Their Niagara was fantastic! 

Our last stop, and final destination, was Glenora. Their winery is one of the most spacious, and offers an enormous selection of great-tasting wines. After a sampling of their Cayuga White, our favorite; Rachel and I checked in at The Inn at Glenora. Upon check-in guests are served a glass of sparkling champagne… Nice touch! When we got to our room we found the mini-fridge stocked with bottles of water and a bottle of wine. Another nice amenity. Our accommodations had plenty of room, with a sitting area, work station, and comfortable bed. The bathroom was very nice and clean. Perhaps the nicest part of any of the rooms at Glenora is their view. Every room at The Inn at Glenora comes with a lake-view of Seneca Lake. The rooms on the 1st floor have patios, while our room on the 2nd floor had a balcony.  Though the balconies aren’t huge (probably somewhere around (8’ x 5’), they offer up spectacular views and two comfortable chairs to relax in. 

For dinner we made our way to Veraisons, Glenora’s incredible restaurant. I would have to say that in my travels, Veraisons setting and atmosphere is one of the finest. Overlooking the grape vines and Seneca Lake, the restaurant has a warm, rustic setting. Though the room is quite large (able to be divided for private gatherings), you never feel lost in its size. Its cathedral ceiling and exposed beams add a sense of warmth and comfort. Make sure you bring your camera the first time you visit, so you can get a few pictures of the enormous and fabulous stone fireplace at Veraisons; it is breath-taking!  My “Trio of Pulled Pork” appetizer was fabulous. Served on mini Johnny cakes with apple chutney- wow! For dinner the chef prepared “Coq Au Vin Rouge” for me. Now typically if I can’t read it, or understand it, I’m not going to eat it, but boy am I glad I did. The braised chicken in red wine, dressed with bacon lardoons was amazing. Perfectly prepared and packing a tremendous taste. And on weekends, Veraisons is known throughout the Finger Lakes region for having one of the finest weekend brunches around. 

The nice thing about The Inn at Glenora is that they have several packages that guests can choose from. Whether it is including a sailing adventure to your stay or a complete dinner and breakfast for two, Glenora will accommodate your desires. Located at the southern end of State Route 14, just north of Watkins Glen in Dundee, Glenora is the perfect getaway destination any time of year. Don’t think that wine touring is an autumn thing. It can be a wonderful experience throughout the year. 

For more information or to make reservations at The Inn at Glenora, call 1-800-243-5513 or visit their website at www.glenora.com .